Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bonfire Update #1

OK, I realize I was confusing in my original post. The bonfire is still on for New Years Day, Thursday.

Weather-wise, a mild front is due to come through this morning with fairly strong NE winds. On Thursday, the wind is expected to switch back to the South. The question is the timing of the wind and rain right at about dusk when we want to light the fire. So far, so good.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Calling All SOBs - Bonfire!

Wednesday is the 31st and we're hoping for a good evening for a pachanga at the end of the road again. You know the drill. I'll bring the wood, and hopefully Sandy Feet and other have some contributions, and y'all just bring your chairs, ukuleles, kazoos, marshmallows, or whatever. Oh, some wine and beer is completely acceptable by the way. Food is gud. End of the road, face right due East, and walk about 150 yards and you'll see us.

When? Well we'll have to watch that because nobody wants to go up to the North End in 40 degrees of weather and drizzle, or worse. We want nice. Stay in touch with the SOBs and no problem.

Help needed? You betcha! We lost some of our most venerable surf trucks and Jeeps, so we'll most likely need some help hauling gear and firewood from the street. My back will thank ya.

What time? Well once we get the "go" from the powers that be, including the weather gods, the early crew is out there about 4 o'clock loading wood and stuff so it's still daylight. The sun goes down and we light a small camp fire. The fire gets bigger after dinnertime. One time some locals came by with a ton of wood and old pallets and it was quite spectacular.

What should I bring? The usual stuff plus a flashlight for walking the dunes in the dark. Trash bags are good, since we haul off all our waste plus some more beach trash. We're asking people not to bring fireworks because some dogs will be there, and it scares them.

When? The extended forecast shows New Years Day being OK with a high in the 70s with a low in the 60s but a 10% chance of rain. Looks like a cold front might come in after that, not sure. After a Polar Bear plunge, might be nice! -sammie

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

'Twas a South Padre Christmas and all down the beach,
White sand stretched as far as it could reach.
The flippers were hung on the balcony with care,
In the hopes that Santa soon would drift there.

The Texans were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Key Lime pie danced in their heads.
Bahama mama in her grass skirt and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long tropical nap.

When out in the night there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my hammock to see what was the matter.
Away to the screen door I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains and let out a gasp.

The moon on the water, how it did glow,
Giving a luster of midday to palm trees below.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature yacht out past the pier.

With a little old captain so lively and quick,
I thought for a moment, "Could it be St. Nick?"
More rapid than the waves, the dolphins they came
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now Flipper, now Moby, now Sebastian and Willy,
On Flounder, on Orca, on Jaws and Charlie -
From the end of the pier to our port of call,
Now swim away, swim away, swim away all!"

And then in a twinkling I heard on the beach,
The chirping and chattering and splashing of each.
As I redrew the curtains and was turning around,
Through the front door St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Dressed in his trunks with a beer in his hand,
His feet were all covered with snow-like white sand.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a tourist just opening his pack.

His eyes - how they twinkle, his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were sunburned, his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth cracked a big smile,
The goatee on his chin, showed he could be kinda wild.

The snorkel he held tight in his teeth,
The mask it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a red face and a sunburned belly,
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

Trunks and a cold “Gold”, a strange old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A flash of the peace sign and a nod of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the flippers, then turned with a jerk.
Now laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the door he goes.

He sprang to his yacht to his team gave a call,
And away they swam past the lighthouse and all.
But I heard him exclaim as he traveled out of sight,
"Christmas in South Padre, now that's doin' it right!"

-adapted from "Christmas in Abaco" by Nick Campbell and Debbie Midwood circa 2004

Friday, December 19, 2008

Half Shares in a Shrimp Boat

That's a picture of a massive crane barge lifting what is left of an 80-foot shrimp boat that got stuck on the end of the South Jetty. Photo credits go to Dennis Barrett and his Sandslave blog.

A bunch of us - maybe nearly 1,500 - were watching the Sky Cam yesterday, which had remarkable zoom ability from several miles away. It appeared that the stern of the shrimp boat broke off, perhaps after the recent heavy winds and high seas. Both sections of boat seemed to dangle and be smashed on the jetty, a horrifying sight! Dennis grabbed this picture once the crane barge was in smoother waters of the Brownsville Ship Channel.

