Friday, February 27, 2009


Paco and I just returned from our annual sailing trip with our dear friends the Queens, visiting various exotic locales in search of the perfect wind, the perfect Pain Killer and the perfect holiday. We found something close to all three but hopefully perfection will continue to allude us, making it imperative that we continue to return year after year to resume our odyssey.

Meanwhile, we had many adventures, encounters and happy days plying the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, getting up close and personal with a whale, flying fish and sting rays, giant turtles and uber friendly dolphin. We also had a close encounter with a very distinguished-looking member of the Nevis Port Authority who reminded us that there are an infinite number of ways to shake down the tourists, even as you are professing to protect them from terrorists.

One afternoon Paco and I decided to take the little yellow dinghy that ferried us all between the boat and shore and do some sight-seeing. Because dinghys and their outboard motors are much-sought after by thieves, it has been drilled into us that you never, ever leave your dinghy unlocked and unattended lest it be made off with by the local bad guys. At around $4,ooo or so to replace, we take this business very seriously. So imagine our surprise and horror when, as we were tying up at the Dinghy Dock, we were stopped and told by none other than Officer Prentice of the Nevis Port Authority that we were not to lock our dinghy or else be subject to a stiff fine. The reasoning here, apparently, is that should Al Qaeda decide to launch an attack on the local Nevis population the Port Authority would need to immediately have the dock cleared of all water craft. No amount of reasoning, arguing, cajoling or shameless flirting would make Officer Prentice budge, so finally, reluctantly, we decided the only thing we could do was to carefully examine his laminated I.D. badge for signs of forgery, threaten to come after him if he allowed our dinghy to be stolen and then proceed with our sight-seeing. This decided, we started down the dock when Officer Prentice suddenly stopped us with one more piece of important business. It seemed that he was the founder, president and Chief Fund Raiser for a local organization that he had created to keep the teenage boys on the island from getting into mischief and presumably grow up to extort money from tourists. What a relief to know there was someone doing something about this alarming problem! Officer Prentice had taken on this personal, selfless and no-doubt onerous task in spite of the fact that it might, to some at least, appear to be a shameless effort to trade ‘favors’ like not having our dinghy stolen, for some good old fashioned cash. Of course, we were all ears hearing about his “charity” and asked him where on the island the charity’s headquarters were located so we could pop in to make a donation. It turned out that to save money on overhead Officer Prentice does all his business right there on the dinghy dock and is the only person authorized to take donations. At this point Paco and I sensed that making a donation to this worthy cause might ensure the safety of our dinghy, but there was no way to be sure and who wants to be shaken down anyway? At this juncture I decided to call his bluff but at the same time praise his efforts in the event that his authority on the dock was much more onerous than we were led to believe.

Me: “You know, Officer Prentice, that is such a wonderful thing you are doing for the boys here on the island. Obviously you devote all of your free time to helping keep them on the straight and narrow. Paco and I donate to several similar causes in the United States so we can surely relate to the importance of these kinds of programs. You are a wonderful role model and we thank you for your efforts. Have a wonderful day and thank you for looking after our dinghy. We know we are in good hands.”

Officer P: (looking extremely crestfallen and confused) “Madame, you are too kind and my efforts are but a tiny drop in the bucket of despair that threatens to deluge our tiny island here. Are you sure you won’t change your mind and make whatever contribution to my cause you feel comfortable with?”

Me: “We’re sure but thanks so much for asking. Have a wonderful day.”

Preparing ourselves for the worst yet not wanting to be shaken down by the local authorities in exchange for not having our dinghy ‘confiscated’ we reluctantly walked down the dock and headed towards town, convinced we would soon be out $4,000. As we turned the corner we spotted the Office of Tourism and decided to see if they had maps of town. On a hunch, I asked the clerk about Officer Prentice and his ‘charity’ and told him we were concerned about our dinghy. Picking up the office telephone, the clerk made a call to someone and after 5 minutes of hand waving and whispers, he announced that Officer Prentice was on the straight and narrow, at least as far as the safety of our dinghy. He could not vouch for the boy’s town aspect of the officer’s presentation but he felt sure we would not be robbed in lieu of making a donation. Somewhat pacified, we continued on our way and sure enough, several hours later when we returned to the dock there was our dinghy, safe and sound. It was by this time pouring down rain and Officer Prentice was no where to be found, no doubt looking out after his flock and doing other good deeds. As we were starting the outboard, however, he suddenly appeared, looking smart in his bright yellow rain slicker.

Officer P: “See, I told you your boat would be safe here.”

Paco: “Well, frankly I’m completely surprised that it is still here. I have to admit I was afraid it would be stolen.”

Officer P: “Sir, Nevis is the Island of Love. Have a nice day and we will see you next time.”

"How odd", Paco said as I turned the dinghy back out into the harbor, “The Island of Love? Officer P went from ominous and threatening to all warm and fuzzy in the space of a few hours. What happened? I was sure we would never see the dinghy again."

Perhaps, I mused, the fact that we treated him with respect even in the face of being shaken down struck a chord in him and he decided to leave our boat alone. He may not be the most trustworthy person on Nevis and Lord only knows if his charity really exists or not but in a strange way he renewed my faith in the basic goodness of people. Or maybe we did that in him because we gave him the benefit of the doubt. No need to tell him we still checked out his story at the Office of Tourism.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I was just reading Lorrie's blog ("Our Name is Mud") and saw she had posted an "On Vacation" note there so her loyal readers will not think she is merely being lazy or had run off with her brother-in-law or something. Since Paco and I are also leaving this week on vacation I thought I would do some shameless plagurizing and let everyone know that I will be away from my post until the middle of next week (cat burglars take note).

