[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 6/12/09.]
[Editor’s note: Fans of the interweb may read parts Uno and Dos of this tres part series by clicking on their respective links. For those of you reading this in hardcopy, try not to move around too much: I don’t think your daguerreotype has completed its exposure yet.]
Having lived to tell the tale of our various and sundry aquatic pursuits, Kelly and I reconvened with Bruce and Linda back at the resort to map out plans for the rest of the trip. As members of the MTV generation, we were all highly susceptible to any form of marketing featuring slick graphics and minimal content, and thus decided to book not one but two of the activities suggested by the colorful pamphlets at the front desk for the following day.
The first would consist of a bus tour of El Yunque National forest, the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. Since yunque means “anvil” in Spanish, I’m assuming that the forest was named for the object that the indigenous Taíno tribes most wanted to drop on the heads of their Spanish oppressors after they first came to “visit.”
The second activity would take place after sunset in the beguiling waters of Las Croabas Lagoon in Fajardo—pond zero for one of the most magnificent bioluminescent bays in the world. Adding to the frivolity, we would be joined on this latter excursion by two friends who happened to be vacationing on the island at the same time. Since they were (and are) two chiquitas who have definitely earned the moniker “bananas,” we were greatly looking forward to the occasion.
First though, we had to survive our trip to El Yunque. As the brochures promised, the local flora was spectacularly green and lush, and the air muggy and enveloping. The views from the Yokahu observation tower were also quite captivating, stretching all the way to the ocean in some directions.
However, the scenic splendor as a whole was somewhat undermined by the disconcerting signs warning visitors to be on the lookout for rabid mongooses (mongeese?). Not surprisingly, Nancy — my King Cobra — was not particularly pleased by this development, and she made her displeasure known by sinking her fangs repeatedly into my jugular.
Luckily, her neurotoxic venom had been inadvertently neutralized years before in a tragic water skiing accident, and we made it back to the hotel without further incident. Eventually, four would become eight as we were joined by the aforementioned amigas, Jess and Amanda, along with Jess’s sister Jamie and Amanda’s boyfriend Colby. Before we could leave, however, Amanda mischievously suggested that we look at some of the photos she had taken just two days before in Old San Juan.
Leaning over the small LCD display on her digital camera, I observed a dashing gentleman slouching against an unidentifiable antique automobile with a broken windshield, no more than ten feet from the photographer. Despite the diminutive screen size, I was instantly able to identify the rakish fellow, as he was none other than my all-time favorite actor, Johnny Depp! Filming had apparently just begun on his new movie, The Rum Diary, and the iconoclastic actor was waiting for the crew to clear out looky-loos like Colby and Amanda before work could resume. Grinning like a she-devil while describing the encounter, Amanda confessed that her only regret that morning was that she didn’t flash Johnny while she had the chance.
Oh, alas and alack! I silently bemoaned. If it hadn’t been for Bruce’s wishy-washy flip-floppery, I could have been the one whipping out the ol’ “black pearls” for Captain Jack last Sunday! Luckily for my erstwhile roommate though, thoughts of keelhauling and plank walking would fall by the wayside soon after our arrival at the steamy shores of Las Croabas.
Having adopted the alter ego of Ferdinand Manconver for the journey (inspired by our hotel’s hilarious misspelling of my actual surname during registration), I suffered a brief identity crisis when the van driver handed me a credit card receipt made out to Trevor McCuglin. However, I decided that one not-so-secret identity was enough for the night and signed it without comment.
Eventually, it was time to make our way to the bay. With two or three people per kayak and guides in the front, middle, and back, our disjointed flotilla paddled not-quite-single file through the murky harbor and into the suffocating darkness of the haunting, mile-long mangrove canal, where we battled churlish currents, low hanging branches, and returning tour groups for 30 invigorating minutes until finally emptying out into La Laguna Grande. And grande it was, stretching hundreds of yards in all directions with nary an artificial light source in sight. Not that we needed any, because by this point everyone in the lagoon was happily producing a dazzling aquamarine glow with each splash of their paddles. With half-a-million Pyrodinium Bahamense living in each gallon of water, a single flick of your fingers was all it took to send thousands of luminous spheres flying through the night sky like a Lilliputian meteor shower. The bioluminescent plankton were also more than willing to catch a free ride on the local fauna, creating startling streaks of light beneath the water’s surface as dueling denizens of the deep darted and dove to every point on the compass like an undersea fireworks display.
It was truly one of the most thrilling experiences of my life, and certainly a memorable way to end our vacation. It also helped to cushion the logistical slap in the face that marked our unceremonious return to the real world when our connecting flight from D.C. to New York was canceled the next day for unspecified “weather-related reasons” and we were forced to place an emergency call to Bruce’s brothers in Virginia for last-minute transportation and lodging. As you might expect, it required all of our Zen reserves not to introduce the exasperating airport personnel to the nearest yunque. Lucky for you, dear reader, that’s another column entirely.*
[*Editor’s note: No it isn’t.]