Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

August, 2013:

The Loneliest Number is the Number One

Today’s theme will be a study of the number one. First because Michael is traveling in the States so I have been here alone for an entire week. I’m always ‘mopey’ when I’m alone. It’s not so much the being alone part as the him not being here part – if that makes any sense at all. And in spite of my contention that I could get so much more accomplished without him here, in truth that is never the case. I always spend at least one day just sitting around watching sappy, romantic movies: You’ve Got Mail, Something’s Gotta Give, Hope Floats, or whatever happens to be on the Hallmark Channel.  Then I snap out of it and try to get something constructive done in his absence, but the time that has elapsed between my last post and now illustrates my total lack of productivity. So let me just fire this one off before he gets home tomorrow.

For our first singular subject, we have our one and only dragon fruit which we harvested exactly 40 days from fertilization because I am an analytical person and numbers mean more to me than ‘when the tips just start to shrivel’ or ‘when it feels like a ripe avocado.’

Here it is just before harvest.Dragonfruit ready to pick



dragonfruit cut

And here it is cut open, ready to eat. So now we know that it is the pink flesh variety rather than the white flesh variety, AND we know that it was absolutely delicious!

Now we will move from the topic of living off of the land to trying to live on the (is)land from a shopping standpoint.

Before he left, Michael was in St. Martin shopping at the local restaurant supply store when he felt the impulse to buy one of those CO2 cartridge soda makers.  They only had one left, the floor model. It was missing pieces but he was welcome to buy it. No, regular price. No, no discount. But the salesperson assured him that the pieces it was missing weren’t really necessary anyway.  Did he want it? No, no thanks.

Then he was shopping here in Anguilla. He was in the process of hacking out the roots of some very established plants in an area where he wants to build a deck. Having already tried to saw off his feet with a pressure washer in the past, he wisely decided that work boots might be a better choice than flip flops. Surprisingly, there is a safety shoe shop on island. So he went in and asked the salesperson if she had a pair of steel- toed work boots in a size 11. More surprisingly, she had one left. ….. Well, actually she had one left one. No, not a pair. Just one left one. Did he want it? No, no thanks.

Now we come to my project. Having saved all this money not buying a soda maker or safety shoes, I wanted to repaint the front door. It has always been blue, but I was feeling like a change and wanted to paint it red. At the hardware store, I told them I needed some paint. Ooooh, we don’t really have any paint. No paint? Well, some paint. What did I want? Interior/exterior semi-gloss. Nope, none of that. What? I just need a quart. Oh, wait, we don’t have any gallons, but quarts we have. What color? This color red. Nope, we don’t have the base for that. Seriously? Well, let me look. Wait, at the back of the shelf, here’s one last quart. Huzzah!

Now for the big question: I’m painting red over royal blue. Is there ANY chance you have tintable primer….just one quart? Miracle of all miracles, yes. Great, can you tint it this color red? No, I don’t think we can tint it. Huh? It’s a tintable primer. The label says *Must be tinted prior to use. What do you mean you can’t tint it? So they called the manufacturer. Ok, we can tint it. We just can’t tint it that color red. Can you tint it close to this color red? No. Can you tint anywhere in the red color spectrum? Maybe.

So here’s what I got. The paint is on the left and the primer is on the right.Paint colors





I’m not sure that I gained anything at all using that primer compared to your average, every day, basic white primer; but for several hours my front door was an ironically nauseating, Pepto Bismal color of pink.

But now, it’s a stunning red color; and on the upside (and don’t I always strive to find the upside?), I think I still fared better than the other guy who was struggling to buy paint that morning. He just needed one gallon of white, interior/exterior paint which, as we know, did not exist. In the end, he didn’t look at all happy lugging his only alternative, a FIVE gallon bucket, to his car. Ah, if only I needed one gallon of white. I could probably buy it from him.

Women’s Rights. Right, Women?

