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Part III: Now what? page 8

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."


March 20, 2008

Our VIVA management told us we should have a vase to set on our dining room table and they would fill it with fresh flowers for each of our guest arrivals. We have way too many vases stored all over the place in our house in Maryland for us to go out and buy a vase on St John, so awhile back we brought one down. What they did not tell us was that the fresh flowers would be coming from our landscaping. Now, let me tell you, Josephine can work miracles and she has done a great job on our cliff side. But even Josephine can’t make our baby plants (getting bigger by the day and soon to be big glorious blossoming marvels - if Larry, Curly and Moe will leave them alone) bloom in enough quantity to fill a large (OK maybe a mediumish) vase each and every week. The empty vase sitting on that big table looked just plain pathetic. Speaking of the Amish (I did speak about the Amish once, remember?) we were in an Amish market awhile back and low and behold there sitting on a table was a basket of fruit, (the decorative, non-edible variety).  It looked fantastic and we thought something similar might work on our RM table until our blooming plants reach puberty. Being the scathingly devious business negotiator that I am, I proceeded to talk that poor little old Amish woman down in price. “If I buy one piece of fruit, how much off would I get if I bought three pieces of fruit? How about five pieces? What would you do for me if I got ten plus a wooden bowl?” Well after about twenty minutes of hard bargaining we finally made a deal and I paid her full price for everything and gave her a tip. Those Amish, they are such simple folk! Anyway, our friend Cliff, who came with us on our last trip, was tasked with the safe transport of said fruit basket. The gorillas that work for TSA and the airline baggage handlers are not to be trusted with such fine art as this Amish fruit basket so Cliff had to carry it in his lap. Did I mention how silly this big, strapping, macho, 6 foot 2inch guy looked as he walked around Reagan National and Miami Airports with a fruit basket in his arms?

March 24, 2008

We always looked forward to the day when we could fly to St Thomas bringing only a backpack, this being a perk of owning your own place and being able to leave bulky essentials that are tropical island specific (snorkel gear, and warm weather clothing, etc.) on island. The more we visit Reef Madness the more elusive the backpack dream becomes. We always arrive at Cyril King inbound with four large checked bags and four carry-ons. We always leave with multiple empty bags stored inside bigger empty bags. It is inevitable that we must have something that we either can’t get on-island or it is cost prohibitive on-island or is selection/quality poor on-island. This last time we even enlisted the help of our travel companions to help bring even more stuff on board the plane. I think airlines are starting to wise up. Many of them are starting to charge for more than one checked bag. First they limit us to 50LBs, now only one free checked bag (except for American - yet). Where will it end? Some day it will be cheaper to cruise to the islands and stow island bound goodies in the miniscule cabin on board a 5,000 passenger behemoth. The passenger ferries to St John have taken a similar tact with the per bag pricing for their customers. I suppose it works well for the daily commuters that travel to and from St Thomas. The day workers have no bags. We villa owners, well that is a whole different matter. It is more cost effective for us to take the car barge! I image TSA has a field day with our luggage. Let me think... what contraband did we slip into the islands this time: 24 energy efficient 40 watt bulbs, a dozen (same) 60 watts, two replacement outdoor sconces, one previously mentioned fruit basket, 8 mango/orange rum daiquiri mix (very important- can’t find it on island and those daiquiri canisters look just like explosives to an x-ray  machine watcher) one ant repelling hanger for a bird feeder, 5 decorative throw pillows, one 3’x 3’ framed oil painting, 8 scented candles, and a partridge in a pear tree. No wonder we’re so exhausted when we travel!

March 26, 2008

We have noticed over the months how much Reef Madness stands out on the hillside. It is distinguishable from other places because there is nothing else around it and it sits on top of the hill. Of course we know it is Reef Madness sitting off in the distance while to the uninitiated, it appears to be a rock outcropping on some hillside. I liken it to the ability of a penguin to recognize its own child amongst the thousands of other black and white fledglings hunkered down in the distance. Or perhaps, even better, a mama Rasta donkey…amongst a bunch of …oh never mind…Anyway we took a photo-op with our guests Cliff  (barer of fruit basket) and his lovely wife, Ellen. They thought the picture was of them, but like the proud parents we are, we only have eyes for rock outcroppings!

