Return to Guadalupe Island / Cage-Diving with the Big Great Whites

Posted December 25, 2013 by wjudson461
Categories: Travel

Tags: , , ,
Great photo by fellow diver Lars Bell

Great photo by fellow diver Lars Bell

November 17, 2013, about a month ago, I flew across the country to observe and photograph great white sharks at remote Guadalupe Island 220 miles off the Mexican coast.  I had made the trip in September with Daughter Dana and it was a great experienceAt that time of the year, Guadalupe Island attracts the young males who crew member Jimi Partington called “the teenagers.” We had a lot of cage action and many sharks, but I came home without seeing the mammoth adult females and feeling as if I had missed something. Jimi had told me they come to Guadalupe in November.  Dana was unable to go due to work, so I made the trip back solo. 

I grew up extremely interested in great whites, and had driven to Montauk to see the head of the great white caught by Frank Mundus off Montauk Point in 1986 which at the time was the largest fish of any kind caught on rod and reel.  For the uninitiated, Mundus was an eccentric shark charter boat Captain upon whom Robert Shaw’s Quint character was based in Jaws.  The shark’s head was mounted over the bar in a little restaurant at the Marina.  I sat for several hours, drinking beers and looking up at that head in complete wonder.  It was so big, it seemed inconceivable that it was real.  But it was. I decided that I had to see one of these giants from a cage with my own eyes.  I got my wish on this trip and will never forget it.  The photo below shows Mundus with his record-breaking catch.

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 Upon our arrival at Guadalupe Island, the first hour or two were very slow.  Then a very large male came up to test the baitsJust as we were getting excited about some action with a big shark, the male beat a hasty retreatBriefly we were disappointed until the reason for his quick exit became apparent.  An enormous female made her entrance and simultaneously made our trip.  She was around 18 feet in length and well over 4000 lbs.  Think about that.  That’s more than two tons of fish.

For those readers interested in the boat, the accommodations, food, crew and itinerary, I suggest reading my first post on this blog called “Cage-Diving with the Great Whites.”  All of these details are covered in-depth in that piece.  This second trip was identical in all respects except for the sharks encountered For that reason this article will be short on text and long on picturesSeeing the “Big Girls” was the whole point of the trip.

Due to scarring that may have resulted from a fight or from mating, we called her Scarboard.  She was the key to making our trip a success and all the pictures in this article are of herWhen an alpha female is at the surface, all other sharks go down below.  To remain is to challenge, and a challenge will likely result in a fatal attack.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the piece.  If you did, the nicest gift you can give to me is to post a comment at the bottom of the page.  Simply enter your email address (it will not show), post a comment as brief or detailed as you want, and check off the two boxes at the bottom of the page.  Reader feedback is my bread and butter.

To my fellow divers on this trip, please feel free to send me any pictures of yours you really liked.  I can edit the piece, add your shots, and give you credit for the pictures.  I had asked a number of you but only two of you responded.  If you have a great shot, let’s get it out there.

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The striped trigger fish escort the great whites to the island and stay with them a couple weeks. The shark won’t harm them intentionally and the trigger fish clean the sharks hide and teeth, a fully symbiotic relationship.

It is now Christmas Day and the happiest of Holdays to all of you.  May it be a happy and prosperous New Year.

Jud

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Here she comes again.

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Hitting the bait, a large tuna head.

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Scarboard was considerate enough to put on a show
for those who were not in the cage as well.

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The day coming to an end. Doesn’t that water
look peaceful? It isn’t.

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At the cage, more curious than aggressive.

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Mother’s abstracts?

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Guadalupe Sunset

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The sheer size of Scarboard was evident by
the distance between the dorsal fin and the tail.

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Another great shot by Lars Bell

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve

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Cage-Diving with the Great Whites

Posted October 21, 2013 by wjudson461
Categories: Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

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Sea Dream Yacht Club’s Werner Roy

Posted March 21, 2013 by wjudson461
Categories: Cruise Travel, Friends, Here and Gone

Tags: , ,

Werner Roy

Today, anyone who has the desire to take a cruise can find something that suits their tastes and price range.  From mammoth “floating cities” with all the bells and whistles, medium-sized vessels in all price ranges and very small ships, usually costing a little more but including more in the cruise fare, there is something for everyone.  But for most of cruising history, an ocean voyage was the exclusive domain of the very wealthy.  Most evenings were formal.  As the cruise industry has evolved, there is an increasingly casual ambiance about the experience.  This has carried over to the interaction between passenger and crew members.  Particularly on the very small ships, friendships are made between passengers and crew that carry over year to year.

