Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, February 29, 2016

The "Tad: As Cool As Ice" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with my son Tad on the phone.  He called to inquire how his mother was doing after her surgery she had the day before.  I told him she was resting in bed and that I had just given her one of the cow bells that I found in the closet so that she could signal me if she needed something.  For years we would take the cow bells to hockey games when Tad played youth hockey.  Everyone seemed to have one and boy did they make noise when everyone rang them in unison.  Tad asked if he could have one of them to take with him when he goes to watch the sons of one of his best friends play hockey.  
Tad's love of hockey was reflected in the wall of his
bedroom when we live on Janet Ave. in Grandview Heights.
He used a projector to draw the logos and then painted them.
That got us started on his playing days when he played for the Lancaster Firebirds.  We spent many a winter weekend traveling to cities in Pennsyl- vania, Maryland and New Jersey to watch him play ice hockey.  He was rather slim and didn't carry much weight, but boy could he skate.  Hat tricks came often during the winter months for him.  When he began high school he played for the older Firebirds team, but the team finally folded when it didn't have enough players to field a team.  
Coach Frank Golembrosky
At the time, there was no high school teams that you could become a part of, so we searched for another team and finally found one in Reading, Pennsylvania.  Took almost an hour for him to drive a few times a week to Reading for practice and once again, it took hours to travel to the different ice rinks to watch him play on weekends.  Reading, his home team, was the closest location at about an hour traveling time.  But, one of the neat features of playing for the Reading team was the fact that they had a former professional hockey player as the coach of the team.  Tad learned so much from him and actually was selected as co-captain of the team by the coach.  Frank Golembrosky was a right-winger who was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada a year after I was born.  He played in the World Hockey Association for the Philadelphia Blazers and the Quebec Nordiques in the 1960s and early 1970s.  In the 1965-66 season he won the Garry F. Longman Memorial Trophy as the International Hockey League's leading rookie.  
Tad as seen in his High School Portraiture.
Guy was a tough looking player who loved to skate with the team during practice.  Tad loved him and learned so much from him during the two years that he played in Reading.  When Tad entered Photography school near Philadelphia he had to give up his hockey playing for a few years.  He still plays ice hockey, street hockey and roller hockey whenever he has a chance.  He is part of a group of guys that play every Sunday at an outdoor rink near his home.  Although he will be 40 years old soon, he can still skate circles around most of the younger guys.  I must admit that I can't skate a lick and often wished I could.  Not gonna happen anymore in this lifetime!  So, I can't say that he learned his hockey from his dad.  That's OK though.  I still love watching him make those one legged turns as he skates behind the net before scoring.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The "St. Martin Alphabet: Part III" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Posting part three of my story dealing with words that fit into the alphabet.  Today's story will take you through the letter "S". Enjoy following with me through my journeys as they relate to the English alphabet.
  • N: Nutmeg naturally is a spice which is very aromatic as well as tasty.  
    Spice barrels in Marigot market.
    It makes my list since it is one of the main spices that always draws me toward the stand in the Marigot market that has barrels of spices for sale.  The stand has large barrels of just about any spice in the world and the multitude of smells is at some times overpowering.  Nutmeg is not native to the Caribbean, but many seem to buy the spice from the market stand.  It is used primarily in powdered form for herbal teas, as an oil in aromatherapy or as an extract.  We usually make our yearly purchase before we depart and it lasts until we return the following year.  Novels are an important part of our vacation.  Carol can read over a dozen novels in a three week vacation while I might be able to reach half a dozen in the same time frame.  While on the beach I have trouble at time concentrating on my Kindle.  You know ... with all the other activity taking place on the beach.  And my last "N" is a good one to follow my last one.  
    Club "O" beach on
    Orient Bay. 
    Nude Beaches can be found on both sides of the dual-country island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  On the French side of the island (St. Martin), topless bathing occurs at just about every beach and every resort pool while on the Dutch side is more infrequent.  Cupecoy Beach on the Dutch side is a nudist beach, but very few beaches follow suite, even with topless bathing, on the Dutch side of the island.  On Orient Beach, Club "O" at the south end of the beach is a Naturist Resort which is usually the busiest beach on Orient Bay.  
