Sunday, June 29, 2008

Surf - in June?!?

We talk about the two seasons in Puerto Rico - surf season and snorkel/dive season. This is supposed to be dive season. Last Tuesday Darryl, Zan and I were going out for a "breakfast club" early morning dive and - wow! waves! Shacks was way too big to go diving. So Zan left to take her new kitty kat to the vet, Darryl headed to the dive shop to get ready for a SCUBA class, and I grabbed my new birthday-present lens and headed for Middles to give the dogs a run and to see if anyone was out.

There are almost always surfers bobbing around at Jobos, even on the flattest calmest days (hope springs eternal amongst surfers - "hey, a set might come in") but if it's flat, nobody goes to Middles. There were a dozen or so surfers at Middles catching some great waves, some as big as overhead. The surfers were happy, the dogs got a great run and they were happy and I got some good pictures with my new lens so I'm happy. You can see the see the rest of the set on Click on the "surfing" button and scroll down 'til you see June, 2008, in the righthand column.

It has stayed windy and wavy - really unusual for this time of year.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Slugworts revisited

After our "slugworts" post, some of our friends wrote or called, concerned about Chocolate. They were afraid the photo of him lying down meant something was wrong or something had happened to him. We meant to show how comfortable he is in his home and how safe he feels there. Horses are prey animals, pretty much constantly on the alert for something that wants to attack and eat them. A horse, especially a horse alone, not in a herd, rarely lies down. When they do lie down, usually they have their legs tucked under them, ready to spring up and run. For a horse to lie down on its side, legs extended, fully vulnerable, it has to feel REALLY confident and comfortable.

Just to show Chocolate is well, here is a picture of the other side - the active side - of four of the five family slugworts, enjoying the beach. Chocolate accepts Amber and Jazz as part of his herd and they in turn accept him as part of their pack. BTW - the fifth slugwort was lounging in the sand and could barely rouse himself long enough to take this picture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A silly name, but that’s what we call our animal family members and each other when we’re being extremely lazy. And, many’s a morning that the name fits for at least 3 members of this Puerto Rican “family.”

First, there’s the dogs: give ‘em a person in bed or the hammock, no matter the time of day, and they’re there…either in the bed (if allowed), or on the floor sleeping next to it. At times, particularly mornings, they stay in bed well past (we’ve seen up to 2 hours) the time the rest of the beings have gotten up and moved about in the morning routine of dressing, washing up, having coffee, and opening the house to the beautiful day.

Second, there’s my caballo (horse), Chocolate, whose alter ego is Ferdinand, the bull. For those of you unfamiliar with this old childhood storybook, Ferdinand is a bull without the bull-like characteristics of being fierce and charging anything in its path. He prefers to sit under a tree, smelling the flowers. One day he is spotted by a famous traveling matador who is looking for the fiercest bull in the land to use in a bullfight. At the moment the matador sees Ferdinand, a bee stings the bull and he rears up, snorting, charging, and gouging at the air with his horns. This convinces the matador that Ferdinand is the fierce bull he is looking for and so he has him transported to Madrid for the bullfight. Alas, when the fight comes, the matador has a rose in his teeth and Ferdinand would rather sit and smell it than fight and so, in the end, Ferdinand is returned to his pasture to just sit and smell the flowers. Chocolate, as Ferdinand, likes to just sit/lie in his yard behind our house, smelling the flowers or better yet, sleeping. In fact, he can frequently be seen sleeping on his side, with all four legs sticking straight out. He is indeed a very relaxed caballo when he’s in his own space. Even when standing, he frequently rests his chin on the giant sloping branch of the almond tree back by the corner of our house and dozes with a look of quiet contentment on his face.

Third, there’s me, Elaine. I have always been very capable of “sleeping in.” However, to my credit, I must say that now getting to bed many times before 10 pm, makes sleeping past 8 am not even possible. All the same, I am not what you would call a “morning person.” While John can be up at 6 am and ready to go scuba diving by 7 am, I am still yawning, stretching, and beginning to be part of the day for another hour or so, even if I’m already out of bed.

