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Friday, June 11 (Day 5) – Watcha Gonna Do With A Trunken Sailor

July 8, 2009
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Peace Hill Ruins7:47 am ­- Meditating in the shadows of a picturesque 18th Century windmill on the crest of Peace Hill as the warm Caribbean trade winds tickle our noses with the smell of fleeting frangipani and whisper-sweet reminders in our ears of the precious impermanence of life…is what my wife desperately wishes we were doing right now.

Unfortunately, she married Lieutenant Spaz. And if you’ve suffered through this entire trip report, you know full well that I don’t mediate in windmills, I slay them like Don Quixote on acid.

So naturally, instead of enjoying breakfast while experiencing all the solitude and tranquility Peace Hill has to offer, I conscripted my wife into using its tactical vantage point (overlooking Trunk Bay) to plan our assault on St. John’s most famous attraction.

Me: “Trunk Bay. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

The Mrs.: “What…oh please no, it’s too early in the morning for movie quotes, especially Star Wars. Can’t we just relax and enjoy life for once?”

Fragile FlowerMe: “Every man dies, not every man really limes.”

The Mrs.: (rolling her eyes) “Not when they go on vacation with Brave-fart they don’t.”

Me: “Have rum will travel reads the card of a man, a wife without ardor on a Virgin Island…”

The Mrs.: Oh I’m excited to be here all right, just not at wartime.

Me: (marching in place) “This is my snorkel, these are my fins, this is for breathin’, this is for…swims?”

The Mrs.: Very nice, Sweetheart, now can we just finish breakfast in peace? It’s Peace Hill after all, not Hamburger Hill.

Me: (Sniffing) Well I do love the smell of Napalm in the morning.

The Mrs.: “Well that explains why you added jalapeños to your Grotto Deli Sunrise Surprise?”

Me: “Mount up, it’s time to go storm the beach.”

The Mrs.: “God help me.”

Me: “And may the Force be with you.”

Trunk Bay Vista

Trunk Bay from an overlook

8:21 am – Bypassing the entrance to Trunk Beach without paying the $4 cover charge thanks to my celebrity status. Actually, there was no one at the gate. I think the bouncers slept in.

So we proceeded down to the lifeguard stand on the beach, but Mr. Trunk Baywatch didn’t have change for a $20, or, as my wife noted, room for much else in his uniform (the Hoff would have been proud). Regardless, he didn’t really care that we hadn’t paid and much like a loan from Countrywide, we got some premium beachfront property all to ourselves for no money down. You think we bit off more than we could crew? No, never-never.

9:01 am – Snorkeling around the cay at Trunk Bay and coming face to jaws with a four to five foot barracuda give or take a fang. It was just hovering above a rock and quite honestly I thought it was a fake at first–perhaps an attraction on the underwater snorkel trail. So I swam even closer to it. Sounds ridiculous now, but that’s what happens when you augment the most important meal of the day with liquid courage. Hooray Beer!

Trunk Beach

I love blue

Of course, I almost turned Trunk Bay into Brown Bay when the barracuda opened and closed its mouth repeatedly as if to say, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Are these jagged teeth as sharp as they look?’ Being as I’m a barracuda, one of the fiercest looking fish in the world, and I could probably bite your hand clean off (or at least break the skin and cause a very bad rash), you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

As I’d find out later from the lifeguard, “it” was most likely “Charlie,” and my run-in was hardly unique. If you too would like to get up close and personal with the business end of a barracuda, I think you can find “Dirty Charlie” protecting his turf out just beyond the second buoy (the red one if memory serves) on the left side of the cay at Trunk Bay.

Obviously, the park officials would have relocated the Tooth-scary long ago if he actually posed any real threat, but I can promise you this much, Charlie ain’t no tuna and he don’t want to be part of the petting zoo either.

10:30 ish – Rush hour at Trunk Bay. One second you have the beach to yourself and the next, it’s Spring Break on the Jersey Shore. Don’t these people know that I called dibs on Trunk during a very audible and incoherent public address announcement at The Beach Bar last night? There’s just no honor amongst drunks anymore.

Crab

Crab with an attitude

Oh well, since the plethora of prepubescent pirates surrounding us didn’t seem the least bit empathetic towards my hangover and deemed my invitation to play the “Quiet Game” as an act of sedition, we decided to bolt.

Nothing against kids or noise, but after a few days on St. John, you get spoiled knowing you can almost always find another postcard beach that’s practically empty and devoid of “distractions.” Plus, my wife and I felt guilty because the little ones reminded us of our own precious 4-year old pirate who was back in Texas with his grandparents. But we’ll bring him to STJ one of these days, and mark my words, Trunk Bay, like MacArthur, I shall return.

Annaberg

Annaberg Ruins

10:55 am – Eavesdropping on the guided tour that was circling the ruins at the Annaberg Plantation just as the guide was giving the group a solemn idea of what a day in the life of a slave was like here. It’s been said many times, but it really is hard to believe such a beautiful place was home to such atrocities.

And it’s not like we were completely clueless about St. John’s sordid past, but given all the other things St. John is known for–beaches, bars, booty, I mean beauty, etc.–I don’t think you really absorb it until you actually walk in their footsteps and feel the heat of the sun on the back of your neck while imagining yourself naked, working nearly 18 hours a day with no relief and no hope.

Flamboyant Tree

Flamboyant Tree

Of course that didn’t prevent me from sticking my flip-flop in my mouth and whispering to my wife, “They didn’t land on Pelican Rock, Pelican Rock landed on them.” Fortunately, the frown on my wife’s face said it all and we walked the rest of the ruins in reverent silence as if visiting a cemetery.

