For Elsa

(October, 1909 - December, 2003)

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Monday, January 5

Stephen:

Another impossibly early start. The alarm is set for 3:50 AM. At a younger age we would have just stayed up all night, but now in our late fifties we make the coffee the night before so that it will be ready to nuke and we go to bed early.

I started with Northwest frequent flyer program because of flying to Europe on KLM with the MIT Brain Opera. It is not really the right airline to fly out of Boston because it is not a hub and we usually have to change planes somewhere. In November, I will move to a plan that works from Boston. This trip has us changing in Detroit and our flight leaves at 6 AM. All goes well except that de-icing gets us a little behind schedule and we end up in San Juan, Puerto Rico about an hour behind schedule.

The plans for this trip began as a desire to take a spiritual journey. As I scanned the internet for yoga retreats and Buddhist monasteries I searched myself for what kind of regimen I could endure. At first, the actual physical location seemed not important and we looked at places like sno-cat in, country ski/yoga places in Utah, Kripalu in Western Mass and shimbahla monastery in Vermont. Some had meditation, some had yoga, some had both. A beach-side hotel in Zipolite, Mexico, a town full of slacker ex-pats with a nude beach and lots drugs slid across our screen. The big institutions dropped from the list because while I welcome a little guidance as I search for my own spirituality, I have no interest in paying someone to teach me theirs. Others left the list because they were in cold places. Dear Zipolite left because it seemed to be 4 or 5 panes rides away. Puerto Rico moved higher on the list as we realized that we could get there with frequent flyer miles and also as Dawn heard encouraging words from a Puerto Rican student of hers.

We originally needed the trip both as both a starting point for another phase of our lives as Dawn has recently retired from her position as Artistic co-Director of Dance Collective in Boston and I am pondering a new line of work for myself and a respite for caring for Dawn's mom, Elsa, who just turned ninety four and was having more difficulty in her assisted living home.

The trip has ended up as 5 days at La Casa Grande Mountain Retreat in the mountains of Central Puerto Rico and 4 days at a B & B on Culebra, an island an hour’s ferry ride East of the main island of Puerto Rico. They have morning and evening yoga classes at Casa Grande with nearby hiking and horseback riding. At Arynar (R & R?) on Culebra, there is occasional yoga on the deck overlooking the bay.

The trip origins were only intensified when Elsa died in December. Added was our need to move away from the flood of emotions that overtook us at her death.

Tuesday Jan 6, Feast of the Three Kings

Stephen:

Going to yoga was different than at home. In Boston, we drive, park, endure the spinners and the free weight clangs, and enter a windowless neon lit studio. At Casa Grande, we arise, dress and walk to the studio in silence. As we descend the stairs, a door with Yoga written on it, closed the night before, is now open with quiet music coming from the room within. We use our first words of the morning to introduce ourselves and meet our teacher, Veeta.

We will be in charge of ourselves for the trip and of course, for the rest of our lives.

I won’t describe our first class at Casa Grande except that I had a moment of revelation which I misheard Veeta’s "Relax any tensions" as "Relax all my intentions." In a moment I was aware of all my intentions, short term plans like breakfast and hiking and discussing the class with Dawn; long term plans like Culebra, moving, grandchildren, making love, making a living. More so, I was aware of how I had lived in a swarm of intentions all my life. I won’t say that I reached an intentionless state, but I will say that for a giddy moment they faded a little, leaving me lost with no need to be found.

Sat 1.5 hrs.

Our Cabin at Casa Grande

Read in bar

Took yoga – Same class!

Dinner – chicken and Salmon met Tony Nunciata?, Ina and Dorian Lugo. Before dinner had a glass of wine with Crystal and her husband and daughter Nina.

Wednesday, January 7

Got up early, stretched and meditated went to Yoga. We wait again to speak until we get to class.

Breakfast yogurt and mueslix

Drive to Toro Negro over medicated on Senecot. Climb to the Torre. Eat at El Dujo in Colores in Jayuya named for a Taino chair with hierarchial meaning. We are the only ones in the dining room. We change clothes in the bathrooms have a cocktail in the lounge eat dinner in the dining room and as we leave there are only two at the bar.

Drive home. Dawn said that she got a workout on the way over and she wasn’t kidding. For 45 minutes, the road is always turning and always changing altitude. The roads must be old mule paths. No time for the driver do anything but look at the road.

We stop at the bar at Casa Grande for a disgestivo before going to bed. We glanced through an old copy of yoga journal. Those people are highly conflicted.

Went to bed.

Thursday, January 8

Yoga in the morning. Breakfast, then read by the pool. Parallel books. Went for walk down to the river sat on the rocks and talked about Dawn’s mother's death, our deaths. We watched an egret and a horse feed. Came back and expressed renewed feelings for each other. Some tears.

We had a savignon blanc with dinner and a flan for dessert,

Friday, January 9

Our last day of yoga class. We each got an orange after class. After breakfast we headed for caguaga a Taino ceremonial ball field site. Our greeter and explainer turned out to be Miguel Guzman, the son of a local painter who has done the two paintings in the Casa Grande dining room. We communicated in Spanish and English and he practiced his French with Dawn.

We had yet to stop at a roadside bar or restaurant. Very tricky to decide and then determine if there is a place to pull the car into. Today we stopped, but no lunch, so we ordered two beers and sat outside and watched the hills sit,. and the traffic go by. The couple from the Hotel who had been at the caguana site toodled by.

