Thursday, July 26, 2007


This is a prayer for Rebecca. I don’t know her very well other than she is the receptionist at the Town Hall and I don’t even know her last name. But gosh, I must have called her on Town business at least a couple hundred times. She was cool, fun, factual, and quick.

Unfortunately, Rebecca seems to have had a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. I don’t know more than that and if you know more please chime in here. She hasn’t been at work in many days.

I swapped some email with Michael Montgomery who used to be in media relations or whatever they call it now. He said she was one heck of a gal, and he worked with her for quite a while.

“Man that truly breaks my heart about Rebecca. I sat right beside her all day, every day. That poor girl had more problems than all of us combined, and would never let it show.”

As I promised, I’ll try to find out more about Rebecca and how she is doing today and some more on her past. It is the least I can do. If she needs help I’ll pass the word.

Update: Ann at the front desk says Rebecca is OK and going to make it fine, some loss of movement on the left side but it talking and undergoing therapy. After an evaluation sometime next week they'll see what the next steps are. So pray for a speedy recovery, and thank you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Letter to Tara; Housing Boondoggle

Dear Tara,

In the rough and tumble politics especially on a small Island sometimes we forget to challenge the ideas and not the person. I must confess, I have done my fair share of bashing on the 3-2 Board of Aldermen votes in which you participated. You know, being a mom, dentists, wonderful person, and Alderman must be a bunch of work and it is easy for us seagulls to sit in our beach chairs and call the potshots. But you are special and I've talked with many people over the last two days and it is time to cut some slack. So I went through my stuff and deleted bad things and then cruised the new SPI Forum and tried to do the same there, including bashing some really unrealistic requests and "facts" over there. Like you, I'm tired of all this hooey and it is time for me to confess and say I'm sorry Tara. I am being totally honest there. What some people are saying is so despicable they should or could be sued, or at least have to go to the time-out box (how about Houston, that'll fix them!). You said not to do this Tara but I'm my own man and I AM man enough to admit my mistakes.

* * *

In a New York Times article today Countrywide Financial (login required for NY Times) said that the housing economy was the worst since the Great Depression, driving the markets down by at least two percent and more to follow after the opening bell tomorrow. The story wouldn't be significant if Countrywide hadn't said that (1) housing prices have gone down, a fact not seen seen since the Depression, and (2) people with good credit were defaulting. Several hedge funds have already tanked because of "sub-prime" lending but when folks with good credit go down, it will drag the economy.

Yours truly predicted this and said that while the South Padre economy seems bullet-proof, signs are that the economy is very sick on our Island, since land flipping it the main trade in stock aside from bars, shops, and restaurants. Several huge deals such as ZOL and AZUL have been mothballed, and new projects on paper or under construction are on tenterhooks no matter what the management companies claim. If it wasn't for the Monterrey money coming in with large doses of cash, this Island would be in the toilet already. That's the buffer that can cushion a softer landing for us.

I can't think of a batter way to control land use on this Island except for the economy to tank for about three years. Oh yeah baby, I was there in the mid-1980 Texas Depression. That one was caused by a bunch of illegal bankers such as Tony Sanchez - the same rube who wants to drill for oil in the Laguna Madre. Just about everyone will agree that Tony was and is a complete and utter asshole and he same reasons for defaults are valid today as then.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Allez bon temps roulet!

The summer rolls on in an unusual cycle of rain, weekend tourists, and periodic sun, punctuated by weekend fireworks. Ah, life is good here on the Island with some of the better body surfing seen in what should be the flattest Gulf waters of the year. Knock on wood, no hurricane whirly-girlies yet – I’ll never forget moving here and a week later having to buy plywood and a ladder to get ready for Miss Emily.

This is the time of year when you don’t see the Sons of the Beach very often, except Sandy Feet has been around most of the time to manage her most excellent Sandbox Inn rental. Nice kitchen there in the picture, eh? Many are off at working, at clown camp, on the sandcastle circuit, of up north in places like Ohio. The dearth of ukulele players forced us to even cancel an invitation to play on Good Morning America on TV. I sure wish we could have done that!

Surf fishing has been a little slow because the same wind and waves that give us passable surf are horrible for fishing – one really wants calm, “trout green water” for fishing. One thing I thought was curious was an almost complete lack of bait in the surf. Usually there are immense schools of sardines, mullet, and baby jacks cruising up and down the beach on the tide, but I haven’t seen that this year. You’d think with less shrimping going on there would be more bait, and thus more trophy fish chasing the bait. Maybe the bait is all off the fourth sandbar or at the Coral Lounge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Choppin' With My Ax

Well here's a story that might be SPI relevant in a few months, Sammie playing guitar in some joints. I've been practicing the ole guitar-box for sure. All I need is a pickup and an amp with a good high-pass filter because plastic strings make too "twapping" sound.

