Saturday, January 27, 2007

I didn't want to have to do this.... But

I am a bit stunned by the reactions to my last post, in which I merely quoted a mass e-mail and made a one sentence comment on what I thought of its contents.
(BTW - thanks for caring what this humble sand sculptor thinks.)

You will of course have noticed that every statement I post on this blog has my name on it.
Yet some people feel very comfortable attacking me from behind the mask of anonymity. Even aldermen - elected officials who ought to stand for something - have taken this cowardly route. (I was an English teacher in my former life. Once I have read a sample of your writing I can almost always identify you in subsequent messages.)

You disagree with me? Fine. Think I am an asshole? You're not alone. Wanna tell me to my face? Feel free.
But to do so here in front of google and everybody you are going to have to register first. As of right now -- NO MORE ANONYMOUS DRIVEBYS.

If you truly believe what you are saying, you will sign your name.
Like I do.



Friday, January 26, 2007

Can't Possibly Be True

I was forwarded this SPIRIT e-mail by a reputable source... But I still have a hard time believing it.

The Town has sent a letter to all shop owners from the Police Chief advising them of the need to partition off and separate areas where items are displayed that could be construed to be obscene under Texas law, and to post signage prohibiting minors in those areas. They have offered assistance to all those who have questions on these laws and the details associated with them, to further ensure compliance. They will begin actively enforcing these laws on January 30, on a complaint-driven basis.

Collective madness is indeed the only possible explanation.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

See What Dad Feets is Up To

While many people my age have either lost their parents or are being forced to deal with their health or age-related issues, I feel like I won the parental lottery. Mom & Dad Feets are very much alive, healthy and still willing and able to lend a hand to a daughter who did not always make what they would have considered to be "good choices." Even better, though they are officially Michiganders they spend a good chunk of the year right here on South Padre Island and don't even complain (too loudly) when the weather turns to crap as it most certainly has this winter.

But their willingness to help others is not limited to their family members. As you may recall, last year Dad decided to forego the tennis courts at Saida and spent the winter helping Katrina victims rebuild their homes and lives in Pass Christian, MS. It was a lot of hard work, but it must have been rewarding on some level because he is going back for more in a couple of weeks. While I will be sorry to see him leave, I have to tell you that I am incredibly proud of my Dad and what he has done and is expecting to do for people who are far needier than I.

I would encourage you to visit his blog, where you can read about "Project Isaac" -- the specific family for which Dad is going to help build a new home. If you continue past that entry you can read his reaction to the "cruising controversy" (from a Winter Texan's perspective). And then you will probably want to keep reading, because Dad is a natural at this blogging stuff. I hope that as time permits he will continue posting while he is in MS so we can all follow along and see how people are dealing with a upheaval the likes of which we can only hope never hits our coastal community.

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Ricky Gayle Gilder

I am sorry this didn't get posted sooner...

Ricky Gilder, our longtime friend, of South Padre Island, Texas passed away on January 15, 2007. He was born on October 16, 1961. Rick was just 46 years old.
Ricky was born in Gorman, Texas to Ila Maurine Warren and Guy Henry Gilder. Ricky was raised by his grandmother just a short distance from the Texas Stadium. Well over 29 years ago Rick came to call South Padre home.
Rick was a kind and honorable man. He was funny and a lot of fun. Rick shot very decent darts and played a hell of a game of cards. He loved rock and roll. We all know Rick from waiter and bartender at local establishments to driving us with BB‚s Taxi and Cantu‚s Taxi. He was always taking care of us.
Rick was fine and sincere to the core. He is missed tremendously. Great gratitude goes out to Jake and Tom for all their hands on help for Rick and all who have contributed.
Please join us for goodbyes at the San Benito Cemetery at 2:00 p.m Tuesday January 23. 2007 for a grave side service.
Arrangements entrusted to Tomae-Garza funeral directors, San Benito, Texas.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


"I messed up pretty bad... but NOW I know what I am doing. Please give my new policies a chance to succeed."

It is time for the adults to take Iraq away from Mr. Bush, to curtail his gifts to big business and rescind the powers he usurped from the other branches of government. Past time. WAY past time.

