Let's Go To Pluto: Part I

"There's little you can do to stop the inexorable unfolding of inevitable fate, but moving the charcoal lighter fluid away from the furnace wouldn't be a bad start."

"You're flying out Monday. You need to know a few things: You are the enemy. These people are all losing their jobs. The Teamsters know you're coming and they're very prone to violence, so stay close to the small group. You will stick out like a sore thumb with your blond hair, never mind the language barrier. Do not go into town and never leave your hotel room without one of the guys by your side. Good luck."

It was a surreal and grim series of disclaimers laid out prior to boarding that plane. I was part of a 4-person team assigned to close out a contract we had for over 20 years. Despite growing up in a rather worldly and travel-prone family, I had never been to Puerto Rico before. I figured it was more of a resort sort of destination. It was certainly breathtaking in photographs....

Following a series of mishaps, missed planes and misplaced luggage, we finally arrived at the hotel around midnight. In the damp darkness, it didn't seem nearly as foreboding as I was led to believe. Certainly the atmosphere was a bit of a shock as we departed from an early Winter and stepped off the plane into a tropical climate at the height of hurricane season. This chubby gal generally isn't a fan of heat and humidity, but the nighttime air was filled with a level of intrigue.

I didn't sleep that night - there was no way I could when I stepped out onto the hotel balcony to take in everything around me. The deafening chirps of the coqui frogs amidst the crashing waves of the ocean below. Through a dense fog, a curious sidewalk to the moon on the horizon painted across the water's eery reflection. I wanted so desperately to take a picture, but my camera would instantly cloud over with dew. The elusive sights before me translated into little more than murky blurs on the screen. Damn.

The next morning seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea what to expect or how to begin. My social phobia coupled with the obvious language barrier would be interesting obstacles. We were just outside the small town of Luquillo and had to drive about half an hour to get onto our destination upon the long-since-closed Naval Base at Roosevelt Roads. Along the drive, my eyes watered at the lush greenery all around. A sprawling sea of pastel colored one-level houses... bars in the windows. There was a strange air of sadness along the drive, but nothing would quite prepare me for the vision of the base itself. I can only grasp at the description: apocalypse.

An expanse spanning miles upon miles upon miles of two-story grasses hiding palms and, as I was busily imagining: zombies. Old buildings long-since shuttered up with massive tropical foliage towering up from out of the roof-tops. Entire condo complexes gutted and engulfed in green mossy beasts. We continued for what seemed like days on the narrow and lonely road through the landscape. Parking lot after parking lot, desolate and abandoned but for.... my god.... what in the flying hell is that? IGUANA!!!!

A few hotel employees had mentioned the 6 foot beasts in passing. I figured they were simply playing upon this blond little girl's gullibility! They even covered their tracks with mentions of my having missed the prime breeding season a few months back. They said it would be highly improbable for me to witness one firsthand. But there he was. I must have released a delighted shriek as my good friend sighed and pulled off to the side of the road so I could get a closer look. He was magnificent. I immediately named him Bernard. My sweet, sweet Bernard. After heroically crawling on my belly for the perfect shot, I returned to the car ready to start the day!

No power. Ummm... what? We were on a tight schedule given the enormous laundry list of tasks we had only 2 weeks to complete and it began with a base-wide blackout. They had to conserve power in the few remaining occupied buildings and the generators were reserved for such things as heating The Commander's pool. It seems The Commander (and to this day, every time I utter that title aloud, I picture this strong and terrifying illegitimate brother of Fidel Castro) now fancied the entire base his bizarre kingdom. His wife and children lived full time on the other side of the island - 3 hours away. He had crews come in and maintain some of the old base housing or community gathering areas for his elaborate parties. He would even "grant" various film distributors access to his obsolete kingdom so long as he was given a bit part in the film at hand. So it was all completely understandable that we were suddenly unable to do a damn thing as we were in a pitch-black airplane hanger with no electricity or air conditioning, no cell or internet signal from our phones or laptops. As long as The Commander was pleased as punch, right?

