Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Isla Blanca Revisited

The year was 1984 and I was employed as a school teacher in Weslaco. After four years of spending every vacation and almost every weekend on South Padre Island I was ready to just give in and move here. Perusing the local want ads for a suitable dwelling, I found a listing for a trailer home (i.e. - a vintage travel trailer with a little house built over it) - described in the ad as a "permanent residence" in Isla Blanca Park. it was love at first sight. I paid $8000 (owner financed) and signed a lease with the county that stated I could stay right where I was as long as I paid my monthly rent. I loved it there - just a stone's throw from the Brownsville Ship channel and close enough to the old "Ocean Safari" park (now Dolphin cove) that I could hear the lions roar at night.

(Photos - "sandy feets beach retreat" circa 1989 and Thanksgiving 1990 with a bunch of people who - amazingly enough - are still here. See anyone you recognize?)

It was my ideal neighborhood teeming with surfers and artists and other way cool people and I enjoyed eight idyllic years there. When we got our eviction notices some of us talked to reporters, wrote articles and letters, organized meetings, made impassioned speeches and talked to lawyers about our options -- which were few. The county owns the property and they hold all the cards. In the end, I was forced to abandon my sweet little home, later spotted in Laguna Heights where the new inhabitants took their sweet time painting over the pink and green sand castles I had lovingly detailed on the exterior walls....

So I can sympathize with the current residents who are just now seeing the writing on the wall. Yes, you folks believe you have a great little community that should be there for you to return to every winter into the foreseeable future. You understand that you contribute to the economic well-being of the Island and are convinced that your presence is welcomed and appreciated. Just like we "permanent residents" did. But I am here to tell you that if the county sees a way to make more money off that little bit of extremely valuable property, all the meetings with lawyers, chats with reporters, well-written letters and impassioned speeches you can muster will get you absolutely nowhere.

The coyotes were here first, followed by the native Americans who get supplanted by the Catholics who got hoodwinked by the rich white people who stopped paying attention long enough to let in the artists and surfers who got supplanted by the Winter Texans who are now likely to be nudged out by a high-dollar resort.

So we all bragged about what a wonderful place South Padre is and (holy shit!) folks started listening and checking it out and next thing you know the lots are priced out of the range of artists and surfers and maybe even Winter Texans and the developers feel compelled to build high-density condo complexes on every build-able inch and the old-timers wax nostalgic over what a fine place this was back in the day and shuffle off to Port Mansfield where undoubtedly a similar scenario awaits them -- if they live long enough.



Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sweet condos available

New construction on north (quiet) side of town in a two-story 8plex. Four 2BR/2BA units still available starting at 220,000. Swimming pool, pretty landscaping and Traventine tile throughout.... the owners did not cut any corners in the construction. These units are not listed anywhere but if you are interested you need to contact Laurie G. at buyspi.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Adios, Dr. Adwan

Another missive from Balde Silva reporting the death of Ken Adwan. Please join me in offering our thoughts and condolences to his widow, Alice:

Aloha everyone,

I lost a good friend today. Big brother, Ken Adwan passed away last night. Alice said that he went quietly. God bless him. Our prayers are with you, Alice. We now have another angel to protect us and a new star in the night sky. I'll look for you tonite, Ken, I won't sleep 'til I find you.

I love you and miss you,
Our pirate flag is at half mast for awhile.


Update: Max Reed wrote a very nice tribute to Dr. Adwan - read it here

Hopeful Developers look for county support

Proposed Isla Blanca project would include an aquarium, a marine science center, IMAX Theater/National Geographic complex, marine art museum, condo hotel, restaurants, etc. County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa tells developers that "the Island community must have a voice in the proposed development."


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

SoBs in Hawaii

We recently got our first report of the season from far-flung SoBs Balde & Rennetta Silva - aka Toby Beau. They are doing the cruise-ship gig in Hawaii again this year and one of their ports-o-call is Kona - the selfsame city (on the big islnd) where I will be headed in early Feb.!

It goes something like this:

Aloha Pirates,

As many times as I have been pulled over in my life, I've always wondered to myself, do I stop and sit tight with my hands at 10 & 2 on the steering wheel or do I casually step out of the vehicle and risk a Rodney King. Well, I'm going to step out of the car and tell you why I haven't written in so long. Ready... here it is. I've had "Red Ryder's Block." I had you going for a minute.
The truth is I've had nothing to say, I still don't. Nothing happens here. No blows to the head, no typhoons, this place is so beautiful and laid back that in Hawaii "The Amazing Walter" would be a maniac.