For the past few years, I have taken Sea Dream Yacht Club’s Sea Dream 2 out of St. Thomas in early December.  On my first voyage, I noticed a waiter, Werner Roy, who stood out from his peers.  He was considerably older, and unlike many of the other waiters, he was Caucasian.  Much of Sea Dream’s crew is Asian.  He struck me as very formal, and I, incorrectly, took this as a lack of warmth.  As time passed, our group sat in his station and we began to talk with Werner.  He turned out to be our favorite, and on our last cruise in December, 2012, we had the Maître’d reserve a front table with Werner for the entire cruise.  The more I learned about his extensive history at sea, the more I understood his demeanor was a reflection of his years aboard the premier luxury liners of their day.  He is doting, yet reserved and unobtrusive.  His bearing is formal and respectful. The more I drew him out, the more I wanted to hear his story.  He agreed to be interviewed for this piece, and seemed happy to do so.

Werner Roy comes from the Black Forest region of Germany, which is bordered by France to the West and Switzerland to the South.  He attended Hotel school in Switzerland, and upon graduation, went on to work at prestigious hotels in England, Switzerland and Paris.  But he was feeling the ocean beckoning him, and his first contract at sea was on a freighter.  He suggested trying a freighter cruise as a passenger would be a rewarding experience, and I’m looking into doing that.

Deciding that his hotel and hospitality experience would be better served on a passenger ship than a freighter, Werner landed a waiter position with the Royal Viking line. Royal Viking was the premier cruise line of that time, counting among its passengers Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson and Vincent Price among numerous other celebrities. Royal Viking operated from 1972 to 1994 when financial difficulties necessitated its sale to the Cunard line.  In 1998, Cunard was taken over by Carnival.  The Royal Viking Star holds a fond place in my heart for two reasons.  First, they had the gumption to throw the lovely and congenial Leona Helmsley off the ship after she had thoroughly annoyed both crew and fellow passengers.  You have to love that. I guess money can’t buy everything.  Secondly, I had the chance to sail on the Star after it had been sold to Norwegian Cruise lines.  I just wanted to see the ship.  We didn’t have much money, and took an inside cabin on the lowest deck, but the ship was gorgeous.  That stateroom was the largest I’ve had on any of my cruises.

While with Cunard, Werner served on both the Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II, 220 passenger ultra-luxury ships that were the epitome of upscale small ship cruising. Today, they are the Sea Dream 1 and 2. His Sea Goddess passengers included Princess Caroline of Monaco and Prince Albert. I had to practically pry the names from Werner.  Even now, all these years later, he places a high value on the guest’s privacy.  He is clearly not comfortable speaking about past passengers.  His discretion is most admirable.

While Werner was taking contract after contract at sea, he had a fiancé at home who had expected him to come home and take a land-based job. He kept saying this next contract would be the last, but finally his Lady had had enough.  He was sorry about it, but he’d found his calling at sea. He does not regret it. He has loved life at sea.

At 63 years young, Werner plans to retire in a couple years. He has a lady friend waiting for him in Germany, and claims to be looking forward to retiring. He is considering spending half of each year in Asia, and has a keen interest in gardening. When we were getting ready to disembark last December, Werner was preparing to fly home for Christmas to celebrate with friends and family. He was looking forward to all the traditional German foods served at Christmas, including the “weiswurst”, a veal and bacon sausage, and gluhwein, the spicy mulled red wine made with cloves, cinnamon, and sugar and served hot. Adding nutmeg and brandy is optional. After his two month vacation, he was looking forward to coming back aboard Sea Dream 2. He loves working with and teaching the younger waiters and introducing passengers to new foods.  You can see from how Werner is treated by his co-workers that he is both respected and loved.  He says he will have no trouble retiring, but I have to wonder.  He will miss the sea.  Retirement can be a major adjustment.

When next December rolls around, Werner and Sea Dream 2 will be in Asia rather than their usual Caribbean itinerary. This will be great for many of the crew, as they will be close to home and family. My Wife Susie and I will be sailing on another ship, and we will dearly miss both Werner and the whole Sea Dream 2 family.  It is my fervent hope to have a chance to sail with them again before Werner retires. I will miss his droll humor, the sparkle in his eye and his love of people. He has become my friend.

My True Story – Aaron Neville

Posted March 18, 2013 by wjudson461
Categories: Music

Tags: , , , , , ,

My True Story – Aaron Neville

Blue Note Records, January 2013

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My True Story, released in January of 2013, is Aaron Neville’s foray into the doo-wop songs of his youth.  Having tackled virtually every other musical venue, it is somewhat surprising that this recording was so long in coming.  As Mr. Neville said, these songs “rode with me, in my bones, through all these years.”  The recording is co-produced by Grammy-Award winning producer Don Was and Rolling Stone Keith Richards.  Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards had crossed paths many times over the years and become good friends.  Much of their conversations centered on the classic doo- wop songs of their youth.  When Mr. Neville called Mr. Richards and said he was ready to record these songs, Mr. Richards was on the next plane out.

