Thursday, July 24, 2008

I only THOUGHT I needed to remodel my laundry room

What I really need is hurricane shutters. Or impact-resistant windows. Or maybe a new roof -- I am still waiting to find out how well mine survived the storm.

I wonder how many other SPI residents are reaching the same conclusion this morning.

I am posting this entry from the VIP Club in Rome Fiumicino airport while awaiting my flight to Bari. Four thousand miles away from Blackbeards, the wide-screened TV is tuned to CNN International where I am treated to the totally surreal vision of my beloved island - battered and under water - over and over again in the news loop.

It is hard to believe that just a few days ago Dolly didn’t exist as anything more than a name on a list.

Since it is the middle of the night in Texas, I can only imagine what my once-lovely backyard now looks like. Did my windows sprout leaks? Did my shingles fly away? Did the renters upstairs (yes! I had renters!) regret their decision to come in spite of the predictions?

I won’t be back home again until Aug. 8th and so will not get to see first hand the worst of what Dolly did to my island -- in this respect I am like so many other absent property owners who I am sure are sharing my frustration.

But I am seeing it on TV - over and over again - and it just makes me want to cry.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

fragments of news from the Island

I got through to a couple of people but the connections were so bad that I didn't get a lot of news before the calls failed. Walter says his place is fine but there is visible damage elsewhere. I briefly got through to my housesitter who said something like "we're okay but your neighbor---"

News releases from Melissa Zamorra suggest that people have been seriously injured trying to leave shelter too soon. Hopefully news will get reported on the new thread at - I suspect that most folka don't have internet access in addition to power outages.

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Dolly update - from Houston

I caught the last flight out of Harlingen yesterday and spent the night in Houston to allow me to get to a job in Italy on time, so I am anxiously perusing all news sources of Dolly's imminent landfall very near to if not directly on South Padre Island. John, my Very Capable Housesitter, seems to be most concerned about the surge - says the water is already halfway up the driveway with high tide or the storm not even there yet. I filled 10 sandbags before leaving town, but when I talked to him a couple hours ago he was talking about filling some trashbags with sand from the sandbox.

Pretty nerve-wracking, actually.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

SPI declared a "Top 10 Hot Spot" by Men's Fitness Mag

The article features three large photos (an aerial view of the beach; a windsurfer and a Hobie Cat)with the following caption:

Location: Approximately 300 miles southeast of San Antonio, two miles off the southern tip of Texas

A longtime hot spot for spring breakers, South Padre Island offers warm, turquoise waters and waves that are perfect for bodyboarding. As a vacation destination, South Padre is affordable and the people there are amazingly hospitable. And don't worry about getting around - the island is about six blocks wide, making access to stores and restaurants a breeze.

Fit Factor: Laguna Madre Bay, between South Padre Island and the Texas mainland, is home to some of the best windsurfing in the world.



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Albert Besteiro and Paul Brass at Kelly's

Albie's back in town - former member of the legendary Connectors now hitting the big time playing bass with a little ol' Austin band -- Del Castillo. The two will be playing Kelly's again Wed. & Thurs. nights this week only so don't miss it!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Going, Going, Gone!

The Last Days of Summer

I know, summer hasn't even officially begun yet, but I am already almost completely booked through Labor Day.

I say "almost" -- because I do have a (very) few dates still vacant. Over the past several days there has been a small flurry of email flooding in from interested parties. I have decided the fairest way to handle this happy state of affairs is to post specific dates and rates here and see who can come up with a deposit first.

Prices listed are the whole enchilada - the taxes and cleaning fees are already figured in, but tack on another $50 if you are bringing Fido(s). The first party to post a 50% deposit on my secure server gets the Sandbox. (You can choose paypal from there as well; and I do card authorizations manually so if you post too late your card will not be charged and the info will be purged.)

I will remove dates promptly as they are booked so you may assume this list is reasonably up to date.

See the list of available dates



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Proposal Castle on the Suntide II Beachcam today!

I am building a "Will You Marry Me" castle within range of the Suntide II Beachcam today, starting about 4 PM. The lad and his lucky lady should be strolling by around 8 PM. Watch the drama unfold LIVE at!

ps did you know there is now a baycam you can control located at Louie's? Look for it at

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Monday, April 21, 2008

We could do something like this on SPI

A cool fundraising idea from the Florida Keys that utilizes a long stretch of beach and a big group of people to make art --

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happy Turtle Days!

Nancy just called to tell me that the first turtle of the season has come ashore to lay her eggs, adding that this turtle's tag indicates that she 35 years old, and she returned to SPI to achieve maternal fulfillment during the town's 35th birthday party.

Mere coincidence?
We think not.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Daisy was a good dog

We lived just down the street from each other and she was either really happy to see me -- or was an expert at faking it. She had a 13-year long love affair with her human companions - Stuart & Diane Williams of Seaside Services and went on to that big endless buffet of peoplefood up in the sky early this morning.

Daisy had a long, happy life in a beautiful place with people who really loved her - loved her enough to let her go when life became too burdensome. Who amongst us - man or beast - could hope for more?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Raina Rose Returns April 25 - Mark Your Calendar

Raina Rose - singer/songwriter extraordinaire - returns to the SandBox Inn (117 E. Saturn St.) the evening of April 25, 2008. One never needs an excuse to bring great music to the island, but if one did, one might use Alderwoman JoAnn Evans're-election campaign as that excuse, and so I shall.

The concert in the shady backyard sandbox will be open to the public - bring a chair or a blanket, a snack and/or a beverage to share if you like. We will pass the hat around at least twice - once for the musician and once for the candidate. We need JoAnn back on the BOA and we need entertainment like Raina to come back to SPI over and over. After Raina performs, you can get some face-time with JoAnn and give her a chance to win your vote.

More details to follow!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Just in Time for Easter

The Celtic Cross is ready for a beach wedding.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Pt VI

Re: Am I That Candidate?

Well, no.

Honestly, I don’t feel I have the knowledge or experience to do the job justice. I think I could learn what I need to if I really threw myself into it, but being a single, self-employed person who has to travel a fair amount to earn a decent living, I simply can’t afford to commit to three years for the going rate of $3.

Furthermore, Wednesday is ukulele night here at the Sandbox Inn.

I appreciate the calls of support I received - had there been a few more of them I might have been persuaded to see it through - but today is the last day to pull out gracefully and I have no wish to be the spoiler in a 3-way race. Therefore, I have withdrawn my name from the ballot.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Part V

Here on South Padre Island, there is core of smart, like-minded people who are interested in the issues facing our town, who keep themselves informed of developments and are articulate enough to persuade others that they know what they are talking about. I would call this group the island “Brain Trust” and while the individual members don’t always agree on everything, I do believe they can -- with spirited discussion -- come to something close to agreement about what is annoying and what is pleasant and how we should prioritize methods for decreasing the former and increasing the later. I know this because I encounter it day after day - in email, on the SPI Forum, at an end-of-the-road beach party, in the check out line at the Blue Marlin or sitting around the table at a CPAC meeting. The Brain Trust draws on the individual strengths of its members, reasonable people can be expected to listen to reason and eventually - in even the most diverse of groups - consensus can be reached. And that’s when things get done.

An effective alderman needs to pay close attention to the Brain Trust. S/he needs to initiate discussions and explain how and why s/he’s voting and not just allow the voters to see the decision-making process but encourage them to take an active part in it by participating in the Brain Trust Forum.

What would this forum look like? Well, it would bear more than a passing resemblance to This forum and I have enjoyed a love/hate relationship, but Jason has come closer to getting it right than anyone -- a thankless job to be sure -- and some good things have come from it. As I see it, the main problem is the bullying. Some posters have a nasty tendency to ridicule, gang up on and shout down anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The result is that a lot of people who read the forum refuse to post anything, and that is unfortunate.

If I were an alderman, I would set up a new forum (or work with Jason to create a new “room” in his existing forum) that would be much like what he already has done -- with the following important differences:

1. While the forum would be open to everyone to read, I would not allow anyone to post who is not signed in with his/her real name and a fully-developed profile identifying the poster’s relationship to the island (i.e. full-time resident; business owner; 3-times yearly visitor; property owner; P&Z member, etc.) This would help make the forum more like an actual meeting where flesh & blood people talk face to face and know exactly who they are dealing with. I believe such a system would encourage and reward civil discourse - because expressing contempt for your opponent is not a terribly effective way to win him over to your way of thinking.
2. But if/when discussion does get too heated, posters who cannot disagree amicably would be bounced out (i.e. banned from posting) for a “time-out” period of a week or two. I know this puts a lot of pressure on the moderator(s) who must decide when someone has crossed the line, but there is no way around it. Respect and courtesy for opposing viewpoints is the only way you are gong to get the participation of everyone who has an opinion.

To take this idea even further, I think it is absolutely essential that we no longer allow candidates for office the luxury of public silence. You don’t like SPIRIT? Can’t stand the SPI Forum? Then brother you better get busy and set up a forum that you _do like because an office-holder who cannot or will not explain and defend his/her stances on the issues in a public forum is disrespecting the people who voted him/her in. I don’t agree with Mayor Bob on everything, but I am impressed that he takes the time to address the public at large using his real name, and that is why he will likely get my vote. (JoAnn Evans has participated on the forum as well as her opponent Mary Phillips -- who did not deserve the reception she got there and I don’t blame her for not coming back.)

A candidate for office who wants my vote would agree to let me in on his/her thought processes and s/he would be willing to do so in a totally public place (i.e. online forum) so that I know s/he is saying the same thing to me as to everyone else.

Next: Am I that Candidate?

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Pt IV

A government’s one and only function is to make the lives of the governed more pleasant. Its only reason for being is to remove the things that annoy us and increase the things that please us. It is there to enhance not just the lives of the few but of the many. And government becomes dysfunctional when it doesn’t know or care what the majority of its constituents really want.