Rennetta says I'm lazy, she calls me flo-ho, which means drag ass. Not to be confused with chicken ho which is one of Gilbert Vela's fishing charters. I think he saw a chicken ho on Jerry Springer.

Okay I'm going to take the wax out of my pen and my ears and take this time to thank South Padre Island for a wonderful Holiday. Rennetta, Michael and myself had a great time! Special thanks to Bill Donahue, Sue Britton, Daniel and all the Rudy's over at the Rad. They almost fainted when we said Rennetta wasn't going to have a White Elephant Party this year, but that's okay, we'll make them sorry they let us next year.

My best Christmas present was becoming an uncle again at Louie's Backyard. Little brother Joe and Stacey Ricco gave us a beautiful little wise girl named Samantha-I love you guys.
I got another Christmas present, too. A Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Texas Longhorn special edition guitar (beautiful)! I can't wait to show Taylor Stanton, being she is such a big Longhorn fan. Ha! The Aggies will get em next year, Taylor. Hang in there.

I'm running out of chit chat and bordering on babble, so I will sign. I miss all of you.

Hang Loose.

Balde Silva/Toby Beau

p.s. Balde's video pick of the week-Broadway Danny Rose by Woody Allen. If you can find it, rent it, it is hilarious!
Attached is a picture of our first morning in Honolulu from our hotel room on the 38th floor. Love the rainbow and at the bottom of the screen is our cruise ship.

No cars, no hassles - CC Caller-Times looks at SPI

Today's installment in the Corpus Christi Caller Times series on "lessons in Beach-Building" focuses on South Padre Island. The audio slideshow portion features interviews with Jay Mitchum, Paul Cunningham, Roxanne Guenzel and yours truly.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Florida model - Two resorts hint at Padre Island's future

"The Caller-Times also visited Galveston and South Padre Island - two coastal cities often cited by beach access advocates as examples of what not to do with a city beach."


1/22/06 Blogging for Choice

I am pro-choice.
I am anti-abortion.

The two stances are not mutually exclusive.

The fact of the matter is that no woman wants to be in a position where she must at least consider having an abortion. In an ideal world every pregnancy would be planned, welcomed and an occasion for joyous celebration. However, until we can create a world where rape never occurs; until we have made the great strides in health care that will prevent any woman from having to give birth to a severely deformed fetus or risk her own life if she carries to term -- a truly civilized society must never outlaw this medical procedure. Polls show that a majority of Americans would agree with me on this.

There are ways to drastically decrease the number of abortions performed for reasons other than the ones cited above, however, and that technology already exists. All we have to do is make sure all women of all ages, in all neighborhoods and all income brackets have unfettered access to family planning services, sex education and a wide variety of effective and affordable contraceptives.

If Roe v. Wade falls it will not be the end of abortion. Women will continue to use any and all resources at their disposal to end unwanted pregnancies -- while the resulting state-by-state battles will consume funds and energy that could be so much better spent on eliminating the failures in our society that lead to the real problem, which is unwanted pregnancies.

When you cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, you are showing that you are pro-abortion. When you prohibit distribution of condoms, you are showing you are pro-abortion. When you prevent a safe and effective form of contraception from reaching the hands of the women who want and need it, when you provide our youth with incomplete or even erroneous information about their own bodies and reproductive systems, you are showing you are pro-abortion.

I am anti-abortion.
I am pro-choice.


bikin' it

Some of you may have been seeing me on my bike a lot lately. I bought this nifty EZ on EZ off wicker basket for my lightweight aluminum Jeep bicycle and when the weather is favorable I am really enjoying running my errands via bicycle and leaving the van parked.

So there I am zooming along Padre Blvd. thinking about the plan to improve our main drag by adding center medians, thinking about the proposed plans I have seen and trying to remember what happens to the breakdown lane - the lane that I am zooming along in. I could be wrong but I think it pretty much disappears.

Can anyone tell me for sure?

I read in the Breeze that the new business persons association has taken an oppositional stance to the median plan for reasons only tangentially related to bike riding (drainage, pedestrian safety, disruption of traffic flow and loss of access to businesses are their stated concerns). Clearly we need some straight answers from our city officials regarding this plan and what the resulting boulevard will look like. Spare us the whimsical artistic renderings in pretty pastels populated with non-native vegetation and give us solid answers to questions like... where will I be able to ride my bike? The town website would be a great place to describe this project - if it is there my search did not turn it up.

