Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

April, 2014:

Spare Parts, Get Your Spare Parts Here

We’ve all done it. You put together your new Ikea desk and find out that you have an extra washer or an extra screw. The desk seems sturdy enough, though. The drawers don’t fall out. You assume everything is OK. You assume that the manufacturer includes extra pieces just in case you drop one down the furnace grate or something. Maybe someday in the future you are moving or giving the desk away. You take the desk apart again and somewhere back in the back you find a hole with no screw. Clearly it wasn’t important in the first place. And that’s good to know since you’ve long since lost the screw anyway. No harm. No foul. It was just a little screw. What’s the worst that could have happened? It’s not like it was tasked with keeping say a massive garage door from falling on your head, right? 

Speaking of garage doors. (and we were, right?) Recently we’ve been having some issues with ours. Before I elaborate, let me clarify that we do not keep our car in our detached garage. Never have. We are not opening and closing the door several times a day coming and going from work or the grocery store. We don’t enter the house that way like we did in California. It’s a storage room, a tool room, and a work room. As such, if we have to, we can tolerate having to manually open or close the door as needed which, in fact, we had to do when the bolt that holds the arm to the opener rusted out and fell away. No big deal except that when we went to re-secure it we noticed that it had been installed backwards….12 years ago. But obviously it had been working so we invoked the no harm, no foul rule and moved on with our life.  

Well, now that I think of it, we did replace it in the proper orientation. And maybe in retrospect that was our first mistake because  next thing we knew one of the cables started slipping. It would slip. Michael would fix it. It would slip again. The door would tweak off balance. The wheels would bind. And the process would repeat itself. It hasn’t worked right for weeks now. We’ve had to push it up and pull it down without even the benefit of working cables. Michael has nearly lost two fingers in the process. So something needed to be done. I did a youtube search for videos on ‘how to balance your garage door’ but the cautions about using special winding bars to safely adjust the tension on the massive spring kind of turned me off to the prospect of a DIY project. 

The electrician was here on Saturday for a different headache. So Michael asked him if he knew anyone who knew how to fix garage doors. He called a friend and they spent hours doing pretty much what Michael had done without any better results. Michael sent them away. We tried to call the guy who installed the door way back when. No luck. We finally got the name and number of another guy who’s done work for a friend. He came by on Monday and looked at the door. 

 garage door

(photo: inside of door, loose cable on top right, abandoned rickety ladder in forefront)

Right off of the bat he was baffled.  

“Well, the first thing is that a door this door size should have TWO springs.”  

Two springs, you say? Not just that one big one? Really? Two? 

So Michael (and remember Michael is a guy and guys never seem to know where they’ve left even the most common, everyday items) goes immediately behind the garage to the generator room, rummages around, comes back, and says, “like this one?”

 Spare Spring

Apparently, this other huge, mongo spring was left lying about when the garage door was originally installed 13 years ago….back when everything was being installed in the house and we had moutains of spare parts piling up around us. So we can forgive Michael for accepting the concept of having an extra backup spring for the garage door….especially given that (1) it has worked up until now and (2) he did have the presence of mind to keep the spare. 

No harm. No foul. 

(At least assuming that once the guy comes back to install the second spring we don’t find out that it is ‘shelf-spoiled’ and the garage door finally works again. We’ll see.)

Poetic License

I was thinking about e.e.cummings the other day.

For those who know me, that probably seems peculiar. I am not by nature a poetic person. I am a scientist. Sure, on my path to medical school I managed to get through my more liberal-artsy academic requirements; but good grades aside my heart was never really into those more ethereal pursuits – not philosophy, or poetry or even literature. Don’t get me wrong. I love to read but as an escape not as a theoretical dissection of an artist’s work. I would like to be saved from pondering, ‘what do you think the writer meant when he wrote blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?” Of what does the light house signify in this poem?” Simile, metaphor, symbolism, ugh. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

Anyway, back to real life. Michael and I were coming home on a back street when we passed a hand-painted sign tacked to a tree. My mind has some innate tendency to notice errors and inconsistencies, but this went beyond that. I had no idea what the sign was trying to say, and I pondered this out loud. Michael, with his more artistic leanings, interpreted it for me prompting me to request that he turn around immediately so I could snap a picture.

Me cha nic png small

So sure, now that I know what it says, I can see Mechanic. But why the vertical placement of the individual syllables? Is there a reason it reads Me Cha Nic instead of Me Chan Ic? Was the author trying to convey something essential to his vision by breaking between the ‘a’ and the ‘n’? Or does he pronounce the word differently that I? Or was it simply a question of space? Couldn’t he have turned the plank horizontally and written straight across? Was his choice to go vertically practical because the tree trunk is vertical or a more carefully crafted artistic expression? 

