Thursday, May 31, 2007

Second Day in Paradise

Wednesday was Elaine's second day home.

The Flood song - second verse, worse than the first!

In March when we had the flood, a long-time local told me that was within 6 inches of the worst he's ever seen. Well, we met his 6 inches and raised it another six inches yesterday.

We had a hellacious thunderstorm Elaine looked out the window and said, "there's water in the garden." Sure enough it was rising and rising fast. I quick moved the car to higher ground so it wouldn't get flooded again. And just in time! By the time I walked back, our little road, "Bajuras Blvd.," was a raging, rising knee-deep river. The bar deck was completely under water.

We watched the water rise over the deck next to the house and then over foundation lip, a level we've been told it's never reached before. We watched it work it's way up the wall that is there - just in case - to keep water out of the kitchen and the downstairs rooms. We started moving stuff to higher locations.

Water never came over the wall but it was higher than anyone ever remembers it being. As the water receded, Elaine cleaned up mud and water around the house and I started on the bar. Water got into the bottom of the little refrigerator but not the big one. All the glassware needs to be SCRUBBED. But we learned from the last flood and there wasn't much on or near the floor that could be damaged.

Today the forecast is for more rain, more thunderstorms. The ground is saturated and I hear there is still water across the road down toward Villa Tropical. I'm going to go check that out in a bit.

There are more pictures on Flickr. Ignore the "date taken" time stamp. The camera was set with the wrong date. The pics were in fact taken on May 30.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Home again

The Chicago Fire Kite Team performs at the 20th annual Family Kite Festival in Milwaukee over the weekend.

Lola's was closed this weekend for the first time since we opened in January. For a lot of years Elaine and I performed our pairs kite routines at this and other festivals in the Midwest. Many of our best friends are kite flyers and performers. The festivals are always great times to spend with friends and to meet and make new friends. We knew we were going to miss going to and performing at these festivals when we moved to PR.

Our good friend Scott Fisher, who owns of Gift of Wings kite stores in Milwaukee and organizes six or seven kite festivals in the Milwaukee area, was so determined to have us back performing, he found a sponsor to fly us back for the weekend. WOO-HOO!!!!

Elaine was still in Michigan, finishing cleaning out the house. She rented a car, packed bags full of last of the stuff to bring to Puerto Rico, and picked me up at the airport in Chicago Friday night. It was the first time we'd seen each other since early March, since before her surgery. It was an amazing, awesome, wonderful reunion.

I didn't have a camera ready when I first saw her so you'll have to share the photos and the slow-motion video I have in my head.

She was waiting at the bottom of the escalator in a beautiful, cling-y red dress she bought here in March. It was a total surprise! I saw her try on the dress but I had no idea she'd gone back to get it. She would have been a healing sight for very sore eyes in dirty jeans and a ragged t-shirt. In that dress and her matching ruby shoes, she was stunning, a totally intoxicating vision. Since she almost never wears a dress, I did a double-take and almost stumbled getting off the escalator. But I stumbled into the most incredible embrace.

I'll write more about the festival itself later.

Last night - or rather very early this morning - we got back to Puerto Rico. Elaine was greeted at the door by two very excited dogs. While I unloaded the car (she still has post-surgery lifting restrictions), she and the dogs grabbed some early hammock time. Now we're heading to the ocean for her first "spa" soak.

You can see more festival pictures on the Flickr site,

Welcome home, Elaine!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Giving back to the universe

A question we get asked a lot is "Do you know how lucky you are to be here?"

The simple answer is yes, we do know. I give thanks to my personal gods, the forces and karma of the universe and our guardian angels every day for allowing us to share this little corner of paradise.

One afternoon last week I had an opportunity to give a little tiny bit back to the universe.

An elderly couple stopped outside Lola's. I heard them talking (but couldn't hear what they were saying). We were closed so I walked out to let them know we'd be open in an hour or so.

