Bati Bleki for November 26th, 2012

URBAN REVIVAL. I went downtown this week to see for myself how gorgeous it will be, and confirmed it will. The main street is shaping up as a promenade with coconut trees and flower-beds, shops and eateries. And there are visible signs that things are turning around significantly, with new stores and new facades to the old stores. After more than two years of construction, we see light at the end of the tunnel. The downtown merchants will hopefully forget the hardship and loss of revenue caused by the overhaul, immediately after the ribbon cutting ceremony. The human race is engineered to forget. Ask a woman who just gave birth to a baby if she wants another child. No way, is the answer. But two years down the road the pain of childbirth is forgotten and only joy remains, then naturally she’s ready to have another one! So, yes, we’re destined to forget the hard times, and are looking forward to good times. The landscapers are working day and night, and if you believe in magic, you should know with certainty that the street will be open for Christmas shopping, in early December.

YOLO. A store by that name is coming to the head of the main street, next to Hugo Boss, carrying a mix of fun merchandise by local and international designers. You only Live Once, is the brain child of Eva  Zissu, what a cool name!

COCO JOKO. Congratulation to Rita and Richard Lopez Henriquez on the opening of your restaurant at the Orange Mall. Richard always had a culinary gift and now that he is retired from timeshare he can put to work everything he learned about sales, in his own business.

IN PROTECTION OF COCONUT TREES. Did you ever take a look at the hotel sector coconut trees? They start out nicely formed, then at the top they are shriveled and diminished, getting smaller and smaller at the crown?! Did you ever wonder why?! Because they are cleaned and clipped too often. Usually the fronds dry out, then the tree siphons the nutrients out of the dying frond and grows the trunk, if you clip the aging frond before it dries you deprive your tree of the opportunity to grow, so stop clipping green fronds, let them dry out naturally, then you can discard them, and your coco will thrive!

SKYLINE IS ENCHANTING. Home & Nature is worth a visit. Artist Grace Ashruf delivered her best work to date, creating a wall of small, dazzling canvases, which work together in a group and on their own. The response was overwhelmingly positive and a great number of paintings have already found a new owner. When Grace arrived fashionably late to her opening she was welcomed by spontaneous applause, because it is visible that she put my soul and energy in each of the paintings.

ZONING LAWS, OR HERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I live in a mature neighborhood, blessed by low-density, where most of the homes are old, and built with Spanish, tropical flair. Our street is in constant evolution, and we’ve had plenty of renovations in the past. They all respected our general look, sharing the view, the breeze, and the need for curb appeal. In marches the white elephant of Boca Catalina, and ushers in a new age of total disrespect to norms. The shameless construction going full-speed at Boca Catalina involves a 9 meter home right on the beach where the view-hogging residents of just one house will totally block the scenery for their neighbors across the street. They are building a 1,000 square meter home on a 1,000 square meter lot. I am shocked and saddened. Why? What do I care what’s going on at Boca Catalina, if those neighbors don’t protest. I will tell you why. D.O.W. just cleared some land next to my home in preparation for the construction of five new residences and I fear that the clowns sitting on the government’s Building Permit Committee have no critical thinking, and they do not view projects in their totality, they just zoom in. And when you zoom in, there’s nothing wrong with the white elephant of Boca Catalina. The Dutch-Aruban family building the contemporary monstrosity is in possession of a building permit. But that doesn’t make it right. On a personal level, to push through with a project like this you must have zero respect for the low-rise nature of the neighborhood, its tropical-colonial heritage and culture. D.O.W. approves maps, without looking at how the construction affects others, explains realtor Elizabeth Nicholls, they should check the site, the flow of traffic, invasion of privacy issues, wind circulation and water drainage. This type of tunnel vision is unfortunately typical here, she adds. And examples for that total lack of overview abound around us, the new Super Food, a giant monstrosity in our Tourism Corridor, is an industrial warehouse, located right on the highway. Couldn’t you hide it from view one street over? Why do you stick such grandiosity in our faces? The Ministry of Tourism spends so much money to create a tropical and quaint sense of arrival for our visitors, and you sabotage that intension by ‘decorating’ our highway with aluminum sheets and plastic neon signs. That giant super center had no business being where it is, and while I personally liked the old store and shopped there occasionally, I feel they should have also spent some money making it pretty, making it aesthetic. I attend the opening of the AAA Sculpture Garden at Reina Beatrix Airport this weekend. It was a spectacular event, and the artwork is lovely. Our tourists will be crying as they leave, strolling through that Garden of Eden, their last glorious impression of the island, surrounded by culture and beauty in a spectacular natural setting.  RC@visitaruba.com