I'm about 3,700 miles away from San Francisco on my way to a tiny 8 mile stretch of land called St. John, and I’m on the last sweaty leg of my thirteen hour commute. The smells of home begin to vaguely tingle my senses, like a dream I recognize but can’t quite remember. It’s late October or maybe early March, I’m not exactly sure to be honest, the fact is, the time of year has lost all of its relevance to me at this point. For years now it has become a custom for me to make the journey down here as often as I can. A close friend of mine moved down here with his family when we were just chiclets, and ever since this magical oasis has been close to my heart.
The warm midnight mist kisses my face like an old companion who’s happy to see me while the Red Hook ferry chariots me into Cruz Bay. With subconscious euphoria pumping through my veins, I'm almost to nowhere to forget who I am for a few days. Fucking yes!
I bob back and forth like a cork in a tub for about 30 minutes and the only thing keeping down my plane peanuts is the prospect of plopping down in a plastic white lawn chair, kicking off my shoes and guzzling down an ice cold one. Literally steps away from port are Beach Bar and Joe’s Rum Hut, my go-to’s for cheap spiked smoothies and seaside ambiance. It's not long before the late night heat starts teasing my appetite for something fruity and refreshing. It doesn’t matter if there is no other time or place on earth where I would find myself drinking a milky, limey, frozen cocktail, all that matters is where I am right now and the perfect cocktail for this moment. Someone very special to me (who is more exceptional of a drinker than I am) changed the way I will drink forever by giving me one simple piece of advice: drink in context. It's become a philosophy I now live by. Bring it on!
Some live music and a couple bidis later and it's time to hitch a ride up Center Line to Coral Bay, where my cliffside bungalow awaits. Up the hill I go, bouncing around the back of a Toyota pick-up, engulfed in echoing night chirps and a thick tropical breeze. At Upper Carolina I jump out and after a quick "thank you" and a dark walk up into the trees, I've finally arrived. Charlie and his parents greet me with affectionate astonishments of how I’ve grown and changed. We chat for a while but quickly we’re off to bed like I never left at all. Tomorrow the real fun begins.
We wake up around 6 AM for a small hike through Salt Pond and up Ram Head to catch a view of the rising sun. After our morning jaunt along jungle shorelines, it’s time for a quick breakfast before we address our agenda. One of the newer additions to Coral Bay is a small sandwich shop, Pickles in Paradise. A quick sausage egg and cheese, a 12 pack of beers from Love City and we’re off to the beach.
From here, I’m afraid, it’s painfully simple; just how I like it. We find our spot, park for the day, and that’s pretty much it folks. Ass in the sand with spliff in hand. You sit and then you sleep. You wake up, take a dip, and take a sip. It’s a very personal space and a part of the experience that I can’t really teach or even describe. Charlie and I have both been blessed to have opportunities to bring loved ones and close friends down here with us and this is my favorite time of all. Us all together on the beach, all day, there is nothing better. The full effect of paradise only comes to life when surrounded by those you who you truly love. It doesn't hurt to know a few locals either. Head over to Hansen beach and if your lucky enough, maybe they’ll be a country style boil happening around lunch time. The days heat up and drip along like melting molasses but always seem to come to an end a little too soon. I have everything I could ever need, complete and utter bliss.
Everyday around 5 pm we pack up camp and, if we’re in the mood, head to town for happy hour. There’s nothing like a couple greasy fried treats and $2 cocktails after a long hard day. Charlie’s parents will be getting dinner ready for us soon (their favorite part of our visits) and we don’t want to be late, so we make our way back home to rinse off. After a nostalgic home cooked meal and a couple tiring rounds of Cranium or Cards Against Humanity, everyone is ready to hit the sack. We need our sleep, we’ve had a long day of doing nothing and we have another doozy tomorrow. One of the number one necessities down here is sleep, it is crucial when maintaining this grueling schedule.
The long days slowly drift along until before I know it, in a flash, my week is over. As you can imagine, this isn’t an enjoyable place to leave, so quick good-byes are always best in this case. After hugs, kisses and fervent chatter of the next visit, Charlie and I descend back to Cruz Bay where he’ll see me off. Not before a quick detour to Sam and Jacks Deli for a Ting and one last bag of their homemade potato chips for the road. A hug for Charlie and back onto Red Hook I go. It’s funny how a boat can evoke such strong emotions, an even more peculiar, the emotions are vastly different depending on the direction your traveling. Same vessel, same bay, very different tears.
It doesn’t matter if we’re drinking smoothies on Jost Van Dyke or eating clam cakes and chowder on Narragansett’s seawall, home always tastes its best when you’re eating with family.
Joe's Rum Hut Smoothies - $4
Breakfast Sandwich at Pickles in Paradis - $5
Country Style Boil at Hansen Beach - $10
Champagne Sorbet at Scoops - $6
Ting at Love City - $2
House-Made Potato Chips at Sam & Jack's Deli - $2.50
Cheese Burger at 420 to Center - $6
Combination BBQ at Uncle Joes World Famous BBQ - $13.95