Friday, December 30, 2011


We spent Christmas morning with Amy, Miguel, Kennedy, Kai and our nephew Ben. Then we came back to our house when Ben (who is a chef) fixed us a fabulous Christmas lunch.

After lunch, we headed east for our first vacation in six years. We spent Christmas night at a friends in Fajardo and on Boxing Day morning we boarded the ferry for Vieques.

Vieques is the largest of the islands off the eastern point of "la isla grande" (the big island) of Puerto Rico, south and east of Fajardo. We (obviously) live on an island and for us to go to "the mainland" means going to the States. For Vieques residents, Puerto Rico is the mainland. They take the ferry back and forth to work, to go shopping, for a lot to things.

Vieques is an island of contrasts. The beaches - especially on the southern Caribbean side - are everything a Caribbean beach should be: stunning long arcs of brilliant white sugar sand melting into sparkling blue waters. Much of the eastern third of the island, including many of the best beaches, is a nature preserve under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a wildlife refuge in part to keep people out. This is the part of the island the U.S. Navy and Marines used for live-fire target practice from 1948 until 2003. There is so much unexploded ordinance and contamination in this part of the island no one is allowed except for a narrow strip along the shore to reach the beaches. So there is all this natural beauty but it's really only protected because it's not safe to go there.

The Navy took over two-thirds (22,000 of 33,000 acres) in 1941, displacing two-thirds of the population. The Navy began live-fire bombing exercises on Vieques in 1948 and continued until 2003.

There were sporadic protests against the bombing exercises and the Navy's occupation of the island over the years. Protests started in earnest in 1999 when a civilian Navy employee, Vieques-native David Sanes, was killed when two bombs dropped by a Marine Corps jet missed their target by a mile-and-a-half. The Navy stopped targeting Vieques and left the island in May, 2003.

We'll have more on our trip to Vieques over the coming days. Unfortunately, there won't be a lot of photos. The memory card that had most of the pictures from the trip imploded and is now dead. Sad, but we have memories and we'll try to share them in words.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 years...ways we know we're part of it all

Happy Anniversary to US and to Ola Lola's!
Seven years ago today we got married on a beach in Barbados.

Five years ago today we opened Ola Lola's in Puerto Rico.

You know you’ve become part of the Puerto Rican flora and fauna when:

You are on a first-name basis with the frog(s) in your bathroom.

Lizards are a regular wall decoration in your home.

Six-foot iguanas sitting in the middle of the road or hanging out in the trees don’t even phase you.

You own a Mazda pick-up truck and think nothing of putting a few pieces of wood rail across the back and sides and using it to haul 2 horses.

Horses loose in a neighborhood are no cause for alarm.

You wake up at 3:00 am, 4:00am, 5:00 am and 6:00 am to a rooster crowing under your window.

You go to sleep with a thousand chirping coquis (tree frogs) as your lullaby.

You see a woman tying up her goat or cow outside a store while she goes in to get a few groceries.

You see not one, but several, older men riding 1-speed bicycles as their primary means of transportation, often pulling a cart full of cut grasses to take back for their horses.

You are on the beach and see a pack of dogs – all sizes and shapes – while you eat your picnic lunch, and all of them either stay away or come over closer with their tails wagging, looking for handouts.

You go to the airport and see people with their dogs INSIDE the airport waiting to greet relatives or friends getting off the plane.

You see a horse in a field and there’s an egret sitting on top of it while it’s grazing.

You use a weed whacker or machete as your primary means of “mowing the lawn” and as soon as you finish, it’s grown enough you need to start again.

Horses tied in empty river beds or alongside the road with a rope around their neck are a common sight.

You have to wait on a major highway while dozens of cattle cross it to move from one pasture to another.

You’re watching a hummingbird dart from one hibiscus plant to another while you hear a hawk’s cry as it soars over the cliff.

While you’re out snorkeling, you see sea turtles, reef squid, spotted eagle rays, thousands of different fish, eels, crabs, flounders, bristle worms, sea urchins, and maybe even a dolphin, nurse shark or a manatee.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Most perfect food?

