Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fun stuff this week (plus bonus tip on fireworks viewing)

I am booked to the gills with sandcastle lessons this holiday week but somehow I am going to figure out a way to enjoy at least some of the other fun stuff going on -- and so should you!

Love you like a monkey - catch the BongoDogs at Wanna Wanna July 3rd and Palm St. Pier July 7th

Monday night(s) catch Matt & Ray-Bo (aka Gypsy Maintenance) at Texas Moon - folkie heaven!

From Aziza - our favorite tango instructor:
TANGO PARTY (MILONGA) July 4 3:00-6:00 p.m. at Salsa's - Everyone is welcome. Come to listen to great tango music, watch the dancers or give it a try yourself. Free basic instruction at 3:00 p.m. for newcomers - There will be a minimal floor fee of $5 - Contact: Aziza 761-9642.

From Leah over at Dorados:
Just a quick note to let you know to put Darren Morrison on your calendar July 8th. He is an old college buddy of mine, and has been in the music scene in San Angelo, West Texas, and the hill country for quite a few years now. He has been played on country radio stations around Texas lately and is gaining recognition. He plays mostly Texas Country, and in his own words "the lovechild of a Willie, Kris Kristofferson, and Jimmy Buffett threesome". He's playing shows in San Antonio and Corpus Christi next week, and then will make the trip down to the island next weekend and is going to play here at Dorado's as a favor to me! No cover, Sunday night, July 8th, starting at 8pm! So come out and show some support -- it will definitely entertain!

Promised Fireworks Viewing Bonus Tip:

Everyone generally clusters at the bayside entertainment district for a glimpse of the fireworks and that sure is a fun place to be if you love crowds, insufficient parking and long lines at the bars. A lot of folks don’t realize that there are many good viewing areas right on the beach (this is a very narrow island, remember?) The trick is finding it in time to catch the show because you won’t know if you can see them until they actually start shooting them off. So here is what you should do:

9 PM -Grab your beach chair and head to the beach, looking for a stretch of dune in front of a low (2-3 story) building.

9:15 - you will hear when the fireworks start, just look over towards the bay side and move your camp until you find a spot that offers a good view. It’s easy, the beach is wide open empty that time of night, you can bring whatever you want to drink/eat (no glass though!) and you won’t have to contend with crowds or finding a parking spot.

You are welcome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Selling off our public property little by little

Is the town of South Padre Island so poor that we can no longer afford our bayfront access points? How much maintenance do they actually require? And how are island residents and guests supposed to launch their kayaks, etc. when there is no more public access to the bay?

I cannot imagine why our town leaders would think this to be a good idea. In fact, it seems utterly insane to me.

So what else is new....

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Friday, June 15, 2007

shortage of affordable housing

I remember when the idea of bringing in foreign students to work service jobs on the island was first broached and how everyone thought it was such a great idea. Well, those students are here but apparently no one really gave much thought as to where these kids would live. I understand they have been packed like sardines into a little space on the mainland - there is an urgent need for affordable summer rentals for these workers. If you have some ideas, please contact Dionne over at La Playa.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Revisiting Dandelion Wine

"Yes, summer was rituals, each with its natural time and place. The ritual of lemonade or ice-tea making, the ritual of wine, shoes, or no shoes, and at last, swiftly following the others, with quiet dignity, the ritual of the front-porch swing."

Walking Wags can be a real drag when I have a lot going on: he moves so slow and it feels like my brain is moving way too fast when all I can think about is how I should getting down to business at my Mac instead of trailing dusty circles with a tired old dog who will cry piteously and without pity until I take him for his third stroll of the day. I try to use the time wisely and think about things that need thinking about -- like CPAC stuff or condo marketing strategies or the subject of my next competitive sand sculpture -- but too often I find my thoughts being led astray by my surroundings. Right now my neighborhood (specifically the rental unit upstairs) is buzzing with the sounds and sights of summer and summer people. I don’t have a porch swing but beach towels drape the new white rocking chair. School is out, kids are everywhere and I can remember so clearly what it felt like to wake up to no schedule or obligation -- a seemingly-endless series of days stretched out before me like a row of gaily-wrapped presents waiting to be opened...

Way back when, my favorite author was Ray Bradbury who has been in the news lately due to the recent release of his newest book, “Farewell Summer.” It sounds like a good read and the review I read compared it to “Dandelion Wine” which got me thinking about how it had been an awful long time since I read that book, long enough for me to forget much about it except for the effect it had on me when I first read it.

So I did an one-click impulse buy and picked up copies of both Bradbury books new and old and now that they have arrived, when do I find time to read them? The rocking chair calls but so far I have resisted.

Wags doesn’t seem to mind or even notice if I trail behind him with my nose in a book. And while we trace the same tired circles that he finds endlessly fascinating, I am returned to a world where a new set of sneakers can change you into an antelope or a gazelle and now I try to imagine what a happiness machine would look like -- sounds like a good such subject for a competitive sand sculpture, actually.

And I make a promise to myself: when the first back-to-school ad airs I will spend some quality time in that rocking chair with “Farewell to Summer.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

my last word on the birding center thing

I went to the Birding/Nature Center workshop the other day and was totally impressed with:

- Kirk’s silence
- Tara’s great questions - to which she did not get straight answers but maybe I was the only one who noticed ...? (I believe she asked about maintenance costs down the road and how they were going to be paid for and Mr. Franke mumbled something about a $350,000 grant that we have a “really good chance of getting.” She smiled and nodded like that was a perfectly good answer.)
- All the happiness and enthusiasm for the proposed “world class” facility -- hey! The town is really coming together over this thing!

