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Christmas on the Road

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JJ Rocks Article # 15:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 3, December, 2006
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Well, its that time of year again when almost everyone who cant be home for Christmas will be thought about and missed as we watch our children open their gifts and we anticipate the taste of a great Christmas dinner. And at the end of the day when many of us snuggle up on the couch to view a holiday special on a home theater system, some musicians are just starting to play their first set in an empty nightclub next to an interstate highway near a town they theyve never heard of.

Now of course they cant be compared with our troops who are risking their lives abroad who most of us will be thinking about during this holiday season, but they still do deserve some thought and consideration as they try to make people happy in a place that many of them are unhappy being in. Now Im not saying that anything is wrong with the places that they are performing at, its just that on Christmas Im sure that most of them would rather be home. And since many of the people who are usually in their audience would rather be home also, an almost empty room makes it even harder for them put their hearts into it.

As I write this article it brings back so many of those kinds of memories that I feel like I could write forever about this subject. But since I dont want to loose your attention while reading this piece Im just giving you a basic picture of what these unsung heroes go through this time of year.

Rather than elaborate on times when it was just the band and a bartender and we were snowed in somewhere in Michigan, or having Christmas dinner in the coldness of a hotel restaurant with an aluminum Christmas tree in the corner that had only one color of lights, I think Ill just tell you about my first Christmas in St. Croix.

It was around 1980 and I had just escaped from the clutches of the top 40 scene and formed a classic rock band that was doing very well down here at a place called the Grandstand Play. We had just arrived a few weeks before Christmas and it wasnt very hard to keep my mind off of being away from home because of the beauty of this place. And the crowd was full of very unique people that were introducing me to a whole new world. I was wind surfing in December! The feeling was indescribable and it was hard for me to think of what time of year it was. But when Christmas day came the whole thing changed. Well, at least on that day.

The very friendly people that were soon becoming our friends had invited the band members into their homes for Christmas the night before, but I was kind of shy about going into other peoples homes on that special day. I just felt like it should have been family only. I guess Im just funny that way. So when Christmas morning came the band house was very quiet for a change because it was just me and the girl singer who also didnt want to go to someones home. I didnt know her reasons for not going with the rest of the band, but there we were looking at each other and starting to talk about missing home on Christmas.

So we decided to walk into Christiansted just to see what was going on. The streets were practically empty and there were almost no cars driving around. Everything was closed so we couldnt get anything to eat except maybe in some hotel but we didnt want that atmosphere. So we just stated walking up and down the streets. After sitting along the wall overlooking the harbor we headed home to try to fix some of our own food. There usually wasnt any real food in the band refrigerator but we were going to check.

On the way home going out of town we heard some distant music coming from down a street that went into Gallows Bay. As we got closer and looked down the street we could see a band made up of people of all ages on the back of and all around this old flat bed truck. Some were strumming old guitars and playing flutes while others were beating on all kinds of things including a wheel rim from a car. And there was smoke rising from pits dug in the sand and the smell of food was driving us to drooling. We just stood there like two wide eyed lost puppy dogs. But we didnt dare go towards them.

You see, where we came from in the states, white people usually werent found at all black functions. Whether its a church, a nightclub, a wedding, or especially barbecues. And we were not going to walk down there and feel unwanted. But I learned an important lesson that day about the local residents of St. Croix. And its one that I will never forget.

Just as we were about to walk away with our chins dragging on the ground, an elderly man in a little straw hat walks up the street towards us and stops half way and waves his hand and says come on in! And a woman farther down the street also waves her hand along with giving us a huge smile that stays with me to this very day. The street was blocked off with some boards so the man yelled just walk around as he waved his arms in a circular motion. So even though we werent afraid because of their kindness, we were still a little shy.

When we got down next to all the music on the truck it was loud, but not too loud for us to hear a woman say Get a plate and get some food. Then the man said Eat! Eat! And right then a little boy jumped down from the truck and handed me a tambourine and another lady yells Let them eat first! Then from behind came an out stretched arm connected to a giant grin that was handing us both paper cups containing some kind of juice. Well before you know we were both wearing the same kind of grin!

What a day! We stayed the whole afternoon and I dont remember very much after that. But it turned out that even though we were frustrated about not finding Christmas earlier that morning, it still turned out great because as you now know, Christmas found us.

 
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