  • O: Ocean is a natural here.  
    The Atlantic Ocean can be seen here.
    One side of St. Martin is located on the Atlantic Ocean while the other side is bordered by the Caribbean Sea.  Can you tell the difference?  Nah!  During the time of the year when we travel to the island both the air and water temperatures are about 85 degrees.  And the ocean, whether it be the actual ocean or the sea, is an amazing 50 shades of blue.  If you have ever been to any island in the Caribbean, you know what I am talking about.  And I have to list Orient Beach as another "O" word, since it is usually ranked as one of the "Top 10" beaches in most beach surveys.  
    Carol relaxing on Orient Beach.
    It is a busy beach with water sports of all kind taking place and beach umbrellas of all colors lining the beach in front of a large variety of beach bars.  The main beach bars are Kontiti, Kakao, Bikini Beach, Waikiki and Coco Beach.  They are referred to as the "5 Stars of Orient Bay", but they are only a few of the many that dot the coast along Orient Bay.  A trip to St. Martin is not complete if you haven't made a stop at Orient Beach.   
  • P: Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side of the island.  It to was at one time protected by a fort: Fort Amsterdam.  
    Fisheye view of the Boardwalk
    at Philipsburg.
    The fort was at one time a great tourist attraction, but over time has been neglected and is not longer a big draw.  The town has two main streets; Front Street, which runs along the Great Bay waterfront, and Back Street which runs parallel to Front, but one block away from the water. On the other side of Back Street is the Great Salt Pond.  More shopping takes place in this town than in any other town I have ever been to in the Caribbean. And, Carol and I have been part of that shopping extravaganza.  Pinel Island is a short ferry ride from French Cul De Sac.  It is a beautiful island with no running water or electricity.  
    From the top of beautiful Pinel Island
    looking toward St. Martin.
    The island is uninhabited except for the very large iguanas which wait by the two beach bars for scraps to be thrown to them.  A small gift shop sells some great products and the bathing here is remarkable.  Their are no waves at all and the sandy beach is only waist deep 30 feet into the ocean.  Another must trip for vacationers.  
    A Pareo on display at Pinel Island.
    A Pareo is a wraparound skirt.  It was originally used only to refer to woman's skirts, but today it is used as a term for any piece of cloth worn wrapped around the body whether it be a man or a woman. There are many times made of silk in bright colors featuring beach scenes or animal scenes.
  • Q: Quiet time is always appreciated while on vacation.  Relieving stress is important to all and what better way to do that then to go on vacation.  Carol and I love the beach and all that goes with it, and our stress level while on vacation is at a minimum, but for many others on vacation, quiet time is achieved in a variety of other ways.  
  • R: Ravioli is one of my favorite meals.  
    My favorite meal.
    Being that we travel to one of the best islands in the Caribbean for food connoisseurs, I can find my favorite many places on the island.  Il Netuno has the best butter sage ravioli on earth, but there are many others that come close with a variety of different sauces on the ravioli.  Round-a-bouts are a real challenge, but a pretty neat way to alleviate traffic problems at intersections.  Luckily in St. Martin you drive on the right side of the road as you do in the U.S.  The real challenge comes when a country, such as Barbados or St. Thomas, has round-a-bouts and you have to try your luck with them.  The U.S. should have more of them and traffic would proceed through busy intersections much quicker.  Rhino Boats are one of the tourist attractions that Carol and I tried a few years ago.  
    Carol and I on our Rhino Boat.
    The boats are big rectangular inter tubes with a solid bottom and a outboard motor at the rear.  It is meant for two people, I believe, and you sit on a center seat with your legs straddling the seat.  At times you take flight after hitting a wave.  Flying across the water in one of these Rhino Boats is a thrill of a lifetime.  
    Roland signing our print.
