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Book 3. The Vigil… Conclusion.

December 28, 2009 1 comment

Book 3. The Vigil… Conclusion.

Remarkably, along the long zig zaggy journey to uncovering and discovering “who yu tink yu is?” or more precisely, “Who is you is you is?”  these good folks have for the most part, found their way to being themselves. 

 It is long past time that we stop telling people who they should be, (based on the old racist  models, or the newer racist bullying of the “who’s blacker than who prison gang model”) and allow people to decide for themselves who they are, and how they wish to be..and further, to welcome them there

 You might think that I’ve been on some kind of a socio/religiological dig, or vigiling for reasons to rant and rave, but I’ve been thinking about these things long and hard since my own childhood and particularly since I (as a young white boy) became the older brother  to one and then another younger brother of color.Trying my big brother best to help each of them find their way in the world; as children of color and young men of color and then, as  men of color, with children of their own, of color.

 In addition to these thoughts and concerns swirling in and out of my head and around and through the solemnity of the occasion,  I confess that I have also been holding close, a secret hope, to see a certain smile.

 I am watching and waiting for the one who inspired my poem  “The Girl With The Golden Skin”

“The Girl With The Golden Skin”

When I was a boy I fell in love with the girl with the golden skin
Gold dust is her face, she glowed as if she were little sister to the sun
I whispered her name to the moon, I sang, she was music to me

Can you imagine?.. A girl with golden skin..

She fought in the street for me when another girl said, “he’s mine”
And again when her Mother said “he will never do”
he is too Splotchy  and blotchy and pink and red and foolish
to think of you,
the girl with the golden skin.

You are our pride and our joy
You are our prized possession
the peak of perfection
he will never do, he is not for you.

The sky was blue in those days,
The air like frangipangi  soup
the world a ruckus of color and sound
my head pounded to think of her,
I could never catch my breath

You are not for him, her father said
We have suffered for centuries to make you as you are
denied our destiny from Africa to Colon
slaved in increments of a hundred, hundred years
To make you
You are not for him

I was a hero in those days, a little one but still..macho
A splotchi-ty blotchi-ty pink and red, 85 pound macho man
A hero for justice and equality, a fly weight street fighting “doun de road” boy
Against the drunken U.S. Navy. Once, twice three times a week

“But he’s good Mam’ere and he’s a hero” she said, “I love him”
“He is not for you,” said her Grand Mother “he is nothing but a ragamuffin pae-hae
his Mother is a drunken white woman married to a drunken black man
life will trample him, time will explode his illusions
like balloons on a string
bang, bang, bang, in his empty and presumptuous  big head

You are our triumph, our future story. We vanquished Portugal and Spain,
Africa and the Aztec. the Dutch and Dane, the Carib and the Ciboney
All are in you, the girl with the golden skin, the apex of our intention
the vessel of our arrival, the dawn of our day, the virgin saint of our freedom come

There were trade winds in those days, and I would put my face in them
I knew that they came from Sahara,
I knew that they carried truth across time
to those that cared to listen.
and so I came to know my place..

Still, a lifetime later,
I can never catch my breath
my temples pound  
I will love forever, the girl with the golden skin
Gold dust is her face, little sister to the sun
I whisper her name to the moon, I sing, she is music to me

The apex of perfection, the virgin saint of freedom come, the girl with the golden skin
The one that they would bless for you, could never be me.
because he must never be… less than golden too…

 I had been at the vigil for over an hour, and  had promised my friend Nicky Russel (The Mighty Whitey) that I would come and do some tunes at his open mike night at “Tickles”, a bar and restaurant in the Crown Bay Marina. I was beginning to go back and forth between the idea that it was time to go home to start tuning up the pipes for the performance, and staying right where I was, to hear the service and especially the singing of the old spirituals. (And yes, I’ve confessed that a certain lady girl was on my mind).

I struggled back and forth and finally, my sense of artistic responsibility won. I got up and excused my self along the pew and headed out.

When I got to the foyer, I ran right into the girl with the golden skin.

She looked at me with her aquamarine eyes and said in a melodious voice that moves me like a Philharmonic  “I heard your new song (Surrender To The Sun) on the radio this morning”  My dear friends,..can you imagine what those words mean and meant to me?  As I cooly stammered out “Yee ya yo ya yu did?” my shoulder was grabbed from the other side by my old friend Freddie, the Chief of the  Carib/Arawak Federation, and in that moment she was gone.

 I stared in amazement as the crowd that I had just come through, closed around her.

Friends, I have loved this girl for over fifty years. That’s a long time for a boy of thirteen to hold on to that kind of feeling, but there it is. In all that time, in all the years that I have known her, we have not exchanged more than a hundred words with one another, and sixteen of the best of them were spoken and sputtered just moments ago.

 I would like you to know, that I know that she is a married Lady, (and unbelievably, a mother and grand mother even) and that I would never intentionally disrupt her situation in any way (well in ultra-truth, I would hope that she still holds at least a sparkle of affection (if not a raging wildfire) for me, but I will not be  disrespectful of her situation or her sweetheart, and will behave appropriately..(This despite my dear friend and long time advisor in matters of relationships and the heart, (who shall remain anonymous,) insisting over and again that clearlyI should have grabbed her and pulled her into the room where they keep the frozen dead people, and given her a big fat smooch)

 Anyway..I struggled with the irony and a cascade of ephemeral but insistent emotions and concluded that the Great God almighty was saving at least two of his star-crossed children from further heartbreak and mayhem, and that my shoulder grabbing friend Freddy, Attorney at Law, Chief Of The Carib and Arawak Federation, ultimate Wazam of The Knights of The Mysterioso, was used this day by the divine as an interventionary angel. I wondered if Freddie had felt the gentle hand of the Eternal directing him as he reached out and distracted me from pursuing what might have become (and still could be) a  disasterous and dastardly destiny.

Whatever else, “The girl with the golden skin” has always been an inspiration to me and will be forever. I do hope that she knows or at least suspects how grateful I am to her, for her…

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Book 3. The Vigil…Continued

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Book 3. The Vigil…Continued

The road between Western Cemetery #1 and #2 (also known as “dead mans corner”) was now jammed with cars, but I managed to find a spot by “French Town Gate #1” and resisted tarrying to read inscriptions and to wonder. I was going to an event that might exhaust even my ability to wonder (although I don’t think it’s likely that anything could exhaust my ability to wonder, I was just trying to make the point that there would be much to wonder at and about, much and mucho much)

At the entrance stairs a really large and kindly man (an official greeter I suspect) reached down and clasped his hands over and around mine and said in a gravitas but empathetic tone “Thank you for coming” I thought about his size and manner and concluded that being large was importantly reassuring in a setting like this, and I appreciated the safety and security that it might represent to one if one were traveling through the valley of the shadow. God bless God, but if I were strolling through the valley of the shadow, I think I would be very grateful if the lord sent a big fellow along to be my traveling companion.

