Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Catching up on my way out of town...

All of South Padre Island's master sand sculptors are heading to the big contest in Port Aransas this week, where the father/daughter team of Amazin' and Christy will take on Team Trowel & Error (Kirk and me) in a fight to the finish.

Sadly, that means I will miss the SAVE THE LAGUNA MADRE KICK-OFF MEETING tonight, 6:30 PM at Club Padre. I sure hope turnout is huge and that good things are accomplished. For more information about Save The Laguna Madre and this public meeting go to:

Another important event I will be missing is the all-you-can-eat Fish fry at Bennie's-By-the-Bay March 31 from 11 - 2:30 for $7.50. All proceeds will go to Alex. If anyone has any updates on his condition I'd appreciate your posting them in the comments here.

Ditto for our good friend Steve Gomez who reportedly had a stroke a few days back and has slipped into a coma. Shari -- if there is anything we can do other than pray for recovery, please let us know.

Y'all take good care of each other while I am gone, okay?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Long live the Turkalada!

Adios Turk. We will miss you.
A celebration of Turk’s life will be held on Wednesday, April 11, 2007, at 5:30 p.m. Saida Tower pool side.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Break with Dad Feets

Most people who do spring break look forward to going with a group of friends or perhaps a romantic partner. This year I had the pleasure of enjoying spring break on South Padre Island with -- my dad. And it was the most fun I have has during break in a long long time.

This is how it came about:
As you may or may not know, I am now the proud (and nervous) owner of a rental unit just upstairs from where I live. For Texas week I had 8 (or more, I never did get a good count) young adults inhabiting the place which I figured would be okay because I would be here to keep an eye on things.

A last minute job offer in Puerto Rico - during Texas week - was the impetus for giving Dad Feets - who had just returned with Mom Feets to Michigan after wintering on the island - a call. He has long enjoyed spring break (see and since he had some projects in mind for the SandBox Inn, and since I had a ton of frequent flyer miles I could not think of a better use for, a deal was struck. He arrived the day that I left and did a great job of caring for my animals, starting some major landscaping projects and befriending my tenants.

We had scheduled things so that he would still be here a few days after my quick turn-around job, giving him more time for more projects and for me to spend some quality time with my Dad, something I have always been trying to get more of. When I was a kid we would go fishing on Glen Lake together. I am not an angler and was happiest when a fish managed to steal the bait without getting hooked. What I liked was having my Dad all to myself for a couple of hours.

So on the afternoon of the last Sat. of Texas week Dad discovered that he needed some mortar to finish up the planter he was building in the middle of my driveway. Ace was out of it, White’s was closed and so it looked like a trip to Brownsville was required. I knew it would be a long wait on the bridge coming back, and he offered to do it himself but I would not dream of making him attempt a journey of such epic proportions on his own.

So we set off at about 5 PM. Traffic was already backed up nearly to Walmart. I called my friend Nancy from the car and she screamed “Abort! Abort! Go back while there is still time!” I called Amazin’, who has a view of the causeway from his front window and he implied that insanity must run in the genes.

Well, we got the mortar -- and a beautiful pygmy date palm to put in the planter he was building -- with no problem. The problem started right about at H.E.B. when our forward progress came to a screeching halt. To make a very long story short, We pulled back into my driveway at just before 1 AM and I’ll tell you what - that trip back from Home Depot almost as much fun as fishing on Glen Lake.

Best image:
Early morning. A late model jeep - one of those tricked out ones that run about a jillion dollars - pulls up to a construction site on my street. The passenger door opens and a young woman climbs out. Fully decked out in her evening wear (skin-tight capris, plunging neckline and stilletto heels) she carefully picks her way through the construction debris to her ultimate goal: the onsite port-a-potty.

Most unpleasant encounter with the law:
I was on the beach carving sand with a gentleman who is trying to market a new sandcastle gizmo (see what I carved from it here). He was obviously not a spring breaker and in fact had his wife and kids with him. At some point the police ATV pulled up and the officer strode up and politely inquired what was in the cooler. “Water and soda-pop” was the answer. But that wasn’t good enough. “May I look inside? We are patrolling for glass -- we need to keep the children safe, you know.”

Give me a break. I have watched these guys drive right past an exposed wine bottle without a second glance and suddenly now they are out inspecting everyone’s coolers? Too far, say I. They have taken this thing too far.

(I also heard stories from eyewitnesses about how they cleared the kids from the beach every day around 5 PM by flooding the area with officers shouting that “the beach is closed” and “you have to leave this area right now.” That cannot possibly be legal. Texas beaches belong to the public and are always open to anyone who wants to enjoy them!

I truly believe that the heavy hand of the law is going to strangle spring break on South Padre Island in my lifetime.)

Worst personal experience: sitting immobile on HWY100 in Port Isabel St. Patty’s day night, hoping for even a glimpse of the bridge... an unwilling if captive audience of the ugly rap music pounding from one nearby vehicle and ugly porn splashed all over the dvd screen of another.

