Friday, November 30, 2007

Mas Shrimp - Still Being SPI Happy

Funny we were just talking at the dinner table about the shrimp here on SPI, and everybody thought I hated them. I like shrimp! I'm going to have shrimp at least three times this weekend. We're on a mission from the Big Man.

Now if you can't eat all those French fries, have I got some good things to do like feeding the catfish off Louie's on the bay side or the seagulls on the Gulf side. This is actually very fun - I have figured out that a seagull is much more trainable than a flippin' hard-head catfish. Why, you line up those seagulls and they're right ladies and gentlemen sometimes. Awesome feeling.

Reflecting on the day, I did get a message (blog, phone call, email, who knows) that people who view local SPI stuff on the Internet really don't want to hear about petty politics, crappy economics, and nasty elections. Nope, they want to hear about how much fun we're having while they're not! Just about anywhere, you can walk a few hundred paces and be on one of the best beaches in the world. Want some redfish, just put some waders on, grab a fishing pole, and head a few hundred paces due west! Like kites? We even got those "killer" kites you can fly.

Shells are a little bit of an issue but a trip up north on the beaches - find somebody with a big truck and maybe four wheel drive - can be quite productive. Rumors are that some gold is up there, some buried and some scattered. Mostly I see Winter Texans having a great time fishing, even if they're catching little whitings and a small pompano. Man, these folks are having fun.

And I'm on a major shrimp binge.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sam's Militia and Irregulars

Sometime after the Revolutionary War and the Civil War there was a rather existential group of militia dudes that worked for this crazy pamphleteer and printer, a guy named Sam. He covered more ground than Davy Crockett or Johnny Appleseed. They were mostly homeless folks with a sharp stick at most, and a fairly hefty rum habit as well. I've seen some real ink prints at UT and other places about "Sam's Militia." It is an honor to carry out the tradition ...

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Below is something I didn't post on the SPI Forum. I thought it was pretty scary and nuked it there but saved it here. At least if I'm going to shoot myself in the foot, might as well do it here!

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Well don't put words in my mouth about specific people ... and I say this respectfully because I like all the Aldermen ... but I am more worried that the people you focus attention on are but mere pawns in a much larger shell game. That's the part the scares me. No whiffs of conspiracies or anything, just a feeling that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight out. Some of the people on this Island may have left because of it, but that's just my strange sense of intuition. You're on your own as to guessing the "800 pound gorillas" around here, speaking politically. Nice folks too - don't tell them I said the gorilla thing, OK?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Best Shrimp on Island?

After eating shrimp for years down here, I'd like to throw it open and ask y'all "Who has the best shrimp on the Island?"

I mean come on, for bait they're great but great shrimp are actually hard to find. As far as ambiance I like the Wanna-Wanna because it is handy and close by, but honestly, their Sysco frozen bags o' shrimp have lost their flavor. Anybody getting shrimp from Sysco just isn't buying local, anyway - boo!

My favorite is a nice day or evening at Dolphin Cove, which seems to have real shrimp with some real taste. Extra points for the best cole slaw on the Island, and French fries that actually tasted like they had some potato in them. Hand-made?

Amberjack's has OK shrimp of an indeterminant kind, and it's been years since we've been to Scampi's for what was an award-winning peanut butter shrimp combo - and no telling if they're cooking $20 prawns or what. Many places zip up the shrimp with loads of spices so you can't even taste the shrimp anymore, bummer. Surprisingly, the best dish at Jesse's Cantina is shrimp enchiladas verdes, where the hot stuff compliments rather than takes away from the fresh taste of Gulf shrimp.

We're still on the quest ... let us know if you've been having some really good, wild shrimp lately.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The House of Blue Lights

Being a beautiful day for a change, I put up four strands of blue Christmas lights on the porch. I put up some big white stars but they ruined the effect and two of the stars didn't even work, so more blue it is. I wanted a somber feeling, a vision I've had since being a kid coming home from Methodist church at night and seeing a small pine tree lit in big blue bulbs - it made me stop and reflect. For age 8, that was a heavy moment. Not sure exactly what the feeing was, other than it meant something very special to me.

After years of being a flamboyant, rowdy type with racers, chasers, and very loud colors I just wanted to be meek this year. I built American flags that actually waved. No telephone pole was safe, and when I moved down here the palm trees put me in hog heaven. In hindsight the palm tree didn't look all that great other than I knew that 16 strands of whatever was burning bright and you could see it from SPI Boulevard - a crazy lighthouse of sorts.

Not so this year, and I'm not going to enter the Christmas Light contest being sponsored by the town. Minimalism don't win but that's the way I feel. Like when I was 8.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Age of Aquarius

Well it might be the Age of Pluto for all I know, and Pluto ain't even a planet anymore, but we had a great time with 'Chefette' Nancy and the gang at the Aquarius Condo tonight. Yep, I actually came out of my crab hole for more than an hour. A good part was early when I could see 12-foot waves breaking on the outside, totally wild. Then the cast and crew showed up with Pink Tuna Cactus Margs and a bazillion homemade tamales were done steamin'. Awesome.

