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Thursday, June 11 (Day 4) – Eastbound And Down For Fritters

July 9, 2009


8:17 am – Driving the North Shore out to the Leinster Bay Trailhead while compromising the integrity of our jeep thanks to about 20 pounds of Café Roma mozzarella causing a traffic jam in my colon. Like most men, I’m immature (even at age 35), and still intrigued by my body’s magical ability to expel odoriferous emanations.

My wife however, who was in the passenger seat making the universal sign for death by suffocation, was not impressed and certainly wasn’t amused when I coyly asked her if she happened to catch a “Whiff of the Jumbie.” He-he.

8:45 am –Stopped in our tracks out on the trail to Waterlemon Cay playing chicken with a gang of imposing donkeys protecting their turf near Leinster Beach, also known as “Playa del Muchos Burros.”


Donkeys in charge

Even though I speak fluent “jackass” (according to my wife), my attempts to establish my “trail cred” with “El Buro Loco 340” went unreciprocated. El Guapo, the lead donkey, didn’t even blink when I asked him if he knew what a “plethora” was.

In fact I’m pretty sure a couple of the donkeys had done time in the pen because they had visible tats of horseshoes under their left eyes. So rather than play by prison rules we opted to bushwack around them.

9:23 am – Snorkeling around Waterlemon Cay–the aquatic equivalent of a merry-go-round menagerie of serene sea life–when my wife tugs on my fin to have a meaningful conversation and share some STJ trivia with me while treading water. Unfortunately, I was not in good head space for sponging up useless knowledge, as you’ll read below:

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay

Mrs. 54b (excited): “Hey did you see that big parrotfish nibbling on the coral?”

54b (daft as ever): “Oh yeah, Polly was gettin’ his cracker on.”

Mrs. 54b (unenthused): “Okay…anyway, did you know that after it digests the coral, it poops out sand and that sand makes up a lot of the beaches here?”

54b (incredulous): “Seriously?”

Mrs. 54b (excited again and hopeful): “Yes, I’m not joking. Isn’t that amazing?”

54b (insensitive and ignorant): “Wow, I guess that means the parrotfish over at Cobblestone Beach are constipated.”

Mrs. 54b (thoroughly defeated): “Yeah, just like you this morning, Mr. Café Aroma.”

Coming soon to the NYT Best Seller List, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and I am from Uranus” by 54b.

Vie's Snack Shack

Vie's Snack Shack

11:12 am – Rolling eastbound and down for Vie’s Snack Shack, where the culinary mantra is, “don’t knock it ‘til you’ve fried it.”

Vie’s famous garlic fried chicken–which I’m pretty sure was pecking the ground near the picnic tables not long before coming to its final resting plate–is sublime and comes with a Johnnycake just in case you need to slap your heart and put some stank on it.

Add the palette-cleansing artery-clogging Conch Fritters and you’ve just hit the Tri-Fried-Fecta. They’re awesome, and Vie, who’s been at this for 30 years (yeah 30 years), doesn’t fry her fritters until they end up like hard, little hockey pucks like a lot of places do. Hey, don’t hate the hushpuppy, hate the game.

Besides not wearing shorts with a forgiving elastic waistband and popping an anticoagulant, my only lament after experiencing the connubial fusion of all-purpose flour and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil that is Vie’s Snack Attack was not trying one of Vie’s famous tarts. I won’t quadruple bypass it by next time, I can assure you of that.

All joking aside, Vie’s Snack Shack was my favorite eating experience all week. She’s authentic and makes no apologies for serving unfashionably good fare in a world that’s become increasingly dependent on food for affirmation instead of enjoyment.

Vie’s Snack Shack isn’t a St. John institution. Vie’s Snack Shack is St. John.

(Cue slow clap sequence, increase to mad applause, whip into frothy lather.)

Sloop Jones' Place

Sloop Jones' Place

I feel powerful yet vulnerable…hold me but don’t judge me.

12:07 am – Continuing our journey to the Far East (side of STJ), also known as the Goat Coast, and making our way up the hill to the artist colony and lizard refuge of Sloop Jones. Seriously, leaping lizards abound. Or maybe I picked the wrong week to quit inhaling paint fumes.

Anyway, there’s no way to do Sloop Jones or his colorful couture justice using the written word other than to have you imagine what a t-shirt would look like after having a paintball war with Tommy Bahama, Don Ho, and Rainbow Brite.


A Lizard

Unfortunately, we did not get to meet Sloop himself, but Mrs. Sloop (I think) was kind enough to finance a couple of one-of-kind t-shirts for us that were good for the soul and the local economy. They ain’t cheap, but they’re worth it. And like Sloop Dawg never says, “paintin’ ain’t easy.”

1:13 pm – Double dating with two affectionate turtles swimming in Salt Pond Bay. Mr. Turtle had a good job with the VI Tourism Bureau and Mrs. Turtle recently quit her gig as a postcard model to stay at home and start a family. Like us, they were new to the neighborhood and wanted to make sure the local schools of fish were good before settling down.