This is what's left of a pizza empanada or fritura purchased from the food vendor at the cockfights in San Antonio. Basically it's pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese wrapped in a flour dough and then deep fried.

Deep fried pizza. Is there anything better than that?

Actually, it's not all that good. It should be much better than it is.

Cockfight in the streets of San Antonio

So I had to go to the post office in San Antonio. I'm cruising along until the main street through San Antonio is blocked off and has a tent in the middle of it. Que pasa?

Turns out there is a Saturday afternoon practice/training/demonstration cockfight in the middle of town.

I am in no way any kind of fan of any kind of animal - dogs, roosters, people - fighting. But I admit to a certain fascination with the culture of cockfighting. Why? Why do people do this? There was a sense of a community "fair" about this: families and children gathered around, everybody talking about the merits of this rooster or another, food vendors hawking empanadias and soft drinks and beer. One teenager rode up on a scooter with his wire cage draped over the handlebars and his fighting cock under his arm. (I am truly sorry I missed that picture!)

Cockfighting is a very old "sport." (I used the term guardedly.) For a long time it was quite pervasive in the islands all over the Caribbean. Louisiana was the last state in the US to outlaw cockfighting - and that was just in 2008. Now it's just underground instead of out in the open.

Cockfighting - and betting on cockfights - is still legal here in Puerto Rico. There is nothing underground about it here. I know people who make their living raising and fighting cocks. Part of the "demonstration" in San Antonio was to display and market fighting cocks to potential buyers.

We didn't actually get to see a cockfight, even a demonstration one. The fights weren't scheduled to start until 3:00 and we had to get back to open Ola Lola's. One of the things on my to-do list is to make a documentary abut this culture here on the island. Maybe I'll understand it better then.

Probably not.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shaken, not stirred

"I feel the earth move under my feet"

Last night we felt not one but three temblors/terremotos/earthquakes. According to the Puerto Rico Seismic network between 2:06 and 2:14 am, there were three quakes in the same area offshore in the Mona Passage about 10 miles west of Mayaquez. Mayaquez is about an hour drive south of us.

The two stronger quakes, magnitude 5.1 and 5.3 respectively, were in almost exactly the same spot about three minutes apart. We felt them shake the house enough to wake us up. I've looked around and I don't see any damage. So far nobody has reported any damage on Facebook.

Earthquakes are pretty common all around la isla. In fact there have been four more quakes in that same are of the Mona Passage since the three last night. We just don't feel most of them. Most are in the magnitude 2.1 - 3.2 range with occasional 4.+ "events." Most are offshore and fairly deep (10-40 km) deep in the earth's crust. But every now and then we get a surprise.

Last night was one of those times and one of those surprises.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crazy wind, waves and beach art

The wind and the waves have been crazy the past couple of days. We're used to strong trade winds but this has been wild even for us. So after all the surfing of the past two weeks, we've had a couple of days of weather-induced layoff.

We took Kennedy to the beach Thursday afternoon to see the big waves. Elaine wrote Kennedy's name in the sand just above the wave line.

Kennedy thought this was so cool she got a big stick and started drawing in the sand herself.

It was so much fun to watch her create her beach masterpiece. She has amazing talent and motor skills for such a little one.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A couple of good weeks for surfing

Tuesday was maybe the most fun day I've seen at Surfers Beach. It was certainly the busiest, most crowded. But there were so many good waves, there seemed to be plenty for everybody. I shot more pictures than I have in a long time. That's great, except for the time it takes to edit them. But I managed to condense nearly 500 down to just over 200 to post on the website.

Fun times, fun times! If I can't be diving myself, shooting pictures of surfers is my next favorite activity here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Party on the Lola Deck

Rique Colón, a popular local musician, made his debut on the Lola Deck last night. And yes, that is our own Dottie Griffin sittin' in on percussion. Dottie used to be in a band in Florida and she's been counting the hours 'til she could perform with Rique.

