Reporter's Notebook


A great benefit of freelancing for the St. John Tradewinds has been the chance to meet people like Frank Langley, 75, a brilliant Brit who worked on the Gemini program and who five years ago parlayed a small hi-tech windfall into seed money for a weeklong arts festival on St. John. Optomistic Products, his hi-tech startup, immediately afterward fell on hard times like the rest of the industry, but the arts festival continues with grants from the Virgin Islands tourism department and the Council on the Arts. I interviewed Frank twice this week and enjoyed his tales of growing up on the Isle of Wight, helping out with the space race inFlorida, relocating to New Zealand and then St. John. On any topic, he digresses and then digresses from the digressions, which drove me nuts the first day at Chilly Billy's restaurant, because I was trying to make the ferry to St Thomas with Darlene. But when I transcribed the interview from my Pentax Optio camera, I found everything of interest and was glad I had let the conversation follow its own path. My story on the arts festival and Frank's involvement with it will appear in Monday's edition of the Tradewinds.

Capt. John Clark of the Wind Spirit has invited Darlene and me to the ship this Sunday for lunch, in trade for bringing 20 copies of last week's Tradewinds. He enjoyed the piece I wrote about him and the ship, apparently. My journalist friend Joyce Heard, who lives in France, said she would have used the quote where he said sometimes he wishes he could roll around in some grease on a cargo ship, and I would have, too, except the quote also referred to some term from a cargo ship that I couldn't decipher on the recording. So much great stuff doesn't make it into an article because of space. He also said carrying passengers is just another form of cargo, and it has its benefits. Human cargo lets you know right away when something is wrong, but if the lumber sweats and ruins the coffee you don't find out about it until you get to your destination.

This morning we packed up our stuff from the tent-cabin at Maho Bay Camps, and by the end of the day we will be back at the CaribSurf studio apartment on Frank Bay, in metro Cruz Bay. The Maho interlude had its challenges, namely gray weather and nearly nonexistent internet connection. Neither of us is interested in returning there, but, oddly, we at the same time found ourselves agreeing that next year we would like to figure out a way to spend three months somewhere on St. John, perhaps through a house swap, instead of one month. For me, the Tradewinds connection makes this prospect appealing, and Darlene has always loved the sun and colors of these islands. So who knows?

Friday, February 11, 2005


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