Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day. A national holiday in England. It is the traditional Christmas celebration day for the staff of English country houses who had to work on Christmas.

Yesterday was Christmas. We had three ships in port. We had no staff in so Martin and I opened the museum. We ran three cruise ship tours and had just over 80 visitors through the building. We had a very interesting mix of tourists in and I enjoy getting to talk to people and see what attracts them to the museum. I rarely do the cruise ship tours anymore. One of the successes here has been that after designing and writing up our current 45 minute cruise ship excursion tour I have been able to train staff to handle it very effectively. Lina, one of the girls on staff has become one of the most engaging tour guides on the island and we are getting excellent reviews and everyone is happy.

We finally finally closed around 5:00 and went home to make Christmas dinner. Deneen was thinking we were going to have a nice evening together, but surprise! I brought guests home who then stayed to watch movies long into the evening.

It is hard separating my life here and their life here. I don't really think about it, but my relationships with people here have continued and have typically grown while Deneen and the boys now only get plugged in to these relationships sporadically. Martin even made a snide comment about my "other children" the other day. Just in jest, but it made me think about how life changes and how people come and go along your path. I practice a life theory where I don't believe that I can change the world, but I believe I can have a positive effect on the lives of the people who come across my path.

Deneen and the boys are amazing people and have an unbelievable ability to be loving and accepting. Deneen, especially, is unconditional in her willingness to continually put other people's needs in front of her own. And if she is not always happy about it, I am the only person who ever sees that she is not.

I thought Christmas this year was kind of small, busy, and we really did not really have any presents. But in the end, as I write this, I realise that I got the best gift I could ever get. I got the best wife and family in the world.

When I left for the museum this morning, all Deneen said was, "No surprises today."

Thursday, December 24, 2009


It has been a week since Martin arrived, and several days since Deneen and the other two boys got here. The day Martin came in to Grand Turk, Tiffany left. She actually flew out on the plane he came in on.

Martin flew in on AA points and had miserable connections. He left Columbus last Wednesday, flew to Laguardia in New York, took a bus between LGA and Kennedy, took a shuttle to a hotel, checked in (though technically he is a minor and can not check into a hotel),got up at 4:00am and made the flight to Provo, and took the small domestic flight to Grand Turk. I almost wanted to leave a car for him at the airport so he could make the whole trip on his own, but I picked him up.

Deneen, Lucas, and Davis came in a couple days later. They had to drive to Pittsburgh Friday night. It started snowing on their way out. This was the weekend of the big east coast storm. They stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express at the airport. In the morning they took the airport shuttle. The roads were covered. The flight before theirs boarded. Then a few minutes later the plane unboarded. Cancelled to Philly. Deneen's flight was changed to a different gate. They boarded, deiced, and took off an hour late.

At Charlotte they had to run to their new gate. They arrived a minute before the door closed. The last people on the plane. I met them in Provo, unfortunately their luggage did not.

We finally picked up the luggage yesterday. In a few hours it will be a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I feel like everyone on Grand Turk is trying to get their parties in before my family gets here. Last Saturday Alessio had a BBQ that lasted six hours. Then on Sunday night Mitch had his birthday party at the Osprey. On Monday night I was invited to a party at the Ward's house. I thought it was going to be a small dinner party for 8 but everyone who is here in the interim government and all of the Brit expats were there. This party was great because the hostess passed names around in a hat and everyone had to sit with the person they drew. Tuesday was the Carnival Christmas party at Margarittaville. Then last night we had a staff dinner at the house before a big cleaning party today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Work, Work, Work

This week has been sooooo much work. I am trying to finish grant reports. We wrote and submitted a $120,000.00 grant for the National Arboretum last week. I am beginning a new round of the After School Homework program, which was re-grant funded. We received a $10,000 foundation grant that had to be matched with "new" sources of funding, but we had only raised half by December so I am trying desperately to find another five $1000 donors this week. I am trying to get CAD drawings completed of the foundations we found and measured at Ft. George. And this week we were suppose to begin the installation of the new Salinas Kiosk. What I did not get done by Friday was three support letters other people have asked me to write.

This is also party season - if anyone remembers. Today I received three invites: a BBQ at Alessio's tomorrow, the Carnival Christmas party on Tuesday, we have a museum party on Wednesday, then a Red Cross party next weekend. In between this, my family arrives, so I also have to clean the house.

I am exhausted and not sleeping well. I am so tired today. I worked until after dark yesterday and the sun has already gone down today. I did not get to swim either. And everyone is complaining that I am crabby. I might as well be in the frigid north if I am going to work all the time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


After being here two years, things that were at one time great interesting stories are now just common run of the mill occurrences that seem like a waste of time to write about.

I had curried goat for lunch today. No big deal. It is often on the menu. I got it because yesterday I was in a meeting where someone suggested that we have goat at our Christmas party, and then someone else said they only like the goats from Haiti because goats from here don't taste as good.

So there you go. You know what it tastes like - chicken? No, actually a little more like lamb. Except that evidently when you chop up a small goat there are lots of bony bones and just a little meat. But, tastes good all curried up!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why We Cruise to Grand Turk

As I prepare to have my family fly down to the Turks and Caicos for Christmas I came across this ad. It is not lost on me. Last year we took the Carnival Destiny to Grand Turk in November and went back on the Holland America Eurodam the first week of January. What great holiday travel that turned out to be.

This year will be very different. A shorter visit. A lot of work. We have nine ships in the week of Christmas. Three ships on Christmas Day. We have cruised here because, frankly, it can be cheaper than flying.

If anyone wanted to see me for a day, the cheapest cruise this year on the Carnival Destiny will be leaving Miami on December 14th and will be arriving here on the 16th. Two people could sail that week in an inside cabin for less than $600.00 total cost.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Governor's Christmas Party

It is hard to believe, but I attended my third Christmas party at the Governor's residence this weekend. These parties have always resulted in some big story. Not much to report this time. Unless you count when I jumped on stage and grabbed the mic to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas all Joe Cocker style. What can I say, these island rhythms just get to me. And then there was the whole repeat of the Knott's Berry Farm incident. Enough said.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Museum Day

This weekend was Museum Day, the annual celebration of the opening of the museum.

What a bust! There are 350 days of sunshine a year in the Turks and Caicos. But today is not one of of them. It was raining so hard this evening that we had to cancel our event at the last minute. But then we had to stay around for the five people who showed up.

Yesterday was the children's portion. It was also very overcast and rainy. We had nine kids show up. But when I asked one of them how it was going he said, "Me and these kids in heaven." There is nothing like one-to-one staff time!

The best part of the day was the pitch dark box slide we made all the way down the stairhall in the science building. Good ideas should always be repeated. We received a shipment of file cabinets this month and the boxes got their second use before being thrown away(which is part of my new sustainability platform: everything has to have at least two uses before becoming trash).

Do you remember the precedent for this children's activity? The box slide was part of a "wrecking" hunt activity (wrecking is the historic word for scavenging here). Children had to climb up the boxes, complete a task, and then slide back down. The third picture is Joseph coming down. This was as much fun for our staff, me included, as it was for the kids. It was really fun, and hilariously funny listening to everyone scream when they hit the slides in the dark.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


This Thursday was Thanksgiving. Or as it is known here, "American Thanksgiving." It is not a day off. The British don't celebrate the day.

In fact we had a grant application due and worked all day. My goal was to have the grant ap completed by 10:00AM but it was not submitted until about 5:30PM.

All day people asked me how Thanksgiving got started. In fact, it comes from several lines of text from a Puritan colonist who wrote about a celebration after the first harvest at Plymouth in 1621. In that year, over half the colonists had died. The ones who were left invited Indians to a meal to give thanks. At the celebration they ate both roasted turkey and venison. So, really thanksgiving was started by British colonists.

One of my staff thought that the Holiday was when the American colonists were starving and turkeys fell from heaven to save them. I kind of like that story better. Wasn't that an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati?

Tiffany and I went out with Tuvol to get a local Thanksgiving lunch of turkey, ham, roast beef, and peas and rice. Thursday evening we ate the Thanksgiving dinner at the Bohio with Bion and Coleen and their children (though they all got lobster). The Bohio was packed. I wished all the Canadians and Brits a happy not Thanksgiving. We tried to find a third place to get turkey Thursday night, but only managed to score some dessert over at the Manta House with Larry and Shannon.