 Inside I was greeted by another brother of the good fellow gone.

This one with his wild curly red hair, is my friend and a good and interesting gent all around. Next, I spoke to the eldest of the brothers, a class mate of mine in kindergarten and then again in the seventh grade at Saints Peter and Paul, the local Catholic school. These brothers and the entire family represent an extraordinary group of people that have played and continue to play an important central role in the extraordinary mix of people that make up the population of the Virgin Islands.

 (I could have easily said Virgin Island society using it in an elitist way, or said “The social demographic of the Virgin Islands” and that would be partially accurate too, but it’s more than that. These are remnants of a European, African, West Indian mix a true Kalaloo of color and background. A Euro-Afro Creole Culture a graceful taste of the human race with probably no more accurate descriptor  available than Virgin Islander, or Virgin Islands Creole.

 This family’s Patriarchs and name originally came from Scotland, their Matriarchs, Jewish, Irish, Dutch, Danish, German and African. A real wedding of graces.

 While the states were busy with their crazy crazy mismanagement of racial relationships, the West Indies were busy demonstrating what was possible when strength met strength and beauty met beauty.

The horror that the people of the Danish West Indies had of America purchasing the Islands (The U.S. tried and failed three times through the centuries, before successfully closing the deal in 1917) was that the United States would impose their hateful racial policies on people and families that were imagined, conceived, born, living and loving one another, outside of the crazy cruel miscegenation laws of a racist America.

 When it became clear the transfer was going to happen, families (fearing that all the adults would be put in jail) fled by the ship load for Denmark and France, The Dutch West Indies and South America, anywhere away from America’s hateful and backward laws against inter-racial marrage.

 To America’s credit the congress resisted imposing its cockamamie miscegenation laws on the already multiracial people of the Virgin Islands, and has avoided any official policy of racial segregation or racial preference. However, the deeply embedded (often unconscious) racist customs and prejudices of individual Americans (white AND black) have had an awful and unfortunate impact on the Virgin Islands and its people…

 But not tonight, and not in this room,..At least not much.

Every imaginable shade of skin color is represented here. The pesent Matriarch of the family, is herself a golden child A strong but wise and gentle Mother of a rainbow of Scots Africans. With Africa in the mix, you not only get hair and eye color variations but hair, eye and skin tone variety.

 As noted earlier, one of the brothers has wild red hair and Viking eyes atop the perfect tan, another brother is as white as Dover with long brown hair and brown Celtic eyes. The two others came with the physical size and constitution of the Kings of the Highland Games and the dispositions of men amused by the antics of the mere mortals around them.

 Because the family is a well liked and influential one, many people are coming to pay their respects. Most visitors are in the light to mid range quarters of the color wheel, but there are a number of darker skinned folks. Many of them are cousins on the African side; some are just close and dear friends of many years standing.

 At the other end of this color continuum are the white folks. They are a minority by far and the least fluid in their flow. In this robust schematic their absence of physical color creates the immediate impression that “something is wrong with them” and I feel a complex of emotions, a compassion for their albino like awkward appearances, a distain for the trouble and suffering they have caused in the world, (perhaps because of their absence of color) their delusions of superiority. Along with an acknowledgement and acceptance of the embarrassment that comes from being one of them, and a further determination to not behave (at any cost) the way that white folks generally do.

 This last one is sort of a double doozy, because there is nothing more embarrassing to me than white people who are behaving like they think black people behave. Which is of course the question and quandary that this group has been living with since God’s colors first ran together..

 Who am I? Who do I identify with? How should I behave? The okeedooky answer is of course “just be yourself” and after ten thousand convoluted confrontations with mockery prejudice and expectations, conditional acceptance, and manipulative disapproval (always designed to reinforce the cockamamie value set of he/she doing the judging) you (if you are fortunate) arrive back at the beginning, you HAVE to “just be yourself” or you are lost. So the trick is how to just be your self in spite of the swirling craziness all around.

T he original reason for designating anyone with any African blood in them as black was so they could be snagged and sold back into slavery. So called white people did that.

Who the hell says that the mottled pink and grey people, who lie about their own color by calling themselves white, are the right people to decide what color anybody else is?

 The whole thing is a lying racist craziness that is alive and well every time anyone with even the most minute amount of Africa in their DNA is automatically classified as black and any mottled splotchy blotchy tricolor mishmash of red pink and grey is seriously considered to be representative of the color white.

I have a radical and revolutionary idea. Suppose we make it official policy that everyone with any amount of Africa (or Romania or Italy or China) in their DNA is automatically classified as a human being, (that would be everyone except perhaps a few drunken Irish, don’t get upset, I come from a long line of drunken Irish, I know what I’m talking about) Or if that’s too complicated, if we insist on continuing to use color as a classification for human beings, how about we get really scientific and use the crayola box as our model for accuracy That will put us all on a color continuum that is at least close to chartruseful Oops, ahh.. I mean useful and truthful.

“Yes my daughter my dear, even though the man IS forty shades of gray with red splops all over him, I’m supposed to teach you to lie and say he’s white. No dear even though anyone can see the lady is very bit as yellow as a ripe banana; we are supposed to pretend not to notice that, and to describe her as black. Why? Because in the shameful history of human beings “de-humanizing” other human beings in order to exploit them, exploiters invented a world of black or white.

And from that time to this we have lived their lie; we have lived their lie so long, that we have lost the clarity and the courage to tell the simple truth about people and what color they really are. It’s racist (actually because there is only one race of humans and that’s the human race, the word “racist” is it’s self invalidated and meaningless, so…) It’s downright “colorist” (a beautiful new concept which has the extraordinary obvious benefit of immeadiately exposing its self as silly and stupid.) Yep, we co-sign a reality based on describing all  colors in the crayon box as either black or white. It’s “colorist” it’s cockamamie, it’s crazy, and incontestably downright dishonest and stupid… Continued

Book 3. The Vigil…

December 24, 2009 1 comment
Book 3. The Vigil…

I went to the viewing for a “much-loved by the community” friend this afternoon, at the Davis Funeral Home. The paper said that the viewing was scheduled from four to six PM, I got there a little early, and parked between the Western Cemetery #1 and #2. The Western Cemetery is over three hundred years old and is one of a number of very old burial grounds in Charlotte Amalia and on the Island of St. Thomas.

 The Western Cemetery was in two sections (#1 and #2) for many years and has now become three. It’s very reminiscent of New Orleans with the above ground (always picturesque some time quite fancy) vaults. Within the old stone walls and beneath ancient mahogany trees, time stands still. 

