The Adults’ Parade

The parade, a word and a touch

The Parade, a Word, a Touch -- 2011

These are two of a series of images from the Adults’ Parade — the culmination of the Christmas festival on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you enjoy a party, can find the shade, drink beer in the afternoon, and move to the earsplitting sounds of reggae, soca and calypso, you will like the Adults’ Parade and its genuine atmosphere of a community celebration.

But with all that, there is still something mysterious and inaccessible about it. Perhaps it is how the powerful family and community bonds and shared unspoken values manifest themselves in the heat and dust, the colors and sounds of the parade. And the setting — the ramshackle remains of an old colonial-era town — speaks to a shared past for those whose families have lived there for generations. Whatever it is, no matter how long one from the continent lives in the islands, there will always be a part of the culture that remains foreign and a mystery that demands respect.

St. Croix beauty queen

Beauty Queen -- 2011

Shoreline moods

the calm

The Calm - 2009

“The Calm” looks west in the protected lee of a point during the calm following a squall. The sun had just broken through, illuminating a single cloud and the shallow water at my feet.

“Ocean Energy” looks east into a brisk prevailing wind on a sunny afternoon, with only the rocky outcrop to protect the shallow pool from the brunt of the ocean waves.

Even when the shoreline palette is so similar as in these two images, the ocean’s moods can be very different.

ocean energy

Ocean Energy - 2010


Quadrille dancers

Quadrille dancers - 2010

The quadrille, a precursor to the modern square dance, is a part of St. Croix’s cultural heritage. It was brought here from England and became a part of plantation life well before the end of slavery. Like the square dance, it is formal, with dancers changing partners regularly throughout the dance. The traditional costume includes madras plaid shirts for the men and large head scarves for the women.

In this case, the St. Croix Heritage Dancers were performing accompanied by one of the street bands at an evening festival in Christiansted. The light, the mid-street venue, and the music made for a surreal mixture of the old and the new.

quadrille, the music

The Music - 2010

Feel the Heat

Feel the heat

Feel the Heat -- 2010

I had already titled this post when fellow islander and friend Bonnie Luria released her most recent blog post titled “If You Can’t Take the Heat…” Either great minds think alike, or summer has arrived and it’s just plain hot! Most likely the latter.

The blue gate at the bottom might help cool things down a bit. It is located along a small shaded street — an alleyway, really — in downtown Christiansted. Flanked by a graceful rusted signholder on the left, the gate guards a walkway that leads to the sunlit Caribbean blue harbor a block away.

These were not finished in time to be a part of my “Local Color” exhibit that just opened Saturday night at Maufe’ Gallery in downtown Christiansted. Although some of the prints that were in the show may be familiar to regular readers of this blog, several have not been seen here before. Click on the link above or the image in the sidebar to view the entire exhibit.

blue gate at the Comanche

Blue Gate at the Comanche -- 2010

The Dark and Light of it

Cotton plantation greathouse ruins

Greathouse Ruins -2010

The strong shadows from the morning sunlight highlighted the geometry of this cotton plantation greathouse that lay in ruins — windows missing, iron bars staining the walls with rust, and the roof open to the brilliant blue morning sky. These old stone relics are gradually disappearing as they crumble or are converted into modern greathouses for today’s wealthy.

On the “lighter” side is this second floor doorway in a historic Christiansted building, apparently still occupied. The stairway, green doors flung open, and delicate curves of the railing invites one in.

Doorway in historic Christiansted building

Doorway with feelers - 2010

Open shutters, locked gates

Open shutters on Danish building

Open exchange -- 2010

Many of the old buildings here in the tropics have wooden shutters over their windows, but no glass or screens. When the shutters are opened to let in the light, there is also an open exchange of air, insects, and more. What is inside can go out and what is outside can come in.

How different is the message from the old gate with its heavy chain and lock, surely stronger than the gate itself!

lock and chain on gate

Is there a key? -- 2010

Time passes

queen for a day

Queen for a day - 2010

The queen rides by in sparkling yellow proud and smiling. A few blocks away, the afternoon sun illuminates a crumbling cemetery. The stones speak of dreams and lives long gone, and stories played out on that balcony just beyond the cemetery wall.

Cemetery in Frederiksted

Gone for a while - 2010

Different lives

Christmas boat parade

Before the boat parade -- 2010

Different people, different lives. The image above was captured at dusk in a waterfront cafe, waiting for the Christmas boat parade to begin. A smiling older woman strolls through the crowds selling trinkets and candy from a bin in a baby stroller. Always ready with a smile, she is a fixture at the town’s events.

And below is a tall man, cigar and beer in one hand, cell phone in the other, apparently oblivious to the woman with her small basket of goods to sell, as the night’s energy swirls around them.

Cigar, beer and a cell phone

Cigar, beer and a cell phone -- 2009

Faded places

reflections on an abandoned building

Reflections - 2010

Every community has its empty places, faded and overgrown. Some of these, when there had been no design or charm to begin with, become a blight on the landscape. But others have personality and become a part of the character of a place, in their decline adding a patina of charm and history.

How do the well-intentioned and civic-minded learn to tell the difference, so they can carve away the decay and blight while leaving the history and charm in place?

red gate to overgrown courtyard

Red gate - 2010

Buy me Love!

Buy me Love in Orlando

Buy me love mainland style!

This store display screams “Love! Buy me love!” and to avoid confusion the t-shirts on the mannequins say “my boyfriend” and “my girlfriend” with a big red heart. So come on, just buy me some clothes, buy me love!

Now here in the Caribbean — once you get away from the big stores — the style is a little different. On the gallery (porch for most of you) of a little house that serves as a store on a back street of Frederiksted hang some new lingerie swaying in the breeze, just whispering…

Caribbean lingerie shop

Buy me love (Caribbean stlye)

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