Yesterday, Tiffany got sick. Last night I started getting up to run to the bathroom. Tiffany feels worse today. I am starting to not feel well at all. Something we ate? Likely something made with local water. Thanks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Button It!

I just finished editing the Winter issue of the Astrolabe. A week late. If you remember, that was last weekend's project. And if you are wondering why I have not written a blog this week, then you need to remember what last weekend's project was again.

The next issue of the Astrolabe will feature an article on the British regimental buttons found during the Ft. George archaeological survey. And though I try and not talk about museum work on this blog, this week we have been researching the regimental buttons from the collection. Every regiment of the British Royal army had their own pewter buttons, which were worn on the "redcoat." We found many buttons on Ft. George, but eleven of them represented a specific British regiment.

One particular button is marked in the center with "R.I." We spent four days this week searching on the internet to find a similar button that would indicate what regiment this button belonged to. This search held up the Astrolabe for most of the week, as determining this button became very important. Looking intensely through the collection I realized we had four of them (two of them were very deteriorated and at first they were not recognized). The only thing close to R.I. as far British regiments go was the Royal Irish, the 18th of Foot, but this did not make sense because nearly every regimental button has numbers on them.

After searching through hundreds of websites, Tiffany finally found a button which was for sale by a private collector. This button referenced both the RI and the 18. The smoking gun. The 18th of Foot, the Royal Irish Regiment, must have been on garrison duty at Ft. St. George while they were stationed in Jamaica sometime between 1805-1817. This pushes the dates of our fort occupation a little past the 1804 date we have been working with and provides a new avenue of research within a regiment that we did know was here. I thought this was about the coolest thing this week.

Hopefully this was not too boring. Would you have rather heard about the three stingrays we saw snorkeling on the wall yesterday? Now that has become boring. I am ready to do research again for a while.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Day Off?

I have had a seven day work week since October 10. This is the first weekend where I have not been in the field or at the museum. All I have to do is write a 2000 word article on British Royal military regimental buttons and finish a book review for Myths and Realities in Caribbean History.

On Saturday, I did not get up until 10:00am. I watched a movie. I tended my herbaceous plants. I swept the floors(the house has not been cleaned in weeks). I wrote a little.

I did not cook anything for the two weeks we were on Pine Cay, nor the week I have been on Provo. So, I spent a large part of the day yesterday making a lemon grass and ginger vegetable soup, thyme roasted potatoes, and Jack Daniel's original #7 BBQ chicken marinated in Cerveza (my herbs are doing well and I brought 10 bottles of sauces back from Provo).

Then, I watched the OSU game and more movies.

Today, I made steak and eggs for brunch (I also brought back 14 steaks). I washed all my sheets and comforter covers. I washed the slip covers on the chairs. Now I am going to watch football all day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I get Paid for

This week has been a melee of publicity and promotion for the conclusion of the Ft George project. Since I was three and my parents put me on a box to sing "My New Home" I have had to perform in front of people. I wonder if this is still the number one fear of most people? I love every minute of it. But, I have been very busy and have not been able to talk to Deneen as much as she needed. She reminded me of this tonight.

I am preaching my stump speech. 78% of all travelers visit cultural heritage sites. The preservation of historic sites is primarily a tourism issue. If you bulldoze and develop every one of your cultural heritage sites, you are supplying a product for less than one quarter of all travelers.

We had another article come out in the TCI Journal this week. "This was exactly the kind of publicity we were trying to get, Good job" was a message from one of our stakeholders. We did a presentation at Pine Cay on Saturday. We did a presentation for DECR and the Governor's staff on Grand Turk tonight. Tomorrow, we fly to Provo to give a presentation to DECR. Then it is off to Rotary to put in a plug for the Ft George project at their evening meeting.

Next week I have articles about Ft George and an issue of the Astrolabe due. After that I can relax, I will only have several hundred artifacts to catalog and put away.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly News

The Ft. George archaeological project has received good press coverage. Here is a link to the front page of our national newspaper with a picture of my big rear end.

You can view the archived article here at the TCI Weekly News website


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Poison Wood Stinks

I must have gotten a second exposure to Poison Wood. I have it much worse than before. Both arms are covered. I have it on my waist where I must have stuck my thumbs around my belt to pull my pants up. I have a small patch on my face where I must have scratched my chin with my glove.

When I was a child I had extremely bad reactions to poison ivy, which grows almost more than corn in Ohio. I remember summers where I was literally covered head to toe with poison ivy rash. I was trying to think of the last time I had it really bad.

One summer Jim Hughes and I got paid $50.00 to cut down a field of brush. We did this one afternoon with sickles. The next day we were both covered with poison ivy. I think that the doctor's visits to get cortisone shots cost more than we were paid.

Another time, Jim and I worked out this elaborate plan to sneak through the woods in the dark in order to get into the Holiday Drive-In without paying. The next two weeks spent trying not to scratch our poison ivy was not worth the $6 we did not pay.

This week does not even compare. Poison Wood itches sooooo bad. On a scale of 1-10 if poison ivy is an 8, then Poison Wood is a 12. The first two days you have a red rash of small bumps that itch like crazy. Then the rash develops into liquid filled boils for two days. Then the boils pop and turn into a second degree chemical burn. The the burns scab and hurt for another 7 days while they dry. Just as my first exposure began to scab and dry out I got the second exposure. I literally have a Poison Wood rash on top of my Poison Wood boils.

I have been so doped up on Benadryl that it has been hard to write at night. But this has been no excuse not to complete the archaeological survey. I will take consolation in that while beating through the woods getting Poison Wood all over my body, I found two new sites of domestic activity that had never been mapped before on Fort George Cay. These included the now famous "Poison Wood" site, and site X which was found on the second to last day.

We have completed the project and are just cleaning up and packing. I will write a wrap up blog in a couple days and post it here and on the museum blog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Found a Cannon Today

I found a cannon today. That seems pretty cool. How many other people found a cannon at work today?

Off of the north shore of Fort George there are cannons in the water. They are a snorkeling attraction. Three cannons are visible above the sand today. We know from a previous study that are five cannons in this area, very close together.

Thomas Brown wrote that he outfitted the battery at Ft. George with 16 cannons in the 1790s. In 1967, the British Directorate of Overseas Survey completed an Ordnance Survey Map which located six cannons on a hand map of the cay.

In July 2008, a magnetometer survey was completed around Ft. George Cay. The magnetometer is a survey instrument that records the magnetic field in a given area. It is used to locate underground iron objects. The results of the magnetometer survey included seven large iron “anomalies” on the north shore of Ft. George. They basically said there were seven cannons in the water. That means an extra cannon.

On the second day of the survey Robert and I located the five known cannons. At the end of last week we located the number six cannon. This cannon was sitting just a few inches under the sand with the cascabel toward the sea and the muzzle toward the beach.

Today, I found cannon number seven. This cannon has never been documented at Ft. George before today.

At the end of our day today, Robert and I hing aroudn Ft. George to do a little extra "water work." This means we swim aroudn looking for stuff. We calculating that the cannon would be around 50 meters south of the know cannons, based on the grids on the magnetometer survey map. I ran a measuring tape off of the existing cannons and marked an area at 64 meters. Then I began to swim up and down the beach with a metal detector. About forty five minute later we hit a very large iron artifact. I blew the sand from the cannon with a small SeaDoo (if you remember this is the personal propolsion device I learned to use a few weeks ago). A few minutes later there it was under about eight inches of sand.

The cannon sits upside down with the muzzle pointing back towards the other cannons. It is 4 foot eleven inches long. The muzzle in 3” in diameter. This would have been a 4 pounder. It was an amazing find at the end of a long day. By tomorrow the cannon will have been consumed by the sand again, but now we know that it exists. And it makes a good story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ft. George Blog

I should have mentioned this last week, but the Ft. George archaeology expedition has its own blog site at

You can read all the posts there and follow exactly what has been going on from a professional perspective.

Ft. George, Week One is Over

This is our survivor type shelter on Ft. George. Much like survivor, everyday we get fewer. We have gone from eight people in the field during the first week, down to four people this week. We have cut paths through the woods, uncovered a few foundation sites, and collected several diagnostic artifacts. This week, we need to document the extent of the fort that we have investigated.

I have been drawing foundations and elevations of the few features that are still a few stone courses high. Today, I uncovered what might be another foundation. Tomorrow I will sketch this in.

