Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seven Weeks

This is the last day of my first seven weeks. Tomorrow I fly to Provo, stay at the Royal West Indies, and fly on to Portland, Maine, on Thursday for the Society of City and Regional Planning History conference. From there I am back in Ohio for a week, then off to San Juan, Pueto Rico, for the Association of Preservation Technology conference. I will be back in Ohio for a week after that, then I pack up the family and we move to Beverly.

Has this been a crazy ride? Seven weeks. I have a house. I have a museum. I have a fundraising goal of $750,000 to get the museum up to current standards. In the last seven weeks we are about $28,000 closer to our goal. This seams like an amazing amount of money in one way, but it is only a fraction in other ways. If you are reading this blog, I hope you have sent in your $100 director's inaugural fund membership. But I have to tell you, I am amazed and touched at how many people care about me and what I am doing. I know how tight money is for many of my friends, thank you for what you have done.

I think I told you a while ago that we had an air conditioner go down the first week I was here. You are self sufficient or you live with nothing here. A repairman came out. He looked at the unit and said "I told you last month that you needed to buy a new air conditioner, I can't get the parts for this." He turned around and left.

The unit is a ten year old 24,000 BTU Carrier split system. We operate three of them. I could not even find the model number on the internet using Google. I did, however, find a website that sold components for old air conditioners and they had the relay and 24 volt transformer that I had removed from the unit. Dave Horn brought them to me yesterday when he got off the cruise ship.

It is not what you expect to be doing when you agree to direct a national museum, and it certainly never came up it any of my interviews, but today I replaced the relay and 24 volt transformer on a Carrier 42MUB fan coil unit. As of 4:00pm we are cooling with maximum efficiency. If you know Jim Dawson, have him read this. I picked up a lot from him, but I wish I would have spent more time understanding exactly how technical systems operated. If you have any aspirations of directing your own museum, don't overlook what other people do. You actually have to know every one's job. In my case I actually have to also do the job.

In seven weeks I have met a whole new community. I have figured out where to get water, where to get fish, where to get fruit and vegetables. I have not had any butter, sugar, and very limited amount of soda pop. No donuts, only three cups of coffee a day, and this I take black. I have been in the water to swim at least every other day. I have painted an entire house interior. I have built a bathroom vanity. I have built and installed under cabinet sliding drawers in the kitchen. I have unpacked and furnished an entire house. I have installed two video units in the museum. I have enacted drastic cost saving measures in day to day operations. I have taken on a side job of the construction management of a million dollar house with a five million dollar view. I have given away three houses worth of furniture. I have dug a french drain and filled it with rocks. I have written a ten page paper on the social history of the front porch. I have consulted on the restoration of a 1790s Bermudian style timber frame house. I have organized a new band. And I have really missed Deneen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dave Horn and the Shark

Dave Horn and Ailene came in today on the Holland America cruise ship. I picked them up at 8:00am, Grand Turk time, which happens to also be Neal time so it works perfectly. I was thinking that I would not be able to fill all the time they were here. But in fact, we barely had any time at all.

I drove them around the island showing them a couple sites I like, then we went over to our house and went snorkeling off our beach. We went in the water about 10:30. I thought we had been in the water for about 30 minutes, but I was getting exhausted from swimming so I began to think that we had been in for longer than I thought. I was right.

It was a great day off the beach. I saw a trumpet fish and a four foot long cow fish. The water was very clear today. Anyway, when got out of the water and went back to house it was after 12:00 noon. They had to be back at the ship by 1:00. We went to the museum to look around for 30 minutes, then I g0t them back to the cruise terminal. The day was too short. But it was very good to spend the morning with friends. I think they had a good time. I hope that our excursion on Grand Turk will be as good as any of the others that they experience on the cruise.

I am sure you are asking, "what about the shark?" Well that is a different story.

I told you we have turned the corner here. Today was the first day I could really cook in the house. This afternoon I went to the fish market (a plywood table on the beach where a couple of local fishermen clean their catch) to try and get a grouper. The grouper was very expensive, but there were two sharks sitting on the beach. I asked about shark steaks. I got a whole shark cut into about 15 steaks for ten bucks.

Tonight I had Deborah and Thomas over for grilled shark. I grilled the steaks with a jalapeno chutney, and we ate them with a papaya and peach salsa over rice. I have experienced many things in my life, but two-hour old fresh shark steaks are now at the top of my list of unbelievable.