I have been affected by the powerful emotional impact of this place since I first saw it up close, as a boy of five. All of us children from Nisky School were here standing sadly around a little white coffin, poised to go deep deep into the ground. We were burying “Peggy” a beautiful little brown skin girl with a bright and smiling face and a heart of gold. After school yesterday, or the day before, Peggy fell off one of the children’s play things (a rusty old dump truck) in the communal “yard” in the Nisky community atop “Chinaman Hill”  She fell and broke her neck. And just that quickly Peggy was gone, and every one that she had ever known was forever changed because Peggy was beyond any doubt, as pure and as good as they come, she was an absolute innocent. 

Why the good and loving God at the center of the Nisky School, Nisky community and Nisky Moravian Church Universe would break Peggy’s neck and take her away from us, is a question  that  hangs in the still air of the Western Cemetery, and will for us, be there forever. 

That she would be followed soon after by “Augustine” the most perfect and beautiful golden boy child that the hardscrabble community of “French Town” had ever produced, furthered the idea for some that the God that the children of Nisky were trying to understand and obey, did not make any sense. 

 Still to this hallowed ground where cries and questions and prayers, hang in the air like blue smoke, we came and come again and again. 

Today it’s another golden boy, as innocent and loved as any before. Chronologically, no longer a child, still he was his Mothers baby boy, and the youngest of the brothers. 

This is a “Creole” family, children of children of Scotland and Africa, with some of every other sweet sop of the earth thrown in for good measure and there is “plenty of good” to be measured. 

 As I walk towards the door of the funeral parlor someone says to me “You look like Jesus Christ” a quick glance at my reflection in a car window confirms that he’s right. I’m all spiffed up and when I’m all spiffed up, I do tend to look  a bit like Jesu Christo. Conversely, when I’m not spiffeled, I  look more like a Tasmanian devil. (Could be some kind of cosmokarmic, Yin Yan bipolaric impression disorder? who knows.) The observation comes from a brother of the deceased, he then says “if you’re here for the viewing you’re an hour early, from four to five is for family only..I don’t want you to be embarrassed” 

It occurs to me to say (a whole day later it’s true but..) “Yes, but if I look so much like Jesus Christ, the family might be overjoyed to see me, and that I have come for the dear departed” (and then to my self) “and perhaps I could steal a kiss or two from one or more of those beautiful Afro-Celtic daughters”. Instead I say “Well, thanks for telling me, it could have been very uncomfortable for them, I’ll be back in an hour” 

So I walk back up the road between Western Cemetery #1 and #2 and as always the power of the setting captures my attention. Section #2 had been closed to burials for 100 years because of the terror of Cholera. 1867 was a very difficult year for the people of St. Thomas. There were two Hurricanes, a Yellow Fever epidemic, a Cholera Epidemic, an Earth quake and a Tidal Wave 

They put the people (over 1200 men, women and children) who died of Cholera in Section #2 and declared that no soil was to be turned here for 100 years. And they stuck to it. All through childhood we wondered and worried, could it come back up from the ground to get us all? 

Just across (on the North side of the street) from The Western Cemetery #1 and #2  is the Old Moravian Cemetery and next to that, The Old Jewish Cemetery. Each very interesting and colorful in their own right, many generations of my son Scott’s maternal line, are  in The Old Jewish Cemetery) 

 The Danish West Indies were a welcoming and tolerant society and St. Thomas is the home of the second oldest Synagogue in the new world. Jewish families of every hue have been a part of these Islands since shortly after the last ship load of their ancestors (fleeing the inquisition), left Palos Spain on the exact same tide that Columbus did on his first voyage of discovery. My boy’s people (the Trepuks and Levin’s) went first to France and then came here to the Danish West Indies. Of course “My Boy’s people” are his beautiful Mother’s people, and she and he are a natural-born part of the Creole society that I am holding vigil with today. 

 While waiting for four to become five, I drove over to the Old Villa Olga, in French Town. The Villa Olga has been many things over the past three hundred years, and I am drawn to it’s beauty, history and cool breezes. Villa Olga  sits on a little point, in fact the very point from which the coal carriers of old (all female) would cross the slippery marshy coral bridge to Hassel Island every morning and evening, going to and from their work. These coal carrier ladies, balancing precariously on sagging steeply angled narrow gangplanks, loaded and unloaded (in baskets balanced on their heads) every rock, nugget, sliver, and dust particle of the coal that fired the furnaces of the great transatlantic steam ships of the time. 

 After carefully removing and folding my spiffy jacket and leaving it in the car, I sit on the rocks and think about them and a hundred other things that are a part of the history of the area. The entire economy of the people of Charlotte Amalia (apart from the merchant class)  were dependent on the work of these women and their paltry hard-earned incomes. The old photos  show lines of ragged coal blackened women that appear to be caricatures of human beings. No one could be that ragged, that dirty, that disheveled, that exhausted. The impression is that they aren’t photos of people, rather they’re paintings exaggerated to make a point about suffering. 

For years the community  response was “Thank God that’s not me, thank God that we’re not like that. But in reality, they are, we are like that. These are the Grand Mothers and Aunties of many of our loved ones and friends. The heroic “Coal carriers”  the hard pressed ladies that changed the history of the DWI when they organized themselves and struck from insult and rage and defiance when the twice removed decided to pay them for their hard work with (of all things) Mexican Pesos. 

Mexican Pesos worth even less then, than now. But to the twice removed the caricatures that carried the coal were worth less than a worthless Peso. When it became clear to the ladies that their labors were rewarded with currency  that they could not use to buy food for their children and families, they struck. And in so doing, earned their place in history.  

The slippery coral bridge is long gone now the US Navy blasted it to kingdom come when they bought the Islands from Denmark in 1917 for 25 Million Dollars and no sense. (a small local joke) They blasted the bridge to give boat traffic improved passage from one anchorage to another. It was a good thing, sea water got stagnant in this little corner of the harbor, and Yellow Fever is rumored to have had a ball concocting it’s self among the flotsam and jetsam of three hundred years of naughty goings on here. 

Before our town was given the  name of the beautiful Queen Charlotte Amalia, it was known throughout the West Indies as “Tap Hus” which means of course “The Drinking House”. Many more than one drunken sailor was swept by time and tide into this corner of the harbor to wind up as a rum poisoned feast  for fish and mosquitoes. You can imagine what a God awful stew of stink and pestilence this quaint little corner must have been. This may be one of those rare instances in which three bombs and a bazooka “done good”. 

 This afternoon, Passenger Boats of every possible color combination,  inbound from or out bound to St. John, St. Croix, Tortola and Puerto Rico, are zipping through the passage on their way in and out of the Harbor. Sea planes are splashing down and splashing up every few minutes and fishing dinghys and inflatables are zipping by every where. 

