Wednesday, December 12, 2018

MARIA log December 12 Day 80 Tuesday

Tuesday, December 12, day 80

I took Carole to Ciudad de Salvacion today. She's heard a lot about it but she's never actually been there.

She went to make a donation in the names of her grandchildren, Her grands are older and as she put it, privileged white kids. They don't need more "stuff," more "things." On their behalf she wanted to do something to help kids who don't have that privilege. She told Danny (at the church) "use this for children, for toys or for whatever is needed most."

Thank you, Carole. You have the biggest most generous heart.

Sunny, no rain today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

NOW December 11 - Update to "A Walk Up the Quebrada"

When I wrote the post "a Walk Up the Quebrada," I realized I had no pictures of "the curve" from the top. Today I remedied that oversight.

It is 15 months after the hurricane and some things have changed, but not the roadway itself.

 Approaching "the curve" as it is today headed uphill.

Approaching "the curve" today headed down. The white-painted barriers have been there for a couple of months - long enough to get tagged with graffiti. In the early days following the hurricane there was nothing except downed trees to warn of any problem. After a week or so, someone - a citizen, not any official agency - liberated a couple of orange barrels and marked the danger zone in the downhill lane. Sometime later officials placed official orange barrels around the problem. Those barrels stayed for a while, tied to trees at the ends with plastic caution tape. Eventually those barrels were either liberated or knocked over the edge. (At least one is still down there; You can see it in the center photo below.) Then a loose semi-circle of plain concrete barriers was around the hole. Recently, those were replaced with these painted barriers with reflectors. Mind you, nothing has been done to fix the road.

As for what's behind the barriers:

'Nuff said.

MARIA log December 11 Day 79 Monday

Monday, December 11 day 79

I was out running errands and stopped at Crashboat. They've actually done a bit to make it a beach again. Mostly they bulldozed sand out of the parking lot and back on to the beach. They picked up a lot debris and trash. Not the old Crashboat but better than it was.

The water looked fairly decent. I really wanted to dive it but didn't. The tide was changing and I was afraid visibility would close down before I could get back with dive gear. Another day.

I actually me a person from FEMA today, the first actual from-the-agency person I've seen. He is an  inspector/investigator named Garth. He's kind of a blowhard, arrogant and very first-world.

He did give me one good piece of information: FEMA does not demand that people leave their damaged property damaged. They want photos of the damage and then move on, get started rebuilding. FEMA does not expect people to live in tents until the inspectors come.

When I started to explain that live-in-a-tent-until-the-inspector-comes was the information people received via the coconut telegraph, that there was no hard information from FEMA or any other agency, he went all first-world on me. "That's bullshit! The information is right there on the website! Or you can call the toll-free number. Or just download the app to your phone!"

When I tried to explain about the lack of access, he said, "That's bullshit! I was in Houston after Harvey. I was in Florida after Irma. I've been in war zones. I know about interrupted infrastructure!"

That's what he called it: "interrupted infrastructure." This after he told me that he and other inspectors would have been on the island sooner but they had to wait until they were sure the infrastructure would support their needs and their work! He may know about "interrupted infrastructure" but he obviously has no experience with non-existent infrastructure.

The list of arrogant assumptions in his response is mind-boggling:
1. That everyone has a computer
2. That everyone has a computer that works
3. That everyone has a working internet connection
4. Or, that lacking a working computer, one has a smart phone
5. That everyone has working cell service
6. That everyone can read English (all the sites I've been able to see are English-only)
7. That everyone can read. Period. During the work with the Helping Horses project we met many people who are illiterate, who can't read or write in either language.

I realize with Garth it's just ignorance and arrogance. But I still think there is no excuse for it.

That encounter did nothing to help lift the weight. The edges are a little darker today, the weight a little heavier.

Monday, December 10, 2018

NOW December 10, 2018

Meet Coda Bear - the latest addition to our ranch. He arrived this morning on the midnight flight from Jersey. He was our daughter Amy and her kids' dog. Because so much has changed in her life, she felt she needed to move him to a great new home. He got very attached to Elaine (and vice versa) when she was in Ohio last winter. And, truth be told, he and I got pretty attached in the short time I was there in July. So - he is my Christmas surprise. Coda Bear is a hundred pounds of love sponge.