So it was a neat day for watching the waters yesterday, as the shrimp boat was dangled and mangled, and workers were moving 500-foot sections of dredge pipe down the beach. Heavy action to say the least.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shallow and Cold

For the last hour I've been watching as the sun struggles - finally - to burn through the clouds. This was very strange, as the wind was out of the north yet the clouds were trucking to the north about 20 miles an hour! Obviously, the weathermen called it right as a shallow cold front even though they botched the last three day's forecast pretty bad - the front was originally supposed to stall north of here.

Ah, more sun. Anyway that was neat with the cool wind one way, and the clouds and mist at about a thousand feet going the other. I mean those clouds were trucking, probably meaning a major warm-up is on the way.

I also think it is neat that in these heady times when we think we know everything, we still can't get the weather right. Obviously we don't know very much, do we?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're Too Darned High

The subject for this post is real estate and the the theme is whether SPI really is cheaper than other places in the US. This conversation came up during our "Alternatini" gathering because we weren't invited to Martini Night, and how a real good business simply couldn't find anything on the island that was remotely workable.

So I hit the books and did a little research. I can't compare condos yet, as they have zero land, but I was able to compare land lot prices in terms of dollars per acre.
  • Block Island, RI: $0.7M per acre
  • Martha's Vineyard: $0.8M per acre
  • South Padre Island: $1.4M per acre
I know I have avoided the California issue but places like Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Long island NY, and Nantucket are the cream of the crop, the highest land prices on the Eastern Seaboard. The fact is, our prices are double theirs.

This came as quite a surprise because the prevailing logic that SPI is cheaper than most other places. I can do some more research, although it involves putting numbers into a spreadsheet, but I don't think the answers would change much. The prevailing logic was wrong. Face it, we're trying to screw the market and the potential home buyer knows it. Here are the chief reasons:
  • The average home lot is only 0.14 acres in SPI, a small postage stamp
  • Other places offer land at in terms of 1 to 2 acres, with small lots being 0.25 acres, lots of space that people really value
  • The Town of SPI isn't nearly that great or pretty to offset the very high cost of land
What is truly baffling is that many people bought land down here when it was only $200K to $400K per acre or even cheaper if you'd been here since the early 70's. How did we end up adding a million to those kinds of numbers and get away with it?

Until recently we did. That all stopped about two years ago when the housing market dried up. The only moving down here are condos and townhomes and they aren't doing too great either. It is simple math: we're too damn high.

To tell the truth, I moved here for quality of life and knew about the costs and did my research. But I wouldn't expect "zoomers and boomers" to fall from the sky because we're totally upside down on our land prices. I can tell you why islanders move to Port Isabel or Bayview though: you can get an entire acre or more for the price, including a $250,000 house on it.

Best and Worst Jobs

I think building sand castles is still one of the coolest jobs on the Earth. But what's the worst?

"Anal gland expresser."

Wish I was making it up...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Santa is a witch!

I knew it! Old Saint Nick move over, the real "Santa" is a witch called Befana. See the story here on Spiegel.

I never did trust some fat boy with flying reindeer, anyway, I mean you've got to be kidding. Women know the good kids and the bad kids and do 90 percent of Christmas, anyway. Hey, what's a little broomstick action if they want to get around town, anyway? It's much more believable - and yes, I used to watch Bewitched when I was a kid, too.

Nick, face it, you're getting rather worn out, the North Pole is melting, and nobody's buying much in this stinking Madoff economy. Come on down to South Padre and lose some weight. I betcha Amazing Walter would let the elves stay in his garage workshop until ya get a nice condo thing working.

I know Santa really was and is a woman because my dad used to come home from work in December and ask if the kids were any good that day. Sheesh, mom had the dirt on everybody, all six of us, no fooling that lady! Badda-bing, badda-boom, badda-boop, list them off one after the other. Gosh we were stinkers sometimes, talk about a multiple listing service!

No I'm not saying my mother is Befana, no way. Befana is a real witch in Italy, really nasty and dirty and crooked and sooty with bad teeth and torn rags. Now come on, the job pays about ten Euros an hour so you have to look the part and get into it. But it's a neat story.