    Carol and I took the Rhino Safari Excursion and had fun in the boat as well as snorkeling at various spots on our excursion.  Roland Richardson, knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 2007, was born on St. Martin to a family whose French Caribbean heritage dates back to the 1700s.  He paints "en plein air", working in the field, always from a living subject.  This quirky artist has a gallery/home in Marigot where he paints many days so you can view him at his work.  Carol and I purchased one of his canvas prints a few years ago which we prize as one of our favorites.  Meeting him and talking with his was as much fun as buying the canvas.  
  • S: The Sugar Bird, also known as the Bananaquit, is a species of passerine bird.  
    Sugar birds eating our sugar.
    It is about the size of a finch and has a black head with white stripes, black wings and a yellow body.  When we shop at the grocery story after we arrive in St. Martin, we always buy a box of granulated sugar to feed the sugar birds.  They are a nectar eating bird, but do love to eat the sugar.  A bowl of sugar will find a gathering of sugar birds as long as it is filled with sugar.  They also enjoy a cup of water which they will drink, but will also use to take a bath.  Oh, the things that can entertain a couple of old folks is unlimited.  Sunglasses and Suntanning Lotion are necessary items in the Carribean.  
    The sun's rays can be very damaging to skin as well as eyes.  Since I wear glasses for my vision, I have glasses that tint when subjected to sunlight.  They work very well to protect my eyes as well as to make it easier to see.  Carol uses sunglasses at all times as well as tinted reading glasses for the beach.  We used a very high SPF when we travel to St. Martin since it is closer to the equator and the sun's rays are more intense than at the New Jersey Shore where we travel in the summer with our family.   The Swing Bridge is a new addition to the island two years ago.  
    The Swing Bridge.
    It crosses Simpson Bay and helps funnel the traffic away from the busy Dutch side of the island.  It cuts the time for us from the airport to the Orient Beach vicinity by at least 15 minutes or more.  It also relieves the stress that goes along with driving in another country.  
    St. Maarten of Tours Catholic Chruch.
    The St. Maarten of Tours Catholic Church sits between Front Street and the Boardwalk in Philipsburg.  It is the most beautiful church on the island with its bright yellow stucco walls and impressive statues that stand in their courtyard.  I have taken a multitude of photos of this church over the years.  A few years ago, when they rebuilt the Boardwalk entrance to the church, I took a series of photos showing how it was completed.  
    Shirt designs at Secret Spot.
    Secret Spot is a stand in the Marigot market.  Carol and I have been visiting it every year and making purchases for ourselves and friends.  Secret Spot sells hand printed silk-screened T-shirts that are designed and printed on the island.  Really neat designs that you won't find elsewhere on the island.  I enjoy talking to the owner about their procedures in printing since I too used the same procedures when I taught graphic arts in high school.  
Well, today's alphabet is finished.  There were so many items I could have listed for each of the letters, but I decided on those that would show you both sides of the island as seen through a traveler's eyes.  Tomorrow will complete the alphabet and hopefully give you most of the ABC's of the island.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The "'Race' Is Much More Than A Movie" Story

It was an ordinary day.  The movie just finished and Carol and I, along with our friends Jerry and Just Sue, are heading out of the movie theatre in State College, Pennsylvania.  The same movie theatre that we walked from in late summer of 2009.  Wasn't long afterwards that "Extraordinary Stories From An Ordinary Guy" began.  The movie that led to my blog fixation was "Julie & Julia" which told the story of Julia Child and her start in the cooking profession which becomes intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.  Well, that movie was very memorable and I must admit that today's movie left me with many of the same feelings as that movie six years ago.  
"Race" is the story of a man who showed that the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave could become the fastest man on Earth.  It was President George H.W. Bush who said in his posthumous presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Jesse Owens in March in 1990 that it was an unrivaled athletic triumph, but it was more than that, it really was a triumph for all humanity.  Then I got to wondering why it took over 44 years before Jesse Owens was honored in Washington, D.C. by the President of the United States; and then it was after he died!  The answer is: Jesse Owens was a black man!  There can be no other answer.  I guess I should tell you at this point that maybe if you haven't seen the movie, and plan to go to view it, you may not want to read the rest of my story, for it may ruin the ending for you.  That being said, I was extremely moved by the film which featured Stephan James as Jesse and Jason Sudeikis as his college coach and loyal friend, Larry Snyder.  
