Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sand Castles in the Sea

Here’s a picture from our recent Sand Castle Days on South Padre Island. We had a little amateur team that did a lion and mouse along the theme of Aesop’s Fables, which was fun. I basically packed sand and water for the gals, got sunburned and sore, but had a wonderful time. Oh, and thanks to Char from Colorado for the picture of Captain Ahab here, or whoever it is. Thanks to the "Sons of the Beach" for this sand castle, by the way. I've always wanted to be a SOB.

Anyway, after some politics and frustrations, the event went off very well – so well I suggested to folks on Block Island that they should try such an event, too. You could hear that idea hit the floor with a dead thump, but hey, we’re talking sand castles at least 12 feet high here! Amazing international artists. Loads of fun. What’s your deal?

In the space of two weeks the Gulf water temperature had dropped from 86 to 73. There are not many people in the surf and we’re unpacking our boxes from the Austin move, looking for those heavy-duty wetsuits. Where oh where are you guys? But the beach is still fun. Later,

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Chrysalis

The chrysalis symbolizes my feelings right now, like an ugly striped caterpillar about to become a butterfly. Our friend Nancy showed us how to leave the native milkweed plants alone and not mow them, since they attract the caterpillars. On one little plant (no more than 12 inches high) we’ve had a crop of three, of which one attached to a giant yucca plant here in the attached photo. One day it will open up and a Monarch butterfly will emerge and hopefully fly down to Mexico for the winter.

Next year I’m going to farm those milkweed plants! They’re interesting to watch and I feel good about “making more butterflies” but jeez, those caterpillars can sure poop. You can tell if you have a hot milkweed plant because of all the black scat on the bottom leaves. Yup, just like babies. Butterflies, on the other hand, seem to gracefully sip nectar and don’t seem so messy.

If you Google the word “chrysalis” you get lots of Christian websites such as about rebirth but to me it is more like a changing of the guard. The smell of winter is in the north winds. The Island seems to be changing, too, not just with things natural but disturbing changes of growth, construction, and a new breed of day tripper. Personally I’m changing too, since for the first time since moving down here in July, our company has allowed me a million-dollar budget to study air pollution from ships. Not that I’d get very much of the booty, but frankly I’m honored to be the head honcho of something other than my lunch box!

Yes, a caterpillar turns into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly. It is time.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Hog Pen

It’s Bikefest weekend and we have something like 15,000 Harleys on the Island, or so they predict. Even inside you can hear the bathroom sounds they make, not that I mind it all that much – but the dog is confused and looks at me like “Did you just cut the cheese again, Dad?” She smells nothing, and is distraught.

I’d post a picture of them but you know what a biker looks like, right? Most seem nice fellows and gals in the 50’s with lots of bucks to spend. Typical look. The town kind of handed over the keys on this one, allowing them to shut down the main road for a parade and – get this – a crazy dude that wants to do a motorcycle jump over 15 brand-new Hummers. I suppose the bikers bring in some serious revenue in the off-season but man, we sure bent over backwards this time. Poor puppy, stop looking at me like that!

At least the weather cooperated, with no bad red tide and temperatures in the 80’s during the day. Not bad compared to our compatriots in New England, who are bailing their basements from record flooding from a Nor’easter. (Editor’s note: can you imagine 15,000 hogs on Block Island, Rhode Island?) Two hurricanes put the kybosh on previous plans for New Orleans and Houston rallies, Katrina and Rita, so these guys are ready to party. I don’t blame them there.

One thing I noticed was that the bikes don’t backfire like I remember them; most of the Harleys seem to be in perfect factory shape, without short pipes. This is perhaps a sure sign that we’re dealing with an upscale crowd. Plus, the dog doesn’t like fireworks or loud banging noises. They still roar like ... if my dog could talk, she’d tell you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Alligator Pie

Here’s a picture before my camera went bonkers but now it mysteriously works perfectly; I suppose the hi-tech lithium batteries helped. We were looking for a big alligator right THERE. There just hasn’t been much to shoot lately, and the red tide keeps us mostly inside. It doesn’t help the Gump-O-Meter, if you know what I mean. And woo, people seem grumpy, frumpy, and grouchy these days! Hey I’ve got red tide but I’m happy and I have my wife and my health and my newly-revived camera. I sure wish that alligator would come on out now. A ten-inch red eared slider doesn’t count near as good.

Perhaps people are just getting busy, knuckling down to the old salt mine waltz, and wish the good old days of summer – without all the freeping tourists – would hang on a little longer. Before you know it, it will be Columbus Day, the official end of Island summers. Sneeze and it will be Thanksgiving.

But you know there’s more to it, like our collective psyche was damaged by big hurricanes, high gas prices, and ineffective wars on terroristical whatevers. Then there’s the local politics, where you discover these people are really like eight year-old kids playing too rough during recess time at school – with millions of YOUR dollars. Stocks are down, prices are up, and it seems like the American Dream is going like the guy who wrote “By, by, American pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.” Come on his name was ….

Well that’s grumpy too so let’s get over it and cheer up. And I’ll be back to get a photo of Allie the alligator, just for you.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Red Tide is a Whimp

So many people are worried about the red tide down here on South Padre I began to wonder what the deal was. Sure, on a bad day the wind can carry some fumes, aerosol really, and you’ll cough a little. It still is a beautiful place and although it is an inconvenience, there are worse evils lurking around.

Consider cedar fever. We ran away from Austin because the mountain cedar released copious amounts of pollen between December and February, sometimes as high as 10,000 grains per cubic meter of air. It causes allergies, secondary lung infections, and migraine headaches. Folks, red tide it a wimp by comparison.

How about red ants? Folks on the Island here say there are fire ants, as we call them, and I say “let me see them” I stir up their mound a little and let some bite me on the inside of my wrist. If it was fire ants, there would be an instantaneous reaction of hives, blisters, and burning pain. It turns out they’re just piss ants and common brown ants. You don’t get hives, blisters, and burning pain from the red tide, folks.

OK, how about sea lice? They’ve got oodles of them over by Florida and the Bahamas in the spring. You go swimming and these little microscopic rascals, like chiggers (another bad boy), head right for the tender skin and burrow like little Chinese miners. About the only thing that helps is an ample supply of rum or vodka, both for the skin and the afflicted person.

Consider jellyfish ... naw, that's too easy because bad jellyfish hurt real bad.

Stacked up against all these bugs and things, and not to mention hurricanes, tornadoes, dust storms in Lubbock and Brownsville, and flooding, red tide is a mere whussy. That’s fighting words down here in Texas, but I guarantee that red tide after Rita is pretty darned tame. Gosh, you go inside the house and all the red tide symptoms vanish. Nothing even hurts. Get a life, folks, and as you know, South Padre ain’t for sissies, anyway.