July 2013

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Photo by David Lansing.

The Band needed a break. We’d been practicing since…well, actually, we hadn’t started practicing yet. Which is why we decided we needed a break.

The Band’s official driver, Mr. Glennis Connor, the Anguillan Patron Saint of Lost Luggage, evidently needed a break as well since instead of giving us a musical tour of Anguilla, as he’d promised, he asked Lloyd to do it. Lloyd is good. Nothing against Lloyd at all. It’s just that he’s not Mr. Glennis Connor.

We told Lloyd our mission was to make a musical pilgrimage around Anguilla. Get inspired. Hear the sounds, dig the beat, feel the love.

“Well then,” said Lloyd as we pulled away from Cap Juluca, “I suppose the first thing you’ll want to see is Elvis’.”

We all perked up at that. Even The Man, who had had a very late night, sat up straight and opened his eyes for the first time all morning. “Is Elvis in the building?” asked The Man.

“That’s hard to say,” said Lloyd. “Sometimes Elvis is in the building and sometimes he’s not, if you know what I mean. But we can go by and see.”

Now it just so happens that Elvis’ is next door to Johnno’s. The thing is, Johnno’s is more of a jazz joint. On a typical Sunday there, you’re likely to catch Mo Melin on sax, Peter Sorton on bass, and Jaiden Fleming on drums (or sometimes Fred). Whereas Elvis, of course, is more old school.

Elvis’ Rum Punch.

We asked Lloyd how Elvis was doing. He said he’s good, that these days he’s thin and lanky, the way he used to be (before Vegas). And that if he was around, we’d probably find him behind the 16-foot-boat-turned-bar pouring his signature drink, Elvis’ Rum Punch (Mount Gay rum, Amaretto, oj, pineapple juice, guava juice, lime juice, bitters and nutmeg).

So we went to Elvis’. The bartender told us he was out at the moment. So we ordered a round of rum punches. And then another. Just, you know, for inspiration while waiting for Elvis.

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The band, left to right: Me, Cricket, T-Bone, Bail-Out, Mrs. Pookie, and The Man. Luscious was taking the photo. I don’t know where our official band photographer was…Oh, wait! We don’t have one!

One by one the band arrived, although, frankly, Mrs. Pookie almost didn’t make it; she snagged a pro-golfer on the ferry ride over from St. Maarten and had to give a hard-think to whether she wanted to rock her viola with us or let the golf pro show her how to gracefully exit a sand trap, if you know what I mean. In the end, she chose the band (although she gave the golf pro her number, so we’ll see what happens).

Bail-Out, traveling from Boston, forgot to bring his mandolin. How do you come to Anguilla for band rehearsals and forget your mandolin? Anyway, as soon as he arrived, he hit the beach—sans sun screen. Just like him. That’s why he’s called Bail-Out. He’s our own little Steven Van Zandt. Part of the reason he’s so hard to schedule for band rehearsals is because he’s always doing some bit in an indie movie or some play in Boston. To be honest, I don’t think he’s really dedicated to his music.

T-Bone arrived right on time. Despite the name, T-Bone doesn’t do steak. Nor chicken nor fish. In fact, T-Bone grooves on a plant-based diet only—no cheese, no milk, no butter, no nada. She’s so tiny it always amazes me that she plays her electric violin with such gusto. But that girl can rock.

Mike “The Man” Espindle got held up in Rome or something, Luscious tells me. Driving a Jaguar around Umbria when he should have been packing his drum kit. He finally showed up in the middle of dinner last night, after way too many cocktails on the flight over, with some cutey on his arm who, evidently, just got married and is honeymooning here. And not to The Man. Have you ever noticed how drummers are always the flakiest musicians in a band (think Spinal Tap)?

Cricket, our keyboardist, lives on Anguilla. He’s the reason we decided to rehearse here, since he swore he could score us free rooms at the Cap Juluca resort (we’ll see what happens when we check-out). And, of course, Luscious, our vocalist and I (electric ukulele) have been here for a couple of days already. So we’re finally good to go.

Now if we could only figure out what to call ourselves. Oh, and write a couple of songs.

This is Luscious. You’ll have to ask her why she’s called that. Photo by David Lansing.

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Lunch on Sandy Island

That’s Dion behind the bar on Sandy Island. Notice the mural with the boat with Bliss and Happiness painted on it. Bliss is the name of the other boat to Sandy Island. Photo by David Lansing.

The man in charge of Happiness, as it turns out, was named Darrel. Darrel spent about 10 minutes giving us a safety check aboard Happiness, which was about twice as long as the trip over to Sandy Island itself.

About Sandy Island: It’s actually an atoll, meaning it is made up of coral from the surrounding reef, and is shapped like an arrowhead. It is approximately 150 yards long and 25 yards across at its widest point. To walk around Sandy Island takes about 10 minutes. In short, there’s not much to it. Still, it’s an extremely popular day trip. People go there because they have a little bbq shack that serves up excellent ribs, lobster, and fresh fish. They also go there to drink the rum cocktails with names like High Tide and JoJo’s Rum Punch.

