Sunday, January 28, 2018

Maria log day 20 October 11, 2017, Wednesday,

Wednesday, October 11, Day 20

6:30 am - #23 in line at Banco Popular's branch at Ramey. This is the bomb! The line is short and they open at 8:00 am.

9:00 am - Wow! I got money and drove down the rode to get gas, all by 9:00 am!

Evening - What a day! First tgetting money and gas in record time (it would be hard to beat that in "normal" times). Elaine was out running errands and came home with chicken from the Chicken Guy on carr. 107. His is far and away the best side-of-the-road chicken anywhere. What a  treat! It's another sign that life is returning to the west coast.

When I drove into our parking area, I saw that some truck had run across the edge of the yard and squished mud back into the little rain gutter. I thought, "Now I have to shovel that out. AGAIN!" Then I realized the whole big pile of trash was gone. The truck tire marks were from the trash truck.

The trash guys' instructions were to take household waste only, not hurricane debris. While the guy explained this to Elaine, he and his partner picked up a broken wheelbarrow full of soggy moldy books and through them on the truck. They took everything!

Again, we just have huge gratitude. And if I have to shovel out the gutter - AGAIN! - okay, I can do that.

We ventured out to Walmart hoping to find a few things. Ummm - not so much. While we were in the store, the daily vaguada hit so we stood under the portico and ate ice cream.

Our day ended as so many do lately with dinner with Rolf and Carole. We're doing fine at home without electricity but it is nice to have light to to cook by. Thank you, again, Jeremy, for you generator!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Maria log day 19 October 10, 2017, Tuesday, Maria log day 19

Tuesday, October 10, Day 19

"If it keeps on rainin'/the levy's going to break" - Led Zepplin

We didn't flood today - thanks in part to the owners of Villa Montana. They hired a digger (backhoe/front end loader0 to clear the debris from under the bridge. But boy, did it rain!

When it started raining Sunday, we ran around putting buckets, trash cans and tubs under every drip we could find. Within minutes everything was full.

When today's vaguada (the local word for "fuckin' bucketin' heavy rain") hit, we just hoped it would stop. It has now been raining for five hours straight. Not hard al the time, but raining.

There is real fear the levy - in this case the  Guajataca Dam - will break. That's the dam "they" are trying to fix so se can get water back. All this rain cannot help.

Can I say one - 100 - 1,000 - one million times haw grateful we are that our horses are where they are. So far, we've had water for them. As the water crisis continues, keeping water for them is our primary concern. The family of one of our veterinarians, who is also a good friend, has a dairy farm. They have a well. He told us we can have all the water we need. And if we can't come get it, he'll bring it to us. Here's hoping it doesn't come to that.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Maria log day 18 October 9, 2017, musings

Monday, October 9 -

So many people are leaving the island. Some just can take the post-hurricane conditions. Some can work remotely for anywhere there is electricity and Internet access. Some companies are sending employees to the mainland to work. Some people with children are afraid the kids will miss a whole year of school. Many private schools are opening this week with limited hours. There are reports that public schools won't open until January.

Spirit and JetBlue are running daily "humanitarian" flights to the mainland out of BQN (our local airport). those flights are full every day, with people waiting to get on. I assume similar flights are going out of San Juan as well.

It's hard to see so many people leave. Some will be back; others won't. A lot depends on how much and how soon the island rebounds. The economy wasn't great before. Now it will be worse. The Puerto Rico Tourism company was crappy before Maria. I don't believe they are any better prepared to handle the disaster than any other PR government department is.

People are feeling isolated. Communication with the outside world is still meager and spotty. Even though gas is available, it is still difficult to get around to see others. People are lonely, bored.

I'm certainly not judging anyone who decides to leave. Everyone must make that decision for him-herself.

A dear friend sent us a message: "So glad to hear you're okay. Now come back to the mainland." We've thought about and talked about leaving. We've decided to stay. This is our home now. Things will get better. We're staying.

