Wendy and Nils

Puerto Rico Story

     Our trip to Puerto Rico in January of 2006 started with an experiment.  On the way to airport parking, I decided to test the limits of my pickup truck by driving more miles than I ever had with the fuel light illuminated.  I found that holding my breath helped me get better gas mileage, so I arrived to the airport with a slight cerulean discoloration.  As I attempted to breach security, the highly trained enforcement officers detected my belt buckle and told me to prepare myself for interrogation.  I was joyfully used to cavity searches after my experience with a customs agent at the Canadian border in 1992.  As I prepared for the intrusion an officer told me to put my pants back on. I guess Wendy managed to convince them I was not a terrorist, smuggler, or pervert.  The flight to P.R. was uneventful.

     It was very hot and humid on the island that day, as I guess it always is.  Our rental car company was located in one of the nicer seedier sections of San Juan.  A local with different colored eyeballs explained all the terms and conditions of my rental agreement to me, in a cranked up version of Spanish Pig Latin.  After refusing all forms of insurance, I drove out of the parking lot with a scrape of the undercarriage.  This let the Puerto Ricans know who was boss.  Like the Greeks, Puerto Ricans celebrate Christmas (a.k.a. Three Kings Day) in January in order to take advantage of all the after Christmas sales.  Therefore the highways in San Juan were unusually empty.  Using my keen knowledge of Spanish, I started to head east (oeste) toward the rainforest.  An hour later, I realized oeste means west, and I made a few illegal u-turns to resolve the situation.  The locals didn’t seem to pay attention to traffic laws, so I figured it was safest to disregard the rules of the road myself.  On our way to the rainforest we stopped at a café that had deep-fried everything, and we ate a delightful greased piece of food.  We arrived to the beauty of the rainforest halfway through the day.  I went pee in a sinkhole and Wendy courageously used the public restrooms.  We happened to bump into some of the trippers who were attending the wedding, so we managed to get some introductions out of the way.  That evening we enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant that served more deep-fried everything.  The campground we planned to spend the night at was enclosed behind a ten-foot wall topped with barbed wire.  Its resemblance to a prison seemed out of context, so I didn’t even attempt to enter the park.  Instead we found a quaint hotel above a reggaeton bar.  Permission to stay at this particular inn was required, so the management introduced us to the local entrepreneurs of contraband.  The bar fell silent as we entered, but I reassured everyone I wasn’t a cop, and they could continue with their sales of illicit substances, and I wouldn’t call the cops, even if I heard a gun shot, so long as I wasn’t the one being shot.  We spent the rest of the night at an authentic Puerto Rican bar where a live band playing music to a karaoke album entertained us.  Our return to the hotel brought on a night of fear, desperation, anxiety, confusion and not much sleep reminiscent of an Edgar Allen Poe novel.  The reggaeton thumped out more bass than the power grid could supply.  A few strange noises were heard and Wendy asked what it was.  I assured her it was nothing and she fell asleep.  In the surrounding rooms, the light switches were being turned on and off over and over.  Then the doors started slamming.  I heard cries and screams and gunshots as a night similar to that of Angel Heart surrounded me.  As I contrived ways to protect us in case an assailant entered the room, I concluded that the inn was seriously haunted, and some bad shit had gone down in that hotel.  The next morning we woke up in good health, and I quickly packed up and we got the hell out.

     Our morning was spent looking for a mystically romantic lagoon near Fajardo only to find a slightly contaminated no swimming zone frequented by recreational fisherman, most of whom were hung over from the Christmas holiday.  We drove the northeast shore of Puerto Rico that afternoon, and we found some beautiful secluded beaches perfect for lovemaking and muggings.  That afternoon we entered the fortressed city of Old San Juan   We fondled and molested the city for only a couple of hours, then we attended the formalities of Derek and Viviana’s wedding.  The wedding was held in a Vaticaness like church and the reception was fun, because it was all you can drink.  Everyone got good and lit and danced to Puerto Rican versions of wedding classics such as “We are Family” and “White Wedding”.  The night continued until an authentic Latin brass/horn section traveling on foot entered the hall and got in the middle of the crowd and blew some Puerto Rican soul gumbo music on the horns as the crowd went nuts.  That night, me and Wendy walked along the edge of the fortress looking at the city lights and the stars, and we imagined and envisioned our lives together while dreaming and wondering where we were going to sleep that night.  I got to first base with her on the Puerto Rican Spanish Stairs and we went to a Euro bar for a stiff drink, of which I needed, in order to drive safely for the rest of the evening.  We headed west to a campground I had read about in one of those unreliable travel books.  A few hundred drunk locals guarded the gates of the campground.  We proceeded with caution only to find that drunk locals on holiday break are in really good moods, so we had no trouble, and a friendly park ranger snuck us in to the camping area free of charge.  The only catch was we needed to leave by 6am and it was already 3am, so we only got 3 hours of sleep.

