[Editor’s Note: I’m on vacation till the 4th, so please enjoy these squishy regurgitations in my absence. The following article was originally published in the North Shore Sunday on 6/5/09.]
Welcome back compadres! For those of you who missed the first installment of my titillating tres part exposé of my vacation to Puerto Rico: You’re welcome! There’s five minutes of your life I don’t owe you for once. That being said, for continuity’s sake, you may still wish to review Part One (“I Want to Go Back to San Juan“) by taking a moment to click on that link.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
All caught up? Excelente—let’s continue!
When last I left you, the intrepid foursome consisting of myself, my girlfriend Kelly, my college roommate Bruce, and his girlfriend Linda, had just been assigned our awesomely chic rooms by the two-tiered infinity pool at the fabulous La Concha Resort. After settling in, we returned to the streets in search of a traditional Puerto Rican meal. After passing a traditional Puerto Rican Wendy’s, a traditional Puerto Rican Subway, a traditional Puerto Rican Dunkin Donuts, and a traditional Puerto Rican Applebee’s, we finally came to the stellar Waikiki Lounge & Oyster Bar.
Requesting outdoor seating, we were shown to a rustic, moonlit terraza overlooking the crashing Caribbean surf. After enjoying our first taste of mofongo — the ubiquitous island concoction made from mashed, fried plantains with pork cracklings and garlic — and asking the waitress where to find the best margaritas in town (Her own restaurant? No. Applebee’s? Yes.), we headed back to our rooms to rest up for our excursion into Old San Juan the following day.
The next morning, Kelly and I awoke bright-eyed and bushy tailed. While an ongoing medical malpractice suit prevents me from commenting any further upon the latter, suffice it to say, we were ready to face the day. At least we were, right up until Bruce and Linda informed us that—despite plans democratically agreed to the night before—they’d rather spend the day at the beach and save our excursion into Old San Juan for the late afternoon hours instead. A seemingly innocuous flip-flop at the time, their vexing vacillation would ultimately prove to be the worst decision of our vacation, and—on a more personal note—of my entire life.
Thankfully, such heartbreak was in the future (specifically, Part Three of this series), so we were able to shrug off the change of plans and enjoy our day in the sun before setting out for the old port. During the taxi ride, I examined the tree-shaped air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. It billed itself as a “Car-Freshner” ® and I laughed out loud at the silly Puerto Ricans and their poorly spell-checked products, blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Little Trees line of air fresheners is actually produced by the “Car-Freshner Corporation,” which is based here in the United States. The passage of time has yet to dull the keen edge of my concern for the future spellers of America.
Arriving in Old San Juan, we beat a quick path to the Castillo de San Cristóbal before it closed for the night and then continued up the hill to the north side of the island, where we were greeted with a peculiar sight. There, parked along the sidewalk as far as the eye could see, was a gleaming collection of antique automobiles. Admiring their classic lines, we speculated about their presence but could see no one around who might explain it to us. As such, in the innocent way of children flitting from one shiny new toy to the next, we soon relegated the venerable vehicles to our cerebral storage facilities and continued on with our exploration of shiny new Old San Juan. One gorgeous sunset and a few sweet fried plantains later and we were on our way back to the hotel in another Car-Freshnered cab of diction-defying proportions.
A 5:45 am wake-up call for a 6:30 am scuba appointment dictated an early night for Kelly and I, while Bruce and Linda—eschewing almost certain death beneath untold fathoms of crushing, merciless ocean—debauched late into the evening, needing only to recover in time for a midday jet skiing excursion led by a gentleman who, in Bruce’s own words, “portrayed himself as Captain Jack Sparrow, but came across as Captain Jackass.”
Cue the crack of dawn: Kelly and I are awake, bathing suited (not to be confused with “birthday suited,” which offers little protection for certain sensitive areas against certain indigenous sea creatures), and seated in the lobby awaiting our promised transportation. We check our watches: 6:30…then 6:35…then 6:40. Her: “Should we confirm the pickup time with someone?” Me: “Nah, they’re probably just on island time. Let’s give ’em a few more minutes.” 6:45…Now 6:50. Finally, at 6:54, I can stand it no longer and head to the front desk to confirm our reservation.
Naturally, said reservation doesn’t exist, and the young lady who was supposed to have made it for us isn’t on duty. Fortunately, Francisco—the friendly concierge—is a scuba enthusiast himself and he manages to rustle up a last-minute dive for us. Only ten minutes from the hotel, the small reef isn’t quite as exotic as we had hoped for, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway, despite a guide whose idea of low impact diving included handling every living organism in sight and thrusting them upon us for photographic documentation. (See: photographic documentation.) Fortunately, we survived the briny depths and surfaced an hour later with the lyrical musings of Sebastian the crab running through our heads.
Returning to the hotel, I could only wonder about the adventures that awaited us in our remaining day-and-a-half on the island, while simultaneously hoping that future readers of any potential columns wrought from said adventures would have the patience to tune in next week to find out, since I would undoubtedly exceed my word count well before any sort of satisfying conclusion (or even unsatisfying conclusion) could be reached.