Some would argue quite convincingly that the SPI town government at this time is borderline dysfunctional and that it is crucial that new, more responsive board members be elected in May. Candidates who limit their communications to pachangas and other small groups of like-minded friends are suspect - fairly or not - of telling those small groups whatever it takes to get votes.

The town council form of government has been around for a long time. Community members elect their representatives and then hope for the best. Accountability shows up 2 or 3 years later in the form of another election. Like the electoral college, this system is a hold-over from the days when most of the “common folk” had no or only limited access to breaking news or detailed position statements from the candidates. These constituents had little opportunity to interact directly with the government and had to trust their elected representatives to speak up for their interests.

The ubiquitousness of the internet has changed everything, of course. Now news and opinions can be posted nearly instantaneously in a place where almost everyone can read and respond. This is a marvelous tool for a true democracy to have and I for one can’t wait to see how local government will evolve as a result.

Clearly the effects are already being felt: Witness exhibit A -- the SPI Forum, imperfect as it may be. (More on that in the next installment!) I understand that the new BOA Boardroom is chock full of gadgets that will allow meetings to be recorded and broadcast on the internet and/or TV. I think it is past time to insist that this system be put into action, giving all SPI stake-holders near and far an opportunity to see our elected officials in action.

Then, once we get the meetings truly open to all, we need to fire up the Brain Trust Forum.

We have a lot of very smart people in this town: Folks who know a lot about building codes, who understand parking issues, who have developed a real appreciation for local flora & fauna and how to best protect it; people who have great ideas for marketing the island; people who understand municipal finance way better than I do (quite a lot of those, probably) and people who know a lot about beach erosion or traffic patterns or sand and sand sculpture contests (that would be me!) These smart people can’t all be alderpersons, because they also have to make a living or spend time with their families or go fishing. However, we are crazy stupid if we do not figure out a way to tap into all that knowledge and experience by making it easy as pie for those smart people to spill the beans.

Next: How I Would Do It

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Part III

What I Want...

is a say in what SPI will look like in 5-10-25 years... because I plan on being here at least that long! I want this bad enough that I was willing to give up almost every Tuesday night for nearly two years to go duke it out with the other members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee.

CPAC was a really interesting experience. I have to hand it to the board that created us -- I think they did an amazing job of deciding who should serve on this committee by handpicking a group seemingly chosen for the amount of suspicion and hostility to which we were likely to be predisposed for one another. The first meeting was in many ways a disaster. (In fact, the committee collectively requested that a photo shot that night be struck from the final document -- the memory was just that unpleasant.) Several members quit fairly early on -- I very nearly did but am glad I did not because I was able to witness an amazing transformation first hand. This group of people with completely different agendas sat down face to face on a weekly basis. We interrupted and we rolled our eyes and we threw up our hands and buried our faces, but we also took turns telling our small stories and describing the SPI of our dreams and at some point we started listening -- really listening -- to one another. And we were able to reach consensus and complete our assignment. Our last meeting was the antitheses of our first: a purely social potluck with spouses at Clayton’s amazing beach home where a good time was had by all.

(Of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows and feel-good Obama stuff. Writing by committee is my idea of hell. There is stuff in that plan that makes me wince -- but hey, nobody wins every fight. The key of course is picking your battles carefully; knowing when to say, “I will not vote for something that weakens this statement” and when to say “all right, whatever, let’s move on.”)

I really wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not witnessed it for myself. And that makes me think that what worked in the microcosm of CPAC could work towards uniting the various factions at odds in the town.

While it is not practical to propose that the whole town gather weekly for a cozy little boardoom chat to discuss our real feelings, there are ways we can use the internet and new city hall’s fancy high-tech gadgetry to open the lines of communication.

Next: Harnessing the Power of the Island Brain Trust

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who I Am and What I Want

(The Candidates Posts Pt II)

Most of you know me. I have earned a modest amount of fame as a sand sculptor and I really love teaching others how to build better sandcastles here on beautiful South Padre Island. I write books and blogs, design & host websites and I own and operate the Sandbox Inn. This is my 27th spring break. Google has decided that I am a trusted authority on two subjects: sand sculpture and South Padre Island. I attend more meetings than I want to, but not as many as I should. I was for five years the significant other of former SPI Alderman Fred Mallett, which makes me at least as qualified as Hillary.

If you want to learn more about me, please look at Read my blog. My life is an open book with no hidden agenda or mysterious financial backers. Not all of my income is locally generated, but enough of it is that I have a vested interest in a happy business climate fed by a steady flow of tourists. I live here because I love the climate, I love my job, and I love the people this place attracts. (Most of them, anyway.) I think this place - just as it is - is pretty swell, which is not the same thing as saying it always needs to stay the way it is right now, or that it couldn’t be even more swell in the future.

So that - in a nutshell - is who I am. I also said I was going to tell you what I want. But I think it might be easier to start by telling you what I don’t want.

Your money - I am not for sale (unless you are looking for a kick-ass sand sculptor, in which case, I’m your woman.)

SPI Politics as Usual: I hate the us vs. them mindset. Let’s start from the premise that we all love the island and we all care about the local economy, our town’s appearance, and our neighbors -- even if they do let that dog bark until all hours.

Pigeon-holing: All retirees want to kill spring break; business owners only care about the bottom line; developers want to tear down houses, pave paradise and cover the island with high-rises and casinos; longtime residents are just a bunch of cannabis-smoking hippies who were lucky enough to get in while land was still cheap and don’t have the good grace to grow up or move on; environmentalists are nutcases who won’t be happy until our yards are all overrun with weeds and our houses with vermin; people who oppose raising taxes are all CAVEmen; anyone who stays in the same room with Clayton Brashear for more than five minutes falls under his spell and must be deprogrammed, etc. etc.

Sound familiar? The people who live and work here are not two-dimensional cut-outs. I am a resident who wants to preserve the local flora and fauna first, a business-owner who wants to earn a living second, a non-rich person who worries about taxes going up third and an aging progressive (don’t call me hippy) who used to frolic naked in the dunes north of town (and might have time to do that again some day, who knows?) fourth.

The last thing I don’t want is to devote more of my hard-earned leisure time to sitting in meetings.
(More on that in the next installment.)

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The Candidate Posts - Part I

Note: I have indeed filed for the position of Alderman of South Padre Island, Postion #4

How I Got Here

So there I am, minding my own business enjoying the enchiladas and a (Blue Moon) draft at Dorados with Nancy Marsden and Lori Wells when the call comes in from a prefers-to-be-anonymous friend in city hall. The time for filing is running out and the voters’ options are looking mighty limited. Would I consider tossing my pith helmet into the ring?

What a funny thought.

Another Blue Moon with the Brain Trust (that would be Lori & Nancy, with a few words of wisdom from our hostess, Leah) and the thought is growing less funny and more interesting. Calls are made. It appears that Candidate A is running unopposed. No wait. It appears that candidate A has in fact filed for candidate B’s position, ostensibly to enable candidate C to run unopposed in candidate A’s former position.

We swing by city hall to pick up a filing packet -- just for grins. Candidate D is hangin’ in the lobby and turns a whiter shade of pale upon learning of my possible candidacy. And suddenly the latest word is that candidate A is rushing back from the airport to change filing positions again due to a silly mistake having to do with not knowing which position said candidate is currently the incumbent of. Or so it is explained to me by Candidate D, with what is obviously a mighty attempt at a straight face. (Candidate D is a lousy liar -- which is maybe a good trait for an elected official to possess, no?)

So the brain trust (“Champagne Manager” and “Keeper of the Booty” soon joined by Diane “Vender Queen” Hofmeister) and I are filling out forms and discussing platforms and issues and bumper stickers and foot-shaped cookies as the phones ring on and it turns out that Candidate A has made it back from the airport in time to successfully change filing positions; candidate C has also pulled the expected switcheroo and candidate E is waiting in the wings to ride in on a white charger at the last possible moment -- so as not to tip the old hand too soon, one might assume.

If this story doesn’t make your head spin then it is because you are already well inoculated to politics as usual on South Padre Island -- this new “places” twist to the aldermen race has just added to the intrigue. The town is divided and the candidates are already employing deception and subterfuge while busily gaming the system to get their shot at this dollar a year position. In the meantime, plenty of voters are feeling that at least some of their elected officials don’t listen or - even worse - are only listening to people who have money and/or who are part of some powerful inner circle.

So how do we break out of the “SPI politics as usual” mindset? Is it possible? Or even desirable?

I don’t know. But I do have some ideas that I would like to present for your consideration, if you will bear with me.

Update 3/13: I have been assured by "Candidate D" that the candidate switcheroo detailed in the above narrative was in fact attributable to an honest mistake, and I am willing to concede this as a possibility. The place system is brand shiny new and it does not seem unreasonable that confusion could reign. The timing of all of it still seems a bit suspicious, but I am willing to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and report that it could very well have all happened just the way Candidate D said it did.

Next: Who I am and What I Want

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not your typical garage sale

Sherrie Gomez called me today to let me know about the garage sale she is planning for this coming Sat., March 15 at Gomez Realty (112 W. Corral St.)

As many of you know, Sherrie and her late husband Steve had eclectic tastes in just about everything and there will be some incredible finds for the discerning eye at this sale, including Steve's electric cart and lots of the cool stuff the couple imported from Mexico.

More importantly, Sherrie is in financial straits with medical bills, etc. so this is another opportunity for the community to help one of its own by helping her liquidate some of her treasures. Hope to see you there.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Last CPAC "Meeting"

Members of the SPI Comprehensive Advisory Committee gathered one last time at member Clayton Brashear's home to celebrate the completion of our report -- nearly two years after we started work on it. Members were joined by their spouses, staff members Cate Ball (+ baby Tony) and Jason Moody and alderpersons Kirk Mills and Tara Rios Ybarra.