This is the first day since last Wednesday that I have not been doped up on Benadryl. My wrists have been covered with painful blisters, but these are now drying out. I put a long sleeve shirt on and got back into the bush this morning. Thank goodness the poison wood seems to be subsiding. I have tried to be a trooper, but it has really been stinky.

Everyday we get dropped off by boat on the beach and then we lug our gear up to our camp. A large part of the fort has eroded into the sea, so we have also been doing a lot of water work, both snorkeling around and with underwater metal detectors. We have located six of the seven cannons known to have been on the site. Some are visible under water, others are just under the sand. A couple days ago a very large Dolphin swam up next to us, about two feet away. It was attracted to the beeps of the metal detector underwater. I was facing the beach and had the headphones on. It about scared me to death.

OK, the work is very hot and wet. But the project is not all bad. We go over to Robert's house on Pine Cay every night for dinner. I have been out on his boat fishing a couple of times and snorkeling once in the late afternoons. He caught fish and then fixed some sushi dish as an appetiser almost every night last week. We have had yellow fin tuna sashimi, seared wahoo marinated in a soy onion sauce, skip jack sashimi, and then last night we had skip jack tar tar in a wasabi infused dashi sauce. Robert is quite the cook. This is very unfortunate, but I think I have actually gained weight this week.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poison Wood Itches Bad!

Ah! I came back to Grand Turk this week to check up on some things. When I woke up on Wednesday my arms were covered with a rash from the Poison Wood tree. This is a nasty tree here that is like Poison Ivy on steroids. It drops acid on you from its leaves. So much for archaeology being cool.

I itch so bad. I got through my meetings though. The air conditioning guys got hung up on their other job so they are not starting until Monday. The interpretive panels shipment got held up. Maybe next week. Today, the electricity went on and off four or five times. The last time only one leg of our power came back on in the museum.

Now we have to scramble up some kind of plan for our cruise ship tours tomorrow. Well, I guess Tiffany does because at 5:00 I was back on a plane to Provo where I missed the boat and have to hold up (or is that holed up?) until tomorrow morning.

But, I am hold up at the Seven Stars. So I should quit complaining.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ft.George Day Four

Today was the fourth day of the archaeological survey of Ft George Cay. It was 95 yesterday with 60% humidity. I blazed trails through the bush between the foundations that we have been finding. We need to cut straight lines through the trees and thickets so that we can measure and triangulate each identified site. The measurements are then verified against the GPS coordinates we have been taking. I am exhausted and have small cuts and abrasions all over my body.

Today we spent the day in the water. I snorkeled from 8:00 until 1:00 using an underwater metal detector to re-locate the five known cannons in the water, then we began to survey the area between the cannons and the beach to get an idea of the cultural material that is in the water. It is evident that much of the fort has eroded into the ocean. However, it is amazing how many artifacts are still laying around a few inches under the sand.

Lots of small cannon balls.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ohio Jones

Indiana Jones makes archaeology look really cool. I think that is because he just ran into a temple and stole stuff before he was killed by the poison arrows. How come he did not have to clear the site of all brush, draw the site, set up a grid, measure everything of a base line, draw the artifact in situ, give the artifact a number, and then carefully bag each artifact separately. Archaeology is not very much like Raiders of the Lost Ark, except maybe for Dr. Keith's hat, scarf, and quick dry Panama shirt.

I think archaeology is just really tired and hot. We have been working all day clearing brush off of one of the Ft. George sites. I completed quick measured drawings of the site in July. This turns out to have been very lucky, as the site sustained tremendous erosion during the September hurricanes.

Today we started to check the site against these drawings. There is still a lot of work to do. But today I dug up a 2 1/2 inch cannon ball, so that was pretty cool.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Diggin It

Is it always exciting aroudn here? On Tuesday Jessica left, just in time for the air conditioning crew to show up and start work on the museum. Today, we start a two week archaeological project.

Dr. Keith, Dr. Carrell, and Dr. Davis all arrived to Providenciales last night. Getting into Provo is always a challenge, I think. Getting into Provo at night is worse. Dr. Carrell's bags did not arrive. We loaded several cases of equipment and took a night time boat ride to Pine Cay. When we arrived at the house where we are all staying, it was locked. We were able to get into the main living areas, but the bedrooms could not be accessed. Dr. Davis and myself crashed at the Krieble's residence.

This morning I am drinking coffee looking over at the beach on Ft George Cay. We are just a couple hours from starting the Archaeological Exploration of Ft. George and Grouper Cays. It is hot, rainy, and I have already been bitten by mosquitoes. Sounds like an archaeological exploration to me!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just because I like the picture

I will stick this post in just because I like the picture.

Martin and I had a very quick two days in Chicago visiting two architecture programs. They two schools were very different. The program at SAIC downtown on Michigan Avenue was very high end and fine arts oriented. The program at Judson was a little more traditional and Martin felt he could be successful there.

We did not have a lot time to do anything but visit the schools, but we did walk around the new Millennium Park which I have read about but had not seen.

I will tell you something. Chicago was cold! I am now very use to a warm climate and we are fairly isolated from bugs and viruses here. The minute I got off the cruise ship in Miami I started not to feel well and it lasted my entire trip.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Every time I fly back to the US there is some big mission attached, usually involving trying to get something back to Grand Turk that is impossible to get while on Grand Turk. The day before I left Grand Turk Allesio's Mackie SRM350 self powered speaker stopped working. Within thirty minutes we had called Dave Horn, ordered a warrantied replacement, removed the amp, and packed it in shipping material.

I have brought one of these back for repair before, more than a year ago, now. It is a large electronic part taken out of its case and looks very suspicious but after a thorough check it goes through security as your second carry on.

I brought it on board the Destiny and got it to Dave during the one day that I was in Columbus. Dave had ordered the replacement last Wednesday, but it was not shipped until this week. The plan was that it would arrive in Columbus on Thursday and Deneen would fly it down to me in Nashville on Friday. All a good plan, but the amp did not ship on time and was scheduled to come in on Friday at 11:30,an hour after Deneen's plane left. Several calls and emails ensued trying to work out what could be done. I was resigned that it wasn't going to work out.

Dave called a friend at UPS, on Friday morning he got up really early, went to UPS and pulled the package off the truck before it left. He then had to unpack it from its box and repack it in my carry on packaging. Deneen held off and left for her flight with less than an hour to make it.

Evidently she looks scarier than me. When she got to security they made her take the amplifier out of its package and swabbed both the electronic components and her for residual chemicals used to make things you don't mention at the airport. When I just came through security in Nashville they did not even stop me.

But with an imposingly huge Herculean effort on Dave's part, here I sit at Allessio's with his new amp. In a minute it will be hooked up and blasting new music from some Cuban percussionists he has just acquired.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Historic Preservation Conference, Nashville

I am at the National Historic Preservation Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

I have missed a couple blogs from our trip to Chicago. Maybe I will get to them next week. Maybe not.

The conference in Nashville has been very cool. Though the conference is about preservation issues, the organizing committee has organized bands at every turn. Last night Dave Berg played before the keynote address at the Ryman theater, the original home of the Grand Old Oprey. He is a songwriter who wrote, among other things, "These Are My People" and "I've Had My Moments," both number one hits. Then late last night, I went to the "world famous" club called Tootsies and listened to bands until way too early this morning. Not really my gig, but Deneen would have loved it. Today at lunch a band called Rollo Greb played in the lobby. These guys are two brothers one who is finishing a Ph.D. at Middle State University.

They were great. please check them out.

Anyway, much like the last conference I attended in Austin, Nashville has turned out to be pretty cool for the music.

But...I am a little put off. I know I have been out of the country for two years and I know I have not published anything dealing with historic preservation in two years, but I have not run into a single person who knows who I am. That is so depressing I can not even begin to tell you how depressing it is.

That at least was until today. And although it was only one person. I will take it. Tonight I attended the Candlelight Home Tour. This was fantastic. We toured ten homes in the Edgefield neighborhood. I can't believe how much art cool people have in their houses. But that's another story.

Finally at 122 South 12th Street, "The Ambrose House," Jeff, the homeowner, read my name tag and said, "I hear their is a thriving preservation community in Columbus."

"I don't know, my experience is that if you really believe that preservation is important they drive you out of town," said I.

That started a lengthy conversation, but at the end Jeff said, "I have read your work on urbanism and preservation."

"Really?" I said, "Because if that's true I am going to blog about it."

