Sunday, February 08, 2004


So the boyfriend phones me at work around lunchtime on Friday and says, "Monday's our 'anniversary,' right?" Um, yeah. "I've got my own room tomorrow night. Why don't you come with me and we'll have a little anniversary getaway?" Okay! So he rushed down to the seaplane terminal to buy me a ticket. The only problem was that his Saturday noon flight was sold out, so I flew out at 10:30. Neither of us had ever flown on a seaplane before, although technically what we have here are floatplanes. I guess on a real seaplane the fuselage rests in the water. These are small land-based aircraft that have been adapted with floats. I'm a nervous flier, at best, so I wasn't too keen on getting on this little tiny plane -- by myself -- and flying over the OCEAN. But I have to say that the seaplane ROCKS! It was a smoother flight than with land planes. On our return flight, there was a couple with two adorable little towheaded kids--a boy and a girl. The boy and his father were seated right behind us and when we landed in St. Thomas, the little guy turned to his dad and said, "Dad! Dat was a rough one!" The landing seemed pretty smooth to me, but I guess I'm not the seasoned seaplane traveler he is. :)

I wasn't sure what the set-up would be at the St. Croix terminal because it was my first trip to St. Croix. (Boyfriend's fourth time there, all to play music.) But it was very pleasant--which was good because I had 90 minutes to kill waiting for his plane. They had an outdoor seating area under a canopy that had an espresso bar. (Okay, now we're talkin'!) So even though I had brought reading material, I was quite content to sip my latte and gaze out at the Caribbean and the boats in the harbor. Very relaxing. About half an hour after I arrived, I saw a couple get off a plane. He had a guitar case strapped over his shoulder and I concluded it was probably the bass player. Although boyfriend had done some gigs with him, I'd never met him--but I knew he was coming from St. John and bringing his girlfriend with him. I inquired if that was who they were (it was) and they joined me in waiting for the boyfriend, keyboard player and singer (who were all on the same flight.) It was the first time we'd met the singer.

Our driver, Melvin, showed up shortly after the rest of our party arrived. We were taken straight to the amphitheatre for sound check which was scheduled for 1:00. The only problem was that the headliners were given the first sound check, which turned into what appeared to be a full-fledged rehearsal. (It was a jazz show--Chieli Minnucci and Special EFX from New York.) So boyfriend and I sat in the front row for a couple of hours and waited for their band to finish. Meanwhile, it was a gorgeous day, we were booked at a gorgeous resort and time's a tickin'! We knew our pick-up time to go back to the venue was 6:30 and it was a 20-minute drive. During boyfriend's sound check, the promoter practiced introducing the singer and said, "From San Francisco..." I thought, hmmm, I didn't know that. We finally got out of there about 4:30.

St. Croix has fallen on very hard economic times. They have no cruise ship business anymore; the lines have all pulled out for a number of reasons, but the primary ones are the crime rate and the continued raw sewage that spills onto some of its beaches (like the one next to the cruise ship pier). It's much larger than St. Thomas and St. John (they have highways!), and also much flatter. It also seemed a bit more arid. (St. Thomas and St. John are both very hilly and very lush.) Carambola Beach Resort is in an out-of-the-way location right on the beach at Davis Bay on the north side of the island. It's a beautiful setting and we loved the resort.

We got back to the hotel, checked into our rooms and thought: wow! The rooms are in the old Danish West Indian style and are more like suites, with a living area (couch and rocking chair), huge vanity area in the bathroom that includes a walk-in closet, a separate room with the toilet and a huge tiled shower with a bench, and two-poster beds. There were doors from both the bedroom and living areas that opened onto the screened-in veranda that had two long bench seats and a table. Our room was on the ground floor at the east end of the beach; the water was maybe 15 yards away. It was gorgeous--looking out at the entire expanse of beach and listening to the waves. And when we returned that night, the full moon was in the western sky directly above the beach view. Just beautiful. So we oohed and aahed over the setting, had a quick bite to eat with the promoter and some of the band members on the deck of one of the restaurants, changed clothes and met back at the lobby for the ride back to the venue.

