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It's spring! This time of year I always look forward to the beginning of a new sand castle contest season. 2002's first big event is relatively close to home - the "Texas Sandfest" in Port Aransas -- scheduled for April 11-14, 2002. This year the event organizers are trying something new - pairing up the competing masters with local businesses willing to sponsor specific sculptors. This is an interesting concept that I think we might try here with our own Sand Castle Days competition next October.

I really like Port Aransas. A little over a year ago, I was commissioned to do a small demo up on the north end of SPI. There wasn't much of a budget associated with this job, but I was furnished with a nice room on the island and thought maybe I could have a little fun while I was there. I was fortunate to run into an old friend, Mike Ellis, the editor of the Padre Island Moon. He offered to show me around the area a bit and I did not hesitate to take him up on the offer.

We hit several fun spots while out and about, but this story concerns one in particular - the Back Porch: a friendly palapa bar that attracts the same kind of folks as the watering holes I frequent here on SPI. In fact, I was warmly welcomed and immediately made to feel like one of the regulars.
So Mike and I had a few beers and inevitably at some point in the evening I had to make my way to the ladies' room. After noting the hand-printed sign requesting that I not attempt to flush anything more substantial than toilet paper down the commode, I did what I needed, adjusted my belly pack and turned to flush. Too late I noticed that my pack was not fully zipped and in fact was open just enough to allow my shades to slide out and down into the commode - at exactly the wrong moment. I made a grab but my reflexes were - a little slow - and down they went.

I was bummed. I'd only had that pair of shades for a few days but even worse, I worried that they might gunk up an already fragile waste disposal system. I returned to my barstool and sheepishly related this - admittedly improbable - tale of woe to my new friends. They got a big chuckle out of it, I apologized profusely and had to listen to jokes about my "impaired state" the rest of the night. I left a generous tip (I hope) and bought a new set of shades for the drive back to SPI after an enjoyable stay.

That could have been the end of the story, but it wasn't. As it turned out, my shades did indeed mess up the commode, and Mike had (maybe a little too much) fun shooting a photo of the new "out of order" sign on the stall door. Not just ONE picture, actually, but a whole series of them. Here is a shot of the bartender plunging away; another of him fishing around the bowl; and still another of him pulling the offending sunglasses out of the abyss. (All staged for my benefit, I am sure.) And here is the report of the plumber's bill, posted on the bar bulletin board with "sandy feet" written boldly across the top. A few weeks later, Mike came south to hand deliver the photos and my shades in their pristine and unscratched condition -- which in fact went on to give me a whole season's worth of service, not to mention a funny story to tell every time I pulled them out.

But that is still not the end of this story. As it turned out, I have not been back to the Back Porch since this occurred - though I have felt the occasional pang of remorse as well as the urge to apologize and at least offer to made reparations (hoping they wouldn't press the issue.) I knew I would be back for the contest in April and had my fingers crossed that the staff would still be chuckling when next I stopped by.

Then last week, I got this e-mail from the Port Aransas contest organizers:

Sandy, your sponsor is Keith McMullin and the Back Porch Bar. Since they are paying more than the $200 we needed, you will receive the additional $150 as "show up" money.

I guess that means they aren't mad at me. (I can't help but wonder if Kelly over at the Irish Pub would be as forgiving…)

I will be proud to have the Back Porch's sign on my sculpture plot, and I am looking forward to the post-contest celebration under their palapa - win, lose or draw - with my fellow sculptors.

Hope to see old friends from the north end of the island at the event, and would also hope that my friends from the south end will stop by the Back Porch the next time they are in the neighborhood and thank Keith and the gang for their generous good nature and support of a great event.

And when it comes time to head to the commode, may I suggest it would be wise to leave your shades with the bartender. I'm sure s/he will be glad to stash them in a safe spot - right next to mine.

Photos courtesy of Mike Ellis

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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