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St. Croix, Chapter II: The Moonraker

Christiansted at night.  Photo by Justin Delaney. (http://www.goboogo.com)

Christiansted at night. Photo by Justin Delaney. (www.goboogo.com)

(Continued from Chapter 1: Robin’s Truck)

The Moonraker Bar was on the second floor of a three story building on Queen Cross Street, in the heart of Christiansted.  Carrying my stuff — essentially one small suitcase and a guitar case — I followed Robin through a wrought-iron gate into the courtyard of what appeared to be a defunct hotel.  She led me up two flights of stairs and along an open walkway that ended in a locked door.

“You’ll have to go through our office to get to your room,” Robin explained as she unlocked the door.  “I know it’s weird, but that’s the best we can do.”

Indeed, we walked through a small, somewhat cluttered office.  Robin unlocked another door that led into my home for the next four weeks — an apartment that had seen its better days.  It looked like a frat boy’s room, complete with a stained, ’70s shag carpet, a dorm fridge, a twin bed, a threadbare, sagging couch, and a blaring window air conditioner.  An ancient TV had a set of equally decrepit rabbit ears on top.  Under the carpet came the rhythmical thump of a bass drum over a PA system and unintelligible singing.

“You’re directly over the bar, so you probably won’t want to be here during business hours,” Robin said with a grin.  “I need to get downstairs and relieve Kenny behind the bar.  Come on down as soon as you get ready.”  She handed me a set of door keys and disappeared.

I was here.  In the Caribbean.  Finally.  I peeked out a grungy window and strained to see the ocean.  In the distance, I thought I saw some bobbing lights in blackness, but I wasn’t sure.  The concept of where I was physically standing on the planet overwhelmed me.

The immediate surroundings, however, did not.  When I opened the top drawer of a scuffed-up dresser to put away my clothes, I was greeted by a scurrying palmetto bug, which is essentially a souped-up roach with the added horror of flight.  After creating a few new expletives, I decided to leave my clothes in the bag and head downstairs.

After making a couple wrong turns, I found my way into the back entrance of the bar, which was already nearly full.  The Moonraker was a compact bar with low ceilings, plank-wood walls, and stone and stucco accents.  Various pieces of maritime paraphernalia were scattered about, and everything seemed old and weathered.  The tables and chairs were smooth wicker degraded by the warm salt air drifted through open windows and doors unimpeded.  I had the distinct impression that nothing new — except for the human inhabitants and a collection of neon beer signs — had been added to the establishment since the days of the pirates themselves.

As soon as Robin spotted me, she banged the flat of her hand on the bar and whistled with incredible shrill volume through her teeth, drawing the attention of a throng of patrons.

“Hey, everybody!  Meet Mark Johnson!  He’s our new entertainment and he’s ****ing awesome!  (She didn’t know this at all.)  This is gonna be the best month of the year!”

All conversation quieted and every set of eyes turned to me.  Had this been a movie, the music would’ve stopped with an abrupt scrape of the needle across the record.  I considered fleeing, but had no idea where I would go.

“Howdy, y’all,” I said with a lame wave.  “I guess you’re stuck with me for awhile.”

To be continued.

The Moonraker building today.  I don't think it's a bar anymore, but I'm not sure.

The Moonraker building today, obviously refurbished. I don’t think it’s a bar anymore, but I’m not sure. That’s my old apartment on the top.

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5 Responses to “St. Croix, Chapter II: The Moonraker”

  1. Marty says:

    I owned that bar in the 80’s. The best club on the Island., Sincerely, Motown Marty

  2. Gill Guerry says:

    Is there more to this story? We stayed at the Lodge hotel/Moonraker bar several times from 1979 to 1987. Loved it!

    • Mark Johnson says:

      Howdy, Gill! I’ve written six “installments”of this St. Croix series, but that’s it. I’ll definitely do more as I have the time (and memory). So glad you like it and thanks for reaching out! Be sure to read the other ones and let me know what you think. Cool that you were there during those pre-hurricane Hugo years.

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