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.