And Old Saint Nick, you're always welcome at our beach bungalow, brother. Just no Ho-Ho-Ho around the old lady, OK?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

OK, that's enuff

I put out double rations of birdseed today on account of the cold weather but ugh ... looks like these fellas were still hungry. How they tripped the trap latch is a mystery, since they don't weigh but a few ounces. Funny thing, they just stood there and we cooed at each other, and then I opened the gate and off they flew. No mas. I called the town to get the trap and please "no mo." The score:
  • 15 tequatche possum
  • 1 yearling mapache raccoon
  • 3 very stupid neighborhood cats (released)
  • 2 really cool pigeons (released)
I wish that was a list of all the offshore fish I caught this summer, but oh well.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Toasty 2008 Number 3

What a beautiful day Sunday was down by the Wanna-Wanna. We got to help Sandy Feet as she carved another Toasty the Snowman. Jerry Wilson took the picture shown above and Island Princess took the one below. Me, the dummy in the crown, I forgot my camera.

Lots of visiting families, Winter Texans, islanders, and a large group from Monterrey stopped by for a picture or six. Oh yea, and Sun Clay, Amazing and Laurie, and many more. It was very fun. Thanks, Feets!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Great Googly Moogly!

As you can see in today's picture, it's a windy, cold, and damp day on the island, more like that Connecticut Yankee weather I grew up with. So the mind wanders to other pursuits, such as Oogedy Boogedy and such irrelevant things.

But first let's start with the boogies, from which all these terms arise. The boogie itself was inspired by black history and their blues form of music. It had a dual meaning of a scary, mean, ghostly bad man ("boo") but also having a very good time with some music and some booze and some fun. In fact, the terms voodoo chile and boogie chillen are almost interchangeable, since their music came over from the tribes such as in Mali, Africa. The important concept was the mixture of extreme danger and extreme fun, all at once: be afraid and smile.

Great Googly Moogly dates back to exactly the same concept, although perhaps more fun and more extreme at once, if that is possible. The Wikipedia entry fails to grasp this duality very well although it does have some nice references to both the blues artists of the 50's and current humor. It is a difficult concept unless you know a little about the blues and what "the boogies" are.

This is all leading up to Kathleen Parker's editorial about oogedy-boogedy. In this she conveniently lays out as an attack on the over-religious right in the Republican Party, and it perhaps her third editorial about their problem with the "God squad."

Not so fast, Kathy!

The term originally comes from ooga-booga and while its origination is unclear and does seem to be associated with superstitious beliefs, it is basically a parody on dumb people who are depicted as living like apes. Ask a kid about how cavemen or tribes in Africa communicated, they will probably say "like oogabooga." In a sense it was a deliberate slam on black people, perhaps the same people who celebrated the blues: one can almost hear a KKK person saying it. But significantly, notice the b-o-o-g part on the end, which should mean something to us now, both linguistically and etymologically speaking.

So Kathy's column today invented another variant of that slam-phrase, twisting its meaning in a very sardonic and sarcastic manner. I'm sure she has no idea of what she was saying with those words. Ho-ho-ho, you bad girl, Kathleen! Oogedy-boogedy, girl chile!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Steal This Picture

This is a very famous aerial photo of SPI during Hurricane Georges waves of 1998, done by Richard Stockton. Yes it is copyrighted but Gene Gore has is on his website, easy to download from there too. I use it for my deck-top graphic and not the screen saver: it's too good.

What I like is how you can see the current flow past Barracuda Bay and the rows of waves that indicate the sandbars on the beach. On a jet plane you can see those rows of waves from about 25,000 feet - well, maybe on a good day but you know what I mean.

Jerry Wilson also has some good stuff although I haven't seen his stills yet, but is the new "Stockton" of our island although I heard that Richard is still alive and kicking. You can double click the picture and it should get quite larger. I can barely make out my neighborhood - small island, isn't it?

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Word about those Pigeons

Well after conjecturing and postulating, it turns out that the pigeons are here for a reason - Peregrine Falcon food!

George Colley told me of the story that there was at one time some kind of "save the Peregrine Falcon" society and they imported 100 pigeons to SPI. This was back in maybe the 80s or so.

He said it was a good deal the the Peregrine Falcons were only here three months a year and got to eat, but the rest of the year the pigeons could live unmolested, a win-win situation.

No wonder why my pigeons have been spooky lately! A few seem to be MIA as well. But as for a story - which seems right to me now that I think about it - it sure was something.