It was a great fun night with a wonderful - make that two wonderful - performers. Thanks To Rique for performing and to everyone who came out to party with us.

Friday, December 09, 2011

It's not all surf

Last night a great group of us gathered at One-Ten Thai to celebrated our friend Mary's birthday. A great group of people and a great dinner come together to celebrate a great lady!

Happy birthday, Mary, from all of us!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A two-session day

Yesterday was a two-session day. We got out to shoot both morning and sunset at Wilderness. It was nice to have the time to do that. We don't often get out twice a day so this was a special treat.

You can see all the best photos from both sessions on our website,


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

So much for diving

Well, that last dive appears to have been a one-shot deal for a while. For now, SURF'S UP!

Got some beautiful pictures at a sunset session at Wilderness yesterday. I love it when the light gets behind the wave and it glows like turquoise neon.

All the photos from this session are up on our website, Take a few minutes and check them out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scuba diving - finally!

Diving has just sucked here for a while. Between waves and windchop and rain flooding the ocean with mud from up in the mountains it's just been terrible. Yesterday I finally went diving for the first time since AUGUST! That's just wrong!

We were supposed to go on an extended dive trip to Bonaire in September, but Elaine's father's final illness and death cancelled that. So it has been a long dry (literally) spell. Hopefully, conditions will improve and we'll get get to dive more soon.

This French angelfish was surprised to see us at Natural.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Our friend Ana's son Luis with a turkey leg.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at our friend John's house with 30 or 40 (I lost count) family, friends and our extended Puerto Rican family. It was an afternoon filled with tons of love and sharing and of course tons of food.

We have so much to be grateful for in our lives. We are so happy we got to share the day with so many wonderful people. At the same time we missed our children, grandchildren, family and friends back in the States. The heart's ability to hold so many feelings - love and gratitude and joy for those you are with, the same love and gratitude and joy seasoned with the awareness of those you are not with - is truly wonderous.

We hope you all our absent family and friends had a joyous and wonder-filled Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fall colors on our beach

The fall colors on our beach may be courtesy of the Sargasso Sea, roughly 500 miles north of us. This brown seaweed is fairly common in beach drift and washes up on our beaches occasionally but this is the most we've seen at one time.

This is sargassum, a free-floating seaweed that covers the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The "sea" is formed by and the seaweed is held in place by ocean currents that make the Atlantic Sub-tropical Gyre. The same currents dump garbage in this area creating the North Atlantic Garbage Dump, similar to the Great Pacific Garbage Dump. There was a lot of plastic debris trapped in the sargassum washed up on our beach.

The sargassum piled up on the hightide surfline. Amber and Jazz had a great time nuzzling through all the amazing (to them I assume) smells. It was unusual, beautiful and strange (and fun) to think it may have escaped the gyre and floated to our beach.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy birthday, Robin!

We celebrated our friend Robin's birthday with a big ta-do at Mary George's villa at Villa Montaña - appropriate since Robin is the general manager of Villa Montaña. It was a night of fabulous food provided by Andy and Nastassia of OneTenThai restaurant, our second favorite restaurant on the island (after Ola Lola's of course).

The party had a Manchester United FC theme with everybody in red and black - except George and Andy who just had to come in Barcelona kit.

Robin didn't have any problems blowing out the candles on his ManU cake but it took a lot of convincing to get him to cut into it!

Happy birthday, Robin! We hope you're here with us for many many more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bodyboarders at Middles

The International Bodyboarders Association (IBA) brought a major international competition to Middles Beach this month.

Bodyboarders get kind of short shift from hard-board surfers but I gotta tell ya, these were some pretty amazing athletes. They took on a week of big, blown, gnarly waves at Middles, waves most surfers I know would look at and say, "Naw. Not today." There are several sets of pictures on our website,

We had the opportunity to meet three of the top women bodyboarders in the world - Catrina Sousa from Portugal, Eunate Aguirre from Spain and Karla Costa Taylor from Brazil. Thank you, ladies for sharing your evening with us.

We posted pictures from the Women's finals and Men's semifinals on our the PuertoRicoSurfPhoto website.