Then I "plays de boogie."

I ONLY play the blues if I'm feeling really funny and farcical. Nope, the boogies is pretty fast stuff, sometimes with a slide and sometimes deliberately out of key - it is the Merinque of late-1940's and early 1950's boogie and Swing music. I'm going to see if any of those Bongo Dogs are interested because I just love a fast boogie. Hey, if you like Reggae with the back-beat I can still boogie that. What, you want to Punk it up?

Only problem is, the Lord don't let me sing.

I mean I can and will, but like Leo Kottke (major machine-gun guitar player) said "my voice is like geese farts on a hot muggy day." So I guess I'm trolling for a "girl with lots of sax" or starting with the Island talent. You know, South Texas up to San Antonio was once known as a major blues and boogie area, but all that died out in the 1970's.

I think people might like it The boogies (Bugle Boy of Company B) won WWII and lasted until rock but then even stranger and eerie boogies came from the re-discovery of black music. Voodoo Chile by Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn are leading examples. Wish I was that good, dern it!

If it doesn't raise hairs on the back of your neck, well it probably not worth the effort. It is to me, just maybe, if I come out of my shell.

Monday, July 16, 2007

De Trut Mon!

Humans are always concerned about the Truth, a term called "de Trut" in out-island Abacos (photo courtesy of some nice visitors to Elbow Cay, Bahamas).

So I wrote this blog entry in response to some folks who really want the Truth as opposed to opinion, hearsay, rumor, and opinion, but fail to grasp the concept of what "de trut" really is.

Of course on a small island such as ours (gosh we need more Junkanoo costumes like Miss Sally models here) the bad stuff such as rumors, lies, wild opinions, and so forth are rampant as pelican on a herd of mullet. But to say that a particular source including your truly myself is a source of truth is a losing endgame ... because anybody will tell you there's no such thing as the Truth.

Sorry to belabor the issue, but truth (lower case) is a myriad of views and opinions and approaches in itself, which can be legal, philosophical, medical, engineering, physical, and heck, about any science, religion, snake-oil salesman, or blow-hard that happens to travel down the road. It turns out that gossip has a key function for us monkey-like people because (1) we love gossip and (2) gossip helps us learn the truth!

What is best about our human/monkey system is that we love to expose the gossipers we don't like as being untruthful rubes and liars. No I'm serious, you can trash all those lofty goals of plausibility, cause and effect, reasonable doubt. If you pick up a rock in your hand and say "this is a rock" I can debate you as to it's "rock-iddity" if you want. I think we've been doing this since the Neanderthal days.

In closing, it is strange that as we have more knowledge base and mental power than ever, we have less and less of a grasp on "de Trut."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Vanishing Beaches"

On Saturday, July 14 a big bunch of honchos will be attending a conference forum headed by US Congressman Solomon Ortiz called “Vanishing Beaches.” This ought to be a good topic because our beaches certainly are doing that. Plus, I think Hon, Ortiz might take back some suggestions for the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans of the US House of Representatives. Anyway, the meeting is packed with some experts so be there at 11:30 a.m. at the La Quinta Inn and Suites, 7000 Padre Boulevard, South Padre Island if you dare. Warning: go early because it’s a July weekend; you know the drill and security might be tight.

One of the speakers is Jody Henneke who I worked for in a previous lifetime or at least so it seems. That was when I was line staff at the, gawd this is such a brain test, Texas Air Control Board, Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission which then became the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality … note that she now works for the General Land Office and I’m a consultant. The GLO hasn’t changed its name since 1836. I haven’t changed my name since 1956. It will be good to see Jody even if we had some spits and spats in the past.

I don’t know for sure, but one understated purpose for the meeting but a few months ago it was to help shake loose some federal money to help restore the beaches of lower South Padre Island. State and local funds just aren’t cutting it and we’re way out of cycle now. One minor hurricane and the beach abutting four to five BILLION dollars of property will be solid gone, except down by the jetties.

See you there?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Them Extreme Oyster Sailboats

A story in the New York Times about the commercial fishermen of eastern Long Island inspired me to write about "them extreme oyster sailboats." It's a very good story about the Bonackers who were of Dutch ancestry and worked the fields, oyster beds, and pound traps of the area for centuries. Since the bays were shallow they needed skiffs that could carry a lot of weight, and until the invention of the motorboat all were powered by oar and sail. The most famous was a boat called a "Sandbagger" named Annie, which is now at Mystic Seaport.

