Tuesday, February 27, 2007
There really can only be one subject for today's photo. E. is coming home today, at least for a visit. Spring break starts today for her and she's on her way. She called me a little while ago and she is on the island, in San Juan, collecting our dogs, getting a car, and headin' home. It's been a LONG time. Okay, only seven weeks, but that's a really long time for us.
Amber and Jazz, our two Vizslas, are coming with her. They will stay here when E. goes back to Michigan in...well, we're not ready to talk about that. Right now, it's all about she's on the island and headin' here.
BTW, this photo was taken in January, just before she left, right at the end of the little calle (street) at the entrance to "our" beach.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
We know some parents vacation without the kids, specifically to get away from the kids. But if you're anywhere near Lola's Corner with the kids, feel free to bring 'em with you. They're always welcome!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Iguanas are pretty common around here. Rumor has it that flights at the San Juan airport are occasionally delayed - not by snow - but so ground crews can chase iguanas off the runway. This little guy was about 4 feet from nose to tail. I've seen them as big as 6 or 7 feet sunning themselves up on the rocks above Survival Beach. I caught this photo as this guy ran across the parking lot at Surfer's Beach.
Buenos dias! Something new tomorrow (I hope).
Thursday, February 22, 2007
What a difference a day makes! This is Playa Borinquen, the same beach as in yesterday's photo, only 24 hours later. I grabbed this shot on the way back from shooting surfers off Wilderness Beach this morning, just to show the contrast.
Wilderness was okay but nothing too exciting. One thing did find out: The early morning light at wilderness is GREAT. This time of year it's directly full-front on the wave face. Later in the year it will be a little more edge light, but by then the waves probably won't be as good. The best surfing down here is from December through April or so. After that, we snorkelers get the ocean back.
I love shooting pics of the surfers and kite surfers but it's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. I'm going to start packing surfer-watching box: comfy folding chair, EXTRA water, EXTRA sunblock, a cooler, a good book.
On a completely different note, dear regular readers, you've all put up with my whining about internet access issues. Well, now my i-net is fine but I HAVE NO CELL SERVICE down here at the base of the mountain. Service has been really reliable until yesterday. Now it's really really spotty - and non-existent where I am most of the time. This wouldn't be quite so important except that cell phone is my lifeline to E. back in Michigan. Since it doesn't cost extra, we call each other three or four times a day. That's the only thing that's made this separation possible/anywhere near bearable.
So I walk around and hold my phone like a divining rod, moving side to side, up and down, searching for that illusive signal. I'm not the only one searching for a signal. I see people slowly drive by, stop, back up, turn a little, pull forward, drive to the corner, turn around, and repeat the whole process going the other direction.
I'm guessing SunCom lost a tower in the high winds over the last few days. I hope they get fixed really really quickly.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Jimmy Buffet has a line in one of his songs: "the ocean was all motion..." That has certainly been true here the past couple of days. Today I went to Playa Borinquen. I was kind beach-hoppin' to see if any surfers were out. No surfers but great, huge wind blown waves. As the waves broke, the wind blew the spray back over the top. At Borinquen there is a point where I could get out and actually be in line near where the waves were breaking. It's a cool place to shoot from, especially since most of the time to get shots like this you have to be in the water, getting pounded by the very waves you're trying to photograph.
Thanks to E. for helping me choose today's picture. Usually there's one that I think is the best or most representative or most interesting. Today I couldn't decide. You can see more wave photos on the Flickr site, www.flickr.com/photos/ola-lolas. Check 'em out.
Borenquen is an interesting beach (aren't they all?). The cliff comes right out into the ocean at the point - you can see it in the background. But then the beach flattens and widens into what in summer is a very popular swimming beach. The beach continues to the south in to Playa Ruines, so named because of the ruins of a Spanish lighthouse. The lighthouse was destroyed in an earthquake in 1906.