Any time you put this many diverse personalities and visions of what the future of South Padre Island ought to look like together, you are going to get a --- certain amount of conflict. Over the past two years I have learned a lot about city planning, about designing buildings and pedestrian-friendly walkways and running a restaurant and legal jargon and native plants and etc. and etc. But more importantly, I learned that even in this group consensus could be reached when people were willing to listen and respond to each other's concerns with respect and courtesy. (Something I wish those people over on the SPI forum would get around to figuring out.)

Thanks to Clayton for hosting this gathering in his lovely home. Thanks to Cate and Jason for sticking with us through the whole process and being so giving of their evenings. And finally, thanks to all my fellow committee members for their time, their expertise and their willingness to listen. I really feel like we have established something of a bond over the past two years...

I only hope the town's residents will approach this document with an open mind.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Sand Blasters Stuff

As the town with (quite possibly) the highest per capita residence of master sand sculptors, South Padre Island is very well represented in the third episode of "Sand Blasters: The Extreme Sandsculpting Competition" which will air for the first time March 8, 2008 on the Travel Channel. Lucinda "sandy feet" Wierenga (Sand Blasters II second place winner as one half of "Team Trowel and Error") returns with her partner Kirk Rademaker to take on seven other world-class teams - one of which is none other than her business partner and ex-husband, the Amazin' Walter and his amazing daughter Christy (aka "Team Nitty Gritty"). Sculpture will explode! Egos will clash! Sand will fly!

But who will cut the wire? Who will take home the big check? Who has to start all over? Who gets a houseboat cruise on Lake Powell? Who knows the answers to all of these questions? (I do, but if I told you I would have to kill myself ...

So you will just have to watch the show. March 8, 2008 on the Travel Channel.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sand Blasters III

"Get over it - the arch is GONE!"

The Travel Channel has posted a couple of videos from the new version of Sand Blasters -- the one that features three sculptors from South Padre Island (sandy feet, Amazin' Walter and Christy McDonald.) The show is scheduled to premier on March 8 and we will have a viewing party somewhere. (Since the date coincides with Texas Week, it probably won't be at Louie's this year. Any suggestions?)

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Sad News

I just received word that Steve Gomez passed away this morning. This was not unexpected as he has been very ill for a very long time, but our hearts go out to his wife Sherrie and everyone who held him dear -- I am certain that encompasses a very large group of locals.

Update 1/31: there is a "visitation" at the the catholic church in Port Isabel from 5 to 7 today; then a rosary at 7. Tomorrow at 2 pm is a funeral mass and then a get together to celebrate Steve at their house/office on Corral.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

my new movie...

premiers right here and now -- enjoy!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

storm brings high tides

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Up Next: "Terrorists are Congregating on SPI!"....?!?

The anonymous spooks who frequent the SPI Forum appear to be tireless in their efforts to destroy the tourism industry here. First it was “look how ugly we are! We need a color palette!” Now it is “look how dangerous our streets are! We need a curfew!”

Bullshit. All bullshit. If Jason Y. really loved the island he would shut that forum down; it is destructive and divisive and making us look bad to the online world.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008


That is what I feel when I read SPIForum these days.
The most articulate, forceful town voices (to the point of shouting down anyone who does not agree with them) are trying to turn this town into someplace I would neither recognize nor want to visit or inhabit. Every time I read the term “color palette” I wonder who these people are and why they ended up here. They have nothing but contempt for the people who love to spend their vacations here - the same people who line up to have their pictures taken in the giant shark’s maw -- but they yearn to be loved by the rich island-hoppers who can so easily afford to patronize more exotic beaches. They think our main street is ugly, and keep saying it over and over again -- as if that will somehow magically make us lovelier instead of merely convincing the rest of the on-line world that SPI is some kind of hideous toad. But these same folks are frightened - positively terrified - of public art: the disappearing murals and non-existent sculpture that have the power to separate us from the bland ideal of a beach town they worship in their own minds.

We cannot be everyone’s cup of tea, so let’s be who we want to be....where we want to be. (Hey -- sounds like an ad campaign!) The people who like us will find us and keep coming back. The people who find us and don’t like us can take their business elsewhere. It’s okay -- because there will always be a crowd of people looking for a place just like this.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Plans

It's "amateur night" at Island clubs. I hope they all do lots of business and have lots of fun, but Peach and I will be heading up the beach for a year's end bonfire with other SoBs. We will probably make it an early night -- want to be back home before the (predicted) norther rolls in. I am envisioning watching the fireworks from my favorite vantage point: my hot tub. Maybe with a glass of bubbly....

Hope to see everyone at the Polar Bear swim tomorrow. We may or may not be building a sandsculpture, depending on how hard that north wind is blowing. Happy 2008 - hope it gets off to a good start for all of us!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Berry Christmas!

Just got back from a wonderful return engagement on lovely Berry Island (off the coast of Ingleside, TX) where Kirk and I got a chance to spend a night on a deserted island together. Many thanks to our hosts/employers -- the Berry Family of Corpus Christi. They sure know how to throw a party!

If you find yourself on South Padre Island Christmas day, be sure and stop by the 14th annual Christmas brunch openhouse at sandy feet's beach retreat (aka Sandbox Inn) starting at 11 AM. Pick up your official invitation and view other Christmas goodness at my online Christmas Card. Everyone is welcomed - Feliz Navi-doo-dah!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Brutus Attains Royal Beast Status

I shot some footage of the ceremony and have posted it on YouTube - congrats to Brudy and his proud people - Mike & Nancy Marsden.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the witnesses are here to save our souls

They will soon learn there are precious few souls to save here at the moment. They hit me in front of the Stripes this morning while I was walking my dog - a fresh-faced young thing waving a copy of the Watchtower. Watch for a rust-colored thing that looks like a PT Cruiser but isn't....

See what else Peach and I saw on our walk this morning...

Someone needs to tell the Coast Guard to come pick up their property at beach access #16.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Negative Negative Negative!

The current hot topic on the South Padre Island Forum (SPIF) regarding the Comprehensive Plan Advisory committee - of which I am a member - is good for a few laughs. The Nattering Nabobs of Negativity are already attempting to poison the baby before they throw her out with the bath water by moaning about how the committee failed to use the vaguely-worded, silly vision statement they were handed some 1.5 years ago. Nevermind that the bulk of the document -- and it is indeed bulky -- fully supports and enhances the earlier work completed on this project by the focus groups in which many of the members of CPAC participated.

What they won’t tell you is that the two loudest voices on that thread belong to members of the BOA that appointed the members of CPAC. If they don’t like what we are doing, they - as much as anyone - are to blame. But since neither one of them has been to a meeting in a very long time -- if ever -- I think they have a lot of gall attacking us and the work we have done. (One of them [“Islander”] has even gone so far as to say in anther thread that residents’ opinions about town policies don’t count. Perhaps he thinks that tourists should be writing our Comprehensive Plan for us as well?!?)

I am also disheartened by the threats of certain CPAC members to quit before the job is done. Some are unhappy with the work of our newly-hired facilitator though we have had only one session with him. The chapter we are currently working on - Land Use - is maybe the most important one in the plan and we really need the input of all the members as well as the community at large on this one. It is o so easy to spend your Tues. evenings in front of the boob tube while complaining about the crappy job we are doing, isn’t it? And I sure can think of things I’d rather be doing as well but we are close to the end on this thing so let’s just stick to it and get it done, hey?

For the record, I like the idea of letting the voters approve or disapprove the plan by putting it on May’s ballot. Good idea, Lori!

p.s. Sam has written a pretty funny post on this subject that you should also read if you haven't already.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Of garden tours and doggy walks

Time doesn't stop just because Sandcastle Days is here so I am jumping off the sandpile for a moment to talk about some upcoming events that are going to be too much fun right here on beautiful South Padre Island.

Oct. 28 - Plant swap and secret garden tour brought to you by - find out what random acts of green are all about and how you can help SPI become a more beautiful place to live and play. Details here.

Nov. 10 - Laguna Madre Humane Society 2007 Wag Walk - Peach and I will be hitting up friends and family for pledges to see if we can raise a whole bunch of money for the animal shelter. We hope you will be prepared to give and give generously... I will have the pledge form on the beach with me this weekend so if I fail to wave it in your face please be sure and ask me for it ;-)

Also -- Don't forget the music festival Nov. 2-4 and MY 50TH BIRTHDAY PARTY featuring a live performance by the BONGODOGS Oct. 21 starting at 7 PM at the Sandbox Inn.

See ya at the Sheraton!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

In DEANial

Peach and I took a long walk, timed perfectly to enjoy this morning’s light show just before sunrise and rain -- parting shot from TS Erin or foreshadowing of Dean’s arrival in the Gulf?

I keep hitting refresh on the 5-day forecast graph and really hate the way it keeps looking like the monster is aiming itself directly at us. I keep running over my preparations list in my mind, trying to predict what else I will have wished I had spent this day doing should Dean set his sights on South Padre Island.

From Hurricane Dean Discussion Number 17:
It should be noted that guidance for day 4 and 5 is more uncertain today than yesterday.

At this point I would prefer to see Dean go pretty much anywhere other than where he appears to be heading, so I am going to interpret that as good news and hold off making more preparations for another day or two.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Diane Williams in ICU

I just received word that Dianne Williams - property manager over at La Playa who also happens to be my neighbor here on Saturn St. - went into cardiac arrest this morning and is in critical condition in ICU. She has been ill with a cold or maybe bronchitis for some time and as I understand it the virus settled into her heart and has caused a great deal of mayhem there.

Since we are talking about hearts, let me tell you that Diane has one of the biggest in the neighborhood: taking in stray dogs and never turning away a friend in need. Her husband Stewart is understandably distraught and I was so shocked by his news I forgot to ask him which hospital she is in -- I will post as soon as I know where she is and when she is able to accept visitors. In the meantime, I hope everyone who knows Diane will pray for her speedy recovery or at least send positive vibes in her direction.