One of the issues for Amy was not being able to give Coda enough attention and exercise because she and Kennedy and Kai have such crazy busy schedules. His Puerto Rican fitness camp started this morning with his first-ever walk on an ocean beach. It's great for me too. Now I have a reason - motivation if you will - to get up and beach walk every day. I used to do it with the other dogs but as they got older, just getting to the beach was a long walk. Now a walk to the end of the street is enough for Oz. Coda is two and full of energy. Just what I need!

We know there are a lot of stray dogs here on the island that need homes. We have two rescue dogs (and three rescue horses and a rescue cat). It might seem strange to bring another dog to the island when there are already so many. As a good friend of ours said, "Every animal that needs a new home needs a new home. And he's with family." Coda needed a home and now he has one.

Welcome to the family, Coda Bear!

Addendum: When we picked Coda Bear up at the airport, we had to get him in baggage claim. We got him our of the shipping crate and started through the airport. They've changed the way things are done at BQN. All the people waiting for arriving passengers have to stand behind a certain line. The waiting crowd gets jammed up with the check-in line for JetBlue. Then all the arriving passengers with their luggage gets shoved in to the mix. I'm bringing a hundred-pound dog on a mission to get outside to pee through this. Lots of people - not just Puerto Ricans - are scared of big dogs. That crowd could not have parted faster or wider if I rode through on horse!

MARIA log December 10 Day 78 Sunday

Sunday, December 10, day 78

Marie's eyes are still bothering her so horse care has been all mine this week. That's okay. I'm enjoying the time with them. I'm not getting as much out of it as I should though. I feed them and hang with them but I don't do much to work with them. I really should do more. This is a perfect opportunity; I'm just not using it.

Today was a quiet day, I feel lethargic. Not lazy, \just not motivated to do anything. Not like there aren't a thousand things to do. The post-hurricane to-do list is huge. Plus there is the get Ola-Lola's-ready-to-sell-or-open list. Then there are my thoughts/plan/ideas for whatever they are worth.

I know I'm feeling isolated. Almost all of my "social networks" are down. Ola Lola's is closed. I don't hang out in other bars - can't afford to anyway. With no electricity and no Internet I have no email. Cell service remains spotty, iffy, at best and non-existent at home. I've been writing this journal for almost three months, intending to put it on our blog. Without no Internet I can't post it. Without electricity I can't use the computer to process the photos that go with the journal.

Pretty much all of my "normal" activities are shut down. There is no - or at least very little - snorkeling and/or diving. The ocean is rough, visibility is bad and bacteria counts are high. There is surf and there are surfers but again without access to computer and Internet, there is little point to going out to shoot. I can't even go for a beach ride; the horses are too fare from the beach.

Am I just feeling sorry for myself? Maybe. I really don't think so. I don't feel "oh, woe is me." I don't feel put upon or special. It's just a weight that wasn't there before. I feel depression creeping in at the edges. It's something I need to watch for, to be aware of.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

MARIA log December 9 Day77 Saturday - A Walk Up the Quebrada

Saturday, December 9 day 77

We've now been 79 days without electricity. The rumored goal is for 95% of the island to have electricity restored by Christmas. Even if that ambitious goal is met, there is no doubt those of us down here at the pig's ass end of the line will be in 5% remaining. The only power company truck we've see was a van the first week when someone came through surveying the damage. Since then, none. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Since we first moved here, I've wanted to walk up the quebrada, the canyon through the cliff where the river and the road come down from up top. I wanted to even more right after the hurricane, when the walls were stripped of vegetation. Today, on a bright clear windless and rainless afternoon, I finally walked up as far as "the curve."

 In the  two-and-a-half months since the hurricane some vegetation has returned to the quebrada. Most of the trees still look like Dr. Seuss characters, or something from a Tim Burton movie.

