Archive for February 2014

Snow Birds   1 comment

You may or may not know, but here it is anyway: I am afraid of flying.  There, I said it.  So when we boarded our plane two weeks ago for warmer parts of the world, and we were all seated and the doors were “armed,” and we didn’t go anywhere, I assumed the worst.  Finally, my fears were confirmed: over the PA we were told there was a “mechanical issue.”  Further explanation was to follow, and it wasn’t pleasing.  There was a “dent” found on the “horizontal stabilizer” and it was currently being “examined.”  So with that announcement, I took to google to find out what a horizontal stabilizer was…I mean, was it a little itty bitty part, or was it something more substantial.  Let’s just say you don’t want any dents in your horizontal stabilizer.  It’s less a horizontal stabilizer and more of a TAIL WING.  The pilot man came back to the PA system and reported that the dent was “small” and that he had bigger “dents” in his car…his words, not mine.  So then he said he had no problem taking this plane to St. Thomas.  Well I’m glad for him not having a problem flying a potential death tube with dents but maybe this guy has a death wish, what about the rest of us back here?  Should we poll the audience?  With that, we took off.

We landed just fine, quite smoothly in fact. Then it was time for a few days of relaxation.

Driving on the wrong side of the road has never been a dream of mine, though I will admit I’ve driven on the wrong side of the road in the past…but those days are way, way over for me. So I had to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road all over again, sober and legally this time. Saint Thomas folk drive on the left.  Take note how we listen to the local island music while driving.

We visited many sights, saw lots of fishes and creatures under the sea.  I have 70+ video clips with my super go pro.  Here’s one now:

Between you and me, I was taking the Wife to multiple snorkel locations…sure, to enjoy snorkeling, but I had other motives.  One location in particular on St. John was known to have Nurse and Reef sharks frequent the area…I was hopeful.  I also did not share this info with her.  She is not with me right now to preview my post here, and will therefore be learning this info along with all of you, let’s see how happy that makes her.  The sharks in question are harmless, at least from what I read.  After a couple hours, there were no shark sightings at this one particular reef, but I did see this guy:

We took another day trip off St. Thomas via high speed ferry to visit Tortola, pronounced Tor-Toe-La.  Here is Tortola:

So being part of a British colony and not part of a country that has an embargo against all things Cuba, I was able to peruse some cigars on Tortola, purportedly made in Cuba, and considering the price, better have been made in Cuba.  The wife was not keen on my being detained in a foreign land over tobacco products.  But with my powers of persuasion, and puppy dog eyes, I was able to make my purchases with her tacit approval, and stuff them into my cargo shorts, worn specifically for the task of smuggling contraband.  On the way back to the ferry, we had to go through Tortola’s version of Customs, where I perjured myself on paper, then tip-toed through a metal detector that I am not entirely sure was working, as I wore my metal wrist watch while walking through, pockets stuffed to the gills with Cohibas, Partagas, and Punch, and not a peep was made by this “metal” detector.  What was that machine there for then anyway?  A prop?

So, with part one, of a three part adventure in smuggling completed, we got back to St Thomas proper, a U.S. territory, and disembarked the ferry, for part two.  This time it wasn’t Tortola’s version of Customs, it was U.S. Homeland Security.  Bag scanners, trained examiners, and some serious looking folks, asking why we just spent 5 hours in a foreign country…um, sightseeing??  Riiiighhht.

At this point, I was slightly more concerned about my near future.  I was all smiles with the first Homeland Security man, who looked at the passports and asked us about the weather in NY, and then sent us on our way.  But then there was the bag scanner.  See, after Tortola, I thought I should move my stash from my cargo shorts pockets to my backpack.  But not everything, I evenly split my booty between my shorts and the backpack.  But now I was asked to put my bag on the conveyer belt…I held my breath, made another NY weather joke with the next Homeland security agent, and waited.  Nothing. All clear.  We exited the building, home free…until the airport in a few more days.