Even if it’s inconvenient, I’ll always choose to learn the truth versus remaining ignorant, but it’s hard not to feel guilty when you’re walking a crime scene in a bathing suit. Regardless, Annaberg is a must-stop when on St. John and this was not meant to be an emotional curve ball, just a tip for those of you who, like me, don’t always remember to leave their “happy-go-drunky” mindset in the glove compartment.

And speaking of appeasing my conscience…

We never did pay the Trunk Bay tax, but we did put $10 in the lockbox at the Annaberg entrance, which apparently works as admission for both places. Hey, when it comes to rules and karma, I play a “bend but don’t break” defense.

Skinny Legs

Skinny Legs

11:43 am – Singing my Ode to Skinny Legs’ Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett style)…

Tried to avoid my carnivorous habits
Made it nearly seven long days
Losin’ weight hiking Reef – eatin’ Cliff Bars that taste like “sheet”
Snork-lin’ round
Waterlemon and soakin’ up rays

But at night I’d have these eatable dreams
About an
East End infamous treat
Not sashimi, mahi-mahi, or fish ‘n frites
But a bunch of bleu cheese on a big hunk of meat

Blue Cheese Burger at Skinnys

The Cheeseburger in Paradise

Cheeseburger at Skinny Legs
Heaven on earth with a cold Red Stripe
It’s served on island time, so try to be nice
Skinny Legs’ cheeseburger in paradise

Heard about the Cruz Bay chi-chi crowd
They eat the same thing again and again
Goat cheese salad they say can raise the dead
It reminds me of the menu at the stuffy Westin

Times have changed for tourists these days
When on
St. John I get what I need
Not just fritters or painkillers or mahi-mahi
But that
Coral Bay creation on which I feed

Burger at Skinnys

54burger

Cheeseburger at Skinny Legs
Medium rare with cheddar’d be nice
Heaven on earth with a cold Red Stripe
Skinny Legs’ cheeseburger in paradise

I like mine with all of the fixins
Sittin’ under flip-flops, danglin’ in the wind
Surfboard menu waxing specials on beer
Well tell me Pam Gaffin which way do I steer

For a…

Cheeseburger at Skinny Legs
I don’t care if the waitress isn’t nice
It’s worth drivin’ blind on Centerline
To eat a cheeseburger in paradise
Skinny Legs’ cheeseburger in paradise
I’m just a cheeseburger in paradise

Shoes at Skinnys

Shoes at Skinny Legs

Do yourself a flavor, next time you’re Coral Bay way, stop into Skinny Legs and ask for a Skinny’s cheeseburger cooked medium with a slice of pepper jack and a slice of cheddar completely melted. Ask for all the fixins, a couple of avocado slices if they’ve got’em, and a side of mayo with black pepper mixed into it (you’ll probably have to mix it yourself as the waitress will be ready to put you on the grill by this point).

And I almost forgot the most important part: spend the morning working up an appetite by hiking or swimming or gallivanting around on a beach. If you really want the “best cheeseburger in the world,” you gotta earn it. Trust me, I know a guy that knows karate.

Dennis Beach

Treasure awaits

3:11 pm – Spurring off the Peace Hill trail and hiking down to Denis Bay, another lesser-known (or at least lesser-visited) St. John treasure. No doubt the locals who frequent it would like to keep it that way and probably consider talking about it tantamount to revealing how a magic trick works, but what’s the point of a trip report if you don’t give readers more than they can find in the National Park Welcome Brochure?

Plus, there was also a woman sunbathing topless in front of the private property at the end of the beach and since Melanie Griffith’s family used to own it, I figured it warranted swimming down there to investigate. My wife, however, said, “put your snorkel away big boy.” My first 311 involving a female all week and the Admiral puts me into dry-dock. Damn it.

7:36 pm – Sitting couples-style (hip to hip) at Rhumb Lines restaurant downing sparkling mojitos like Capris Suns after scarfing some grimace Pupu Platter proportions. They’re really tasty but a tip for those of you who are considering the Szechuan Noodles, when they say, “spicy,” they mean “better coat your tongue in candle wax” spicy. My eyes started watering and I singed my napkin trying to blow my nose. Regardless, we really enjoyed Rhumb Lines and will go there again. I also recommend the Shrimp & Corn Fritters, and the Mrs. swears by Scott’s Sesame-Encrusted Tuna.

Beach Bar

Beach Bar bliss

9:34 pm – Grooving at The Beach Bar to the melodic tones of the very provocative lead singer of “The Ish” while watching in amazement as a local carpenter periodically regained consciousness just long enough to restart his unsolicited toast for two newlyweds who were sitting across the bar and had just arrived from getting hitched on Hawksnest Beach. After consuming three or four Lime N Coconuts, I wasn’t exactly Wally Cleaver either, but I’d estimate this dude’s blood alcohol level at somewhere between a .26 and Cooter Brown.

On behalf of every other man at The Beach Bar that night, I want to thank Mr. Toasty for setting the “bar” so low and making the rest of us look like superior breeding stock. I’d also like to honor him now by asking everyone reading this to raise your glasses as I recite Mr. Toasty’s last barely coherent soliloquy just before the bartender asked him to leave…

Hey…yous guys got married? Con-(yirp)-gratulations! I was married once…best six months of my life. Try to beat that!”

Here-here.

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