Jesse Owens competing in the broad jump.
The majority of the filming took place in Montreal, Canada as well as on location at Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany.  The film opens in the fall of 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio as Jesse prepares to head to Ohio State University where he meets coach Snyder for the first time.  Jesse leaves behind his sweetheart and mother of his child.  Coach Snyder sees the potential in his new recruit and pushes him to new heights culminating in his winning the 100-yard dash in 9.4 seconds, tying the world record.  He also set world records in three other events at the 1935 Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The mixture of black and white scenes with the color scenes made for a seemless representation of old to new and then back again.  

In 1936, at the Olympics held in Germany, his four gold medals proves to be a blow to the Nazis.  Hitler's superiority German "Aryan" race takes a back seat.  The film shows the divide that existed among the United States olympic officials who wanted to compete and those who wanted to boycott the games in protest Hitler's treatment of Jews, blacks and other oppressed under his rule.  
The real Jesse Owens with wife Minnie.
The love story between Jesse and his sweetheart- /wife winds throughout the movie and draws you into the lives of the Owens family.  Perhaps the scene that was the most emotional for the theatre-goers, was when Jesse returned to the U.S. after winning his record four gold medals and was to be the guest of honor at a Manhattan banquet and told he and his wife would have to enter through the hotel's kitchen and use the service elevator because he was black.  I believe, for many black Americans, it is still the same today.  I'm positive the reaction of the white crowd at the movie today would be entirely different had it been a black crowd.  And, I don't believe that 8 years of having a black President has changed much as far as race relations are concerned.  The movie "Race" was essentially a true story.  But, "Race" is more than a movie.  "Race" was an emotion.  "Race" was black and white.  So sad to have to type that!  But, it's the truth and easy to see.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Jesse and Minnie had three daughters who are still all living.  Parade magazine did an cover photo, article and video with the three sisters.  I have included the YouTube video showing the interview.

Postscript:  As I left the movie I leaned toward my wife and said, "If you remember, after the last movie here I was inspired to start my blog.  Well, after this movie I think I'm going to begin to broadjump."  She looked at me and laughed .... real loud, and said, "Yeah, right!!" 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The "Mountville And The Hot Dog" Story

Weigh-In for the Pinewood Derby.
It was an ordinary day.  Watching my final Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.  Ever!  My grandson, Caden, is a Webelos II and in his final year of Cub Scouts before entering Boy Scouts next year.  For quite a few years he has spent time with his dad making Pinewood Derby cars for the annual troop competition.  Fun thing to do with your son.  
Cars ready for racing.
I can remember the many good times I had with my sons making the cars and watching my sons racing them.  We gathered at the Ironville United Methodist Church, in naturally Ironville, PA, for the competition.  Memories from last year were still vivid as we walked through the basement door into the large gathering area.  Last year many people became ill shortly after the event, including my wife and I.  Not sure if it was from an airborne virus or food contamination, but it was a trying time.  This year went fine with the boys excitement filling the air.  The youngest groups of boys, the Tigers, Wolves and Bears, went first and then finally it was time for Caden's Webelos II (We'll Be Loyal Scouts) pack to race.  
Caden (left) and Max handing their cars to the starter.
There were seven boys vying for the three trophies that were to be awarded.  Max, Caden's best friend for many years, was competing against/with him today.  In the end Caden placed 6th with Max placing 7th.  The boys had a great time and I'm sure Caden will remember this year of scouts just as much as the year he took 1st Place in the entire competition.  Max and Caden have developed a friendship over the years thru Little League Baseball, Scouting and Elementary School that will last a lifetime.  
Presentation of the trophies and medals.  Caden and
Max are at the far right.
