Friday, March 27, 2015

The Photo Bin - March 2015

And so it ends, this glut of posts, this daily barrage from the islands. Truth be told, it's been a very deliberate effort to kickstart my sputtering creative engine and to get myself back on the writing road. I hope you haven't minded the onslaught. But enough is enough, even for me, so let's close this adventure out with this month's photo bin.

Above, Paul does his morning meditation and stretching on the ground floor of our small San Juan rental. Photography is all about light and this hour's was amazing. Add the tranquility of Paul's quiet reflection and this shot speaks to me of nothing less than a solitary peace - broken only by some idiot snapping pictures in the back.

Outside was another matter. Bright colors and busy signs, augmented with interesting stickerage, bring an energy and quirky potential to this place, this Old San Juan, even first thing in the morning.

The same is true on Culebra and, I suppose, a great deal of this part of the world. There's a playfulness in the palates and materials used that doesn't dim with age. Quite the opposite, it's enhanced.

A shot, here, of how we spent many of our evenings. A quiet dinner on the deck overlooking the bay. Good friends, good food, good times. Not missing the snow in the least.

This trip was not about fishing. It was about spending some good island time with Mary and friends. But just so I don't totally lose my fishing blog status, I did wet a line on a morning or two. Pricked a few bonefish, stalked some tailing permit (picky bastards), and chased a pod of jack crevalle all over Fulladoza's north shore. Had too much fun (and frustration) to take many pictures, but I must say an enthusiastic thank you to the island's guide, Chris Goldmark, for a fine time and his excellent direction while on Culebra. He knows where they are and he knows how to catch them.

I hope that the winds settled down for you, my friend. They usually do once I'm gone.

But in time you look forward to home. A small plane jump from the island. An octet of us, strategically seated for the best weight distribution. Mary sat in the front, lucky girl, while my back row companion provided the perfect silhouette. She was flying home to Boston after a week in the sun so you can pretty well guess what's going on under that hat of hers.

Finally, I can't close the book on this excursion without a monstrous thanks to our good neighbors, friends, and traveling companions, Alicia and Paul. It was their impetus to take the trip and the push that Mary and I needed to step out of our norms. Their knowledge of the island and the landscape helped make it the joy that it was and we're blessed to have such good folks in our everyday lives.

Thanks, guys. The trip was spectacular.

And the mojitos weren't bad either.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Short Skirts and Trade Winds

Excerpts from a new journal:

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 (First entry):

Starting a journal is a tricky thing. The inclination is to begin at a beginning; the first of a year, a birthday, or some significant milestone in one’s life from which the subsequent narrative may be launched. An anchorage. En media res seems unsuited for such auspicious commencements.

But here we are, nonetheless, right in the middle.

We’re here in the middle because my old journal's disappeared, lost in the machinations of luggage and travel and displacement. My personal history, scribblings accumulated over much of the past decade, has somehow been misplaced, much like the years themselves, and I find myself without written context. My literary moorings unstuck.

But starting anew, in the middle of things, is not without benefit. Instead of a life event anchoring a new journal, let a new journal anchor a life. Write a new story, set a new tone in the narrative, change the language of my existance. For what’s done is done and there’s no recourse but to move forward, lessons learned or no.

Put the old book behind, forget it, and begin to write a new reality.

Monday, March 2nd, 2015:

New Spanish words of the day:
hielo - ice
luvia - rain
la quenta - the bill
Si, cariño - Yes, dear (very important)

Wedensday, March 4th, 2015:

Working on kicking my Mt. Dew addiction. I have a little Coca Cola as my morning coffee, water during the day, and piña coladas at night. Not sure that latter is the right direction, but what the hell. I worry, though, that if I'm successful here, I'll be returning home where there are three six-packs of 16oz bottles and a couple of loose ones in the fridge, ready to test my newfound resolve.

The fact that I know exactly how many await is disturbing.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015:

Up early to get into town to take some pictures during the morning golden hour. But early also means morning shadows, a particularly interesting shade. Not dark or foreboding or rife with dangerous possibilities, but sluggish and sadly shabby. Corners put aside and forgotten, neglected, left to age. Places left without possibilities, unchanging, and sliding unnoticed during the day towards darker times.

Friday, March 6th, 2015:

Short skirts and trade winds. Such a delightful combination.

Saturday, March 7th, 2015:

I wonder, as this vacation enters its last couple days, how to return and not fall into the same old patterns. How to take some of this serenity, some of this quiet inspiration, and use it to beat back the routine. Yet, at the same time, I look forward to the familiar and natural rhythms of home; the comfort. So how do I reconcile this contradiction? I suppose I could look at my everyday habits with the eyes of the tourist, to examine and appreciate them as if seeing them for the first time. I wonder if that changes anything...

Sunday, March 8th, 2015:

...or if the patterns are established because they are right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The deadbolts in the place are installed upside-down. Considering that they act as both door latch and handle, each opening and closing takes some thought. Some mental reorientation. Some conscious override of a lifetime of repetition and acquired muscle memory. Clock-wise is close, counter is open, unlike everywhere else. Everywhere else, that is, to the north.

Things change as you move into the tropics. The physics of objects get nebulous and conventions get slippery. Hot is cold and cold is hot in the bathroom sink and broil and bake are somehow reversed in the toaster oven. Here and there, odd things turn around. Thank God there’s no ground plugs in the electrical outlets, no forced right way in the wiring, or some things might simply not work.