Island resident Amazin' Walter had his own thoughts on the issue which he has given me permission to share:

hi ms feet... since you seem to be the politicaly active representative for the SOBS ... i've got a couple of observations and questions... i read in the morning paper that we qualify for more grant money from txdot... without reading further a feeling of dread crept up my spine... i thought of the $389,000 eyesores at both ends of the bridge that furnish us with such critical information as "clickit or ticket"... (which is a threat about obeying a state law), and "brought to you by txdot". I also thought about the bicycle trail at the foot of the causeway which doesn't really connect to anything and has a gap in the middle that you - i'm not making this up - can't ride a bicycle on.... ??? so after reading further and realizing it has to do with dividing our lanes with trees and planters and what all and i thought oh it's not so bad. and then i remembered what happens in a really heavy rain to our lanes in the gutters of the island.... but only a few hours at a time (so far)... anyhow i guess we'll manage to get around as best we can no matter what. my question?... i think i forgot my question...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Whiting St. to be named after Capt. Jim Ghilain

That's the news from Alderdude Fred and while I might normally be opposed to the town renaming streets in the interests of preserving what short history we have, this time I am not. Capt. Jim - founder of Jim's Pier - was integral to the forming and shaping of the town of South Padre Island from the very beginning. I understand that back before we had actual streets, Capt. Jim built, paved and maintained Whiting St. until the town took over. This is not just some random drive by rename.

As Alderman Ridolfi put it:
“While the whiting fish is a wonderful species, it had no personality, business sense nor contributed the many services to our community. We are honoring people who honored our town with their life and dedication to provide thousands of residents and visitors the best they had to offer.”

I understand the street's residents were polled and in favor of the switch and so am I. However, I do hope this doesn't set a precedent for other street renamings. I like living on another planet (though "sandyfeet street" does have sort of a nice ring to it, don't you think? ;-)

Endangered whales sighted off Texas coast

Thanks to Sam and "Tourist" for pointing out this interesting story...


Monday, January 16, 2006

planning and zoning

I got the following e-mail from Bill Richardson the other day:

"There is an interesting item on the P & Z Agenda over close to your area. The owners of the old motel (which is grandfathered) in the, “E” district is requesting, four or five lots in the, “E” district be changed and placed in the, “B” district. The only logical reason is because they wish to build some kind of structure, which is not allowed in the, “E” district. I would think it is probably a high rise condo.

Some of your readers and neighbors should attend the P & Z Meeting. The meeting is 3:00 PM, Thursday at the Visitors Bureau Conference room."

It would appear that the motel to which Bill is referring is Southbeach Inn on Jupiter. If you live in this area I would encourage you to attend as well, and if you know someone who lives nearby you might bring this matter to their attention.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Update on Dadfeets

Dadfeets took a detour on his way to the Saida tennis courts this winter and is mucking around in Pass Christian, MS. He is doing some good stuff there and working his butt off to help folks trying to pull their lives back together in an area totally devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Update 1/16 - I started up a blog for dadfeets that can be accessed at http://www.dad-cam.com/blog/


Building Dunes 1/14/06

Here is the latest from Cate:

The proposed game plan for the Xmas trees, hay bales and sand fencing….

We are focusing on the north end of the Island since it was hit the hardest and has the fewest remaining dunes, and because this is the location which we know property owners want us to work….

In general, all sand collectors will be located at an angle (close to perpendicular) to the water line, the dune line, and the wind direction (all of which follow approximately the same lines n/s) and gaps approximately seven (7’) feet or greater will be left between the collectors to allow for access to/from the beach by people and sea turtles (we can hope.)

Christmas Trees:
The Town only has about 13-15 Xmas trees to date. They will be located between Parkshore, in front of Mrs. Bromley’s house, and south to Saphire Circle beach access – a distance of about 800 ft – which gives us plenty of room for more Xmas trees should we get them, and allow for a greater distance between trees. Trees will be staked and tied with twine to keep them in place.

Hay Bales:
The Town has ordered about 100 hay bales. We plan to stack them pyramid style – three on the bottom, 2 on top of the 3 and then 1 on top of the two. These bales will be tied/bundled together with rope of heavy twine to keep people from taking them. 100 bales bundled in groups of six, placed in the manner shown above, will allow us 16 wind-blocks, located 10 feet apart or so, should cover a distance of 160 feet (more like 200 ft).

Locations for hay bales: Aquarius – on the south end. The Mayor has talked with the owners of Suntide I and the Aquarius, who have talked with me. They want the sand in front of the retaining wall of the Aquarius moved to fill the gap in the dunes in front of the Aquarius, and we will use the hay bales to help keep and trap more sand to fill in this gap. Also – locate hay bales in front of the Inverness and the Florence I & Florence II. I believe this will exhaust our supply of hay, but if not, we can continue south from the Florences to Good Hope Circle Beach Access.