"The curve" is a big curve in the road coming down through the quebrada. The edge of the road on the outside of the curve was damaged before we moved here but Maria took out half the road.

I've known for a long time there was some kind of drain pipe under the road at that point, and that the drain pipe has been broken for years. That's what caused the original washout.

During Maria the unimaginable amount of water rushing through the quebrada caused more washout, more broken pipe, and less roadway. Now the road is a precarious one lane on a blind curve. At first drivers were very polite, very courteous, taking turns through the narrow space. Now people traveling both directions, up and down, speed through the curve like they have the absolute right-of-way. Or like it's not a narrow one lane.

Today I got to see "what's down there" from the bottom up. On the walk up the now-dry riverbed I was amazed and awed by what the torrent carried down and then left behind.

 When I reached the riverbed below the curve, the jumble of broken concrete drain pipe and other debris I expected. This is what is below the washed out roadway.

 That dark edge at the top right of the photo is the edge of the roadway.

What I didn't expect is there is a natural spillway there.

I don't know what Nature intended that spillway to drain, but there it is. I suspect when the roadway was built, the builders put in the pipe under the pavement to allow the drainage without going over the road. When the pipes first broke, water began to undercut the road.

The power of moving water is truly amazing. That's hardly an original observation but true none-the-less.

I want to walk the quebrada all the way up, as far as I can, just to see it. You know, because it's there.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

NOW, Saturday, December 8

Saturday, December 8

Today's adventure reminded me of a story from my childhood.

When I was a kid, we had a tree trimming party about this time every year. It wasn't a huge party, my parents, my uncle, the neighbors across the street, and Al and Janet Rietch, a couple my parents knew from work.

My parents rarely drank, unlike my uncle (an alcoholic of the first order), the neighbors and the Al and Janet (the friends). But they did imbibe on special occasions and the tree trimming party was such an occasion. My father and Al put up the tree and started stringing lights on it. They kind of worked on the Julia Child model of tree trimming: put up the tree, have a drink. String a strand of lights, have a drink, String another strand of lights, have a drink. You get the idea. By the time all the lights and ornaments were on the tree, everyone was pretty well looped.

Back then, way back in the middle of the last century, trees weren't topped with stars as often. the tree-topper of choice was a ball - like a round ornament - with a long glass spike on top. When it came time for the tree-topper, my father pulled the top of the tree down so Al could reach it. Al shoved that spiky tree-topper on and my father let go.

It was a tall tree, taller than I guess they realized. When my father let go, the spiky glass topper hit the ceiling and shattered. "Well, damn!" Somebody - I don't remember who - said it. Probably not my father though; he didn't swear.

Al and my father trimmed the top of the tree and went out in search of another tree-topper. My mother and Janet cleaned up the glass. The neighbors went home; my uncle kept drinking.

In due time Al and my father came back with another spiky glass tree-topper. My father pulled the top of the tree down, Al put the spike on, my father let go. I guess they didn't trim quite enough off the tree because the spike hit the ceiling and shattered. "Well, damn." This time I think it was my father.

More trimming and another trip out for another tree-topper. The third time must have been the charm because this time when Al put the topper on the tree and my father let go, the topper didn't shatter. It cleared the ceiling by maybe an inch.

With the tree fully decorated and the topper - the third topper - safely in place, everyone could sit down, enjoy it's beauty, and have a drink.

My adventure today, my quest, was for lights for the tree. We haven't really had a tree since we moved to Puerto Rico; we decorated Ola Lola's. Now we have a house, grand kids are coming, so we got a tree. Yes, it is artificial. We can get cut trees here at Walmart and Sam's, but they come from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Which means that to get here for Christmas they must have been cut in July.

Anyway - we really didn't have many lights before. Most of what we had we left with Stephanie and Jordan. But no big deal, right? Two-and-a-half weeks before Christmas everybody has lights. Wrong! An early beat-the-traffic trip to (gasp!) Walmart. Nope. Not a single strand of lights. Nada. I had to stop at a big chain hardware store on the home. They'll have lights. Nope. Nada. They don't even carry them.