Beyond Ruines is Wilderness Beach, a really popular surfing beach. That's where I'm headed early tomorrow morning, following a couple of surfers on their early morning trek. We'll see how the light is early in the morning. It's pretty far around the corner of the island for the sun to catch the waves that early, but we'll see. Just a part of the adventure.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I don't think either my photos or words can do today justice. The wind-driven ocean has blown up! I went to Jobos (pronounced HO-bos) to see if the waves were breaking over the karst.
EXPLODING is more like it! Twenty, 30, 40 feet in the air in the gap between the two karst formations. I've seen water churn in the blow hole at the other end of the karst. Today the ocean was shooting up through the hole just like breath from a whale's blow hole. It was amazing! And (literally) awesome and powerful.
I came back caked with salt from the spray. I soaked the underwater housing for my camera to make sure I got all the salt out of the buttons. Of course, now I'm headed back out to check out some of the other surf sites.
Some explanation is probably in order here. I promise to write more about the karst later. For now, at Jobos Beach, there is this huge rock - in this case, karst - formation. It protects the little cove and makes it a good swimming beach, even when the ocean is rough. But when the ocean is big, like today, the waves explode over the karst, the top of which is 30-40 feet above the ocean. Waves have worn a gap in the karst, so the formation is actually two rocks. The waves explode in that gap. It's like watching a geyser and then being under a salty Niagara Falls.
The "blow hole" is a hole in the karst carved by years and years of waves wearing away at the "relatively" soft limestone. Waves pound against the face of the formation and then explode (there's that word again. Sorry. I'll try to think of another.) in the hole. The sea-side entrance hole is much bigger than it was even in August when we were here. My guess is we will be here to see the time when the "bridge" over the opening falls away, leaving just a gap in the rock.
I'm posting more pictures from today in the Flickr site. You see a picture of the blow hole there. By the way, the hole has a name and a story. But that is - obviously - another story for another day.
Sunday night we had an impromptu jam session at Lola's. Bill Henderson (from NJ) brought his guitar down and just started playing. One of our neighbors, Brian Connell, stopped and said, "My son plays. Mind if he joins you?"
"Don't mind at all! I'd love to have him," was the answer. A few minutes later, Mitch showed up with his guitar and we had an evening of two guys rockin' and playin'. It was great! Bill was a great teacher and had great encouragement for a young player.
A little later, we all got to sing happy birthday to Carmin from San Juan who was "out here on the island" celebrating her birthday with her husband Pablo and their son (who's name I can't spell - sorry, guys!)
And THEN we got to make the birthday wish picture for our friend Erin.
Thank you all! You made it a very special evening at Lola's.
I went down to the ocean a little while ago and it is all churned up. I would really like to do some kite aerial photography (KAP) but I don't have a kite or line that will stand up to this for very long. Most of the KAPpers I know, most of whom are in the Midwest, are looking for big lifter kites for light winds. Right now, I have the opposite problem. I gotta go online and look for a HIGH wind kite to safely lift my camera rig.
All part of the adventure of living and learning in a new place, outside one's comfort zone. I love it!
Monday, February 19, 2007
The surfers are all expecting big swells today and tomorrow. They weren't bad yesterday either. There was a surf competition yesterday on Surfer's Beach, about 10 minutes from Ola Lola's, so I went down to check it out. The morning competitors, when I was there were mostly younger surfers, junior classes, I guess. Some of those kids were pretty good.
But down the beach, outside the official competition area, was "open surfing" for anyone. A couple of these surfers, like this guy, were good and looked like they were having a blast.
There are more pictures from yesterday on Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/ola-lolas.
I really don't understand surfing competitions. I don't understand how the competition works and I don't understand how they attract spectators and so much sponsor money.
I've run and been involved in stunt kite competitions for years. Kite event organizers put lots of effort into informing the public about their events in an effort to attract spectators. We spend lots of money on sound systems, it part to make announcements to keep those spectators informed about what's going on and what they are seeing on the competition field. Event announcers keep up a more-or-less running commentary on what's going on, introducing competitors, announcing what's coming next, recognizing sponsors, and announcing competition results. Event organizers produce printed programs that range from simple to complex to help inform spectators. The idea is better informed spectators are more likely to become more involved in the sport. Organizers fret and worry over food and kite vendors.