I must admit however that I find his health insurance proposal interesting. As a self-employed person I pay my own way. My coverage isn't great but I hope that it is enough to keep me from becoming a burden on my family or anyone else should catastrophic illness be my fate. Seems like the responsible thing to do and a bit of a tax break would encourage me to continue making those payments even in months like this - when it is cold and rainy and no one is thinking about sand castles.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Turtle Update

Over 100 cold-stunned sea turtles have been rescued and with temperatures dropping by the hour those numbers could rise dramatically over the next few days. STI needs a lot of help: towels and blankets, volunteers, boats for seeking out distressed turtles and cash donations. Please visit or call 956-761-4511 if there is something you can do to help.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Marketing Opportunity

Well isn't this interesting!
In an article about the new laws regarding passport use - you now need one to fly to Mexico, Canada and a few other places that did not previously require one - a large percentage of the 1000 people surveyed guessed wrong about the requirements to get here:

Half the people surveyed believed passports were needed for trips to Texas' South Padre Island and California's Catalina Island. Maybe they need better marketing campaigns.




Saturday, January 20, 2007

Speaking of Cold Turtles....

Nancy Marsden and Scarlet Colley rescued a cold-stunned Atlantic Green turtle from waters over by Pelican Station yesterday. Hurray for them! Let's all chip in with some warmies for these guys today! I for one have several frayed towels that I could not bring myself to just throw away as well as some old blankets taking up space in my storeroom. Sea Turtle Inc. could really use them right now, as well as volunteers.

And I ask again --when is the sun supposed to come back out?

UPdate: I stopped by STI and snapped a few pics. They are a bit overwhelmed there with new turtles being reported as well as a lot of web traffic generated by the AP story. Would be really nice if some of those visitors would hit the "donation button" while they are there. STI has a lot of new patients that need meds and other supplies that are straining the organization's resources. Donate here!

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Cruising, Revisited

I can tell you exactly how to get rid of cruising and it is very simple: give these kids something else to do! Like it or not, spring break on SPI is a teen magnet. As I see it, we can alienate and attempt to intimidate these kids with more laws, more cops and a stronger hand -- or we can convince them that SPI is a cool, happy place that welcomes them here now and will welcome them back someday when they get older and have more disposable income.

There are two indisputable truths here, sez I:

1. You cannot legally prevent underage valley kids from coming to SPI any time they have hankering to.

2. They are going to have some serious hankerings during spring break, due to the fact that there are massive numbers of young, pretty people of both genders on the island at that time - a time when they are likely on break themselves with nothing better to do than cruise out to the island.

If private enterprise cannot see a need/opportunity here then perhaps it is in the town's best interest to start a program of its own. If cruising really is such a horrendous problem, it would be worth throwing some money at giving underage kids an activity of their own, right? A facility or even just a parking lot where they can "hang out", buy refreshments, listen to music/dance, etc. The law can have a presence without becoming overly-obnoxious if these kids are mostly gathered in one spot.

If there is any doubt as to whether or not the valley kids would participate in such a plan -- well shoot, has anyone even thought to ask them?

I just returned from a week-long stay on the island of Vieques. Esperanza's "main drag" features a lighted, tree-shaded malecon -- a wide, pleasant walkway that extends almost the entire length of the town's waterfront. (O that our town's founders had shown similar foresight along the bay!) Street venders set up in the evening. Lots of benches exist for anyone wishing to sit and the area is easily patrolled by the local officials.

This is how I would describe the weekend scene: At one end is a bar that blasts great music - music that makes your butt start twitching of its own accord. Both residents and tourists of all ages are purchasing drinks at something like 4-5 waterfront establishments and either dancing or watching others on the dance-floor (and man o man is it fun watching the locals dance!) All along the colored light-festooned malecon kids of all ages are strutting their stuff, dancing, leaning against the railing talking, or smooching on benches. The only people "cruising" in vehicles are the cops and car-bound folks looking for a place to park.