 This is quite a busy quiet spot. Over there are the remains of the concrete walls that was the huge salt water swimming pool of my childhood, and here (floating across the harbor from the West Indian Dock), comes a basso profundo rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star” played by “Captain and foghorn” as the Disney cruise ship announces it’s imminent departure to one and all. As It slips out to sea I can’t help but notice what a remarkably classically beautiful ship it is, and think how extraordinary it must be, for little ones to take a cruise on her. 

It’s ten to five, time to get back to the Vigil.

Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

December 22, 2009 2 comments

Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

I had an unusually enjoyable visit with Sula  this morning, I put three of my last six dollars in the tank so that I could go up to see her. It was a beautiful morning and the views round this that and the next corner were crystal clear. The” surf was up” outside Hull Bay, Tortola, Jos Van Dyke and islands of the Thatch Key archipelago were a majestic blue in the distance, and the”Plums were up” in Sulas “Hog Plum” tree too. The shutters are flung open in her little wooden house and the voices of the choir at the Cathedral of Saints. Peter and Paul come pouring out of her little radio, each utterance aspiring to sanctity and  sounding like they are hitting awfully close to the mark, to me.

I have come to love the shaky but sincere leads and rough harmonies of one singer after the next and one  Choir after the other. Sula’s  sister the long departed “Tantan Bertha’s” son, Ashford is in the other room, with his radio also tuned to WSTA and he is playing his alto saxophone along with the music. He plays in the old “Quelbay” style, a high wavering vibrato, a full beautiful tone. He is one of the very best but does not play in public, he is very shy and is waiting until he becomes a better player. He is really very good already, and I very much delight in listening to him play.

Ashford and I connect through the music and we have interesting music related conversations just about every Sunday. Conversations about music books that he orders through the mail, scales and intervals, theory and improvisations. He honors me by presenting thoughtful questions about these things as though I were (because I am a recording artist) a  knowledgeable maestro. God bless him, I’ve actually been able to answer a few of his questions and even add a little info on top of that, but it’s  a fluke,  small bits of knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis. My storehouse/library of academic information in this area is embarrassingly sketchy, my own musical gifts are more like a wild rolling eyed confidence, married to a series of semi spontaneous heartfelt polyphonic outbursts through an instrument that continually surprises (among others) me, with it’s power and purdyness.

What the heck that has to do with knowing anything, is a great mystery. But if Ashford (or anyone else) wishes to be kind to me because of it, I’ll take it and try my best to return the same. 

The music of sincere people in reverential worship fills Sulas world every Sunday and it is a beautiful thing

 Sula’s Hog Plum Tree is weighed down with golden-yellow and  soo very sweet plums. She was hoping that I would be able to pick a bag full for her “other” boy friend Desooka” (really Desouza but Sula has decided to call him Desooka and so it is)

 My first question to Sula is always “Sula have you been behaving your self?” and she answers sweetly in a proper lilting creole, “Yes Scott, I am always well-behaved” My second question is “But Sula, how can a woman who has not one or two or even three or four but maybe five or six or more boyfriends at the same time, claim to be behaving herself?” And she will throw her head back and laugh out loud..

I ask her if she has gotten all dressed up for me this morning, because she looks so sharp.. She denys it, but her dress was especially pretty, a royal blue with little heart wreaths filled with flowers all over. She looked very pretty and I told her so. She had a red kerchief on, but took it off to re-tie, as she did I noticed her hair, a wild confusion of snow-white curls with perfect little plaits and braids. I said “Sula, don’t you ever leave the kerchief off? Your hair looks so pretty and the kerchief must be so hot.

To my surprise she did leave it off..she looked great and comfortable and cool.

 Breaking into a more colloquial calypso accent, she said, “Scott, Ah wan yu tu git me ting dem frum de box dare fo me, ah want a candy, because my mout is soo dry, an ah wan yu put me oy drop dem in me oy”

I teasingly say “Sula yu wan me put yu oy drop dem in yu oy? In yu oy? She laughed at my exaggeration of oy,  then I said “but Sula yu have tu open yu oy so I cou put in de drops” She said “But, What do yu mean? I thought they were wide open already? Yu know yu poor girlfren is as bline as a bat, de poor ol girl kee-an see a ting!

 “Scott yu know what I heard on de radio? Some boys who went to college  say that there is no God, Who de hell dey tink made the heavens and de Eart, de moon and de stars? Dey mus-ee tink red pea soup could cook it self. How de hell dey could tink there is no God?

Sula then spoke a loud the sequence of the angel of the lord visiting a young virgin Mary and God placing his only begotten son in her womb, to grow there like every one else. She recounted the angel of the lord coming to Joseph in his sleep to explain what was happening with Mary, and she noted that in those days for a young man to be engaged to be married and discovering that his young bride to be was having a baby, was a difficult thing, but Joseph over came that and they had the little baby Jesus. And the little boy grew up playing and going to school just like all the rest, but then gave himself so that the rest of us could have life everlasting, could be relieved of our sins..”Oh yes!” she said “I know there is a God and I know my God is a good God.”

 “Didn’t God save me when I was only twelve years old and I had the Typhoid Fever? Scott, Doctor Knud Hansen was right here, he was white yu know, and He told Mama Lovie (Sula’s Mother) that he was going, and coming back that afternoon. Then he told Old Uncle George (one of the original of the three Moolenar brothers), he told him that he didn’t believe that it would be possible for me to live out the day, and George came down and told Mama Lovie what the Doctor had said”. “Sula” I asked, “Were you in the hospital in town whe you had typhoid fever or were you out here?” “Right here” she said “I was right here, and Knud Hansen called me his little girl and took care of me” “Sula” I said, “How did Knud Hansen come out? Did he ride on a horse or a carrage”? “No, Scott, No,” she said “Knud Hansen walked, he walked all the way from town. Knud Hansen came out here ten times to see me, and when he came back that afternoon and saw that I was still alive..he said it was a miracle. He told Mama Lovie that if he could, he would give her a Gold Star for how extra specially good she took care of me. It was God that saved me, my God is a good God. How else could I have lived when I gave birth two different times, to two little dead babies?”

 “Knud Hansen took care of me then too you know, even though I was a big and old and grown up woman, he still called me his little girl, and said that he would never let anything happen to me”. “How big where you then Sula”, I asked “any bigger than you are now?  I don’t think you were ever big Sula, I don’t think you were ever  any bigger than a Mountain Dove. And Sula, tell me, how old were you then?” “I was tutty one, tutty-two, tutty-three,” ” Wow Sula” I said, “all things considered that doesn’t sound very old either. Big and old?” She laughed..”You’re right, anyway, How can they think there is no God when God has always been so good to me?”

 As she spoke..I thought to my self, just listen Scott.. she doesn’t need, nor will she benefit from hearing your cockamamie comments on the old or new testaments, or you recounting current  theories on self-organization. you don’t really know any more than she does, or Knud Hansen did, about what came before or lies beyond the stars..you don’t need to show off how smart you are, at the expense of her comfort and beliefs, you don’t need to upset her and make her sad. She’s a good soul and a wonder in the world. Just dig it and be present..listen to the love in her and in the music all around.