Mangrove Leaf2:47 pm – Taking the air on the Rams Head hike solo while my wife relished a rare chance to spend some alone time with “Sir Reginald’s Quivering Sword” (trashy romance novel) back on the beach. After bonking on the Reef Bay trail to hell on Tuesday, I wanted to redeem myself and prove to my wife and my maker that come hell or high water, I am a hiker damn it.

Unfortunately, today, God chose door #2 to humble me and opened up the skies drowning my arrogance just as I made it to the Rams Head point just in time to get a front row seat for the much bigger can of weather whoop ass coming our way.

By the time I made it back to the Salt Pond, there was only one person remaining on the beach trembling under a tree that had more thorns than foliage. Let me describe this lucky lady for you…

She had our cooler, two drenched towels that weighed about 20 pounds each, her prized chick-lit paperback that now resembled a pile of used moist towelettes (I think Sir Reginald might have intimacy issues, he-he), and a look on her face that could make my “Husband of the Year” nomination entry form spontaneously combust.

On the arduous, muddy climb back up to the parking lot I drew inspiration from The Turtles and tried to assuage my wife’s frustration with a fun hiking song sung by happy campers (feel free to sing along):

54b and you and you and b,
We knew the day they tossed the rice, it had to be,
The only one for 54b is you and you for b,
So happy together
How is the weather?

Wait, don’t answer that…

So happy together…

Good song choice? Not so much. Only one thing can save me now. Yep, alcohol – the cause and cure for all of life’s problems.

Thank you, Homer Simpson.

Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap

4:22 pmDrinking Right and Keeping Left at the one St. John establishment that not only accepts sopping wet patrons, but actually expects them: The Tourist Trap. A couple of their signature drinks and awesome Lobster Rolls (think seafood hotdogs) later and I’d completely forgotten about being drenched. My wife took a little longer to thaw (understandable), but she came around after putting some type of hot sauce found at Shipwreck Landing on her roll. Apparently it makes your taste buds secrete endorphins because my she was now looking at me like I was Sir Reginald. Tallyho, govna!

From zero to hero just like that.

What a day, what a place. My wife can certainly attest to the fact that I’m no saint, but even I can pull off a miracle every now and then on St. John.

BONUS: For those of you who never learned to carry the one (because you were told there would be no math), that’s two fantastic culinary experiences in one day from two places that probably wouldn’t be caught dead in Bon Appétit.

This got me to drinking (I mean thinking) because I remembered all the forum posts I’d read about how hard it is to keep a restaurant in the black on STJ and the number of places that had been shuttered because of the recession. So I figured I’d apply what little I learned over the past 10 years as a marketer (think snake oil salesman) and provide “pro 54-bono” my…


10. Create a signature rum drink (use Everclear instead of rum though) and name it after a particularly virulent wild animal found on STJ or just make a pun out of a popular island landmark like everybody else. Examples (no charge, they’re on the house): Donkey Punch or Chocolate Hole Milk of Amnesia

9. Make sure your food tastes better than your restaurant looks. I can’t stress this enough. In retail, exceeding expectations is typically more important than creating them.

8. Develop t-shirts, hats and bumper stickers that wax poetic about your signature appetizer or entrée. People are superficial, elitist tchotchke-whores and can’t hardly wait to provide the world with tangible proof that they “ate the infamous Reef Bay Gut Buster at the Beached Whale Café on St. John.”

7. Hire a friendly, attractive waitstaff with questionable morals and emotionally unavailable fathers. And start a rumor that your hostess was an extra in the last Kenny Chesney video.

6. Hang 8×10 glossies of B-List celebrities on your walls and forge barely legible notes from them about the time they got drunk and played strip poker at your restaurant ‘til sunrise with Erik Estrada, Maureen McCormick, and Gary Coleman.

5. Two words: Drink Specials. Because when you’re drinking, every hour is happy hour, even 9 am. I don’t care if it’s the same price you always charge, make it “special,” damn it!

4. Allow patrons to prove they “were here” at your restaurant by encouraging them to write stupid non-sequiturs on your tables and bathroom walls. It will give them something to do if the service is slow, and trust me, it will be.

3. Whenever possible, challenge your customers’ manhood. All-you-can-muscle conch fritter nights, special t-shirt offers for drinking every type of beer in the house, Jell-o shots congealing small fish, mosquitoes, and no-see-ums, etc. If it works on a frat boy, it’ll work on a tourist. Same mental state of mind, both are on vacation.

2. Bribe locals to eat dinner at your bar, get drunk, and tell any tourist who will listen about how your restaurant is the only thing that reminds them of the way St. John was before the greedy developers showed up. Nostalgia is basically emotional blackmail in the retail industry. Write that down.

1. And finally, don’t be open everyday, tell people your commodes are eco-friendly, and whatever you do, don’t piss off the Vegans. Just put some tree bark on a plate with a sprig of mint and a watercress and call it a “Salade” (with an “e”).

Trust me. I’m in advertising.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike Farrell permalink
    May 6, 2012 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the St.John trip wrap up.
    It brought me back to some places I’ve been to in the 5 times I’ve been there since ’90
    I’m heading back in July so the timing is good.
    Thanks for the read.

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