Btw, thanks goes out to Lorrie for mentioning my blog as one to read in her absence. I am humbled and flattered. And thanks also to everyone who has hung in there with me over the last few weeks while I have not been posting as much as usual. I promise to return to my previous 2 - 3 posts a week upon my return. Paco and I are heading down to the islands to recharge our batteries and sample the local rum. Bon voyage for now!


Yesterday I squeezed in a quick pedi since my boss keeps me chained to my desk during the week. As some of you know, I have the Boss from Hell. But at least I have a job and as bad as it is much of the time I am not about to walk out. Not in this economy.

While sitting there minding my own business a group of early-30-something girls arrived, there to celebrate someone’s birthday. As hard as I tried not to eavesdrop on their conversation I was, after all, a captive audience, my toes being man-handled by Dan, so I ended up being privy to some interesting, if somewhat bizarre snippets of conversation...

Sissy: “My husband Jeff quit his job last Friday. He just did not get along with his boss. I don’t blame him for not wanting to continue to work in such a toxic environment. He gave them a month’s notice, though, which I thought was more than generous.”

Tiffany: “Oh Sissy, he was so right to do that. No one wants to have to go to work every day and be miserable.”

At this point my jaw had dropped, hearing that ANYONE in this economy would knowingly walk away from a job. Any job. I don’t care if you follow the elephants around with a big shovel at the circus, if you have a job these days how on earth could you voluntarily quit? I was flabbergasted, but there was more to come.

Sissy: “I told Jeff that maybe I should get a part-time job just until he decides what he wants to do next (obviously it’s not going to be as a brain surgeon). He doesn’t want me to work but agreed maybe it would be a good idea.”

Tiffany: “Oh Sissy, are you sure? I mean, like, that is so brave of you. Have you worked before, I mean, like, in an office or something?”

Sissy: “Well, I did some filing in my uncle’s office one summer. I was thinking I could do data entry one day a week. You know, for like, um, maybe 8 hours on Fridays. I actually have called some doctor’s offices and said I want to work part-time, but I haven’t had any takers. No one wants to hire me just for one day a week. I’m getting frustrated. Jeff said I should take a break from it so I don’t get upset or break a nail or something.”

At this point I decided to switch my water order with Dan to a glass of Chard. Maybe it would make me feel as carefree as Sissy and Tiffany. Not to mention Jeff.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Paco’s house, which he owned and was (mostly) living in when we got married in June of 2007, is still on the market. Well, actually, it isn’t currently for sale because the renter who was supposed to be taking care of it and “staging” it for potential buyers pretty much wrecked it, so it is now being “remodeled”. I use the term loosely because what we are really doing at the moment is trying to find a mystery leak that exists somewhere between the slab and the Arctic permafrost. As soon as said leak is located and repaired we can finish the new floors, have the new carpet installed, pull out all the dead plants, re-landscape and then put it back on the market. Just in time for the next wave of bad Housing Market news. You know, the stories that don’t want to go away about how no one has seen this much real estate carnage since the Tower of Babel collapsed due to poor communication amongst the residents? Yes, that one.

So here’s is the story so far:

1) Harold, the house sitter, moved in last spring and promptly drove his car through the back wall of the garage because apparently he does not know how to operate the foot brake.

2) Harold did not water the back yard, causing the ground to shrivel up like the Mojave Desert in August. This, in turn, made the back of the house drop below street level, creating huge cracks in the interior walls that you could drive a semi- through. The foundation was destroyed and had to be completely re-done with new piers, necessitating jack hammering all of the floor tile and leaving a 3-inch layer of fine dust on every surface in the house, including the inside of every cupboard, drawer and closet in the house. The house sinking like the Titantic was also the cause of the illusive leak since it apparently tore lose a few pesky pipes as it settled to the bottom of the ocean.

3) Harold did not own decent furniture, or much furniture at all for that matter, even though he was supposed to be “staging” the house (see (1) above). Potential buyers were greeted at the front door by a basketball hoop in the living room, a mattress and box springs in the master bedroom and Hello Kitty slippers in the bathroom. This was not the kind of “staging” we had in mind.

4) We finally kicked Harold out last November. I wanted to go over there and literally KICK him out but Paco forbade me. So I wrote him a nasty note and told him if I ever see him again I will shoot him with the World War II bazooka I recently purchased at our local Army Navy store for that sole purpose. Then I will drag what is left of him behind my Sherman tank until his head falls off and then ship his remains to Somalia. I know this may sound harsh but you might not think so if you saw Paco's house.

So now we are in Plumbing Hell, having decided to find the leak ourselves after getting Billy Ray the Millionaire Plumber’s quote to find and repair the leak. I told Paco I could quit my job if he would only change careers and go to plumber’s school. They obviously earn in the high six-figures and all drive solid gold Cadillacs and I added that I would be happy with just a newish Buick wagon. He said no, it isn’t worth it. I said it is. We tabled the discussion until he comes to his senses.

Next week, or whenever I can stand the thought of writing about this nightmare again, I will discuss all of the brand-new plumbing equipment (that keeps breaking) Paco has recently purchased via mail order to fix the leak. Also the equipment we have rented, which has also systematically broken because the equipment rental people are obviously IN CAHOOTS with Billy Ray the Millionaire Plumber. I will also discuss all the money we are spending in order not to have to pay Billy Ray, who we understand is just back from his vacation house in the Bahamas.


Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, winter to continue...