I asked her if she knew my friend PK Hansen, (related to the Christiansens, a family that she has mentioned often) she ruminated a bit searching through a vast net of  direct and tangentialy connected names and relations, and then said..”But Scott, our friend  Jowers said he was going to bring Noreen to see me, but Alric says the house is too old and run down for visitors, that we should paint it first.

I said “Sula, we all love your old wood house, it doesn’t need to be painted before anyone comes to see you, we all expect to see, we want to see, we love to see the old house just the way it is, it’s like a national historic site, and you, Sula, you are a national treasure”

 Her face always lights up when I remind her of these things, her eldest son Alric has just moved back to the island after spending fifty-five years in the states, working mostly as a prison guard. He is a good and decent fellow, but he’s impacted by a stateside mentality that has not yet been recalibrated to the local culture. Further, he would prefer that Sula left her old house and moved into his brand new house, with he and his wife Florence,  on the other side of Crown.

Perhaps enough people expressed their shock and dismay with that idea, voicing their opinion that that would be the end of Sula, to have gotten his attention. However, He is still unfortunately quite verbal in his disapproval of her “old-time” environment as it is. at 107, Sula really is a national treasure. The shame is that more people are not aware of her, and have the opportunity to spend time in her home and company. She is a National Treasure is every way imaginable.

Book 3.TINY…

December 20, 2009 1 comment
Book 3.TINY

 Here is another little “Witch Crik” story, from the point of view of my (then) seven year old daughter Twinkle (Lelia). 

“Tiny”

 My name is Lily, 

My Mother, my Father, My twin brother and I live on a farm way up in the mountains in California, where my Great Grand Father planted peaches and plums and grapes a long long time ago. 

He built a pond too 

And in the summertime it gets very full of froggies and fish…and little taddy-poles. 

Last summer it got very very hot, and the pond became a puddle. We didn’t know what to do.. 

Everyday after day it got smaller and smaller and the fish got crowded, some froggies just hopped out and watched. 

The puddle got so small that some fishes began to die,then lots of fish began to die 

and then one day, there wasn’t any puddle anymore,and they were ALL going to die. 

We didn’t know WHAT to do. 

Then my Brother or me, I don’t remember who, said “Let’s put some in the sink”. And then my brother or me said “Yeah! An let’s put some in the bathtub”. 

Then our Dada said ” Ooh my Babies, I’m so sorry, We can’t do that, we have to use those places!” 

Then my Brother or me, I don’t remember who, said “What about the bucket? We could put some water in the bucket; an’ they could live in there.” 

Our Dada looked like he was gonna cry and he said, “Ooh my sweethearts, I’m so sorry, I’m afraid these little fishies are done for.” 

And we said, “Ooh Dada, Can’t we try”? And he said “Ooh my Duckies, do you REALLY want to?” 

And we said “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” 

So our Dada said, “Ok Duckies..then we will!” 

So we ran around and found all the buckets we could find and Dada got his snake swakin’ shovel, and off we went to the fishies. 

Man oh boy, it was a sad thing. 

There were hundreds of fishes, and none of them were moving or anything, and millions of taddy-poles.. 

Then my Brother or me, I don’t remember who, said ” Look! Somethin’s flopping around over there!” And we ran over there and Dada scooped it up with the shovel and plopped it in the bucket. Right away it started breathing and swimming around in the water. 

“Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy!” We said. And Dada said “Holy Smokes”. 

Then we saw another one move and another one and another one. 

We ran all over the place, plopping them in the buckets as fast as we could. And taddy-poles too! 

We FILLED up our buckets with FISH, 

Dada said they were CAT Fish. Soon we had so many Catfish, we didn’t know WHAT to do. 

So we dumped them in the rain barrel that Mama uses to wash her hair, And ran back to get some more! 

We got every single one of them that was still alive, And ALL of our buckets and rain barrels were full of Cat fish, and taddy-poles too. 

Then Dada said “Yes my Duckies, If you really want to name them, we could try.. 

We tried to name them all…there was Moby and Tina and Moby maybe..and Tina Two and Sharky the first, and lots and lots of names. That’s when we discovered that we were naming some of them two and three times in a row and that we couldn’t tell who was who, except the littlest one..We named her Tiny. 

And Dada said “Oh my Duckies, they might not live very long in the buckets and in the rain barrels” but that “at least we tried, and that is what’s important”. 

Every morning around 8 O’clock and every afternoon around three, all the catfish would come up to the top of the barrels and go “Turp Turp Turp” all at the same time. 

Boy, there was a lot of them.. We gave them bread crumbs to eat. 

The bread crumbs made the water funny and they didn’t like the bread crumbs anyway, so we went to the fishin’ store in town. 

We got cartons of big fat and juicy worms, which my brother and me didn’t want to touch and our Mother didn’t like to have in the refrigerator. 

Maybe the Cat fish didn’t like them either because, like Dada said, “lot’s of them are beginning to give up the ghost” Until they were mostly all gone. 

We didn’t know WHAT to do. 

Finally, there were only two left, Tiny and another guy…and then School started and we didn’t see the Catfish much, then Mama’s calico cat that we called Meep!, might have gotten the catfish in the rain barrel out by the clothesline. 

There was no sign of Tiny, but the taddies in her bucket were real big so we hoped maybe she was still ok. 

Finally, the rains came, and we watched the puddle become the pond again 

And we said, Oh boy! “Maybe we can put Tiny back in the water soon” And Dada said ” Oh my Duckies..if she’s still alive..” 

We wondered if she was, it was such a long long time. 

Then today, my brother or me, I don’t remember who, said “Dada, Dada, lets put the fish back in the water!” 

And Da Da said “Ooh my babies, we don’t know if their even still alive at all” and we said “Ooh Dada Can’t we try”? And Dada said “Ok my Duckies, if you really really want to, and we said “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! 

So Dada carefully poured the water from Tiny’s big bucket into a smaller one with a handle on it and we watched for Tiny, and looked out for taddys that might spill on the ground. 

My brother didn’t know if he saw her or not or maybe it was a leaf but we did see three taddys fall out. Dada picked them up and put them in the handle bucket and off we went. 

When we got down to the pond it was still very small, But much bigger than when it was dry. 

The water was so clean and so clear and so quiet. 

Then Dada poured the bucket into the pond and the water got all rippled and muddy and we just waited.. 

Then my brother or me or my Dada, I think it was ALL of us said “LOOK LOOK, There she is! There’s TINY! 

And I felt so happy that I cried. And I know my brother and our Dada felt the same way too. 

As we stood by the pond we had a feeling that we won’t ever forget, even when today and tomorrow, go to be a long long time ago.  