They were standing by the fence, looking at the mangoes and the mango tree. The man said, "I used to have a mango tree like that. I haven't seen one for years."

I said, "Would you like to take a couple mangoes with you?"

He actually got teary-eyed and said, "Oh, could I have one? I'd like to plant it so I can have a mango tree again."

I asked him if there were any that especially caught his eye. He pointed to a beautiful one and said that one would be just fine.

"His" mango was in a cluster of three. I pulled off all three and gave them to him.

We - the couple and I - talked for a few more minutes. I invited them to Lola's but he said they are Christian and don't drink alcohol. I offered them water but they declined. As they left, the man got soft-eyed again and thanked me again for the mangoes.

A simple mango brought back this man's memories of his childhood and his youth. And those memories brought him joy.

I hope that gift of a mango gives back just a tiny bit to universe that allows us to have a yard that has a mango tree in it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

ANOTHER dog story

Elaine express-mailed our back-up camera from Michigan so I would have a camera to take to the beach and use underwater until the new gets here. She really is amazing. She took time to do that while cleaning and packing the house. Thank you, mi querida!

So Thursday the camera and I went back to the beach.

And found a wiener dog on a raft (sounds like some weird food from England). Meet Oscar (no kidding - the wiener dog's name is Oscar. But not Meyer.) Oscar is 11 years old. He loves the water but he has a bad back that makes it hard for him to play in the waves. So his friends Amy and her husband Leo thought they'd make it easier for him and teach him to ride a boogie board. I gotta say he did a lot better his first time on a boogie board than I did my first time. Once he got his balance, he was fine.

Amy, Leo, Oscar and his dog-buddy Leo (no relation to Amy's husband Leo) came to Lola's last night. Amy and husband Leo LOVED our sangria. So for that matter did Leo's Puerto Rican parents and sister. No word on if Oscar and Leo-the-dog liked it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Flowers from Lola's Garden

There is this one tree in the garden. For the past five months it's just been a stick, and an in-the-way, inconveniently place stick at that. I thought about cutting it down but it has an orchid growing on it. I figured it was worth keeping even if it was just as a home for an orchid.

Then about two weeks ago it started getting leaves. Then it got buds and these amazing clusters of white flowers. They are beautiful! Boy, am I glad I didn't cut that stick down!!

There are more photos of flowers from Lola's garden on Flickr. Check 'em out!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Ola Lola dog story in four chapters - Chap 4

Dear Elaine:

We did it ! We did it (note twice)! We ended up driving down to this beautiful part of Pennsylvania , outside of a town called Zeigalopolis north of Pittsburg last weekend and found VizslaLove!

Really swear to God, as soon as I got home I was possessed - online or on the phone every moment I could, talking to breeders, owners, owners owners, everywhere - New York, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Grand Rapids and one just south of here in Charlotte. They sent me SO MANY photos of their pride and joys- puppy pictures, at 3 mos, 4, 5, 6, 1year, 2 years, today, yesterday - one thing I found out for sure is EVERYONE I spoke with absolutely loved their Vizslas- but as you know, you have to be the right kind of person... ready for some action.

I can't believe it was just last weekend.Oh, Elaine, how can I ever repay you for the help you've given me on my (what seemed be long and) so very intense quest to find a V pup?

We are totally enamored, so absolutely in love with our pups! Yup, we got two�my husband is CRAZY- and so sweet with such a soft heart for dogs. They were born Feb 21st, so they were 9 weeks when we picked them up.We did all the tests you told us to - I had taken notes on everything you instructed me to do, as I sat in the car waiting for Emma that night on the phone. It was amazing how it really just weeded the pups out to one choice (with a very close second). I have to give you a call to tell you about it and how it all worked out, but we have been so busy with our infants, and housetraining that the past week or so has been a blur.

