Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma

As some of you may know, Hurricane Irma slammed into the Caribbean with a force never experienced before, and is still working her way through Florida.

All of my family on St. John, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico are present and accounted for. I'm confident my cousins in Florida will be okay as they are on the east coast.

To say the area is devastated is an understatement. It will be 3 to 6 months before power is restored to everyone. It will take years to recover.

My sister, who lives on St. Thomas and I, were/and are mightily blessed to have had cell phone communication throughout. At the height of the storm we were talking and she said, in this very calm voice from the bathtub where she was huddled, "There goes the roof." Luckily it was "only" her porch rood which was picked up and hurled over the rest of the house and landed a good 40 feet on the hillside behind her house. Perhaps caused by one of those 200 plus mph gusts...

The trees and bushes have been blasted, branches twisted off, tossed aside and leaves stripped off. Many trees have had the bark stripped off them. One has to wonder how many trees will die.

If you have the stomach, a few random pictures with locations.

A section of our property on St. John. Most of the buildings survived in tact but have damage. The mahogany tree on the right will come back as will the tree on the left.

Cruz Bay, St. John
 Cruz Bay, St. John. That's three boats piled on the beach next to the ferry dock.

St. Thomas - The difference between a good roof and cheap roof. Cost-U-Less, a large bulk grocery store. In front, relatively untouched, the movie theater and shops. 

Boat yard - St. Thomas

 Disappearing road - St. Thomas

 Looking towards town - St. Thomas

Beautiful Magens Bay - St. Thomas

The Harbor and down town - St. Thomas

 Typical hillside - St. Thomas

Random damage - St. Thomas

The famous Bluebeard's Castle, St. Thomas

Interior of the hospital, St. Thomas. Despite a concrete roof the 3rd and 4th floors were destroyed. Patients have been evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico.

A church on St. Thomas.

Good news, within three days the Navy arrived with a hospital ship along with the Marines. People in Puerto Rico, which wasn't nearly as affected is shuttling supplies and help back and forth from the eastern port of Fajardo. These private citizens are also taking people to PR who are in need of medical services. The Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are sending ships to drop off supplies and pick up stranded people. All a body needs is have a passport if it can be found... Aid is coming from the 3 or more million Virgin Islanders, including Tim Duncan, who live across the U.S. The air strip is open (though the airport building was damaged) for relief and charter flights only.

Please keep my beautiful island home, and all those in the Caribbean affected by this storm, in your thoughts and prayers.

It is a bizarre and surreal experience to watch TV or open my fridge or sleep under a roof or drive unhindered to the grocery store or flip on a light switch or turn on a water tap, when I know my sister will not be able to do any of those things for a long time.

I will be off my blog for an indefinite period of time.

Being Thankful
I'm thankful all my family and friends are alive and okay.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG, National Read a Book Day, an Award, and Being Thankful

First and foremost: Please keep my family, friends and all Virgin Islanders and Puerto Ricans in the your thoughts and prayers as they face down Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlanatic storm ever recorded. Sustained winds are at 185 MPR with gusts of 200 or more. I doubt the islands will get the coverage that Texas did (and deserved). But I can tell you media coverage would be helpful. And it pisses me off that The Weather Channel and national news channels are just talking about when it will hit Florida. What about 3.8 million people in the VI and PR? I bet if a storm this size were to hit Hawaii they'd be all over it. Why don't the islands rate the same kind of coverage? Could it be because in cases like Irma, once they were to get there they wouldn't be able to leave? There is no place to go, no evacuation. It's the really deal. When Marilyn hit in 1995, the islands got little to no coverage. Heck, nobody in the states believed it was a cat 5 storm even though wind gauges broke at 200 MPR. Four out five buildings were damaged or destroyed. My family home's roof was ripped off. It was months before power was restored and about three years before the house was rebuilt. It was a terrible mess, debris everywhere, boats tossed onto shore like pieces of legos, cars flipped on their sides and roofs, vegetation stripped of leaves. You can view pictures HERE. Iram is as bad or worse... To say I'm concerned is an understatement. (I have to remember to breathe.)

Posting the First Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group, is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate.

Every month a question will be posed that may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Remember, the question is optional. You can write about anything that relates to your writing journey.

Let's give a warm welcome to our co-hosts: Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

This month's question is: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??

The answer to the first question is a resounding YES! I have some philosophical/spiritual stuff I wrote when I was in my late 20s early 30s that, when reread years later, totally blew me away. I wonder, "Who wrote that? Where did that come from? Where did that writer go and can I get her back?" 

I can answer YES to the second question, too. My current WIP is YA plus it's an historical fantasy that takes place in Tibet, all of which is totally out of my normal comfort zone.

It's National 
Read a Book Day! 

