Friday, March 6, 2015

Puerto Rico: etc.

I don't have the energy to go day by day, so I'll just give a melange of impressions:

Let me be clear: the people here are wonderful. The climate is also wonderful. I mean, hell, it's a tropical island, right? And did I mention the people are beautiful, especially the men? Puerto Ricans are a mix of Spanish, African, and Taino indian.

Mocha. Chocolata. Ya. Ya.

And perhaps it would be a different vacation for me if I had a pal that I grooved with. Perhaps.  The other day my sister and I just walked around -- my sister is of course company, but she's also not company. I have to make pretty much everything happen. Anyway, we found a contemporary art museum with a few small, earnest but not very impressive installations, mostly having to do with the displacement of people from a local neighborhood when developers took over.

 I'm not a touristy person. I can understand why my family loves it: the weather, the casino, the pool and the beach. But I'm not someone who travels to gamble or sit on a beach or by a pool, or to shop. I'm not someone who wants to be surrounded by thousands of my compatriots who marvel over a mango.

I've taken two all-day tours with my father and sister. (Did I mention my father is drinking again? Yessirree Bob. That, and my sister's generally mentally exhausting tendencies have made me a one-woman tongue-biting squad.)

 Let me say a couple of things.

1. If you have kids under 10, leave them home. I don't care what your argument is, you're wrong. Leave them home, or take them to Disney World, where they are less likely to ruin the vacations of other people. If you want them to appreciate other places like the huge underground caves the rest of us wanted to enjoy, wait until they are old enough to focus on the majesty and beauty of the caves, rather than being engaged for three minutes at a time before being demanding and noisy and making it impossible for the rest of us to stay focused. I also don't need to see you breast feed on the tram. I just don't. Wear a loose shirt and try a little discretion, or I'm going to start taking a crap or screwing in front of you to see how much you love watching Nature in action. Read my lips: I. Do. Not. Worship. Motherhood.

2. If you are visiting a place, especially a spot of natural beauty, for the love of God, shut up. Stop turning every corner of the planet into just one more backdrop for a Facebook-bound selfie. That rain forest we just left was a sacred place for people who were slaughtered by greedy, brutal invaders. It's a natural wonder, unique in the world, and I wanted to hear it speak to me, to experience its magic, cripes, hear some birds, but I couldn't because of the nonstop chatter and horseplay and the endless photo-taking. Stop performing and start engaging. Have a little respect.

3. A beach, no matter how blue the water and no matter how palmy the trees, is still just some sand and water, and unless you have good company to chat with as you walk along it, is boring as fuck.

 So it's pretty clear I'm not digging my trip. Here's the thing: I've lived in major cities, and it is not novel for me to be served by a Puerto Rican at a restaurant; it's just another day in Chicago. I guess if you live in a homogeneous area, if your idea of ethnic food is Italian or Chinese, then this may seem novel or exotic. If, like me, you've lived in a neighborhood where there is more than one person of color and your local market serves Caribbeans and Africans, you are not a stranger to the cherimoya or to plantains. So I put on my Pleasant Face, try to have something positive to say ("I like that, despite being a big tourist destination, they don't try to gouge you." "Wow, this weather is great.") and struggle to find things to do in an area overrun with tourists. At night I watch TY. Yeah. I watch TV. Why? Because it doesn't involve being by the pool or in the lobby bar or in the casino or anywhere else outside crammed with tons of noisy, boisterous people and/or screeching kids.

I'd really like to go back to Old San Juan, sit alone at a cafe and read the horrible book I borrowed from my mother, but it will be Saturday and even more overrun with tourists. I have no idea where I'll find refuge. Normally, I'd rent a bike and go somewhere, but three words: Puerto Rican drivers.

You know what PR is like? It's like a cruise ship on land. That's the best way to put it. It doesn't feel like a real place.

And now we seem to have new people in the room next to us who have brought a baby. A baby that cries loud enough to be heard through the wall. And my sister is back and watching "Glee." And the next circle of hell has opened.

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