Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oleander gets mowed

I guess I'm not upset or anything, although I can't figure out why people are clearing lots in what is the best birding area within town, excepting the convention center. Funny thing is, all the grass was mowed and many native trees like the Tepguaje were cut down ... but the invasive, horribly nasty Brazilian Pepperwood was left standing.

I guess if a person owns some land, they should be able to do whatever. I guess one day this Island will be paved flat, anyway, so all the natural areas will all be gone except for submerged marshland.

Don't get me wrong. I like the mowed look. It's just that we don't have many wild areas left on the Island.

UPDATE. I talked with the code enforcement dude who said there were outstanding complaints from some local grump. He took pictures of the cleared lot and looked happy. However, this policy is directly contradictory to a BOA (town government) policy is to NOT cut down or mow down lots during the fall bird migration, which could be in September and October (I think November, too). Wife Lori sent a scathing email from my machine saying how stupid the system was working, and to change it please. /sam

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Now let us praise ...

Here I am singing in praise of mice and men. First the men. The contractor for the Town completed patching the roads, which was nice because people were detouring into my yard to go around the darn thing. But never a complaint from me! I was happy to see the progress.

Second, the mice – I mean of the computer kind. My DSL line had been acting up so I called ATT for service, since I was getting dropped off half the time. So this guy named Mike comes out in a rusty old SWBELL truck and tests here and there, fixes the outside switchbox, repairs a couple splices, and gets me up to almost Road-Runner line speed. All this within 24 hours, can you believe it? I’m like wow, how much do I owe ya Mike? Nada, he says, have a great day.

Here’s a new word I invented, “cursoritis.” That’s when you’re looking for that file, bookmark, or link in a big list on your computer and you can’t find it. It turns out that your mouse cursor is right on top of what you needed, blocking your view. That’s a bad case of cursoritis.

Not much to report other than a hellacious crop of seaweed came in with the east wind, with more of the black kind – looks like dead Sargasso weed but I can’t tell. The black mystery stuff on the south beaches is being cleaned up, if they can find any left.

Here’s a good one, Scarlet Colley was out diving by the breakwaters the other day and was amazed by all the tarpon, snook, grouper, snapper, and tropical fish out there. Maybe I should head out to the Jetty instead of the surf for fishing!

One last note, tonight is “weed the butterfly garden night” at about 6:00. That’s down between Saturn and Esperanza on the Gulf side – feel free to bring along some implements of weed destruction (IWD) and some drinky-winkies. And leave the mouse at home …

Saturday, September 15, 2007

BBQ Oysters

For the oyster lovers out there, my latest passion is to BBQ them. I like the idea of cooking them, and love to BBQ, so this is big fun. I've tried many here on the Island, many raw and many done as Oysters Rockefeller, but sorry, I like my way better.

BBQ oysters probably date back to time immemorial and the Indians. The principle is to cook the oyster over fire, hot rocks, or whatever - and when done, the oyster will open itself. No need to stab yourself in the hand with an oyster knife, nice.

I saw one recipe dated 1884 that was probably the shortest recipe ever written - just wash the oysters clean, put in a pan, and cook on medium heat until they open, about three to ten minutes depending on your fire. Most people back then roasted oysters, made oyster stew, or whatever. Some do the same idea right ob the BBQ grill, without the pan (nice naked touch there, some hissing as some juice flows when they open). As is today, eating raw ones was considered risky business.

A few pointers: right off the fire, those oysters are hot as the devil and have maybe a teaspoon of boiling water in them. I use clean gloves and tong for this job, and put the cooked oysters in a pan to cool for a minute. I also have a very large screwdriver in case the oyster needs some encouragement to open up all the way.

Serving them is fun, since everyone has their own ideas what to do, although garlic-butter sauce is always a winner. Notice that the oyster meat is small and not so goopy looking. You might need a small knife to separate the meat from the muscle. Myself, I like them just plain or with a shot of Cholula hot sauce, just a dab. Salsa, cheese sauce, fruit, and all kinds of stuff work though. Lori fixes hers with spinach and bacon bits sometimes.