As long as cruising is the most entertaining activity open to people of a certain age group, fighting it is going to be a losing proposition. Like I said in my first post on this subject, we are talking less than a dozen nights/year when this is a problem. How many deaths? How many lives ruined? Just how serious is this problem? Where are the stats to back up these assertions?

This is a town full of self-proclaimed conservatives who want more laws and bigger government to solve a problem that barely exists. Disappearing beaches, ugly beach access parks, cold turtles and preservation of native flora & fauna -- these are the issues upon which we should be lavishing our energies.

And yes, I am grumpy. I got sick sitting on the tarmac while attempting to leave a tropical paradise for this cold miserable excuse for winter on South Padre Island this week. When is the sun supposed to come back out,anyway???!

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

beach glass

It comes in a variety of colors of course but mostly in shades of cloudy white, brown and Heinekin green. Cobalt blue pieces are few and far between and ruby red is so rare that I have yet to find any at all. I am partial to pale green and in fact a lovely piece of it resides in the new necklace I bought myself from the lone street vender on the malecon on the way back from the beach last night. It was a big indulgence as I have almost no cash to spend here. The grocery store takes my VISA card but I am trying not to run that bill up too much either. We came to PR to work, but there is no telling how long the client will take to pay....

And so I comb the beach for glass. I think that the clearer bits will look great in my stepping stones and am hoping that Amazin' can help me drill holes through the smoother pieces. I had a pair of beach glass earrings once upon a time. I was fond of them until I lost one and I would like to try making their replacements myself.

I have walked the beaches of SPI for over two decades and can count the number of beach glass pieces I have found on two fingers. I have of course come across plenty of nasty shards which I never fail to pick up like the good SoB that wrote these words in "the Unlitter Song":

the sons of the beach well, we live here
and when it comes to litterin' our message is clear
when you see a piece of glass just sparklin' in the sand
stoop down pick it up and throw it in the can!

There is a shit load of beach glass on Viequez. Some areas of the beach are literally paved with the stuff. In the past couple of days I have become more picky about what I will keep, throwing back some pieces as "not ready yet." Me -- throwing glass back on the beach! There is literally so much of it. The edges are no longer sharp enough to cut anything which is I suppose the technical definition of "beach glass" but I crave the cloudy roundness that tells me a bit has been tumbled and shuffled around the beach a good long while.

I greedily stuff fistfuls into my backpack and have even gotten my travel mates to do the same. We spread the daily harvest over the glass table where it glints in the afternoon sun -- a poor woman's treasure trove of jewels. I started with a plastic cup full and have had to upgrade to a pitcher. I fondle the smoothest pieces like worry beads. I sort them by color and arrange them into patterns; imagining how they will look framed in concrete and decorating my garden path. I think about how visitors to my back yard will have to hear the story about the faraway beach that created them.

So perhaps the Unlitter Song needs a new verse:

when you see a piece of beachglass just sparklin' in the sand
stoop down pick it up and throw it in sandy feet's hand!

Friday, January 12, 2007


Never saw it coming.
But I just may have found the beach that could lure me away from South Padre Island.

This is more than a one-horse town -- actually, several horses walk unimpeded in the streets as well as on the beach. As do the dogs. And chickens. No one is worried about building a median down the middle of the malecon -- heck, there is no lane indicator of any sort and not enough traffic to warrant it. No worries about green spaces because anything that isn't mowed quickly becomes overgrown with the lushest of tropical vegetation. Nary a high rise in sight though I am sure they are in the comprehensive plan. Somewhere. We are here in "high season" and yet are sharing the hugely spacious, open and drop dead gorgeous Sun Bay beach with maybe 5 other people.

The town of Esperanza is utterly charming. Our 3BR/1BA rental house is located in "el barrio" but the neighbors are friendly, the bread in the local bakery to die for and I can walk to

the corner store in 2 minutes
the nearest wifi signal in 5
a friendly waterfront tavern in 7
sun bay beach in 15

A plenitude of watersports are nearby should I feel the urge. The sand works. The water is clear as can be and the exact right temperature for swimming. Palm trees on the beach provide shade if it is desired. No signs of local constabulary nor any apparent need for same. The rum is cheap and my cellphone works (but on extended service so don't call just because you can ;-) I have only been here for 3 days and already I want to chat with a real estate agent.