El Encanto Pro didn't generate the levels of excitement the Rip Curl Pro Search surf competition did at the same time last year. It was a great event with some really nice people. No word yet as to whether they will be back but we'd love to see them back again next year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thank you party

Just before Halloween we had a party to thank and introduce the people who made the new Ola Lola's possible. We were pleased and grateful that so many people were able to come. We did miss two key people though: David Pfaff, who did the original concept drawings and who's ideas permeate the new Ola Lola's, was at home in Carmel getting ready to celebrate his birthday on Halloween. And Elizabeth, who did so much to help us focus our thoughts into a concrete (or in this case wood) plan, was in St. Louis waiting for the birth of her daughter. Thank you to all who did come to the party. And thank you all for your help and support!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Congratulations, Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater may be the best surfer of all time and is definitely on of the greatest athletes in the world. The guy is from another planet. Last year here in Puerto Rico he won his record-setting 10th world championship title.

Yesterday in San Francisco he bested his own record by winning his 11th world title.

Congratulations, Kelly! Hope to see you back in PR soon!!!

BTW, this photo was taken of Kelly during a fun session at Backdoor (near Surfers Beach) last year after the conclusion of the competition.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sunset rainbow

The sun was already below the horizon. The last few rays of light were hitting high clouds to the east, turning them a beautiful sunset pink.

Somewhere in those clouds rain was falling, rain that never reached the ground but had to be there none-the-less.

In that confluence of the sun's last rays and sky-high rain there appeared a sunset rainbow. It was just a faint arc high in the sky. It didn't last very long, just a few minutes as the last bit of sunlight faded away. It sure was amazing while it lasted!

I've never seen anything quite like that before. I've seen sundogs - a complete halo around the sun caused by ice crystals in the air - and halos around the moon (same cause) but never an arc of a rainbow high in the sunset clouds.

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another rider in the family

Kennedy has been riding Chocolate almost since she moved to Puerto Rico. Originally she rode with her abuela Elaine but now she prefers the saddle to herself. And she likes to go fast! She prefers to ride on the beach (just like her abuela) but if the back pasture is all she can get, well, that's good enough.

Kennedy and Chocolate have a very special relationship. He knows when she's around. She can do just about anything around that horse and he just stands there, not moving, not even flicking his tail. When Kennedy was a bit smaller, she would run right underneath Chocolate's belly. (She still does it once in a while but she has to duck now.) She will run right up to him and hug his legs; he doesn't even flinch because he knows it's her, his little person. It truly is amazing and wonderful to watch those two together. It's gonna be even more fun as she grows up with him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corona Pro surf competition

This past weekend was the annual Coronal Pro surf competition at Middles Beach. For the firt time since I've been here, there were real actual honest-to-god waves!

There are so many other photographers at events like this, many of them "official," that I rarely bother shooting the actual surfers like I would on a non-contest day. I mean, who cares about just another shooter on the beach?

I prefer to give photographs of the event my own perspective, in this case a kite's-eye view. There were thousands of photos taken over the weekend. Many of them have been posted on websites all over. NO ONE else has photos of the event like this one. You can see more of the KAP (kite aerial photography) photos and a few surfer photos on our Flickr pages and on our website, Check 'em out and enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Rotten truths

Been away from here for a while. I could give you lots of reasons but they would mostly be excuses. (Someone wrote "if it's not important, you'll find excuses. If it is important, you'll find a way." I like that.)

The the rotten truth is, I just haven't felt motivated to write. I've been here almost five years now. I'm no longer a "traveler" on this end of Puerto Rico. A lot of the "newness" (if not the adventure) has worn off. I guess I'm projecting my feelings about that onto all of you who read this blog. How many times do you want to see a picture of Shacks Beach as I walk over the dune? I love that sight. It is one of my favorite places and sights in the world. Every time I walk over that dune (and I walk over it at least once a day just about every day) it is an oh-my-god moment for me. But are you tired of it yet?