Another take on the the whole aid and assistance issue: A friend of ours is volunteering for FEMA. He told us they are spending a lot of time in the mountains in the center of the island. "As bad as things are here," he said, "multiply that by 10 or 20." Three weeks on and they are still pulling people out of storm-wrecked houses. It is much poorer with more wooden houses and structures in the mountains. It's hard to image how bad it is.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Maria log day 18 October 9 , 2017, Monday, SSDD

Sunday, October 9, Day 18

SSDD - Same shit, different day, literally!

It hasn't rained in a couple of days. The rain catcher buckets were getting low. We all hope for a little rain.

Be careful what you wish for! We wanted a little - un poco! - rain. We got a lot. Enough that we had another little flood. Just a little one. But it was enough to bring all the stinky manure-infused mud back up in the barport. I spent the morning shoveling the same shit and debis that I've shoveled at least twice before.

This little flood was different. The river upstream was fine. The dune at the end of the river by the ocean was open. The wind was out of the south so the little waves didn't hold the water back.

No. The debris piled up under the bridge that crosses the river back to Tropical Trailrides and Villa Montana created a dam. Several of us have talked about this problem. DNRA (the Department of Natural Resources) is "supposed" to come clear the debris.

Yeah. Right. "They" are "supposed" to get the water back on. "They" are "supposed"to pickup the trash. FEMA is "supposed" to be here. I don't have a lot of faith in "they are supposed to."

The really aggravating part is DTOP (the Department of Transportation) had a backhoe and a crew here two weeks ago cleaning debris from under the "big" bridge on carr. 4466. They could have come down and cleared the little bridge in about half-an-hour. That wasn't in their work order.

Some time this week I'll try to organize a work party to start clearing the bridge.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Maria log day 17 October 8, 2017, Sunday

Sunday, October 8 Day 17

We decided  to do a bit  of exploring and check out the beaches at Punto Boriquen and especially  Crashboat.

HOLY CRAP! I've never seen so many cars on carr. 110 and 107!

The line of cars on carr. 110 extended from the corner at 107 at the golf course all the way back past the airport terminal. I don't know were the line on 107 started but it was solid past 110 and the golf course.

We madit to Punta Borinquen but decided that was a s far as we were going. (Crashboat is another 3-4 miles past Punta Borinquen.)

Much of the vegetation is stripped away on the road down to Borinquen but the beach itself is not bad.

Maria stripped a lot of vegetation off the cliff face but I'm okay with that. I like seeing the cliff. It looks more like Pictured Rock on the Michigan coast of Lake Superior.

The Marine Corps has set up a desalinization plant on the beach at Borinquen. It uses a bunch of little generators but it's very cool. We were told it creates four gallons of fresh water from sea water every minute. Apparently they are using it for showers for all the helicopter pilots flying around.

From Borinquen we went on to the lighthouse ruins. We were told earlier that this famous landmark was destroyed by Maria. We're happy to report the demise of the ruins was greatly exaggerated.

One corne3r of the front wall was knocked down but the rest of the wall and the side wall are still there.

There is tape around the rubble and a sign asking people not to take souvenirs. There are plans to rebuild the wall.

Maria log day 16 October 7, 2017, Saturday

Saturday, October 7, 2017, Day 16

At least in our area, things are beginning to settle down to - not "normal" but something. What is "normal" now. Every day brings a new definition of "normal" as one crisis fades and folds in to the next.

The gas crisis seems to be over. The long lines and armed military guards are gone. We can drive right up to the pump and get as much gas as we can pay for. More bank branches are opening, slowly easing the cash crunch. For availability - especially fresh food and vegetables - is still an issue. Communication is slim-to-none, although I was able to talk to our #2 son Steve on a borrowed cell phone over a shaky unstable Wi-fi network. (That was today's Best Moment.)

The latest crisis for horse owners is feed grain. We are so fortunate (AGAIN!) to have our horses in such a wonderful place. We just fenced and opened one new pasture and we have three more available when we can get the materials. Some horse owners, in fact most, don't have that luxury. They are completely dependent on grain and hay, neither of which is available.

The other issue for the horses is shade. Most of the trees are stripped bare. They are beginning to bud and leaf out but for now there is no shade. Fortunately it is October. The days are shorter and the evenings cooler. Midday however is still brutal.

