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  • Mykl i am 08:17 on 2011/03/19 Permalink | Reply  

    Blog title… 

    glowing abstract rectangles
    hovering, in the fog.
    electric lit billboards
    on the nightway, hillside.

     
  • Mykl i am 15:12 on 2011/02/18 Permalink | Reply  

    the gated paradise? 

    trying to put my finger on the differences and similarities between Isla de Vieques and St. Croix. these lengthy meanderings are in no way my definitive, final, or even well informed. my exploration has been very limited: flying over the westside, driving a little through the eastside, staying on the north-eastern coast, visiting in Christiansted (largest town), shopping for groceries, and talking to people.

    so, what’s different?

    obviously, there’s language: Caribbean English spoken here, a Spanish dialect there. being a pathetic monolinguist myself, this difference shapes most of my insights, simply because the only locals i could speak to directly on Vieques, were bilingual.

    things seem more spread out here, including the tourists. obviously, history is different: no displacement and sandwiching of the populous by two giant Navy bases. lots of flat land on the south side. there’s also a huge oil refinery down there. more historic architecture in more places, particularly the round stone towers everywhere, which were once windmills.

    compared* to Vieques — and over generalizing — i feel like more private enterprises are better maintained here, while public works seem more rundown. i’ve heard very unflattering things about the indifference and neglect of government agencies.

    (* context: one of my [somewhat faded] impressions of Vieques was of a cultural reluctance to put too much work into private property, because of the lack of title to the land; but of public schools and day care centers as good as anything in a middle class suburb in The States.)

    tourists here seem to be into boating and outdoor activities. and there are many opportunities and services for this. the scale of businesses providing group tours makes me think more of Vieques. i haven’t taken any tours, but my sense is i’d have a good time if i did, that the experience would be personable and genuine, more like a trip with experienced and well equipped acquaintances, less like a tour bus. i think vacations here are measured in days or weeks, unlike Vieques, where so many El Norte Americans come for the whole winter.

    the resorts and hotels seem spread out around the coast, and setup like gated-communities with security. ours is modest in size, so I already recognize everyone who works here. but this scale and spread could also feel isolating. outside the towns, things are far apart; not much you can walk to.

    i paused in writing this, for a half hour, to speak with the older Trinidadian groundskeeper i see every morning here. more accurately, he paused in his work for half an hour, to talk to me, when i said “good morning” for the third day in a row. people seem conversational here, but unhurried, pausing comfortably between thoughts, kinda hangin’ out to see if another thought comes. like friends do when relaxing together. a lot of my impression is based on talking to locals and longtime residents. but, by virtue of being a tourist, and not having a car, everyone i’ve spoken to works with, for or around tourists. no doubt, there are other perspectives to which i remain oblivious.

    most work i see here is getting done at an unhurried pace. cabbies in town sit on the park bench, far from their cabs, calling across the street to see if you want a ride, without standing up. and not one has tried to trick us into paying above the prescribed fare. whereas, on St. Thomas, everyone is hustling to make an extra buck; a cabbie or safari-bus driver without a rider will walk across the street and spend minutes trying to talk you into paying 5 times the going rate; and in the busiest locations (e.g. near all the restaurants in Red Hook), where multiple safari-buses and cabs line up, the drivers have men or women on the sidewalk rustling riders for them.

    one lifelong resident describe St. Croix as being in a coma. this was the harshest language i heard. yet she said it as though speaking of a beloved but slack sister; and she’s not going anywhere. perhaps she would say the same of Vieques. compared to here, the energy level on St. Thomas is more like New York, with more yelling, quick bursts of public anger, giving the finger to slow drivers on twisting roads in the hills.

    speaking of driving, if you want to visit places and explore extensively on St. Croix, you need to rent a car, or hire a lot of cabs. cab fares are reasonable, given the longer distances involved. but there are no $1 and $2 safari-buses (converted pickup trucks seating a dozen), like St. Thomas or St. John. driving here is on the left side of the road, but using American style cars (with the driver sitting on the left side). i’m just trying to chill out, on this visit, thus am content without my own wheels.

    Christiansted, the largest town, is bigger than Isabel, with many decently maintain and charming historic buildings, spanning maybe 6 blocks wide and 3 blocks deep along the harbor. there are several hotels right along harbor, restaurants, typical beach-town shops, and places to book tours and rent equipment for watersports. i like the juice and raw food bar, 2 blocks from the harbor. all the old architecture is built around courtyards, each a wonderful little airy oasis.

    the locals are quick to tell you why St. Croix is better than St. Thomas. or why Christiansted is better than Fredericksted (or vice versa, depending where they live). the geo-chauvinism is genuine, which makes it endearing, if narrow-minded.

    alas, every local we’ve talked to (black and white, rich and poor) has strongly condemned our inclination to explore on foot. we are especially instructed never to do so at night, as though by a parent talking to a foolish child. asking our favorite cabbie about a couple non-tourist bars, we’ve been told not to go there, ever, for risk of becoming collateral damage in gang shootings. i don’t know if i’ve ever gotten such strong warnings, even in New York in the 70s/80s. except for the strong locks on every shutter and commonplace security gates, i have seen no direct evidence of crime; but the warnings are clear and consistent.

    luckily, i’m more than content to lie in the sun, write in the shade, swim on the pool, snorkel along the reef, borrow a kayak, cook, eat, read, and clean up the ants in the kitchen — all the while listening to the surf. i guess this is life in a gated paradise.

     
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