Are you tired of pictures of reef squid? I'm not. They are endlessly fascinating to watch. But I get to see them live. Seeing photos over and over is just not the same.

There are still many adventures here, many special moments to share that might be interesting. Lately I've been caught up in the everyday minutiae of my own life and even I'm not all that interested in reading about it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our Angel

Somewhere in all the 9/11 and other hoopla, we kinda lost track that our granddaughter Angel started the first grade this month. There is a lot of her daddy in that beautiful face! Smart, angelic, with just a bit of devilment thrown in for spice.

Thanks, Steve, for sending us the pictures of Angel going off to school.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hurricane Katia

Fortunately, Hurricane Katia took a pretty hard right turn and passed us by. In her wake she left some great surfing, especially for this early in the season. I managed to catch a great morning session at Middles Beach. (Since then I've managed to be in the wrong place every time.)

Pro surfer Jamie O'Brien, normally a big-wave surfer from Hawaii, was catching huge air onLink the Middles waves. Local surfers were catching stand-up barrels. You can see all the best from this session on our web site, or a condensed set on Flickr.

I've heard Wilderness has been good the last two days so I'm going to head there to see if there's any early morning action.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Long before 9/11 became synonymous with horror and tragedy it was a date of celebration. The love of my life was born on this date.

She is my world. Her example, every day, makes me want to be a better person. Her joy and sometimes-silliness inspires me to laugh. Her humanity and love of others inspires me to care even more. Her love of family brings us and keeps us closer together. Being with her, sharing our lives together, has made me everything that I am.

So, while the rest of the country - and maybe the world - is remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I am celebrating, quietly, without her, because she is still with her family in Ohio. But celebrating none-the-less.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

old friends

The trip back to the States was of course about Elaine, her family, and celebrating her father's life. There was one happy personal sidebar for me though: we got to have lunch with two friends from my college days who live in northern Ohio. Given what our lives were like back then, it's a wonder we remembered each other. Once started, the memories just flowed. I had some great time with these guys.

Dan, Keith - I can't tell how great it was to see you guys. There's a whole long list of people I wish could have made our little mini-reunion (Ali, are you listening?).

Anyway, let's don't wait 35 years to meet again. Or if we do, let's hope we're all still here for it. And remember it!

Love you guys!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Of fathers

Elaine's father, Edwin "Ted" Kumler, died Friday. August 26. He suffered health issues for last two years or so. He just started with Hospice care when he passed away in his sleep.

Last September, part of our trip north for the kite festival in Milwaukee included time in Ohio spent with Ted. It was a good visit. Although we didn't know for sure it would be the last time we saw him, we knew it was a good possibility.

Ted was a big man, a dominating presence in his family. At various times he had a falling our with each of his four children. But Elaine's sister Amy and her family were close by and spent a lot of time with him. Elaine went north for a time to be with him and to give Amy a break from the constant care he required. Their brother Phil traveled back several times from his home in Oregon. As he put it, "X-number of dollars for plane fare, Y-number of hours traveling, reconnecting with my father - priceless!"

Rest in Peace, Ted. You are missed already.

As we gathered for the Ted's memorial and celebration, I realized a new month turned over while I wasn't looking. It suddenly occurred to me It was September 1, my father's birthday. He always joked his birth date was easy to remember - it was the date World War II started. (Hitler launched his military invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, my father's fifteenth birthday.)

My father was killed in an automobile accident in California in 1982. My brother-in-law Phil's comment about reconnecting with his father really struck home. I've always felt there was so much unfinished business between me and my father, so much that needed to be said and wasn't. And now there is no chance of it, at least not in this world. I am haunted, not so much by his ghost as by the knowledge of that unfinished business. Maybe that is his ghost.

Happy 87th birthday, Dad. I miss you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Huracan Irene

(Did you know our word "hurricane" comes from a Taino word, "huracan?")

We have weathered our first hurricane. Irene passed over us Sunday night and Monday morning. packing 75 mile an hour winds. Irene slammed into the east end of the island as a tropical storm but strengthened into a Cat 1 hurricane as she passed over the island.

