Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coronado Island drama

We've made two excursions taking friends to Coronado Island in the last week. The ocean is a perfect temperature for wading and snorkeling. There are no stinky dead squid yet washed up on the Coronado shores. However, the bees are a nuisance. Maybe a picnic on the beach is not a good idea--the minute you pop open a soda you have company and more company. Soon we were abandoning our picnic spot and moving further into the shoreline. Our little maltese, Chloe, was confused and annoyed by them. The children resorted to burying her in the sand to hide her. We had fun with that until people starting getting stung.

Robert was stung on the tip of his tongue as he took a swig from a thermos. By then, everyone was eager to depart, but bees were swarming the boat preventing us from boarding. The children were now half-panicked and near tears. I waded out from the shore with them to try to escape the bees while Robert and the other adults fired up the boat and sped off shore to blow them off. We waited like stranded refugees, me clutching Chloe and comforting Allie who now took on the fear that we might be abandoned to our fate with the bees. Robert returned for us like a rescuer, "get on, quick" and we clamored onboard to safety. I was last to get on--I had one hand occupied in grip of our dog, the other attempting a crawl stroke reminiscent of my high school summer as a lifeguard. Am doing this right? It really wasn't at all as traumatic as that, it wasn't a killer bee scenario, but it was a little fun to play up the drama.

Oh, and surprisingly, Robert's tongue did not swell up like we expected. I imagined we might need medical care, but he seemed unfazed. My hero.

Poster Boy for the dream

We're spending more time in and on the water as the temperatures climb. One by one our friends and neighbors are leaving for the States. That and the upheaval with the "suspension" of TSD Loreto Bay Partners is making a ghost town of our neighborhood. The suspense in "suspension" is something we're learning to live with. We have no more insight than the next person to what direction the development will take. We are fortunate to have a completed home. Living here as much as we do we have a more relaxed perspective. We have time to cultivate and enjoy "the dream" that everyone bought into even if it has been greatly altered. In the meantime we enjoy what we can.

We've hosted two parties this month for our neighbors. We are fortunate to have a world-class chef in the neighborhood, Rodrigo Tapia, who runs the La Mision Restaurant. The wonderful food he and his wife, Blanca, prepared elevated everyone's mood. They prepared dorado that Robert caught and lobster we bought from a local fisherman into dishes fit for a formal occasion. Some friends are employees of Loreto Bay, now having to look for new work. Some friends are nervous homeowners with uncompleted houses. Coming together socially seemed like an act of reassurance. For those of us who remain, we're in it together. For those who have to move on, we enjoyed our acquaintance and wish them well.

Now, we are too are finally winding down our time here. Another two or three weeks and we will head home until next winter. It's not even the increasingly hot weather that compels me to go, but the departure of friends. For what is a place without friends?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scorpion Bay for Beginners

Before being so rudely interrupted by reality, we were enjoying a nice excursion to the Pacific side. We followed the Browns to San Juanico for an attempt at surfing the waves at Scorpion Bay. Our son Ryan tenaciously, over two days, worked at getting vertical on the surf board. Robert gave it a shot too. Being Midwest-born and bred he'd never even touched a surfboard. And what a sight to see our old Tahoe, the one that's taken us to the ends of the continent on family vacations and Ryan's baseball tournaments, toting surfboards on its roof.

We loved the open-air cantina at the campgrounds. I imagine a lot of fun times are had there. Scorpion Bay is noted for being a premier surfing spot. The beach is shallow and long; the waves are consistent and mild and lengthy. Surfers can catch waves that last forever. There's unrestricted freedom. You can bring your vehicle right on the beach; your dog too. The surf culture looks pretty cool, but I think Robert and I missed that wave. Maybe Ryan has a shot at it. I didn't try, but then I didn't have the equipment or body gear. My mission, as always, is to videotape and photograph everyone else's fun. I put together a video of Ryan. It's mostly wipe-outs, but I think it demonstrates that kid's tenacity and good humor.

We rented a very nice little house and the Browns rented a casita across from the beach. We spent our evenings together playing board games and watching Ryan act silly with the kids. Other than playing on the beach there is nothing else to see or visit. Riding waves is the only reason for visiting. It's all about the surfing. San Juanico is teeny-tiny and ugly. There is a small fishing industry there so part of the beach is occupied with pangas and an overabundance of sea birds which pollute the beach with their droppings. We ate at the only taco stand open to find the same woman cooking at the cantina the next day. Great tacos, by the way. When we crested the big hill northbound on Highway One where Loreto Bay comes into view, we all exclaimed how much more beautiful is "this side." And when we unlocked our front door, threw down our baggage, and entered our casa, we all exclaimed, "We're home. I love our house." I realized instantly how this casa has become a real home to us.

The trip was a lot of fun and we may venture over there again for another try. But for non-surfers, you cannot beat the Sea of Cortez. There is such abundant marine life and points of interest, and the Sierra de Las Gigantas makes for a dramatic backdrop. Loreto Bay is beautiful as far as the Baja goes. I'm ready to get snorkeling.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Two steps forward, one step back....