Update 8/15: I talked to Stewart briefly yesterday and,while Diane is still gravely ill in ICU at Valley Baptist, there is good news: she is off the respirator, her heart is working at 40% capacity and they are slowly peeling away the drugs that have been sustaining her. We are hoping she will be able to accept visitors as early as next week.

Update 8/17: Stuart says that Diann is doing quite a bit better. She has been moved out of ICU (visit her in room 311 in the South Tower) and is sitting up and handling mundane tasks such as signing checks. It sounds like they are going to install a defibrillator (?) to help monitor her heart but it could still be days before she can come home. Stuart says "I need this hurricane like I need a hole in my head right now." I couldn't agree more.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Parking Up the Wrong Tree

What follows is an open letter to Alderpersons Rios, Mills and Money:

First of all, I would like to thank you all for devoting so much time to the affairs of our town. Having spent much time in the company of a former alderman, I know this is a thankless job for which you receive much grief, some of which I suppose I am about to dish out.

There is still time to change your vote before the second reading of the parking changes ordinance, and I am asking for just a moment of your time to consider the attached photo. It was shot this morning - a Wednesday in July - at about 7:30 AM at beach access #15 - the one immediately adjacent to Las Dunas. This is a newer complex that was built when the ordinance required 2 parking spaces per unit.

You will note that there is not a single available parking space. You will have to take my word for the fact that there were no day-trippers lounging on the beach at that hour. Clearly, this public beach access parking area is being utilized by the guests and residents of Las Dunas. This is not at all unusual - I walk through this access almost every single morning with my dog and I can tell you that during the summer it is almost always completely filled with Las Dunas vehicles. Now just imagine if this complex had created only 1.5 spaces for its residents -- their cars would undoubtedly be packed into the few remaining spaces along Gulf Blvd, leaving no room for anyone else who might want to actually access the beach from here.

As a person who does not live on the beach and must utilize the public beach accesses; as a person who makes her living on the beach utilizing the public parking; as a person who (long ago) lived up the valley but escaped to the island every opportunity she had where she gratefully utilized public parking areas before and after spending money at local businesses -- I am begging you to reconsider your vote on this matter. You can still prove that you are not in the pocket of Big Development; you can still redeem yourself.

Lucinda “sandy feet” Wierenga

Update: I have been notified that the cars parked in access #15 most likely belong to the guests and residents of Seabreeze, the complex on the other side of the beach access. My apologies for casting aspersions on Las Dunas. Either way, there still isn't enough parking spots.

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Carving the Sandcastle Days Budget

Well, nobody asked my opinion on this subject, but I am happy to give it nonetheless.

The event has continued to evolve since the SoB’s were summarily ejected from its planning meetings, and that is as it should be. I like that it is becoming less of a contest and more of an exhibition and would like to see it trend even more that way. How about letting sculptors choose their own hours to work? Some prefer to work early early morning or evening hours instead of the heat of the day. I don’t think you would see any loss of quality in the final products and might even see better sculptures as a result of giving the artists a chance to create on their own timetables. Spreading out the works hours would have the additional benefit of spreading out the crowds more evenly, helping to alleviate parking and other crowd issues.

Carl Phillip’s article about the proposed budget cuts was a bit vague but implies that the biggest cuts could be made to the “Sandsculptors of the Future” program, which makes sense to me. As one of several island sand sculptors who offer lessons year round, I can’t help but resent the town’s funding my competitor’s offering of free lessons the whole week of the event. Furthermore, the format of the lessons - building on top of big trash barrels - does not translate back into better beach experiences for the students (how many people carry big trash barrels with them to the beach?) The town could get a bigger bang for less money with an experienced instructor sitting down by the water and showing folks how to create structures with the items they already commonly bring with them to the beach. Better yet, require each of the competing masters to conduct an hour-long workshop - open to the public - on certain aspects of sandsculpture that would expose interested folks to lots of different sandsculpting techniques. A program like this would definitely make SPI’s event stand out in an increasingly-crowded field.

I believe it is possible to reduce the budget for this event and still put on an amazing show -- Amazin’ and I did it for years on a shoestring. I am not suggesting we should go back to those days, but I do have lots of ideas on how to do more with less and would be happy to share them with the Sandcastle Days Board if they are interested in drawing upon my two decades of experience in competing in world-class sand sculpture events.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Dog Days of Summer on SPI

All kinds of interesting stories over at Google News today - including 2 SPI stories involving dogs: Check out Carl Phillip’s report on two rescued Chihuahuas and then look at the nice mention of dog-friendly SPI La Quinta at

Man fights flesh-eating bacteria contracted at Texas beach is not a headline we like to see, but anyone who takes the time to read the article will discover a. this happened in Galveston, nowhere close to SPI and b. this gentleman had health issues that put him at greater risk; most of the general population is not vulnerable to this bacteria.

And here is some news to spoil an already gray, rainy day: “Though there is a decline in offshore drilling, South Padre Island has experienced growth. Davis said 24 wells were drilled, up from nine wells in 2005.” Read this article here.

My plants loved the rain but I am ready to welcome back Mister Sunshine....


Friday, July 06, 2007

Start your bellyachin'!

When I was a kid I was pretty good at finding things to whine about -- still am, I guess. My mom used to cheerfully intone, “Oh quit your bellyachin’!” But of course I couldn’t help but notice that if you didn’t partake of a little bellyachin’ every now and then, things that made you unhappy hardly ever got changed.

For the umpteenth morning in a row I have watched the big machines head out to a beach that is virtually seaweed and shell-free. I find this inexplicable and more than a little irritating. So today I flagged down the public works truck and asked why -- could they not see that there is in fact NOTHING TO RAKE?

Unsurprisingly enough, the operators have indeed noticed that. They are apparently under direct orders from the town staff to rake no matter what the condition of the beach. I was told that somebody complains if the rakes don’t go out. One can’t help but wonder who is this mysterious complainer that his/her desire for a zen-garden beach carries more weight than all the arguments against raking a clean beach?*

I suggest that it is time for us to complain about unnecessary raking. Loudly and repeatedly. Let’s see if a whole bunch of bellyachin’ will get their attention. I think we should start with Public Works Director Raul Morales ( -- a nice man who nods and smiles whenever members of the Beach & Dune Task Force talk to him about this -- and then cheerfully ignores our pointed requests.

*Do I need to list them again? Okay, here they are, in no particular order:
1. Waste of fuel
2. Needless release of exhaust fumes
3. Disruption of the peaceful, sunrise-over-the-gulf experience
4. Disturbance of habitat for the creatures who live along the shore
5. Disruption of morning beach activities of guests and residents trying to stay out of the way of the monster machines
6. Inadvertant collection of litter pushed into the dune toes where they will cause problems for nesting sea turtles
7. Disruption of natural dune-forming processes
8. Relocation of shells to places where kids building sandcastles will never ever find them

Update: I just added one of Nancy's photos that clearly shows how ineffective raking is as a means for filling in holes.

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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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Monday, May 28, 2007

Bird Center Disinformation Campaign

There has been a flurry of email flying around the island about a supposed attempt by three aldermen to “kill” the new Birding Center. I was aware that there was some consternation expressed - and not just among alderpeople - regarding the 6.5 million dollar price tag to build what some might consider to be an overly-grandiose structure -- but I had not heard of anyone wanting to kill the project altogether. So I went directly to one of the alleged birdhouse murderers - alderman Kirk Mills - and asked him pointblank if he intended to throttle the birding center and why would he want to do such a thing...

This was his response:

Everyone wants a birding center including me - I maybe more than most as I have a bird book and mark it regularly with sightings of birds. I am interested in seeing something along the lines of the Port Aransas project - ie. not an enormous building and parking lot but rather a modest building with lots of habitat mixed with boardwalks and bird blinds. Something that would promote wildlife, visitors, and not cost in excess of 6.5 million dollars. Why do I object to the 6.5 plus million dollars? Because - the EDC was set up as an agency to promote toruism including to protect our number one attraction/asset: the beach. The current scheme would obligate the income from the edc sales tax through the year 2031 - allocating about $500,000 plus to the bird house and approximately $100,000 per year to the beach. This doesn't make sense to me. It should be the other way around - concentrate on the beach and then the bird center. Additionally I have concerns at the amount of money the EDC spends on it's 50% share of the lobbiest costs (approximately $100,000) and who might be benefitting from it....

It seems to me that these are fair questions for our city officials to be asking and they do not sound like the words of someone who is bound and determined to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Rather, this appears to be an honest attempt to define the priorities of this town and open up discussion as to how to best use our limited resources -- and I think it extremely disingenuous of certain parties to claim the three alderpersons want to kill the project completely.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Favorite Magazine Cover EVER!

Some folks would say that we don’t have any seasons here on South Padre Island, or that if we do they can be simplified as Early summer, Summer, Late Summer, and Next Summer. But they couldn’t be more wrong. We have lots of seasons - - way more than four. In fact, I have identified 12 distinct if sometimes overlapping seasons, starting (more or less) with the beginning of the calendar year, and this is what I call them:

Winter Break
Spring Break/Mexican Break
Locals Break (aka “Peace-N-Quiet”)
First Wind
Turtle Days (aka “Sargassum”)
Dog Days
Back-To-School (aka “Where’d everybody go?”)
Second Wind
Peace-N-Quiet II/Pirate Days

Right now we are at the tail end of First Wind which is segueing into Turtle Days which very soon will be overlapping with Fireworks -- which coincides with the arrival of the Summer People to the beaches and the Bongodogs to Wanna Wanna.
I will be seeing many of you here at the Sandbox, which is almost completely booked through Fireworks, Dog Days and much of Back-To-School -- and even more who are signing up for sand castle lessons in truly gratifying numbers, thanks in large part to the June issue of Texas Monthly, which features an SoB sand castle on the cover and the cover story (“The Best Texas Beaches”) has a nice mention of my lessons and my Sand Castle Academy at the SandBox Inn.