The next phase was putting together a band, and they assembled a veritable who’s who of veteran session musicians. Mr. Richards shares guitar duties with George Leisz, (Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Brian Wilson).  Benmont Tench, a founding and current member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers handles the keyboards.  Mr. Tench has also done session work with Elvis Costello, the Indigo Girls, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and many others. .  Acoustic bass player Tony Scherr has recorded with Norah Jones, Bill Friesell and John Scofield. Drummer George G. Receli’s resume includes James Brown, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.  Mr. Neville’s brothers from the Neville Brothers band lend a hand, with Charles on saxophone and Art on the organ. Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards wanted to put their own touch on the songs without losing the integrity and feel of the originals. Just by happenstance, Mr. Richards saw the Jive Five, the band that had recorded the title track in 1961, was appearing somewhere and Mr. Richards was able to reach Eugene Pitt, the co-writer of My True Story.  Mr. Pitt was able to round up Bobby Jay from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Dickie Harmon of the Dell Vikings and the three of them lend an authenticity of the period to the backup vocals. 

The music of your adolescence is more than just songs.  This is the period of your first crushes, first rejections, first experiences with sex. The songs of your teenage years are the soundtrack of your coming of age, and hearing them evokes faces, places, smells and tastes that were brand new.  It is an exciting, scary and thoroughly unique period in your life. Both Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards had worried that these wonderful songs would be forgotten.  Thus, My True Story was born.  And you can hear the musicians really had fun.  Originally intended to be just a song of ballads, they had so much fun with the up-tempo numbers that there are quite a few included.  All involved agreed that this was the fastest, least stressful album recording they had ever worked on.  And the band came together from the outset. Mr. Richards had never played with Mr. Leisz before, but from the first session, their guitar interplay is remarkable.  Most songs required one take, so what you hear is essentially a “live” album done in a studio.

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Left to Right…Tony Scherr, Benmont Tench, Don Was, Keith Richards, Aaron Neville, Greg Leisz, George G. Recelli.
Photo by Sarah A. Friedman

The album kicks off with Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters 1953 recording of “Money Honey”, followed by the Jive Fives 1953 title track. I’ll post the songs later in this piece, but classics by the Ronettes, the Drifters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Thurston Harris, and the Impressions with Curtis Mayfield are all represented here.  And it would seem inevitable that there will be a follow-up album, since My True Story has twelve tracks and they recorded more than twice that. I look forward to the next release.

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Keith Richard and Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five

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Aaron Neville, Keith Richards and Don Was

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The Songlist

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Keith Richards

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Aaron Neville, Don Was and Keith Richards

Mr. Neville’s voice is not universally loved. It is unique to the point of alienating some listeners. His lilting falsetto is startling, particularly if you see a picture of the hulking man it is coming from.  For the people who like his voice, like me, this album is a must own.  Likewise for anyone who grew up with these songs.  And for those who have never really cared for his voice, this kind of music may fit his unique sound better than any other musical style he has performed.  This record is worth a listen.  You might just find you love it.

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Postscript

Mr. Neville is more than ten years my senior and Mr. Richards is seven years older than I am.

One might wonder how I could be so intimate with all these songs.  I owe my early music education to my cousin, Blues Guitarist /singer Doug MacLeod. As an elementary school kid, I spent my afternoons at my Aunt’s home listening to Doug’s band, the Fliptones, practice. Though just a local dance band, the Fliptones had some kids who went on to very successful musical careers. Jimmy Ryan, lead guitarist, had a Billboard Top Ten hit with the Critters recording of John Sebastian’s “Younger Girl” in 1964.  My cousin Doug, seven years older than me, is a prominent and respected blues musician whose compositions have been recorded by Albert King., Papa John Creach and Albert Collins. See his discography at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_MacLeod_%28musician%29#Discography

I owe my introduction to music to Doug.  He was the catalyst for my lifelong love of all kinds of music.

When my peers were buying toy soldiers, I was buying 45 rpm singles.

The Bitter End Yacht Club

Posted November 30, 2012 by wjudson461
Categories: Travel

Tags: , , , ,

After 25 years of serious travel all over the world, from Santorini to Bora Bora, we found paradise in our relative backyard at the Bitter End Yacht Club.  If I tried to detail every positive experience, this article could turn into a novel.  So, I’ll try to just describe our highlights, and first and foremost would have to be the absolutely wonderful BEYC staff.  Never in all our travels have I hugged so many people goodbye.  It was very special.  Plaudits should go to the managers, Mary Jo and the COO Sandra Grisham.  They have assembled an all-star staff.

The Bitter End Yacht Club is, arguably, the preeminent yachting resort in the Caribbean.  I had heard about the Bitter End years before I actually visited.  My Father was an avid sailor and raced his Resolute every summer weekend on Long Island Sound.  I was usually called upon to crew, along with a couple of his buddies.  I was not along for my expertise.  My Pop rightly figured I could get into less trouble if I was with him.  My Pop and his buddies talked all the time about chartering a boat to sail the British Virgin Islands, and BEYC was always a part of that plan.  Alas, they never did the trip.