Pick a book, any book, find a nice comfy place and... ENJOY! 

(Dr.'s order!)

An Award
Quite by surprise I have received an award from The Lair of the Silver Fox for my post called, The Real America, which you can read HERE. I am humbled and honored. Thank you Silver Fox!

The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME! Award
This is NOT an award I can pass on. It's something The Silver Fox gives to bloggers for a particular post that he deems worthy of recognition. Here's what he has to say about it.

One of my all-time favorite stories is Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano often used the expression "Thrust home!" when fatally piercing an opponent during a sword fight. I've appropriated that phrase for... "The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME Award! -- Given to the Author of a Single Outstanding Blog Post."
And my rules for the award -- and the rules for its recipients -- are:
  • This award will be given by me, and no one else, and generally to only one recipient at a time.
  • I'll only give the award to those whose posts have truly "thrust home" with me, so even my best friends on the net might never get one.
  • The award will usually go to a post of what I deem to be of general import and interest, but that may be fudged once in a while to reflect my own biases. (My award, my stupid rules. Deal with it.)
  • There will be no set frequency for the giving of the award.
  • Theoretically, a recipient of "The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME Award!" may win once, twice... or forty-seven times! This is an award for individual blog posts, not for blogs!
  • Recipients would be asked to mention their receipt of said award on their own sites, along with a corresponding link to my own. And a little blurb on your sidebar -- feel free to copy and paste the graphic, of course! -- would be greatly appreciated.
  • Winners are not allowed to give this award to others.
  • Other than that, awardees are not asked to do anything else. You've already done it!
Being Thankful 
Today I'm thankful for any and all prayers for the Virgin Islands and surrounding area.

What are you thankful for? Has your writing ever surprised you? Received an award lately?

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Yellow Dragon Tale for Labor Day and Being Thankful

Island Idylls: Stories of growing up in the Virgin Islands.
In honor of Labor Day, this is a re-post (with some editing) from 2012.
About the first thing my parent's bought when we moved to St. John in 1955, was a Jeep. They got a 1948 CJ2 at Tropical Motors on St. Thomas and had it barged over to St. John.
The earliest picture of the Yellow 
Dragon, taken about 1957.

We called it The Yellow Dragon because Dad painted it a flashy yellow-orange and because it was indestructible.

We drove that jeep everywhere and it hauled everything from rocks to our boat. Once Dad even used The Yellow Dragon to rescue a bulldozer that had slipped off it's track!

Read about THAT adventure HERE.
 L to R: My sister, Erva, me, Dad, Nana (Dad's mom) Mom
and Pa's shadow. taken about 1960
Dad putting a new body on The Yellow Dragon, about 1960.
The Yellow Dragon hauling our boat, the F.D.O.
(which stood for Father's Day Off.)

Like a lot of people, we went to Coral Bay for the Labor Day Celebrations, which included donkey races, cricket matches, and lots of food. It was an all day excursion. One: because the roads were dirt and rocky and it took so long to drive there. 2: When we got there it was time to party, picnic, visit with people we didn't get to see very often, and go for a swim.

When it was time to leave we started up the road out of Coral Bay, which is a long, serpentine incline of approximately two miles, that rises from sea level to 1147 feet. We hadn't gotten far when The Yellow Dragon began to sputter and choke and eventually stalled out. We knew we had enough gas, so after coasting down hill Dad tried again. The beast started right up and off we went. Again, as soon as the way got steep, the engine sputtered and died. Several time we made the attempt, but each time we stalled out. In the process, however, Dad discovered if the engine was pointed down hill it started and everything was fine. It was only then the engine pointed up hill that it coughed and choked.

Something was obviously wrong with the fuel line.

To solve the problem Dad decided to back up hill. This helped push fuel from the gas tank (under the driver's seat) into the engine. All the way out of Coral Bay and up every hill we came to, he backed up the jeep. Whenever we came to a level place or a down hill stretch, he turned the jeep around. It was long, hard way to drive, craning his neck over his shoulder. A labor of love to get his family home.

Dad, being an ace mechanic (among other things) took the fuel system apart. Finally he found the cause of the blockage after he blew out all the lines. It was a cockroach! How it got in the tank and made its way through the lines remains a mystery.

Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for all the people I've seen out and about
 buying up items to help with the Harvey disaster relief.

What are you thankful for? Ever taken a ride in a REAL Jeep? Do you name your vehicles? If so, please share! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Fifty Year Anniversary and Being Thankful

It's strange to realize it's been 50 years since the Summer of Love. So much was happening.  It was in the summer of 1967 that I was turned on to rock and roll. How could one not be? The music was phenomenal! The Doors with Light My Fire, Sgt. Peppers and All You Need is Love by The Beatles, If You're Going to San Francisco by Scott McKenzie (whom I would meet two years later), the Monterey Pop Festival with Janis, Jimi, The Who, The Mamas and Papas and Otis Redding - to name a few.

