Buy a one-way ticket to a tropical paradise. Forget about lining up a job beforehand. Don't worry about finding a vehicle or a place to sleep. Just go. Remember: you are smart, charismatic, resourceful, employable, devilishly handsome - hell, you're invincible. This is the Kamikaze Approach. And this is how Joey and I find ourselves as we arrive in the US Virgin Islands at St. Thomas International Airport.
It is 9:30pm on October 18th. Neither of us have bothered to reserve a room for the night, expecting instead to sleep inside the airport and start fresh in the morning with a few extra bucks in our pockets. We discover quickly this is not possible.
There is not even a jetway. When we exit the plane and walk down the stairs onto Terra Firma they herd us directly toward baggage claim. Free local rum samples are offered and accepted along the way. Never once actually inside the airport, we are left standing with our bags outside among a throng of gypsy cab drivers.
A cab takes us downtown to the cheapest hotel we can find on short notice. It's more money that we want to spend - even with Joey doing his best to haggle the price. We take it anyways. That cold-hearted woman can't care less that "our parents missed their connecting flight and we got's nowhere's else ta go". It's probably time to update his go-to mize. The stranded-without-parents routine isn't quite as effective when presented by two adult men.
We spend the next days searching for housing, jobs, and meaningful contacts while spending our nights at a guest house called Miller Manor for $65/night. The room is miserably hot with two twin beds and a ceiling fan that accomplishes nothing. There is a balcony, but we keep the door closed to keep the mosquitos out - a chikungunya outbreak is all over the island. No one here cares about ebola. Getting bit by the wrong mosquito leaves its victim with an astronomically high fever and virtually paralyzed from joint pain for at least a week. A girl we met here caught chikungunya over a month ago - she still walks a little T-Rexish. We both agree that if one of us gets the CG we are packing our bags and forgetting the entire failed experiment.
Each morning we wake up at 4:30 to the rooster with a crushed larynx who lives conveniently outside our window. Listen to me: nothing can prepare anyone for the horrible sound a feral rooster makes.
*** If you do not take anything else from reading this, I want you to know how much I hate that cockerel. I actively plot to kill him. I dream about killing him. I am awakened from these pleasant dreams by his tortured crowing at 4:30. Every. Single. Morning.***
Nothing comes easy on this island. Employers, bartenders, and potential friends all show indifference to newcomers. They have seen the likes of me and Joey hundreds of times over the years and know that 90 percent of the time we don't last more than a month. And so goes the life of a Seasonal. Starting over again at the bottom of the social ladder, relishing the upward climb. But it's admittedly frustrating on St. Thomas.
We need jobs as soon as possible so we can get an apartment. Every employer drags his feet in responding to calls an applications, maybe they will get back to us in a week or so - at best they are unaware of our necessity to make money quickly, at worst they are part a vast conspiracy against newcomers and revel in watching them navigate the labyrinth of red tape on this island.
One thing is for sure. Without comparing notes on our bank accounts, Joey and I both know we are quickly withering away on the vine at $65/night. Something has to change. Up to this point everything has been one step forward and two steps back. Worse than seasons 3 and 4 of Weeds.
At a local bar I meet a guy close to my own age named Chris. I can't place my finger on it, but I don't fully trust him. Maybe he talks a little too fast, or just a little too much. Maybe its because his face makes you inexplicably want to punch it. No matter, I have to overlook my misgivings when he tells me he has a sailboat for rent at $200 per month.
Oh really? That's convenient. In fact, living aboard a sailboat has been our dream since we left Alaska in the fall. Now we get to save what little is left left of our money AND live the dream we've been searching for.
Finally, we're saved.
To be continued...