The Craft Camp Girls did some outrageous beautiful glass work, which Amazing Walter had to photograph in hi-res with what I think was a twinkle in his eye. On such a cold, rainy weekend it was the perfect antidote for about anything.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cat Scratch Fever

Well I didn’t actually get cat scratch fever, unless you’re talking about the Ted Nugent kind, but I got one hell of a pet bite last Thursday. I was breaking up a cat & dog fight – something the doctors say you should never do (but hey, that cat lived!). By Monday I was running fevers so high I fainted in the restroom, which freaked out my wife. Things were NOT good.

So off to the clinic I went this morning to see “Doctor Darrell” who really is an RN but many of us Islanders love him. Of course I got chewed out for not coming in sooner, but he was cool and wrote some prescriptions for some very powerful antibiotics. I’m on the mend now.

But he did have the balls to want to give me another cat … and showed me in the back closet room. Goofy looking black female with clown spots and the sweetest disposition I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait to get back out there and get some exercise … sitting in a tub of Epsom salts is not my idea of fun. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Guerilla Beach Clean-Up

Wow, neat story in the LA Times about how a bunch of surfers started a clean-up group in response to the oil spill caused by the Costco Busan in San Fransisco Bay. The gist of the story was that the government was taking too long to do anything, and there were dying birds and blobs of black goo everywhere. Fearing arrest, the original members simply started doing their thing on their own. They started by saving as many birds as they could.

After finding out that flip-flops and beach bum attire wasn't any good, they got local businesses to donate plastic zoot suits. Innovation such as using hair - as in mats of hair from local barbers - were found to soak up the oily goo faster than anything the government had. Today, hundreds of people are cleaning the beaches and the government even caved in, admitting the citizens were doing an excellent job.

Heaven forbid such a calamity would ever happen on our shores in the future, but the story is powerful: sometimes regular people do the job better than big government can.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Texas Clipper

Finally, and after many delays, the Texas Clipper launched in 1944 will be sunk as an artificial reef 17 miles off SPI on Saturday morning. She doesn't look as pretty as this old file photo and much of the rigging has been cut down, but lots of boats are going out to watch the reefing.

This is huge news, as it seemed that everything conspired against the artificial reef program, including finding more asbestos and PCBs that was ever suspected. Millions a year will probably come in economic revenue for SPI and Port Isabel for diving and fishing opportunities. We're not sure how you keep the divers and fish hooks away from each other, but we'll work on that as we learn more.

And it's not just about corals and reef fish that would grow around the ship, but large fish like tuna also like to circle over structures like this. I've watched loads of depth finder stuff over the years and unless you go 80 miles out, or up to the reefs off Mansfield, it's like a desert in the Gulf - except for shrimp, of course.

The only bummer for some people is that they're expecting the ship to be blown up. Sorry folks, the Texas Clipper will go down by opening some water valves, no kaboom. But it's still a proud day for the local community.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Vision Statement

Well here's my "vision statement." It's a little different from ones developed for our Island's comprehensive plan ... but says so much more. It says "I am an Aztec Gold plumeria and I flowered in mid-November and aren't I beautiful?" Smells like heaven, too. It's physical, it's real, it says a thousand things yet is not abstract.

Now compare that to the 2020 vision statement done back in 2003, which a bunch of people are for some reason really proud of:

"The island has transformed its image; it is now a unique seaside community with a friendly small town character attracting a balance of permanent residents and tourists."

Now what in tarnation does THAT mean? I guess one could get into the grammar, logic, and rhetoric and conclude that today we're not a unique community, we're not located by the sea, we have an unfriendly, shitty attitude, and we're completely unbalanced with respect to tourists or some hybrid species of Homo Sapiens. And by the year 2020 we're going to fix that once and for all! Look, 11 pages of visions! Hmmm.

Can we transform our image like my frangipangi flower here, from bud to inflorescence to full flower? Over 600 people thought so, but I wondered what they really meant to say. But hold on, these are fighting words and people are real upset because ANOTHER vision statement done in 2007 simply says we're a coastal resort community and the tourists taste great. Now we're fighting over visions and I'm wondering if grammy is slipping psychedelics into her nooner martini.

Oh well, I guess I'll stick with my vision statement and let the others hash it out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chocolate Beer

I was going to write how I failed to douse the water supply good enough, since the SPI Forum went nuts and half the Island decided they were a bunch of crotchety old biddies and all went to heck. And then I decided maybe I'll write about this wonderful economy we have, where only three houses sold since January - bummer, boring, and not sponge worthy! Then I saw the light: chocolate beer. To heck with the downer stuff I want to know about this stuff.