Both are great students and both have a refreshing sense of humor.  Caden titled his Pinewood car this year "Mountville" for he feared if he chose something funny, everyone would laugh at him.  Max, on the other hand, called his car "Hot Dog".  He wanted the laughs!  It was shaped and looked just like a hotdog.  He even went online and found Oscar Myer logos to put on the sides of the car.  Even though the two came at the end of the pack,  they both, as well as Carol and I, had a fantastic and enjoyable time.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Caden with his Mountville car and Max with his Hot Dog car.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The "St. Martin Alphabet: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Adding a few more alphabet letters to my Part I story I recently posted.  I have tried to pick a few words for each letter.  Some letters are easy to find the words while others are more difficult.  My addition for today follows:
  • G:  The Green Flash is a phenomena that Carol and I have only seen one time in our life.  
    My only chance to capture the green flash.
    It occurred on evening while waiting for our meal to be delivered while we sat in a restaurant in Grand Case on the French side of the island.  We were watching the sun make it's final exit into the ocean in the distance when all of a sudden a flash of green appeared for an instant.  I looked at Carol and said, "Did you see that?"  "I did!  What was it?"  
    Barbara and her gardener, Dee.
    We talked about the green flash and figured that what we saw that moment was it.  Unbelievable!!  We have searched for the same sight many times, but have never been able to duplicate that exciting moment.  The Gardener was a person who I thought worked for a friend I met while searching websites for St. Martin.  Barbara talked ofter of her gardener who took great care of the property around her house.  Only after a few years did I realize that it was her husband.  We made a visit last year to her home and had a chance to meet both Barbara and her gardener, Dee.  
    Guavaberry is the legendary folk liqueur of St. Martin.  It was first made in private homes where it became an integral part of local culture.  The Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street in Philipsburg is now an important stop to pick up a few of their island-made drinks.  
  • H: Happy Bay is a "secret beach" that is reached by traveling from a location known as Friars Beach.  To the right on Friars is a trail your follow through fields and over barriers until you finally emerge onto one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.  
    Deserted Happy Bay beach.
    Some warn of the dangers that accompany your trip.  Some have been accosted or robbed on the beach, since it is so deserted at times.  An island fellow, Danny, has erected a covered shed where he makes food and supplies drinks for the beachgoers of Happy Bay.  Happy Hour is a big event on St. Martin.  Most every beach bar and many restaurants celebrate happy hour to help draw vacationers to their establishment.  The hours of happy hour change from one bar to the next with some offering 2 for 1 drinks for an afternoon hour while other offer the drinks for two or three hours. 
  • I: Iguana is a genus of herbivorous lizard native to tropical areas of Mexico, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.  
    The Caribbean Iguana.
    There are two species which include the green iguana which is can be a popular pet and the Lesser Antillean iguana which is native to the Lesser Antilles and endangered due to habitat destruction.  For those who have never seen a live iguana, it is a scary sight for many.  The iguana looks like something from prehistoric life with armored skin and a lengthy tail that they can slash anything who bothers them.  Some can grow to six feet long and have a "third eye" on their head.  This light-sensing organ is known as the parietal eye which detects brightness only.  They do love vegetable scraps and will hang around if they know you have them nearby.  
    Il Netuno in Grand Case.
    Il Netuno is one of our favorite restaurants located in Grand Case which is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean.  This Italian restaurant makes the best butter sage ravioli I have ever eaten.   There is never any left on my plate at the end of the meal.  
  • J: Jewelry is perhaps the one and only word that I need to post here.  
    Carol is a connoisseur of jewelry and has many beautiful purchases made by local artists.  One of the stones used in St. Martin is the Larimar known as "Stefilia's Stone" and is a rare blue silicate mineral found only in the Dominican Republic, but has found it's way into other parts of the Caribbean.  
    The jet stream off the wings.
    Jet Stream trails can be seen behind many of the jets as they take off from the Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten.  The white trails are beautiful reminders of our visit to the island as they slowly disappear into thin air.  
  • K: Kittens just had to make my list, since it seems no matter where we call home on our visits, the little felines seem to find us.  