Like many BEYC guests, I first visited the resort while on a cruise ship.  Almost immediately, I realized this was a place I wanted to come back to for a real stay.  While we were at the resort, I asked to see all three types of rooms and got a real feeling about what I wanted to do.  I fell in love with the Beachfront Cottages, high up on the hill above North Beach.  The next year, we were there for a land trip.  Our first trip, I over-packed very badly, bringing sports coats and dress slacks.  I nearly killed the poor gentleman trying to lug our bags up to our villa on the hilltop.  But that never happened again.  All you really need are shorts, a polo or two and flip flops, even at Dinner.

Our luggage guy's nightmare. We overpacked.

Our luggage guy’s nightmare. We over-packed.

Exterior of our Beachfront Villa

Exterior of our Beachfront Villa

Winded but happy, the entrance to our beachfront villa

Winded but happy, the entrance to our beachfront villa

Beachfront Villa at Night

Beachfront Villa at Night

Accommodations

Three types of rooms are available to suit different tastes.  The Beachfront Villas were much like our over-water bungalows in Tahiti in terms of layout and feel.  Tucked into the hillside, you get the feeling of camping out in luxury.  There are trade winds blowing night and day, and combined with the ceiling fan over the bed, the villas are always comfortable.  I love them.  The Premium Beachfront Villas seem to be identical except they have air conditioning.  I’ve always gone to BEYC in April or May, and unless you like sleeping in a meat locker-type climate, there was no need for A/C.  In August, it may be different, I really don’t know.  The third room option is the North Sound suites located at the other end of the resort.  They are very nice, with an A-frame look to them, but more like a traditional resort room.  They were not for us.  The Beachfront Cottages are open all around but screened to discourage bugs.  A terrace wraps all around the cottage and has a two-person hammock ideal for late afternoon siestas.  The shower is screened in with wooden slats which open floor to ceiling, giving you the feeling of showering outdoors and featuring a gorgeous sea-view panorama.

Beachfront Villa Interior

Beachfront Villa Interior

My beloved hammock.

My beloved hammock.

The Resort

Unlike most of the ships and resorts I’ve covered in these pages, the Bitter End Yacht Club is definitely a vacation for the whole family.  There are two different programs for kids, one for ages 5-12, the other for kids 13-17 years old.  But don’t get the wrong idea.  BEYC has plans that are aimed at romance, and can make this as sensual and intimate a vacation as you want it to be.  Bottom line, there is something here to love for everybody.  And although it is a yachting resort, you need not be a sailor to find a million things to do.  Whether it be getting certified for scuba, trail hiking, yoga classes, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, learning to sail at the Sailing School, watching movies at the Sand Palace, or just lounging by the gorgeous pool before your massage at the Spa, ranked a World’s Best by Conde Nast, there are unlimited possibilities for every taste.  And if you are a sailor, choose from 100 vessels and get out there.  I love the Hobie Cats.  And to explore the area, you can’t beat a Boston Whaler.  Oh, and don’t miss the day-long excursion to Anegada replete with sweet lobsters and fabulous snorkeling.

 

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My favorites, the Hobie Cats

 

The Pool

The Pool

 

Futile purduit of a Parrot Fish off Anegada

Futile pursuit of a Parrot Fish off Anegada

 

 

 

Our Typical  Day at BEYC

Susie and I are up just before sunrise brewing up a pot of coffee from the provisions provided in the Villa.  Sunrise is when the big rays come to shore to feed, and although we are high up on the hill, my zoom lens brings me right to the lapping waves.  We watch the rays and sip our coffee out on the wrap-around terrace as the sun rises out of the sea.  We are the first ones at breakfast or close to it.  I like to eat a big breakfast as my lunch will be just freshly-caught fish and salad.  We have brought all our suntan creams, books and sundries and set up in chaise lounges.  Susie works and is not a water person.  Her perfect day is reading, tanning, dozing and occasional dips in the unbelievably perfect water.  In short, pure relaxation.  I am retired and am a fanatic water person.  I cannot sit still.  I may put my things on a chaise lounge but it is unlikely I will ever sit in it.  I take a morning swim and then a walk.  The grounds are beautiful, bursting with flowers of every persuasion. At mid-morning, I grab my mask, fins and snorkel and join Captain Kinto for the morning snorkeling excursion aboard the Ponce de Leon. These excursions visit reefs nearby including two of Sir Richard Branson’s islands, Necker and Mosquito.  I’ve come to like Kinto and he makes all the dives fun.  He calls me the “Hot Mess.” I like to think affectionately.  Or maybe not?  After the dives as we skim across the crystal clear water, you can choose from Kinto’s jug of rum punch or water and soft drinks.  I’d love a rum punch, but have bid farewell to booze, so water will have to do.