And where was I? What was I doing? I had the great good fortune of spending the summer with a family in Arlington, VA. I raised my own money to make the trip with matching funds coming from my parents and grandmother. It took a whole year to plan, save, and prepare. That summer I also traveled to Newark, NJ to visit and friend, and New York City to visit my sister, Erva, who was a student at NYU.

I took a lot of pictures. If you don't think the Clean Air Act had any affect, all you have to do is look at these pictures of Washington, DC and New York City to learn the truth.

The Capitol Building from the Washington Monument

The White House from the Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial

 The Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial

My sister, Erva, in front of the Lincoln Center, NYC

Erva at the top of the Empire State Building

Me at the top of the Empire State Building

 Macy's and Gimbels from the Empire State Building

 From the Empire State Building

 Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 

 The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

 Me on my last day.

I experienced so many wonderful things: Shakespeare on The Mall, being part of an "art" film, 4th of July fireworks over DC, walking around Greenwich Village, having a non-alcoholic drink at Cafe Wha?, seeing an off Broadway play about Jelly Roll Morton...

You wouldn't know from this post there was turmoil and tension happening all over the US. San Francisco was a kind of counter balance to what was happening elsewhere in the US. Just during the months of June, July, and August there were race riots in Tampa, Buffalo, Newark, Minneapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Washington DC.

The Six Days War occurred at the beginning of June. At the end of August the American Nazi Party leader, George Lincoln Rockwell was killed in Arlington, VA.

 Yes, these times are very trying, but I have to believe there are young people out there who have experienced something good and wonderful this summer. We survived the '60s, we can survive these times too.

Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful Hurricane Harvey didn't dump a lot of rain on us. I know others in Texas are suffering. But this is the extent of our "damage."

What are you thankful for? Were you around for the Summer of Love? If so, share a memory! If not, would you have liked to have experienced it?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Real America

I don't use this blog to be political. But in the wake of Charlottesville, I have a story to tell. And this is without a doubt, the longest post I've ever written

I grew up in a white minority in the Virgin Islands. In 1955, my sister and I were the first (and only) white kids at the public school on St. John. I was one of six white kids in my high school graduating class. While I was in the islands last month eight of us were able to get together for dinner.
We are a beautiful rainbow.

The older I get the more grateful I am that I was raised in the Virgin Islands and that my family has been in the area over 100 years. My sister still lives on St. Thomas and I have cousins who live on St. John, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. We are a multi-racial family.

Act I 
Scene I
On August 15th I got to the airport in St. Thomas and learned the plane coming from Atlanta had been delayed, which meant it would arrive late to St. Thomas, which meant it would be late returning to Atlanta, which meant I would miss my connecting flight to San Antonio. The lady who to took care of me at check-in assured me I'd get a flight out of Atlanta the morning of the 16th and that the airline would put me up for the night.

Scene II
There was a most gorgeous sunset as we flew across the ocean and traveled up the Florida coast. The massive clouds were painted golden-yellow with streaks of orange and red while rays of sunlight shot upwards from behind the clouds, a giant fan of light.

Scene III
Coming into Atlanta, off to the southwest, a huge thunder storm was in progress. The clouds were lit up by massive flashes of lighting. It was better than fireworks at Disneyland.

Act II
Scene I
Once on the ground in Atlanta I asked a lady at the gate what I had to do next and was politely told where I had to go and to whom I had to speak. I followed her directions and secured my next day's boarding pass and a voucher for a hotel room and was told how to find the shuttle that would take me to the hotel. "Don't be afraid to ask anyone for help," the lady told me. On the way there, just to make sure, I did ask help from a young woman who walked me to where I needed to go.

Scene II
The shuttle driver took my bag and I, along with others, were loaded into a small bus and taken to the hotel. A handsome young man with a beautiful smile whizzed back and forth behind the counter in a wheel chair, checked us in and give us our room keys. I asked when I needed to get myself to the airport to catch my morning flight. He suggested 6 AM "To be on the safe side. The shuttle leaves every 15 minutes so if you're downstairs by 5:30/quarter to 6 you'll be fine." I was given a large comfortable room and though I had only 5 hours of sleep, it was a good sleep.

Scene III
I left a tip on the bed for the maid and went to drop off the key. The same young man who’d checked me in whizzed out from a side room to greet me with his beautiful smile. “You’re still here?” I asked. He laughed. “I think live here sometimes!” By 5:30 I was waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport. A few others were waiting as well. A cheery older gentleman soon showed up, greeted us all and loaded our bags. Inside the shuttle soft, smooth jazz was playing.

