Day by Day

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Finished clearing

I am officially signed out from the 1st MSC. I get on a plane tomorrow and meet my dear Ragin' Mrs. somewhere hidden and out of the way.

I have to admit, there's been a lot that I have NOT liked about Puerto Rico. Part of that dislike has been the fact that I've lived in the middle of San Juan for three years. After four years in Seattle and three years here, I am officially fed up with the city. Any city. I think this one was especially trying because I could hear gunshots from my front yard, and yet I couldn't have my own weapons here with me. That's maddening.

I don't know if I've written about this before, but one of my troops here heard me bitching about the fact that I couldn't have a gun in Puerto Rico, and told me that he could get me a gun. I looked at him and asked how much the permits would be. He said "Oh no Ragin' Dave, I didn't say it would be legal. I said I could get you a gun." I didn't quite believe that he could get me a gun that easily, so I told him to get me a price for a mil-spec Springfield M1911. He came back the next day and said "$300.00 even, for a new one."

$300.00 for a BRAND NEW M1911! That's cheaper than I could find it in a gun shop in the States!

I didn't buy it, of course. I can't afford to do anything illegal, and I would do anything illegal in any case. I was raised properly. But it blew my mind. I only half-believed it until another acquainted of mine who will remain nameless told me that he personally was able to acquire a fully automatic AK-47 for under $500.00. And he was able to get it in less than two hours.

TWO HOURS.

But anyways, I have less than 24 hours to deal with this, so I'm going to focus on the things that I liked here.

I liked the beaches, once you got away from San Juan. Going diving between two reefs while schools of fish only seen on National Geographic after-school specials swam around you. Watching a Nurse Shark below you slowing gliding into the bottom of the reef.

I loved watching flocks of macaws and other bright parrots flying overhead.

I loved the lizards. I have a picture of an iguana that was hanging around my backyard when I was going to mow the lawn. I ran to get my camera, and he stayed right where he was until I got back and started snapping shots. For that matter, I have a picture of another iguana, a huge old male, strolling across the 7th fairway of the Ft. Buchanan Golf Course while I was playing golf a year ago.

I'll miss the fresh tropical fruit. I had banana trees growing as a fence for my backyard, and when they produced fruit I could just go out back and pick what I wanted. We had mango trees all over the place. Coconuts. Guava. Papaya. All of it fresh.

I'll miss the beauty of the mountains here. I once went over the mountains in the early morning, and the clouds hadn't been burned away by the sun yet. The sun came up just as we crested the pass near Cayey, and the clouds had settled into the valleys. It looked like lakes of fog, with the mountains rising up in steep slopes on either side. It took my breath away.

I'll miss the friendliness of the people outside of San Juan. As far as I'm concerned, San Juan is a shithole. But once you get away from the city, the people change. They're friendly. Helpful. When I first got here and didn't speak much Spanish, the Ragin' Mrs. and I took a nice drive around the island, just being tourists. We stopped at a roadside stand for lunch. Despite the fact that I didn't speak much Spanish, and the lady at the stand didn't speak much English, we managed to communicate through hand gestures and broken sentences until I was able to buy lunch. And she smiled the whole time. Whenever I was feeling like I wanted to blow something up, if I could get away and go out of the city to the mountains, someplace like Guavate, it refreshed me.

By the way, Guavate has some of the best Lechon (a pig roasted whole on a spit) as I have ever tasted. The town is famous for it's Lechon. After I sampled it, I agreed that the town deserved it's reputation. It was that good.

I'm going to miss the colors here. This place is a photographer's delight. Everything is vibrant. Every color seems to just scream out LOOK AT ME, whether it's the leaves of the plants that cover the hills, or the flowers of the flamboyon, a tree that looks like it's on fire when it's blooming. The seas, either a deep sapphire blue or a mix of colors in the sunlight. A riot of color from the plants that put out flowers - yellow, red, orange, blue, purple, if there's a color in life there's a plant here with flowers in that color.

I'm going to miss the history of Old San Juan.

I'm going to miss the cigars. Don Rey and Don Collins. Sooooooooooo good. And the folks at Don Rey damn near treated me like family. They knew what I liked. They would give me some darn good prices on cigars. Once I hit Wisconsin and I have my humidor back from the moving company, I'm going to be calling them up. "HEY! TONY! I NEED SOME XANDERS, BRO!" And if you're ever in San Juan, you have got to go to the Don Collins store. I never go to Old San Juan without stopping in.

I'm going to miss the rum, most of which you can't get off of the island. There's a lot of rum distilleries that came here from Cuba when Castro took power. Cuba's loss is Puerto Rico's gain. If you can find Ron de Barrilito, Tres Estrellas, grab it. Don't ask questions, just grab it. It's the best rum I have ever had in my life. I drink it like I would drink a good scotch - put a shot in a glass, wave an ice cube over it and then sip it slowly. Don't put the ice into it, that would just dilute the pure heaven.

I'm going to miss quite a lot of the people I've met and worked with here. I've learned a lot. Well, "a lot" doesn't quite cover it. Sure, I've had my run-ins with idiots and slackers, but I've also been able to learn an amazing amount of knowledge from people who have the experience that I don't. And I'm grateful for that.

I'm going to miss the friends that I've made here. Moving is part of the military life, but still, you miss the folks that are important to you. My neighbors (and they know who they are), I'm going to miss terribly.

So, this concludes another chapter in my life. But for every ending, there's yet another beginning. And in a month's time I'll be in a new post, with a new job, and ready to look forward in life. I'll post a little here and there until then, but I'm hoping to avoid politics for a while. There will be enough time for that in the upcoming election race.

Till then.......

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