Better run out and get a copy quick before I - or the Summer People - beat you to it!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Engraved Invitation to Destruction '07

It’s that time of year again when city officials flood the news media with hurricane preparedness features. I’m not going to bother going into the whole tired, fear-mongering “if you are planning on staying on the Island during a storm ... you might as well buy yourself a toe tag so we can identify your crab-eaten body when it washes up on the shore,” crap that they trot out every year, because Sam Wells has already done a brilliant job of skewering that thang to the wall in his blog.

No, I’ll content myself with harping on the “How the hell does the city have the nerve to lecture me about hurricane preparedness when they persist in scraping a canal at the end of my street to ensure that even a mild storm surge will have no problem finding its way to my front door” crap.

Yeah, I’m tired of it too but I am even more tired of the officials’ empty promises that something is going to be done about it. Yet another year has come and gone since I last complained about this and the city is still blithely knocking down the best protection my neighbors and I might have from the upcoming storm season. I guess they are too busy trying to scare the hell out of us to actually take steps to protect us from the bad situation their folly has created.

To quote my May 29, 2006 blog entry:
This is not just my problem. The town is endangering the property of everyone who lives (close to Saturn or Venus) and I am surprised - after witnessing how the town handled the storm surges from Rita (in 2005) - that more people are not up in arms about this. Just to refresh your memory, city workers pushed up a loose sand berm at access #16 at least three different times during this surge, which had the unintended consequence of dispersing huge amounts of sand onto Gulf Blvd. and fouling up the sewer system in the process -- but did not seem to slow the surge down any; surf trash was deposited halfway up East Saturn.

Access #16 is not the only weak spot in the chain, but it is the one that I care most deeply about for admittedly selfish reasons. And I think the BOA needs to give serious thought to the possibility that the town could in fact be held liable for damages to private property if they are found to be a result of the town’s negligence in this matter.

Feel free to wrap your newly-purchased toe tag around that bit of fear-mongering.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sad News in Bongodogland

I just received word that Joey Tamayo's wife Toni passed away yesterday from a very short battle with cancer - she was only diagnosed two weeks ago. The couple has a brand new baby and that makes this sad story even sadder.

The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), 2 PM at Holy Family Catholic Church at Harrison and 24th in Brownsville.

The Bongodogs will still perform - with a stand-in singer - at Palm St. Pier tomorrow night - as far as I know. Though who could blame them if they felt they had to back out? Certainly not I...

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Even if you have to crawl....

I returned home from British Columbia Monday night and have finally gotten around to catching up on all the newspapers, minutes of meetings I missed, etc. and if a concentrated diet of published vitriol and sheer lunacy does not make you want to cry and crawl in a hole somewhere then you are perhaps too heavily armored, brothers and sisters.

Hey - let the developers have their way! Who are we to stop them? Let them build their 8-story condos in your neighborhood! Forget any hopes you might have had of insisting that the southside problems not be replicated as SPI grows north because this town lacks the will to deny any little thing the developers ask for. Want to know why Sand Blasters 2008 won’t come to SPI? (I got the inside scoop last week): 1) We don’t have a town beach where crowds can easily gather, and 2) the consulting sculptor had a really bad experience with one of our town officials during a recent Sandcastle Days contest, leading to the conclusion that we are difficult to deal with.

Yes, it could have been so easy for me to fall into the depths of despair this week, but for one thing:

Turtle Days!!!!

I can’t wait to see all the painted fans at today’s Turtle Tea!

Friday night’s Lighting of the Tiki Torches is going to be a gas and the Saturn Street Strummers have a brand new song to unleash upon the unsuspecting public. You’d better be at Palm St. Pier by 7 PM or you are going to be in the unenviable position of having to listen over and over again to multiple and detailed reports of all the sublimely silly stuff you missed.

Saturday morning you really need to show up at Beach Access #1 (Harbor st.) as we unlitter the fore-dunes and recreate the Arribada with sandturtles - my goal is 100 or more and I will really need some help - no artistic talent required.

Last but not least is Saturday night’s Turtle Ball. Music by The Agency and every penny of the $25 ticket fee goes to Sea Turtle Inc. We hear tell that a sweet blue seahorse is picking up the entertainment tab out of her own pocket so that we can all get dressed up in silly/lovely costumes, flutter our fans and dance the night away -- just for fun!

I’ll tell you, it is enough to make me (almost) forget the election ugliness and the shortsightedness of our leaders and believe that there are still enough good people here to give me hope for our town’s future.

I’m heading to the Turtle Ball --
Hope to see you there.
(Get your tickets at Zeste -- I’ll be the one leaving a trail of sand in my wake....)

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

C'mon Baby Light My Tiki Torch!

The turtles are returning to SPI to nest and that means it’s time to get ready for the second annual Lighting of the Tiki Torches Flotilla, scheduled for Friday, May 18 at just before sunset. The reigning King and Queen Sargassum, along with their court of local kayakers, will paddle the entire length of the island, lighting tiki torches all along the bay. Upon arriving at Palm Street Pier, they will be greeted by drummers, hula dancers, ukuklele players and a special performance by the Bongodogs. This is a perfect excuse to break out the Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts and get ready for summer!

There are multiple ways to participate -- all of them FREE:

Kayakers: Meet at Ted’s Landing at 5:30 if you are up for the whole trail, or join in at any point along the way. A trailer provided by The Beach Service will help you get your kayak back up to Ted’s after the ceremony.

Bayside residents: Place your (unlit) Tiki Torch in the bay and the King and Queen of Sargassum will light it from the ceremonial torch. Contact organizer Nancy Marsden to get your location on the Tiki Trail Map.

Everybody Else: Walk to the nearest by access point to cheer on the flotilla and pay homage to King & Queen Sargassum! Then head over to Palm Street Pier to participate in the festivities.

The Island Drummers and hula dancers will be on hand to welcome the flotilla at Palm St. Pier. At 7:45 the sunset ceremony begins, culminating in “the calling of the turtles” (on a conch shell, of course!) as the island officially welcomes nesting sea turtles and the beginning of summer. Following the ceremony, the Saturn Street Strummers will break out their ukes as warmup for the ever-popular Bongodogs and their unique blend of Texmex Puro Caliche Island music.

The Bongodogs appearance at the Tiki Festival should come as no surprise. "Above all, we are citizens of the Island and lovers of the sea" says David Cassady, the Bongodogs bassist. "We hope that our involvement will inspire others to take an interest in the sea turtles...".
David, his wife Cathi, and Dave Lorhy are all Bongodogs and avid divers. "Cathi and I have had some great turtle experiences in both Belize and Hawaii" said David, "but last year was probably the best! We all three traveled to Mexico to do some diving and had many wonderful close encounters with these very friendly creatures."

"This one took a particular liking to Dave!"

"We hope everyone on the Island, and in the Valley, will come out to support this event. See you there!"

The Tiki Trail flotilla is part of the week-long “Turtle Days” festivities which is being brought to you by a whole bunch of hard-working island locals who take their silliness very seriously. Other Turtle Day events include A Turtle Art Exhibit and Turtle Tea at Treasures of the Gulf Museum in Port Isabel; Sand Turtle Arribada workshops with a local sand sculptor; and the much anticipated Turtle Ball on Sat., May 19.

For a complete schedule of all Turtle Day events, surf on over to

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

'Tis the season

for mud to fly and accusations to hurl... for ugly signs to spring up like pimples and trashy campaign cards to be hung indiscriminately on doors that are rarely opened and almost never darkened by registered SPI voters. (I wonder how many of them will end up as trash in the yards and streets? Most, I would wager.) Alas, I am on my way out of town to the Tournament of Champions - had to exercise my franchise during early voting - and will miss the frenzied peak of margarita-fueled campaigning.

O darn.

So I went to the chamber forum and came away mostly convinced that every one of the candidates is qualified, dedicated and capable. So how to choose?

It seems to me the main issue in this year’s election is trust. You vote for someone you hope will make the same decisions you would if you had the time and energy to research all the issues the BOA will face in the next two years. Elections are expensive and it is simply not practical to poll the voters on every issue that comes up, so you elect someone whom you hope will take the time to do the research and make informed decisions.

However, some issues - like big bond issues for big municipal projects - are deemed big enough and important enough to be decided by popular vote. Blue ribbon committees are appointed to advise the aldermen and it is the responsibility of the elected officials to listen to those committee reports and pay close attention to the wishes of the voters. Or ignore them, I guess.

Of course things are never as clear cut or black and white as we might hope. Perhaps proceeding with the municipal building that the town staff and BOA really wanted as opposed to the building that the voters and blue ribbon panel were willing to bless was in fact the wisest and most efficient course of action. I am willing to concede that possibility. But even so, it is also fair to pose the question: Why put the issue up to vote in the first place? Why waste the time of the citizen’s committee if the BOA was going to basically ignore its report? Why allow us to feel like we have a say in how our tax money is spent if we really don’t?

Perhaps the voters in the upcoming election will trust that the aldermommies and alderdaddies they elect really do know what is best -- public sentiment be hanged.

On the other hand, maybe the voters will show that they are fed up with officials on all levels of government who turn a tone-deaf ear to the will of the people.

Either way, the results of this election will reveal a lot about the community in which we live.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why I distrust developers

The vegetated dune that used to reside here is now just a big pile of loose sand that is dispersing itself around the neighborhood thanks to all the wind we have been having. I could understand if someone actually intended to build something here, but apparently the plan was to bulldoze first, plan later and to hell with the native flora and fauna that used to call this dune home.

Maybe all the "for sale" signs on my street have something to do with it. No fewer than five four-plexes have been built on East Saturn in the past year, with what appears to be yet another well underway. And all of them have "for sale" signs in front of them, -- some more than one.

I guess it's hard to flip when no one is buying.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Turtles are Coming!

The Turtles Are Coming!

Come one, come all,
To the Turtle Lady’s Turtle Ball.

Come one, come all,
Even if you gotta’ crawl.

