Coral Bay on St. John offers a stunning setting for a retreat, and I’ve loved this place for 21 years now. But unlike a family farm, getaway sites feel eerily ephemeral. CB may be “where tired angels come to rest,” yet devilish change is everywhere. And “free time” itself sometimes seems neither unplugged nor uncomplicated. It’s certainly not cheap.
The faces change. A fun-loving bar owner gets sick, then dies. A charismatic captain gives up his craft. An ubiquitous simpleton has gone missing. And in our circle, the New York family we’ve met for three years with happily matching children has announced this is their last year here. Many blessed ties that bind are fraying.
Meanwhile, the fickle hand of Fate accosted CurlyGirl (6) today when she received a bunch of nasty stings—like welts from a whipping—from an unseen jellyfish.
Call it her Requisite BreakAway Emergency, or a symbolic slap in the face. A day of beachy bliss can turn to screaming dread faster than a stinger pricks skin.
It harkened back to the same child’s medical misfortune almost a year ago to the day. At least this one didn’t require a trip to the island ER.
It’s enough to make a guy on mini-Sabbatical cast away the snorkel mask and head back into the snowstorm.
Four days in, the owies and adjustments offer evidence of the difference between a vacation (too fleeting) and a BreakAway (just long enough). Margaritaville may not exist. But we all have a craving—and a right—to pursue our cheeseburger in Paradise.
Guess travel comes with costs
Getting to the place where you can get that burger is rarely half the fun. It’s dang hard work. Most folks don’t travel much, and that’s one reason why. And as for kids, well, let’s just say they hardly ever carry their weight. So the packing, schlepping, procuring and compromising can threaten your sanity and make sane people ask, “Is this worth it?”
Is it worth…the price? There are plenty of loaded (meaning “moneyed,” in this case) people roundabout. And then there are the rest of us—who must numb our common senses to pony up for ever-rising airfare, and then pay double for everything here (if you can find what you’re looking for).
I’m not spending my children’s inheritance; I’m spending my retirement!
But hey, I’d rather Die Broke than carry on cautiously. And as this website repeats ad nauseum, why wait for retirement—since it may or may not happen—when you could possibly take temporary retirement throughout your life?
The economic downturn has hit like a hurricane, though. Charming shops are shuttered; eateries have ample empty tables in a peak week; more locals hang out lazily smoking pot while potholes in the road go lazily untended.
Heck, this family has no business taking this year’s fast-lane vakay—since this self-employed’s business has been stuck in the slow lane for a year.
I guess sometimes ease stays home. Just ask the children, even if they are enthusiastic travelers, like mine. Baby blue eyes cried, “I miss Daisy” (the cat) long before the jellyfish attack. The tween-ager is missing much school and sports—again. The new house-sitter missed the security code and the cops arrived in minutes. What’s next?
Travel risk is always next, potentially. Like, our plane got airbound but a few hours later MSP was snowbound. East Coasters here tell of arriving three days late due to their two feet of snow. Another terrorist tried to explode another airplane. And CurlyGirl’s relentless sinus-cum-ocean-bacteria virus may go ear-infection any time now.
Plus, some prefer cooler climes—including my main travel mate. They get frustrated by the heat, sand and bug bites and start itching for more to do than this sleepy place offers. The internet is undependable. Air conditioning–not. And despite the water, water everywhere, you still can’t flush after number one or take a nice, long shower.
And undisturbed views are getting scarce. That metaphor could apply to many things. But I’m talkin’ about yonder, in “my” front yard. The new nayber is constructing a monument to himself that will massively block the pristine sea views and breezes from this Cloud 9. They take Paradise and put up a…McVilla.
Yep, the first days have been been hot, wet, muggy, buggy, itchy, crabby, stinky and sting-y. Way too many sailboats clog and pollute the harbor. Heavy machinery grinds like monstrous dentists’ drills. And until your inner clock gets reset to “island time,” you find your patience frequently frazzled. What’s more…
Strange shtuff happens. Awfully strange. And though there may be more folklore than fact on your typical faraway isle, the many signs that linger about the two “Missing” people (including the aforementioned) stir chills. Locals have stories about “what really happened,” and what hasn’t happened since. More tales abound.
So shut the blog up—and stay home?
Guess there are too many bloggers & gurus in the cyber harbor. Guess this site just ain’t taking flight—like millions of others. Oh sure, I enjoy navel-gazing and spilling some guts and digital shots. Sometimes I even keep the faith and believe blog star Seth Godin when he preaches, “Just do it more. And do it better.” But really now. Really!
Still, I guess I must like it here. On remote, sultry islands. On a deck alone with a hot laptop atop tan thighs while watching squalls blow in from the British Virgins—while the gaffe-rigged ketch I used to crew on blows in from a daysail. Here, on my fourth, fat, freaking BreakAway in the last 20 years.
I haven’t had a margarita in ten years. But could I still be searching for my lost shaker of salt? I’m still searching for something (who ain’t?) and stooping so low as to be quoting Jimmy Buffet.
But hell, if anyone has made a NAME and a BRAND and a BOATLOAD OF MONEY off BreakAway visions and delusions, he’s one.
I’ll drink to that.
So on that note, from a yellowed book off the shanty shelf that got nabbed for today’s five minutes of beach reading before the jellyfish assault, just this once, guess I will shut up and let Jimmy have the last word:
There will be no money left as I plan to spend it while I can, and when I die, I would like to be buried under a palm tree on the beach in an unmarked grave away from the maddening crowds like I saw today at Elvis’ grave.”
From “Tales from Margaritaville,” by Jimmy Buffett