Saturday, August 11, 2018

A question

It's now been almost a year since Hurricane Maria. Is anybody out there still interested in the Maria stories?

Let me know - either way - either by commenting to this post or via email at

I would love to write more about the Maria experience, but I feel like it's old news and nobody is interested. Thanks for your voice, for your opinion.

NOW August 11 Scuba Diving

It was like something from a si-fi disaster movie. You know, one of those where the heroes are standing, watching storm roll in, unstoppable, probably devastating.

Four of us were diving at Natural, swimming along at about 35 feet. The sun was shining, it was beautiful. Up ahead, right where we were going. the water turned dark, ominous, almost black. The sunshine we were swimming in was completely swallowed up.

We reached the edge of the darkness and looked up. The sun was totally eclipsed by a huge floating raft of sargassum.

It was a strange, slightly unnerving experience, but one of the coolest things I ever seen underwater.

After a bad two year stint for diving, bubbles are starting to look up. I've found some new people to dive with so I'm not as dependent on just a few. I'm also gaining confidence leading dives. So far everybody I've taken out has come back. We've mostly done Natural and Crashboat but we plan to expand to other sites soon.

This is one of two albums of scuba photos I posted recently on Flickr:
Have a gander at the photos. And enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

NOW July 22, 2018 Back again

Fifty- two day into the hurricane season and no hurricanes yet. More than a month since my last post. Sorry about that. It's been a busy few weeks.

We spent a lot of time finishing getting Ola Lola's and the Lola House ready for the new owners.

At the same time we had to get our new house ready to move into. Nothing had been done at the new place - which we've named Castaways - since Maria and the former tenant moved back to the mainland. Trees and fences were down in the yard. The yard itself was totally overgrown. A digger (front end loader/backhoe) spent three whole days clearing the trees from the yard and the area behind the house where the horse corral will go. The house needed cleaning and painting.

 We got everything moved to Castaways a week before "the Kids" came. Lots of work, lots of time spent but we're beginning to see light that isn't the headlight of another train coming at us.

The house still needs a lot of work and we have to secure the property so we can bring the horses down. But as we say, "poca a poco" - little by little, one day, one step, one task at a time.

We took nearly two weeks off island to the mainland to visit family and friends. Elaine has been back to the mainland several times - for equine therapy certification training and family crises - but I realized I haven't been off island in nearly four years. I haven't seen family or friends in that long. I was supposed to be off island (diving in St. Croix) last September when Maria hit so that didn't work out. And I was supposed to go to the mainland in December but got sick and couldn't go.

This was a really good trip - really great connections with people. There only downside was there were so many more people we want to connect with but just couldn't. (LS - are you reading this?) Well, that and the 13 hour layover in the Orlando airport. Oh, and catching a "bug" in the airport or on the plane on the way home  But those were minor inconveniences.

"The Kids" - Stephanie and Jordan - moved into the Lola House while we were gone. The immediately started making the house and the business their own. They had their soft opening first night last night. Just drinks for now; food is coming about August 1. It looked great while we were there - old friends and strangers alike stopping to say "hi" and have a cocktail or a beer (or two).

We are so happy for them and wish them all the best!

More about the travels in a bit.

Friday, June 15, 2018

NOW Friday, June 15


On Thursday Elaine, Marie and I did my traditional birthday dive (even though my birthday isn't until Saturday). This was my first time in the water since I broke my wrist. And, it was the first time diving the reef at Natural since Hurricane Maria.

I've heard from other divers that Natural was pretty devastated and they weren't wrong. Even now, nine months after the hurricane, the reef looks barren to those of us who knew it before. Most - but not all - the huge barrel sponges are gone as are soft fan corals and the little lavender vase sponges. We did find a couple starting to make a comeback, though.

There are new things we don't usually see at Natural taking up residence, like these anemones.

Tiny fish, like the gobys and the little blue chromis love the anemones. We saw several of them.

It was rare to see sea urchins at Natural. The newly exposed crevices in the rocks, uncovered when the sand washed away in the hurricane, are home to gazillions of sea urchins. That's bad news for the feet but good news for the reef.

And other life is returning as well like this squirrelfish and scorpion fish.

Natural, like Crashboat, is going to be fun to dive and watch over the next few years as Mother Ocean rejuvenates the reef. Can't wait to watch!

NOW Friday, June 15

Wow - a month since my last post. Sorry about that. Here are some updates on what's happened in the last month.