No matter - I simply closed my eyes and pictured my Dear Bernard. Daydreaming about what sort of mischief that bastard was getting into... whether he was in cahoots with the zombies.... I had stepped out in the drizzling rain for a cigarette and something sinister caught my eye off in the distance at the corner of the lot.... zombies? Dogs. Mangy, ravenously wiry creatures with yellowed eyes and exposed teeth.... there were probably 9 or 10 of them.... all foaming at the mouth as they trained their collective sights on me. Too paralyzed to move a muscle beyond raising my hand to my mouth in a robotic and inherent gesture. After what seemed like a lifetime caught in this standoff, they clearly lost interest and moved along on their journey. I continued piecing together who or what I perceived would be in alliance against the other on this mysterious tropical wasteland. The power came back on and it was time to make up for lost time.

The first day was an overwhelmingly exhausting experience. More in the mental logistics of it all than anything else. The few employees I encountered were incredible and warm. Welcoming yet amused by me. Perhaps entertained by my sudden tasking from a position of complete inexperience. Ahhh... but I survived Day One and I additionally decided Bernard would have my back from this point forward.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, Annie! THAT was just day ONE! Wow! I’m totally intrigued! And your Bernard, frolicking in the foliage…do Iguanas frolic? Your Bernard would, among other things, I’m sure!

    Do hurry back with the rest of your adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Beautiful! You are so sweet! It was an absolutely extraordinary experience and believe me, there is so much more to say! As for Iguanas frolicking - THEY TOTALLY DO!!!

    A few little troublemakers, in particular, find it quite entertaining to hang out in the trees down by the pool of the hotel... when the moment is right, they all belly-flop in unison into the water scaring the living hell out of all the unsuspecting swimmers! If it weren't so bloody hilarious, I'd actually pity the victims below! :)

    More to come and thank you, as always, for visiting and making me smile! XOXO

    ReplyDelete

Kitty

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let's Go To Pluto: Part I

"There's little you can do to stop the inexorable unfolding of inevitable fate, but moving the charcoal lighter fluid away from the furnace wouldn't be a bad start."

"You're flying out Monday. You need to know a few things: You are the enemy. These people are all losing their jobs. The Teamsters know you're coming and they're very prone to violence, so stay close to the small group. You will stick out like a sore thumb with your blond hair, never mind the language barrier. Do not go into town and never leave your hotel room without one of the guys by your side. Good luck."

It was a surreal and grim series of disclaimers laid out prior to boarding that plane. I was part of a 4-person team assigned to close out a contract we had for over 20 years. Despite growing up in a rather worldly and travel-prone family, I had never been to Puerto Rico before. I figured it was more of a resort sort of destination. It was certainly breathtaking in photographs....

Following a series of mishaps, missed planes and misplaced luggage, we finally arrived at the hotel around midnight. In the damp darkness, it didn't seem nearly as foreboding as I was led to believe. Certainly the atmosphere was a bit of a shock as we departed from an early Winter and stepped off the plane into a tropical climate at the height of hurricane season. This chubby gal generally isn't a fan of heat and humidity, but the nighttime air was filled with a level of intrigue.

I didn't sleep that night - there was no way I could when I stepped out onto the hotel balcony to take in everything around me. The deafening chirps of the coqui frogs amidst the crashing waves of the ocean below. Through a dense fog, a curious sidewalk to the moon on the horizon painted across the water's eery reflection. I wanted so desperately to take a picture, but my camera would instantly cloud over with dew. The elusive sights before me translated into little more than murky blurs on the screen. Damn.

The next morning seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea what to expect or how to begin. My social phobia coupled with the obvious language barrier would be interesting obstacles. We were just outside the small town of Luquillo and had to drive about half an hour to get onto our destination upon the long-since-closed Naval Base at Roosevelt Roads. Along the drive, my eyes watered at the lush greenery all around. A sprawling sea of pastel colored one-level houses... bars in the windows. There was a strange air of sadness along the drive, but nothing would quite prepare me for the vision of the base itself. I can only grasp at the description: apocalypse.