We just got done with dinner, it is about 11:30Pm. This has been one of the best days I have been here. I now have a new plan for when we have visitors: go to the fish market and get the strangest thing they have caught that day. By strangest I also mean the cheapest. It is still me that you are visiting after all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Membership Has Its Priviledges

I am the youngest of four very obdurate siblings. My brother and sisters held me down and tickled me (my kryptonite) until I was in my 30s. I never got any respect. These blogs are written partially as recompense for my indefatigability.

Anyway, I wish someone would have told me how cool it is to be the director of a well-respected and influential national museum. I should have started my career as a director ten years ago. I would have been so much happier. For those of you who know what this means: the outside is in fact everything you think it might be.

On Thursday, I was invited to spend the weekend in Provo at the Royal West Indies resort. What a nice break from my typically strenuous week of snorkeling; great company, fantastic meals, even better pool and beach. I think I spent about five hours on Saturday actually in the pool. My room looked out over the pool. I sat on the balcony working on a presentation about the history of the front porch and looking over architectural plans.

We were in Provo to look at the museum property and we met with local architects. Things need to begin to move forward; in time, but forward non-the-less. It was a very productive trip. I have not experienced Provo as a tourist before, and this honed many of my thoughts about the new museum building there.

On Sunday, I returned to Grand Turk. Before leaving we stopped at the IGA and picked up meat for the freezer. I was not going to stock any food before my family came down, but it began to make sense to have food on hand for when they arrive. Now I do.

The house is as finished as it is going to be before Deneen and the boys get here. On Monday, Dave Horn arrives in Grand Turk on a cruise ship. I am spending the day showing him what I have come to regard as my home. I also need to get an air conditioner, cell phones, and finish a couple projects at the museum.

Tomorrow is the first day of the season. We will have a cruise ship in port every day until April.

Everything changes tomorrow.

Oh, the first paragraph is written so that Bryan has to look up several words and will feel that I am smarter than he is. Pickadilly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Teachers Conference or Snorkeling?

I spent the day today at a teachers training workshop sponsored by the National Trust. I think it is more tiring sitting all day through a conference than it is physically working. My back is very sore.

The teacher training workshop was all about integrating birds and reptiles into classroom curriculum. This was especially the case concerning the indigenous Rock Iguana which is critically endangered and exists nowhere else on the planet. We spent nearly three hours working on Iguana curriculum.

There is a protected are, Little Water Cay, which is home to 6000 Rock Iguana. The National Trust monitors the site. It is a major tourist attraction. The Iguana used to inhabit every island, today they only have habitat on 5% of the land. Ferrel cats, introduced as house pets, are now the major predator. They eat the Iguana. Pine Cay had a population of 15,000 Rock Iguana around 1960. Within three years of development and the introduction of cats onto the island there were none left.

I was at the workshop for networking, this was very successful.

I wanted to talk about snorkeling today, but instead I am going to leave and go snorkeling. It is all I can think about today.

See Ya.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Court House Burned Down

Again, I can't believe it has been a week already. I would say that is because nothing exciting has happened. But then the movie crew left over the weekend, the Sandbar closed for renovations, a museum trustee from Norway has been here all weekend, It was tourism awareness week, there were model sloop races in the Salina on Sunday, I ordered tiles for the house, and today the courthouse burned down.

Evidently the courthouse caught fire around 5:30 this morning and burned all day. There were hundreds of people out to watch. I shot digital film and Deborah retrieved the museum camera and took video. We had one of the few video cameras at the scene and our video coverage left the island around 3:00 to go over to Provo to be aired on the local news.

Actually, the more I think about it, this has been a huge week. I received a travel grant for the Association of Preservation Technology conference in San Juan. Yesterday and today I have been trying to get travel in order. Over the weekend we are going over to Provo to stay at the Royal West Indies resort and look at the museum property there. I finally met Ellesio, an Italian conga player looking for a band. We are going to start playing together in December for Christmas parties. I went to see him play on Sunday and I am having dinner at his house tomorrow.

On Sunday night I had dinner with the trustee who is here this week. After a lengthy and stimulating debate about signature architecture, I talked about my friend Mark Morris, the architecture critic now at Cornell University in New York. My trustee had me call Mark on Monday and make arrangements for him to come down and investigate possible museum design strategies in January.

Sorry, this has been a crazy week. I could have written a blog everyday, but I have been exhausted. Today, I went snorkeling with our distant neighbor, German Niki, who wanted to show me the good spots to snorkel off of our beach. I am sorry for everything I have written about snorkeling, because I was in the kiddy pool. You have no idea...Maybe I will try and write a while blog about this tomorrow.

I am exhausted right now, but I am on my way out to see of I can catch Mitch's band at the Osprey.