Big ray feeding just after sunrise

Big ray feeding just after sunrise

The scenery on my morning strolls

The scenery on my morning strolls

Dana aboard Captain Kinto's Ponce de Leonafter snorkelling

Dana aboard Captain Kinto’s Ponce de Leon 

 

We arrive back at the pier just as lunch is being served.  I order whatever is today’s catch of the day and head up to the extensive salad bar.  The kitchen makes a creamy pepper dressing which is to kill for.  After lunch, I return to the salad bar and hit the fruit section with mango, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon and other treats.  I’m so proud of my dietary discipline that I can almost overlook that it was creamy pepper dressing.

After lunch, Susie returns to her reverie while I take out a Hobie Cat.  Although I had been raised sailing, I hadn’t done it in forty years, and I went out with a friend twice just to get my bearings back.  Turns out everything came back to me, and for the rest of the trip, I took a Hobie out every day.  I return to the dock in time to catch Kinto’s afternoon snorkeling trip.  By the time we get back, I’m pretty beat and it’s time to head over to North Beach and check out the kite boarders.  The wind picks up noticeably in the afternoons and watching these guys is a blast.  There is a small jetty which runs out a ways into the water and has a thatched roof and chaise lounges.  It also happens to be right where the kite boarders do their thing, so you know I have my camera.  This is good for about 45 minutes and then the sun and sea begin to catch up with me.  With the continuous trade winds blowing, it is easy to lose track of how much sun you’re getting.  And with my English-Scottish complexion, I would probably beat Johnny Winter in a tanning contest, but not by much.  Be smart, use a high SPF sunscreen and reapply.

Jetty for watching kite boarders, windsurfers and snoozing

Jetty for watching kite boarders, windsurfers and snoozing

Kiteboarder

Kite Boarder

Airborne Kite Boarder

Airborne Kite Boarder

View of the jetty from out terrace

View of the jetty from our terrace
Windsurfer captured with zoom from our terrace.  I love this picture with the many shades of blue and green in the water.

Windsurfer captured with zoom from our terrace. I love this picture with the many shades of blue and green in the water.

 As I sit and watch, I am greatly entertained by the never-ending battle between the pelicans and the black-headed gulls.  If there is another name for the gulls, I don’t know what it is, so black-headed gulls they will be.  Every time a pelican makes his kamikaze dive into the surf after spotting a fish from the air, the gulls are all over him.  They sit on his back while he smartly keeps his head underwater until the fish is secured in his bill.  Even then when he raises his head out of the water, the gulls are trying to poke their bills into the corner of his mouth.  This does not end, and the pelicans seem to accept this with a Job-like resignation, like this is part of the pelican job description.  Funnier still is when the pelicans decide to take a break and doze in the sun, there is always a gull or two who go and join him.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?  Who knows?

The Pelican and the Gull take a rest together. Talk about a bizarre relationship.

The Pelican and the Gull take a rest together. Talk about a bizarre relationship.

I’ve decided that the hammock on our villa deck is sounding really good, so I decide to head back to the room.  I pass two young boys who have gotten two land crabs out of the rocks and are trying to race them.  There are obstacles to land crab racing; a lot of them.  For one, neither crab seems to be particularly eager to go anywhere.  Then, when they do move, it is never at the same time nor in the same direction.  I encountered a similar quandary when I went to Woodstock in 1969 and tried to walk three bullfrogs on a rhinestone-studded poodle leash.  It was an interesting concept but difficult to put into practice.  Watching the land crab “race”, I had the feeling that I could nap, shower, shave and dress and be back before the stretch run.  I returned to the villa’s hammock, where the trade winds rocked me to sleep.  Susie returned and woke me when it was time to shower for dinner.

 

Dinner for me was very similar to lunch.  There are always steaks, chops and other alternatives available, but I live in New York City where I can always have these kinds of things.  A piece of broiled fish just hours out of the water is something I can’t get all the time.  So we generally adapt our vacation menus to where we happen to be, the local specialties.  After Dinner, as we stroll back to our villa, a brief rain shower passes over.  This happens virtually every day.  And after, a breathtaking rainbow fills the horizon.  You never get tired of these kinds of scenes.  We reach our villa and it is very early, barely 8:30 PM.  But I’m thinking shower, a little reading and bed.  You can’t get up at sunrise, be moving all day and then break into party mode.  I’ve had exactly the kind of day I had hoped for; there is nothing more to add to it.  There may very well be good nightlife at BEYC.  I’m just the wrong guy to ask.

The daily rainbow, sometimes more than once.

The daily rainbow, sometimes more than once.

 In closing, I just want to give a shout out to some of the BEYC staff who made the resort feel like home to us.  I know I’ll forget some people, and my apologies.  At check-in, Kesheem immediately charmed us, as did Vonda.  The entire group at Reception was warm, caring and made us feel like family.  When we were checking out, we genuinely felt that they were very sorry to see us leave.  In the Restaurant, we fell in love with Restaurant manager Maureen, Ophelia (I kept asking after Hamlet), Beverly, Beulah, Burton and frankly, everyone who served us.  I will miss some names here who should be recognized for their excellence, but suffice it to say everyone was a winner.  At the Bar, we had many fun, lively discussions with Titus and Willis. They took great care of us.  Kinto, Maureen’s son, made the snorkeling excursions cool and memorable.  There are thousands of beautiful resorts all over the world, and Sue and I have been fortunate enough to visit a great many of them.  But a resort is only as good as the people who make it run. I had the chance to get to know Sandra Grisham, the co-manager and found her warm, easy to talk with and exceptionally competent.   She gets it.  Bitter End Yacht Club has a wonderful, warm staff.  This is a resort we will keep going back to again and again.  Virgin Gorda has a number of fine resorts.  In the all important “Bang-for-the Buck” category, I place BEYC at the top.