My experiment with using Sargasso seaweed didn't go so well though. This is a North Carolina tradition thought to be handed down from the Indians - but mine caught fire. I had no idea seaweed could burn so well! Yeah, life of the party ... see you on the beach sometime.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Armageddon on SPI

photo credit: some Flickr person named Amy

OK, I wrote something REALLY creepy here and Lori (my better half) says it had to go. There's no "end of the world" down here and ... well it was just a cool picture I found!

Nice Photo-Shop job, Amy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

SPI a Cruise Destination?

I stirred the pot the other day on the SPI Forum when I commented that I was not a big fan of one of the consultant recommendations for our Island, which was to make it a cruise ship destination. Apparently, this was a near and dear issue for the local politicians, who I suppose put that recommendation on the table. It is also something that the Brownsville Navigation District wants to do. So you can imagine I caught some flak when I said it was a pretty silly idea.

I went from Mr. Goodbar to Mr. Negativity in a heartbeat.

But basically I said that the economics wasn’t there. The common wisdom is that a cruise ship deal would bring in millions of dollars in revenue, create jobs, and sell houses and condos. First, some nautical stuff: cruise stops can be (a) a port of embarkation or (b) a day lay-over. The first requires a huge dock, a terminal, passport clearance facilities, baggage handlers, and transportation access for not only the customers but hundreds of staff and tons of deliveries such as for fuel, water, and fuel. The second can be similar or just be an anchorage slightly offshore, which is serviced by small ferryboats to carry passengers to the land and back to the ship. I think most folks were expecting the second option, since South Padre Island really doesn’t have any port facilities, and it would take years to build one.

In a typical layover, a ship will only spend about eight hours in any port or anchorage – unless it breaks down, of course. Most are daytime layovers which start about 8:00 in the morning and end by 5:00 in the evening, just like clockwork. So let’s say a cruise ship arrived at SPI in the morning and began ferrying passengers to somewhere around Dolphin Cove on County land, the most likely drop-off spot because the Town does not have any facilities on the bayside. Passengers would have an option to come to SPI and of the several thousand on board, about two thirds would probably come over. This would take several hours each direction, since the ferries only hold about 60 people each. So in this case, “cruise people” would basically be on the Island from 10:00 until maybe 3:00.

Now think of it, when people go on a cruise costing $500 to $1,500 dollars they get two things: a very small, cramped double-occupancy cabin and a ton of food. Out goes any “heads in beds” for the Island, and while some people may want more food at lunchtime, they know they have free food almost at any hour of the day. The only thing they might want is cheap booze because the cruise liners really charge exorbitant rates for booze, and tack on 15 percent automatically. So you have over a thousand people with no transportation stuck in Isla Blanca Park. I suspect most would simply go to the beach, or explore the area down by Sea Ranch Marina.

There seems to be some misperception that cruise passengers are loaded with money and will buy expensive stuff all over the Island. This is perhaps incorrect. Many cruise lines actually try to use their own vendors instead of letting people spend their money on the locals, which is true for many ports of call in the Bahamas and Caribbean – even relaxation is highly structured on a cruise ship. No telling what would be done down by Isla Blanca, but by 3:00 the herd will be headed back to the cruise ship. There is actually a head-count to make sure that everybody who got off the ship got back on, with no illegal stowaways. Missing passengers are put on a list and given to the local police. The anchor is raised at precisely 5:00 and the ship leaves, like clockwork.

So tell me, does this sound like a bundle of money for our Island?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mystery of the Black Stuff on the Beach

Some mysterious black stuff washed up on our southerly beaches over the last two days, which has the Town all in a tizzy now. Fortunately it is not oil and the black stuff isn’t really all that concentrated. But it’s right there where the waves wash up the beach, called the wrack line. Thank goodness it doesn’t stick to your feet like tar.