The hand is doing much better. I'm actually typing (and correcting) with two hands now. There is still some swelling and tenderness but overall it is much improved.

Much of  our time in the last month was spent writing and rewriting contracts, getting our new place ready to move into and our much-loved beach house and bar ready for us to move out of and the new owners to move into.

Say what?

Meet the new owners of Ola Lola's, Stephanie LaVake and Jordan Noie - or Jordan Noie and Stephanie LaVake if you're looking at the photo below.

They are a very cool pair of foodies and drinkies from Wisconsin(!) and you're gonna love 'em! We do already.

We are moving into a new house across Isabela. Okay, it's not our beach house, it is farther from the beach. But it is coming with 22 acres of adjacent land - a home for us and for the horses. Neither the house nor the yard nor the property were cleaned up after Hurricane Maria so there is a ton of work. We've done a lot already but there is always more to do. Before we can move the horses, we have to fence the property and build a corral. It may be September before the horses get there. Plus, the house and land are less than a block away from the land where we are setting up the therapeutic riding program. It's a whole lot of win-win for people and animals.

Today is day 15 of the 2018 hurricane season. Up until June 1, we were counting the days since Hurricane Maria. Now we're counting the days of the new season without a hurricane. Sorta like the "number of days without a lost-time accident" counter is factories. So far, 15 days and counting.

More coming soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

NOW May 15 update

Just a quick update about my arm. When I fell I actually broke three pieces off the lower end of the radius (not the ulna). It required surgery and titanium plates and screws to put it back together. There is along story about the surgery adventure but everyone was great and the surgery went smoothly. I don't have much pain, really just ache-y and hard to get comfortable.

I can't feel too bad about this thing when there is so much good all around us. The day before my surgery a friend of ours on the mainland had triple by-pass surgery and is doing fine. A good friend of ours here on the island has had diabetes since she was a child. With little education and very little guidance she has been trying to manage by herself since she was eight. Her out-of-control diabetes was causing her to lose her sight. The day after my surgery we found out she had her diabetes under control enough that she had the surgery to repair her sight. She can see!

Elaine's cousin Kara has climbed the highest peak on every continent except Everest. She's been on Everest twice, once when an avalanche killed a number of Sherpas and a couple of years ago when and earthquake rattled Tibet. While I was having surgery, she was climbing to Base Camp on Everest. As of this morning (Tuesday, 5/15) she and her group are at High Camp at 27,000 feet, preparing for their final push to the summit.

Although all the contracts are not yet signed, in the last couple of weeks we have reached an agreement to sell Ola Lola's. We have an agreement with the people at Ciudad de Salvacion to create our therapeutic riding center there. We found a new house a house to rent almost adjacent to the church property. And, the two sisters who own the house also own 22 acres of land surrounding the house! We are going to lease that for the horses. That clicking sound you hear is sound of dominoes falling inline!

Yes, I'm bummed because I can't play with the horses. Yes, I'm bummed because I can't get in the ocean. The hardest part really is that I can't get started on stuff - can't help clear the new yard, can't start putting up new fence, can't start building a new corral. But that's all temporary. With all this wonderousness around, how bummed can I be?

Anyway, it's been near,y two weeks since my surgery. I go back to the doctor on Thursday. More updates after that.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

NOW Thursday, April 26

I made to 66 years old before broke a bone.

No "you should see the other guy" here. The "other guy" was a driveway. Except for a bit of my blood, "he" looks pretty much the same. We were loading a couch into the back of the truck. I lost my balance and fell off a fairly high porch. My right hand/wrist took most of the fall followed by the faceplant. I fractured my ulna. I gotta make up a better story than that.

We're headed to see an ortho guy in a few minutes.

If i'm MIA from here for a while, that's why. This one-handed, left-handed hunt-and-peck typing is tedious.

At least it wasn't my hip!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Maria log day 48 November 9, 2017, thursday

Thursday, November 9, day 48

We have receive so much love in care packages from so many amazing wonderful people! Water filters, Food. Personal care stuff. Solar lights. So so much love1

As much as we can, we share with others, especially through Ciudad de Salvacion. They are still out looking in remote areas for people who need help. All of the supplies are so appreciated.

One the most loving packages came from our friend Jynx, aka Colleen Baker. Jynx is a tattooed Harley-riding kite flyer. We're friends but we've never been as close as we are to some others in the kite community.