Sand Fencing:
The Town has ordered 30 4 ft X 50 ft rolls. We have also ordered 300 2x2x8 stakes and baling wire to stake the fencing. The fencing will be cut in 10 ft lengths and placed as shown above. Locations proposed: La Quinta south to Park Shore.

This plan generally covers the area from La Quinta south to Good Hope circle beach access – with the one additional location at Aquarius.

About volunteers:
The press release asked volunteers to show up at City Hall at 8:30 on Saturday, Jan 14th. The number of people who show up will determine how much we get done.

Danger Lurks @ Access #15

I called public works about this over a week ago.

Update 1/16 - This has been fixed - thanks!

"Our Beaches' Future"

This is a "teaser" on the CC Caller's website for an in-depth report regarding the on-going controversy surrounding the closing of certain beaches to vehicular traffic. The reporter traveled to other beach communities - including SPI, where he talked to various locals including yours truly - to discover how other beach towns are dealing with this issue.

The series is scheduled to run Jan. 22-25, 2006.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

godspeed gabe

This morning's VMS brought sad tidings indeed. South Padre Island residents - particularly the small geek contingent - are today mourning the demise of Gabe Patterson of an apparent suicide. According to the article, his body was discovered yesterday in the salt flats north of town.

He was only 25 years old but had already made himself an essential member of our small community. He was a locksmith who cheerfully helped plenty of tourists and residents alike get into their cars and out of jams at all hours of the day or night; he was a computer wiz kid who provided tech support to unknown numbers of local computer owners; he was a brother to many and a friend to many more; finally, he was a son to our good friend Scarlet Colley (of Fin to Feathers Tours) and a nephew to my best pal, Nancy Marsden. I know that everyone who visits this blog will join me in offering the most sincere of condolences to the family members - we can only imagine the pain you must be feeling right now.

As Nancy pointed out to me in our conversation this morning, all our memories of him are now frozen - there will be no new ones. If you have a favorite Gabe memory, we hope you will consider posting it here. Our farflung correspondant Adelaide was the first to contribute with a Gabe story already posted on her website. It is a photo-illustrated report of how he came to the rescue of a visiting pooch who got locked in the family car by accident, and illustrates very well just what kind of a caring person he was.

I last saw Gabe a little over a month ago when he and I worked together to resuscitate a dead iPod that belonged to a friend of his. Even while we were addressing that problem, he was offering his assistance in helping diagnose a problem I was having with my monitor. Gabe had a lot of knowledge about a lot of things and he was always happy to share it. He will be greatly missed by many.

Update: A service has been planned for 10:30 AM, Saturday, Jan. 14 at Island Traders followed by a boat trip to scatter ashes. We understand this boat is a large one that will hold more than just family members. There has also been some talk of establishing a "Tree of Life" type foundation in Gabe's name - I will post details here as I learn them.

Friday, January 06, 2006

South Padre Makes "Tops in Texas"

According to this article, the Jan. 2006 issue of Texas Highways Magazine's reader survey lists South Padre Island as the 4th favorite Texas Vacation Destination (behind San Antonio, Hill Country and Big Bend but ahead of Galveston) and 3rd in the "Favorite Place to Watch the Sunset" category.

Not bad, hey?


Thursday, January 05, 2006


Raise of hands: How many of you remember SPIMA (South Padre Island Merchants Association)? I sure do. It was a friendly little group that met weekly to drink coffee, munch donuts and talk about fun ways to attract more tourists to the island. In fact, SPIMA instigated the event that would someday turn into the 500 ton gorilla that is now Sand Castle Days. I attended the meetings fairly religiously and recall no talk of ousting elected officials or declaring war on a large percentage of the island's inhabitants - but maybe I am seeing those days through rose colored glasses.

It certainly was a simpler time. Non-beachfront property was relatively cheap, so developers felt no compunction to build high or pave every square inch of any given interior lot; and dune destruction was rampant because no one was really paying attention to what those developers were up to. When the SPI Chamber of Commerce formed, SPIMA went the way of the dinosaurs as everyone involved assumed the two groups would merely be duplicating each others' efforts.

So today I read the Breeze's story about the new "Businessmen's Association" forming in the area, the primary purpose of which appears to be to counter the current BOA's alleged "hostility" to business. The article quotes Jess and Clayton - who we already know are not big fans of Alderdude Fred - about the group's desire to dole out "spankings" to certain elected officials. Hmmm. Wonder who they have in mind?

As readers of my old blog well know, I have never been a big fan of SPIRIT - but if this is the only alternative we all have cause for despair.