Totally impressed -- in a disappointed sort of way. Because I can see it all now:
Contractors will tear up and rip out the native habitat, build a hugely expensive building too close to the wetlands and chucky jam full of wooly mammoths and other exhibits that have nothing to do with South Padre Island -- all the while incurring no risk or financial responsibility to the town -- the Birding Center Fairy is going to come down and bless us with this “world class” facility just because we are such gosh darn nice people and we deserve it! (I am still not clear on who is going to pay for it but was reassured over and over again that it certainly won’t be me.)

And I learned that we don’t have to worry about future beach re-nourishment either! The state of Texas is always going to be there to renourish our beaches because it is their land and yes, they kinda fell short the past decade or so but all is forgiven and we can be absolutely certain that they will be there to rescue us when our expensive properties start falling into the Gulf as a result of poor planning or global warming or whatever.

So many happy people at that workshop -- and warm fuzzies all around!

And so the line between real nature and a tribute to nature gets ever blurrier, and no one even notices when the birds stop coming because their habitat has been paved over and completely replaced with a tidy, sanitized version of what used to be wild and free here. And eventually no one will even notice the difference, or remember what was lost.

Atlantis vs. Elbow key.
Nature just isn’t very interesting all by itself, is it?

Except, it really is.
I have been working on a mermaid sculpture at the Sea LIfe Center in Port Isabel -- a small, homey operation which is being run on a shoestring budget by folks who do it because they really & truly love the native critters and want to share and inspire that love in others. You are allowed to handle some of the animals in the exhibits, but most are “just to look at” and - due to the location of my workspace - I get to hear constant exclamations from kids of all ages, “Look at the mama scorpion with all her babies on her back!” They don’t seem to mind that there is nothing to touch, spin, poke at, no blinking lights or whistles or bells. Just an amazing bit of nature that will eventually be returned to the wild to go about its business -- after it teaches us a small lesson about anthropodal motherly love.

I got an email from Mayor Pinkerton today detailing some of the history behind Clayton’s land and the ongoing negotiations. It was nice of him to take the time to write me and I appreciated it because I try not to blather on in ignorance. If I understand him correctly, acquiring Clayton’s land would basically cost the town some 4.3 million - about half of which would actually be a trade for property that the city bought for $750,000 but has recently been appraised at 2.2 million.
That sounds like a deal to me. It’s a huge chunk of land! Buy all those acres and keep them just the way they are.... forever! But with trails and blinds and maybe a boat ramp and other stuff that birders and naturalists and kayakers would appreciate. I can see a nature boardwalk extending from Sea Turtle Inc. to a 2 million dollar birding center facility that doesn’t try to be Disneyland, the Exploritorium and Atlantis all rolled up in one slick package but does a fine job of engaging us in the birds and animals and plants we will see when we stroll through the preserve.

Mr. Mayor, I still think that buying that land would be the absolute best way to spend all that money that the Birding Center Fairies seem bent on giving us.
But I am clearly in the minority on this, so I will just shut up now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I need a man!

A handyman, that is. Someone willing to saw, drill, hammer, etc. for mere money.
We will start slow with a few minor repairs around the casa, and then if things work out we will graduate to more serious improvements.
Could you -- or someone you know -- be the handyman of my dreams? Contact Lucinda at 761-6222 - thanks!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

More Thoughts on the Birding/Nature Center

When I first started thinking about and discussing this issue with other people, I stated that I personally would like to see less building and more preserved habitat in this project. With island property being bulldozed, paved and high-rised at a truly alarming rate, it seems very clear to me that preserving what is left of our native flora and fauna is of far great urgency than building a magnificent edifice that would function primarily as a memorial to what used to be here.

When I wrote that, I had no idea that the property between Sea Turtle Inc. and the Birding center land was owned by none other than Clayton Brashear. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Clayton and I see eye-to-eye on very little and that I am no fan of his “build highrises and they will come” approach to island development. A lot of the e-mail flying around the past few days has made much of the assumption that Clayton is opposed to the existing B-center plan because he wants to sell his land to the town for a huge profit.

I don’t know enough about the real estate market to judge whether or not the offers he has made to the town are anywhere close to ballpark, but all I have to do is look at my tax appraisals to know that island property value is rising rapidly -- and no one I know is predicting the trend to reverse itself anytime soon. So doesn’t it make sense to at least talk to the man about acquiring that land? If he doesn’t sell it to the town, he will most assuredly either develop it himself or sell it to someone who will and wouldn’t it be infinitely better to have a very large block of protected acreage/wetlands stretching from Sea Turtle Inc. to the Birding/Nature Center with no highrise in the middle?!?

One of the ideas he has floated involves a trade - the city owns property next to the Travelodge that has been sitting unused forever and as far as I know it has no concrete plans for its use. Have the town leaders even given this idea serious consideration -- or are they rejecting it out of hand, just because it is Clayton they are dealing with? If so, I would file that in the “cutting off your nose to spite your face” category.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fun weekend ahead

I have been “commuting” to Port Isabel over the last few days, working on this mermaid at the Colley’s Sea Life Center -- and am having a wonderful time with it. I expect it will take me another couple of days to finish her but I am enjoying the luxury of taking my time so who knows, I could be there another week or two...

Anyway come by and see her and me and all the great exhibits at the center.

This weekend is Sam & Lori Wells appreciation days - they are both celebrating birthdays plus anniversary - and the festivities kick off with some Sat. evening partying at Wanna Wanna with the expected appearance of some off-duty Bongodogs. And then Sunday we are going to have a beach party at access #14 and chances are good that libations will spill, food will occur and a sandcastle will be erected. So if you love Sam & Lori (and who doesn’t?) come by and wish them well.

Sunday night is “Three Tons of Steel” at Palm St. Pier and I am going to try to make that as well ‘cause I love to hear good live music and Vern Lewis says these guys rock. Maybe I’ll see you there!