I’m just very very blessed to have a life where I can say that my norm is now 8+ hours of sleep, rather than the 4-6 hours I used to get before moving to Puerto Rico. I happily admit to being part of the “slugwort” clan!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Snorkeling and diving 'round the corner

Our friend Kendra above the reef on our dive at Natural

From Elaine - We have a beautiful beach just minutes from our door…Shacks (or Bajuras) as it’s called, is a wonder for snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s renowned worldwide.

But sometimes I truly enjoy going ‘round the corner, just south and west of where we live and snorkeling or diving at Wishing Well, Natural, or Crashboat beaches. The first two, in particular, are magical to me. They include so many soft corals and loads of turtles and other fish and aquatic creatures that it truly feels like they are in a world of magic. I had the joy of scuba diving at Natural with John and Darryl and our friend, Kendra, several months ago. It was my first dive there and only my 4th dive ever. It was amazing! Visibility was 50-60 feet and I saw rock beauties, a moray eel, brown garden eels, blue and brown chromis, a Southern stingray, 2 spotted eagle rays, queen and French angel fish, hogfish, numerous types of butterfly fishes, coneys, graysbys, big-eyes (e.g., squirrel fish), and a school of Southern sennet, not to mention so many different corals I thought I would burst.

Since then, we have snorkeled numerous times in the area and even snorkeling is an experience that is unbelievably beautiful and unique every time.

I never thought of myself as a person who was passionate about the ocean and experiencing its beauty (except through Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic TV specials when I was a kid). But, that has changed since moving here. I can never get over the precious miracles and varieties of living creatures the exist just below the surface. And, I hope my gratitude for these gifts is shown in the ways I try to help preserve, protect and educate myself and others about this amazing environment.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wasn't that party!

"Coulda been the whiskey
Mighta been the gin
Coulda been the three or four six-packs
I don't know
but look at the mess I'm in
Head feels like a football
Think I'm gonna die
But me-o me-o my
Wasn't that a party.
-- Tom Paxton

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but we did have a GREAT surprise birthday party! I was expecting a "normal" Monday night at Ola Lola's. Then Elaine tripped and banged her knee and leg really hard. Our friends Marisol and Zan were here. Elaine called me on the radio and asked me to send the two of them back to the house. They came back out to the bar with a box of stuff. Marisol (or was it Zan - I don't remember) said, "Elaine says you're having a surprise party and you have to set up for it. Here's the stuff!" So the three of us put up decorations, put champagne on ice, Marisol pulled out a beautiful cake with an ocean theme, and we gave Elaine tequila shots for pain management. Of course, it was my birthday so I had a couple of tequila shots myself. And champagne. And a beer (or two) I think. I kinda misplaced my own tab.

Thank you to all our wonderful friends who came out to help us celebrate. There will be at least one picture - as soon as we get it from Darryl (guess who forgot to take a camera out to the bar that night!)

p.s. Elaine still has a bit of a gimp, but is recovering.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's my birthday, it's my birthday...

Yep, today's my birthday. I know there are those (including me sometimes) who think I'm lucky to have made it this long. How long? I'm 57 today and proud to be.

It's also our friend Michael's birthday. It's kinda spooky: Michael and I have the same birthday and Michael's wife Michelle and Elaine have the same birthday. Is that the Twilight Zone theme I hear in the background? We don't know what it means. It's just one of those little oddities of life. We were gonna have a big party but Michael is in Connecticut for work. So we're just gonna have a little party for now and BIG one later.

So I started my birthday SCUBA diving. Elaine and I had breakfast on the balcone. Then she rode Chocolate on the beach while I ran some errands. Then, back in the water for an hour of snorkeling. Ah, life is good! Ola Lola's is open tonight so I'll get to spend my birthday evening with a bunch of my Puerto Rico friends.

The one thing I do miss is our friends in the States, especially our kite-flying friends. For years, Elaine and I produced a kite festival/sport kite competition that always fell around Father's Day/my birthday. I do miss sharing my birthday with those friends.