We spent most of Sunday moving things, lashing stuff down so it wouldn't blow. Our efforts paid off because I can't see where anything blew except for some palm fronds from an 80-foot tall tree. The new bar came through it famously - no leaks, no damage. I'm sure glad we put the hurricane cables on the roof though.

For reasons we can't explain - but are forever grateful for - we did not lose electricity or water. Between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people - 25% of the island population - did lose electric power and water. Many still don't have it back as of today, Tuesday.

My biggest worry was rain and flooding. At one point they were predicting 10-20 inches of rain. Fortunately we didn't get anywhere near that much. In fact, we've gotten a lot more rain since Irene passed than we did as she went over, again unlike the eastern third of the island which got hammered.

We were incredibly fortunate. Irene veered north and skirted the Dominican Republic and quickly grew to a Cat 2 out over the open water. Predictions now are that she will be a Cat 3 going over the Bahamas and maybe Cat 4 by the time she slams into the U.S. East Coast. We hope our East Coast friend stay safe.

We're glad our first encounter with a hurricane wasn't any worse than this. With (lots of) luck we won't have another close encounter for a long time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vietnam Memorial

When we went to Washington, D.C., for the Manchester United-Barcelona match, we spent part of Saturday touring some of the memorials around the Mall. I finally got to see the Vietnam Memorial, to me the most moving, the most touching of the war memorials.

For one thing, this was "our" war. In many ways it defined my generation. It was the defining action of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, a presidency that should have been remembered for desegregation and efforts to combat poverty. The ignominious end of the war should have been the defining moment for the Nixon presidency but his later lunacy upstaged even that.

Partly the Vietnam memorial is the most moving, the most intense because it is the most personal. You cannot escape it. You cannot look away. All those names. Somewhere on that wally there is the name of someone you knew. A friend. A relative. A classmate. Those are real people. Other memorials with their statues, no matter how realistic the statues, are abstractions, representations. There is nothing abstract about the Vietnam memorial. These are the names of real sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters whose deaths left a hole in real families. The Wall never lets us forget that.

And The Wall never lets us escape our own responsibility, our own culpability, for the war. Our own faces reflected amongst the names of the dead in the polished marble surface puts us in the middle of the tragedy. Regardless of which side you were on - against it or for it - we were all part of the horror. We are all responsible for those names on the wall. There is no "us" and "them." There is only us.

Somehow we haven't seemed to learn that lesson. The horror continues only now it's in the desert instead of the jungle. And we are all still responsible.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The new Ola Lola's is open!

We celebrated three weeks of construction and remodeling last night when the "new" Ola Lola's opened. "Mas techo, mas seco" (more roof, more dry). Fortunately we didn't have to test the new roof. It was a beautiful evening. Both new decks got rave reviews from everyone but the locals on the new east deck (left in the picture above) are already talking expansion. The new bigger space inside the bar is amazing. Two of us worked in and out of there all night and didn't run into each other once. The new windows worked brilliantly - lots more window space so even when it was crowded people weren't standing shoulder to shoulder four deep trying to get a beer. The angle window in the front has morphed from being THE window to essentially a service window. It worked really really well.

I have to say, working the new space , besides all the extra room, the thing I like best is the new SINK! We now have a real honest-to-god three-compartment bar sink. It makes taking care of glassware so much easier.

We want a huge shout-out to the crew that made this happen:

Start with David Pfaff, golf course designer extraordinaire. It was his understanding and rendering of the vision of Ola Lola's that got all this started;

Elizabeth Prysgoda-Montgomery - She took David's ideas and put them on paper. She guided and focused our thinking and kept us on track as we designed Ola Lola's;

The Comacho brothers, Chino, Andre, Luis, Pedro, and Edwin - They took the design and made it the reality that is standing today. Everyone is amazed at how quickly the construction was completed. "This just doesn't happen in Puerto Rico" is a consistent comment. I amend that to "anywhere!" I've never seen a construction project go this smoothly and on time anywhere.

