Sweet Spice: Our Projects Have Projects

This is an update. Ideally, I’d wait until we actually finished something before posting about it but 1) we never finish anything and 2) we had a personal request from our number one fan, Mr. Hoffman. This one’s for you. See you in the comments section!

There are changes afoot here at Sweet Spice (what a terrible name for our island paradise, no? More on that another time). We are taking the bull by the horns and making progress on our to-do list. Also, we are hiring people to help us. As I write this, there are three guys working on screening in our front porch. Amazing. But no matter how hard they work, it will not be done today because we are waiting for screen doors from St. Thomas. That’s just how it works. I envision an extremely prolonged semi-screened situation looming. You know how the old saying goes, “better to have half a screen than no scr……just kidding.  Half a screen is pretty much just as useless as no screen.”


Future screened area. Fingers crossed.

Moving on. We finally had the property fenced in to keep the donkeys and goats out. It’s like a miracle. Things are growing and nothing is eating them. We did not tackle this project ourselves, which is probably why it got finished. After the fencing, we basically had a truckload of palms and bougainvillea planted to help stabilize the hill that was damaged by a wayward wedding party and their SUV a while back. Read more about that here. It’s made a huge difference. Really. Much less like an abandoned accident scene.


Our neighbor-slash-landscaping guru, Josephine, did an incredible job, but now we have to keep everything alive, even during droughts. It’s a lot of pressure. We don’t want to let her down so we built a somewhat elaborate irrigation system (so far, so good. Thanks youtube) and have been mulching and weeding our asses off all over the place. Kinda.



No projects here are ever just one step. The people who build the fences and plant the plants are not the same people who build the gates to the fences. But, after a month of scampering under treacherous wire fencing every time we had to leave, we finally found someone to build us a gate. Life. Changing.




That same guy is also helping us improve our sleeping situation. Basically, we’ve been sleeping on the pull out for so long that I’m pretty sure we’re both maimed for life and utterly deserving of some special parking compensation. The “bedroom” of our house is basically a weird little room tucked under the porch. There is an elevated platform to hold a mattress, some very sketchy crumbling drywall, and a scary bathroom in a separate shack next to the pool. Read more on that here. Anyway, we’ve been using the space as the global headquarters of Crossfit St. John Sweet Spice (membership: 2), but those days are coming to an end. We eventually hope to build the taj mahal of fitness, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we bit the bullet and impetuously ordered a real mattress. Shockingly, it called our bluff and showed up. There it is now, behind the couch that we’re still sleeping on.20170712_132851

So the plan became, ok, we’ll just go down there and move the weights to the side, maybe throw some paint around, step on a spider and make it work. But it was so gross. It was too gross for our new mattress. I accidentally bumped into the wall and it literally crumbled into sand and dust at my feet. Plus, there was a lot of suspicious fly activity. I don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, I showed it to the guy who helped us with the fence. One thing led to another, and… we decided to rip everything out. Then he suggested we could maybe fit the world’s smallest bathroom down there. The reason this might work is because this guy, Paul, is like a combo of an actual handyman and a youtube video tutorial. He doesn’t show up with a crew. He shows up and tells us what to do. So he’s building the new bedroom, but we’re going to help. We had to tear everything out ourselves. Current dead rat tally: 2. I can’t talk about it. But at least we work cheap.


The status right now is that everything is torn out, down to the studs. All of the many, many, pest-inviting openings have been sealed. We ordered pretty much the smallest sink we could find on amazon (it’s so small that amazon will deliver it here) and the toilet is on the way from St. Thomas. Allegedly. We are definitely headed in the direction of a good night’s sleep and 15 sf of bathroom decadence. I have no idea how this is going to work, especially the plumbing. Especially if Paul vanishes into the St. John version of the Bermuda triangle that has claimed so many of the contractors around here. If that happens, I’m not 100% ruling out a very long pipe leading deep into the woods…

Stay tuned.


This is the platform where the bed will go. One day.


The bathroom will be in that corner. Can’t you see it?






Rolling Meth Lab

Well, we did it. So far. We’ve been camping for almost a week in Coachese. And I have to admit, he’s beautiful. On the inside. Where it counts. On the outside, well…cropped-0603161407.jpg

The week before we hit the road we did a lot of work on the inside with the help of our friends Erin and Ope in Cincinnati. More about that here. Our first night hanging out at their house they started to chuckle huddled over Ope’s phone. He read out his neighbor’s text.

“Who’s cooking meth outside your house?”

Yep, our beloved Coachese drew that reaction from our friends’ tony neighborhood. And I can’t say I blame them. In pictures its hard to tell but Coachese’s rusted and warped aluminum, wavy siding, and dry rotted window sealings do not make for regal attire, or even a presentable outfit. He looks more like a stout tramp in ripped and worn, but mostly clean, clothes. Ones with a wild stripe.

It’s not like our VW bus, which we had repainted so it looked new.

My beautiful picture

VW buses are so loved and associated with hippie culture it always brought smiles to people’s faces. Peace signs flew up as we rolled down the street. No one has the same associations with the ’74 Winnebago Brave. No one walks up and tells us how they grew up camping in one of these with their six brothers and sisters. Thanks Breaking Bad.

20160411_121941Looking at him you know he’s old. The passage of 42 years has left every dent, scuff, tear, hole, and irregularity marring his once pristine exterior. For that he gets his bad reputation. But his age is why I love him.

Is it just nostalgia that makes me love him, that misguided notion everything was better in the past? Now is likely the greatest of all times. But it doesn’t stop me from romanticizing the way things were. Especially the way I think they were in the ’70’s from my formative Sesame Street watching years-a messier, grittier, less sanitized time when people were figuring out their new places in a world trying to be free of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

So I’d like to keep all his outer wrinkles and signs of wear, prevent him from becoming too precious, too perfect. Sure he’ll continue to look like a rolling meth lab to a lot of people but to me he’s a nostalgic vision cruising into the future.