March 28, 2008

We’ve talked and bragged a lot about how much we love Josephine and the work she’s doing for us.  But the proof is in the plantings, doncha’ know.  On our last visit we were astonished at the way our landscaping is taking off.  Thanks to the newly installed grey-water system, our vegetation is doing quite well despite the recent lack of measurable rainfall.  Much of that water comes right off of our (ever-so-slightly) steep driveway, where it funnels into a holding tank and eventually through the irrigation system on the hillside.  But someone much smarter than me once said a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here are a few pictures and I’ll stop yakking…

April 7, 2008

We told you last month about our little pool leak problem and how Maintenance Pete patched the hole and got everything up and running in time for our next guests.  Well… turns out that there was a secondary problem that while it didn’t cause the pool to lose any water in “normal mode”, when the water rose in “infinity edge mode”, it went pouring over the side and down the hill.  So we had to disable the infinity edge pump until further repairs could be made.  We blocked off the rental calendar last week so that the problem could be fixed, once and for all.  We’ve given Sunnyrock a few friendly jabs in the past about the cost of the house, the amount of time it took to build, etc… but we need to point out in no uncertain terms how responsive they’ve been in acting on the few “issues” that have come up since the villa was completed.  And we haven’t made it particularly easy for them as our rental calendar has been happily full.  But they’ve been there for us, and for that we’re deeply appreciative.  We got this e-mail from Pete on Friday evening:

Hi Randy,
Don't remember where I left off, but here's the tally at the end of the week:

On Friday I half-filled the surge tank, started the surge pump, and watched and waited as the water rose up and over the leaking even after the surge pump ran for 15 minutes. Steve went back later to check while the water was at the waterfall height for more than an hour, he called me and all seemed good.

That, of course, was music to our ears.  The difficulty of finding the leak point and the nagging nature of the problem had caused us a bit of consternation and was taking away from the ability of our guests to enjoy the feature.  So – break out the rum and start up the donkey rides!  The endless pool has no end again!

April 8, 2008

So what’s happening on the WAPA front? Well let me see… There is a backlog of people just like us Reef Madness types waiting ever so patiently in queue for the old bucket truck to come by. There is that ever present issue of too much sun, too little sun, lack of water, too much water, too windy, sister’s nephew’s wife’s newborn causing insomnia, the Holy Day of the Obligation, the Holy Day of the Redemption, the Holy Day of the Wholly Day, the Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, and the Unholy Day of Herbal Resuscitation to consider! So what about our permanent power? Soon come…

April 15, 2008

We just blocked off time to head back to St John. This time we will be going at the end of May, first part of June. This is typically a pleasant time on St John. Most of the snowbird tourists have cleared out and it’s a bit early for the Carnival cavorters. Everything is still opened and there is plenty to do. But the crowds, oh yes those crowds…they are blissfully (and to some, regrettably) missing! It is low season, the hot season, the water is so much warmer season. It is the season of cheap airfares and low rental rates. We will be there before most of the school kids have escaped their tyrannical academic bonds, and too, before the dreaded hurricanes start causing the diligent to keep a wary eye on the Weather Channel.  Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen. We can’t wait! I think our primal connection with St John (yep, you repeat pilgrims to that altar known as St John have felt this phenomenon) is calling us. It is our Aborigine Dreamtime, our version of the nature of human life and death, and the part dreams play. We believe the nightmare is over. Our St John has come back to us. Truly, it never left. We did. We’re back.