Water, or the lack thereof is still an issue. the latest rumor is the Guajataca Dam will be fixed and water back on either Monday or in two weeks. Place your bets here.

Maria log day 15 October 6, 2017, Friday

Friday, October 6 Day 15

DO NOT believe anything the twit-in-chief or any of his minion twits say about Puerto Rico. Everything I've seen from them - which is  admittedly thankfully very little - has been an outright lie.

This is NOT a "good news story" as the twit's director of Homeland Security said. Puerto Rico is NOT "doing just fine." FEMA is NOT doing "a great job." Stacks of containers or food and other necessities are sitting in the port in San Juan and haven't been released by the Feds. Through a combination of bureaucracy, ineptitude and inter-governmental bickering and turf protection, pallets of relief supplies are sitting on the tarmac - on the tarmac! - at the San Juan airport because all storage space is full. None of it has been moved or released.

This is NOT a "good news story" either for Puerto Rico of for the U.S. People are dying because they can get medical aid.or supplies.or food or water. Do not believe the twit!

Best moment: We fenced in another acre for the horses today. Tha makes us all fell better. It took a while in the heat but we got it done. They now have new green pasture to graze in. We can let at least one of the fields "rest" for a few days.

Our fences are becoming more Puerto Rican. Right now we can't get T-posts - Home Depot stores are closed, we don't have the cash and credit and debit card systems are down and who wants to use the gas to drive to Mayaguez or Hatillo?

There are fence posts lying along the side of every street and road, free for the taking  All it takes is a little creative work with a chain saw. About half of the fence posts in the new pasture are cut from the side of the road.

Second best moment: When we got home, Elaine made Ola Lola's bean dip for lunch. We stopped a the gas station anon the way home and got 6 cold Medallas. What a treat!

Latest water rumor: the damage to the Guajataca Dam wasn't as bad as they initially thought. The hope to have repairs don today or by the first of the week. Then everybody is supposed to get water. Still no water tonight though.

Sty tuned.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Maria log day 14 October 5, 2017, Thursday

Thursday, October 5, 2017

We've all said at some time, "I guess you had to be there."

I have much greater empathy for veterans who don't talk about their experiences. I don't mean or pretend to equate what we're going through with being in a war zone. No one is shooting at us; we're not afraid of running over bombs (just holes in the road that look like they were made by bombs). We are not expected to shoot anyone else.

Part of why it's hard for vets to talk about their experiences is - if you weren't there, you can't understand it. You can hear the stories but can't truly share the memories or the feelings or the emotions.

That part is true here also. If you're not here, you cannot truly understand our day-to-day, hour-to-hour lives. Even as I write about waiting in line 11 hours in the sun or the rain for a gas truck that didn't come, I know that what I write is both true - and false. I cannot truly share the meeting people, the conversations, the jokes, the rumors, the shared bottles of water and the illegal beers, how the gas station became the community center.

Something I have come to deeply appreciate is the sign from World War II in the London Underground: "Keep Calm and Carry On." I got it on an intellectual level before, but now I get it on a visceral level. That's really all you can do: keep calm and carry on. 

I hope as I write I can give you a sense of what it's like to be here but I know that, no matter how much you really want to or how much I want you to, you cannot truly understand unless you're here and part of it.

I will keep trying. I hope you will too.

Maria log day 13 October 4, 2017, Wednesday, Evening

Wednesday, October 4, 2017, Day 13, Evening

We had dinner with St. Jeremy and Carole and Rolf tonight. Jeremy let us use hie phone to call our daughter Amy. Amy in turn put us on a conference call with our oldest son John. I got to talk to him  just briefly because the call kept dropping. I got to talk with him, to hear his voice!

BM - Before Maria - Amy and the whole family planned to come to PR next week for a little vacation. Between Irma and Maria, that wasn't possible. After Maria, Amy insisted she was coming anyway to help and to bring "stuff."

