Monday, April 28, 2008


We've had a number of friends visit from the States. David is a regular visitor at Ola Lola's - he's the architect for the golf course I've written about before and he stops by every time he's in town. But this trip his wife Leanne came with him - a rare occurrence! We're honored that David brought Leanne to Ola Lola's. And we're honored that Leanne - who doesn't like to have her picture taken - allowed us to take one for the blog.

Several visiting friends posed with us for this KAP group portrait. Left to right Amber, Elaine, Jason, Jason's wife Collette (choking me - -er, with her arm around me), me, John (whom I used work with) and his wife Holly (whom Elaine used to work with). Our friends Debbie and Diane (below) were MIA for the KAP portrait but were certainly there on the Villa Tropical deck for the rum punch that followed.

This is kinda working backwards so we now arrive at the first of the recent visitors, Tom and Kathe from Michigan. Tom is a kite flyer AND bubble machine maker (he brought us one which should be up and operating next weekend) . Kathe is every Midwest sport kite competition coordinator's first choice for scorekeeper. Thanks for coming, guys.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The beach-destroying mega-projecti

If developers get their way, a 110-unit apartment complex will be build in the green area to the left in this KAP photo of Shacks Beach.

So much to write about and so little time. I can't believe I went 11 days between posts. I think that's a new record - not one I want to repeat. Sorry about that.

I could go into a sob story about our internet access being down (it was for a couple of days) or brown-outs (we've been having them because of a bad wire coming into the house - that's fixed now we think). But the truth is one thing has taken up a huge amount of time - fighting a beach-destroying mega development project.

Some local developers want to build a 110-unit apartment complex right on the beach here at Shacks. If they get the go-ahead, they will build in the green area on the left in the photo above.

There are just so many things wrong with this project. First, it just just doesn't fit the Shacks area. Just about everything about it is questionable (and is being questioned) legally. There were enough irregularities in the original process of granting permits for the project that the Planning Board (Junta de Planificacion) called for new public hearings. At the public hearing last Monday, we were treated to a two hour presentation by a phalanx of lawyers and "experts" about how this project won't hurt the environment, won't cause more flooding, blah blah blah blah. People opposed to the project had to wait their turn. When they finally were allowed to speak, the guy running the hearing for the planning board allowed the developers' lawyers to harass and intimidate them.

The developers have asked for variances and zoning exceptions to: 1) build ten meters into the protected Maritime Zone (established by law specifically to protect this kind of property from development); 2) increase the height of the buildings from the three stories allowed by law to five stories (nothing else in the Shacks area is more than two stories); 3) allow buildings to be built closer together than allowed so they can get more apartment buildings in a smaller space (this will make this one 8.5 acre parcel 90 times more densely populated than the rest of Shacks). And they want to built the broadest face of the tallest buildings parallel to the coast, which if not illegal, is at least against public policy and current practice. This, by the way, WILL change the winds at Shacks for kite surfers and wind surfers.

The developers lobbied hard to get the community to support this monstrosity. They're a bit like GW Bush - they tolerate no dissent or even discussion. It's their way and that's it. They talk about the project like the buildings are all there will be. "This project won't harm the environment. This project won't damage the beach. This project won't kill the coral." What they absolutely refuse to accept any responsibility for or even acknowledge is the damage the 400 or so people living in their project will do to the road and the air and the beach and the coral. "Oh we can't control how many people go to the beach." (That's a direct quote.) Ya don't have to invite 4o0 people and 22o cars (that's how many parking places they'll have) right on to the beach.

When lobbying and promises of "more business" didn't entice everybody in the neighborhood to support the idea, the developers resorted to threats. Nothing overt, mind you. Just "warnings about what could happen to your business," not delivered directly but by "messengers," intermediaries. And we weren't the only ones who were threatened. In our case the threat was "Those people at Ola Lola's are really blowing it. They shouldn't be talking about flooding. If their business floods, one call to the health department and they won't have a business."According to an attorney it's just smoke, another attempt to scare and intimidate us. But it makes me wonder why they would even bother threatening us. I mean, how much of a threat to their plans are we? And why is it so important that the project be built this way and no other?

The developers are very rich, very powerful and very well connected. They have a brilliant opportunity to be true leaders, to take Puerto Rico in a totally new, progressive, environmentally sensitive direction. Instead they choose to be "me toos," doing the "same ol' same ol,'" battling against and most likely destroying the environment instead of working with it and working to preserve it.

It's an on-going saga. We have more letters to write - quickly! And there are other legal avenues being pursued. You can learn more about this on the MySpace site No Shacks Resort ( And of course we'll keep you updated here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lots of birthdays

Zan's wasn't the only birthday we celebrated this week. Our friends Javier and Aitsa came by Monday as part their celebrations of Javier's birthday. The icing nose painting started with their son Francisco and then spread (pardon the pun) throughout the party. After the party, Javier and Aitsa took off for a few well-deserved parents-sin-niños days in Las Vegas.

On Saturday our friend Levi and his whole family came to Ola Lola's to celebrate his mother's 29th (and holding) birthday.

And on Saturday night friends visiting Isabela from Ponce stopped in for a birthday celebrations drink.

Feliz compliaños to all! And thanks for sharing part of your celebration with us.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Zan!

Last night we celebrated Zan's birthday in grand Ola Lola style - great food contributed by many good friends, lots of laughs and good times, and a party that went late into the night (nearly midnight, very late by Ola Lola standards).