How can you not have Christmas lights two weeks before Christmas!!!!!!? It's worse than after the hurricane! Last year the stores had lights, there was just nothing to plug them in to..

So I came home, unloaded the truck, and headed back out in the rain. We checked Walgreen's online and supposedly the one closest to us had lights. Nope. Nada. I called Elaine and asked her to check Amazon. They could ship us lights but wouldn't guarantee the would get her before Christmas. So back out into the driving rain to drive to another Walgreens. Yep they had lights. In cases on a dolly in the middle of the floor. No one around to unpack or stock them so they couldn't sell them, even though there were about 20 customers standing there looking at them.

Back out into the rain, drove past a K Mart (because their website said they were completely out of lights!), on to yet another Walgreens. This one had lights  Not exactly what I wanted but they are lights! While I stood in line, the power went out. Their generator kicked in but it took ages for their systems to reboot. Then the system wouldn't take my debit card. I had to run out to the car to get my credit card. As I ran out, all the 50 or so people backed up in line scowled at me because I had the only currently working register tied up.

All this for Christmas tree lights two weeks before Christmas. Sure hope they all work.

MARA log December 8 Day 77 Friday

Friday, December 8, day 77

Today is my former best friend's and my former wife's birthday. Don't ask me why I remember that.

We made some tweaks to the new fence. It will change more than once as we use it.

We don't want to leave the horses in the new tall grass all the time. We want to bring them in for evening grain and for the night. What we didn't think about was how to entice them out of all that new grass.

Marie stood at the top of the rise and whistled and called them. And the came! They all came trotting up for their evening grain. I thought that was pretty cool.

We broke tradition tonight at Carole's and had Los Gapo instead of pizza. It was a nice change.

No rain today.

Friday, December 07, 2018

MARIA log December 7 Day 76.Thursday

Thursday, December 7 day76

Got all excited because there was a utility truck working down our street. Not electric though. Something to do with TV and Internet cable. I would get excited about that if we had electric to poser it.

No day of infamy here today. Somewhere I'm sure they marked the date but we don't see the news so I don't know.

I spent several hours running the wire for the new horse pasture fence. That, taking Oz for a walk on the beach and going to Carole's for dinner is pretty much how I spent this sunny rainless day.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

MARIA log December 6 Day 75 Wednesday

Wednesday, December 6, day 75

Yesterday, between raindrops, I finally finished getting a fence around the house. It's not the final permanent fence, just a temporary barrier.

Today, under a glorious winter sun, I started fencing a new pasture for the horses. thirty-eight T-posts driven. Almost exactly an acre enclosed.

At the far north end of the field there is this really thick, really tall grass. I mean really tall - seven feet or more in places. (That is my post driver on top of a six foot T-post in the photo.) And thick - really thick! I don't know what kind of grass it is, maybe a type of sawgrass. But it will scratch you up! And down.

Looking at this grass I couldn't see over, that I could barely walk through, I thought of how the first white settlers must have felt looking at grasses on the Great Plains. I had a couple hundred feet to get through, not a thousand miles.

Still I thought this is nuts. a machete won't cut this stuff. I know, I tried. I needed a way to make a path, to flatten this stuff down.

Enter "Mongo." Named for Alex Karas's character in Blazing Saddles, Mongo is my 1999 Dodge Ram pick up. "Mongo good truck. Mongo tuff truck."

It's a good thing 'cause we hit some rough stuff plowing through that grass. Most of it was pretty easy going. Until we hit the rocks I couldn't see. I scraped the bottom over one big one then buried the nose against two more. But Mongo's four-wheel drive got us out. When we were done I had a mashed down path to follow to put in fence posts.

Tomorrow I string the wire and then let the horses in. For now I'm tired and sore.

No rain today. Sunny and breezy.

NOW: Sunny, warm, no rain. I realized the Christmas winds are blowing, just much more gently than in other years. Deja vu all over again: Worked on the new yard gate today. We'll be fencing a new pasture sometime in the next week.