But experience tells me that that’s just about right for this latitude. That as you draw near the equator, the rules get erratic. More is different and nonstandard. More is unpretentiously whatever. And it’s not all mechanical or angle of sun or direction of spin in the toilet. It’s the essence of things. The clock slows down and calendar speeds up (if you happen to worry with such things around here). What was important is no longer.

Does it continue towards chaos as you sail further south? Does this inversion of norms become a toss-up at the equator? And, once crossed, will things begin to stabilize, 180-out, as you move towards the opposite pole? When you cross the earth’s midpoint does your stomach turn over, black become white, and white fade to black?

Will all this weight that I carry turn to blissful relief? How nice that would be.

The deadbolts in the place are installed upside-down. But I’m getting used to them now. I just don't think too hard, turn them both ways, and open the door only when the time seems right.

And I’m feeling lighter by the day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Storming the Beaches

Storming Flamenco Beach

A week of posts from Culebra and not a single beach picture? That just ain't right.

Flamenco. Tamarindo. Melones. Punta Soldado. Zoni. A dozen others, small and remote, accessible by a little jungle hiking, a bit of sailing, or a healthy paddle. Wide white sands and rugged, rocky shores. It's all here. It's all beautiful.

Even the remnants of the Navy's practice bombing grounds add a little interest when appropriately decommissioned and decorated.

Not a single beach picture? Well, let's fix that.

Zoni Was Crowded Today

Looking Out Towards Culabrita and the Virgins

Soldado's South Point

Sunrise on Fulladoza

Sunset on Soldado

My Favorite Beachcomber

We stormed the beaches, met little resistance, and were victorious. We had them all to ourselves. Winter never had a chance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Drawbridge

Here’s the story as it was told to me.

The drawbridge was constructed to connect the two land masses that make up Culebra, joining the north and the south of road 250 as it passes through town. It’s a short span, sixty feet or so, and unique in that, rather than tilting the roadway or pivoting it to parallel the canal, it uses four massive counterweights to lift the entire span straight into the air like some asphalt flying carpet. It’s ingenious, or so it would seem.

It was inaugurated (year unknown to the storyteller) with great fanfare, the island’s population gathering to witness the marvel, and during the ceremonies was raised for the first time to great jubilation - cheers all around for the floating roadway - until it refused to return from its lofty perch.

It remained suspended for months after “the opening” (which no doubt ruined a good party - or, just as likely, extended it) before the engineers were able to unstick the mechanisms and lower the span; never to raise it again. It remains a drawbridge in name alone, having opened but the once. Not much has been said about it since.

True? I don’t know. But it makes a fine tale so my efforts to confirm the report have been lax and half-hearted. And I honestly don’t recall who gave me the lowdown. The recollection’s as muddled as a mojito mint leaf. But I will testify, hand to heart, that during our ten days on the island we never saw it raised nor witnessed any activity or indication that such expectations existed, though we crossed it many times.

So if, by chance, you are able to verify this history, or debunk it, please keep it to yourself. I’m quite happy with this nebulous knowledge. If it’s not true then it should be and the slippery credibility in narrative suits me just fine. After all, facts are overrated, don’t you think?

But a really good story isn’t.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Aboard the "Know Mad"

As luck would have it, Capt'n Richard and First Mate Dan had the forty-foot Know Mad out stretching her sails around the Virgin Islands at the same time we arrived in Culebra. It's one thing to enjoy the beaches on the "mainland" but another entirely to get out to the lush green islands that dot the horizon. Miles of white sands and Caribbean jungle to one's self with a beautiful ride in between.

Our profound thanks go out to the boys for a wonderful couple of days, both on the water and ashore.

There are good ships and wood ships, and ships that sail the seas.
But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be.

Keep the dry side up, gentlemen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Changes in Plan

After a long, hard day of sun, sand, and snorkling around, we hatched an ambitious plan. We'd swing by Zaco's Tacos for a blended mojito, hit the small island grocery for a few basic supplies, then wander on down to Soldado Beach to catch the Caribbean sunset.

Yes. That would work.

First step accomplished, no problem. But after the refreshment we reassessed and agreed to a modification of the plan. We'd, instead, swing by the Dinghy Dock for a second drink, skip the grocery, and catch the sunset at Soldado, last minute.

Yes. That would work.

Second libation consumed, and a final change in plan emerged. We'd have a third, skip the grocery, and catch the sunset in the morning.

Yes. That would definitely work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

San Juan Nights

We boarded from the blue ice and snow of North Carolina and reemerged into the warm tropical colors of Old San Juan. Our weather-inflicted departure delay cost us a full day in the Puerto Rican capital - a day I'd have spent roaming its historic brick streets and filling an SD card - but we managed to salvage an evening to wander and reset our thermostats in this beautiful city before moving on to the smaller islands.

Shorts and sandals sure felt good after such a long winter wait.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Trading Places - A Tale of Two Decks

Winter took it's best shot and won.
But instead of bowing our heads and giving in,
we packed up our bags and went elsewhere.

Take that, Mr. Winter.

Note: It's been years since Mary and I have gotten away together for more than a weekend on anything other than a family visit. You know, a real vacation. This was a trip with great friends and perfectly timed to escape winter's last blast; a week on the small Puerto Rican island of Culebra. Not a fishing excursion, although a fly rod somehow found its way into the duffle. Yes, I'm incorrigible. But if you're looking for fishing, you'll have to wait just a bit. The few posts that follow are simply travelogue. Hope you enjoy them just the same.