One of the reasons I really wanted to talk to her was to convince her not to come. With FedEx and the Post Office now working again, there was no reason for her to come to bring "stuff." Fortunately, I didn't have to convince her. She'd decided on her own not to come.

When Elaine and I talked about Amy's coming I realized there were three reasons I wanted her to come: 1) to see her; 2) she is a project manager and we could use her skills to help us (although she'd lose her shit when she saw how things were being managed here; )3 so she could see how things really are here, so her long-distance project management would from the ground and not the nightly news and the twit's tweets.

We don't see much news here but pretty much everything we hear about what is being reported in the States is wrong.

Maria log day 13 Ocotober 4, 2017, Wednesday In line for...

Wednesday, October 4 Day 13

6 am - In line for...Money.

Cash is the next great crisis. The ATM and credit card network  (there is only one, owned by Banco Popular; all other banks and merchants use that network.) is down of course. Only one Banco Popular branch - the one at the Aguadilla Mall - is "open." The lines to use the ATM are as much as 13 hours long. One other bank, 1st Bank, has one branch open and has a working ATM.

Becuause the network is down, everything is "Cash Only." You can get as much gas as you want - if you have cash. There is food - if you have cash. No water to buy though, no matter how much cash you have.

Or Clorox. No one has Clorox.

So I;m in line for the ATM at 1st Bank. If that doesn't work, I'll head down the road to get in the Banco Popular line.

9:15 am - 1st Bank's ATM uses the Claro (the Puerto Rico Telephone Company) data system. Claro's cell system has been working - the only one that has - but thier data system has been down for a couple of days and is still down. No ATM at 1st Bank today. Off to get in line at Banco Popular.


4:00 pm - It took six hours of standing n line, but I have cash. Someone said that by the time I got there around 9:30 there were a thousand people in line. I don't know if that's accurate, but I don't doubt it; there were a lot of people

Banco Popular is much maligned, and for the most part deservedly so. But they have this down pat. The long single line starts in the road in front of the mall parking garage, runs almost to the Banco Popular entrance, then turns back and runs along the side of the mall to the end of the parking garage, crosses the road, and then runs back through the length of the parking garage back acroass the road to Banco Popular. By the bank entrance they split the line in two, one for BP customers, one for OBCs (Other Bank Customers) to use the ATMs. There are two ATMs, each with a BP employee. She (almost every BP employee I saw was female) inserts your card, punches the buttons, asks you how much money you want (up to either $500 or your balance), you enter your pin number, money comes out. Thank you. Next! It is as fast and efficient as it can be.

A note on the U.S. military: supposedly they are here to help with relief efforts. They may be doing a lot more elsewhere but here, in our area, I've only seen them guarding the lines at gas stations and now at the bank.

We have seen them participate in zero relief efforts. One local restaurant, owned by a Norte Americano, a "mainlander,"  posted a sign "Free Food for Active Military." I'm all for supporting the military. Assuming they are helping other areas of the island, we appreciate their presence and their assistance. The "free food" sign ticked me off a little. The active military on the island have food. They have supplies. As I wrote earlier, the Coast Guard PX was commandeered for active military only. Why not have a "free food for the neighborhood" night? Have a get together, maybe host a potluck for those nearby who were hit hard by the hurricane. Invite the military if you want. But why give to those who already have rather than to those who really need? I don't get it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Maria log day 12 October 3, 2017, Tuesday

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, Day 12

Happy Birthday to our oldest son, John David.  Somehow, Elaine managed to get a birthday message through to him.

John David and his wife Carrie love cats. Which is a perfect segue in to talking about our cat, Mylo. I've written about the dongs and a lot about the horses but nothing about Mylo. Time to change that.

Mylo rode out the hurricane at home. We left food and water for her, figuring she would find shelter. She's mostly an outdoor cat and has never been litter box trained. Taking her to a strange house and keeping her cooped up just seemed cruel.

Apparently, she did find shelter because she weathered it fine. Well, maybe a bit traumatized. She's never been a particularly affectionate cat - except when she wants to be fed. Even then she's more demanding than affectionate.