Jynx's friend recently lost her husband. Instead of flowers or the usual donations to charity, this woman asked her friends to "pay it forward." Jynx chose to send us a huge box of supplies for the relief efforts. What an incredible gesture from both of these amazing women!

I can't say often enough or loud enough how grateful we are for so much generosity.

Sometimes small things can make a huge difference.

For example, Kiki, the young man who is taking care of Sprocket the rescue horse, lives as far from the grid as we do. He has 17 horses he cares for every day. His last feeding is at 8:00 pm in the very deep dark. To see he either holds his cell phone on his shoulder for light, or has his wife hold it.

We gave him a couple of the "head lights," battery-powered LED flashlights that you wear on your head, that we received in one of the care packages. I wish you could have seen his face! His eyes lit up like we'd given him a million dollars. Now he could work in the dark and see and have his hands free. That simple light changed the way his life works.

We received a care package from Elaine's sister Mary. She used dish towels and wash clothes as packing material. At first I thought that was kind of weird. Then we got another. And another. And another.

Okay, I'm a little slow on the uptake but I finally got it. Rather than packing relief supplies with useless, actually harmful plastic packing, she packed them with things people could actually use!


NOW April 17, 2018, Wednesday

Deja vĂș all over again!

You may have read about the island-wide power outage. We didn't read about it until two days later. We only knew it was island-wide because a friend in Wisconsin sent us a text message about it.

Anyway, there was instant panic. Lines at the gas stations formed like magic, like lines of ants attracted to sugar. We were driving home from the horses and actually needed gas. So we decided to sit in the line. After all, it wasn't that long. I hopped out of the car, ran across the street to the little colmado (bodega in the city, convenience store everywhere else), grabbed some beers, and we waited. Hey no problem. We know how to do this. We've had practice; we have experience.

It was in fact a major power failure caused by construction workers severing a major underground transmission line (so much for buried lines being safer!). Original estimates were 24-36 hours to repair. We got power back in less than 24 hours. Hooray!

All is good. We have changed from one state of normal (power off) to another state of normal (power on).

Saturday, April 07, 2018

NOW, April 7, 2018, Saturday

Saturday, April 7

After the hurricane: Temple ruins, Crashboat

Sorry I got behind on posting  I'm working on a couple of projects now that I have the computer and photo software back.

One of the projects has been working with the first photos I took of the underwater wreckage at Crashboat back in November, two months after Maria. I took the photos snorkeling, from the surface, in poor visibility. The color originals are pale, washed out, low contrast, no detail, just vague shapes.

I started playing around with the images to see what was there, hidden in the image files. At first I got these strange, distorted colors.

I've said before our post-hurricane world was like living in the Upside-down from the Netflix series, Stranger Things. This is even more evidence of the Upside-down. But wasn't exactly what I was looking for. So I remove all the color and played around with the images in black-and-white (which I've always loved). I'm really happy with the results. I like the gritty, post-apocalyptic feel of the images.

Now the question is what to do with them. I'm looking for a space locally for an exhibition of prints. I'm also exploring options for an online exhibition.

That's just one project. I also have two video projects and a magazine article in the works based on Crashboat photos. And then there are the horses which another whole thing.

Stay tuned. Exciting times ahead.

Maria log day 46, November 7, 2017, Tuesday

Tuesday, November 7, day 46

Today was a hard hard difficult day. We said goodbye to one of the best friends I've ever had. Amber joined his brother Jazz.

Even after the shots this week, Amber continued to get worse. Last night he couldn't get settled, couldn't sleep. He needed help getting up and down from the bed. I had to carry him down the stairs. He was in so much pain.

The decision for his sake was easy. No more pain. No more fear. No more anxiety. All the hard parts were selfish. He (and his brother) has been such a huge part of our live for so long - 17-1/2 years! He taught me so much. He's been a great friend. It was hard to let him go.

No, that's not right. It is hard to be without him  It is strange and sad and empty. He touched so many lives. His spirit is still with us. And the memories. And the love.

Run free, my friend.

Maria log day 45, November 6, 2017, Monday

Monday, November 6, day 45

There is so much need - not just among humans but animals as well.

Today was the first day of the "helping horses" food distribution. More than 60 people representing more than 300 horses came to the Picadero today.

Our biggest problem is going to be keeping up supply. We're using donated money to buy grand locally but it's hard to find. We have donated grain coming from the mainland but it is so expensive to ship. And, for whatever reason, not all shipments are getting though.

We gave out all the grain we had today and started a waiting list for tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll be able to find grain to buy.