Going through Utuado on the way back I took the turn for Rte. 111. Ramal means old route 111 and went through the center of town. We went by a classical looking building that was set up with chairs and a stage. On the first floor it only had doors all around, perhaps ten feet tall. We pulled into a parking lot and walked back to it. It was the town’s recently inaugurated cultural center. We chatted in Spanish and when I asked one where we might get lunch he told us that he could give a lunch. So we ate the remains of some functional meal with some orange juice in their back office A cleaning lady came with some juice. She was a grandmother with family in Brooklyn. We have some souvenir pins to prove the whole wacky experience actually happened.

Looked for Rum.

Wrote

Checked out the night before so we could get an early start on the next part of our trip.

We finally found our local roadside meal at Baras Coqui. A couple of minutes down the road from Casa Grande. A pool table and a couple of patrons. We drink beer and work out dinner with everyone. We are not sure who owns the place or even works there but finally we order pechuga de Pollo and some mofongo and sit at a table a listen to Loud Puerto Rican music.

Saturday, January 10

Dawn of the stairs at Casa Grande

Ate breakfast. Took a couple of pictures and filled out their questionnaire. We took some pictures and left a little after nine and arrived a little after noon at the Thrifty Place at Marina del Rey. There was some traffic but we just kept going. We got a lift to the Ferry from the Thrifty people so we arrived by 1 PM for our 2:30 Ferry. We had lunch at the Cafe Delicias, hung out and got the back seat of the ferry. We got to travel through a rain squall but stayed dry. By the time Francette and Bernie picked us up it had stopped raining. The Ferry dock is now a mess because they are rebuilding it. As we were loading off the front the guys in the back were offloading tiles and bags of cement onto the job site.

A short ride later and we were having cervezas on their deck. We got a tour of the place and the short course on the island. We unpacked (actually Dawn did; I never did, just pulled random things out of my suitcase which I rolled under the bed), took a nap and then walked into town for dinner. We stopped in at the Dingy Dock, had a look around and then headed for a small market that might have some munchies for tomorrow's lunch. We then headed for Mamacita's arriving there just as the heavens let go another torrential rain. Thus our decision where to eat dinner was made. Rum punch with lots of coconut followed by scallops and vegetarian lasagna fully sufficed. Being my half birthday, I decided that Dawn should buy me a drink back at the dinghy dock. This time we both had barrilitos with ice on the side, although even speaking in English there was some confusion about the order. My request for two barrilitos in large glasses got mistakenly filled as two large glasses of barrilitos. Drinking rum straight up I guess is not a normal thing at this bar because it was first noted and then copied by a few other people at the bar. Football was the main focus but we didn't even stay for the end of the game, nor for any of the Pats game. I decided that I didn't need to watch. If they lost I didn't want to see it; if they won, I would be able to root for them the next weekend back in Boston, in cold New England where play-off football should be watched.

Sunday, January 11

Dawn on rocksa at Zoni Beach on Culebra

Breakfast. Yoga on the dock. Talked to Jessica and Melissa. Met Robert and Diana.

Drove to Zoni. Boogie board, sat around, went out on rocks. Walked to the East side of the beach and swam. Went to Flamenco, walked through campground saw tank. Came back and showered, went to the Dinghy Dock for dinner. Had Tuna and Cobea. and Campbell's beans with rice, house white.

Monday, January 12

Wet morning, breakfast inside, figured out snorkeling gear. killer yoga. Drove to Melones Beach. Beautiful Reef. Met a local couple who among other things grow Francette's papaya, who waded in with their Budweiser, ice tea and dog. We ate our papaya.

We headed back for showers. I took a nap and Dawn read. We headed for the bar at Club Seaborne. Robert and Diane were there, talking to Gordon, an old friend of theirs from Rhode Island. We talked to the bartender, Kevin

"Trust your bartender" "Can't stand it when people come to the Tropics and try to invent their own drinks". We got our punch without the grenedine. Heard about the reef wedding,had a carlsberg.

Drove to town, Mamacitas - conch salad really good churusca, tuna, gave a nod to the young couple from Club Seaborne.

Met Joanne Motormouth. "Fart Lauderdale" Allentown and Emaus, beateeful. Sad bitter ending to the day.

Tuesday, January 13

Dawn on the way to Rosario Beach

Stretched, had breakfast outside. Headed for Carlos Rosario beach with hiking boots. Dawn borrowed a wetsuit. Dawn saw a fresh deer track and then Stephen saw a deer. Garbage. Snorkeled on the left, the main reef had too much swell. Had to deal with burrs. Did a couple of Snorkeling trips. Walked back drank gatorade. I decided to finish the trip at Zoni Beach. Swam, beautiful clouds bring rain. It had electric blue light under the clouds. Drove back in the dark.

Following instructions we headed to the Happy Landing on the way to Barbara Rosas. Grilled tuna rare and Fish Stroganoff. She used to cook at Club Seaborne. Jim her husband conducted an interview at the order window. Met JJ and Colette Marie Wilson. Invited them to sit at our table while they waited and they ended up eating dinner with us. He owns a house on the island and a boat which he offered to rent us. He bought me a beer and very graciously treated us to a piece of Key Lime pie at the end of dinner.

Francette waited for us to come in because leaving on the early ferry she would not see us in the morning and wanted to say goodbye.

Wednesday January 14

Waffles in the morning. Robert, Diane and Bernie went off to get a 15' trimaran to sail around the bay. I took a swim off the dock and Dawn stretched. I talked to Bernie about his days in the Navy. He had been a commander of United States Submarine and he told a bunch of great stories. He took us to the ferry, a quick uneventful crossing. We were met by Dias with a sign who drove us to the airport in San Juan. He spoke English but let us practice our Spanish on him. We figured out about the Agricultural X-ray, found Northwest ticketing, no line, went through security, ate a really terrible lunch. bought some barrilitos and flew to Detroit, drank in a bar and flew home. On time.

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