JoJo is the bbq man on Sandy Island. You cannot rush JoJo. He is a master and like most masters he takes his time. Which is why almost as soon as we arrived, Dion, who makes the JoJo’s Rum Punch cocktails behind the bar, warned us that we should order lunch just as soon as we knew what we wanted.

“It’s still early,” he said, “but in another hour, we’ll be packed.”

Once when I was in France for two weeks I ate oysters every single day. Sometimes twice a day. So since I’d ordered lobster (or Anguilla crayfish) my first night on Anguilla and I knew the island was known for having some of the most delectable lobster in the Caribbean, I was thinking perhaps I’d order lobster every day. But then when Dion asked Luscious what she’d like for lunch, she said, “Lobster.”

Now I know that it was only a couple of days ago that I was making fun of people who don’t like to order the same thing their dining companion gets but it just so happens I’m also one of those people. Besides, I still had dinner to look forward to; I could get lobster at dinner. So I ordered JoJo’s ribs. Which I could smell cooking on the bbq.

I was tempted to get JoJo’s Rum Punch but since I knew we’d be on this little spit of an island for several hours, I decided to go slow and start with a glass of French rose. Afterall, it all felt very French—sitting on a beach in our bathing suits, speculating about the people showing up on tenders sent from their private yachts, drinking rose. There may not have been much to do on Sandy Island other than eat and drink and gossip, but I was finding that to be to my liking.

That’s Berecia and JoJo, the barbecue master, with ribs for me and lobster for Luscious. Photo by David Lansing.

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Johnno’s at Sandy Ground on Anguilla. Photo by David Lansing.

Glennis drops us off at Johnno’s in Sandy Ground and tells us to wait there until Happiness comes to pick us up.

“When will Happiness be here?” I ask him.

“That’s the thing about Happiness,” says Glennis. “You just never know.”

While Luscious and I are waiting for Happiness, I wander in to Johnno’s. Glennis told me that Johnno’s makes their own hot sauce and it’s excellent. There’s not much going on in Johnno’s shortly before noon on a Thursday. There’s a man in a green shirt drinking a beer by himself and a young woman behind the bar washing glasses.

“I hear your hot sauce is pretty good,” I say to her.

“Our what now?”

“Your hot sauce. Glennis told me you make your own hot sauce. You know Glennis, right?”

“Oh sure. Everyone know Glennis.”

“Do you sell your hot sauce?”

“Do what now?”

“Your hot sauce…do you sell it?”

“Naw. It’s just…” and she reaches down beneath her and brings up a condiment jar of a murkey brown and gray liquid. “We don’t bottle it,” she says. “It’s just in a big pot in the kitchen.”

“Can I taste it?”

“Do what now?”

“The hot sauce…can I taste it?”

“Without no food?”

“Just a taste.”

She pushes the jar over the bar towards me. “I don’t suppose I could disturb you for a spoon?”

She finds a spoon and slides it across the bar. I dip it in to the jar of hot sauce and put the tiniest amount on my tongue.

“Well?” she says.

“It’s alright.”

“Alright? Alright?”

I shrug, shove the spoon back over the bar, and go back outside where Luscious is sitting at a wooden picnic table on the sand waiting for Happiness. She asks me what I’ve been doing.

“Eating hot sauce,” I tell her.

“Was it good?”

“It was awesome. But don’t tell them that.”

Luscious nods towards the dock where a small boat is pulling up. “I think that’s us,” she says, standing up and grabbing her bag.



Boat to Sandy Island in Anguilla

Happiness is just waiting to take us to Sandy Island. Photo by David Lansing.

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To Sandy Ground

Sandy Ground, Anguilla

The view above Sandy Ground, Anguilla. Photo by David Lansing.

Our band mates still hadn’t arrived so shortly after breakfast this morning, Mr. Glennis Connor, Anguila’s Patron Saint of Lost Luggage, pulled up in front of Cap Juluca to take Luscious and me to the dock where we were to catch a boat to Sandy Island.

I still haven’t been able to get myself oriented on the island. All the roads twist and turn, going this way and that, and one minute the water is on your right side and the next it’s on your left, so it’s all very confusing to me. I started to ask Mr. Connor a question about the island’s history but he shut me down.

“Don’t ask any questions this morning,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll do a tour of the island and you can ask questions then. But not this morning.”

Okay then.

We drove hither and thither and yon (I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase before; it’s kind of nice) when suddenly Mr. Connor stopped the car along the side of the road.

“I’m going to show you something but I don’t want you to ask me any questions about it,” he said.

Luscious and I got out of the car and Mr. Connor took us across the road to a bluff. Nodding his head, he said, “That’s Sandy Ground.”

We were on a bluff looking out over a perfect Caribbean bay, the water six shades of green and blue, the hills an equal number of shades of green. Sailboats were anchored in the bay and a long dock extended like a bony finger across the green-blue water. Lovely. But nothing we could ask questions about.

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