The End

BOOK 3. Witch Creek…Rattlesnakes And Scorpions…

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

BOOK 3. Witch Creek…Rattlesnakes And Scorpions

Sula knows that I am as broke as sin, so when I went to see her this past Sunday, she pulled a can of salmon out from under her couch and insisted that I take it home with me, she said  “Yes Scottie mahn, yu  jus chop up a lil’ bit of onion, tro in de vinegah, de lime an de black pepah”

As I was “choppin up de vinegah” I came upon the backbone, which looked exactly like the backbone of a rattle snake.

I was first introduced to the backbone of a rattlesnake on a 4th of July picnic platter in Ramona, Ca.

I was very careful to take no more than the tiniest nibble because my unspoken deal with them (and  sir shark) is “I don’t eat you, you don’t eat me”. I realize that I may be double porked or gobbled before I even know the deal’s off, but just not being the one that “started it” allows me just a little less paranoia in the water and the wild. 

 I have had to dispatch a few rattleboys back to rattlesnake heaven for recycling (I hope none as a shark) But that had to do with the safety of my little ones, and I expect that any rattlesnake would try to do the same, which I of course,  understand perfectly…

 The fact is rattlesnakes give me the “screeping williegobbles”

Being from the bongo Isles where the mongoose took care of the snake threat long ago, I am used to passing out ..ah, ah I mean, plopping down, anywhere in the bush or on the grass with out a care. However, I have run into enough rattlesnakes in California, to be extremely wary of that beautiful golden grass, don’t you dare plop yourself down carelessly there.

 The children’s pony was bitten right  next to  the house, and got “sick as a dog”, the doggies were  bitten  on the head over and over again, their noggins would swell up like  watermelons, it was awful.

 The little ones and I had a defensive plan for rattlesnakes that went like this. We see where the blasted thing is, and then we get as far away from it as fast as we can. No, no, I’m only joking. (or we would have been living up in the trees and the raggle snakes would have owned the house and the grounds all around).

 So, while strolling in the wild wild west, I always carried a shovel. If a snerk showed up (at or around the house) the children had the job of getting way back and jumping up and down while making as much noise as possible. That would get the raggy snerk’s attention, then I would get in as close as possible and grab it by the tail and start swinging it around in the air while yelling Yippie Ki Yo Ki Yay!

No, no, I’m only joking. I’d get in within a shovels length and dispatch the poor thing by inserting the tip of my trusty but rusty but strong, farming and mining implement, firmly and precisely, into the molecular structure connecting the head to the tail, approximately where ever the heck I could! (ah…often repeatedly) while jumping from foot to foot yelling Yikes! Yikes! Yikes! (And no, I’m not joking)

The fact is I’m “scared to the heckles” of rattlesnakes, but we had to deal with them…

And scorpions too…

One day as I was working on a tune up in the cooling house (traditionally where fruit was stacked and kept cool until it went to market, and more recently, where I wrote tunes and made my demos) Annie came screaming up to the door and nearly yanked it off the hinges, she said “Oh My God! A giant black scorpion stung me right on my chest! And I’m dying! HELP ME! She was every bit as white as a freckly faced, red headed maiden of  indian descent could get.

 Ok! I said, “Ah…Ah… LETS CALL POISON CONTROL!” ” I knew she had to stay calm and I told her so. “ARE YOU CRAZY” she screamed,” STAY CALM? ARE YOU CRAZY? OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD, MY POOR BABIES!” (expressing her concern that after she expired, I would be the one left to take care of them) by then we were down at the sleeping house where the phone was, I sat her on the couch, and called poison control, to see what we could do to make her last few minutes on Earth most comfortable.

I reported what had happened, and the voice at the other end said.”Hmm..A big black scorpion? It stung her”? Dear Lord, I’m thinking… Annie’s right, she’s done for. Lucky the children are in school, so  they won’t have to  witness the flailing and frothing seizures that are coming up next.

“Aw”, the voice said, “that’s no worse than a bee sting, it’ll be sore for a coupleadays. You’re lucky it wasn’t one of dem little sandy colored ones. Dem’s the one that’ll kill ya.”

 On we went, living  life in the wild wild west. Pretty soon we kinda semi forgot about scorpions, they sort of faded out of the foreground and  into our nightmares. Perfectly understandable when you consider all the other impressive things battling for the foreground. Not the least of which were the afore mentioned rattlesnakes, did I mention family dog eatin’ wild coyote packs? Or prim, proper and persnickity New York City Kitties getting up-scounded right off the ground and into Kitty perdition by gigantic stealthy ferocious white owls? (Not once mind you, but many time.. in fact as many times as we  had Kitties  to miss and mourn.

 Did I mention the hoards of peach, plum, apricot and pear pilfering crows, that actually duck sideways and laugh down at you, as you spray the sky with a 22 rifle hoping to at least knock a tail feather loose to teach im’ a lesson and show ‘im who’s the boss? Hoards of flocks of crows who all but own your vineyard when the blasted grapes you’ve just about killed yourself for, are bursting with juice and calling out pick me! pick me!

What a surprise it is when you realize that the grapes don’t care a fig about you, just because you’ve  pruned and plowed, cursed and kissed, watched and watered, whistled and worked and sang your best “Oh Solo Mios” up and down every dusty, rock riddled, hard luck, snake infested row. Oh no, the grapes are calling the crows and every other bird and bee for a thousand miles that will eat your grapes to the point of exploding and at the last possible minute  expel a shower of little seedlets all over you and everything else, from sea to shining sea. (all part of natures plan).

It’s no mistake that Eric The Red named the whole New World Vineland, if it weren’t for the puritans who turned vines into wattling,..the whole continent would be one big squishing vat full of Great Cucamonga.

Did I mention a ball of bees? 50 times the size of the sun? (Yes of course, I mean the size of the sun from your prospective beneath the bushes where you are hiding for your life)

A swarm floating slowly, menacingly and majestically through the air just above your naked head? Dear God awmighty, don’t let them see me, They must know I haven’t been as respectful in my treatment of bees as I have barracuda and bulldogs, consequently, I’ve been stung on the noggin more times than I can count. Dear Lord don’t let this be a time when the big Mama decides to “lets jes get im’ for the heck of it.”

It’s times like these that the little voice opines “Yeah, maybe if you had kept yer flapping mouth shut about the music business, you wouldn’t be in this situation, we coulda been livin’ it up on easy street”

Well with all of that and and yes hungry Mountain Lions in the fore ground, one may be preoccupied as one walks across the road between the kitchen house and the sleeping house and picks up the broom laying on the steps, and slides ones hand along the handle until it is stopped by a burn shot from hell and one  sees that the proud perpetrator of this insult is a dancing little sandy colored scorpion who isn’t satisfied with just having killed you, but wants to fight some more.