Our own crew, Rosa, Pichi, Dotti - Rosa knew of Comacho brothers and brought us together. We literally could not do this without them.

The ladies of TAFY Arts: Pat, Patti, Kelda, Rosie, Nan - Their creativity is one of the brightest shiniest parts of the new Ola Lola's. But that's a story for another day.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

TS Emily

Tropical Storm Emily passed about 150 miles or so south of la isla yesterday. Fortunately all we got was a little rain. And I really do mean a little. I didn't even have to pump out the yard or the corral. It's muddy but there is no standing water. Here's hoping she doesn't hit Haiti too hard. They just don't need anymore damage. The current track predictions take the storm mostly west of Haiti, across eastern Cuba and on to the Bahamas. That said, there is still quite a lot of rain in the system and we will be under the cloud cover extending out from the center at least through most of today.

Meanwhile work continues on the "new" Ola Lola's as we get ready for our "soft" reopening on Friday. There will be lots of details and little thing done to make it work for quite a while. For now, we are really happy with it!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Dude, where's my bar?

Over the past three weeks great changes have been wrought at Ola Lola's. We began making some long-needed updates.

We added a new deck next to the barport and a new deck east of the bar. We put a new roof over everything. Then we tore down the existing Ola Lola's structure and roof and built a new bar structure. There's lots of finish work to do but we will be open this weekend.

Next week we're building new bathrooms.

I say "we" like we're doing any of the actual work. Not so much. We have four great local guys, brothers actually, doing the work for us. They are awesome carpenters. No one can believe how quickly they are working, how fast they are getting things done. They are among the best workers I've ever seen anywhere. And they seem to enjoy their work; they are having fun. That makes the whole project more fun for us.

It seems like Ola Lola's is getting bigger but only a little bit. Our goal wasn't to expand, to get more seats, but to get more seats under roof so it's more comfortable when it rains. We also needed to widen the bar. The odd wedge shape made it very difficult to work in, especially for two people. There was very little storage space. Now the bar is wider with more windows and more space for barstools. It will be interesting to see how we and our guests use the space. (One thing I learned as a theater set designer is people never use a space exactly as you envisioned they will.)

The new space is beautiful, amazing, but still has all of the laid-back atmosphere and guerrilla architecture of the original. We can't wait to get in it and start welcoming guests.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Manchester United vs. Barcelona

Okay, I know I promised news days ago but things got a little out of hand. And then I left for Washington, D.C. to see Manchester United play FC Barcelona in a pre-season friendly. It was a rematch (of sorts) of last year's Champions' League final. This time ManU won.

I went for the weekend with two great friends and great soccer fans and we had a blast! It wasn't the best soccer match (nobody really expected a preseason match would be) but the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. Nearly 82,000 people in FedEx Stadium, the largest crowd ever to see a soccer match in the U.S.

We had a chance to visit some of the monuments on the National Mall but our sightseeing was cut short by the heat. Fortunately for us it cooled down - from 110 degrees on Friday to only 95 on Saturday.

It was a rush trip - we left Friday and came back Sunday - but we had a fabulous time. Most likely the only time I will ever get to see either of those teams play live.

More news tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

So where we been this time?

Ah, that is a question, a question for tomorrow.

Today is about KAP. I missed World Wide KAP Week in May. I missed KAPping a beach on the 4th of July. I was determined to KAP Jobos beach this weekend.

Today (July 25) is Constitution Day here in PR. (We don't have an Independence Day; this is the next best thing.) Constitution Day weekend is the last big summer party weekend before school starts in August. Beaches are packed, roads are jammed. (We celebrate Labor Day as a holiday but it's not as big a deal here as it is in the States.)

This is Playa Jobos at about 1:30 in the afternoon. It's not as crazy as on the 4th of July but still pretty packed. It was crazy enough that by the time I left about 2:00 the police closed the road through Jobos and routed all the traffic up the hill and over the top through Isabela pueblo.

