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Where have all the fish gone?

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JJ Rocks Article # 53:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 10, July, 2007
Where have all the fish gone? This is a question that I try to avoid because it contaminates my memories of the closest thing to paradise that I have ever known. The memories of walking along the Christiansted waterfront and seeing Parrot fish under every pier, along with Barracuda streaking through the water are becoming as faded as the photographs that I took when I first experienced St. Croix in 1980. Maybe it was the aroma of the roasting pig at a Buck Island Blast and the day ending with a Chinese Junk in the distant harbor slowly growing in size as your eyes locked onto the setting sun on the sail home. And after a long day of crystal blue water, red hot skin, and a foot that smelled like pee because you had to ease the pain of a wound from stepping on a Sea Urchin, all you had in mind was a cool shower and a hot night!

Along with some of the incredible marine life, something almost as important has disappeared through the years. And that is the once in a lifetime friendships with the people that changed your entire life. This was during a time when I was playing music at a nightclub called The Grandstand and it had an audience that was a cross between local blacks, Arabs, Indians, Whites, stateside and European visitors, military, and the rich and the poor all in one place. My memories of those times are often shared with friends who now have families and local businesses here on the island. And they all say the same thing. Those were the days.

As I go through day to day life here on this beautiful island I cant help but notice the changes that have taken place. Now of course we all know that the future should be a natural growth of the past. And we also know that dried flowers are never expected to regain their original beauty, so we look towards having new buds. But no matter how hard I try to realize that logic, I still find myself desperately clinging to the water pail.

The pain of letting go of pleasant past realities is often eased by the anticipation of great future experiences. But for awhile, looking ahead has become an unpleasant and almost impossible task. So I would wake up every morning trying to be happy living on my tiny piece of this island and trying to not pay attention to many negative outlooks by refusing to tune into radio stations that are constantly complaining about the government, and avoiding conversations with people who are always talking about St. Croixs imaginary downfall.

The only good thing for me that came from all the changes in St. Croix is that I found myself looking towards the inner structure of this islands population. This is the first time that I can say that most of my friends are local born Crucians who have deeply influenced my way of thinking, attitude, and opinion of this paradise in a positive way. They helped me find a balance between being someone who was not born here and being a true resident of St Croix. I feel more at home here now than I did during the times of my fondest memories on the island. And thats because they got me to realize that the real St. Croix is not just about everybody having a great time, thats what visitors expect to find. Its about being apart of and contributing something to its cultures and lifestyles, not just observing them for future scrapbook memories.

Now I see newcomers to the island in a whole different light. Many of them now appear to me as overbearing, over opinionated, sun burned dominating know it alls who hang together as if they were in an army whose sole purpose is to take St. Croix out of the dark ages. And some of them do this by buying up properties, opening up stateside style businesses with obnoxious plastic signs, and consuming too much time on local radio talk shows with their imaginary expertise on what makes a better St. Croix.

Fortunately I arrived here many years ago as a musician whose only concern was to get people to have a good time. And through the years as the nightclubs and restaurants on the island have become more like continental establishments, I found myself being more comfortable teaching music from my home rather than playing local bars or going out on tours. And that is how I became more in touch with the cultures and habits of the everyday working, church going Crucians who stand strong with their beliefs in family, agriculture, education and of course God. And their kindness and trust towards me teaching them or their children has gained me more friends than I had back when I first came to St. Croix. They showed me the difference between having real friends and just knowing a lot of people.

Now we all know about the many troubles in the world around us. No matter where you go or what you read or see on TV, there are always problems and someone with something to complain about. St. Croix is no different from any other place that goes through changes that are brought by mankinds desire for material possessions and power. So those who feel that this island is going down hill are just looking at a glass that is half empty because they see their memories as past realities that were poured out by the present instead of seeing the glass half full with room to grow. Just start realizing that the locals of this island have a very strong passion for family and worship that helps them rise above and defeat any obstacles that get in their way. And that passion is fueled by the determination to show that the roots are the strongest part of a tree.

So where have all the fish gone? Obviously this is an environmental problem that we will definitely be covering at a later date. But my analogies that were spun from that question should give new directions to anyone who moves here and wants to make a difference. Their goals will never be reached as long as they have a go for the throat attitude towards change. They first have to establish a genuine communication with our local residents without trying to stand over them like their great white hope or new savoir. It takes many individual friendships to gain their trust and respect as a whole, and that takes time. The last thing you want to do is push your opinions in their faces on a daily basis. So if you really want to know where all the fish have gone you will just have to jump in the water instead of standing on the beach running your mouth.

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