Sharing a somber moment with the Restaurant gals. Queen Maureen is on the right.

Sharing a somber moment with the Restaurant gals. Queen Maureen is on the right.

Susie and Dana with Maureen

Susie and Dana with Maureen

Klebby

Posted June 13, 2012 by wjudson461
Categories: Humor

Tags: , ,

There are few times in most people’s lives when everything is pretty much on cruise control, and the older you get, the fewer those moments.  One such time is the last month or so of senior year in high school.  Everyone pretty much knows where they will be attending college in the fall, and with few exceptions, graduating from high school is pretty much a given.  It is a time for cutting class, hitting Jones Beach or Half Moon Beach, and just having fun.  It is also a prime time for silliness, cutting up with your best buddies and girlfriends, all the time realizing, on some level, that this is the end of one part of your life and the beginning of another.  None of us had chosen the same colleges, and though we’d see each other on vacations and summers, things would never be quite the same.  We would all meet new friends in college and most of us would not be returning to Port Washington to live after college.  Some would get married; others accept jobs in other parts of the country.  So this was our curtain call as a group, and though it was never openly discussed, I think all of us, unconsciously, realized this.  Unspoken as well was whether the high school romances would survive the long periods of separation of the college years.  A few did. Most did not. So with something like quiet desperation, we all went about trying to make every minute funny and memorable.

Frub and I were best buddies senior year in high school and did everything together.  Don’t ask where the name Frub came from; I have no idea and I’m not sure he does.  His real name was Doug. We double-dated, ate and slept over at each other’s homes, and did many other things that should not be recounted on a blog page or anywhere else.  Donny and Paul completed our foursome.  All of us had girlfriends, but found plenty of time to hang together anyway.  I had ordered a new Firebird, but delivery was several weeks away.  My Mother often needed her car, but Doug’s Mom, Fran, could walk to work, so Doug often had the use of his family’s white Mustang during the day.  It was driving in the Mustang late one weekday afternoon that we encountered Klebby.

Doug was driving me home from his house and we had taken Ivy Way, a lovely quintessential suburban street.  There were fancier homes in Sands Point and Harbor Acres, but the area where Ivy Way is located was always my favorite part of Port Washington.  That my home was very nearby probably had something to do with that.  Near the end of Ivy Way we passed a beautifully maintained white house with a collie sitting in the shade of a tree in the front yard.   With perfectly cut green grass, immaculately pruned flower beds in bloom, the home looked like a postcard.  And this was not just your run-of-the-mill collie; hands down, the best-looking collie I had ever seen.  He made Lassie look like she was suffering from mange.

“ Frub, pull over and check out that collie,” I said.

We pulled to the curb right in front of the pooch and he thumped his tail happily a couple times in greeting.  We talked to the dog for a few seconds with the usual “Hi Boy” and “Good Dog.” Then for reasons I cannot explain, we began to converse with the dog in a tongue that sounded like Spanish, but wasn’t.  The reason it wasn’t is neither of us could speak a lick of Spanish.  Long elaborate passages of complete gibberish, the collie listening intently, his ears perked straight up.  You could see him searching our sentences for a heel, stay, come, sit; anything a dog might have heard from his family before, something that might register.  Alas, nothing like that was forthcoming.  The collie began to move his head from vertical to horizontal positions, side to side, in confusion.  Being mature young men, Frub and I found this hilarious.  We stayed and spoke to him for about five minutes and then drove off laughing.

“Let’s call him Klebby,” Frub proposed.

“We don’t know if the dog’s a he or a she,” I said.

“Don’t see that it matters,” Frub said.  “Have you ever known anyone named Klebby?”

“Not that I recall,” I replied. “Actually, make that a definitive no.  I see where you’re going, though. The Klebby handle really isn’t gender specific.”

“Exactly, “Frub said.  “Could be a boy or a girl.”

“Works for me.  Kind of has a nice ring to it,” I said.  “Klebby it is.”

Visiting Klebby for a couple minutes became an almost daily thing.  The collie came to recognize the car, and seemed to almost look forward to our visits.  I think he may have felt sorry for these two morons who were unable to communicate effectively even on a collies’ limited vocabulary.  The routine never varied.  Pull up to the curb, get a tail wag and ears straight up to digest the nonsense he knew was coming.

“Seuntulo byalo della foon?  Bassolo selumino,” Frub said.