On one side you have a group of people (sometimes referred to as "retirees") who would love to tell you what colors you can paint your business and maybe even your home. They want to curb short term rentals in certain districts and I suspect many of them would like to do away with spring break altogether.

One the other side you have a group of business people (sometimes referred to as "developers") who think there are already too many laws governing their activities and who scream bloody murder when elected officials dare to suggest that perhaps we should take little baby steps to control growth - just a little! - to maintain a certain quality of life for the people who live here or who hope to live here after they retire.

Then you have those of us in the middle (and I suspect we are in fact the majority) who are business owners or at least benefit in some way from tourism, who accept that short term rentals are just part of living in a resort area but who would be horrified to watch skyscrapers start sprouting up in the middle of our pleasant residential neighborhoods. We want to prosper and we want our neighbors to prosper -- but not at the cost of quality of life. We want more green space; we want to protect the dunes and preserve the native flora and fauna; we want fun activities and events that will draw tourists but also entertain us and our families. Finally, we don't mind the slow seasons between the busy ones because they allow us to sit back, take a breath and enjoy the lovely environment and weather that drew us here in the first place.

That's where I am and I am pretty sure that is where Fred is as well. At the moment he is undecided as to whether he will run for another term. If you think it is a good idea, you might consider telling him so next time you see him.

In some ways our town is a microcosm of the country - fiercely divided with plenty of rhetoric to go around. The extremists on both sides are basically incapable of empathizing with or even hearing those not in their camp. It is the centrist - the person capable of seeing both sides of an issue - who is going to be most effective at leading this community forward to a future that a majority of us can be (mostly) happy with.

Anyone who has managed to piss off both Barbara Church and Clayton Brashear can reasonably be called a centrist, wouldn't you agree? ;-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Scouting it Out?

Amazin' Walter shot this the other day. He said it appeared to be a film crew shooting 360 above Tequila Frog's. Having heard the rumor that Robert Redford is going to be shooting a movie on the island he wondered if there might be a connection... Anyone out there know anything more?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

my dad

Several have asked about dadfeets and is he here yet this year?

No. Momfeets arrived flying solo with the new year but Dad took a detour on his way to the tennis courts and wound up at someplace called Pass Christian, Mississippi with the goal of donating his 75-year-old (but still strong, from all that tennis) hammer-swinging arm to the reconstruction efforts. I have not had a chance to talk to him since he arrived but momfeets has and she says he was pretty overwhlemed by the level of destruction that greeted him.

Just a few minutes ago I got off the phone with Gary Cecil. Many South Padre Islanders will remember this former island resident as the honest to god rocket scientist who not coincidentally helped fine-tune and continues to manufacture the line of custom sand sculpture tools marketed by the Sons of the Beach. Gary is living and working just one interstate exit away from Pass Christian. In fact, up until recently he was living in a FEMA trailer. He lost pretty much everything to Katrina and yet seems remarkably cheerful and upbeat in general. But he got very sober when describing the destruction. He told me the storm surge that swept over the coast there was 65 feet tall and maintained a massively destructive punch eight miles inland where he once had a home.

We have all seen the scenes on CNN but it is really very hard to imagine the level of misery and the disruption to any kind of normal routine that thousands upon thousands of people will be dealing with for untold years to come.

Sure makes your troubles seem puny in comparison, don't it?

Anyway, I hope to publish reports and maybe even pictures - he just hooked himself up with a camera cellphone - from dadfeets as they come in.

And we don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful for being spared in 2005.

New Artificial Reef to be created off South Padre

GALVESTON — The old Texas Clipper, which for years ferried students from Texas A&M at Galveston around the world, will be sunk off the coast of South Padre Island this summer, a state official said.

The 61-year-old ship will be used as an artificial reef to attract fish, divers and fishermen......


Sunday, January 01, 2006

A hangover, yes.

But not an incapacitating one. It goes with the territory of experiencing a satisfactorily raucous new year's eve. This morning Amazin' and I created a very groovy polar bear sand sculpture on Boomerang Billy's beach; the fog burned off early and the sun shone brightly nearly the whole day and something like 380 island polar bears plunged into the frigid (not!) 68 degree Gulf of Mexico. Lots of whooping and hollering; many bloody marys consumed and plenty of fun was had by all.(See more photos here...)

Thanks and congratulations to Blaine and Cindy and Shane and Stephanie and everyone else who donated time and resources to making this a fun and astoundingly successful event. Thanks to the weather gods especially: one of these years we are going to get the arctic express blowing through here on new years and then we will see who the real polar bears are. I probably fall in the "fair weather polar bear" column, myself.