It was then off to movie night on Water Island.  Every Monday night, locals and tourists in the “know” board a tiny boat for the 5 minute trip to this barely inhabited Island right next door to St Thomas.  People from all walks go to this, young and old alike, carrying puppies, coolers, arriving in golf carts (the only form of vehicle on the island).  Tonights feature, projected onto a sheet strung between two coconut trees, was Last Vegas.  A crowd of about 75 filled the plastic chairs and beach towels on the sand.

We got front row.  There was a snack cart, serving $4 Coronas, and $5 cheeseburgers, along with popcorn and water.  They played an episode of Tom and Jerry to get the crowd in the mood shortly after sunset.

And here is a shot of the sunset.

2014-02-10 17.12.27

We went one night to a restaurant that came highly recommended…it also came with a recommendation for reservations well in advance, but who has that kind of time?  We didn’t.  So when we arrived with no reservation, we were whisked into the wine bar and told to sit still and wait…with this guy:

2014-02-09 19.13.52

His name is Morris…and he has been waiting there for 12 years.  Do you turn into a cat if you wait for a table for 12 years?  We weren’t about to find out.  So we left.  Hungry.

We managed to eat dinner back at our hotel, where our waiters, who doubled as front desk staff during the day, regaled us with their personal stories of how they ended up on this beautiful island.  “Well, I just graduated college, and had nothing better to do.  I mean, I could have gone into finance like a lot of my friends back in D.C., but I thought I would live a little first, I mean, I am only 24.”  Indeed.

When it was time to say goodbye, I had more dread than when it was time to say hello, as not only am I now worrying whether our plane out of here has any new “dents” in the tail wing, I am also beginning to think of the real deal security at a real airport with real TSA people all over.  I perjured myself on paper one last time…made it through US Customs A.O.K.  This time, I went with packing ALL of my cuban product, including Cuban Coffee, into one backpack, along with a few other small items.   I went through the metal detector as my carry on bags went through the bag scanner.  As I was putting my shoes back on, I heard it.  “Bag Check.”  I stood up to look at the conveyer belt, and the TSA agent had stopped the conveyer belt and pulled my backpack aside.  The look on the Wife’s face, who was standing next to me, probably matched the look on mine.  Horror.  A supervisor was called over.  I was asked if the backpack was mine, I had to say yes.  The two of them looked at the screen for a bit.  All the while, I was told to stop in my tracks.  Do not move.  No one was going anywhere in the now large line behind me.  The two TSA agents then walked me over to a seperate table, where the ubiquitous “detection” wand was brought out, a clean swab attached, and my backpack thouroughly rubbed inside and out for any troubling chemical residue.  At least I knew I would pass THAT test.  Then I got the TSA speech, do I have your permission to open this bag?  Are there any sharp objects or items that could cause injury?  When I take an item out, you are NOT to reach for it.  These statements went on for a bit.  I was like, just open the damn bag, and take my cigars, will you already?  The very first item she removed was a ziplock bag, containing about 6 Cuban cigars, worth over $150.  Goodbye Cubans, nice knowing you.  But wait, what’s this?  She simply removed the ziplock, and just like the first, removed the other 3 ziplocks, nary a question about the contents.  I was befuddled.  What then was she looking for?  She next pulled out my toiletry kit, where I smartly packed my cigar cutter…fine, have it lady.  Nope, not that either.  Finally, she pulled out one last ziplock, containing my powdered Gatorade (never leave home without it).  The look on HER face at this point was pretty classic.  She had no idea what this was.  I had a little plastic scooper inside the ziplock to boot, just to throw her off a bit.  She asked, I answered: powdered Gatorade ma’am.  Not to be believed, she then called over another agent, and they reviewed the scanner images again, consulted with eachother, and then she re-packed my bag, cigars and all, and I was on my way, with my Gatorade.

I tell ya, it does not pay to smuggle.

Posted February 23, 2014 by mayday76 in Uncategorized