Hurray...I can feel good about myself again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Carnival Destiny Times Three

This week Mom and I left Grand Turk on the Carnival Destiny. This is my thrid trip on the Destiny. I feel more like crew than visitor. It was very hot this week as well. On the day we left we had two tours and many people in to visit the museum. One young couple seemed interested enough to ask some question concerning hurricanes. That always gets my attention and I was happy to give them more information than they wanted, even an article I found later looking for something else. We saw them again, Zed and Elissa, up on deck as the ship sailed away.

On the last two cruises on the Destiny we have had our own table at dinner. On this Carnival ship the dining room is large, with small tables and a mix of two, four, and six person seating arrangements.

I hate small talk. And I hate small talk with strangers even more. Not that I cant do it. I am in fact very good at it. I just hate it.

Standing outside the dining room waiting for the doors to open I pointed out that Zed and Elissa were in our dining room. “Wouldn't it be great if they were at our table,” I told Mom.

You see this story unfolding, right? With just the right amount of foreshadowing.

We looked all over for our table. I even had to stop and ask one of the waiters. All the way to the back and around the corner; number 587, a small intimate four person booth with two people already seated, Zed and Elissa.

They were married on Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky. This is their honeymoon. Zed comes from a family of Independent Baptists, one of his brothers is a pastor and another is a youth minister. He attended a bible college in preparation for going into the ministry, but met a young lady working at Chick-fil-A and had a change of plans. As Elissa explained it, she wears pants. If you know anything about Independent Baptists, her comment said everything.

You have no idea how great dinners are. Me with a platform to spread my altruistic wisdom of marriage and family relationships. There is no small talk I can assure you.

Last night our dinner conversation focused on not taking your wife for granted. I have lots of experience in this. What I have realized in the last several months is that I really like my wife. She is actually my best friend. And when she is not around my life is not as much fun. I don't tell her this enough. And I don't treat like this enough. But that is because I take her for granted.

In the last couple of years I think my children probably think that all we do is argue. It is a shame that they don't ever get to see your relationship when you are young and first dating. Or during your first week of marriage. Or on your first cruise together. When everything is exciting and new, and you feel like you have your whole world in front of you.

What they don't see is that history; that part of your past that is only shared by you. Your children don't see you as a young couple falling in love. They only see you as the old people who appear to never get along. They don't understand that even if that were true, it is far better than not being together.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to Kill a Sunday

Just a quick note. Today is Sunday. I took Mom, Jessica, and Tiffany out on the Grand Turk Divers dive boat to snorkel on the wall. We were on board with Joanne, not that that matters, but she did say there are online promos of the television morning show which which filmed Lucas, Martin, and I diving in August. There will also be footage of my tour of the historic houses along Duke Street in Grand Turk.

Mom did not get in to snorkel. She said she was happy to swim closer to shore where she could see land and touch the bottom.

After diving we had lunch at the SandBar, one of the greatest beach bars of all time. Seems like an easy day. We are all exhausted from our boat trip. After lunch we came home a napped watching football. OK, thats about it. 5 1/2 hours of the day shot.

It has been very hot here this month. This week it reached 102 degrees. Today was no exception. The sun has just gone down. It is evening. I am still sweating.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Life and Death of the Lionfish

I thought I would be writing this blog weeks ago, but in fact it is a lot harder than it looks and took a considerable amount of time to learn.

But, yesterday evening I finally took three lion fish off the reef at our house Survivor style. It was actually very cool. A new skill set if you will. The lion fish, an invasive species here, has been an issue for the last two years. I have been on dive hunts and captured one in a net with Dinah. They are taken off the reef now almost every recreational dive that I am on.

Over the last few months they have been showing up in our snorkel area. At eighty feet they dont pose a hazard to me. In three feet of water, however, I draw the line. I do not like them at all where my children swim and snorkel. They are more aggressive in shallow depths. The problem is that they have no natural preditors so they fear nothing. No natural preditors until now. They are like an alien species taking over the planet and I am going to go all Master Chief on them.

Last night I steamed them. Everyone complained of being still too full from Alessio's dinner. They were very, very good, however, and were totally consumed within a few short minutes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Its Funny Cause Its True

This afternoon we had a cookout at Alessio's house. OK, so this was a pretty entertaining afternoon. But, how can a 3 1/2 hour lunch not be entertaining.

Breaking things here is my Achilles' heal. I can not stand it. The problem is that you can not replace anything here. once it is broken, unless you can fix it, it is gone.

This morning Tiffany dropped a glass tumbler on the tile floor and broke it into a thousand pieces. This is Ok, it was one that we bought here,so I guess it can be replaced. Later, at Allesio's, she dropped a sausage into the fire, then in the middle of dinner she smashed a chair into oblivion.

OK, she did one of these things. But, it has been funny all afternoon to blame her, anyway.

Dinner at Alessio's never ceases to be an amazement. The conversation is always lively. The food is always spectacular.

But, given our last dinner, if you remember Lucas getting into a fight and breaking the platter, today was really funny. Not just a little funny. A lot funny.

Look at the chair. I can not even tell you how it happened. But look. That is crazy. And to make it worse, or funnier depending on which end of it you were on, evidently when I was falling I hit Jessica's hand who then proceeded to pour some liquid she was drinking all over me.

Tomorrow, when things are not so jovial it will not be funny. But I can fix it. My dad's got some tools.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Governor's Reception

This week we received an invitation to the Breast Cancer Awareness reception at Waterloo, the Governor's residence. It was exciting to get the invitation. We have a lot of visitors in the house and going to the Governor's residence is not something you get to do everyday.

I have been to better parties at the Governor's residence. But I have not been to a better party with Mom at the Governor's residence. She found something to wear in Deneen's closet. We had a good evening. We had great bacon wrapped lobster.

The vegetable boat came in from the Dominican Republic and we bought tomatoes, onions, and garlic. We went to the airport and picked up mom's prescription which I had Dr. Menzie send from Provo. We went to the beach and watched the Carnival Liberty pull out of dock. But the reception tonight was the highlight of the day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mom's Week on Grand Turk

Well, this week has been miserable.

I picked up Mom at the airport when her flight came in from Miami, no problem. We walked right over to the domestic desk and checked her bag and got our boarding passes.

At 4:00 we came back to the airport, got on the plane, and twenty minutes later we were in Grand Turk. The problem began when there was no luggage unloaded off the plane. Needless to say, to days and five trips to the airport later, Mom's luggage was lost somewhere between the small island of Provo and the smaller island of Grand Turk.

Most places this would be no problem. A quick ride to Walmart and you could replace everything in the bag for $100.00.

Most places...

On Grand Turk this is a major issue. Luckily Deneen has clothes here. Including a pair of brand new pajamas that came for Mom and were mistakenly brought to Grand Turk on some trip where I was home.

There was finally a cruise ship in today and we managed to buy a swimsuit and two pair of capris and resort wear shirts. This should get her through.

I am still waiting on a call from the doctor on Provo to see if we can get her prescription filled and sent over here.

Other than that her trip is going great.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hanging Around Provo

Yesterday I finally installed the 1999 Our Islands Our Heritage children's art competition exhibit. I have been working on this project since last April, when the artwork was supposed to be framed and hung for two months. I did not get the artwork from the framer until June. Then I put it in the offices of the Department of Culture. In July and again in August when I was on Provo these offices were closed owning to the governmental issues that we have been experiencing.

Last weekend I had a meeting with David Bowen and we went to the Salt Mills Cafe. David and I have been talking about this exhibit since I came across the collection of children's art in the museum storage room more than a year ago. I showed them to David and as we were looking through them he kept saying, "I know her. Hey, she is working at so an so. She just got married."

I said, "Most of these kids were 12 to 14 when they painted this artwork in 1999. They would be in their 20s now. If they are still hanging around we should frame this and exhibit them like an art show." We got a grant and had 30 of the best pieces professionally framed.

We have been looking for a good, accessible venue with lots of foot traffic since then. After our meeting last weekend I called David and said, "Why don't we hang the exhibit at the Salt Mills Cafe?"

Today, we hung the art. I am going to put an interpretive panel together this week. it is very cool.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Aye lady, today be international talk like a pirate day. Not a day when ye talk without "e," but a day when ye talk like a pirate.

Well, I did not talk like a pirate today, but I did talk about pirates. A big day on Provo I must say. This morning we moved the anchor and cannon from the old DuPont properties. I made some napkin calculations that the cannon weighed approximately 84 pounds and the anchor weighed in at around 600 pounds.