May 8, 2008

Were back! Where have we been? Well, nowhere actually. It’s just that we haven’t had much of anything new to say (not that that has ever stopped us before)… until today. Can you imagine our surprise to find out that Innovative Communications, (you know the Island version of Ma Bell) somehow managed to get us some dial tone up at Reef Madness. We have been using a cell phone to give our guests access to the outside world, but now, we can put real honest to goodness landlines (I know, how yesterday landlines are) all around RM. The folks at Innovative had to string wire all the way up to our little eagles nest starting from far, far below. We have heard about people on St John waiting for years to get a phone line. Ours only took five months. Go figure. So in the tortoise race to the finish line, the lumbering Innovative Communications phone service crawled across the finish line ahead of the early leader and ever popular WAPA folks who are still promising permanent power “Tomorrow”.  Yep, we’re still smiling. Ouch, my jaw hurts….


May 20, 2008

We had some very disturbing news passed along to us by VIVA. It seems (sniff) that (sniff) our beloved Rumsfeld (sniff, sniff, sniff) met with an accident. One of our guests was so overcome with thirst that he/she accidentally pulled off Rummy’s arm in an attempt to extricate the rum bottle. Oh no, not Rumsfeld!!!! Our sad little monkey friend was armless and unable to perform his wine stewardly duties. There are no more Rumsfelds to be had. We have back up coffee pots, back up blenders (four, but who’s counting) back up towels and sheets and toasters. We have dishes backing up our dishes and glasses backing up our glasses, but as for Rummy, well, he is a one of a kind (more so since the Bombay Company has shut its doors and no other place carries our sophisticated and handsome simian sommelier). The good news (you can dry away your tears now, this entry does not end in pathos) VIVA was able to make repairs to Rummy’s arm and will teach new guests the proper way of removing the bottle from Rumfeld’s tenacious grasp. Still, we are endeavoring to find a back up should Rummy decide to take early retirement, something worthy of our discerning guests.

June 11, 2008

We thought we would update our blog because…we can. I mean, we actually have something to write about. We just got back from a trip to St John and since our building blog is in limbo (have I mentioned we have no permanent power at Reef Madness…but WAPA says this week…) I will give a bit of a daily trip report. OK, wake up, I know those of you who vacation on St John year in and year out will find this a real snoozer but hey, what else can we do. Some people have not been bitten by the STJ bug and could be interested in this stuff. However, once bitten there is no known cure for the dreaded St John malady! We suffer from terminal St Johnitus which symptoms only appear when you board the ferry to St Thomas and gets progressively worse the farther north you travel. Ah but I digress…again.  Did I mention I bought a really cool underwater camera? A real bargain, it was! This little guy takes great underwater pictures and videos and costs about a hundred bucks. In the scheme of things, a hundred dollars seems like pocket change to us. I will pepper these upcoming entries with a few of our 237,655,933 shots we took while playing with our new hundred dollar toy. I am sure you will be fascinated!  We will start with day one tomorrow because I have worn myself out with writing this much. I am out of shape donchano!