Nobody has seen anything like it. It more resembles a fine powder like black carbon soot. So far, the Coast Guard and General Land Office have ruled it is not hazardous, which only makes some of us MORE concerned. I just got off the phone with a reporter for our local paper, who said samples were sent to the local office for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; these people couldn’t ID it so they sent the stuff up to another region office in Corpus Christi that has more lab equipment.

Meanwhile, a large freighter ship sits ominously a mile or so east of the Jetties. I really can’t say it was a cause of anything, other than it was a coincidence that the black mystery stuff showed up after it anchored out there. Conceivably, the ship could have dumped some black stuff such as from:

  • Soot blowing to clean boilers and stacks
  • Cargo hold cleaning

The good news is that the black stuff is not thick in the water. Up at Access 14 by Oleander Street I didn’t see any in appreciable amounts - it was much more prevalent down by Access 5 and Marlin Street. I would have gone in the water except that the northerly wind set up a pretty messy chop, no good for fishing or body surfing. If indeed it turns out to be pure carbon, that stuff is completely OK in the environment.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Is it 50 or what?

Saturday is Charlie Bommer’s birthday, so come on down to the Wanna to celebrate if you’re around or not at the sea turtle fundraiser. Starts about 8:30.

For those of you who don’t know him, wow, I don’t think he’d mind me telling on him a little bit. First, he runs The Beach Service of seaside umbrella and lounge chair fame, with labor mostly from needy college kids that have to have safety training. He has a wonderful wife, Rachael, and loads of kids and kin. At one time he was an engineer for Harley Davidson, I mean how cool is that? His roots go back to the “simple folk” such as the Mennonites, Amish, and Quakers of Pennsylvania. That’s a coincidence because my mother’s side of the family was from that same exact location, outside Lancaster, PA.

Hah, the old boy was just telling me the other night how he likes to work on old cars, motorbikes, and boats after work, recycling old stuff if it had potential or scrapping it out. So he was in the driveway of the Island Market telling me how he was literally flipping car hulks over all by himself – you know, with chains and stuff. “That’s how come the trailer looks so squished back there, Sammy” he adds with a twinkle in his eye – and a huge grin.

Weird part is he is always stone cold sober except maybe twice a year. Since he mentioned that water pistols and cream pies were usually involved in his birthday celebrations, I figure it will be a rocking good time. Happy birthday, Charlie.

Monday, September 03, 2007

First Sand Castle Days - 1988

Thanks to Sandy Feet for sending me a link to her archive of old Sand Castle Days pictures (click for tons of fun!). Here's the very first poster from the event, hand-drawn in almost the Armadillo Headquarters style. There is also another poster that looks a lot like an early Mac/Apple did it, hey Sandy? As a young and budding historian I thought I would share a few nuggets of information about what is today a very large, corporate event, and a "signature" Island event at that.

Back in 1988, 25 or 50 bucks would get you a sponsorship. it was an Island funky thing, born at homespun places like Boomerang Billy's but in 1988 held at the old Holiday Inn. The event was also sponsored by what was called the South Padre Island Merchant's Association. I don't recall many names other than Rovan's was on the list, as well as Jake's.

This year's Sand Castle Days will happen as usual in the third week of October. It's a wonderful event and please do make plans to attend. No, it is not the funky artist thing it used to be, but I hope to be able to praise the original folks, share some history, remember those sculptors who have passed away, and thank all the returning or new artists - it's a true tradition now.

It's got history, baby!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Unlitter Parade

Here's just a few members of the Unlitter Parade on South Padre Island today. A good time was had by all as we marched in total organized chaos from the Palm Hotel to the Wanna. It was a beautiful morning although rainy in the afternoon after we quit. Thanks to Nancy Marsden and her cast of craft camp gals, who made art out of all kinds of stuff on the beach - and wore it with pride!

If the weather holds, Sunday will be Save Island Blanca Day where the Sons of the Beach will again be playing ukes and stirring up a good time for all. More updates to follow ... happy Labor Day Weekend, y'all.