This week news agencies around the world reported on the sale of $91M worth of stock by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Apparently this financial move was noteworthy not only because of the gross dollar amount involved but also because it required the unloading of a mere fraction of her holdings in the company. Reports mentioned how many shares she has already sold, how many more she still holds, her illustrious background, her impressive education, and the book she has on the best sellers list. Refreshingly, I read nothing that made a big deal of, let alone registered shock at, the fact that she is a woman.  To quote the iconic Virginia Slims cigarette ads of the late 1960’s, “You’ve come a long way baby!”

However, I was left to wonder if Ms. Sandberg would have any difficulties buying property here in Anguilla. I pondered this question because years ago, just before we arrived in Anguilla, a successful, single woman wanted to buy land near ours. (Yes, I now know that Ms. Sandberg herself is married but let’s carry on with my point.) According to her tales of the process, the powers that be on island nearly denied this other woman’s Alien Landholding License Application simply because they honestly could not believe that she, as a woman and a single one to boot, could possibly have the financial and personal wherewithal to purchase and then to develop the property (i.e. build a house).

Another friend told me what happened when she went to the bank one day to withdraw funds from the joint account she held with her husband. I don’t remember exactly how much money was involved but it strikes me that it was somewhere around $5000US. So not just grocery shopping money but also not fleeing to a life of luxury on the French Riviera kind of funds either. Much to her amazement, the teller would not hand over the dough without first calling her husband on the phone to verify that he knew what she was up to!

Now lest you think that these are old stories from a bygone era, let me explain what transpired some months ago when I was called to Court to post bail for a friend. I signed the forms. I swore on the Bible to tell the truth. I slipped the female judge a confidential note showing the balance of my on island bank accounts. I outlined my real estate holdings and my long-standing residence status. But when everything was said and done and it looked like we were good to go, the judge asked me one last question: Were any of my assets held individually or were they all held jointly with my husband?

Well, I have always been a ‘my money is your money and your money is my money’ kind of wife. As a result, the judge insisted that I go home and haul my husband out of his sick bed where he lay crippled with a ruptured cervical disk (or two as it ultimately turned out at surgery) to come into Court, to sit around and wait for us to get back to my friend’s case, to contort himself in all bizarre fashion to effectively swear on said Bible, to simply state yes to the question of whether or not it was OK for me to post bail for my friend. Sure, perhaps this always happens in spite of the fact that the attorney did not foresee the issue. Perhaps, had it been my husband posting bail for one of his friends; the judge would have required him to bring me in to give my consent.  Perhaps. Obviously I can’t prove this one way or another without requesting another friend to cause trouble with the law, but I remain skeptical that this would, in fact, be the case if the tables had been turned.

So, as one last bit of topical news on the subject, let me offer up a few choice quotes from our elected officials here on island at the most auspicious welcoming of our new British Governor and the first woman to hold that post, Ms. Christina Scott. According to the July 26th edition of The Anguillian newspaper, one official “admonished Her Excellency not to listen to gossip but put his foot in his mouth when he suggested that, being a woman, she will hear lots of gossip”. And another “expressed his wish for a good working relationship with the new Governor. However, in seeking to convey respect for the female gender, [he], fumbling for words, ineloquently stated: “I’m married to a female who is a lady” – and also referenced the indisputable fact that his mother is a woman.”

Lovely. The classic, ‘some of my best friends are women’ dodge. Perhaps we haven’t really come that far after all.

The Mantra of Maintenance

Lately I have been focused on creating plant life (in the form of my precious dragonfruit) on one hand and the process of our annual, early hurricane season, massive plant pruning process on the other hand. Our property looks less and less junglebook unruly and more and more controlled as dumpster after dumpster hauls away the detritus or our labors. But that’s not all we’ve been doing. We also tackled one ongoing problem that we’ve been avoiding.

It was one of those trivial yet thorn-in-your-side, just can’t stand it anymore kind of issues when the electric ignitor for your gas range just won’t stop clicking once the burner is lit. I know that this is not a problem that is unique to my Caribbean environment. I know this because a quick google search of the problem yields beaucoup results. I am not alone. I am only isolated. The most popular solution is to replace the spark module. We have done this twice before.  And the problem recurs or persists. Who can really tell since it’s sporadic in the beginning anyway?