Klebby’s head shifted to the left, questioning the wisdom (sanity?) of what he had just heard.

“Blapmolencantro chalassimo!  Veel plapt unimos leel? I inquired.

Klebby looked from Frub to me, full head shift to horizontal right, confusion reigning.  And we’d drive off.  Seemed like pretty harmless, if foolish amusement.  It might have continued for a long time, but things changed in a hurry.

A day or two later, we were sitting down to Dinner at Frub’s house with his folks, Fran and Bob.  My seat in the corner of the kitchen afforded me a view of the front door.  When the doorbell rang, I looked up to see two cops at the front door, two of Port’s Finest.  Fran and Bob got up quickly and went to the door to let them in, looking a little anxious.  Frub and I followed.

The two officers came in.  One was a big, red-haired Irish guy, 6’3’ and maybe 240 lbs.  His partner was a little Italian guy, slightly cross-eyed, who shuffled his feet nervously and had trouble making eye contact.  It was not difficult to establish the pecking order in this particular partnership.

“Sorry to interrupt your meal,” the big guy said.  “I’m Officer Mahoney and this is my partner, Officer Riccio.  We’re responding to a complaint from a family over on Ivy Way that two males have been speaking to their Collie in alien tongues on a number of occasions.  They became concerned enough to take the license plates on the vehicle, and we traced it to the white Mustang in your driveway.  Can someone here shed some light on this matter?”

Bob’s jaw dropped in astonishment, but he said nothing.  Fran however was rarely at a loss for words.  She turned to Frub and me, her face contorted in both anger and confusion, and said “You were doing what?

“Yes, Officer, my buddy and I were talking to the Collie,” I said.  “It wasn’t really an alien tongue, it was intended to sound like Spanish.  I see your first initial is “J”.  Is that for Jerry, like Paul Winchell’s puppet?

Mahoney fixed me with the kind of look one would reserve for a particularly repugnant water bug.  “No, my given name is John, my friends call me Jack, and you will address me as Officer Mahoney.”

“Yes sir,” I said.

“Why were you talking to a strange dog in fake Spanish?” Officer Mahoney asked.

“Faux,” I suggested.

“What the hell is faux?” Mahoney asked, his neck turning a little pink.

“It means imitation, artificial,” I volunteered.

“So fake, that’s what I said,” Mahoney said.

“Fake has such a negative connotation to it,” Frub said.

“I think fake works just fine here, and my question stands” said Mahoney.

“Fine, we’ll go with fake,” Frub said.  “It’s your syntax.”

“My what,” Mahoney asked.

“Never mind,” Frub said.

“So again, why talk to a strange Collie in fake Spanish?” Mahoney asked.

“Well, neither of us can talk real Spanish,” Frub said.

“And German sounds so harsh and guttural,” I added.

No,” Mahoney said, his voice rising. “No, you guys are not getting it. Why talk to a strange dog at all? In any language.”

“Well, had we had any idea the dog was strange, we probably wouldn’t have talked to him at all,” I said.

“We’d probably have talked to another dog,” Frub said.  “One that wasn’t strange.”

“The dog is fine,” Mahoney said.  “What is strange here has nothing to do with the Collie. When I say strange, I mean a dog you didn’t know, had never been introduced to.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been formally introduced to any dog,” I said.

“Me neither,” said Frub.

“But you didn’t know the dog, right?” Mahoney asked, his patience ebbing at a rapid clip.

“Just in passing,” I said.

“Passing in a car,” Mahoney said.

“Right,” Frub and I answered in unison.

“Were either of you under the influence of anything on these occasions?” Mahoney asked.

“I’d had an egg salad on rye and a vanilla Coke at Greenfield’s,” I said.

“I had tuna,” Frub said.  He always had tuna.

“I meant drugs or alcohol.”

“No Sir,” Frub and I answered.

“Well, that’s good,” said Officer Riccio, his first words of the encounter.

“You think that’s good, huh Joe?  Talking in tongues to a Collie while completely in control of your faculties?” Mahoney said, turning to his partner.  His expression said that he felt he had drawn the absolute dregs of the partner pool.

“Well, I just mean its good they weren’t driving under the influence, is all I’m saying,” Riccio said, looking at the floor again.

Mahoney returned his attention to us.  “I’m asking you guys to give me your word that you will not revisit this dog or any other.  This has been a remarkable waste of time, and if I have to come back again, you guys will not like it.”

“We agree to that Officer, “I said.  “We won’t bother Klebby anymore.”

“Klebby?  The dog’s name is not Klebby,” Mahoney said.

“He never corrected us,” I said.

“And he is a she,” Mahoney said.

“Never corrected us there, either,” Frub added.

“Maybe if I’d seen her go #1, I’d have figured that out,” I said.

“Maybe,” Mahoney said unconvincingly.

“Officer, can I ask a quick question? I said.  “Do you do hard time for talking to collies?