Best experience: the intermission we took after making it through PI. Agreeing we could both use a bathroom break before getting stuck on the bridge, we pulled into Pelican Station for a nice meal, a couple glasses of wine and live entertainment by some of my favorite local musicians (Andy, Omar and Jamie - don’t know what they are calling themselves these days.) Two hours later, we were on the bridge for what would be another two hours of rap, porn and conversation before finally pulling into my driveway. The lubrication definitely helped.

It was my first experience of having spring breakers upstairs and yeah, they were loud. But they weren’t destructive or rude and they seemed to be genuinely enjoying the place. Furthermore, one week of having them up there made my April mortgage payment, and for that I am most grateful.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Still available -- but for how long?

The writer of this Houston Post article waxes poetic on a camping excursion north of town...



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

for Alex Avalos

This was news - BAD news - to me. Thanks much to Stan for helping spread the word...

Many of us have been blessed with knowing Alex Avalos. As you may already know, he was hit by a drunk driver while on his motorcycle. He suffered a major leg injury that requires delicate surgery. He is at Valley Baptist in Harlingen and will remain there for some time. The best case scenario is that he will not be able to walk for several months.

Hopefully he eventually recover monumental medical costs from the driver's insurance.

At the moment, his needs are to keep his business from shutting down. Toucan Graphics has committed to assist his customers to the best of our abilities.

In addition, we have started a Business Interruption Fund (South Padre Bank to make a contribution to Acct.# 0146932401) for Alex with the purpose of paying his rent, bills and commitments stemming from his one-man printing business.

As you know, Alex donated a significant amount of his time, resources and printing to various charity and non-profit groups as well as serving on numerous community committees and organizations. He is a valued and loved part of our Laguna Madre community.

For those of us who have benefited in any way from Alex's generosity, it is time to give back to him in his hour of need. If you are so inclined, see Toni at South Padre Bank to make a contribution to Acct.# 0146932401. ou can mail it to us or them if we wish to remain anonymous.

Stan Hulse
Toucan Graphics

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just in case you still aren't convinced....

that drilling for gas in the Laguna Madre could have truly horrible repercussions, you might want to check out the "Letter from Wyoming" in the Feb. 5 issue of the New Yorker. Read the abstract here.

This part of Wyoming is experiencing a boom in natural-gas exploitation, but locals still refer to the drilling fields as “the oil patch.” Sublette, with a population of 7,000, insists on its identity as a ranching community. But the truth is that oil-patch jobs-and the accompanying crime and drug use-are overwhelming ranching in the community. Since 2000, almost 1,800 new wells have been added, and 7,000 more have been approved for drilling in the next 10 years. Energy companies are pushing for unfettered access to private and public lands in the area. Wyoming’s leaders are almost all pro-energy development. Mentions Gillette syndrome-the depression and lawlessness that come with mineral wealth. A recent report by Ralph Boynton shows the Sublette crime rate rising by 30% from 2004 to 2005; air quality and the quality of life have also been affected. With the arrival, since 2000, of nearly 3,000 roughnecks, off-rig boredom has increased and this helps explain some of exploding crime rate. Fuelling all this is the growing use of methamphetamines-primarily crystal meth, the roughneck’s drug of choice.

I have the whole article if anyone wants to borrow it.
Check for updates on the current local battle at

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Save the Bay - Updates

Things are starting to happen.
1. Visit the new website at
2. Plan to attend the "Save Laguna Madre" kick-off meeting -- read on for details (thanks, Sam!)

Kick-Off Meeting
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Club Padre, South Padre Island

SAVE LAGUNA MADRE will hold a meeting regarding protection of the Lower Laguna Madre (LLM) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. at Club Padre on South Padre Island. This is an informal kick-off meeting to share information about concerns such as oil and gas development in our bays and the public is welcome to attend. This is not an official Town function and our group has no political or activist affiliation.

THE MEETING is being organized to help consolidate information about the current seismic survey of the LLM, which has literally generated a lot of noise. The concern is that after the survey is completed, the bay and wetlands could be drilled in what is considered an extremely fragile and pristine environment. The group is not opposed to expanding the State’s energy resources but may oppose further oil & gas development if it impacts the ecosystem and tourism economy significantly and adversely.

THE AGENDA will contain updates from Town staff as well as some presentations from some knowledgeable sources as well as other activity and environmental groups. Email and Internet resources will be shared. Discussion will follow as to the possibility of selecting a standing committee. Participants are asked to not engage in bashing any particular person, agency, or corporation. Meeting notes will be taken and shared with all those who sign up for email distribution.

PLEASE ATTEND our meeting of March 28 if you are concerned about recent activity in the Laguna Madre and what kinds of things can be considered to help protect it.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Save the Laguna Madre

So there I was sitting in my sandbox when I felt the earth move. My house is on the beach side of the island but the seismic tests in the bay were rattling the pictures on my walls.

