Each year, my wife and I attempt to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life in chilly New England and jet off to some island in the Caribbean where warmth and rum drinks abound. This year it was Puerto Rico, which, unlike our Turks and Caicos visit last year, promised not only warm waters, but also the lush, forested geography of the central mountains. T&C has Grace Bay, the unparalleled beach of fine white sand on arrestingly turquoise waters, but inland, whatever isn’t irrigated by a hose turns to scrub.
Provo: Look Out!
In the San Juan area, we gave ourselves a few days to lie around and hide from the sun’s UV rays at the resort, then managed to put some energy into renting a car and heading inland to take in the “Ruta Panoramica” – the series of roads that wind across the center of the island from east to west. One always has high hopes for these sorts of quasi-foreign road trips, imagining the startling vistas that await the adventurous soul, despite the fact that all the books say don’t look at anything but the road in front of you and drive around 25 mph.
The first bit of trouble on our escapade came almost immediately: we had been advised by Enterprise Rent a Car to use the electronic lane whenever we came upon a toll booth, and every time we did red lights flashed and buzzers went off. Once off the highway and heading up into the hills, we found ourselves stuck behind a huge garbage truck for mile after mile. Soon, we encountered more trucks, and eventually road work in the middle of nowhere. Once past the construction, we took the first wrong turn we could find and ended up in the unremarkable southern town of Guayama. We made our way back to the highway and through more flashing and buzzing toll lanes, and finally reached our lunch destination, the town of Aibonito, which had worse traffic than downtown Boston. We dumped our car and sought out a lechonera on foot in order to get a plate of the legendary Puerto Rican suckling pig; failing that, we landed at a so-so lunch spot outside of town called Tio Pepe’s. By then, it was just about time to head back to Isla Verde lest we hit serious rush hour traffic in San Juan. Too late, as no matter which back road we took, we were confronted with more traffic, including this noisy fellow:
The laughter you hear is mild bemusement borne of fatigue and exasperation. Thankfully, we had one more day to lie around and read our books, which was the reason we’d gone on this trip in the first place.
The various "cleanse" diets out there have got me to thinking about developing my own diet, which I am dubbing the “Chow-Down to Triumph” diet. This diet is a little hard to follow, particularly when you get into day 3 and you know you’ve got another 7 to get through. Time to bite the bullet. With a little effort you can do it!
Each day of the Chow-Down to Triumph diet is separated into 11 distinct mealtimes, as follows (with examples of the kinds of meals you’ll be expected to consume in each instance):
Pre-breakfast: Steaming concoction of equal parts espresso and whole milk, sweetened with a heaping teaspoon of sugar, in bed, while reading the paper in a leisurely manner; French cruller for dipping into coffee.
Breakfast: egg yolk, feta-cheese, and caramelized onion omelet; beef carpaccio; 2 rashers of bacon; black and white pudding; heavily buttered sourdough loaves; Extra-Salt V-8.
Post-breakfast: hot coffee; doughnut holes.
Ten-minute period of fasting.
Pre-Lunch: artisanal cheese board; sparkling cider.
Lunch: fruity shake consisting of pineapple, orange, mango, kiwi, whatever else is lying around, blended with freshly whipped cream. Side of hummus and pita (as much as you’d like).
Post-Lunch: artisanal sausage board; sparkling hard cider.
Rest Period: smoky tea; meerschaum pipe by the fire; bowl of artisanal chocolates.
Snack: artisanal chips and guacamole.
Pre-dinner: Mini martini to whet the appetite; fried pork potstickers and a tankard of ale.
Dinner: Oversize spicy maki with tempura flecks; more tankards of ale; braised short ribs over mashed accompanied by a well-breathed 2001 Ribera Del Duero that you’ve been aging in your cellar for 4 years; hot pie with a huge scoop of ice cream; 10-year old port; espresso.
Post-dinner: peaty, single-malt highland scotch; artisanal jalapeno poppers.
At the end of day 1, you realize that you just have to sleep off such a huge intake of food and liquid. Your body will demand that you settle into bed for the next 36 hours. Call in sick and steel yourself: the process repeats itself 4 more times, starting on days 3, 5, 7, and 9.
I went out to get the paper the other day (yes, I still get the paper thrown at my house, the way most people used to get it “back in the day”) and found that the tattered rattan love seat out on my front porch was wet, the torn sisal rug was soaked across a 3-foot wide diameter, and a steady drip could be found emanating from the porch ceiling in several spots. I had a leaking roof.