An expanse spanning miles upon miles upon miles of two-story grasses hiding palms and, as I was busily imagining: zombies. Old buildings long-since shuttered up with massive tropical foliage towering up from out of the roof-tops. Entire condo complexes gutted and engulfed in green mossy beasts. We continued for what seemed like days on the narrow and lonely road through the landscape. Parking lot after parking lot, desolate and abandoned but for.... my god.... what in the flying hell is that? IGUANA!!!!

A few hotel employees had mentioned the 6 foot beasts in passing. I figured they were simply playing upon this blond little girl's gullibility! They even covered their tracks with mentions of my having missed the prime breeding season a few months back. They said it would be highly improbable for me to witness one firsthand. But there he was. I must have released a delighted shriek as my good friend sighed and pulled off to the side of the road so I could get a closer look. He was magnificent. I immediately named him Bernard. My sweet, sweet Bernard. After heroically crawling on my belly for the perfect shot, I returned to the car ready to start the day!

No power. Ummm... what? We were on a tight schedule given the enormous laundry list of tasks we had only 2 weeks to complete and it began with a base-wide blackout. They had to conserve power in the few remaining occupied buildings and the generators were reserved for such things as heating The Commander's pool. It seems The Commander (and to this day, every time I utter that title aloud, I picture this strong and terrifying illegitimate brother of Fidel Castro) now fancied the entire base his bizarre kingdom. His wife and children lived full time on the other side of the island - 3 hours away. He had crews come in and maintain some of the old base housing or community gathering areas for his elaborate parties. He would even "grant" various film distributors access to his obsolete kingdom so long as he was given a bit part in the film at hand. So it was all completely understandable that we were suddenly unable to do a damn thing as we were in a pitch-black airplane hanger with no electricity or air conditioning, no cell or internet signal from our phones or laptops. As long as The Commander was pleased as punch, right?

No matter - I simply closed my eyes and pictured my Dear Bernard. Daydreaming about what sort of mischief that bastard was getting into... whether he was in cahoots with the zombies.... I had stepped out in the drizzling rain for a cigarette and something sinister caught my eye off in the distance at the corner of the lot.... zombies? Dogs. Mangy, ravenously wiry creatures with yellowed eyes and exposed teeth.... there were probably 9 or 10 of them.... all foaming at the mouth as they trained their collective sights on me. Too paralyzed to move a muscle beyond raising my hand to my mouth in a robotic and inherent gesture. After what seemed like a lifetime caught in this standoff, they clearly lost interest and moved along on their journey. I continued piecing together who or what I perceived would be in alliance against the other on this mysterious tropical wasteland. The power came back on and it was time to make up for lost time.

The first day was an overwhelmingly exhausting experience. More in the mental logistics of it all than anything else. The few employees I encountered were incredible and warm. Welcoming yet amused by me. Perhaps entertained by my sudden tasking from a position of complete inexperience. Ahhh... but I survived Day One and I additionally decided Bernard would have my back from this point forward.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, Annie! THAT was just day ONE! Wow! I’m totally intrigued! And your Bernard, frolicking in the foliage…do Iguanas frolic? Your Bernard would, among other things, I’m sure!

    Do hurry back with the rest of your adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Beautiful! You are so sweet! It was an absolutely extraordinary experience and believe me, there is so much more to say! As for Iguanas frolicking - THEY TOTALLY DO!!!

    A few little troublemakers, in particular, find it quite entertaining to hang out in the trees down by the pool of the hotel... when the moment is right, they all belly-flop in unison into the water scaring the living hell out of all the unsuspecting swimmers! If it weren't so bloody hilarious, I'd actually pity the victims below! :)

    More to come and thank you, as always, for visiting and making me smile! XOXO

    ReplyDelete