    I don't know if its our scent or our compassion for stray cats that leads them to us.  And, sadly, they are all over the island.  At times there seems to be an island effort to trap and spay or neuter the kittens, but each year there are as many as the year before.  Thin, skinny bodies that show poor health are disheartening to view.  One woman on the island that we have become friends with over the years, collects the strays, feeds them and attempts to find homes for them.  We contribute a few big bags of cat food every visit to her cause.  
  • LLicense Plates were one of the fun items that were plastered all over the roof joists of Andy & Cheryls Baywatch Restaurant on Orient Beach.  
    Customers have donated their treasures for years and years with some being personalized with names or logos on them.  Carol and I donated a Pennsylvania plate with our initials CAW-LWW on it as well as a Lancaster County Corvette Club plate which Andy grabbed from me and immediately hung next to the kitchen.  Sadly, Andy has died and the restaurant is no longer in business.  
    Sitting with the owner at Le Piment.
    Le Piment is our "Go To" restaurant on St. Martin.  Our first evening on the island every year will find us at Le Piment for our evening meal.  Lasagna with their special salad is our first meal.  During our vacation we will return at least half a dozen times to eat at the restaurant.  The owners welcome us with hugs and kisses every time we enter.  The restaurant is found in Orient Village on the northeast end of St. Martin.
  • M: Marigot is the capital of the French side of the island.  
    Marigot as seen from Fort Marigot.
    It has an open-air market which draws cruise ship day-trippers.  The downtown area sports shops of all types from those carrying clothes with French labels to art galleries to plenty of jewelry and watch stores.  Naturally a variety of French cuisine restaurants line the streets.  We enjoy a day or two of exploring the city on each visit and we always seem to find a new favorite each visit.  
    Macaroons are what I would call French "Whoopie-Pies".  They are cakes of all colors with filling in the middle.  Most every morning I travel to a nearby shop called Macaroon to buy croissants for our breakfast.  Naturally they carry a variety of different colored macaroons.  Ma DouDou flavored rhum is a favorite with Carol and me.  
    Buying Ma DouDou Rhum.
    It is rum that is purchased from another manufacturer, fruit and flavoring added to it and bottled in either plastic or glass bottles that are hand decorated by the artists of Ma DouDou which is located in French Cul-de-sac.  We have purhased many bottles over the years of travel and have used them, after drinking the rhum, for our collection of sand from the islands of the Caribbean.  
Well, I am half-way through the alphabet and hope you have found some of the items I have added to my post to be of interest.  There were plenty more I could have added, but the length of the post would be such as to make it too lengthy.  Check for the next two posts which will finish the alphabet on St. Martin.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The "Best Pizza In The United States" Story

Norma Knepp speading pepperoni on a pizza.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in line at Norma's Pizza waiting to buy a few pieces of her New York style pizza.  Her stand is tucked into a small spot near the corner of Building #4 at Root's Country Market & Auction in East Petersburg, Pennsylvania.  Root's Market is the oldest single family-run country market in Lancaster County, beginning in 1925 as a poultry auction.  Today, the Tuesday only market offers fresh food, produce as well as fresh meats, a variety of other items for sale in both indoor and outdoor stands and naturally, the poultry and small animal auction.  
Norma's trophy
Many of the stands are run by Amish families from Lancaster County.  Well, it was back in mid-January that Norma Knepp, the owner/operator of the tiny market stand called Norma's Pizza, traveled to New York to compete in the annual Caputo Cup competition to determine who in the United States made the best New York Style pizza.  The Caputo Cup competition has been held annually in Italy for many years, but recently expanded the competition to the United States.  Norma had to compete against pizza bakers from all corners of the United States, and naturally New York.  Over 100 chefs entered and placed their best pizza recipes on the pizza stone for the judges to taste.  In front of me today, on Norma's counter, stands the First Place Trophy which she proudly displays.  The woman who runs a very small country market stand, which is only open one day a week in the middle of farm fields in Lancaster, County, and is only two years younger than me, beat competition from all over the U.S.!!  Now that's an accomplishment.  
My fellow pizza lovers waiting in line with me.