These artifacts were taken off the Northwest point of Provo sometime in the mid 1980s. They came to our attention this summer during the Search for the Trouvadore expedition.

On Provo we have been looking for two US navy ships that wrecked here while on anti-piracy patrol. Both ships wrecked in an area known as False Cut on the Northwest Point. The anchor is probably off of one of the wrecks.

Last weekend I was on Provo setting up the move with a local contractor. Today they moved the items. My job is to hang around and entertain the television crews and film part of a documentary that we are helping with.

All good.

This afternoon, the documentary film maker wanted me to film a segment about pirates. I have always wondered how the director of the Ohio Historical Society always looked like he knew everything when he spoke on camera. Now I have an idea.

I called Jessica, one of the volunteer archivists at the museum and asked her to find the Kosy book which I remember had some story about French privateers. A few minutes later I was ready to go.

In 1798 a sailing vessel from Rhode Island got stuck on the reef off of West Caicos. Colonel Thomas Brown, a loyalist planter from North Caicos, took five boats out to the ship to secure the cargo and take off anything of value. While Colonel Brown was on the wreck, a French privateer, a pirate ship, appeared on the horizon. Brown spent the next three hours fending off attacks from the pirates with his small flotilla. They only had two small cannon, but his slaves were armed with muskets and held their own. Eventually the pirate ship proved to strong and Brown lost the battle. Though he escaped with his life and his slaves, the Rhode Island vessel and its cargo were lost.

This was great, because the documentary was about the history of wrecking here. "Wrecking" is the word used to describe taking the cargo and everything of value off of a sunken vessel. We shot this on Sapadilla Hill overlooking the whole of Provo with West Caicos visible just on the horizon. It was very nice.

And me mates came off thinkin me knows alot about pirates and other scallywags that ply these here waters.

Have a happy talk like a pirate day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Apology to Davis

Just a quick note before I fly back to Provo tomorrow to visit my favorite swimming pool.

OK, I have a saying here about snorkeling. If I haven't seen it, I don't believe it.

Maybe you have heard this before, from like when Aaron was here in the May 5 blog posting. But yesterday I was snorkeling off our beach and came across a huge spotted eagle ray maybe twenty yards from the beach. It was just sitting on the sand and when I came across it, it lifted up and took off (see the February 28, 2008 blog for a picture).

This is the second time in as many weeks. But Davis, there you go, I have seen it. There there was no "shark" when I turned around, but I can understand why someone would remove themselves from the water without hesitation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Can you ever get tired of this?

The answer, I guess, is yes. Traveling aways sounds so great, and please don't get me wrong, it is far better than real work. But blah, another weekend at a posh world class resort! Please, I would rather be home watching football.

Oh, well we did watch football. At Jimmy's Dive Bar. They were having a lobster boil. And though we got there too late to participate(this would be a better story had we not gone to Hemingway's on the Beach, yet another resort restaurant, for appetizers). Yet, I still ran into a friend who was very much a Bears fan and we had a pleasent evening while everyone else ate lobster.

So, let me back up.

Yesterday, I picked up Tiffany at the airport in Provo. Nothing exciting about this. But when we got into the car that picked us up, David says,"Did you hear? Nikki Beach closed this week."

Yes, that is right. My all time favorite resort destination that I can not afford, closed. Evidently, they showed up to work one day and were told don't come back tomorrow. Same with guests. Here is their Facebook announcement:

"Nikki Beach Turks and Caicos was suddenly closed. “We are very sad to announce that Leeward Resort Ltd, the underlying owners of the property development in Turks and Caicos has gone into receivership and closed without warning. Nikki Beach Resort in ...Turks and Caicos was a management contract whereas Nikki Beach did not own the development and is out of our control. We are very sorry for any inconvenience.""

What a bummer.

It is evidently hitting the fan here. But what is bad for some is good for others?

I booked rooms through Travelocity at the Royal West Indies for $130 a night. This is CRAZY. The Royal West Indies has my favorite pool in the world. It is a small amorphously shaped garden pool with a waterfall cascading over a natural local limestone wall. I can hear the water lulling me into tranquility now. It is right outside my second story Botanical Studio with kitchenette room.

We are on Provo for two days trying to complete one museum project and picking up yet another. Everyone thinks Provo is a vacation. But for me it the most stressful part of my job. It is near constant work when I am here. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

I have to go. It is 10:00 already. I want to get to the pool before my lunch meeting at the award winning Mango Reef restaurant and then it if off for 3:00 tea at Beaches resort and spa. Just kidding...or am I?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eagle Eye

In the first months I was here my blogs reflected a deep fascination with snorkeling and marine life. In the two years I have been here, snorkeling and seeing marine life has became a normal everyday type of occurrence that sadly no longer requires reflection.

But I will share a story of snorkeling today, just so that I don't forget how remarkable life is here.

Today I got up to late to make dive two with Smitty. Instead, we spent most of the day cleaning the house and getting a room ready for Tyffany who arrives tomorrow. It has been unbelievably hot here this week and today was no exception. Sweltering.

At 4:30 we went down to swim at Chief Minister's beach. I snorkeled way out. And I mean way out. Not to the wall. But I was far off the beach.

Chief Minister's has a sand bottom and is very clear. It gets deep, to about 20 feet very quickly off the beach. I was in about 15-18 feet of water. Twenty minutes into my swim I dove down to check out a square object on the bottom. It turned out to be a concrete block. When I came back up I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I turned to face a six foot spotted Eagle ray about ten feet from me. My heart started pounding so fast. All I could think about was the story Davis told about coming face to face with a ray which caused him to rapidly remove himself from the water in an exhilarated fashion.

I swam along side the ray for a couple seconds. It was moving very slow. But it sensed my presence and turned and swam swiftly into the blue.

I have seen Eagle rays four times here. This was by far the closest, and the most heart pounding. This was just a few seconds of my day, but it turns out to be what the day was about.

Go bucks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kenlove and Rueben

Dinah was here seven months running an after school homework program that was part of a grant funded program for hurricane relief. Look what has she left me with!

School started last week. Everyday we have had a troop of kids stop by the museum. Everyday I have to tell them that we do not have an after school homework program.

"Why does Kenlove get to come in?" they said.


I am trying to remember what Bryan and I were called at camp that was meant to be derogatory...the "favorites." I don't ever remember thinking I was a favorite of anyone, except maybe mom. I always just thought I had talents that made me more interesting than the other kids. Does that sound mean?

When I leave here, one of the things that I will take, I will remember, and I will miss are the relationships with my young friends who are drawn to the museum. Kenlove and Rueben have been coming almost everyday this summer. I finally gave Rueben a job and told him that if he was going to be here he might as well be productive. Kenlove is a different story.

When I first came to the museum Kenlove was hanging around. Kenlove has a way of... well lets just say he talks fast and loud and peaks English as a second language with an incredibly strong island accent. People would ask me why I kept letting him come in. I would say, "Why does he want to come in?"

One day, I picked up a notebook he was working in only to discover Kenlove's other world. It was filled with poetry. Well crafted poetry that is very visually constructed. Now, I have a program where Kenlove has to write one poem a day. Next month in the Astrolabe we are publishing an article and a few of his poems.

Before I went to the states a couple weeks ago, Kenlove came to see me. "I need some things for school."

"Just give me a list," I said.

His list was everything you would need to go to school from shoes to pencils. Tuval came to see me and told me to bring him back an Iphone. I have seen both the best and worst of handouts and dogooders here after the hurricane. But in my world there is a difference between a humble request for what you actually need; who's your neighbor.

When I gave Kenlove his supplies Tuval was beside himself. But Kenlove has been writing poems everyday. Stinky kids.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grand Turk Deneen

I really,really miss Grand Turk Deneen. The Caribbean has a way of bringing out the coolest parts of people. It is like a magnifying glass that makes the coolest part of you bigger.

I can play a Bob Marley song at the 2005 River Days Festival and it is pretty cool. But I can sing the same song at some dive resort (and the duel meaning of dive resort should be read as semantically very cool)on Grand Turk and it is taken to a whole nother [sic] level.

In the same way, Deneen is magnified here in all of her strongest suits (read here, swimming suits). Sitting on the beach, sweating on the couch, lounging in the pool at Margaritaville; Grand Turk Deneen is the image of perfection in my mind. I was telling Jessica our story of coming to Grand Turk a couple days ago, and her comment was, "you must have the coolest wife in the world."

In fact, I think I do.