June 16, 2008

OK, so when I said tomorrow, that was in WAPA time. What am I saying, WAPA time?; I am much faster than WAPA time, faster even than island time with this entry; I mean, like, faster than a spinning island blender with this entry… but I digress… again... hum, where was, I… oh yeah, trip report: day one. A very good friend of ours, who was seeing Reef Madness for the first time on this St John adventure, meandered up the road from Greenville, South Carolina to our bustling metropolis of Shady Side, Maryland (just like St. John, we have no traffic lights and a traffic circle that took years to build!). Took her about eight hours. “Why”, you might ask? I will tell you even if you don’t ask. Our flight to St Thomas stopped in Charlotte, NC where we changed planes and headed to St Thomas (there are no direct flights to STT from the greater Washington DC area). Now Charlotte is only two hours from Greenville, BUT…. it costs several hundred dollars more to fly on the same flight directly from Charlotte to STT than flying from DC, stopping in Charlotte and then continuing on to STT. How’s that for pretzel logic?  Do you think the airlines are run by the Virgin Islands Government? So after our friend drives eight hours north (in order to fly south), we put her to bed only to get her up at 2:45 AM so we can be at the airport at 5AM in order to catch a 7AM flight to Charlotte. The fun for her is only beginning… Of course we had breakfast at National Airport and normally this is not a good thing. In fact, normally it is a very bad thing, but for the very first time, we flew US Airways (American priced itself out of the running) and we took off from a new (for us) terminal.  Also, for the very first time we tried the airport food at “Five Guys” and I have to admit, they make the best breakfast sandwich we have ever had at that airport (and we have had lots, mostly bad). To our complete surprise, our plane took off late. That has never happened before and we were short timed getting to our connecting flight. Luckily, the Caribe gods were not paying attention and our connecting flight, which was loading as we were landing, was right next door to our arrival gate. Phew, we made it! (Have I ever mentioned the hours spent in the Miami and San Juan airports trying to get another flight out?) We actually made it to STT early and because the Caribe gods were not paying attention on this particular day, our “Dependable” car was waiting for us at the airport. So off we go to do our very favorite thing – shopping at K-Mart. “Why?” you ask (you are asking me a lot of questions today). Because it saves us money to get Reef Madness supplies at K-Mart rather than having VIVA buy them for us.  Now shopping at K-Mart can be an interesting adventure (for those of us without real lives) if one has not been up since 2:45 in the morning. All of a sudden, those quirky little island manners and work practices (multitasking is forbidden in the islands on religious grounds) which normally seem so quaint, become irritating beyond tolerance. Much to the delight of our guest from Greenville, we leave K-Mart with huge packages of toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc, shoved in every nook and cranny (what is a cranny anyway?), filling our laps, blocking our windows, balanced on our heads and we head off to Red Hook (free at last, free at last; thank god almighty we’re free of Charlotte Amalie traffic and K-Mart at last). OK, I am exhausted and I haven’t even finished day one….to be continued!

More hundred dollar camera photos

June 17, 2008

Where was I? Oh yes, off to Red Hook to catch the car barge. We had one final stop to make before our last attempt to get off St Thomas: the Marina Market. This is a great place to buy meats and fix’uns. Besides, we have to have coffee, oh and rum…no not together (at least not until after breakfast!) So anyway, one last stop and on to the car barge. Our friend was very impressed by the way we backed onto the ferry (she had never seen this backwards up-the-ramp barge stunt done before) most particularly after having been up since 2:45 AM. And did I mention that my vision was obscured by rolls of toilet paper and paper towels stacked to the roof of the rental car? At this point in time and most particularly after our engaging K-Mart experience, we were ready for happy hour, but alas, the Roanoke barge (the one with the palm trees that serves alcohol) was not waiting for us, but rather we crawled aboard the General II and were grateful that it was sitting there with room enough for us to squeeze on. YIPPPEEE, we are off St Thomas and have St John clearly in our sights. Wow, has St John changed over the years. What are all those ugly gashes in the sides of those formerly beautiful hills? Don’t they know that now that we have built here, they must close the gates and keep everyone else out…it’s the American way! Mostly we were saddened at the sight of that abysmal, elephantine atrocity, Sirenusa. That is an abomination on our beautiful island…but enough sniveling, we have a villa to get to. But, wait! We have another stop. It is our policy to always stop at “Compass Rose” (at Pastory Gardens) to give Wally, the proprietor, the latest Washington Post newspaper. Wally is a newspaper junkie and loves to read what he refers to as “real newspapers”. Sadly, Wally was not in as he had just flown back to the States for a family emergency. So we hot-footed it back to the car and again set off to Reef Madness. We had just gotten back onto Centerline from Compass Rose when our cell phone rang. What cool, hip people we must be for we hadn’t been on St John for fifteen minutes before we got invited to meet a bunch of people at Skinny’s. Say, just how many web cams are there on this island anyway? Does Homeland Security know about the warp-speed grapevine that St Johnians use? We finally get to RM, unload our car, do a quick change of clothes and roll on down the hill to meet the “Skinny Legs” contingency. Ahhhhh, Pain Killers. I have been waiting since K-Mart for one (or four or five) of these. At long last…we’re St John home sweet home!