My dear friends, I am open to all kinds of deals and negotiations, after all I have been in the music business since adolescence and all my adult life. I do have a few deals in place with the porcine tusker wild boars of St. John, rattlers in the Wild West and perhaps even a shark or two. But I had no deal with the scorpion who has just kilt me, so I confess that the smashing that I put on that dancin’ little murderin’ bugiod was sufficient to transport multiple elements of him into parallel dimensions that are a minimum of eight or nine doors over from our own. And I would have done double that except that I remembered that I had a maximum of two or three minutes to live and it was my responsibility to prepare my little ones for my imminent and immediate demise and to communicate gently and thoroughly all of the important lessons and absolute truths that one such as me deems essential to a full understanding and appreciation of life.

 And of course all important to remember, as I had reminded Annie in her time of instant impending adios, “Ya gotta stay calm baby, stay calm!” Fortunately Annie wasn’t there to repeat that stuff to me or I suspect we might have spent my last moments on Earth in “battling choke holds.”

I called the children,  (Lelia and Archie, they were eight going on nine) and told them what had happened. They knew as well as I that there was next to no time left for sweet farewells and the enormous transfer of information.

We calmly stepped into the front room and I sat back on the bed (yes beds are often in the front room in the wild wild west) and began to speak wisely and sagely. I felt as though I might be having some difficulty in organizing the body of profundity that needed to be communicated, so I grabbed the phone to call poison control to see how much time I had left. “A little sandy colored scorpion?” The voice said, “a little sandy colored one? Aw, that’s no worse than a bee sting, yore lucky we’re not in Arizona, cause in Arizona, the little sandy colored ones ‘ill kill ya!”

 Well we stayed calm and it’s a good thing too. Can you imagine the trauma of watching your wise and loving Dada collapsing into the screaming Mimi’s? And then, go sufficiently flaming ape as to pulverize the stone fireplace with the telephone receiver?

Categories: 1

Book 3. The Man Who Swam To St. John…

December 14, 2009 1 comment

BOOK 3. The Man Who Swam To St. John

 In 1985 Shaky Acres (the recovery program that Tuts and I had started in 1981) was going along fairly well, but was in need of a fund raiser or two, Tuts heard (along with everyone else) of a proposed St. John swim (every body heard of it because it was considered impossible by most folks, and suicidaly dangerous by local folks who knew that there were hungry sharks out there the size of the battleship “Bismarck”). The UDT (The Frogmen, The Navy Seals, The toughest hombres on or under the sea) while training for many years in St. Thomas, had given up on swimming to St. John because it was simply too crazy dangerous a deed.

The well intentioned local lady legislator who had proposed “the swim” was unaware of the deep and dark difficulties inherent in the “big fun fundraiser”

.When Tutsie was a young boy, riding back across Sir Francis Drake’s Passage coming home with his Mother from a harvest festival in Cane Garden bay in Tortola,  he looked out from the deck of “The Joan Of Arc” or “The Bomba Charger” at Pillsbury Sound (The five mile stretch of wild water that separates St. Thomas and St. John) he said to her “I could swim ‘crass dat yu kno” His usually loving mother had replied “Man hush up yu schupid mout, why yu like tu talk such schupid craziness?” Tuts didn’t see any reason to discuss it any further, but, he says, the conviction that he could do it, was locked in his mind for ever after. 

It was July the third, 1985, Emancipation Day in The Virgin Islands. (Emancipation Day is the day in 1849, on which it became official that the slaves in the Danish West Indies had won their freedom and were now and forever more free) Freedom was a long time coming for the children of Africa in the DWI, and very hard won, as was Tut’s own personal freedom from drugs and alcohol.

 There were forty eight entrants all together, most of them young white kids from the hot shot St. Croix “Dolphins Swim Team”, they came prepared and ready to succeed, with sleek buoyant body suits, well fitted goggles and the best fins that money could buy

A number of the St. Thomas swimmers were runners down from the states, budding tri-athletes, an elderly white gent determined to show his wife he still “had it” and half a hand full of locals with a mismatched assortment of masks and fins..

Tuts on the other hand was wearing one pair of big and baggy boxer trunks, y nada mas…

 As the other swimmers did warm ups and calesthetics on the sand at Vessup bay, Red Hook, a tough old Tortola man, a sailor, pulled Tuts aside and said” Buaayyy yu, yu crazy buaay? Following de damn schupid white people dem? Yu don kno de real name fo red hook is shak waff? Buaayy!! Shak ow de biggah den uh submarine! A black man gon follow dem schupid white people? Buaayy wha rang wid yu, yu crazy o something?”

 Tuts concedes that the strongly delivered warning did cause him much concern, but that he had already told everybody over and again that he was going to do it, told them in the strongest terms, in the face of the harshest ridicule. It was common knoweldge that no (sane) black person from the Islands could ever, should ever and would ever attempt to make that swim. Therefore, as his sanity was in question, it was also a crucial moment for recovery in the Islands.

At this moment he was demonstrating clearly (to local folks) that local people who went to fellowship meetings “wid de crazy white people dem” were demonstrably nuts (just like they thought) and for him to chicken out before he even hit the water would have sealed it once and for all. Tuts has since confessed that on that particular morning he had decided that he would rather be eaten alive, than quit.

 Once the old Tortola man realized that he was not talking to a sensible gentleman of color, he began to encourage him with information about what to expect in terms of currents and where to find what he called “soft spots” in the sea. He stated flatly that “yu can’t swim directly East ta St. John, yu will have tu swim for “Loango”  (Loango Key, a small Island due North of St. John) and as yu hold Loango as your goal, the current will be sweepin’ yu south, look sharp! Buaay, dat is de onliest way to get dare”.

 As the swim began, the fast and the fancy took off due East for Cruz bay and before you knew it half of them had been swept away and were heading backwards around Cabrita Point towards Big and Little St. James, then out over the  Anegada Trench, (on the bottom of which the scariest bug eyed things on earth, with jumping, wiggling  electro “bait worms” dangling in front of  foot long razor teeth, swim around four miles down, snapping  steel trap jaws, and saying fish prayers, to get their dribbly lips around something, anything, slathered in coconut oil, or greasy mango scented sun tan lotion) and then south and west for St Croix, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, The Caymans, The Isle of Pines Cuba, and New Orleans. (of course by the time they got to New Orleans there would be nothing left of them but a Speedo tag and whatever plastics they’d swallowed along the way) needless to say, an armada of rescue boats started pulling people in over the gunnels, like langustas on parade, on a fish pot Saturday night.

 Tuts was heading for Loango .

 Shortly after the fast and the fancy fiasco, the old white gent’s wife, standing in his rescue boat started screaming hysterically “A Shark! A Shark! Oh my God, I see a Shark!” Pull my husband out, pull my husband out, pull him out right now!! Oh my GOD! Pull my husband out right now!