Days ago we were haggling with Bob Toubman, our condominium administrator about our renegade attempt to install a front step. After three years of a promised step we decided to make it happen ourselves. However, we willfully neglected to apply to the design committee, instead designing the step on the fly. We had seized the opportunity and by-God we were going to get our step. Of course, we were ordered to cease, prompting me to begin the plea process, only to be given permission anyway just days later. Too easy, I mused.

Had I known what was brewing I could have seen how insignificant our issue was.

We were away over the weekend when the news of the ultimate demise of the Loreto Bay Company was announced. We all saw it coming, but the sudden announcement caught everyone by surprise, even the employees. There is just no more money coming, no funds to continue operations. The hope that a buyer for the project would step up seems to have de-materialized and we are left with only guesses to what the future holds for us.

Employees tell me that they were notified Saturday of their termination. I believe, including the construction crews, there are over 700 workers. Everyone is now left to scramble for new employment. A walk through the Inn affirmed the reality of the news: Every chair, table, lounger, umbrella, towel, desk, potted plant, vanished. The swimming pools are slowly draining. Chalk marks in the sand are drawn for the fencing that will encompass the ghost hotel. The kayaks will be removed probably tomorrow. The golf course is now closed and no further maintenance will be provided for the tennis center. It's pool will be drained also. Furniture and fixtures from all the offices will be removed this week.

I'm told that, through the HOA and property management funds, services to Founders Neighborhood will still function. Security, trash removal, pest control, and landscaping will continue. However, the existing management company must be desolved and reconstructed under another authority, namely homeowners. I can see where we will have to become more involved in our destiny. Right now, it is so early that no one knows exactly what will be necessary. I believe many still hold out hope that the project will be bought soon. Well, it's now or never.

There is also a feeling among some homeowners and employees that this termination of operations had to happen for real change to take place. The idea being we need to shake off the old system and begin anew. We do not feel any sense of dread. The future could mean that we homeowners will take more control over the direction of the project. It will contract into something quite different than the original developers envisioned. Smaller, tighter, more realistic; maybe similar to a country club or a gated community. We'll have to scale back to a position we can sustain as a neighborhood, not a commercial center or resort. God knows, we all wished for the dream of a blend of commercial with residential, but it's not going to happen, not for a long time.

Of course we need to see the unfortunate homeowners in Agua Viva get their homes finished. That's a enormous problem for which I don't have an answer. I'm not the only one. We all feel concern and empathy for them. We need to pave the Paseo, complete the exterior landscaping, and address our parking issues. The hotel is of least concern now, likewise, the desired beach club, but the golf course we must save. There is a strong possibility it will no longer be maintained. The word is that is will be managed until the end of the month. (The sprinklers were running tonight.) It requires tens of thousands of dollars every month to maintain the course. Could it go back to Fonatur? No one can predict. I'm already envisioning us homeowners having to provide that money through dues and memberships. As far as the tennis center, forget it, not enough interest to save it. The few of us who play weekly will have to find some way to sweep the courts and replace nets, etc. It will continue to look like the relic its always been.

I may be getting ahead of myself which is what one does when faced with the unknown. It's easy to say what we need, but how is another story. Right now we wait for more news and say goodbye to many familiar faces.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Stuck in time

Allison's music school had a recital this past Friday evening. It was her first ever. She played the piano (electric keyboard actually) and she did very well, we thought. Her friend, Chandler, also played piano. No stage fright among those two. (Click here to see the edited video)

The event was held at the museum courtyard at the Mission, a charming place for a gathering, especially at sunset. I would keep glancing up at the mission bell tower admiring the centuries-old rock work along with the clock that's perpetually stuck at 8:05. What would those Jesuits think to see us here today? Could they have imagined the plastic chairs and electric pianos, the cameras and cell phones? The juxtaposition of the old with the modern is something that continually fascinates me. The more we move into the future the odder and more precious man-made objects become. Especially when you consider the labor required to create them. And that is indeed what makes objects of the past so emotionally weighted. You think about the creators along with the creation. You cannot separate the two. Nobody will look at a plastic chair with the same emotion, ever

In a flash of inspiration I suggested to Allison and her girlfriends, Grace, and Chandler that when they all turn fifteen we should throw a triple Quinceanera party for them in the same spot. Where else (as teenagers) will they get the opportunity to wear a princessy evening gown? Recently we attended a Quinceanera, which is the American version of a coming-out party, or debutante debut. It too, was held at the Mission. It's certainly not all about the dresses and the party; I was very impressed with the entire ritual of introducing a young girl to the community, especially the part where she sits before the priest for a long personal lecture about her responsibilities, her duties, her attitudes, her future. Wow. There's no ambiguity in that production. A girl would come away with a very definite idea of what is expected of her, and more so, what her value is to the world. I felt it was an honor to be invited to witness the process.