     The next morning, we drove along the north shore of the island.  We stopped at a random town fair where we met some very nice folks and bought Puerto Rican candy and didn’t see anyone drinking alcohol, which was odd, so we figured we were in the Mormon section of the island or something.  We then drove on toward a cave near the ocean, which was marked with petroglyphs.  Vicious rabies infected dogs guarded the pathway to the cave, and an insane man attempted to charge us $3 to access the cave, but I’m very cheap and would rather risk my life than pay someone I don’t have to, so we snuck on to his property and found the cave which was interesting, but not really worth $3.  We proceeded to another cave located at the interior of the island.  This area had a beautiful rainforest vibe.  The cave was a few miles in, and unattended by any officials, so we were allowed to steal stalactites and urinate in the tunnels.  About a 100 yards into the darkness, I pointed out to Wendy that bats were flying around the cave, and she sprinted out of there faster than Jerry Rice on crack.  That evening we drove over a mountain pass located in the center of the island.  The drive was amazingly beautiful, although it came to a surreal end when the highway ceased to exist. The abrupt ending resembled the damage done to the on/off ramps after the Los Angeles earthquake.  Rumor has it that funding was immediately cut off when the Puerto Ricans voted against US statehood.  We entered the city of Ponce that night, to find a nightlife as exciting as watching evangelist television with parental figures.  Determined to find something festive, I used my inborn sense of locating alcohol and parties, and we happened upon a pier renovated for tourism.  There was Latin music and Chicano line dancing and edible deep fried turds and beer with a capital B.  At this point, we realized everything we ate in Puerto Rico was either deep fried or extra sweetened with sugar, and for the first time in my life I was actually craving healthy things like brussel sprouts and carrots.  Late night, Wendy insisted on eating something relatively healthy, so we stopped at Burger King and she ate a Whopper.  We then ventured off to the southwest corner of the island toward a beach town rumored to have all night tequila parties, but we ran out of energy, so we slept in our car on the beach.

     The next morning, we woke up and took a walk to a lighthouse on a hill, and realized it gets really hot in Puerto Rico by 8:30am.  We drove up the northwest coast, and stopped at a store that served the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  They also had public bathrooms, which is a rare case scenario in Puerto Rico.  The limited amount of public restrooms on the island baffles me.  Do the locals always remember to go before they leave the house? Are they really good at holding it in?  Do they find other less sanitary places to go?  After my euphoric state of release, we found a few beaches to chill on and do some swimming. While driving north, we were reminded of the insane attitude of the Puerto Ricans when we encountered a man riding his horse down a four-lane highway! Later that day, we arrived in Rincon where we got a fancy hotel room, and I surfed some overhead sets under an incredible glow of the sun setting.  That night, we ate at a classy American style restaurant with no deep fried food on the menu…….  ahhhh………

     Rincon was a much-needed respite from the unpredictable antics of the rest of the island.  We woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel.  I surfed more big waves and almost found myself deceased on a paddle out thru a very very very very large set.  We did some snorkeling in the mud, and met some chill locals.  That evening, we went north to a large empty grand hotel similar to a Puerto Rican version of the hotel from The Shining.  Then we went back to Rincon, ate dinner at our hotel, and rested up for our 3:30am departure to San Juan to catch our plane.

     We left on time, and I did not pay attention to any traffic lights or stop signs, because you can do whatever the hell you want in Puerto Rico, therefore I made really good time to San Juan.  The only chaos we encountered was at the tolls where 24 lanes of traffic turned into 8 tollbooths only to turn back into 24 lanes of traffic with no cars slowing down in the slightest bit.  We got to the airport with over two hours before our flight was scheduled to take off, but American Airlines claimed we didn’t leave ourselves enough time for check-in, so we were bumped to an evening flight off the island.  Our day was spent checking out the protective fortress of Old San Juan.  I left my mark by taking a leak in the vacant corners of one of the world’s most historical architectural wonders!!!  Wendy was happy to spend the day shopping, and I was happy to spend the day drinking, so it all worked out.

     We arrived home with almost no injuries, and only mild sunburns.  Our families were happy that we didn’t run off and elope.  I smuggled back some Rum, so detoxification was less painful.  Public bathrooms are plentiful in the United States, so my gut track reset itself.  I sent this essay to American Airlines, and they showed us pity by sending a $200 voucher, which we used to travel to Hawaii.  The trip made me want to learn to forget Spanish and I now have this strange desire to return to the island without actually going there.  Maybe the Puerto Rican rum really is hallucinogenic. 

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