So the trip: I could have searched forever for the perfect V. I am a patient person. My husband: a man of action. He hadn't seen me for several weeks due to my new obsession and he wanted a V as badly as (and now I know even more than) I did. So we narrowed it down to 2 breeders, finally picked one, and we piled in the car and drove five and a half hours with two of our girls down to that Z-town I told you about somewhere in the hilly mountains north of Pittsburgh, right off of the very road that George Washington took to deliver a message to the French at the age of 21 in 1773. Oh wow. (I adore history).

Looking forward to having some Vizsla talk with you soon!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Ola Lola dog story in four chapters - Chap 3

Dear Elaine,

Wow, how can I thank you enough for all the information you shared with me on Vizslas! I know that email took a long time for you to write, but it would have taken probably a couple of years of owning my own for before I had all that knowledge and insight into those dogs (which I have been obsessively trying to amass in every minute I have the chance). You truly have been a HUGE help.

Best wishes,


By the way, everything you told me made me even more sure that Vizslas are the dog for us!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Ola Lola dog story in four chapters - Chap 2

Dear Christy,

This is Elaine (in absentia and IN Michigan). I saw your message (and talked to John who immediately remembered who you were) and thought I could respond to the Vizsla question.

[Elaine included pages of information about Vizslas and breeders here.]

In any case, so very glad you loved our little bit of heaven on earth. It's great to see that we are able to share our joy and have others catch it as well. Also always happy to hear of someone else who has discovered Vizslas for the first time.

Will happily talk more with you if you would like, as it is a particularly favorite subject of mine.

All the best,

Elaine Cosby

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Ola Lola dog story in four chapters - Chap 1

This is a true dog story. It starts with an e-mail from Christy in Okemos, Michigan. (Okemos is east of Lansing, Michigan, about an hour-and-a-half from Kalamazoo.) Irrelevant sections have been edited from the e-mails.

Hey! We were visitors to your happy oasis the week of The Flood [March 28] - I thought maybe I was in a monsoon?

My husband Carl and I were staying at Villa Montana and I got to have a short visit with you on Friday of that week, while you tended to the tons of other people there that night. Well, tons is a bit exaggerated, but it was hopping.


It's got to be the coolest bar in the most awesome place we have stumbled upon in all of our travels. We travelled all over Puerto Rico with our rental car and I would put Ola Lola's up there at the top of most memorable experiences we had. Lots of happy freindly people!

I'm from Kalamazoo (lived there for 15 years after graduating from WMU) and it will always be my home in my heart. Finding a person from Kalamazoo in Puerto Rico was a HUGE thing for me!

Anyway, I fell TOTALLY in love with your dogs. Actually so did Carl. We were all set to start looking for a new dog when we got home and never had even heard of Vizslas. Those sweet-hearted dogs won me over and now we know we have got to track down a Vizsla (The World's Most Perfect Dog). I think the photos w/me and (not sure which? [it's Amber]) pretty much say it all..

Just wondering, where did you get your dogs? Please don't say say Puerto Rico!

Thanks for adding to a great vacation. I know we'll be back.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To all of you who are Mothers, or if you want/hope/plan/expect to be a Mother, even if you have a Mother, all of us at Ola Lola's wish you very happy Mother's Day.


John, Elaine, Amber and Jazz

Saturday, May 12, 2007

No photo today

My camera died yesterday.

Actually, it drowned, victim of a leak in the underwater housing.

I am amazed at my reaction to the loss of the camera. And it really is a loss. Part of what I'm feeling is truly grief.

I think that's weird.

But I truly feel naked without my little camera with me. It's certainly not my only camera but it's the one I take to the beach every day. It's the one I take in the ocean and the one I use to shoot the KAP pictures. It's the one I carry with me pretty much all the time. Without Elaine, it has been a friend, a companion. As much as Lola's, my photography is an integral part of how I define myself here in PR.

Not having it feels like a handicap. Without it, there are things I cannot do - KAP, underwater, etc. I apologize to those with real handicaps, but I do now have a deeper level of empathy.

