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Dear sandyfeet,

I will be on SPI for the better part of June. It is not my first trip & I'm fimiliar with the island. It will, however, be my first extended trip down alone. Long story short...I'd like to meet some residents. How would you suggest I do that? I'm at that rather strange age of being too old to be young and too young to be old. Please don't misunderstand...I'm not looking for a romantic tryst -- just interesting people and their perspectives of year 'round life on the island.

Thanks for your time - B.

I am familiar with "that rather strange age" - in fact, I am pretty sure I have been in in that state for at least 10 years now and don't plan on leaving it any time soon...

There are many interesting people who call this place home and they are for the most part friendly and easy to meet. Here are some of my suggestions for "Establishing an Island Presence":

1. Make friends with a bartender - Unlike some other places in the world, sitting at an SPI bar by yourself does not necessarily imply that you are desperate or on the make. Local bartenders know everyone (or they at least know what everyone drinks) and are an excellent resource for meeting other locals. Get on good terms with one (generous tipping practices don't hurt) and s/he will help you feel right at home, introducing you to fun people and steering you away from known "problem children."

2. Local churches - I will admit that I do not have much first hand experience here, but if you are more of a "church person" than a "bar person," this may be a good alternative to my first suggestion.

3. Seek out gatherings - Pick up copies of the local free papers (i.e. The Parade that you are currently perusing) as soon as you get into town and see what kind of activities are on the calendar.

4. Volunteer - Sea Turtle Inc., the Laguna Madre Humane Society and other great organizations are always looking for help. If you have the time and inclination, you can meet lots of interesting people this way.

5. Browse the e-mail directory at SPIonline.com - These people submitted their contact info because they want to hear from other people. Find someone who shares your interests and drop him/her a message. Ask a question or two about windsurfing or local bands or whatever interests you and see if you can get a dialogue started.

6. Build a sand castle - seriously. I have traveled by myself all over the world and the quickest way I have found to meet "the right kind of people" is to sit down and show them just a little of what I can do with sand. Case in point: A couple of years ago when I was tooling around Italy, I cut my visit to Rome short by a day - it is lovely and interesting, yes but also kind of intimidating - and high-tailed it for the Amalfi coast. My first day in Positano I headed for the beach with a couple of carving tools -- and within an hour or two had scored a lunch invite, a guide to local attractions and a handful of lire!
You do not have to be an "expert" sand sculptor for this to work. People are drawn to even small castles by magnetic force. It is interesting to see an adult play in the sand, and they will assume that you are in fact an interesting person and will oftentimes strike up a conversation with you for that reason alone.

(Note: This summer the Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards will be offering discounted lessons at various SPI beaches for just a few bucks a head. See the next issue of the Parade for more info on times and locations.)

Seeking "Local Experts" - This is your big chance to help show how friendly South Padre Island really is. If you have an e-mail address, an area of expertise, and a willingness to answer questions, I want to hear from you! I will set you up with your own page on SPIonline.com (at no charge, of course) featuring your information, links you might suggest and any photo or image you choose. For more info, click here.

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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