I think you see where I am going with this. But why e.e.cummings? Well, because even though 11th or 12th grade is too many decades ago to even bear to mention, I distinctly remember that paper I wrote on e.e.cummings. In fact, I especially remember analyzing his poem, bee in the only rose as a wonderful example of how he arranged his words (and sometimes broke them apart) not just for their poetic meaning but also for their physical and visual effect. So I am going to choose to go with artistic in answer to the question of whether the auto repair guy created his sign the way he did out of simple necessity or simple artistic genius.

After all, isn’t one of the common definitions of art that it is anything that produces an emotional response? Clearly this little sign on a little road on a little island did that for me. So in honor of nice memories of my high school English teachers, Mrs. Coyne and Mrs. Dyas, and of course Mr. Cummings, I give you, for your consideration, a bee tucked into a rose:




 – e.e. cummings

Don’t You Get……Earthquakes?


People always ask us about hurricanes, but in fact I have experienced more earthquakes in 13 years in Anguilla than I did in 15 years in California. Case in point, just had one now. Apparently a 5.2 magnitude about 53 kilometers away.





I Think I See a Trend

Just about a month ago I posted a blog about the travails some friends had trying to get from Anguilla to Antigua and beyond. (Easy come, easy go or not http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=555 ) That story ended with an impromptu tailgate picnic in the parking lot of the Anguilla airport. I think now we may have a meme. Here’s the latest:

Our last group of winter guests arrived at the end of March. They’ve been to Anguilla many times so this time we thought we would take a few days at the end of their stay to visit St. Barths. We love St Barths. In fact, if we hadn’t thought we’d always be going to the beach (St. Barths doesn’t have many beaches but then again we hardly ever go anyway) and if we had had a whole lot more money, we might have moved there instead of Anguilla. Luckily, we have a friend, Mary Ann, who has a house there on the hill overlooking St. Jean (Eden Rock Hotel, Nikki Beach, and the airport). So we made arrangements to take our friends to meet Mary Ann.

To get from Anguilla to Barths, you can charter a plane. (We did not.) You can charter a boat. (We did not.) Or you can take the regular ferry from Anguilla to St Martin; and then, if you are lucky, the ferry to St. Barths leaves from the same terminal in Marigot on that day. (We were not.) Otherwise you take a cab to Oyster Pond and catch the ferry to St. Barths from there. (That’s what we did.) We bought our tickets online choosing a schedule that didn’t require getting up out of the house at 7am but would still get us to St. Barths around noon. There was a big Bucket Race yachting competition ending that day. And Mary Ann and her French friends were planning a lovely Sunday lunch for our arrival.

The best laid plans.

We arrived at Oyster Pond only to find the ferry’s check-in window closed with a note tacked on the wall informing us that our boat had been cancelled. The note claimed to have tried to reach us with this news, but we had never received notification. In a long and complicated story, the email they sent was later found in Michael’s spam folder while the captain of the ship which had just docked on its return trip from Barths told us that there is NEVER a boat that leaves at that time midday. So we were none too happy especially given that the next boat was not scheduled to depart for another 5 hours and there is NOTHING to do and just two little restaurants in the marina at Oyster Pond.

At least the captain was kind enough to let us sit on the boat in the air-conditioning while we waited. But still, 5 hours is a long, damn time to sit around doing nothing and reading (though in all fairness that’s pretty much what most of our houseguests tend to do on a normal day anyway). The bigger disappointment was missing seeing the racing yachts coming back into the harbor at the end of the Bucket Race and inconveniencing Mary Ann (who we did at least manage to contact with our revised arrival time).

However, when we arrived into Gustavia and disembarked the boat, Mary Ann and her friends were there waiting with…..a picnic….of quiche and fruit and, of course, wine! Fortunately, there’s a conveniently located gazebo located right there in the harbor so we didn’t even have to eat out of the back of the car this time. These arrival and departure picnics could become a tradition. After all, just look at all of our happy, happy faces (L-R John, Michael, Coco, Me, Judy, and Mary Ann).

Gustavia Picnic


Red Moon

Wasn’t last night’s lunar eclipse amazing? I hope you got to see it wherever you were. Neither of my brothers up north could see anything at all because of bad weather while I was afraid that it wouldn’t be as visible here since we were beyond the ideal viewing range on the illustrations I saw. But as it turned out, I had the perfect seat sitting out on my veranda by the pool on a beautiful night. There was barely a cloud in the sky with only a bit of a chill. (The temps fell to almost 70 degrees overnight!)