I asked if she would mind if I took a few photos as I waited in line and she told me to shoot away.  I watched as she made a pizza and popped it in her oven.  Then she pulled another pizza from the oven and spread some pepperoni slices onto it as I snapped a photo.  Norma tells little about the dough and sauce she makes as we speak of her recipe she used to win the competition.  Finally, I am at the head of the line and just then the sign comes out telling the rest of us in line that the pizza is gone for the day.  I can smell some cooking, but the girl helping Norma tells me the pizzas in the oven had been ordered earlier in the day and that I will have to try again next Tuesday.  Seems that ever since Norma won her award, business  has been booming.  Two weeks of no pizza in a row will make me consider to either order an entire pizza or to get in line after breakfast.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The "St. Martin Alphabet: Part I" Story

Foreword:  A week or so ago I finally decided to get rid of my years and years of Caribbean Life Magazines during one of my days of "downsizing."  I did look at them from time to time, but usually only when we had decided to travel to a place we had never been before.  Well, since we have hit just about every island in the Caribbean, I figured why keep moving the heavy boxes of magazines around my basement any longer.  But, before I threw them on the recycle pile, I did look through a few of them to bring back memories of places past visited.  One article titled "ABC's of the birds and the bees" did catch my attention.  The article traced the highlights of the Caribbean by using the letters of the alphabet.  After re-reading it I decided to make my own alphabet list and illustrate it with my own photographs based on our island of choice: Sint Maarten (Dutch)/St. Martin (French).  The following is what resulted after searching through 50 plus CDs filled with photographs from the dual nation island.  Hope you enjoy the multi-day travelogue based on the letters in the English alphabet.

It was an ordinary day.  Searching my CDs from trips to the island of Sint Maarten (Dutch)/St. Martin (French) that I could use to illustrate the letters of the alphabet.  St. Martin is known as "The Friendly Island" based on the people and the environment.  I have chosen words or phrases which can be found in the English language dictionary to take you on a journey through my favorite Caribbean location.  Follow with me for the next few days as I add a few letters every day.

  • A: The Allamanda plant which is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae.  
    The Allamanda plant.
    The allamanda can be found primarily from Mexico to Argentina.  It's beautiful yellow blooms can be found throughout the Caribbean.  There is a resort on Orient Beach known as the Alamanda Resort.  Carol and I have stayed there a few times.  It is filled with allamanda blooms throughout the year.  Anguilla, which is a quick ferry ride from St. Martin.  It has beaches that are pure white and soft as powder.  It is home to the world famous Shoal Bay East Beach.  Also on the island can be found the Cuisnart Resort and Bankie Bank's Dune Preserve.
  • B: Beach has to be on the top of the "B" list, since there are so many beaches on the island of St. Martin.  
    World famous Orient Beach can be seen here.
    Beaches for water sports, secret beaches, long beaches and even nude beaches can be found on the island.  All are free and public with many having chairs and umbrellas to rent as well as food vendors.  Bikini bathing suits can be found on every island in the Caribbean, but I just had to add it to my list for St. Martin.  
    A group of men playing Bocci Ball.
    Bocci Ball, also known as bocanje, balote, balinanje, bale or petanque, is a sport that uses metal or plastic balls which can be held in the hand.  A smaller ball, known as the "jack" is tossed a distance from the players and then all players try to throw their bocci balls as close to the "jack" as they can.  It may be played by competing players or teams.  Boardwalk which is found in the capital city of the Dutch side of the island known Philipsburg.  The boardwalk is actually concrete, but still referred to as the boardwalk.  It is along Great Bay beach and has restaurants, gift shops and hotels along its mile stretch.  
    Beach chairs line the beach.
    Beach Chairs just has to be on my alphabet list also, since I can no longer lay on the sand.  Just too hard to get up after a day of sunning.  Beef Stew makes my list since it is perhaps the favorite island meal of Carol and me on St. Martin.  Made in a restaurant known as Le Piment in the area known as Orient Village.  
    Beef Stew at Le Piment.