Tuts says the poor old gent was utterly dejected as they pulled him up, his bathing suit drooping below his pale old, pink old, shiny hiney.

 Next went the dapper sharply outfitted “high color” attorney from the states, who had looked most disdainfully upon our man’s baggy boxers and boney bare feet but was now being dragged, thoroughly defeated, flat on his back from the sea to flat on his back on the bottom of the heaving boat.

 The boats were heaving now because the seas were heaving now, they were coming into “The Big Blue”. A section of the sound a mile or more wide, in which, or perhaps I ought to say, through which, big serioso, fast moving, megalo mountains of Big Blue Heavy Water Waves (Waves of the sort that make you say “Good Lord” or “Mama Mia” or “Holy Freakin’ Toledo” when you first see them even though you are looking at them from your perch on the deck of a passenger ferry, ten or fifteen feet above the water line.

 If you are in the water “down in the hollow” splashing along on your belly and craning your neck up trying to see the top of the wave, you will probably say a lot more than good lord, and if you are Tutsie and your rescue boat is manned by one “Fisherman John” a continental dipso juicehead,  that you helped to drag off the junk heap of life, but now haven’t seen for over  half an hour, most of it will not be printable in a general audience mem.wha? such as this one. But you can believe me when I say, you have probably never heard anything like it.

 Eventually, Tuts discovered that if he swam like crazy faster and faster as he got closer and closer to the top and he could then flip over to his back at just the last second the wave would crest and the curl would break over his shoulders. He could “hang there” for seconds, (perhaps one or two of the longest this side of eternity,) and contemplate his mounting misery and helplessness before having to roll over and slide headfirst down down down, ah..down down down, ah down down down, down. (Knowing that some thing is surely waiting in the “trough” to open its porky yaw and scrape you all along your back, belly and sides as it swallows you whole)

 As I may have mentioned casually a short while ago, this section of the sound was just a splash over a mile or more wide, can you guess how many times your whole life can flash before your eyes before you get completely bored with it?

What you don’t get bored with is the fact that you cannot see either Island or for that matter any thing at all when you are down in the valley, nothing but deep dark blue. So the desperate hope that you might be able to see something, anything, hinting at where you are, (is it Puerto Rico? Is it Berlin?) at the top of the next wave is a powerful draw, and can keep you going for many a repetition.

 One time he did see some thing recognizable back on St.Thomas, it was the two super poles that mark the spot where the undersea cable goes down beneath the sea. way down to the bottom, that’s the bottom way way down in the pitch black darkness beneath his own bottom. Better to see nothing he thought, than things as scary as that.

Pretty soon his primary concern had shifted from monstroso seas, to waves slapping him in the face, slap slap slap slap and he realized that he was in a different kind of swim now, the big blue was behind him, and he was battling offshore currents, lucky he had gone for Loango, because now, in spite of his forward motion he was being swept sideways, southward towards “Stephens Key”, a small flat island outside of Cruz Bay Bay, (or the Bay of Cruz Bay), that is actually two small flat Islands because what would have been one Island has a rocky channel (with it’s own spiffy little current) right through it’s middle.

Tut knew that if allowed himself to be swept southward beyond Stephens Key, he would be out in the Anegada Trench, and then as likely as not his rescuers would be the Venezuelan Navy. He determined that he had to get to and make it through the spiffy little current hole in the middle of Stephens Key

.If the current was running in his favor it could be a breeze, he was exhausted but just on the inside of Stephens Key was the outer entrance to Cruz Bay. He was almost, almost there.

Alas, the current was not in his favor (unless he wanted to turn around and “go with the flow” back to the “Cabrita express” and the afore mentioned many points beyond) and this part of the swim took everything but the very best of him. The very best of him was all that kept him kicking; the current was so strong that the surface water was rippling backwards in protest. That’s when the “water under water” is moving too fast for the water “on the water” to keep up, so the surface ripples backwards in tiny little cascades of confusion, all of which seemed to be going right up his nose, and down his throat.

 They say that the children of Africa can’t swim. My friend Tutsie has proved time and again, that that is a racist lie, or put another way, demonstrably untrue. Although it is true that Tutsie’s Mother, Miss Meu, born in Dominica, was one half Carib. And although the present effort of the Carib/Arawak Federation is to dispel the myth that King Charles of Spain used to promulgate and excuse the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, specifically, that the Caribs were so savage that they ate people, there is no question that the Caribs were and are among the toughest of the toughest human beings that have ever lived. So our man, three quarters African, One quarter Carib (with a smitter smatter of  Frenchish, British, both in the African part of the pie) is all but dead in the water, having just burst through the impassable current hole at Stephen’s Rock.

 Tuts aka “El Toro” aka “Peperino” aka  Skarpy aka “The Rabbi” (that’s another story) aka a hundred other desperado descriptors, is ready to surrender. If only he had the strength to raise his arm signaling, no, begging to be dragged out of the sea, he would have done so. Just then the cheerful voice of Fisherman John came skipping across the water, singsonging advice to“Make it look pretty Tuts! Make it look pretty! We’re almost there man!, Make it look pretty!!!.

 Some day I’ll build a statue at Cabrita Point to Victor Antonius “Tutsie”  “El Toro” Edwards, one portraying a skinny little mahogany hued dude in baggy boxers, tilting forward on one leg, the other angled out behind, with hands (as in prayer) just above his head,. Poised to dive into history.

Tuts became that day the first native Virgin Islander to EVER in all time, swim from St. Thomas to St. John.

 It wasn’t pretty as he crawled and dragged himself ashore (water streaming from every orifice), and it wasn’t pretty as he collapsed on the sand, unable to stand for a full three minutes. But in his defense, he was forty freakin’ years old and working with a body that had been ravaged by drugs and alcohol.

 The kids on the Dolphin swim team have much to be proud of, they did in their wetsuits, fins and organized swim formations, what the rough and tough UDT had given up on, they made the swim.

I know that where ever these kids are in the world, and where ever they will go, they will always remember that “once upon a time, when we were kids in the islands, my friends and me did the impossible together” they will also remember with awe and admiration “that skinny little fellow in the baggy boxer trunks” that did it alone and bare footed, and then, passed on the champagne and praise, because “that’s not why he was there”.

.Tutsie made the swim because it was Emancipation Day, and he wanted to demonstrate and celebrate freedom, he wanted to demonstrate freedom from fear of the sea and the ignorant idea that “Black people can’t swim” He wanted to demonstrate that “recovery is macho” and that black people now  need to be emancipated from the chemical slavery that is alcoholism and addiction, and because even though she was long gone, he wanted his mother to know that he could do, what he said he could do, and now it was time to go home… And oh yeah, to raise a few dollars for Shaky Acres.