Maybe other Nancy is right. Maybe I just want SPI as it was 20-30 years ago. All I can tell you for sure is that the Ritz-Carlton area of San Juan is what SPI is headed for, and where I guess the majority of the "stake-holders" want for it to go. But I would never spend my vacation at that place, even if I could afford it. I am mystified by folks who happily spend $3.00 for a cup of coffee and don't object to the surcharge for the workout room a vast majority of them will never use -- who don't mind being assigned an umbrella as long as a cabana boy is on hand to bring them their over-priced cocktails.

Me, I'll take a flask of tequila and the naked beauty of Sun Bay beach over that crap any day. I guess that makes me weird, and it also indicates I probably shouldn't be sitting on CPAC.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our stay in this city was short and mostly sweet. The client put us up in the Ritz-Carlton - rumor had it the rooms were costing them a cool $600/night. We arrived on the eve of Three Kings Day - the commonwealth's equivalent of Christmas Eve so the city was still dressed in Holiday finery and Christmas music was still being piped through the hotel (just when you thought you would not have to hear "jingle Bell Rock" again for at least 9 months...)

We had arrived a day early so that we could gather supplies - being totally ignorant of the fact that everything would be closed on Three Kings Day. We caught a taxi into Old San Juan to see what would could see, but pretty much everything was buttoned and zipped up pretty tight. We did get to stroll around Fort San Cristabel and that was cool... got to learn a bit more Puerto Rico history. The cab ride home was exciting as our driver had very little regard for traffic rules and etiquette.... playing chicken with a fully lit and wailing ambulance just before pulling into the hotel entrance.

We finished the sculpture as scheduled on Monday afternoon. We had planned to make our escape from the city on the 8 PM ferry from Fajardo but discovered fairly late in the day that the ferry schedule was in holiday mode as well and had to make a frantic dash to catch it at 6 PM instead -- which we did with minutes to spare.

We disembarked on Viequez in the middle of a flash rainstorm that lasted just long enough to thoroughly soak us and all of our belongings. A cheerful cabbie helped cram all eight members of our entourage plus more luggage and musical instruments then one might think possible in his van and we were on our way to the vacation part of this journey.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bah Humbug

I am feeling pretty discouraged tonight and am fast reaching the conclusion that it is all but impossible to make an impact on anything around here. A few people talk loud, make the rules, conduct the meetings that matter behind closed doors, do their best to try and convince the rest of us that our opinions count for more than a pile of dog doo while clandestinely shoveling our ballots down the disposal.

I am off to Puerto Rico for a couple of weeks. Maybe spending time on another beach will clear my head and improve my attitude. Adios Bye Bye.

The Median Project - Former Alderman Kirk Mills Weighs In

(Posted with the permission of the author)

I was one of the most vocal opponents of the Padre Blvd. median project. When it was first voted on by the voters, the sales tax proposition was to "beautify" and improve access to Padre Blvd. Great --- who wouldn't want to improve the looks of Padre Blvd.! But, along the way we found out that Txdot would only participate with funding for the project if the project was for safety. Therefore, the project became all about safety. We weren't told we were voting in favor of medians when we voted on the temporary sales tax increase to beautify Padre Blvd. We were told it wouldn't cost the city anything at the time because the revenue generated by an increased sales tax would cover the costs of the project. As it turned out, the cost of the project has far exceeded the tax revenue generated by the temporary sales tax increase.

I met with the Texdot officials many times at public meetings and asked how could this project increase safety by putting palm trees in the field of vision of traffic on Padre Blvd. I was told that wouldn't increase safety but that they could put some small areas of low growing ground cover type of plants to get the effect of green space. I love green space as much as anyone, perhaps more than most. Upon studying the plans and sketches provided by Txdot. I concluded that this project was a bad idea. It appeared to me as though the sea of concrete and pavers would be greatly exaggerated by being raised and surrounded by a curb. I thought it would make much more sense to concentrate on the sides of Padre Blvd. and use the monies collected to improve drainage, sidewalks, and landscaping. While I was on the BOA I voted against the medians for these reasons.