Surfing competitions - at least the ones I've been to so far - don't do any of those things. No sound system, no announcements, no program, no information at all. I don't even know how spectators find out about the competition. (I stumbled into because the word among surfers stopping a Lola's was the surf at Surfer's Beach should be good over the next few days. I went looking for surfer photos.) There is an air horn that signals the competitors out on the water. I'm guessing the horn signals the start and end of the competition time window, but I don't know that for sure. And there was nothing to tell me, no way to find out.
The part of the competition I was youngsters so many of the spectators were parents and siblings. But there were other spectators as well, sitting in folding chairs, and seemingly perfectly happy to be there. There was none of the festival atmosphere kite event organizers work so hard to develop. No food vendors except some teenagers connected to the event selling chips, water and bananas. At this event at least, no board, swimsuit, or sunglass vendors.
Yet there seems to be a ton of sponsor money in the sport. A couple was in Lola's a couple of weeks ago. They said their 15-year-old son was going to make $50,000 last year in prize money, endorsements, and travel money. He's competed here, in South and Central American, Mexico and up an down the U.S. East Coast. And he's just one kid!
I know there are a few big companies in the sport - O'Neill comes to mind. But like stunt kiting, there are a lot of "cottage industry" companies. One of the best "board shapers" in the world has his "factory and showroom" in a little two-story place about a mile from Lola's. Where does all the money come from? I don't get it.
Something for continued investigation I guess. Stay tuned.
It's raining on our corner of the world - welcome rain. But it may mean the end of my internet access so I'm gonna post this while I can.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Some of the gang at Ola Lola's got together tonight to wish our awesomely wonderful friend Erin a very very happy birthday. All of us at Ola Lola's hope her day was the best.
BTW, thanks from me (and from all of the regular readers of Lola's blog, even if you don't know it) to Erin and her husband Jason. It is thanks to them that I have the computer I post these pictures and messages from. Thanks, you guys! You are the best! I can't wait 'tll you get down here to see this for yourselves.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
It's fall here on Lola's Corner. At least it is for the almond trees (yes, we have almond trees in our yard). After sometimes raining almonds for most of December and all of January, they've just about finished dropping nuts. Now the leaves are turning red and dropping,just like the hardwood trees in the fall back in the States.
We have a love-hate relationship with our almond trees. They are beautiful old trees with lots of character. The one right at the southwest corner of the house we call our natural air conditioner: it shades the house from a lot of the southern and all of the late afternoon southwest sun, keeping the house cool. But they always seem to shedding something - nuts, leaves flowers. The leaves are huge and pretty dirty so it takes a lot to clean up after them. And sweeping/raking up after them is pretty much a constant task. I guess that's a small price to pay for the free air conditioning.
The falling almond nuts are occasionally an adventure. The big almond tree hangs over Lola's restrooms, which have metal roofs. The first time you're sitting (or standing) there and an almond drops and hits that metal roof, you think someone is shooting at you. It is frequently a good thing you're already in a restroom.
Off to the beach and then to get Lola's ready to open.
We really needed the rain and it was so welcome. When I woke up Friday morning, the rising sun caught the raindrops still on the leaves of the banana palms (yes, we have banana palms in our yard but they're just babies. No bananas yet.) and on the grass in the pasture across the road. Everything looked and smelled so clean and fresh and washed.
It rained again last night, not as much, but right now it's all welcome. It still isn't enough to completely fill our ponds. I'm going to have to add water to the papyrus (yes, we have papyrus in our garden) pond.
From Blue Hole to "new" hole.
I tried to post this earlier but internet access blah blah blah.
I've written and posted photos before about the Blue Hole. Well, yesterday while snorkeling with two friends vacationing down here from frigid snow-clogged Michigan, I got into a "new" hole.
I knew it was there of course. It's one of a series of caves in the reef. Blue Hole is one, the one farthest west and the easiest to get to. This new hole is the next one east of Blue Hole.