She was really happy to see us when we got home. Now she sleeps with us every night. She waits for us to settle in then jumps up on the bed between us. The first night was really surprising: I rolled over to snuggle with Elaine and got a face full of cat fur. I could make a crude joke here but I won't.

Evening - It looks like the water shut-off rumor is correct. Our water is off now.

We finally screwed up our courage and walked through the downed trees and debris to the beach. It' possible - not good, but possible.

The beautiful curved palm tree by the entrance to the beach finally gave it up. It was undercut so badly it finally fell. So did many others.


Anyone who wonders why we need to protect the dunes should see our beach. It looks like the dune was sliced off with a giant machete. Instead of a rounded dune it is a cliff. Whatever Irma did take, Maria did.

But the dune held - again. I hope we don't have any more big-wave storms for a while. I don't know how much more the dune can take. It's barely October. Wave-and-surf season hasn't even started yet.

UPDATE: The twit-in-chief did come to the island. Beyond antagonizing local politicians his main contribution was playing football with rolls of paper towels at a church gathering.

And there is no martial law.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Maria log day 11 October 2, 2017, Monday

Monday, October 2, 2017

The gas situation is improving. Gas deliveries seem better, more reliable. There are still lines, but they are not as long. We heard that initially the problems with getting gas supplies from San Juan were because of damage and downed poles, lines and trees along the highways between here and San Juan, Truckers were reluctant to drive through the obstacles. We also heard rumors of attempted hijacking of gas trucks on the road but there was never any confirmation of that happening.

There were many reports early on when gas was impossible to get of people having their gas tanks punctured with ice picks to drain off the gas.

We still have water so it hasn't been shut off - yet. The new totally opposite rumor is "they" have built a new earthen dam and a new canal. According to the rumor, that new source is coming online today. More people, not fewer, should have water. We're hoping that version of that rumor is true.

There is also a rumor that the twit-in-chief is coming to the island. If I thought his visit would make any difference in his point of view, I would be okay with it. He has his own myopic unchanging incorrect view of the island. I don't think his coming here is going to make any difference in either aid to the island or his view of the island. I just keep thinking of al the scarce resources - water, police, time, etc. - this is gong to suck up. All those resources could be put to much better use. .

There are stories of containers stacked on containers of aid supplies on the docks in San Juan that haven't been released because of political bickering between the Puerto Rican and U.S. government agencies - FEMA, the Army, etc. There is also a rumor that V.P. Pence met with PR officials and gave them until today to come up with a contingency recovery plan. The story goes on to say if Pence isn't satisfied with the plan, martial law will be declared and the whole island federalized  Under other circumstances, that might not be a bad thing. I just don't trust the cheeto-in-chief.

Like everything else, we'll see.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Maria log day 10 October 1, 2017, Sunday

I did not stand in line all day for gas today. Late afternoon Elaine came home and told me the lines were short at the same gas station I waited in line 22 hours over two days to not get gas. We've been only driving the smelly gas-leaking car because the truck is out of gas. With the long lines and the limits on how much gas one could get it didn't make any sense to take it it out. I would get just enough gas to get back to the end of the line and start over. I decided to take a chance the line would still be short and headed out.

Oh, my! I was first in line on my side. There were no limits so I filled up the truck and filled a five-gallon can. Start to finish, 45 minutes.

We saw Marie and her husband Rafy this morning. There is a rumor of some sort of "civil unrest" up on the base Monday or Tuesday. Apparently the have-nots are getting upset by the "haves" - in this case the Coast Guard, military and police. They have access to things the rest of us don't, like line cuts at gas stations, unlimited bottled water, the PX has been "commandeered" for active duty military, etc. Here's hoping that all comes to naught.

We took a walk around our neighborhood today.

Bits of green buds are starting to appear.

 The road to the beach.

Our neighbor's house. It's hard to tell but most of the roof is gone. The inside of the house is destroyed. 

 It is interesting what stayed and what went. This glass-enclosed stairway is intact,

as are these rentals near the beach. One of them has glass railings. But another house a few feet away was leveled.

Eclipse Restaurant at Villa MontaƱa was heavily damaged.