This summer was perhaps one of the best summers of my life. After the year I have had, it was amazing to have my family here. And I think we lived the best of Grand Turk for nine weeks.

I am beginning to be doubtful whether I will get Grand Turk Deneen back. But in the last couple of days I have begun to envision a London Deneen, or a South Carolina Deneen, and I like what I see in my mind.

I know this is just the ramblings of the lonely planet Neal, but I'm Just say'in.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I keep waiting for something exciting to write about. Today, I tried to go diving but Smitty must be off island because there was no 11:00 dive boat. Then I came home and practiced using the SeaDoo for an hour. The SeaDoo is a small self-propulsion device for snorkeling. In any other world it would be a very cool, James Bondish instrument of total exhilaration.

I have bought two for the Ft. George archaeological survey and I am trying to get adept on the tool so that I don't come off as some sort of novice maritime archaeology shovel bum graduate student. Today I had a pretty good ride.

But what is today that is so important, you ask?

I almost forgot until a few minutes ago. Today, in fact, is the one year anniversary of of Hurricane Ike, and therefore, is also the end of my second year on Grand Turk. A couple days ago, we were gearing up for Tropical Storm Erika, which looked like it was going to hit us directly on the anniversary of Ike. But, no. This storm broke up and it is in fact a very beautiful day in the Caribbean. I actually got sunburned today. An unfortunate event that has only happened three times since I have been here.

Other than that, it has been a fairly uneventful day. I spent yesterday watching the OSU game. This will be the first season I have watched in two years. When we came to Grand Turk in 2007 we did not get TV until February. And last year we had a big hurricane the first week of September that ruined the season.

Saturday was good. I put on my OSU shirt and ball cap. I called Dave Horn expecting him to be sitting at the game. I made hotwings. And then I stood in the living room yelling at the television.

This probably would have seemed strange to Jessica, but fortunately on Friday night we watched the HBO documentary on the OSU vs Michigan rivalry and I seemed nothing more than some historical cliche of a typical Ohio native, or pseudo-native in my case.

So other than that, typical day. We are sitting on the porch listening to the staccato punctuations of portable keyboards accompanied by multiple versions of Don't Stop Believing from the Fox television show Glee. Both Jessica and I are waxing poetically about our current situations in the Caribbean. She slightly more melodramatic while I probably am more reflective. But I am also preparing for the Wednesday night premier of the newest hit series television show.

Today reminds me very much of two years is really hot today.

In a minute I think I will be off to delivery the platter...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Several years ago I decided that I wanted to travel. But there has got to be a limit.

Yesterday, Deneen and I drove to Pittsburgh, spent the night, and this morning I am back on a plane to the TCI. Traveling back and forth between the US and the TCI is never strait forward. There is always some mission attached.

I have two missions on this return trip. First I have to buy a serving platter, next I have to find Jessica. Then I have to get them both back to Grand Turk safely.

When we bought the serving platter at Pier One on the way to Pittsburgh it did not seem so big. Then it got bigger and would not fit into the suitcase. The it got bigger and had to be put in the overhead compartment on the airplane. Now look at it. It is bigger than Jessica. Oh, by the way, I found Jessica. I thought I would have to look around for a while to see if I could recognize her. We have only met once. But no. I easily found her at the airport in Charlotte.

I should have told her to look for me. I'll be the guy with the ginormous ceramic serving platter.

If I can get this serving platter to Grand Turk I will be amazed. It is a gift, a replacement if you will, for the serving platter lost in Lucas' fight with Alessio. I hope it will be nice enough to gain us an invite back.

Who is Jessica? you ask.

Jessica is an archivist that I met 15 days ago. Like most cultural institutions, the Turks and Caicos National Museum is struggling with professional staffing options. Basically, I don't have a budget to hire the qualified staff that I need to do the mission of the museum.

What I do have is 7 miles of white sand beach and 350 days of sunshine a year.

Jessica is one of the seven archivists that responded to my job posting at the Society of American Archivist annual conference in Austin. The posting read, “Are you interested in an Adventure instead of a Job?” Two of the archivist that I interviewed are going to come volunteer at the museum. Jessica will be here for the next seven weeks cataloging and describing archival collections.

We talked a lot today about what our goals were and how we are going to achieve them. She asked if she was going to have a couple days to review and become comfortable with our operations. I told her if we made a plan to do this some big emergency would come up and ruin our plans, so maybe we would just play it by ear.

Anyway, a big welcome to Jessica, the adventure begins.

The Fight, oh I mean, Flight to Columbus

We have spent four days traveling to Columbus, Ohio. We went from a small room on a cruise ship, to a small room in a very nice hotel, to small seats on an airplane.

All during the cruise Deneen says, “just sit hear and talk to me.”

This has always been very hard for me to do. Whenever I sit I am too busy thinking of everything I am not doing to enjoy it. Evidently Deneen can just sit on deck, and can just sit at the pool, and can just sit at dinner, and can just sit in the room. I don't know why we can't just sit in the casino. I did try my best though.

Did I mention that the hotel room was small? On Friday night, the last night on board the cruise ship, none of the boys packed, they just stayed out until 3:ish. On Saturday morning it was a mad rush to try and get everything crammed back into suitcases. In the hotel in Miami I think they just opened the suitcases and through everything on the floor. When we ordered room service the steward was actually taken aback. He literally took a step back. He had to step over a suitcase, a pile of clothes, and then there was no where to set the service tray down until Lucas cleaned off the top of it.

Well at about 4:30am we got up to catch our plane home. It was a mad rush to try and get everything crammed back into suitcases.

With little sleep we rushed to the airport, rushed through security, and rushed onto the plane. Now, evidently four days of travel can get a little stressful, though this was a pretty good travel experience as travel goes. But sometimes the stress of travel can make people a little cranky.

Just sit here and talk to me? This was about how the conversation went on the plane to Columbus. Not about. I wrote it down. This is exactly how the conversation went.

“You're too big for these seats.”

“What are you talking about?”

...“You are not listening to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

...”What are you looking at?”

“I can't believe this is our conversation I am going to write it down and put it on my blog!” And so I did.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We have spent the last three days aboard the Carnival Destiny but I did not take a single picture. I wish I had better stories to tell as well. I need to get on and post an evaluation of our trip. The idea of the cruise is fun, but it winds up being a lot of walking. The great part of the cruise I think are the excursions you can take, but for us this makes no sense.

Because we embarked on Grand Turk we have both immigration and customs issues to deal with in Miami. In line to walk off the ship, the BUZZER went off when I put in my cruise card and we were escorted out of line to an area wher we had to wait on a ship's officer to come see us.

Lucas says, "Why has everything got to be so hard with this family?"

Then we were escorted down through immigration by one of the ships officers, placed at the front of the line, cleared within seconds, took someones reservation on a private taxi to the airport, then hopped onto the Crown Plaza shuttle which pulled up right beside us. We were express checked into our room by 10:00AM.

We have been sitting here all day, albeit with a hotel room that acesses the outdoor pool, until we leave at 5:ooam for our plane to CMH. The best part of the day was going across the street to the Latin Cafe for coffee con leche and a cuban sandwichs. Lucas, I am not sure what he expects out of life if he thinks it is hard now!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Diving and Leaving

We had a very nice dinner with Martin and Janice and their son Josh on Monday. Where they are living overlooks the western beach and sunsets are dramatic. Ours was not, but dinner was great. And as a bonus, Lucas did not fight anyone.

On Tuesday we did our last dive on Grand Turk. We did an evening dive from 5:00 to 6:00, a sunset dive. This was one of the best dives I have had here. The setting sun makes the quality of light remarkable and we were overwhelmed by large marine life, including an outstanding four foot Nassau Grouper. This was also Josh's discover scuba dive. As your first dive I don't think it could have been better either.

We dove tunnels, which is where we did our last dive last year. I am thinking that this sunset dive will be our tradition of leaving Grand Turk. So, I guess its not all bad.

I would never think us a dive family, not like some of the real dive families that come through here. But between the four of us, we have logged 30 dives in the last nine weeks that the boys have been here. Lucas has 24 dives (21 hours under water) before his 15th birthday. Davis, at 12, is certified.

Lucas is clearly the best diver in the family. He is like a fish in the water. A couple days ago he was just sitting at the bottom of a hundred foot sand bottom canyon. I watched him for a long time. He was just stationary, looking at something. Everyone else was swimming far above him. Amazing. Yesterday he was swimming with a turtle at 90 feet trying to touch it. A few days ago he was scolded for working his hand under the sand until a garden eel popped out of its hole, something I have only seen one other person do. Amazing.

