“This, the past, is never fixed but is, rather, the product of a consequent activity of adjustments, of pentimento.” –on a collection of paintings by Myrna Baez from “Puerto Rico: Puerta Al Paisaje”
Step onto the plane in Chicago with 100% certainty your bones would deteriorate by the time you made it to baggage claim in San Juan. Hit the beach with all the fun and sizzle and certainty of Schlitzie’s diaper. Make it to the peak of Mt. Britton if you dare to damn anyone you fiddle with from now on. Really, no one talked about Zika, only one billboard warned of the same mosquitos’ more well-worn damage-doer, Dengue. There was more fatigue about money, about hedge fund vultures and politicians hashing out treasury notes that would decide the daily dollar. Even this dismay was primarily from the English-language paper. What’s an epidemic and to whom? Mainland U.S. could use more gray and caution in its hysterics.
Above a wine bar filled with fancy clothes and smiling sips of one glass, punks hung a spraypainted Crass flag from the colonial balcony metalwork. A wilted Manic Panic red mohawk punk pointed up to point his friends to that, there, the place where they were supposed to be. A bashed up standard drumkit made its way from a trunk to the indigo volcanic brick street to assembly in the punker loft, visible through 10-foot, second-story windows. Other skinheads and attractive deathpunk teens found their place, intentionally or otherwise. Hours later, you never could tell if a show happened or would happen. The flag was still up. I went to a prideful flag presentation and a street punk show broke out. The first meeting of the Viejo San Juan D.I.Y. Vexillology Society is now in order and just as quickly out of order.
In Ponce, in the open air laziness between non-competing dollar stores and an upstairs fencing club, there was an influx of booty pants. There were booty pants on big booty’d lower body womannequins. (Fake) ass everywhere, strapped in strips of bright color octagons and squiggles. Models faced pelvis to pelvis in a ring to accent the selling point of the pants. A ring of lower halves of pretend booties, sometimes chained and locked and in one case rung around a tree.
La Perla buzzed with the busy-ness of hustling and bored kids. A club was open, I guess, and a corner store had an open door though no visible electricity. Absolute rubble was draped over with fresh vinyl banners for Dewers and Bacardi. Maybe they were load baring booze ads? When you’re used to taking pictures for much of the day it’s easy to forget empathy. Winding further, Carmelo Anthony Court and past pecking roosters, La Perla’s view may just be the prettiest: psychedelic mural freedom painted below crumbling, left-alone homes all unadulterated against the opposing endless ocean.
You could runaway to Vieques, now that they fucking finally stopped blowing it up. Midwesterners escape here in snowy months and brag they know the places to brag about (even if they aren’t the same as a remembered yesterday). Locals run to St. Croix and return to escape in family. Horses run but never too far, then they’re rode by a gang of tough caballeras through town to escape doldrums. Attractive Indian couples from Florida find their place on a temporary sandbar and appalling frat putzes from Georgia run out of places to appear unattractive then separate along a boardwalk. A macho Mosquito Bay dinoflagellate kayak guide will dive into this water right-the-fuck now if you dare him! A ripped up rusty barge won’t ever leave after one storm that the main lighthouse probably saw but blinked. The ferry lets you leave five times a day each way.
A local just returned from awful Brooklyn told about 10 adventurous things to do that afternoon. A barroom liar spun wonderful woozy descriptions of real estate prices and how daily life in no way compared with Michigan. A quarter of a neighborhood joked about Spock’s velveteen space attire. A sparkling graduate student gave a preview of her brilliant connections of comedy to philosophical space. (“I read Plato and I laugh.”) When asked where we were, how far we were from something else, what the hell all this mountain switchback business was all about, an uncareful man collecting water from a spout sticking out of a mountainside calmly provided time, date, place. When we went where he’d said, all the traffic of a small city gave pause for a teen boy to ride his horse through a traffic light and up to the hitching post outside the Walgreens.