Wow!! Wowwowwowowwow! The first time we went over the reef wall into Blue Hole, it took my breath away. This had the same effect. It was AWESOME!!!! The reef walls are lined with sea fans and finger coral and huge stands of fire coral. And of course there are tons of fish, tiny black and yellow gobies and tangs and surgeon fish. I've posted a bunch of photos from this swim on the Flickr site, www.flickr.com/photos/ola-lolas. Check out the 070215_underwater set.
Now I've got to find a safe, consistent way back in besides swimming over the whole reef. As soon as I get back in, I'll post more pictures.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
May you find all the love you want/need, not just today but every day. Although my valentine is a long way away right now, the miles between us only make the love we share even stronger. It is our amazing incredible love that makes this adventure possible.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Many days/weeks I seems I don't leave our little corner paradise except to go up the mountain for bar supplies and food. I mean, why leave? We have beach, great snorkeling, sufers and kite sufers to take pictures of, people to hang on the beach with... But there are five or six MORE really cool beaches within a 10 or 15 minute drive. Today I ventured out of Playas Shacks and Bajuras and took my KAP rig to the next beach to the east, Playa Jobos.
Jobos is popular for a bunch of reasons. Surfers - especially beginners - really like it because there is steady small but rideable surf all year round. Swimmers like it because there is a cove behind a huge karst formation that is fairly shallow and protected from the waves. Sun bathers like it because it has a nice wide beach. Eaters and drinkers like it because there are no less than six beach-front bars along the beach. Then there is the karst formation to climb around on. (I'll write more about karst later.) Beyond the karst, to the east is another stretch of beach that ends in another protected cove at Montones. Until you get to the cove at Montones, this part of the beach isn't good for much except walking and collecting see shells. This stretch has a steep shelf, a pretty nasty reef and pounding waves. No swimming or surfing here.
Todays picture was taken on top of the karst looking east toward Montones. There are more pics in the flickr site, www.flickr.com/photos/ola-lolas.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I took photos of this flower near the playa at Aguadilla when I was running around trying to get all the paperwork for Lola's licencia straightened out.
This sucker is HUGE!! Like 14-16 inches across. It looks like a cluster of blooms around a central mass of seed pods. It's pretty amazing. I haven't been able to find out what it is yet. When I do I'll let you know. If anybody out there knows, please post it in a comment.
Gotta go open the bar.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
No post yesterday. I spent much of the day running around, working on our licencia from the oficina bebides alcoholicas. I thought I had all the paperwork in order but two of the reports have to be less than 30 days old. Ours "expired" on January 27. Argh! Oh, well. At least they were two of the easier reports to get. It just meant more back-and-forth between Aguadilla and Isabela. Today, I finally got all the papers in and OFFICIALLY applied for our licencia.
When I was home, the internet access was maddingly, irritatingly, annowingly inconsistent. It's probably just as well.
Today's photo is not really about the beach. It is about endlessness, infinite space, loss, loneliness, the unknowable, the depths of the ocean as metaphor for the depths of feeling and the darkness of grief. But it's also about the growing light of a new day, about layers in life, about the consistency of change.
Yesterday, February 7, would have been my mother's 80th birthday. She died three years ago, three weeks shy of her 78th birthday.
I miss her. Terribly.
Somewhere in the universe she is watching and cheering this great adventure. But I miss sharing our adventure with her earthly self. She would love this place. She would love visiting here. But you know, I don't think she'd want to live here. She was very attached to her home outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, and no matter how much she enjoyed a visit, she always reached a point, usually after a few days, where she had to return to her home.
Happy birthday, Marti, even if it's a day late. We love you.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Today's picture is a school of blue tang in the Blue Hole.
Yesterday and today the wind (viento) and waves (olas) have been pretty calm and snorkeling off Shacks Beach was good and I actually got out to Blue Hole. Suddenly, I was swimming with more than a hundred blue tangs. I first swam with them yesterday. I went out today, hoping - but not expecting - to find them. But there they were, like they were waiting for me.
Blue tang are gorgeous reef fish. They range from a delicate, light, almost transparent blue to a deep, almost black, blue. Young ones are a couple of inches long. The adults are the size of a dinner plate.