More underwater, cheap camera shots. We have lots!

June 18, 2008

Trip report, day two, part one:   

We had a very ambitious day planned for Sunday, drink coffee while gazing out over the bustling metropolis of Coral Bay, paddle about in the pool, do some snorkeling, eat, drink, shop, you know the usual St John stuff. After sleeping in way too long (have I mentioned that we got up at 2:45 AM the day before?) we finally got up and made our way to the coffee pot, poured a cuppa (spiked with Bailey’s), plopped down out on the porch and mindlessly stared out at the horizon.  Is the world migrating to Coral Bay? Is Coral Bay becoming…well, busy? The ten or fifteen boats that used to be moored out in that bay have rocketed up to about one hundred. Johnson Bay, just beyond Coral Bay, rarely had over night moorings. Now it looks like Coral Bay did just a few years back. We call it the Coral Bay Overflow Lot. Many of all these boats are the full time homes to full time St Johnians. So there we sit, sipping coffee while watching the dinghies heading out from the mother ships to the dock at Skinny Legs. What a fine dock it is too. It is a most fitting dock for the fine establishment that Skinnys’ is. During the work day, dinghies are tied up six deep while the sailors turn into working class nine to fivers (that is two to threers in St John time). After “happy hour” (Coral Bay happy hour lasts from noon to midnight) it is amazing how the happy-headed sailors navigate the treacherous bobbings and weavings of the dinghy dock to crawl back to their safe harbor. How do they get aboard the boat from the dinghy when they are likely seeing three of everything and everything (real and imagined) is bouncing around? How do they do it? Years of practice, I suppose. The dinghy dock is no place for happy hour amateurs.

June 20, 2008

Day two, part deux:
Surprisingly, all of our plans for the day went the way of the Dodo and villa gravity set in (oh that’s never happened before). For the majority of the day we snoozed in the sun and, cooled off in the pool. Our big plans to hit the beach, snorkel, shop for more groceries and barbeque the great ribs we bought at the Marina Market for dinner… poof - gone. If opportunity had knocked, someone else would have to get the door. Actually, the day was perfect for all of us. While lazing around on the deck, we heard Larry (or was it Curly, or perhaps Moe) laughing at some silly donkey quip and we watched with binoculars as all three ran barefoot through the Seagrape underbrush. Maybe they were laughing at our poor donkey-mangled mango tree… We brought down with us an ant deterrent for our Bananaquit feeder and re-hung the feeder. We filled the feeder to overflowing and followed in fascination their flashing yellow and black buffet activities. They all seem to get along so well. That mankind could live together as Bananaquits do. Ahhhh, the peace of it all. How Zen… We did manage to get together with locals, Pia and Les, at the villa. They had stopped by Reef Madness months ago and we were out. We missed out on the bottle of wine they brought with them that time (damn the luck!) but this time they once again came bearing gifts of wine and great conversation. We spent happy hour with them catching up on all the local gossip and swapping stories. It was great fun. Thank you Pia and Les! Happy hour exhausted us (it was a very busy day after all) so rather than cook, we headed off to Shipwreck Landing. Have I ever mentioned that Shipwreck has the best fish and chips I have ever had…EVER! They have a great menu, but it is hard to pass up their fish and chips, even once. After stuffing ourselves, downing a few beers, (pain killers, etc) and petting all the Shipwreck cats, it was time to head back home, take one last dip in the pool and call it a night.  Not just a night - a beautiful Caribbean, St John night.


June 23, 2008

Yes they do!

Permanent power from WAPA

Sadly, this means our building blog is officially over. Reef Madness is completed. There is nothing more we can add.

Or perhaps there is...

Reef Madness...the sequel ...soon come.


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