Talk Soon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Just Checking In

I wish there was something more exciting to write about. One thing, I guess, is that I am writing this from my house. I got the internet working in the house today... and when I say today I mean about two minutes ago. It has always been here. The phone has been paid during the whole time the house was vacant. So really all I would have to have done was hook it up. Today, I figured this out, or actually Deborah, the Director of Programing at the museum, told me. I brought a modem home from the museum and here I am. As a note, I told you the phones here were expensive. The phone charge is $59 a month for the line and 45 cents a minute for calls.

We are down to the business of museum business this week. I am working on two grants, we have our second children's programing meeting on Thursday, and I have been making Excel spreadsheets for shop inventory. We had an order of 120 maps from the Ritz Carlton but only had 39 maps in stock. This week the map maker, a guy from the UK who has been living on a boat for 16 years doing soundings and navigation charts of all the Bahamas, stopped by the museum and we were able to get 200 more maps. Seems little, but this was huge this week.

I have been working in the wood shop this week as well. I went to price sink vanities. There are two that you can buy and they start at $745. And this is not a very nice vanity. I took apart one of the oak dining benches that was already in the house and cut the oak into workable stock. I have been making an open Mission-style sink cabinet that has turned out very nice. I am having trouble finding tile for the counter, though. I did not know what to expect about what is readily available here. I brought a tile cutter down in my suit case. There are nine tile cutters on the shelf at the Do It Center, but no tile. I should have brought tile! Then the kitchen and bath would be finished already. As it is, I have two weeks left to get everything ready before I leave for Ohio to get the rest of the family. I have a lot of work to do.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Just Another Week

It is hard to believe that it has been five days since I wrote a blog entry. I was thinking today that this is because nothing special has happened. It has really just been a normal week. Well, I guess I will describe what normal has become.

It has been storming in the Caribbean this week. If you have looked at a weather map at all, you will have noticed a huge storm system just north of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic to you non-Caribbeaners). At night you can see the lightening, and today I could see it raining in the distance. I think our horizon is about 22 miles here. This has not affected us, except it has been overcast and cooler.

I finally got my snorkel equipment out of the box so I have been leaving work at 4:00 and going snorkeling off of our beach everyday. The storms have made the sea rough and I have seen waves for the first time since coming. I lay in the water and float on the waves. It is pretty cool. Today, I ventured about 100 yards off of our beach. It is still pretty scary to be in the water that far off of land. I am not used to it, but I am getting there.

A couple times this week I have gotten hungry for real food and have ventured down to the Sandbar to get dinner. At the beginning of the week I sat at the bar with Bart Johnson. He was here filming the movie that was being shot in Grand Turk last week. You may know him better as Coach Jack Bolton in the Disney movie High School Musical. To me, he is just my friend Bart.

My wife, Deneen,wanted me to get my picture taken with him and post it online. But when we were on the road in the 1980s Bryan and I always had a policy of "no pictures." Actors and actresses "are no different than you and me," Bryan used to say. "We all have our jobs to do." Anyway, I did not see him again to get a picture.

Bart was very cool. Way cooler than on High School Musical. I told him he looked much younger in person. I also told him I thought he looked much cooler. He told me something like I was the only 40 year old person he had ever met that had seen High School Musical. Shoot, we had a High School Musical II party at our house the night of the Disney premier.

It reminded me of the time that Bryan and I met Mike Tyson on Rodeo Drive. This should make Bryan laugh. Or when Jim Hughes and I ran into Joe Piscopo. He was way cooler in person that the characters he played. That should make Jim laugh. You can check out Bart's web site at http://www.bartjohnson.com/

It is way cooler to me that he dives and is a competitive free-style skier. Not to mention that he operates a bed and breakfast in a restored mill in Utah (Owning a historic mill is way cooler than being in movies in my book).

I also met a guy named Eric this week. He has been here diving. He is a software engineer from New York. I stopped by the Sandbar tonight for dinner to see him again and to see how his week has gone. An avid traveler, he has shed some insight on why people come to Grand Turk for vacation.

I also finally met Tawnya. She and her sister run the Sandbar and the Manta House Inn. They are Canadian. She has been traveling for the last two months and has just returned to Grand Turk.

This is a Friday. Tonight there are two different outdoor revivals going on. They are jamming. I can hear the music even now as I type. The island is alive and kickin this weekend. And this is a slow week. It is still hurricane season. The regulars are traveling out of the country, and the tourists have not started to arrive yet. Many of the restaurants are closed, there are no BBQs, and Mitch has not even been playing.

I guess that is why there has been nothing to write home about.

Anyway, life is hard here. Keep me in your prayers.