I was surprised at how and how strongly I reacted, but Elaine was not. Even from a distance she immediately recognized how much I need photography. She has my back up camera and immediately offered to send it to me. At first I said no. Then later I humbly said "please."

So now I just have to wait patiently. In a few days I will have my camera back.

In the mean time, I've sent the drowned camera to Canon to be repaired (hopefully) and I'm searching the Internet for another underwater camera, one that does not rely on a separate housing. I think I've found one - the Pentax Optio W30. It's 7.1 mp, the same as my Canon. The zoom is not quite as good but that's not terribly important underwater. It's only waterproof to 10 feet but I use it snorkeling. Ten feet is about as deep I as ever go. We'll see.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

And now a word from our sponsor

Crass commercialism invades Lola's blog!!!

Now that summer has (finally) made it to most of the Northern Hemisphere, you're gonna need new...T-shirts!

A number of people have asked about Ola Lola's T-shirts. Well, they are finally available and you can be the first on your block to sport the summer's hottest - no, COOLEST - T. If you've already been to Lola's, these T's are a great way to remember how wonderful it is here. If you haven't make it yet, an Ola Lola's T-shirt will remind you that this is on your short list of places to visit soon.

T-shirts are available by mail for $13 ($15 for XXL) plus $5 per shirt shipping. They are (currently) available in the colors above. The back has Lola's new logo. The front says "Ola Lola's Garden Bar, Playa Shacks, Puerto Rico." Click on the photo above to see a bigger image.

To order send us a note with YOUR NAME, YOUR ADDRESS including city state and zip, the COLOR(s) you want, and the SIZE(s) you want. Please include your e-mail address so we can contact you if we need to. Send all that with a check or money order payable to OLA LOLA for the total amount to:

John Cosby
Ola Lola's Garden Bar
332 Bo. Bajuras
Isabela, PR 00662

Sorry - we aren't set up to take credit cards or on-line orders (yet).

If you have any questions, e-mail us at We'll get right back to you.

As always, we thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ocean palettes

Usually photographing the ocean is about the myriad colors - greens from jade to grass to coconut palm leaf; blues from sky to navy, blending with greens in turquoise and cyan, even browns and yellows.

But sometimes the palette is more limited. Near sunset on a cloudy day colors can be limited to a little washed-out blue, silvers, platinum gray, white. I love this time of day.

Today the sky and the ocean are just gray. No silver. No platinum. It's overcast and raining for the fourth - fifth? - afternoon in a row. There's thunder out over the ocean. Maybe I'll walk down and see if I can see the lightning.

Last year when we were visiting, before we bought Ola Lola's, we sat on the deck at Villa Tropical and watched two storm cells over the ocean. The lightning was like a call-and-response song. First there would be lightning in the near cell, then a few seconds later the cell farther out would answer with a flash of it's own. Then another in the near cell with a response farther out.

For now the lightning - and the rain - have moved out to sea. I can still see the occasional flash of lightning but it's so far away now I can't hear the thunder. I guess Amber can still hear it, though. He doesn't like thunderstorms and he's being pretty much a cling-on right now.

Random synapse firings

I did laundry today. The last load was hanging out on the line when it started raining the first time. It's rained three times since then. I have the best rinsed laundry on the island!

We have a new bank. I opened accounts at Scotiabank. Yep. We came all the way to Puerto Rico to do business with a Canadian bank.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

As long as we're in the water...

A couple of weeks ago I got a chance to work with our friend Heather (she's a Licensed Massage Therapist here) on a photo shoot for a Venezuelan swimsuit designer.

I was walking on the beach with my camera in its underwater housing when I met Heather and her friend Kelly. We got to talking about the shoot they were doing and the conversation led to they wanted some underwater shots and since I have an underwater housing, would I be interested.

Well... ... ... yeah.