There were gifts of course, including her own "Parties well with others" dogtag-style bottle opener (since Zan doesn't normally drink beer, we looked for a corkscrew necklace but abandoned that idea when we realized it could stab her in the chest during one of her sudden, sometimes unexpected stops in her red sports car). She also got a "if found, return to Ola Lola's" key chain and a bunch o' other great stuff.

The highlight of the night was Zan's life story displayed on the wall for all to read. We're proud to say this gem, painstakingly researched (with the assistance of Zan's parents) and created by Elaine, brought tears (we think of joy) to Zan's eyes.

It was lots of fun for everybody, both Ola Lola regulars and newcomers (like John and Joelle from northern Wisconsin who stumbled on Ola Lola's because the bar at Villa Montana was closed for a wedding) alike. And Zan is smiling big in all the pictures so we think she had a good time.

Happy birthday, Zan! Thanks for sharing it with us. (BTW - Zan said this was #29 but we think she's shaving a year off.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A visit from one of my heros

The other day I was looking at photos on Flickr when I saw something I recognized in a friend's photostream : the "no shirt no shoes no problem" sign at Calypso's in Rincon. And it was posted the day before! Which meant our friend (and my hero) Craig Wilson was in Puerto Rico.

Sure enough _ I got an e-mail from him and he, his wife Betsy and some local friends came to Ola Lola's.

Craig is a KAPper - a kite aerial photographer. But he is not just "a" KAPper, he is one of the best in the world. He does amazing photographs in amazing places, places it would scare the bejesus out of me just to fly a kite, let alone a kite with a camera rig attached. I fly my KAP rig on the beach, with lots of open space and open ocean around. Craig flies his over the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin (that's the cover shot of his book, "Hanging by a Thread" (which he gave me a signed copy of). And over concerts on the state capitol lawn. And over the University of Wisconsin football stadium. And...and...and... The list goes on and on.

Since he's been in Puerto Rico this trip, he's posted KAP photos of El Morro in Viejo San Juan, the Plaza del Quinto Centenario and the Plaza del Totem in Viejo San Juan, and the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo. (All links to Craig's photos are with his permission.)

We've been to Viejo San Juan and El Morro, but I haven't KAPped there yet. I still haven't even BEEN to Cabo Rojo, let alone KAPped it.

Craig is a master KAPper with a great eye and great skill. His work is an inspiration, not just to me, but to KAPpers all over the world. And the KAP part aside, his work is beautiful! We are honored to have him as a friend. Thanks for coming to visit.

You can see more of Craig's photos on his Flicker photostream.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Adios, Boyd and Kendra

Today we officially said "good bye" to two wonderful friends and a very special couple, Boyd and Kendra. They've been part of the Ola Lola "family" almost since our beginning here. They left this morning to return to California. Boyd recently accepted a promotion that moved them off the island and back closer to their home.

We wish them nothing but the very very best. We 're sure they'll be happy back among their families and old friends and on familiar ground. But they'll always have a little bit of northwest Puerto Rico in their lives. And we will keep happy memories of them here on our corner.

Boyd and Kendra, know you are loved and will be (are!) missed. And know there's always a cold Corona and a double Ron del Barrilito for you at Lola's. Safe travels, guys.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Speaking of April...

April is National Kite Month. Whether you are a kite surfer, ripping the winds and waves, a sport kiter like Elaine and I, a child discovering the simple joy of flying a kite or somewhere in between, kiting has a place for you. It is a sport/hobby/science/obsession that nearly anyone regardless of age or ability can enjoy. I flown sport kites and single-line kites with people in wheelchairs. I've seen babies follow tiny kites dancing at the end of a string tied to their strollers. One of the best kite builders I am honored to know is a quadriplegic. And of course many many of our very best friends are kiters. The kiting community is one of the most amazing, welcoming, accepting, fun-loving group of people I've ever met.

There is probably a kite festival or event somewhere near you. Check out the National Kite Month web site to find an event or to learn more about kiting. While you're at it, check out the American Kitefliers Association, the largest organization in the world devoted "to educat[ing] the public in the art, history, technology, and practice of building and flying kites - to advance the joys and values of kiting in all nations."

At the risk of coining a cliche, GO FLY A KITE!

National Kite Month

March into April

Two kite surfers enjoy the big winds and big waves at Shacks Beach on April 1.

I think March may be my favorite month down here. Okay, maybe April. Or May. But the contrast seems greatest in March.

Back in the Midwest, in Michigan, March was a blah month, frequently cold and gray and gloomy but with teasing warm days. Neither winter nor yet fully spring, March could easily surprise you with 6 inches (or more!) of new snow.

March this year here was wonderful. It was the driest month so far (we could use some rain! - but not too much). The trade winds blew strong but they moderated a bit for about a week . The nights are still cool and comfortable but the days have started the climb toward summer temps.

(BTW - if you want to see some photos of surfing on those huge waves near Rincon, check out these from They're not my photos but they are some great photos!)

The last week of March was crazy - we had those huge waves that did so much damage to the dunes. Although the ocean calmed down some, the waves have stayed big. And the winds have stayed high - 25 mph plus every day.

Now March has slid into April. Big waves, high wind, and finally rain. We had more rain overnight last night than we had in the last 6 weeks. The good news is the river is pretty open to the ocean so unless we get huge torrential rains, there isn't a high risk of a flood. Even though the ground is dry, it's mostly sandy soil so it can soak up a lot of water. The rain is welcome.