When we left Michigan, a couple of good good friends took over the event and true to tradition, the event was this weekend. We got this e-mail from Dave and Mary last night.

We had perfect weather this year! Perfect sun, perfect wind, beautiful kites and banners all around.

We had enough wind for Darrell Waters and Jerry McGuire to get an octopus and manta ray up in the air for the entire day Saturday. Mike Moore and Bobby Benton came all the way from Pittsburgh, PA to fly.

We had the fighter kite guys there too.

We've attached our annual "Hi John and Elaine!" pics and I've posted some more on our website (

Thank you for passing the torch. You passed along a blessing as well.
Love ya both!
Dave and Mary

Thank you, Dave and Mary, for doing such a wonderful job of keeping the event alive and growing but also for keeping us in the loop. We really appreciate it.

So Lola's is open tonight. Gotta go work on my birthday (if you can call this work!).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Feliz dia del padres

KAP shot of Middles Beach looking east taken in May

Happy Father's Day! All of us here at Ola Lola's hope all of you - fathers, fathers-to-be, father-wannabes, even if you just have a father - have a wonderful love-filled special day. It's only 7:15 am here and my day already is very special.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Catch some air

This is usually the time of year for flat, calm seas - great for snorkeling and diving but it leaves surfers and kite surfers a little wistful for winter waves. Last week our friend Eric found enough wind to go kite surfing off Shacks Beach. It was a perfect time to try out my new lens, an early Fathers' Day/birthday present. It's a Canon 100-400 IS and I LOVE it! It is a beautiful piece of glass, faster and much sharper and cleaner than my 75-300. You'll see a lot of surf photos with this lens come "the season."

For now, we're headed out snorkeling. I'll try to get some good underwater pics to share.

BTW, there are more new pictures of Eric on Flickr.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I promised more underwater pictures from our snorkeling adventures so here is one from a couple of days ago. We love the reef squid! They are so much fun to watch and to swim with. You can see more pictures from this particular snorkel on Flickr. Check out all the squid pictures - they really do change colors like that, from this kind of iridescent brown to the amazing pink.

I've written before about the layers of bureaucracy and administrative stuff in Puerto Rican government and how it sometimes takes a lot longer to get things done than you think it should. The time-lag is still true but over the last few weeks I've developed a lot of respect for a lot of the people in the government offices. A few weeks ago a number of complaints were lodged against Ola Lola's. The source appears to be a certain developer of a certain mega apartment project that we had the audacity to oppose. All the agencies had to investigate what they quickly learned were spurious, false accusations. Some agencies, the health department and fire department in particular, had to come back to Ola Lola's just a week after they'd been here to inspect us to renew our permits. But, because of the complaints, they had to come.

They have all been polite, professional and almost apologetic for the intrusion. If we had a problem that needed correcting (there were only a couple), they were helpful in telling us how to fix or resolve it.

The last encounter regarding the complaints was with agents from Hacienda, which is basically the treasury department. They issue the licenses. They came - at 4:00 pm on Friday, while we were open - to inspect our liquor license. It is supposed to be displayed on the wall. Well, again because of the complaints, before I left to go back to the States over Memorial Day, I took ours down because I had to take it to another government office to prove I had it. When I got back, I just plain forgot to put it back up. I told the guy, "oh, yeah, it's here. Just a minute." Long story short, the license wasn't where it should have been. I couldn't find it anywhere. So we got a citation and were ordered to find the license and bring it to the Hacienda office in Aguadilla on Monday at 8:00 am.

We looked all weekend and couldn't find it anywhere. Nothing. Nada. We went to the office with nothing but the receipt from last September that showed I paid for it. The only thing I could figure was when they made copies of all my papers in the office in Isabela before I left, maybe somehow it got left there. Our friend, Marisol, came with us to be sure that if communication was in Spanish we would be able to participate at 100%. We talked with a very VERY nice, helpful man in the Hacienda office. He called Isabela to see if they had it. They didn't have our original but they knew I had it, at least at some point, because they did have the copy they made in our file. The helpful agent at Hacienda came back with a Plan B. We couldn't get a replacement license, but because we had the receipt, we could get a letter that says we do in fact have a license, we just don't have the paper copy. The Collectoria (another department) director, a man we have also had contact with during the past year, wrote us the letter while we waited. So we now proudly display that letter on our wall, instead of the actual license.