This leak had been brewing for many years. Our home inspector told us 10 years ago that the rolled roof over the porch wasn’t new and would need to be replaced at some point, and 5 years later, when we had the slate roof that covers the bulk of the house entirely re-coppered, the roofer, Paul Ladd, informed me that our rolled roof had a few years of life left, but not much more.
I watched Paul’s employee Ian work up there on my roof and was completely convinced that he’d done excellent work. Especially interesting was to watch Ian remove slates one-by-one, number them, and later, after having installed a foundation of some sort of tar paper and 20-ounce copper flashing into each of the 8 dormer valleys, put them right back where he found them. Modern roofing may require less expertise to install, but the shingles don’t get reused a century after they were originally mounted when your pony-tailed Scottish roofer goes up there to re-copper the valleys.
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
I would like to have Paul and Ian return to my house to fix my porous rubber roof as well, but, alas, soon after the crew worked on my house, Paul was deported back to Ireland. This had nothing to do with roofs (nor rooves, as my father would point out is the correct plural form), but was the result of his apparently illegal US status, which became known when he was pulled over for a traffic infraction. I don’t know all the particulars, but I do hope that Paul and his wife Jenny landed on their feet back in Ireland and can be found repairing rooves there (slate, thatched, or otherwise).
I’ve always wanted to write a gritty, lurid potboiler, but have never found the potboiler inside me. I’ve heard that great writers knock these off in about a week if given sufficient quantities of cigarettes and booze, so I’m planning to head to the local “packy” to snag a carton of smokes and some local moonshine in order to knock off a potboiler and make tons of money.
My potboiler involves Jake, the narrator, a hard-drinking, old-school newspaper man, who does a profile of Janet, the highly-paid president of a college you’ve never heard of in flood-prone, coastal Massachusetts. Despite her position of leadership and respect, Janet is saddled with Richie, a total schlub who’d latched onto her when she was just a fledgling postdoc in some esoteric something-or-other humanities discipline, and somehow tricked her into marrying his lazy ass. Sure, he was once a hot-shot taxi driver who knew all secret routes to get you around the hellish traffic in Salem, but of late he has fallen from that lofty perch to settle in as a layabout who doesn’t lift a finger to produce income or manage the house.
Janet keeps her cards close to the vest in the two-hour interview with the Jake, but clearly sends out chemical vibes to the gruff reporter. Jake has met total babes like Janet before, and senses that she’s probably an emotional disaster. The day after the interview, Janet calls Jake back, claiming that she had left out some important information during the interview, and how’s about getting together for drinks? Their subsequent gin-infused rendezvous causes the sparks to fly between them, and they end up heading back to Jake’s for a steamy encounter of the sensational and kinky variety. Jake acts like, hey, awesome!, let’s see each other every now and again, but Janet is ready to dump her husband immediately in favor of Jake. Janet is a zillionaire from a having published a couple books and doing speaking tours and all that, and tells Jake that she’d be forced to pay Richie about half of her ample fortune if she were to file for divorce. But what are the options? She can’t stand to be with such an emotionally abusive jerk any longer!
Layered under the story are reports of an impending storm, and as the potboiler progresses, Janet becomes convinced she can murder her husband during this wicked snowstorm, and ropes Jake into her wicked game plan. Jake knows he should call the cops, but he’s fallen for Janet and agrees to the following evil plot she concocts as it becomes clear the storm is going to be a blizzard of epic proportions accompanied by a nasty tidal surge: they’ll spike Richie’s lunchtime tankard of ale with a drug sure to cause a heart attack, and then call 9-1-1 during the height of the storm, when it will be impossible for emergency vehicles to get there. The whole plan seems to work great, as Richie collapses from his chair, grabbing his chest whilst chunks of chewed-up tuna sandwich fall from his mouth. His gaze locks onto Janet as he reaches out for her hand, but instead of helping she kicks him in the gut, and then he expires. The plan seems to have gone exactly as planned, except the emergency crews arrive at her house in a flat-bottomed boat in minutes, and – wait a minute! – Richie isn’t dead yet!
The expert emergency personnel revive Richie’s stupid ass, and tests at the hospital reveal: he’s been drugged! Janet is eventually arrested, implicates Jake, and Richie becomes destined to live off the estate for his remaining years of life.