I a couple of hours we will be embarking on the Carnival Destiny. This weekend the family will be back in the states. Though school starts today I think, it was $3000 cheaper to travel back the week after school starts, so though it makes Lucas' first week of high school a little difficult...what are you going to do!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rum and Cubans

Today we all took a boat trip out to the wall. Mart, Luke, and I went diving. Deneen and Davis snorkeled around.

We came out of the water at 1:45, just in time to get to Alessio and Jackie's house for lunch/dinner. The dinner of grilled sausages was great. The conversation lively. Cuban music resounded thoughout the house.

Dinner lasted for about four hours. The last hour or so Alessio got out the rum and cigars that he brought back from their trip to Cuba several weeks ago. Then we talked politics very loudly. For anyone who has had dinner with Alessio and Jackie you know what I'm talking about.

Like happens at many dinner parties, after the rum and Cubans Lucas got into a fight. Now, I must say that for the most part Alessio was having all the rum and Cubans, and it was not really a fight fight. Though it did end with Lucas (or really the rum I have to add) knocking Alessio over and into the table, where as the serving plate of sausages fell onto the tile floor and broke into several pieces, and where as Alessio cut both his arm and leg on the tiled side table.

Then the fight started. Not only is a nice serving dish impossible to replace on Grand Turk. This was also a special plate given to Jackie before they came to the island several years ago. I could not stop laughing, and I ate another sausage off the floor.

On our way home we discussed how many parties were going to end with Lucas beating someone up and breaking something. This makes three that I have been to. Though I don't think you would guess it, it just seems to happpen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two Partied Out

Friday we were scheduled for a Children's Club trip to Gibbs Cay to swim with the stingrays. In the morning, however, the ocean was rough and visibility very poor. This was owing to Hurricane Bill to the North of us. At noon, we cancelled the the trip.

On Thursday we had toured the Carnival Liberty with Children's Club. Everyone on staff was still tired from watching 20 kids on the boat, on the Lido deck cafeteria, in the pool, on the slide, back in the Margarittaville pool. In the end, Friday evening was going to be way too busy anyway.

Friday was the changeover party for the Cruise Center director. Mike Reimers, who has been here since I arrived, is leaving to open the new Carnival cruise center in Roatan, Honduras. I liked Mike and am sorry to see him go. He is one of the people here who I wished I would have had more time to get to know better.

The party was at Margarittaville. Whenever I go to parties like this, I am torn between being a good representative of the museum and selfishly eating great food that we normally don't get.

Last night they had chips and the best salsa I have had in a long time. We got involved in this long conversation with another guest, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to get some more salsa.

Luckily, Deneen has been with me at the last few parties and I am able to excuse myself by saying, "I need to get my wife some more chips, she just loves this salsa!"

After I had three plates of chips...this may seem excessive but I actually found a bowl of guacamole so I thought it was a complement to the kitchen staff...the buffet line was opened and we went up to get chicken fajitas.

We sat with Kelly and Gearheart from the Bohio, though we see them often I don't think I have sat for dinner with them since Dinah and I had them over last January. They are someone else I wish I had time to get to know better.

Anyway, at 9:00 I looked at my watch and said, "Sorry, we have to go."

We were already late for our next party. Just after 9:00 we arrived at the last museum music jam. Everyone was already there. This party had a rather rocky start, as when I got there there was mostly just kids hanging out, my three sons included.

But we started playing, people left, others came. By the time I turned around it was 11:58. Deneen went home. Lucas, Martin, and I went to get Poop Deck chicken.

At 2:30 this morning I awoke on the floor of the living room. Everyone was asleep, every light was on, every television was on. Most places this is typical, but here this is soooo against my conservative use of electricity rules. It drives me crazy.

At 10:30am I awoke, went out to the living room, and kicked Martin and Lucas awake. We have twenty minutes to get toast and coffee and get to our 11:00 dive.

Its Saturday. This is Deneen and the boys' last weekend on Grand Turk. We are tired from the parties, but the reality is that the parties have just started.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Children's Club Tuesday

Yesterday was the third Children's Club day. I think these have been the funnest Children's Club programs that we have done since I have been here.

In the morning, Davis completed his third and fourth open water dives for his PADI scuba certification. We had two dives with Mitch from Blue Water Divers. Short and quick, there is too much to do today.

The Children's Club program was a mangrove study. It turned out to be three hours of kayaking in North Creek. The kayak excursion had to be moved from South Creek to North Creek after the hurricane because of the destruction in South Creek. I have never been in North Creek. Paddling out was no problem, except keeping everyone together. We kayaked to the mangroves. We kayaked to the jellyfish spotting field. Then we tried to return.

I have always heard that the tidal current in North Creek is very strong. This is what makes it dangerous (if you remember the post from a few weeks ago). In fact the current is very strong and tide was coming in. Paddling the hardest you could got you nowhere. Kayaks were spread all over the creek, which looks more like a large lake.

After an hour of vigorous paddling, everyone was able to beach their kayaks onto a dredged jetty that extends into the creek. There is a large dredge barge with a huge crane rusting where it stopped working in mid project years ago at the end of this jetty, but that's a story I have not heard yet. Everyone walked down the jetty back to kayak shack. Only Reuben was able to get his kayak back to the dock. This left 15 kayaks to be carried back portage trail style.

When we finally got back to the museum an hour and fifteen minutes late it was time for the program to be over. But we stayed to have our snack of Poop Deck chicken.

Unlike every other day we have a program everyone sat eating their snack in total silence. Everyone was totally exhausted.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yes it is!

I did not even get to finish my last blog and here I sit in Grand Turk.

Austin to Dallas, Dallas to Miami, overnight at the Crown Plaza, Miami to Provo, Provo to Grand Turk. I got in Sunday afternoon.

When I left everything was blue skys. Today, we have two named storms in the Caribbean. We also have three ships in port because of the storms south of us. Children's club meets on Tuesday and we are not prepared yet. Also, the Astrolabe is now a week overdue to the editor.

Back to work.

Friday, August 14, 2009

is it Saturday yet?

Austin is crazy.

There are over 1900 musical acts here playing at nearly 200 venues. I had no idea.

In the 1930s Austin developed a unique form of Blues, the East Side Blues. I have actually sat through a symposium on how the archives of this historical musical period is being preserved.

As it exists today, everyone here is an amazing vocalist.

I have heard lots of bands here, but tonight I heard the best one.


I am running late, go figure...but I wanted to jot something down while I was thinking about it.

My feet hurt soooooo bad. I have blisters all over my heels from wearing dress shoes for two days.

I presented my paper this morning, but that is a boring work story. This afternoon I rented a car and drove north into the suburbs where you can Xchange and Xbox.

On you can locate a GameStop anywhere in the US. What an amazing ubiquitous conglomerate of sameness you have managed to create here! Though, evidently there are more GameStops than meet the pixel. At exit 245 on I-35 where the Kohls is located, get to that in a minute, there were two. Niether came up on

I like the adventure, but does it really have to be all the time? I bought and exchanged three Xboxes today. Yes, you heard correctly. This took do long that I now have to keep the car overnight, which means I have to find somewhere to PARK IT.

My last memory of Martin is that he is standing at the door holding the power converter saying, "Are you sure you don't want to take this?"

Smart man. Who would have thought. Everything is the same about the new Xbox except the new power converter does not have a square pin in the center.

For $10.00 dollars I could have exchanged our used Xbox for a new Xbox. Not could have, did! I had to buy a new one to open the box to see if the power cable fit.

Xchange...(think sound of a cash register)

The problem was it did not fit. The young man could not swap the power cable and because I did not have mine I had to return the new one.

Xchange...(think sound of a cash register)

"Is your power cable nearby?" asked the young man.

"No," say I, "it is on a small island off of Florida." Now, this is not exactly not the truth.

OK, we rip open the new used Xbox. I pick it up to put it in my bag and something sounding like a small piece of metal falls from the bottom to the top.

"Is it suppose to sound like this?" as I turn it over and over with what I think is a samll nut pinballing around all of the internal magic circuts of the Xbox.

Xchange...(think sound of a cash register)

Well, to make this a short story, I am in the possession of a second new used Xbox marked "checked" and "cleaned."