Mark your calendar for the first annual Turtle Days’ Celebration to be held the week of May 13 -19, 2007. The week-long events will celebrate the Turtle nesting season and the beginning of summer on the Island. The planning committee, led by local resident Nancy Marsden, is putting together a program of activities to entertain local residents and visitors to the area.

Special events include:
? A Turtle Art exhibit at the Treasures of the Gulf Museum in Port Isabel
? A Turtle Tea Reception at the Museum on May 17th . The event will honor local artists who have contributed their talents to help support local charitable events such as the Sea Turtle Inc. Fundraiser.
? A Sand Turtle Arribada with special sand turtle workshops by Sandy Feet.
? The 2nd annual “Lighting of the Tiki Torches” with a flotilla of kayaks traveling south on Tompkins Channel to Palm Street Pier for an Island celebration complete with a drum circle, island dancers, the Calling of the Turtles by the SPI Sirens, and the crowning of the new King and Queen of the Sargassum. Friday, May 18
? The culminating event will be The Turtle Ball, a fanciful masked costume ball with the theme: “Where Sea Creatures Meet Sanderella”. The Ball will be held at Padre Bar and Grill on South Padre Island and the “Agency” will provide the music for guests to dance the night away on Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tickets for the Turtle Tea and the Turtle Ball will be available on May 1, 2007 and may be purchased at Zeste or by calling Nancy Marsden at 956-371-9120. Tickets for the Turtle Tea Reception are $5 per person and only 50 tickets are available;
Tickets for the Turtle Ball are $25 per person.

The week-long celebration is intended to raise awareness of the turtle nesting season on the island. The Kemp's Ridley turtle, the world's most endangered sea turtle, is returning in greater numbers every year, thanks to the great work of Ila Loetscher and Sea Turtle, Inc. Monies raised at the various events will benefit Sea Turtle Inc.

This annual celebration will draw visitors to the Island and educate people about the Kemp’s Ridley turtle and the work that Sea Turtle Inc. does to help protect and preserve these beautiful creatures that grace the Island’s shores.

If you would like to assist in the planning effort, want more information about the activities, contact Nancy Marsden at 956-371-9120.

The turtle nesting season is beginning on the Island. It’s important for all beach goers to watch for them on the beach, help keep the beach clean for the turtles to build their nests and call the Nesting Turtle Hotline if a turtle is sighted.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Step right up

and get involved in your community, Mr. & Ms. Local!

Today, April 17th is the Chamber Candidate Forum - 5:30 at the Convention Centre. Let's ask hard questions!

Thursday, April 19th - Jerry Patterson, Chairman of the GLO, will speak about the recent oil/gas activity in the LLM. Ask even harder questions! Starting at 4:30 at the Convention Centre.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Damn That Nature

Someone identifying him/herself only as “M. Finch” posts the following report:

At the last EDC meeting Mr. Franke sheepishly admitted that the new Bird Center was running into problems due to “wetland issues.”

The fact that the very native flora and fauna that the center purports to promote and protect has become a problem to the people building it speaks volumes about priorities and how the town seems to think it can become an ecotourism destination merely by using that title in its marketing materials.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The second thing we do, let's kill spring break

Right after we kill all the lawyers, and just before we kill the goose that laid the golden eggs -- right?

Spring Break Myth # 53 -- ”Hardly anyone makes money off of spring break.“

According to an article in today’s Monitor, spring breakers are pumping roughly $20 million into town and state coffers.” Do you really believe “hardly anyone” would notice if spring break didn’t happen? Or that the nice families you hope to attract instead are going to pay $300/night during Texas week? Or that huge chunks of the money made from spring break don’t - in large part - stay right here on South Padre Island?

I don’t tend bar or operate a tattoo/piercing business but I can tell you that my rental unit made my April mortgage payment in a single week. And the kids didn’t trash the place and even got most of their hefty damage deposit back. Advertisers on my spring break website paid the rest of my bills for that month. Other business owners who made money during spring break can now afford to pay me to update their websites. And so on and so forth. The only people who are not profiting from spring break - either directly or indirectly - are those who simply don’t have to work for a living, period. And they still benefit from additional services the town is able to offer because of the money those kids spend here. You people can certainly afford to leave town for a week or two -- why not pick Texas week?

I find it really really difficult to understand the energy being wasted attacking spring break when our two most precious resources - the bay and the beach - are in mortal danger. Get a grip, folks: Spring break has been whittled down to essentially ONE WEEK OUT OF THE YEAR! When the beach has eroded out from underneath us, wet t-shirt contests will be the very least of our worries. When the bay is killed and the fishing, ecotourism and watersport industries go belly up, we will all look back on the good ol’ days when traffic occasionally came to a standstill.

I can’t tell you how many of the parental units of the families to whom I give sandcastle lessons tell me that they came here for spring break x number of years ago and the fond memories of the fun they had here caused them to return with their own kids. But it’s a lot. Many people would not even know South Padre Island exists were it not for spring break.

So here are some questions for you: Are you really going to tell a large contingent of paying customers - “do not come here“? Do you really think the majority of the island’s residents would support this stance? Are you really all that eager to pass a bunch of restrictive new ”no fun allowed here“ laws that will have an equally negative effect on attracting new residents as well as the ”good“ tourists?

And where did that goose run off to, anyway?

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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.



Monday, February 19, 2007

Shack-Warming Party

As you may or may not have noticed, I have been a bit remiss in my blogging duties as of late. I have a pretty good excuse as I have been trying to get used to the fit of my newest hat --

Welcome to the era of sandy feet: innkeeper.

Last week I closed on the other half of my beach house. Fred Mallett - former SPI resident and alderman spent two years gutting the upstairs apartment and renovating it into a fairly awesome space which he never even got to enjoy before moving on to the greener pastures that are Port Aransas.

Well now “The SandBox Inn” is mine. All mine! (Well, actually I am in partnership with a lender -- a lender that wants a very big chunk of money each and every month. And let’s not forget Mom & Dad Feets, whose support was way more than.... just moral.) And I am busy putting my own imprint upon it - Nancy Marsden has dubbed it “Beach Shack Chic” and I am pretty sure it is the only rental on the island which offers a pool table, an upright piano, a sandbox and a bidet....

Anyway, I am doing short term rentals and invite you to stop by the website at if you or someone you know is looking for a truly unique place to stay on South Padre Island. And then you are also invited to see the place first hand at the “Shack-Warming Party” I am hosting this Friday, Feb. 23 upstairs at 117 E. Saturn starting at 5 PM.

Everyone is invited and if you are even a little bit curious about what it is like up there I would encourage you to drop by and see it for yourself. Do not feel obligated to bring anything at all* -- just come and see what I’ve been up to.

Here it is again:
117 E. Saturn Lane
Friday, Feb. 23, starting at 5 PM

Hope to see you there!

*but if you would like to, I sure could use some plants. Cuttings. Seeds. Whatever you have plenty of.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Take your Dog to Lunch at the K9 Cafe

Open Only One Day per Year -- and Saturday is it!
Chefette Nanette is cooking up all kinds of good stuff for the Isle-Ditter-Dog fund raiser for the humane society. Be sure to stop by and tip generously -- all the money goes to the animal shelter.
You don't have to go all the way to Paris to take your dog to lunch!

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Getting Ready for Turtle Days!

Christy McDonald (the island's own "Betsy Ross") and Nancy Marsden ("Turtle Days" project manager) show off the new flag that will fly during "Turtle Days" 2007.

Yes, it is blurry! The flag's official unfurling is scheduled for 10 AM Friday, Feb. 16 at the SPI Visitors Center. Local dignitaries expected to attend will include Mayor Bob Pinkerton and the reigning Queen and King Sargassum (JoAnn Evans and Gary Rupp). Jeff and Lucy from Seaturtle Inc. are also expected to say a few words, and the Saturn Street Strummers will perform "The Unlitter Song" with a brand new verse honoring sea turtles.

Turtle Days begin when the first nest is found and end when the last hatchling swims away (roughly late spring to early fall.) Lots more Turtle Days activities are in the works - stay tuned!

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Get Ready for Sand Blasters 2007!

Mark March 4 on your calendar -- It is the debut of the newest episode of Sand Blasters: The Extreme Sand Sculpting Championship - the sand castle contest that is really a "blast!" Sand will fly and you can watch Team "Trowel and Error" - SPI's own sandy feet and her partner Kirk Rademaker - square off against 14 of the world's best sand sculptors.

I will be talking to Dan over at Louie's to see if we can get him to put it on the big TVs over there so we can have a Sand Blaster party - will be back to you with more info.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Law of Unintended Consequences

From Wikipedia:

The Law of Unintended Consequences is not a law in the strict scientific sense, but it is often quoted to encapsulate the idea that almost all human actions have at least one unintended consequence. In other words, each cause has more than one effect, including unforeseen effects.

Unintended consequences can be classed into roughly three types:
• a positive unexpected benefit, usually referred to as serendipity or a windfall
• a potential source of problems, according to Murphy's law used in Systems engineering
• a negative or a perverse effect, which is the opposite result of what is intended

This "law" was much on my mind at yesterday's emergency workshop regarding our rapidly eroding beach (see La Quinta) and possible courses of action regarding same.

Turnout was high. Rightly so as this is a disaster unfolding that could have far-reaching consequences for everyone who lives on or near or even just has a fondness for South Padre Island. The beach - particularly on the north end of town - has been eroding for a long time and while winter storms often take away broad swaths of beach, no one recalls ever seeing it this bad. Valuable property is disappearing and expensive homes and resorts are at risk. The upcoming dredging of the channel will do us no good as there are no funds for piping that material - tantalizingly close as it may be - to the beaches that really really need it.

(Note to all those who wrote impassioned comments on why affordable housing is so evil, i.e. because it takes money out of one person's pocket to benefit another: I expect you will feel equally impassioned about using tax dollars - in the form of grants, etc. - to save the collective asses of people who are rich enough to live on or near the beach -- but this is not an area I really care to delve into with this post.)