I tried to just swim along with them and not act like a big predator. It was fascinating, swimming with them, keeping up with them, watching them dive into the deep shadows under ledges in the reef and then reappear in the sunlight on the other side.
I'm uploading more pictures of the blue tang from yesterday and today to the Flickr site so you can check 'em out there. Just click on the Ola Lola's Flickr site link on the right.
By the way, on a much larger note, this corner of the island is known for whale watching in late January and February. I didn't see them but some of the people staying at Villa Tropical were in Lola's last night and told me they saw whales just off shore yesterday morning. Guess I'm going to have to get up early and go check it out. From what I hear though, you just have to get a little lucky and be in the right place at the right time.
Well, today, on my own, without Katy to smooth things along, I GOT OUR PATENTE!!!!!! Okay, I had a lot of help from two lovely wonderful ladies in the oficina de Centro Gobiero who speak wonderful English, but I did it! And I did a lot of it in Spanish - stumbling, halting, sometimes Spanglish Spanish, but Spanish none the less.
The truly important thing is, I GOT OUR PATENTE!!!! I can't tell you what a wonderful thing that is, what a load off my mind it is to have it. (I should probably say I have no idea what a Patente actually is, but it's something we HAVE to have. The whole permitting process hinges on it.) Tomorrow I go to the oficina de bebides alcoholicas and (hopefully) get our real permit.
Monday, February 05, 2007
It's hard enough being away from them but when I hear forecasts for wind chill temps of 25-30 below, I worry about them. WMU, where E. teaches, is closed today. It has to be REALLY bad for the university to close. So E. doesn't have to got to get to work and our son J. doesn't have school. Of course all the public schools - including the one where I used to work - are closed. Our oldest son teaches in a public school so he didn't have to go out. But our younger daughter works in a hemodialysis clinic and she HAS to go out to go to work.
Everybody, wherever you are, please be safe.
(Today is Monday - sancocho day at El Rincon Familiaria. It's appropriate that El Rincon and sancocho is the next stop on our gastronomic tour. These pictures and the article are actually from our trip to Puerto Rico in August, 2006. But, hmmm...I may just have to go to El Rincon for lunch today. I'll let you know.)
“Sold out? No!”
“Sancocho el lunes proximo?”
“Si. Proximo. Next Moanday.” She said it with a big forward hopping gesture of her arm.
Sancocho is something between a stew and a sopa (soup). Usually it has chunks of biftec (beef steak), sometimes corn sometimes still on the cob, potato, sometimes sweet potato and other root vegetables all in a thick broth. It’s wonderful.
But at El Rincon, a little familaria on Carr. 110, about five miles from Ola Lola's, sancocho is the lunch special on Mondays. That’s the only time they make it and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It was our bad luck to come in just after
I don’t know if it was some cosmic karma – after all, they live here and can get sancocho every week – but their big red pick up truck, parked next to us in the sloping parking lot, had a flat rear tire.
We ate lunch at El Rincon anyway. I had a very tender biftec con arroz blanco y cebollo (onion). Elaine had a wonderful lasagna con pollo. Chicken is not something we usually think of in lasagna but it was delicious. With salads for both of us and sodas to drink, our whole bill was about $11.El Rincon is one of those little local places where you get a real taste Puerto Rico, of what the locals eat, a local taste that is not fried. Lydia and Carmin and most of the clientele at El Rincon speak very little English. But between their limited English and our espanol horible, we've always managed to get a great lunch.
We did go back to El Rincon the next Monday. I had sancocho. But Elaine was so impressed with the lasagna con pollo she had that again.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
A few people asked us about having getting a big screen TV and having a Super Bowl party at Lola's. Somehow, that just didn't seem to fit with the spirit of Lola's. So not this year anyway.
Self-portrait with coconut palm.
Several people asked for a photo of me on the beach. I took this one a couple of days ago.
This is one in a "continuing" series of shadow portraits. When I did the first one in San Juan a couple of years ago, I thought I was so cool and so creative. Now I find out there's a whole Flickr group devoted to just shadow portraits! I'll have to post some of mine there - later.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The long-awaited, much anticipated gastronomic tour starts here.