Nevertheless, the recommendation from the powers that be was once again to replace the $200 module. I was going to do it myself. The helpful guy at the appliance repair place in California had even bestowed upon me (free of charge) one of the special, little metal thingamabobs that helps you unscrew the brass rings that hold down the burners so you can life the top of the range off and get to the module. I was all set except for the small fact that I couldn’t unscrew the damn rings. I was strong enough to bend the metal thingamabob trying, but I couldn’t budge the stupid rings. So I called the repair guy who last put them on assuming this was one of those circumstances like when the guys at the garage put your tire lug nuts on with their fancy hydraulic machine and then you can’t get them off when you have a flat tire. (At least that’s my excuse for never changing my own flat tire.) Anyway, I figured he put the rings on. He would be able to take them off.

I was wrong. I was frustrated. I left the room so I didn’t see what actually transpired, but I gathered that he had managed to unscrew the vertical cylinders (WITH the brass rings attached and the burners still in place) from the elbow pieces down below so he could lift the range top just enough to replace the module and then put everything back together. Great, right? Wrong. The clicking was just the same.  Michael was immediately on to his go-to Plan B: throw the damn thing away and buy another one.  Except that we’re talking about a range that costs about $1500 in the States before shipping and 40% duty. So I wasn’t really onboard with that plan. So, I suggested that maybe it was the wires. Or the middle back burner since that always seemed to be the culprit. And since I could simply unplug the offending electric ignitor and just pretend to be a pioneer woman and light my burners with an old-fashioned match in the interim ….what if we at least tried just ordering new wires and maybe one burner to replace the middle back one that seemed to be the stubborn one?

Good plan except that we would have to get the rings off of the burners in order to accomplish this. So, we unscrewed all of the vertical cylinders and unplugged the burners from their wires and took the top off in situ. Then we carried it out into the garage, set it ever so safely on a cushion of old sheets and towels, and proceeded to beat the shit out of it. No, seriously. We beat the shit out of it. Not where the bruises would show, mind you (hence the cushion), but I sat on the floor clutching the underside cylinder with vice grips and pipe wrenches while Michael stood above (all 250+ pounds of him) armed with a 12” flat screw driver and a hammer and beat on the rings with all of his might. We’d rest. We’d spray the joint with wd-40. We’d position ourselves again, and we’d beat on it some more. Really, what did we have to lose? Once one of the rings actually gave way and unscrewed we were invigorated and just that much more determined to conquer the remaining five. Sweat poured. Curses poured. But damn if they didn’t all give up the fight eventually. We were victorious. So we cleaned that baby up like it had never been cleaned before in its life, lovingly put it temporarily back together,  ordered a set of new wires and only three new brass rings (the other three miraculously survived reasonably unscathed and we decided to even skip getting a new burner), and we waited – handy box of matches nearby.

Once the new parts arrived, we easily took the range apart again, replaced the wires (having labeled the old wires from the spark module to each burner), put it all back together again, and turned on a burner only to be rewarded with incessant clicking. I nearly cried. But anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am stubborn to a fault and cynical ‘to infinity and beyond’. So undeterred and never one to totally trust even those whom I hire as experts, I pulled out the wiring diagram that I had found for the old spark module. Not exactly the same model we now had but close enough for jazz. And I replaced the wires in the way I interpreted the diagram (two were switched). And it worked. My scientific nature would require that I put the wires back the original way again just to be sure that was the problem and not just that we pushed them on more firmly when we moved them, but I didn’t actually have it in me to fool with success. So it is what it is which is working.

But that’s why, I wasn’t surprised to find what I found when the garage door opener broke. It was halfway open when the arm came off of the door. The bolts had disappeared, literally. I mean it’s not that they were rusting and broke into pieces and fell to the ground. Simply, suddenly, one minute, there was no trace of them. So Michael bought new bolts and was in the process of reattaching the arm while I was thumbing through the instruction manual figuring that we should probably do maintenance cleaning and lubricating while he was up on the ladder when I saw it. The arm was attached upside down – quite clearly upside down. It had been for 12 years. Don’t get me wrong, unlike the range ignitor, it’s been working (for the most part) all of that time in spite of never having been installed properly in the first place. I guess sometimes you just get lucky.