It was good to see so many movers and shakers show up to discuss this and I sure would have liked to see even a little bit of that enthusiasm just a couple months back when Sam, Nancy and I were trying to pull together a Christmas tree dune-building session. Of course maybe a handful of Christmas trees (though it could have been a lot more than that had the entire valley been enlisted) and some hay bales might not have saved the La Quinta's boardwalk -- but now we will never know, will we?

And it was interesting to see developers who all too recently successfully petitioned the BOA to have the HBL (Historic Building Line) moved seaward so that they could build even closer to the water on a beach that everyone already knew was eroding getting all huffy about what they perceived as insufficient sympathy being shown by the Army Corps of Engineers at their current plight.

And I couldn't help but wonder how many folks who are now aghast at the budget cuts that led to this sad situation voted for and cheered on the Republicans (at both the state and federal levels of government) who cut taxes which used to fund these kinds of programs. Or support a president who led us into a disastrous war that is eating up some $4.5 billion each and every month.

And don't even get me started on "global climate change."

To all you anonymice who are thinking this just might be the blog post to make you register with google just so you can tell me again what a "piece of work" I am and why don't I just "shut up and mind (my) own business," well... hold on a cotton-picking minute. I fully realize that these endangered entities provide a huge tax base that pay for our roads, our schools, our new municipal center and all kinds of good things. I am not suggesting that they are in any way getting what they deserve. The situation at La Quinta truly horrifies me and I think we need to pull together as a community and do what we can to save these endangered properties.

What concerns me is that law I cited at the beginning of this post. I hate hearing serious talk of geo-tubes and other "hard" forms of dune protection. (See what this study - funded by the Texas Coastal Management Program - has to say about them.... talk about unintended consequences!) Even the discussion of using off-shore sand concerns me. I spend a lot of time with SPI sand and am here to tell you that it is pretty special stuff. What happens if we dump a bunch of sand with different composition and/or different sized grains on our beaches? Maybe the only unfortunate consequence will be that you can't build wonderful sandcastles with it any more. That would be bad enough - more so for some of us than others. But what if it has other - more disastrous consequences? Some studies suggest such a program can mess with the wildlife and even increase erosion.

Before we jump on the offshore sand-mining bandwagon, I think we need to carefully and fully review any and all options available to us. Just a few minutes surfing on google led me to case studies of beach communities that are exploring artificial reef creation as a means of protecting and building up eroding beaches -- with the additional recreational benefits of attracting fish and improving surf (as in, make the local surfers very happy.) Serendipity indeed!

The most interesting short-term solution we heard came from Clayton Brashear, who suggested we look into the possibility of moving sand from the right of way at the end of Highway 100. I have been thinking about that idea for a few hours now and the only unfortunate consequence I can think of so far is that it could make it easier for everyone to access the Clothing Optional Beach -- which could quite possibly speed up the end of nekkid frolicking on the beach as we now know and enjoy it.


Update: I am going to start adding interesting links.
Shifting Sands (thanks, Nancy!)
The Island Breeze report of the workshop
Texas' Sinking Coast

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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.



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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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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Thursday, January 04, 2007

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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Saturday, December 30, 2006

2007 Polar Bear Sculpture

(Amazin' Walter & sandy feet strike a pose at last year's effort)

Weather permitting - the Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards will be out in force at the 2007 Whiting Street Polar Bear dip on New Years morning. We are encouraging everyone who has any interest in participating in this sculpture - from shoveling and hauling water to castle building & carving - to show up around 9 AM and pitch in. Let's make this the biggest and best one yet!

And then, of course, stick around for a quick dip in balmy-by-many-standards - 66.2 degrees at this very moment - water and the post-dip party at Billy Boomerang Beach. HOpe to see you there!

Update 12/31: that water is cooloing fast, kiddos. It has dropped nearly a full degree to 65.3 in just 24 hours. BRRRRR!

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Spring Break in December

Southbound traffic on Padre Blvd. was backed up as far as KFC when I finished my last sandcastle lesson yesterday.
That median is sure going to have to be pretty to make up for all the aggravation this project is causing...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

When the Spigot Runs Dry

Turned on the faucet yet this morning?
If not, be prepared for a big disappointment.

The doom and gloomer environmentalists have been telling us for years that we were going to run out of water. This morning Island residents are getting a hint of what that might feel like.

The water district put notes on everyone's door informing us that the water would be off between the hours of and 6 AM. But now it is nearly 8 and it is still not back on. The only reason I have coffee is that I keep gallon jugs of reverse osmosis water for the fish tank.

I already hear rumors of restaurants being closed and Circle K's being coffee-free this morning. How long before widespread panic sets in?

Update 8:12 - I was just (unofficialy) informed that the water would be turned back on in 15 minutes


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Castles in the Sand"

This NY Times editorial is not about...sandcastles.
It should be of interest to anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast.

Pragmatism, fiscal and otherwise, dictates that we cannot afford to continue the cycle of development and destruction. The vulnerability of our nation’s shores will only increase over the next decades as global climate change leads to rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion and stronger hurricanes of greater duration.



Sunday, December 10, 2006

merry martini

As usual, I had a great time at Merry Martini. And I also had fun at the after party party at Kelly's. Which is maybe why I wasn't feeling all that great today....

The mounds of toys and canned goods seem to grow hugely every year and speak volumes of the generosity and spirit of giving to be found in our little community. Thanks again to the organizers, sponsors and workers for pulling this thing together year after year. And special thanks to the anonymous nice person(s) who keeps me on the guest list year after year ;-)

Now it is starting to feel like the holidays!

(Photo by Nancy Marsden)


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Building a Continuous Duneline - First Step

What I got from last week's BOA meeting is that there is some strong support for this with the majority of the board members eager to see a specific plan for implementing this long-held goal. They have asked the city manager - with the guidance of the Beach & Dune Taskforce - to come up with this plan in time for an early Feb. presentation.

Though this same board recently saw fit to demote me to a mere "alternate" on this committee (I'll get over it -- eventually ;-) I am prepared to throw myself at this issue and have begun jotting down some notes that I hope the taskforce will use as a basis for a plan.

As I see it, there is much we can do to get the ball rolling that does not require massive expenditures on the part of the town. The drive-over for the town's maintenance vehicles is going to be expensive and many of the pocket park walkovers are in need of upgrades - I sure would like to see some of the hotel/motel taxes used for this specific purpose - but we can help the dunes build themselves with relatively little expense, especially if we can marshall some volunteers:

1. altering current beach scraping operations by scraping less often and less aggressively - particularly in the slow season; handpicking the litter from the natural leavings; and dispersing the piles of seaweed more evenly
2. using christmas trees, hay bales and/or fencing to collect blowing sand in areas where there are no dunes
3. planting native flora in the spring to keep the new dunes in place

Last year 20-30 of us buried some trees, hay and fences shortly after the holidays. I don't believe these dunes were planted with anything but I do think they were still somewhat effective. Is the city going to support this effort again in 2007 by collecting trees for this purpose? And perhaps we need an official report on last year's effort as to just how effective it was, and which method worked the best.

City planner Cate Ball was very helpful with this project last year. She is currently on maternity leave and I know that Mr. Morales is overextended in her absence, but it would be nice if someone from the town's staff could step in and give us some guidance on this.


Friday, December 08, 2006

picture of barges and bridge

Amazin' was out fishing with Capt. Randy when the barges broke loose..



Thursday, December 07, 2006

Grouchy Adults Still Trying to Outlaw Cruising (surprise surprise)

I hadn't been to a Board of Alderman's meeting in quite some time. Last night's was more fun than I anticipated.

Specifically, I found the lively discussion resulting from one alderman's request for an anti-cruising ordinance most entertaining. The specific concern is spring break and since these days spring break is pretty much just Texas week and not even the weekdays but just the two bracketing weekends -- well, I think we are talking about setting the legislative wheels in motion to crank out a new ordinance that would basically apply to all of ... um, six nights a year?!

But kids are drinking while they are driving! They are disorderly and a danger to themselves and everyone else! They are playing loud music and laughing uproariously and flirting and lord knows they aren't spending money in our shops if they are driving around in their cars.

Please don't tell me I am the only one here who has fond memories of cruising the drag -- in my case it was the Grand Haven (MI) waterfront -- and the adults didn't like it then, either.

So who are these cruisers, anyway? I don't believe they are the breakers themselves, who predictably leave the beach/condo to eat or shop or drink and don't want to be sitting in traffic any more that you or I do. It is the kids from up the valley who come here to cruise. And they cruise for the same reasons you and I did when we were their age: you're too young to get into Louie's; you might see someone you know or meet someone new and interesting while hanging out the window of a slow-moving car; you're too broke to afford much more than gas money and you could only sit at the Grand Haven A&W drive-in for so long before they either wanted you to buy something or move along.*

I'm surprised I have to remind you of this.

But it's not safe! says another alderman. In reality, I would guess that sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic is one of the least-risky behaviors these kids are likely to engage in while here. I think that the people who hate the cruising the most really just hate spring break, period and I have to tell you that I am not all that fond of it myself. But it really is - for the most part - just kids being kids; it is only crazy for a week or two and the money it brings in benefits us all -- even if we do not cater directly to those children.

(I don't even remember any bad traffic jams last year: maybe it was a slow year, maybe the city handled things better or maybe it was a combination of the two but there is a danger in basing new spring break specific ordinances on drunken bacchanalias gone by instead of the increasingly toned-down affairs we have been seeing in recent years.)

If you really hate spring break, Texas week is a great time to take that well-deserved vacation. Let the kids have their fun and remember that the fond memories they are building today will very possibly translate into the desire to share this place with their own kids tomorrow.