Scene I
I had a precheck boarding pass so I got to avoid the long lines through security. Even so, my carry-on was pulled aside after being x-rayed. An older man was training a young man. They had spotted my baggy of sand. Even though they knew it was sand, the older man question the young man on what the procedure was when encountering something like that. The young man politely asked me to refrain from putting my hands anywhere near my bag. He removed the baggy, opened it, tested it and, finding it to be benign, returned it to where he gotten it. He apologized for the inconvenience. I told him I was happy to help with his training. I was then told how to get to my gate.

Scene II
It was, by this time, barely 6 AM. Walking to my gate I stopped at a restaurant, thinking to have breakfast and was told they wouldn't be open until 6:30. I continued on to my gate and outside through the large plate glass windows a brilliant, golden sunrise blazed in the sky. I felt calm and peaceful about everything. Life was good, my journey uneventful despite the delay, and people had been friendly and helpful.

Scene III
There was no one else at the gate when I sat down to wait for the restaurant to open. I didn't think about where I sat, I simply picked a seat. And there, hanging from the ceiling in front of me was a TV screen. Blaring from the screen were horrible images of hate with people screaming horrible words of hate and bigotry. I'd seen some images on facebook, but I hadn't seen any "news" as I'd pretty much been without TV for a month. Something inside me broke. In a flash, tears welled up in my eyes and I began to sob. I couldn't control it. I happen to have a napkin and pressed it to my eyes trying to staunch the flow. But they wouldn't stop coming. How could there be such people? How could they believe as they believed? How could they say such things? Where was the compassion for our fellow humans? How could this be happening in America? My heart was breaking and my soul being torn. In Bob Dylan's words, "Insanity is smashin' up against my soul."

Act IV
Scene I
So there I was, quietly sobbing into a napkin, trying not to cry out loud and make a scene when, from across the other side of the terminal, a woman approached. She stopped about 10 or 15 feel away from me and asked, "Ma'am, are you okay?" I looked up at her and without hesitation said, "No." Pointing at the TV I said through tears, "I don't understand it. It's breaking my heart, my soul is aching. I can't believe this is happening." And so the conversation began. We talked for a good half-hour, about life and how "those people" on the TV were a small minority making a lot a noise. That most of us, and she indicated me, the people working at the airport and the travelers, were just trying to live their lives in peace. She told me she not only worked full time for the airline, but was a nurse and owned a business, that her own family was multi-racial and that "those people" weren't worthy of the ground they walked on. 

Did I mention she was a black lady? I told her I'd grown up in the Virgin Islands, in a white minority. That it was a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment that, for the most part, was and is, extraordinarily tolerant and accepting of diversity and that I couldn't wrap my head around the news. She told me a story of how, on the day Trump was elected, a white man felt emboldened to be rude and called her a black fat-assed bitch. This, to an attractive slender woman in her late 30s, early 40s, with long braids pulled together that hung down to her waist. In response to him she looked around and asked the man who he was speaking to? And he said he was talking to her. She then asked what gave him the right to speak to her in that manner. And he said, "Now that Trump's been elected, it's called free speech." After he left she was so shaken she had to move to another department for a few days to calm down. I asked her how she handled it, how she dealt with the hatred. She told me every morning she gets up and thinks rainbows and puts rainbows around people. We talked about so much. Like how she thought we'd already been through this and it was like going backwards in time. How I'd lived through the 60s and the Civil Rights Movement and the riots and it was like going back in time. But finally the moment came when she had to get back to work. I thanked her for talking with me. “I would do the same for anyone I saw in distress.” We hugged, and held each other for several long seconds. I wished her a most blessed day and year and watched her walk away, my life forever changed. As I told my sister, I will not be tolerant of intolerance. (An oxymora for sure.) I know in my heart, if I see or hear intolerance within my sphere of existence that I will not be able to keep my mouth shut that I will have to speak up and defend what is right. Nazi salutes and intolerance towards human beings different from ourselves is WRONG, PERIOD.

Did I tell you that EVERY SINGLE PERSON I dealt with, from the lady in the St. Thomas airport to the flight attendant who greeted me as I boarded the plane to San Antonio, was black? And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, was kind, courteous, helpful, and friendly.

That is the Real America.

Pictures of diversity from other class reunions. 
The smiles on our faces are genuine. We always have a blast when we get together, picking up where we left off, as if we'd been separated only a few days rather than years.

Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for diversity.
What are you thankful for?

PS: Since writing and posting this blog I have written my first letter to our local newspaper in response to a letter I read that I couldn't "tolerate" going unchallenged. It was published in the Sunday paper, my first published Letter to the Editor.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Where am I?

I'm not here.
Or here...

I'm here.

And here.
I'll be here for a while and won't be back to blogging until the end of August.
Enjoy your summer!