I found the live feed on my laptop so I’d know if I was missing anything, relaxed and waited. Michael joined me just in time for the best part. He did his best to take some photos. Without a tripod they’re a bit blurry but I can at least prove that we did see the show.

red moon

I stayed out for the longest time waiting for the shadow to move on off the moon. (did anybody else think expect it to move off faster than that?) Then just before I came back in, I put my binoculars down and looked up at the stars and thought, “wouldn’t it be really cool if I saw a shooting star now?”. And damn if one didn’t materialize directly overhead at just that moment. Even more amazing!

Poor baby



Apparently the stress of island living even drives your average, pampered feline to drink and to pull her hair out.

Our poor little Morbier. Even her pretty, green eyes look sad.



(photo courtesy of Melody Dill, Bird of Paradise)


Damn it. Once again I find myself in the position of apologizing for being remiss in not posting. What is happening to me? When I was a young woman, I prided myself on my focus. Other people procrastinated but not me. I flew out of bed in the morning. I was never late. If anything, I was always early. What’s happening? Is this newfound tendency to delay a result of island time or island mind? Or am I just deteriorating?

I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it were the latter. After all, everything here corrodes. Things that you would never even consider might just fall apart just up and fall apart here. For instance, shoes. When was the last time your shoes just fell off of your feet? When was the last time you put on a perfectly, good pair of Teva sandals, took a few steps, and then nearly killed yourself tripping over the flopping soles that had suddenly separated from the shoe? It happens all of the time here. Michael now stocks something called Shoe Goo in spite of the fact that it really seems to be no more effective at holding shoes together than the factory-original adhesives. Hope springs eternal.

A few weeks ago, we were going to St. Martin for the day and I decided to ‘dress up’ in a pretty sundress and a spiffy pair of wedgie espadrilles. At least that’s how I left home; but during the course of the morning, step by step, inch by inch, one strap after another strap disconnected from both shoes until I developed unbearable leg cramps from trying to hold on to the soles with just my toes. I had to buy an ugly, cheap pair of sandals just to limp home. I would have thrown the tattered remnants of my original shoes directly in the trash, but Michael insisted we bring them home to fix them. Today they remain untouched in our garage in a pile of fallen footwear.

Shoe DoctorThen last night we had some friends over for dinner. No sooner did we have drinks in hand than one of them stumbled and nearly lost her champagne. The culprit? Her shoe. The front end of the sole had suddenly separated from the bottom and caught on the tile. I didn’t go in search of the Shoe Goo, but I did grab a couple of bulldog clips to save her from injury.

Other friends from up north were just bemoaning the fact that every time they arrive here to spend some time, they find their shoes falling apart. She even washes all of their shoes before they leave (an ever so slightly obsessive trait he was ignorant of until our discussion), but to no avail. The attrition continues as the glue just falls apart.

Inexplicably, in contrast, postal glues on unused stamps and envelopes behave just the opposite. If you leave them sitting around in a drawer around here, I wish you luck when you try to actually use them. They will have sealed themselves closed or stuck together so effectively that you cannot peel them apart again. (Hmmm. Now that I write that, here’s a thought. Maybe I can market envelope glue as my own version of Tropical Shoe Goo? Anybody know any venture capitalists?)

Anyway, adhesives, rubber bands, plastics, they all fall apart in this environment. What was really disturbing, however, was what we found when we were trying to repair/troubleshoot the drop lights above our kitchen sink. They had been going all wonky and flickering so we replaced all of the coaxial cables. Then they didn’t work at all. The guy at tech support at Tech Lighting suggested it might be the transformers. So we got out the tall ladders to reach up in the vaulted ceilings to disconnect the romex wire to take down the suspended shelf on which the lights were mounted to disassemble the electrical boxes to examine the transformers. And this is what we found:


Now it is one level of annoyance to have your shoes fall apart. But it is another thing entirely to realize that this salty, humid environment is causing the insulating coating surrounding, no protecting, your electrical wiring to crumble to bits! That cannot be a good a thing.

On the other hand, this environment does seem to be really good for my skin. No forced-air heat or air-conditioning to dry out my complexion. Hardly any need for lotions at all (except for those with professed anti-aging effects).  So I guess if I have to run around barefoot under dim, shorted-out lighting, I can look decent doing it. Or at least my old, decaying mind can think I do!