*which brings to mind a story told me by an employee of a sandwich shop strategically situated on Padre Blvd. Seems that a whole bunch of these cruising valley kids stopped into the shop, milling around and taking turns in the facility. When the owner told them they had to buy _something to earn bathroom privileges, they obligingly emptied their pockets to collectively produce enough change to buy a single white chocolate macadamia nut cookie - which they carefully divided into eight mostly-equal portions to enjoy whilst awaiting their turns in the loo.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

bridge closed??!!!

I hear it has been closed as a "precautionary measure."
Did a barge hit something?
Does anyone have any info?

Update: The bridge was closed - apparently for a couple of hours - this evening when a barge hit one of the new dolphins built after the collapse in 2001. The thing did its job and protected the bridge from any structural damage. Or that was the news floating around the BOA meeting tonight. (More on that tomorrow.)

Update #2: (press release)
- From The Texas Department of Transportation

Subject: Pier Protection System protects Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge

For Immediate Release, December 06, 2006

Pier Protection System protects Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge

Cameron County- Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge was NOT hit by a barge
earlier this evening. The Pier Protection System installed along the bridge
was the structure hit by the barge, which saved the bridge from any damage
or collapse. The bridge has been opened to traffic.

The Pier Protection System was installed in 2004 to protect the bridge from
incidents like todays.


For more information, please call Amy Rodriguez at (956) 239-1671 or (956)


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Protect Your Pooch!

I took Wags in for his monthly steroid shot at the PI Animal Clinic today, and while we were waiting two ladies rushed in with a cute little white puppy (maybe a Westy?) that had just gotten struck by a rattlesnake near the SPI Golf Course.

Fortunately, the pup was hit in a relatively good place - the bony area just under the nose. The owner identified (and killed) the snake and took the dog immediately to the clinic so the prognosis is very good. What I learned while observing this is that 1. The golf course development was built on top of a rattlesnake habitat and 2. A rattlesnake vaccination is available and probably a really good idea for anyone - but especially residents of Laguna Vista - who has a beloved pet.
'Nuff said.


Monday, November 20, 2006

The "official" line on gambling (?)

The Sons of the Beach Sandcastle Wizards have been spending a lot of time at the South Padre Island Visitors Center the past few days while we replace the resident sand castle with a sandy Christmas tree and a family of snowpeople. (Stop by and take a look - it is pretty sweet if I do say so myself.)

It is always interesting hanging out there because we get to see up close and personal the public face our town shows to first-time visitors. The people that work there are very nice and very helpful -- and also very careful to keep personal opinions out of their answers. ("Sorry, but I am not allowed to recommend one restaurant over another.")

And sometimes the kinds of questions we get to hear asked are as interesting as the answers. Like the guy who came in Saturday and asked, "So when is South Padre Island getting gambling?"

I had expected to hear the counter person say something like "gambling is still illegal in Texas, though there are people working hard to change that," but the young lady calmly and with great confidence in her own words said, "We will have it here in two years."

Huh!!?? What does she know that I don't? And is that the town's official line these days? Didn't we just reelect a governor who is adamantly opposed to casinos in Texas? And don't the residents have any say in the matter whatsoever?

What am I missing here?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Spread the Wealth Around

(Update 11/12 - the link works now - sorry 'bout that....)

I noticed it again this morning: my beach access sucks. The parking lot is badly in need of repaving and striping; the planter is sprouting only weeds; and since Rita took the walkway out, the beach users need to compete with the city tractors for access. There is a soiled disposable diaper under one of the benches that has been there for days if not weeks. (I unlitter bottles, cans, etc. on a daily basis, but I cannot bring myself to touch that nasty thing.)

Many if not most of the town's public beach accesses are falling into a state of disrepair and neglect and the goal of creating a contiguous dune ridge has received nothing but lip-service. We have strict laws about keeping glass off the beach with hardly any enforcement. Ask why this is so and it always comes down to "not enough money."

But wait just a doggone minute! Of course there is money -- so much money that we can spend $300,000 to get the town's name - tiny tiny - on a Nascar truck!

Everyone knows that the town of South Padre Island collects a hotel/motel tax - something like 5 million annually - that "may not be used for the general revenue purposes or general governmental operations of a municipality" and must be used for the kinds of promotions and expenses commonly associated with "putting heads in bed" -- right?

Well, Island resident Will Davis thinks we may have more latitude in spending those funds than our town leaders realize -- or care to admit. He has written a thoughtful, well-researched letter outlining why he thinks this and then goes on to list some town expenses currently being paid for out of the general fund that could conceivably be funded with the hotel/motel tax. This letter has been sent to the Mayor, BOA members, and several other movers and shakers -- with no appreciable result. I believe that the community as a whole could benefit from more people reading this and then discussing what it could mean and perhaps applying some pressure on our elected officials to investigate further.

Will agrees and has given me permission to post his letter on my server
What follows is an excerpt. You can read the whole document here... please do!
Comments are welcomed.

...If residents knew, however, that a broader use of these funds were permissible, I believe many would be of the opinion that such permissibility should be actualized, at least to some degree. If so, that is an opinion I would share, and I will briefly offer three reasons why.

(1)        Many costs associated with some of the activities listed above are currently paid for on SPI out of the general fund. These include beach policing, code enforcement, construction/maintenance of beach access, sanitation (bathroom facilities), parking, and the like. In my opinion, this is an undue burden on town residents. If some money from HOT revenues were utilized to help defray such expenditures, this would release general fund monies now encumbered for such purposes, allowing them instead to be redirected to other activities/functions bettering resident life, or alternatively, returned to the residents themselves.

(2)        Relying largely upon general fund revenues for such purposes is impractical because the resulting budgeting pressures make it difficult to meet perceived needs effectively. In other words, it is difficult to meet specific needs with excellence without money, and when a large pot of money, potentially available for such needs, is erroneously identified as untouchable, needed projects may be left unattended, or where they are addressed, quality may suffer. I hesitate to offer specific examples, as I know my own judgments on particular specifics are uneducated. No doubt, for example, many on the "Beach and Dune" committee would have a better idea about the priority needs relative to beach issues. I will venture only the untutored layman observations that the beach accesses are paltry, worker access is problematic, parking seems to be an omnipresent challenge, bathroom facilities are limited, dune restoration is under-attended, and park/recreational venues are nonexistent. I will offer no particular suggestions with regard to the interesting item #3 in Section 351.1055 Subsection (c) quoted above except to recall it to your attention. It implies many possibilities.

(3)        SPI is a tourist destination because of the beauty and allure of its beaches. Certainly no special event, no advertising spot, no marketing campaign, no matter how clever, comes close to competing with the visitor attraction of the beach itself. Short-term gains in stimulating tourist interest may be made by dedicating all HOT revenues to advertising, etc., but in the long run attracting visitors and retaining their interest to return is dependent upon the wise management and protection of our beaches. Suitable enhancements maximizing tourists' sense of security, ease, and delight in their enjoyment of the beach experience, accompanied by appropriate husbandry of the natural environment, will result in long-standing and increased future benefits to the tourist industry unmatched by other activities.



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Island Women Rock!

I woke up feeling pretty lucky today.
I am blessed with some wonderful friends who made me feel really special on my birthday. Thanks so much Deborah, Lori, Laurie, Dianne, Nancy and Aziza!

Extra special thanks to Laurie Gaudi who hosted the gathering and whipped up a yummy stirfry for the occasion -- and to Nancy for the fuschialicious double pear cake.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

SPI economic development strategies

At last night's CPAC meeting David Horton presented a super concise summary of the TIP Strategies workshop powerpoint presentation. I wish I had taken notes but there were some fairly heretical conclusions:

SPI will never be a shopping mecca - that just isn't what people come here to do. We want to make our visitors come back over and over again? We need to take care of our number one draw: the beach.

Don't plan on a bunch of baby boomers relocating here - lots of other communities are rolling out the red carpet for these folks and they are likely to relocate closer to home/family/friends, wherever that may be (Lufkin was mentioned specifically). Furthermore, many of them are planning for a "working retirement" - and it is doubtful that bartending or table-bussing are the kind of career options they will seek.

Texas Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing population centers in the country. This is where our visitors are coming from and where they will continue to come from. (They will stop at that new outlet mall in Mercedes on their way here, of course.) The good news is that occupational projections in the valley for the next decade are trending to management, professional and technical. These folks will have money to spend and as the closest resort destination, SPI stands to benefit.

The challenge for the town will be dealing with greater numbers of drive-in visitors. That means more traffic and parking issues. The goal will be to get our visitors to park their cars when they arrive and make it really easy for them to walk or use public transportation while they are here.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

SPI weighs in on the Saddam Death Verdict

"Great Question with a great legal insight"
South Padre Island's own Charlie Fincher is a lawyer who cartoons -- or a cartoonist who litigates. Yesterday he got South Padre Island mentioned on the Washington Post website... and was paid a nice compliment as well.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

scraping trash into the foredunes

This morning I received a great pdf document from our city manager that explains very clearly and concisely how dunes are formed and how they re-build after a storm. I found this really interesting and have put it up on my server so that anyone else who is interested can read it as well. (click here)
One of the most eye-opening sections comes toward the end, when the author talks about beach scraping as a totally ineffective way to build dunes - a practice that breaks down more than it builds up. That a community would scrape on a daily basis for purely aesthetic purposes when there isn't hardly anything to scrape and no people to view a spotless beach seems so preposterous as to not to even have occurred to him/her.

This is the off-season. There is very little debris washing up and few people to mind what little seaweed is there. And yet, the beach tractors are making daily, multiple passes, scraping wide swaths of already-clean beach. For what purpose? Do we not have better uses for the manpower? the equipment costs? the fuel????

Even worse, these tractors are picking up litter and burying it in the foredunes where it will be ugly, harmful to wildlife and difficult to extract for months/years/decades. As this photo I snapped just this morning clearly shows.

If we really love our beach and really hate litter, we will get these city workers off their tractor seats and on the ground with trashbags. Beach scraping should occur only when there is massive amounts of material washing up and lots of people here trying to enjoy the beach.