About a quarter mile from Ola Lola’s, as you come around a sharp bend in Carr. 4466 (it doesn’t matter which way you’re going; there’s a sharp turn at each end of this little stretch of road), there is nothing that marks this place as someplace special, as some place unusual– except a long line of people that sometimes stretches into the road. There’s nothing even to mark it as just some place. No sign, no name. There’s just that line of people waiting, cars parked every which way, sometimes hanging out in the road. The local gringos call it the UFO stand.
Everythng at this little food stand is deep fried (a lot of the local foods in
The menu consists mostly of pastillos, fried turnovers called. filled with carne (a meat filling,) or pollo (chicken) or pulpo (octapus) or camirones (shrinp) or mariscos (seafood) or pescados (fish). And they have sorullitos. Think mozarella sticks, only wraped in cornmeal and the size of an American county fair corndog.
And if you really want a corndog, they have those too, cornmeal-battered, wraped in a flour shell and deep-fried.The clientele is eclectic. Locals, workmen on their way to or from work, surfers, touristas, pretty much anybody. It doesn't matter. Katy used to go there every morning for coffee and some company.
It’s cheap. A pescado pastillo is 85 cents. Camirones, pulpo and mariscos are a buck and a quarter. Carne and pollo are $.75. The deadly sorullitos are $.60. One, at the most two, are pretty much all you can handle. Add a soft drink and you’ve got a cheap lunch. Better yet, pick up a couple for dinner and enjoy them with an cerveza fria around the corner in Lola’s garden.
Oh. Why the UFO stand? Unidentified Fried Objects.
Friday, February 02, 2007
It's about time to open Lola's but I just want to wish everyone a Happy Mongoose Day! Back in the States it's Groundhog Day, but I don't think we have groundhogs in Puerto Rico. We do most definitely have mongeese (mongooses?) though. It's been pretty cloudy today so I'm pretty sure Jobos Jerry - the official winter-predicting mongoose - did not see his shadow. If I remember the lore correctly that means winter is almost over here! Woo-hooooo! I'm getting really tired of having to put extra covers on the bed during these nights with temps in the 70s.
Okay, I apologize to y'all up north. That was (unintentionally) mean. I talk to E. two or three times a day and I listen to Michigan Public Radio on the Internet a lot so I hear the temp and snow forecasts. I'm almost embarrassed to be here. Almost.
In some tiny way I do miss the snow. No, what I think I really miss is being with E. and our dogs. I miss snuggling under the covers on a cold morning, especially days when we didn't have to get up (not that there were ever many of those!). I miss running our two Vizslas in the snow. The older one, Amber, loves to to have you kick snow and he jumps and tries to catch it. He has a great leap. We measured his jump one time - it was more than 15 FEET from take-off to landing. That's a jump!
Gotta go open. I hope to start the gastronomic tour tonight with a visit to the UFO stand. Stay tuned.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I was going to start a gastronomic tour of our corner of the island today but that will have to wait.
There was a pretty good breeze blowing this afternoon so I cruised to the beach to see if any kite surfers were out. I don't know this guy's name but I've photographed him before. Some of the shots from last August are of him. He LOVES to fly. He's about 25-30 feet over the water in this shot. Gotta find out his name.
There are a bunch more from today's shoot at www.flickr.com/photos/ola-lolas
Katy is the person I've been closest to here for the last month. It hasn't always been easy for either of us. There have been disagreements, misunderstandings, numerous changes of plans, moments of shared joy and moments of shared sorrow. It's been a month of transitions for both of us. Still, she has been a huge help in my transition and in moving Ola Lola's and all the permits over to us. Quite literally, I don't know how I would have done it without her.
In some ways it is hard to watch her go. There is something that feels so final about her going. It is another transition. I realize now I have relied on her, on her presence, on the fact that she speaks fluent Spanish, more than I really understood.
There is a sense of loss in her going, a friend passing from my life. Ten cuidado alli, Katy.