On the ride to the resort, I turned around in the van and said to the singer, "I didn't know you were from San Francisco." And she said that she's really not, that she lives about 8 hours north of there. I said, "Really? Where would that be?" And she told me that it was in a remote place that no one's ever heard of. I told her "try me" because I grew up in a small town in the northwest corner of the state. It turns out she's in the next county over and as the crow flies, about 60 miles from my hometown. What are the odds? I imagine I'm one of the few people she's met in the Caribbean who knows where it is. Small world. Her family's had land there for decades. She lived on St. John for a few years, went back home to visit her dad, he introduced her to his neighbor from across the river, it was love at first sight and she moved back home to move in with her new guy. They have 40 acres and are preparing to build a log cabin. She said she's also an avid gardener and they have a lot of animals. She seems very happy and quite content with her life. She's flying back on Tuesday, having spent the last couple of months on St. John. They're in such a remote place that to use the phone they have to drive to the top of the mountain and use their radio phone. I was sorry we didn't meet sooner, but we've exchanged e-mail addresses; she goes into town once a week to check hers. She's also a massage therapist. (The main reason I was sorry I didn't meet her sooner!)

The show went very well, audience response was great and it was a lovely night. Boyfriend and I sat on a bench at the back of the amphitheatre, under the full moon, for the headliner's set. As we made our way backstage while they were playing one of their last tunes, he said, "Didn't they already play this song?" I said, "No, it's just that we heard almost their entire show during sound check." Oh, right. Boyfriend and I are like a couple of old geezers. The show was over about 11:00 and we were ready for bed. The only problem was that there was an after-show party at a club in Fredericksted. I'd barely kept my eyes open during the headlining set--how the hell was I gonna stay awake for more??

So we pile back in the van for the drive to Fredericksted. On the highway! Which is a thrill when you live on an island where top speed is, at most, 45. The club we went to has its stage set up in the courtyard under a canopy. It was a very pleasant setting and they had an appetizer buffet. The promoter had hired St. Croix's Central High School Jazz Band to play the after-show party. I thought that was a wonderful touch. I'm all for anything that encourages young people to play jazz. It's one of our most precious American art forms and it'll die out if we don't encourage kids to further its legacy. Most of the kids had attended the sound check and the headlining band had agreed to sit in and play with them, which they did after we'd been there about an hour. The kids seemed thrilled. Boyfriend and I were at a table at the back, full of ginger ale and chicken wings...and struggling to stay awake. The keyboard player (who's older) actually nodded out for a bit. It all finally wrapped up at 2 am and we couldn't get in the van fast enough. Our poor driver, Melvin, had spent his day waiting on all of us. He said he was used to it because he sometimes drives bands in the States. He was a peach.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we made a beeline for the front desk so boyfriend could arrange for a wake-up call and a 6:45 taxi to take him to the resort's golf course, a couple of miles down the road. He'd been wanting to play that course since we moved here and now he was finally getting his chance. (Truth be told, it's the real reason he took the gig.) Everyone thought he was insane (because we were all exhausted) but I knew he'd be up and ready to go. So he went off to the golf course early the next morning. I laid in bed and read and phoned the singer about 7:30 to see if she still wanted to meet for breakfast. We agreed to meet at 8:00, and when we got there we joined the promoter, the keyboard player and the sax player. (He and his wife are down from Boston for a month and have rented an apartment in St. Croix, but they were at the resort for the night.) The promoter and his wife and the keyboard player were picked up for an early flight right after breakfast. The singer had switched to our 3:30 return flight and went back to her room to go back to bed. I sat and chatted with the sax player for awhile and then went back to the room to finish my book, change clothes and return to the beach for a little lounging. Still no sign of the boyfriend. About 11:30 I went back to the room to shower and change and pack our bags in time for the noon check-out. He called at 11:45 and said he'd been detained because his taxi still hadn't shown up. He arrived about noon.

We stashed our bags with the front desk, went to the restaurant to have lunch on the deck and grabbed a couple of lounge chairs on the beach. The beach at the resort is a sea turtle nesting site and I came upon a couple of baby ones lying on their backs. I thought at first they were dead, but then I saw them move. One was moving all of his "arms and legs" as if saying "help me!" We rescued both of them and put them in the water. Hopefully we gave them a chance at survival. At least the birds won't pluck them off the beach. They were the cutest things EVER.

In the morning, I had notified the desk that we'd be needing a taxi at 2:00. About 2:15 I went to the lobby to see if it was on its way and found out that they'd forgotten to order it. Our driver showed up about 2:40 and drove like a bat out of hell to get us to the seaplane. Thankfully there was little traffic since it was Sunday, so we arrived with plenty of time to spare. And that, my friends, was our weekend on St. Croix.


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