March 11, 2008
Luck lands on us by day out here. A friend of a sailing friend offered us a house on the beach and a convertible for four days in the old city of San Juan. Hastily leaving the boat we set out from the southern coast on the highway with our thumbs out and some snacks in the packs.
Getting a ride requires all your wits when you look like you haven’t showered in a week and there are two of you. We pulled all kinds of stunts to build our value, including clever bi-lingual signs with dollar bills and the age old rolled up pant leg displaying a bare leg to on-comming car followed by a giggling smile. Being a guy the leg thing draws a laugh and shortly we landed a ride from a fantastic guy in a nice car. He drove us all the way across Puerto Rico. We stop along the way to service some errands, and all the while became great friends.
Hitch hiking is a great way to get around down here. We have met half a dozen great people who end up touring us around for a while before they drop us off. We love it because its always different, the price is right, and we wouldnt know were to go if we had to drive our selves.
So then in San Juan our new besti Kim arrived with a car and keys to her place. She took us to old San Juan and offered to show us inside the Coast Guard command center. We’ll that’s a boys dream to see a top secret war center. So we jump on it. We show our id’s and surrendered all electronic devices, as we passed through one guard then a coded security door, long hallway, then another coded door where we called into the center and gave notice that civilians were entering the facility. Minutes passed and clearance was granted to enter. Inside the hum of at least thirty flat screen monitors and a large wall screen tv with world news channels were playing. The walls were lined with large maps of the local area, with fridge magnets of boats, displaying the locations of vessels around Puerto Rico. The room was divided by a glass wall with blinds drawn on the other side.
The entire wall was covered to protect us because if we were to see what lies beyond the curtain it would compromise national security and we would surely been sent to the morg. Inside that top secrete room all radio transmissions are recorded and monitored. My suspicions recall the Wizard of OZ, and a game of Texas hold’em. That perception of intelligence, and technical advantage works as a more powerful deterrent than all the technology in the world. That room could have been filled with old dusty files and a jury rigged VHF in front of a nineteen year old recruit with a pencil and paper for all we know. Regardless the perception remains of some incredible technology existing behind that wall and we will go on from that experience ready to fold, rather than gearing up to call the bluff. So that was a boys dream come true, and to revisit that boyish top secret fantasy world was a cool moment.
We were flying high as we returned to the civilians walking the cobble stone streets of Old San Juan. We found the pathway that strolls along the ocean and lines the steep Spanish fortress walls. It started out as the usual story, romantic lit streets with live music in the air set amongst beautiful walls bearing tremendous history and charm. What unfolded was a wild phenomena of feline behavior. A colony of domesticated cats had squatted along this pathway. For hundreds of yards healthy looking kitties roamed, lounged, cleaned, and slept amongst the rocks and foliage that lay on either side of the path. They peered at us from the rocks and from the bushes, they ignored us and they snuck across our path as we traversed their domain. They did as cats do, they were normal, but wait, this wasn’t normal. How strange and distracting it was to have this city of kitties stretch the length of this magnificent display of old world masonry. How cool it was, life is so full of surprises.
Speaking of pleasant surprises, after the fort we then went to a house party with some fellow Americans at a high rise flat set right on the beach. The host was a twenty four year old yank who put 25 cents in a slot machine back in Vegas and won two million dollars. What a stroy the people you meet out here make the places. We were introduced to beer pong on the beach and listened tales from Senor Frogs till we grew tired and retired.