So I spent a couple of hours tagging along with Aura, wonderful talented young photographer from Venezuela (she's also a surfer and skater but was the main photographer on this shoot) , shooting some stuff and then working with Heather and Ruth (the suit designer herself) in the ocean. And even more importantly, I made some new friends (Aura, Ruth and others) .

It was a fun time that ended too soon 'cause I had to go open Lola's. But Aura's stopped by Lola's a couple of times. And Ruth is coming back in December and we'll probably do some more work then.

In the meantime, everybody else on the shoot is off the island. Kelly went home to Nantucket (to clean up after the Nor'easter). Ruth went to Australia and then Indonesia to compete in surfing competitions (did I mention she not only designs suits, she's a surfer/skater/competitor also?). Aura is headed to Australia and then Indonesia to surf and hang with Ruth. Heather left Friday for a month in California to finish up some personal business.

If you want to see more photos from the shoot, check out the Flicker site. The set is 070416_suit shoot. Ruth, Aura, Kelly and the others haven't seen the photos yet. Posting them on Flickr is one way to let them see them. Heather saw the unedited versions (color-correction, cropping) and really liked them. Now she'll be able to see the "fixed" photos in California. I'm sure some of the photos will find their way to the Puerto Rico Surf Photo site as well.

Sorry I didn't get this posted earlier. We had one of those random power outages that lasted most of the day.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

First timers

This was a week of firsts for Barbara (left) and her daughter Alisha, from Michigan. Neither has ever been to Puerto Rico before. Alisha had never flown before leaving to come here. And neither had ever been snorkeling before.

They got a great taste of Puerto Rico and the beach and reef at Shacks, as well as two great evenings at Ola Lola's while they were here. They loved the beach, Lola's, and especially snorkeling!

They are on their way back to Michigan after what I'm sure was a too-short introduction to Puerto Rico. I have a feeling they will be back.

This morning near Blue Hole

Yesterday and today the ocean has been very calm so it's been time to get back in the water. It was wonderful - clear, calm, beautiful warm blue water.

These are - literally! - small fry. (If you click on the picture, you can see a larger version.) They are baby some-kinda-fish, about an inch-and-a-half to two inches long. There were hundreds of them. They were spectacular to watch, flashing in the sunlight just below the surface. Actually, there were two schools of them, both several feet wide and a dozen feet or more from end to end.

I'll post more pictures from yesterday and today on flickr later today. Right now, I gotta go get Lola's ready to open.

Thanks for looking in.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A humbling week of KAP

I've been spoiled by my KAP (kite aerial photography) so far. I've gotten used to smooth winds and so many good shots I had a hard time editing them down. But this week has been different.

I've been fascinated by Puerto Rican cemeteries since I first traveled here. They are hidden behind high walls that allow only glimpses of monuments over the wall or crypts through narrow gates. The cemeteries are open to the public during the day but those teasing views suggested a cemetery might make a good KAP subject. And then there's the intrigue of peeking OVER the wall.

So I found a cemetery with a small field across the street on top of the mountain where I thought there might be decent wind. The day I went to shoot there was great wind here at Lola's Corner and on Shacks Beach. Up on the mountain the wind was much lower and I needed my big 32 sq ft flowform kite to lift the KAP rig. I don't like using the flowform as a lifter. It has lots of lifting power but it's a really squirrly kite. This day was no exception. The kite was swinging all over the sky, bouncing the camera and making it hard to position.

In the end I only took four shots. I wanted to get the kite and camera down safely.

The next day I went to another beach east of Shacks, right at the foot of the hill below Isabela. (More about that in another post.)

Craig Wilson is one of my KAP heroes. He has beautiful shots taken close to buildings. One looks right into the lens of a lighthouse light.

There is an upscale condo complex right along the edge of the beach. I hoped to emulate Craig and shoot some fairly close up shots of the complex, looking at the repetition of the forms from a different perspective.

HA! What I came away with was not great - or even good or even interesting - shots of the complex but rather a renewed awe for Craig's abilities.

