Archive for August 2007

The Story So Far (according to Mike)

August 2, 2007

Our tale begins, like so many good ones do, with an ol’ fashioned love story. It contains plenty of twists and turns and colorful characters including: million dollar sweepstakes winners, a wine-making Amishman, one hell of a Giant Poodle, a discomfiting number of tarantualas, and a fine assortment of rogues and scallywags. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First the love affair …

RDIt started in the torrid halls (OK, OK, maybe they were more tepid than torrid, but this is a story, right?) of Reader’s Digest in Pleasantville, New York. I was freshly released from Ithaca College and basically had the same role as a robot — deliver mail and production materials to the company’s employees. There actually was a robot (basically a file cabinet on automated wheels) named “Pockets” that had this job, but he was getting overwhelmed so they hired me.

One day, I had the great good fortune of delivering some mail to the office of a young junior copywriter crackling with energy, good looks, a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-and-make-you-thank-god-you-have-ears voice, and a mind that trumped it all. I dropped off my delivery and we talked for long, corporately-discouraged minutes. I was eventually hired by the company as a copywriter and, instead of delivering mail to the employees of “The Digest”, I would soon begin sending it out to the masses — scratch offs, labels, brochures, certificates, and all. (And, if you think you don’t have a chance of winning, think again – my beloved and I personally escorted one set of $5,000,000.00 sweepstakes winners around Manhattan on the Circle Line.)

As a (more or less) respectable corporate employee with a brand-new Chevy Cavalier and a fullish head of hair, I was able to woo the young junior copywriter, Diane Curry, in earnest. Of course, Carolyn Davis (the fictitious goddess of Reader’s Digest — think Betty Crocker, but sweepstakes) would soon intervene on my behalf in the form of a one-week-long brainstorming session in the Caribbean. Diane and I stormed our brains off during our days on St. Maarten and by nights, we stormed up one conversation after another (yes, they were JUST conversations) after dancing our butts off and cooling them in the moonlit Caribbean (we’re still just TALKING here, OK?).

We were married a mere 8 years later after a lot more dancing, exotic vacations, a few breakups and one helluva good wedding.

buggyTwo years into our marriage, we quit our jobs at RD to pursue the dream (aka, temporary insanity) of owning a bed and breakfast in Amish Country in Lancaster County, PA. The staging ground for said insanity was the Churchtown Inn Bed & Breakfast, a beautiful 1735 fieldstone mansion in the northeastern part of the county — far, far away from the made-in-China “Amish” shops, motels, car dealerships, outlet malls and other bastions of capitalism that are found in other parts of the county. Our backyard view was of an 87-acre Mennonite farm, across the street was one of the oldest churches and cemeteries in the country, and Amish buggies really did trot by our front door all day long. It was the perfect antidote to the cold, impersonal, materialistic part of New York in which we were living in while working at Reader’s Digest.

Problem was, we now lived with and at our jobs every day, all day.

A typical day involved serving a 4-course breakfast to upwards of 18 people, plunging a few toilets, doing a few paint touch-ups, cleaning some stained sheets, fixing a broken door lock, shoveling snow, weeding the garden, shopping for the ever-depleting store of groceries, paying bills, optimizing our website, and … well, not really all of these things, everyday, but you get the idea.

Of course, there were good parts too — murder mystery parties, dinners with our guests at Amish family homes (including a fellow who, to this day, remains a good friend and makes his own wine according to the church recipe, of course), great cheap finds at auctions, walks through the constantly-morphing farmland (often with Porter, the giant poodle who stole our hearts and will eventually get his own little write-up on this blog), amazing summertime produce, and great times with our lovely staff and friends both “plain” and “English.”

Problem was, we now lived at our jobs every day, all day. (Did I mention this already?)

So, when the email arrived one day requesting a couple to move to the Caribbean to manage an eco-resort we once visited on the tiny island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, we got our resumes polished up and sent them off in record time.

After the job was offered to us, we sold the Inn (also in record time) and within six months, we were realizing a long-time dream of mine to live on a tropical island.

Dreams can be deceiving.

Blue BeachCertainly it’s been an adventure. And certainly we’ve had boatloads of fun. The job itself, though, aye matey … there’s the rub. It has involved scooping up dead rats, killing impressive numbers of tarantulas and roaches, hacking back the relentless jungle in the relentless heat while relentless fire ants go at my ankles, digging out sewage ditches, cutting back trees to get the satellite Internet to service to work and navigating many other thorny jungle patches as well as many equally prickly personalities.

Before

So, to counter the effects of the J-O-B, we’ve spent plenty of time hanging out with the island’s collection of rogues, scallywags, and good and fine people, often at the quintessentially-Caribbean bar, Al’s Mar Azul. I’ve played prodigious amounts of poker, drank legendary amounts of rum, spent satisfactory time on prisitine, often deserted beaches and poured gargantuan sums of money into a house we bought and rehabbed here on the island.

So, when the opportunity to rehab our livers and our bank account arrived in terms of an offer from Reader’s Digest for Diane to take a position in Singapore … how could we say no?

Us!

And this brings us full-circle and to the point at which this blog begins. We hope you’ll enjoy the words you find here. We intend this as a way to share our adventures, stay in touch with family and friends, and make a few observations that you may or may not find insightful. We’ll look forward to having you along with us as we continue our passages in time and hope that you, too, will share some of your own reflections with us along the way …