I'm making kind of a big deal out of this for a couple of reasons. The series of complaints was (we assume) supposed to be intimidating and harassing. Instead, it has turned into a very positive thing. Puerto Rico is a very face-to-face culture and that's the way we like to interact with others, so it's worked to our advantage. At every opportunity, we've gone to meet with the people involved, or met with them here, and worked out whatever the problem was to get it fixed. We now know a lot more people in the offices that "control" the oversight of Ola Lola's. And maybe more importantly, they know us, as people, as individuals, not just as the business Ola Lola's. They've seen our place. They've seen how we operate. They know we're trying to do things right. We make mistakes and because we're still very non-proficient with our Spanish, we may not always understand the first time. But whatever the issue is, we fix it. And now they know that.

The second thing is, when all this is said and done, we will have one of the best inspected, most completely permitted bars in Puerto Rico! And that ain't all bad.

It's been a great learning experience. While it's been a bit scary at times, rather than feeling intimidated, we're grateful. In the end Ola Lola's, we as individuals, and the people we work with will be better - not worse - for it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Night dive!!

Monday night I went on my first night dive.

Wow! It was beautiful, totally different from a daytime dive. There were five of us all together, each with his own light. Because each diver has his own light, each diver has a slightly different dive, sometimes sees different things. If one of us saw something cool, he'd hold his light on it to point it out to everyone else. But then we'd all move on, shining our lights different directions, looking at and for different stuff.

So what did we see? Starfish walking - no, cruising! - across the bottom. Night majors in beautiful deep blue and black instead of the darkish grey of daytime. A tiny goldentail eel scuttering across the sand and a huge green moray eel poking his head out. Eyes catching the light and shining out of the darkness. Lots of little squirrel fish. Red and white parrotfish asleep on the bottom. A scorpion fish my dive-partner Dale rousted from his slumbers

SCUBA diving is an adventure into a whole 'nother world. Night diving is a whole new adventure into another 'nother world.

Here's the really bizarre thing about that dive: I did better with my air than I ever have on ANY other dive. Usually night dive freak people out because they can't see. I was totally relaxed, issues at all and got more than 10 minutes more out of my tank than I usually do. I DON'T GET IT!! I wish I knew what I did differently so I could do it again on every dive.

The night dive was actually my second dive of the day. We went to the outside reef at Shacks in the morning. We saw the biggest barracuda I've ever seen. It was huge! And very beautiful gliding through the water.

I'm diving without my camera for a while to try to improve my air use and my buoyancy so there won't be any dive pictures for a while. But that's okay. Visibility on the dives this week (I've done four all together so far) has been okay for diving but not great for photography. And I will still take pictures snorkeling so you won't totally miss underwater photo fixes.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

We were missed

I am always humbled - amazed - grateful - surprised when I see the presence Ola Lola's has in our little community.

People who stop here for the first time frequently say things like, "We've been driving by your little place and you always wave at us. We just had to stop." Or, "We got here Tuesday. We couldn't wait for you to open so we could stop and have a drink."

We had a good night Friday night, our first night back. Many of our regulars stopped in. "We missed you guys!" "That's it: you can't close anymore." "My boyfriend was out of town. Ola Lola's was closed. I just stayed home and watched TV."

The responses amaze me. Thank you all for the wonderful support.

And now, after being back for two nights, we have to close again tonight. This time it's not our fault, not our choice. Today is party primary election day in PR. By law, anytime there is an election, you can't sell (or theoretically consume) alcoholic beverages from midnight election day until 9:00 pm. The reason is to avoid fights, fueled by alcohol, during elections. Apparently, such fights have been known to occur and to occasionally get out of hand. Yes, we could open at 9:00 pm (our stated closing time) but I think I'm going on a night dive instead.

We'll be back tomorrow night though.