I have watched my sand sculptures get blown to smithereens, yet never have I felt such a sense of foreboding as I did that day in my sandbox.

Something very evil is headed toward our community -- the seismic activity in the Bay is just the beginning. Next will come drills and rigs -- and then the compromised sunset view will be the least of our worries. Of far more concern are the detrimental effects of gas drilling on the bay’s fragile ecosystem as well as the negative economic impact on the fishing captains, cruise operators and watersports outfits that depend on the bay for their livelihood. Indeed, the whole tourism industry that sustains all of us here on the Island and the whole lower Rio Grande Valley is at risk.

Look at Galveston Bay. Look at Lafayette and indeed the whole Louisiana coast. Can anyone who has seen what the drilling industry really looks like up close and personal think that it would not have a seriously detrimental effect on our local economy?

It is easy to think that it can’t happen here. That the GLO which makes a big show of protecting our beaches will be equally zealous in protecting the Bay. But they issued the permits that are allowing the current round of explosions. Where is the Nature Conservancy? The Audobon Society? Surely in this day and age there are safeguards in place that will prevent the rape of our bay and wetlands, right?

Well, don’t bet your future on it.

Tony Sanchez is a very powerful man with a lot of money and a lot of friends in high places. Our small community can do very little to stop him on our own -- we must educate and convince island friends and property owners throughout the Valley and indeed the state of Texas to rally to this cause; it is every bit as important as keeping garbage dumps out of our back yards and protecting Isla Blanca Park. Hell, I have heard that a bunch of windsurfers in Colorado are already up in arms about this; fighting this thing at the federal level may be our best hope.

I just snagged and will host it on my server for free. If a committee is formed, it is welcomed to use this domain to post calls to action; addresses of officials who need to be harassed, etc. etc.

For example, Sam Wells sent recently sent out this call to action:

My goal in writing is to generate some support for a regional plan for managing oil and gas concerns within our Coastal Natural Resource Area (CNRA.) We need help. We need the beaches renourished and it certainly doesn’t help to be blowing up the bayside and sinking oil & gas bore-holes everywhere. To correct a popular myth, money generated on local oil & gas leases does NOT fund local beach and bay projects. I have already taken it upon myself to write Senator Lucio regarding the possibility of legislation regarding:

1. Requiring GLO to require all major permits to be sent to local public hearings
2. Designation of our part of the Lower Laguna Madre as a special CNRA
3. Funding for implementation of a regional plan for the offshore in inshore CNRA

So maybe the rest of us ought to be writing Sen. Lucio letters of our own.... you think?
Let’s get something started, folks.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Disappearing Timepieces at the PO

A few years back when the South Padre Island post office lobby clock disappeared, I asked Eddie why and he mumbled something about it breaking and admin being too cheap to replace it. Even then I suspected the real goal of the clock's removal was to try and obfuscate how much time we spent waiting in line to ship stuff or collect our packages or pay for the privilege of not having home delivery like the rest of the country gets (box rent).

Well, turns out I was right. Dammit.



Saturday, March 03, 2007

Excitement is Building....

Reminder: Come to Louie's tomorrow night (Sunday) and watch "Sand Blasters" with me! Show starts at 7 -- I will be there shortly after 6 consuming liquid courage. Hope to see you there!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dallas with a water view?

About a year ago, Nancy Marsden requested and received permission to create a butterfly garden at beach access # 5. She neither asked for nor received any assistance or funding from the town for this project. She provided all the plants, planted them herself and even hauled water from her house to keep them alive during the dry season. The payoff was watching them grow and mature and actually attract butterflies.

I found Nancy to be a great inspiration, and a few months back when I started making stepping stones for my own garden I made some of them in the shape of butterflies for her to install at the beach access garden. Nancy personified civic pride with her energy and willingness to create a beautiful public space for all to enjoy while asking nothing in return.

Well, yesterday the city crew moved in and basically decimated the garden. They tore out anything that didn’t look like it belonged in a Dallas garden and even broke one of the butterfly stepping stones while they were at it. Why? Who knows? They probably thought they were “tidying things up” but what they did was utterly destroy a small but important - to some of us - oasis of our native flora.

On my street alone, six lots of native plantlife have been bulldozed and paved over within the past year. If no one makes a conscious effort to protect and propagate local plants, we may as well kiss the butterflies, birds and other native flora and fauna goodbye. The much-vaunted “World Birding Center” could very easily become a big ugly monument to the birds that used to live here, back when the plants that attracted them to this area in the first place still thrived.

The town authorities talk a good talk about ecotourism but it is becoming increasingly clear that all they are doing is “greenwashing.“ Worse, they are actually and actively undoing the efforts of honest to goodness defenders of the native habitat.

For shame.