I was hunting down a Kolhs so that I could get a new battery and watch band for my watch that is constantly at 2:07. If it read 5:00 I would wear it, because anyone who knows anything about Jimmy Buffet knows this would be funny. But 2:07 is not humorous in any way. Believe me, I have been trying to think of a joke about it for thirty minutes and it is just not funny.

Well, Kolhs in Texas evidently does not carry Columbia watches so it is 2:07.

What they do have is 80% off sandals. What a country. It is an amazing life you live here in this place of $10 sandals and $2 beer. I guess that is the trade for ubiquitous sameness.

Anyway, now I am really late, but I have my dancing sandals on, and my feet are happy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ain't No Party Like an Archivist Party

I am in Austin, Texas, attending the Society of American Archivists annual conference. Tomorrow I am participating in a symposium on sustaining Caribbean archives.

This is just a comment for Jamey - welcome back to the fourth floor.

I booked too late to stay in the conference hotel, so I had to book a hotel about six blocks away. The unintended consequence of this is that I am in the heart of the music scene. Austin, evidently, is the "live music capital of the world." There are over 200 live music venues here. Plus, the award winning PBS show Austin City Limits.

I got in very late last night but was still able to catch two blues bands. One band had a 13 year-old drummer. This band happened to be playing in the "best dive bar" in Austin, which also had two for one hamburger. I had forgotten what a great hamburger tastes like.

I would tell more, but I am off to the Plenary session and then to the exhibit hall reception.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Linda's Birthday

I am in Miami. My sister Linda is in Orlando. This has nothing to do with each other. Except that when I called to say happy birthday I found out that she was in Florida.

Yes, I am in Miami. With the desperate year we have had on Grand Turk, I am still amazed that we are just an hour and a half from Miami. But we are. My journey began early with a flight to Provo to take care of some business before an afternoon flight back to the US.

I stopped at Unicorn Books in Provo to ask Toni if he had a great book he could recommend that I read on my flight today. I left with The Sex Lives of Cannibals by Maarten Troost. It is a travelogue of two years the author spent on a small island in the Pacific. Evidently living on a small island is the same everywhere. The difference is that Maarten Troost is an exceptional writer. It is suppose to be funny, but I know all of the jokes already.

For both myself and Maarten Troost getting to a small island in the middle of nowhere is in itself a story. But evidently getting off is also a story.

Getting into the US through the Miami airport requires a mile and a half jog. I had to do this carrying 50 pounds of luggage. I am not kidding about this. The walk between the gates and immigration is so long there should be people cheering at the end and you should break through a tape at "US Citizens." OK, that is my funny joke I told to three people as I passed them. Evidently it gets a laugh 33% of the time.

Even before this I had four baggage checks and had to remove my shoes twice.

This is about how my day has gone so far...

"What is this?"

"An Xbox."

"What is this?"

"An Xbox."

"What is this?"

"An Xbox."

"Hey, an Xbox!"

I will get to that at another time if my Xbox mission is successful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Children's Club Tuesday

Today was our weekly Children's Club outing. We loaded onto a bus and were off for an ECO ADVENTURE.

Now when I say we loaded onto a bus, I mean that 32 of us got on a twenty passenger bus. The tour was fantastic. We visited several natural history sites with one of the best tour drivers on the island.

The highlight for sure was our visit to North Wells. This is one of the oldest heritage areas on the island. The north wells were created by Bermudians in the seventeenth century as fresh water wells so that the horses and donkeys left on the island would not die.

Today, the area attracts a variety of wildlife, because it is one of the few areas in the bush where water is found.

The minute we got out of the bus kids started chattering about a dog in the well. The story is one you have heard over and over and over. Who is going to climb into the well to rescue the trapped puppy?

After we had loaded everyone back on the bus, I climbed into the shallow well and Martin and I pulled the dog out of the water. It appears that the dog had been in the water for a few days with nothing but its head above water. It came out easy enough, but had difficulty walking. The bus driver had a leftover lunch on the bus, which the dog ate enthusiastically.

We went back later to make sure the dog had recovered and moved on home. It had.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Deneen

We flew over to Provo for Deneen's birthday. OK, we flew over because I had to meet with a couple of people on Deneen's birthday. But we are in Provo none-the-less.

I thought I had an in to get a great deal on a room at Ocean Club West but this fell through. By the time everything was organized we had to drive over and book into the Comfort Suites. Then, for her birthday I took her to the Thursday night Rotary meeting.

I think Deneen has become accustomed to a little more swagger than the Comfort Suites has to offer (in her defence, she thinks I have come to expect a little more comfort). And though we got a good nights sleep, the whole birthday thing seemed a little dull. Unfortunately, the Comfort Suites was fully booked Friday night. I thought tourism was down and the hotels were empty on Provo? Well, at the Comfort Suites they have closed up one of their two buildings - Ah - they are only renting out half of their rooms. Anyway, I was sorry we downgraded Deneen's birthday.

So today...

last night we ran into a friend with some connections and today we checked out of the Comfort Suites and booked a room at Nikki Beach, voted #2 on the Travel Channels list of hottest beach destinations.

I don't know why anyone would ever book into another hotel. This is just the nicest place we have ever stayed. The minute I walked into the room at Comfort Suites I regretted checking in. The minute I walked into our room at Nikki Beach I had the opposite reaction.

I just sent Davis out to get sushi and bring it back to the room. He just came back saying they would not let him buy sushi because the sushi was all sitting on a girl in a bikini. I did not believe him, but he was adamant. So I'll be back...

OK, he was telling the truth.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Children's Club

Tuesday was the first of our August Children's Club programs. We took a group of 28 to Waterloo, the Governor's residence, and got a personal tour of the mansion by Rosemary Wetherell the governor's wife. This was fantastic.

Though the house is the official residence of the governor and his family, it looks exactly like most of the historic homes I have worked on as it is a Georgian style hall house built in 1815.

I could not help interjecting erudite facets of architectural history and saying things like, "You know this carpet is very valuable and it should not be walked on."

And,"this bronze cannon is being polished too often, there should be a cleaning schedule to insure its proper preservation."

From my past experience with my own family, I am sure that they appreciated my input. I am only here to help after all.

After this, we took the bus to Oasis South and put the kids in the water for a swim lesson. This went great for the first ten children, but listening evidently is very hard and the second group just could not wait for instruction so everyone got in the water making teaching impossible.

We were suppose to snorkel out to the bio rock off of the Oasis beach. On Sunday Deneen, the boys and I did this. It was amazing. The bio rock is cool and all, but we saw two large sting rays followed by a flounder, and then a flying gurnard, which I was able to get to spread its wings.

On Tuesday the wind was strong and I greatly underestimated how poorly people swim. I am spoiled by children who swim effortlessly. At the last minute we changed plans and were able to take a boat out to the bio rock. This turned out to be a good plan as it was nearly impossible to keep track of everyone in the water. Even though there was one adult for every two snorkelers in the water, and they all had inflatable vests on, someone was hanging on every adult. By the time we got home Deneen, Martin and I were exhausted.

We ended the day with a cookout on the beach. All and all, this was the best Children's Club event we have held since I have been here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Today is my birthday. This has been a long 42nd year. How do you spend a birthday after a year such as this?

Today Martin,Lucas, and I dove with a film crew from a television show called Turquoise Morning. This is a picture of the film crew and Lucas wiping the hair out of his eyes while being interviewed on national television.

This dive was my 50th dive on Grand Turk. We dove with Roger Hartling, who is finishing a dive guide to Grand Turk. The highlight of the dive was a 5 foot eagle ray that swam along the wall below our entire line of divers. It was very cool.

The interviews went great. Martin is very good on his feet. Lucas will probably be edited out. I had to instruct him after the dive that we have standard phrases he needs to memorize when talking about diving on Grand Turk.

When asked about sharks you say, "The only time you see a shark is when they don't see you first, sharks tend to stay away from people."

When asked what you would do if you saw a shark you say, "One of the first rules about diving is don't touch anything, so my advice is don't try and touch it."

This is the new dinner conversation, talking points about being on camera.

After the dive I took the film crew through the museum and then down historic Duke Street. We wrapped on the beach in front of the SandBar at 2:30. I jumped in the truck and raced back to the museum where I had to do a cruise ship tour because it is Saturday and I have no staff to work the cruise ship which came in at 1:00.

OK, that's all done. We went to the cruise center to swim this evening.

Right now I just pulled a rum cake out of the oven. I am cooling a vanilla espresso cake, and I have two layers of chocolate Toblerone chip cake baking. Happy birthday.