My mind strayed for a moment and I had a vision of doing the ankle-shackled two-step into a maximum security prison, stripping, getting hosed down and issued my sheets and orange jumpsuit.  I was then led to my cell.  My “roomie”was a shaved-headed, heavily –tattooed, three hundred pound Aryan Brotherhood dude.  After the cell doors had clanged shut, I asked him what he was in for?

“I gutted my Mother-in-Law.  She griped too much,” the behemoth explained.  “How bout you?”

“I was pinched for talking fake Spanish to a Collie I didn’t know,” I explained.

Newfound respect registered in the con’s eyes.  “Whoa,” he exclaimed.  “Jesus, you are one scary dude.”

I shook off the daydream and returned to real time with a chuckle.

“Something funny?” Mahoney asked.

“No Sir. Sorry.”

“I have no idea what the charges would be against you, should the family on Ivy Way choose to press them, “ Mahoney said.  “We can get creative if provoked.  But you guys have promised to desist and I don’t see us having to come back.”

Fran had remained quiet for the whole encounter, hands on her hips, looking back and forth between Frub and me with a mixture of disgust and amazement.  She spoke up now.

“Thank you for your patience, Officers, and we’ll see to it that they occupy their time with something a little more constructive going forward.”

‘That would include just about anything,” Bob muttered.  The Officers left and we returned to the table to finish Dinner.

As we resumed eating, Bob said “I have to say that you two have made it possible to take part in what is probably the stupidest, most inane scene I’ve ever experienced.”

“Yeah, and you know the best part?” I happily asked.

“No, Jud, I did not see a ‘best part’,” Bob replied.

“We’re still young,” I exclaimed.

“Love Story” Meets “Gone With the Wind”

Posted June 6, 2012 by wjudson461
Categories: Tasteless Humor

 

 

It was the summer of 1970, and the movie Love Story, from the novel by Erich Segal, was all the rage.  Cameron was an avid reader and had read the book.  Not bad for that genre, and an easy read, but Cameron was not one for romance novels.  His idea of a feel-good movie was something like Taxi Driver.  He, more or less, had anticipated every step of the plot of Love Story from start to finish.  Cameron had no desire to see the flick, but he was going to be hard-pressed to get out of it.  His steady girlfriend, Courtney, wanted to see it in the worst way.  Thus, it was inevitable that Cameron found himself waiting in line on a beautiful Friday night for the 9:00 show.  Courtney had spoken to friends, and came prepared with plenty of tissues.  “Everyone said it was so moving” she gushed.

Not long afterward, Cameron had his tub of butter popcorn and they had settled into their seats.  The place was a full-house, not an empty seat in sight.  As the lights dimmed, Cameron felt the first surge of an immense gas bubble in his tummy.  No big deal, he thought.  This will pass. 

 He was wrong.  As the movie dragged on, Cameron sensed he may have hooked the Moby Dick of flatulence.  The gentlemanly thing to do would have been to excuse himself, hit the mens room, and let her fly.  Ah, but what a waste.  How often in one’s life do we have the chance to perform something so totally inappropriate and offensive to a standing-room only crowd?  Not very often.  Cameron had to decide whether he was going to slink off to the bathroom or go for the gusto.  Was he a man or a mouse?  He pictured himself letting it go and his torso flying around the theater like a balloon that had been fully inflated but not tied.

 Then the movie edged towards its climax with the poignant hospital scene where Jenny (Ali McGraw) is preparing to expire with Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) weeping at her bedside.  There was not a sound in the theater apart from sniffling and the blowing of noses from time to time.  The time for action had arrived.  With Courtney hugging him, her head on his shoulder, tears dripping down her cheeks, Cameron craned in his chair and casting aside the inevitable repercussions,  swung for the fences.

 The sound that resulted was unlike anything Cameron had heard before or since.  Imagine starting up a lawnmower and having it blat like a baritone sax, at astounding volume.  This continued for three to four seconds before it began to climb the musical scale, culminating with a trilling flute-like finale.    It had taken perhaps five seconds in all, but a most remarkable five seconds.  Cameron felt that this was more than a simple bodily function he had produced.  It was almost art.  He wondered if Picasso had felt this way early on when the genius in his work was yet to be recognized.  Thinking of what could have been created with a hard wood surface rather than a padded theater chair was mind-boggling.

 For several moments afterward, there was no reaction.  People, perhaps, had to take a moment to be sure they had actually heard what they heard.  Then the place erupted.  There were shouts of anger at ruining the closing scene of the flick, screams, curses, laughter from the smattering of other potential artists in the crowd and virtually every other response.  Courtney, who had been cuddled in close, lunged away aghast.

 “What is the matter with you?” she asked, quite loudly.

“Oh right, trying to blame that on me!  Shame on you” I responded, just as loudly.

 “I most certainly did not do that” she screamed, her face contorted in anger.

 “Honey, don’t be embarrassed, these things happen” I responded. “And love means never having to say you’re sorry.”


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