Winds were again light and I used my squirrly flowform kite as a lifter. Even in the relatively open space of the beach I don't like using that kite. I couldn't get close enough to the buildings to get the kind of shots I wanted - the kite was just to squirlly, too bouncy in the sky. So I tried to shoot the beach, the colors of the water. Even that didn't go as well as I was used to.

Oh, well. It's all an experiment. Every flight is a learning experience. You can see more from both the cemetery and beach shoots in the flickr site.

Thanks for looking in.

Friday, May 04, 2007

In Isabela

Dominoes on the plaza in Isabela.

These guys gather just about every day to play dominoes in the shade on the plaza at Isabela.

I got a parking ticket in Isabela Saturday for parking along the plaza on the far side, in front of the church while I was watching this domino match. SEVENTY-FIVE BUCKS!!!!!!! And there was absolutely nothing to indicate it was a no parking zone, no signs, no yellow curb, no nothing, nada.

When I pointed this out to the cop who was writing tickets, he said, "That's why we're writing tickets, so people know." He said the cars were blocking the street and if a truck came by, it couldn't get through.

I said, "if the point is to keep the street clear so trucks can get through, wouldn't a few 'no parking' signs be more effective?" He just shrugged and walked away. SEVENTY-FIVE BUCKS for parking in an unmarked no parking zone!!!!

Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Puerto Rico Air Extravaganza

A sight not seen over Ramey Base for a while: a B-52 takes off over Ola Lola's and heads out to sea.

There was an air show last weekend at the air port in Aguadilla. For those of you show know air shows, it was mostly static displays. They had a C-5, the second biggest cargo plane in the world, and a B-52 on display. There were a few aerial demonstrations - a solo aerobatic pilot, an F-16 fly-by, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team - but that's about it.

It was a homecoming of sorts for the B-52. During the Cold War, Ramey Base here in Aguadilla was a major Strategic Air Command base. There were B-52s in the air at all times out of here. The story here is that the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 wasn't really about Russian nukes 90 miles from Florida. After all, there wasn't much of strategic importance in Florida. The story is the crisis was really about Russian nukes less than a thousand nautical miles from the B-52 base here, in Aguadilla.

There are C-5s around here frequently, although the public usually isn't allowed closed to them. A few weeks ago we had more than a dozen C-5s pass through Aguadilla in less than a week. Then were moving all the gear from Bush's Latin America trip back to the States. A dozen C-5s to move the STUFF for President and his entourage around the world! Remember: that's just the stuff! The Pres flies on Air Force One. And this happens pretty much anytime he goes anywhere.

In another life I was the official photographer for the High on Kalamazoo Air Show and for the International Council of Air Shows. It's kinda weird having an air show almost literally in my back yard and to not have anything to do with it. I'm trying to find out who the event organizers are. Who knows? Maybe next year (if there is one) Elaine and I will fly kites and be air show performers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That box of chocolates

Sorry I've been off the blog for so long. No excuse. I've just been off.

I've written before that KAP (kite aerial photography) is like Forest Gump's mother's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was KAPping Shacks Beach, I turned the camera away from the beach, inland. When I saw downloaded thumbnail of this image, I couldn't figure out what it was. I was hugely surprised when I enlarged it to find I'd taken a picture of our house.

No, not that big one in front. That's Beba Bravo's house. And that's Beba's newly mown hay field. See that white square in the very center of the picture, just above Beba's house? That's our house! And the little tiny white spot in the trees just down and a little to the right of our house is the roof of Ola Lola's Garden Bar. There is another house behind ours - the one with the red roof. For the moment, no one lives there. The dentist who owns it has been doing a lot of work on it. I've heard he plans to rent it. Personally, I like it empty.

At the very back of the picture is "the mountain," the cliff. That's the "mountain" we go up to get to the "coop" or Ramey Base or just about anywhere off the beach.

I've got a bunch more to write about. I should be around a lot more. Check back. And feel free to comment!