Given the light winds of summertime, these craft were often ridiculously over-powered with huge sails. The boats literally raced to the market ... the practice later evolving into yacht racing as we know it today. The formula for today's outrageous 12-meter racing boats were based on exactly this model of the Sandbagger.

Some history references note that Sandbaggers originated near New Haven, Connecticut so as to supply oysters to the New York market. The New England Sharpie was its roots in design, a simple workboat often powered by sails on two masts as a "cat" rig. For some reason, a single mast replaced the two small ones and the sails got bigger and bigger.

The Sandbagger design quickly spread out Long Island Sound and then the coast of the US to Florida and the Bahamas. It is one of the few real American inventions as far as sailing technology. Their distinguishing characteristic was a very long boom, the horizontal wood on the bottom of the main sail. When working the oyster beds the sails were "scandalized" so as to reduce sail area, but when it came time to race, up went all the sails. Thus the sails could be worked by one or two oystermen but raced with up the 12 or 15.

The name is rather misleading, with many sources saying that bags of sand or gravel were used to help weigh down the windward side to prevent from tipping over and capsizing. I suspect oysters were used instead, but the interesting aspect was when raced they used hiking boards, sometimes stuck out as far as 12 feet. Thus you might have two or three boards on the windward side to keep the boat level, and maybe two or three men or women on each board - really nothing but a stout 2-by-twelve. My thinking is that the captains called these folks "sandbaggers" because their only function was for their weight!

As the technology spread southward, each area developed it's own take on the sandbagger. Here's an interesting resemblance from a Pamlico Sound sailing skiff:

The above picture is possibly a working oysterboat configuration rather than as a racer, but the resemblance of the bluff bows, wine-glass stern, and center-board for shallow water is there, along with the gaff-top rigging. For racing, these boats could be easily fitted with topsails above the mainsail and a flying jib with a bowsprit extension. A few can still be found in the Pamlico and Amerle sounds of the Carolinas. Some sailing configurations were sprit-sailed and loose-footed as well (meaning no swinging gaff or boom). All were very fast.

The design headed down the coast, as farmers and watermen looked for other fisheries. The Florida Mullet Boat is another example that survives even today. The most interesting adaptation is found today in the outer islands of the Bahamas such as the Abacos, Exumas, and Turks and Caicos. They are quite extreme and share the very long boom that can be longer then the boat itself:

Number 11 there is The Rage, a restored Abaco Racing Sloop (click picture for larger detail). Gone is the bowsprit but the mast was lengthened with a Marconi (triangular) rig; the wine-glass stern is still evident since the roots of the Sandbagger of the early 1800's. As a concession to the slightly deeper waters of the local waters, a modest keel replaced the centerboard as well. But they still race these historical sloops on Regatta days and even use those outlandish hiking boards.

Many yacht clubs and regattas still race the Sandbagger designs even today, thanks to some very good boat builders who could restore them. All these boats are built from wood although some today are fiberglassed on the outside. When I say these boats are "extreme," folks who sail them will tell you that the forces from those sails are so great that boards could pop right off the hull.

All because of a few oysters on Long Island Sound.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Beach Safety, Continued ...

I think I have started a discussion about beach safety and have sent emails and talked with a bunch of people. Naturally there are lots of opinions and views but the one saving grace is that this really isn't a political issue. Absolutely nobody wants SPI's image to be tarnished by a bunch of drownings. I will re-post when I figure out a place and time for an informal meeting, which is probably Monday if I can work the thang right. I'll ask Jose over at SPI Brewing if we can have the upstairs, how about that? Lemme know.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Are Palm Trees Evil?

We certainly do! See those brown snaky and fluffy branches that don't look like green palm fronds? Those are the sex parts (yikes, teenagers!) that spew out pounds and pounds of allergy-producing pollen. Please excuse me while I sneeze.

So anyway I visited the local doctor to refill some medicine and he asked if anything was going on, health-wise. I indicated my allergies and those freaking palm trees. He agreed, saying he had never seen the palms do the teenager thing in June. "Go swimming a bunch and snort some saltwater." Forty-five bucks in co-pay and he tells me to ....

Then we were talking with our good friends from Dallas, a veternarian and his wife, complaining the we had allergies fairly bad and the dogs were even sneezing too. "Are you kidding? I'd love to be allergic to palm trees! It takes years to become allergic to things like that. Frankly I'm jealous - you get live here and be allergic to palm trees. You poor, poor folks."


FROM THE GOOD NEWS DESK: Lori bagged a job with the local school district instead of driving an hour into the big city every workday. She is so happy she's on Cloud Nine. Her drive is now not maybe ten minutes. Hey if she's happy, I'm a happy camper too!