People only heard what they wanted to hear and didn't take the time to study the drawings, because what we are getting is just what we were sold by Txdot, the mayor, and three boa members who voted in favor of the project (Ridolfi, Hoff, and Evans). Aldermen Tara Rios and Phillip Money voted against the final version which included a substantial cost overrun (about a half million dollars more than the sales tax collected). In our May 2007 elections we may have the opportunity to hold those responsible for the medians accountable , including Rick Ridolfi and Jim Hoff.

Kirk Mills

I have to admit that I was one who did not look closely at the renderings. I was never enthused about the plan but took city officials at their word that the median would make Padre Blvd. both safer and more attractive. Seeing what is happening out there is making me think that we were in fact mislead. It is butt-ugly and what person in their right mind would think that losing a whole lane of traffic wouldn't make the Sunchase bottleneck even worse than it already was?

I am trying hard to keep an open mind and not judge until the thing is done but geez that is a lot of pavers....

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wear YourTux

The regularly-scheduled Beach & Dune meeting - which would have been called today at 3 PM at the Public Works building, had it been "formal" -- didn't happen. Apparently. Nobody called and there was no agenda posted.

However. I heard from a trusted source that an "informal" beach & dune taskforce meeting to discuss dune building (which as you probably already know is a subject I hold near and dear to my heart) was indeed being held at 3 PM at Public Works. So I called PW and asked point blank if there was a meeting -- formal, informal or otherwise. I was told very specifically that there was not by the lady (I think she said her name was Mary) who answered the phone.

I hope she is right and that my trusted source is wrong. Because it really doesn't look good if committees are having "informal" meetings to which only select members are invited.

And speaking of meetings - can anyone tell me if CPAC is meeting Thursday night? I hear no, then I hear yes and I have received no official notice one way or the other. I suggest to any members who might be reading these words that perhaps we should meet - informally of course - here at my house to discuss the land usage chapter.

You can leave your tux in the closet.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

planting trees

... of the Christmas variety.

Several of us have questioned and are being questioned on the topic of recycling Christmas trees into dune starters. Last year the city was most accommodating - picking up and stashing trees until the appointed dune building day. This year? Not so much.

Well, my Frasier Fir - shipped all the way from NC and still not dropping needles - did not give its life to end up in some landfill. I am saving my tree and someday soon I will build my own little dune somewhere where it is needed and wanted. Maybe I will name this little dune after my ex and walk my dog to it every day.

If you have a live tree, maybe you would like to do the same and then you can join me on dune creation day. We can bring snacks and bevies and have fun on the beach while we are at it. (If you don't have room to stash a tree, you can drop it off at 117 e. saturn and I will stash it for you. Because the more trees we have, the bigger our our little dune can be.)


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New Years Resolution

I'm not much for resolutions... not good at making them and even less good at keeping them. But I ran across an article today that has me tempted to try again. Anyone care to join me?



2007 Polar Bear Dip

Man O Man the annual Whiting Street Polar Bear Dip is without a doubt the place to be on New Year's Day... if you are on South Padre Island. And we hear rumors that SPI was one of the few warm spots in the country this week so who wouldn't want to be here?

There is no doubt that the string of sunny NY Days we have enjoyed over the past few years has helped this event grow quickly from a few to a few hundred participants in just 9 years. The air was on the chilly side this year, but that sun sure felt nice coming out of the water.

The SoB Sandcastle Wizards - picture shot by Laurie Gaudi - had lots of fun in the sand. Thanks to assists from Pat Flanigan, Dad Feets and my nephews Dylan, Eliot and Emerson.

View a great video and lots of still shots courtesy of Jerry & Jackie Wilson here and here. And lots of thanks to event organizers who continue to outdo themselves. This year's proceeds will go towards purchasing beach mats which will help allow more disabled folks to use our lovely beaches.

Already looking forward to the 10th annual in 2008!