    Beef is marinaded a few days in a liquid that has plenty of wine in it, giving the beef stew a fantastic flavor.  Bougainvillea is a genus of thorny ornamental vines with primarily purple flowers with white blossoms on them.  A beautiful St. Martin, and Caribbean, flower.      
  • C: Chocolate Croissants have to lead the list, since they begin most every morning for us while visiting St. Martin.  
    French Creole House in Marigot.
    They are sinfully delicious and since they are a French pastry,  taste so much better when made by the French bakeries on the island.  Creole House which is a typical example of a French colonial style house constructed by erecting a palisade of logs on top of a stone foundation rather than using horizontal beams or studs like more modern construction.  
    Crepe for breakfast.
    We have found a few of these neat places in Marigot, the capital of the French side of St. Martin.  Crepes which is a breakfast treat for Carol and me, but is made throughout the day in St. Martin and can be eaten for any meal.  I enjoy my breakfast crepe with strawberry filling and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top.  Carousel is the name of a business on the Dutch side of the island which features a full-size carousel for all to ride as they are eating their tasty treat purchased at the business.  
    Carousel Gelatorium
    You see, the Carousel specializes in gelato which is an Italian ice-cream.  Pure heaven!     Club O which is perhaps the most famous nudist resort in the Caribbean.  It is located on the south end of Orient Beach.  Day visitors from the many cruise ships to the island can be seen making their journey to Club O to enjoy an overall tan for the day.
  • D: Drawbridge of which there are two of on the island.  Both are located on the west side of the island and give entrance and exit to what is marked on my map as Grand Etang de Simpsonbaai, or what Carol and I call Simpson Bay.  
    The drawbridge on the Dutch side.
    One bridge is located on the Dutch side of the island at Simpson Bay while the other is located on the French side at what is known as Sandy Ground.  Yachts and pleasure boats may enter and leave the bay area during designated times of the day.  The drawbridges cause traffic to back up for miles at times.  Diving of which there are many types as well as many excursions you can take to do snorkeling or scuba diving.  
  • E: Ebb Tide which is the period between high tide and low tide during which water flows away from the shore.  Eating which is the period between sunning and sleeping.  Seems while on vacation all we do is relax and eat.  Yeah, sometimes we shop, but I'm sure we will buy a snack while shopping to hold us over until our next eating excursion.  
    Escape to one of the many beaches.
    Escapism which carries us away from the daily grind of normal life.  Escaping to St. Martin gives us the chance to dream of leaving footprints in the soft sand, taking a leisurely stroll in one of the capital cities of the island or watching the sun set while having a frosty drink.
  • F: Flip Flops which I know you can wear just about anytime and anyplace, but they seem so well suited for walking around the island of St. Martin.  What reminds you more of going to the beach than flip flops.  
    Fort Louis in Marigot.
    Fort Louis is a real treasure in the city of Marigot.  We have made the journey to the top of the mountain above Marigot a few times during out trips to St. Martin.  Fort Louis was built by the French in 1789 to protect its harbor from marauding coutries.  You can't miss it; just look up.  Footprints in the sand just remind you of romance.  A quiet, deserted beach in the early morn or at twilight; two lovers walking hand in hand as they leave a lasting impression behind them; until the water laps at the shore and clears it for more ….. footprints.  
    A lone frigate patrolling the sky.
    Frigate is one of my favorite birds of the Caribbean.  It is also known as the man-o'-war and is a large seabird about the size of a chicken.  It is coal black and has a long, deeply forked tail.  I love to watch them soar high above the sea and attempt to steal other seabirds of their freshly caught fish.  
    Supper awaiting at the fish market.
    It is perhaps the most aerial of all birds and glides over the sea, at times held motionless by the wind currents.  Fish Market which can be found on market days in Marigot.  We have purchased some of the best fish and had them in the evening over the grill at our villa.  The fish are brought to the market daily by boat.  Can't be much fresher than that.
Well, I have just begun to work my way through the alphabet.  I will post another few letters in the near future, giving you an alphabetical glance at life on St. Martin.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.