This was my first KAP session in four months and it was wild and crazy. Lots of curious people around, the kite and KAP rig swinging wildly in the 20+ knot gusty winds. It was the maiden flight for my "new" KAP camera, a Canon A3300 I got to replace the A640 camera that was stolen. All things considered it acquitted itself very well. Looking forward to many more KAP sessions with it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Night snorkel

A tiny sliver of moon hung in the southwest sky as we walked down the beach. The last of the setting sun was hidden behind a low cloud bank on the horizon. Still, there was still plenty of light to see our way.

We slipped into the surprisingly cool ocean, put on masks, snorkels and fins and headed across the sand-bottom pool to the reef. In the not-quite-dark we didn't turn on our dive lights, preferring to see at what might be there in the dusk, things that the sudden bright light might scare away.

The reef, so familiar in the daylight, is a completely different world at night. Different creatures are out and familiar creatures behave differently. Sea urchins move across the reef rather than anchoring like barnacles in crevices in the coral. Ocean surgeonfish and blue tang, disturbed from their sleep, dart away from the light, faster than we ever see them swim in the daylight.

The reef itself looks different, brought in to sharp relief of light and shadow by the small, highly directional dive lights. Familiar coral formations look radically different and totally unfamiliar. Because our visibility is limited to the range of our dive lights, we tend to look at the underwater world in micro rather than macro. We shine our lights into cracks and holes and crevices in the reef that we might not even notice in daylight. Brittle starfishes and octopuses are more visible in their holes at night because colors show differently, brighter, under the artificial light of the dive lights.

We don't get to night snorkel often but we love it when we do. The July full moon is on the 15th (Saturday when Ola Lola's is open) so it will be nearly full on the 14th (Thursday) and the 18th (Tuesday). Hopefully the skies will be clear and we can get in the water then.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Fourth of July

This was our fifth Fourth in Puerto Rico. In past years I've gone out on the holiday to KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) the crowds on a near-by beach. I didn't make it this year.

Saturday and Sunday the weather was crappy - cloudy, gusty winds, and small crowds on the beaches. That's good for the beaches but not for KAPping. Monday, the Fourth, was a beautiful day but after running some errands, I chose to snorkel into Blue Hole on a rumor a manatee might be there. Then we hung out on the beach with with Kai, Amy and Miguel. (Kennedy is away visiting her other grandparents in Michigan.) Then of course Ola Lola's was open in the afternoon and evening.

I missed KAPping but we had a great day.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Happy birthday, Kennedy

Our little beach girl is FOUR! Happy birthday, Boo!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another yola on the beach

We woke up Sunday morning to the racket of a helicopter hovering just outside our window. Actually it was over the field next to us but it sounded like it was right outside our window. Obviously a police helicopter, it hovered and circled the field and flew up and down the beach for more than an hour searching for something. Or someone.

A yola (a small boat) had landed on our beach during the night and the police and Border Patrol were looking for Dominican refugees. By the time I walked down to the beach any refugees were long gone. Only a few Border Patrol agents and the helicopter remained.

The boat apparently came ashore at high tide because there it sat, high and dry on the rocks. Unlike many of these boats, this one was in good shape. No holes in the hull meant it came over rather than through the reef.

This was a pretty small boat compared to some of the others we've seen. We haven't heard any numbers of people that might have been on board but it couldn't have been too many. Judging by the amount of gasoline left in plastic cans on the boat it must have been a pretty fast crossing.

There also wasn't the usual debris - clothes, water containers, toothbrushes, shoes, children's toys, backpacks - we saw when other boats landed. That said, a friend who owns property by the cliff said he found clothes left behind as the boat people ran up the hill away from the beach.

Monday evening the tide came in and lifted to boat free of the rocks. At Ola Lola's we heard the boat was drifting west with the wind and current past VillaTropical. We don't know if a fisherman managed to snag it and haul it away or if it drifted out to sea past Villa Montaña. Whatever happened to it, by Monday morning it was gone.

No yola to burn on the beach. No yola left to break up on the beach and rocks and reef. No pieces of fiberglass stuck in the reef. The yola and all the people it vanished.

It was like yola had never been there at all.