(all illustrations below, c. Kevin Sprouls)

It seems like a good time to get tropical, or at least imagine, dream. Here in Southern New Jersey, in the U.S., our climate is usually quite moderate. We generally get an inch or two of snow per winter, and are not often thrust into arctic conditions. This week is the exception. We’re still getting off easy here compared to some, but it’s been in the teens (degrees F) here all day, with more to come.

New York Life building, 2005 annual report

I’ve always had positive experiences with the islands I’ve come across. The first Island was Manhattan. My Dad used occasionally to take my two brothers and I into the City. We lived in an extraordinary place called Rutherford, NJ, 8 miles from New York. I resided here my first 18 years, and still have connections to return to (and reasons for returning).

 municipal identity logo for Rutherford, NJ c. 1998

I remember going to the circus at MSG, and to see the Empire State Building. We once travelled to Shea stadium. I only remember the subway ride, my first! Later on, I used to cross over to the island, in High School, to haunt Greenwich Village “headshops”, and Weiser’s bookshop, of occult fame. My school pals and I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of under-age drinking at McSorley’s Ale House. I was present at the very first Earth Day… remember a lot of frisbee-throwing! And, of course, fantastic concerts at the Fillmore East were dramatically enriching. Whilst a young teen, I spent one agreeable afternoon at the Hare-Krishna center, which was across the street from the Fillmore at the time. I seem also to recall a major Hell’s Angels presence in that neighborhood. More of NYC later, as I am very well off-course, tropically speaking!

It’s time to drop anchor in balmier climes!

My Spouse and I spent an idyllic week celebrating our 5th Anniversary on the island of Montserrat, Lesser Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea. This was in the eighties, way before the volcanic eruption which wiped out the place as a destination. We visited the Vue Pointe Hotel. It was fabulous, with an open-aire dining room (tropical birds flying through at all times). The place was a collection of concrete bungalows, running down to the black, volcanic sands. Horticulturally, on this island, the Hibiscus rules!

It was here we discovered the controversial parlor-game “Who’s Got ‘Soul’?”. This silly pastime involved running down your list of friends, and judging the measure of their “bop” (for lack of a better term!). Getting together over drinks with the couple in the next bungalow, we collectively went down the list of our friends to ascertain their level of that certain essential something. Seems a tad ridiculous, as they knew not our friends, nor we theirs. Must have been the lush island air, or was it the rum?? Below is a note our companions left, as testament to my claims…

A lot of Brit-rockers used to come to Montserrat to record— “Ebony and Ivory”, the McCartney/Wonder collaboration, was created here, among lots of other hits.


On one of our last days in Montserrat, we were led by our trusty guide, Jim, up to see the volcano and waterfall. Jim was a no-nonsense 70-year-old who carried a short stick. He led us into a “less-travelled” path which became quite challenging. The volcano was only an innocent-looking, steaming crease in the ground then. Strange that 10 or so years later it decimated the tourist industry here.

The waterfall I blame for the thinning of my scalp (I being fool enough to stand directly under its rushing torrent)! It was exceptionally cleansing, though.

Time to return to reality, I’m afraid. Must get the woodstove going! The snow, as it falls today, is rather picturesque. Soon enough, the buds will appear and leaves begin to unfurl. I will then start to contemplate my first dip in the cold Atlantic, as the days grow longer.

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