I turns about that long before being used to make chocolate, cacao beans were used to make a fermented drink. The LA Times reports on a story about some archaeologists that found evidence of the chemicals in cacao in pottery shards in present-day Honduras which date back to maybe 1,500 years B.C. Now how cool is that? Scientists conjecture that the hootch was maybe 5% alcohol and had cacao beans, honey, and chilies in it.

Of course, over in the Old World beer and wine had been stump juice favorites since about 5,400 B.C., back when your knuckles still dragged on the ground when walking (I should know). But chocolate beer? Who would have thunk it? I think I love the Olmec people now. I mean, aren't these the same folks that invented mole?

Well, I'll get with my Island brewers and see if we can throw 5 gallons of it. No telling if we get it right, but dang it, honey, chocolate, and some chilies are going down the hatch!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Time for a few small repairs

Not much to report on the Island since I dumped a small load of Prozac and lithium in the water supply. Just kidding but it did get mighty slow lately – and most everyone seems happy. Many are taking advantage of the time before the Winter Texans arrive to do some remodeling. Old Doc at the bayside has a big one going, judging by the huge 40-foot Dempsey dumpster. Heck, I might even fire up a few paint brushes and the lawnmower myself. Sure is good weather for it.

I’ve also got a quote on a French patio door for the back porch but whoa, $1,400 for the hurricane model with no-rot fiberglass. No telling what I’ll find when I take the old door out but that “honey-do” is way past due according to the Boss. Ahem, Lori.

The grapefruit and Mexican lime plants kind of bit the dust. I guess this isn’t Bayview or other places in the Valley were if you spit some seeds out you have a big tree within a year – too much salt I guess. I mulched, used that iron fertilizer, and watered them religiously. A Sabal and a Bismarki palm are going in their old holes, both freebies from over the years and pot-bound as heck. The Sabal was grown from seed by our own Nancy Turtle-loo and the Bismarki was a $300 gift for Lori from her old school when she left Harlingen ISD. They’ll love it here I’m sure – I mean the plants!

Big winds have picked up lately and the wind boarders are showing up again, a fall ritual. I couldn’t see the mainland today for the dust but it sure is better than several years ago before they reclaimed and flooded the Bahia Grande southwest of Port Isabel. It was so bad back then that the dust would come through the window cracks somehow – locals called it “hurricane dirt.” It’s much better now.

The time change messed up both us and the dogs. But there again, with my office hours and 20-foot commute, it was of no consequence except for when the banks and restaurants close. Well, the restaurants are something of a mystery – they open and close at will and sometimes at 8:30 the red carpet rolls up and the “Open” signs get turned over – better not be standing in the way.

Life goes on.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Great Weekend; the Bloviators!

Thanks to the folks who put on the SPI Music Festival. A great time was had by all, after maybe a slow start on Friday. I hope it worked out well enough to do it again next year. Interestingly, I liked the bands I had never heard before - perhaps our expectations for headliners like Robert Earl Keen were a little too high. Anyway, taking it easy on another beautiful "Chamber of Commerce" day. Let's just say it wasn't just a few bees that were a-drinking!

Then there's the Bloviators, which no, was not a music group that performed this weekend (but what a name for a big horn band, huh?). This is a real word invented in the U.S., most likely a combination of "blow-hard" and "deviate." It basically means to pompously rant at length and is often used in terms of describing politicians. I ran across an excellent column in the LA Times entitled 'Things have never been better for kick-ass bloviators' (LAT, November 3, 2007, by Meghan Daum).

Is it just me, or has it become super-cool to be a blowhard? Everywhere I turn, it seems someone's speaking a bit too loudly, going on slightly too long and imparting ideas dressed up with dropped names, self-serving anecdotes and sanctimonious chest-thumping. And you should hear what I run into when I leave my house.
Hey, sounds like some folks over at Jason's political SPI forum? Oops, did I find myself guilty of bloviating too? Ayiiieeeee! Perhaps I need to catch the last of the waves today and enjoy a few days of flat water in the surf for fishing before the next front comes in Tuesday evening.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Drunk Bees Again

I guess it's time to change the hummingbird feeder juice, as it may have turned. The bees are all over it - and quite drunk may I add. I guess I should have noticed when the hummers were making a little bit too much whoopie.

How do I know they're drunk? The sit there guzzling fermented sugar water for hours and then fly about ten feet and go plop. With these beautiful days I've been keeping the front door and windows open and sometimes they walk "the perp walk" into the house. The only bummer is that the dogs think they're edible and get stung in the mouth sometimes.

Funniest thing, the dogs act like they ate peanut butter because they're trying to work out the stinger. Now way am I sticking my hand in a pit bull's mouth to pluck one out but it seems to fix itself after a while so no worries.

Anyway, this happens every year when during what we call Indian Summer, not that we ever had a frost here in October. But with the flowers mostly finished in their blooms, they love sugar water. I've seen this for about five years now, two here and more up in Central Texas.