We’re sitting in the lobby of the International Airport Hotel at the Luis Munoz Marin Aeropuerto in Isla Verde, San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is 2:03 pm. Don Raphael and Dona Lydia have dropped us off at the airport for our return trip to New York. Our flight leaves at 5:30 pm.
It looks like we have some time to kill. Having checked our bags, signed up for our pre-boarding passes, looked at the souviner shops, and having tried to find the New York Times at one of the newstands here at the airport; we’ve followed the lobby signs up three floors on the elevator and ended up here in the hotel lobby.
The lobby has nine chairs, two plants, one candy and chips machine, one Coke machine, and one t.v. The decor is airport bland. No concession to the island or mar caribe here. The walls are painted off-white, with an aqua-baby-blue wainscoting. The trim is gun-metal grey. The lights are recessed ceiling lamps set into the cement, each of the 13 lamps holding one 40 watt Sylvania softwhite bulb. The chairs a grey-blonde wood, and the seats and backs are covered in teal-blue-grey naugahyde. The floor is polished light-brown marble with flecks of black and brown stone. The center section of the floor is covered with an industrial carpet which is a mix of blue-grey and brown.
On the far wall of the lobby, above the first landing on the stairway, is a giant painting of the landscape of the interior of the island. The painting is eight feet high by eighteen feet long and is framed by a nine-inch wide, hardwood frame. The top third of the painting is the sky, fading from light aqua-blue at the top, to yellow-pink on the horizion. The middle of the painting shows a mountain range, with very little vegetation. The hills are a dark brown in the distance, and brown-green in the fore-ground. We are looking into a passage-way through the mountains, which begins off to our left, behind the closest hill, makes its way to the center of the painting, and then disappears behind the largest hill on the right middle-ground. In the close-fore-ground at the bottom of the painting are two tiny houses. The house nearest to us has no doors or windows, but looks to be two rooms big, it’s a narrow rectangle. The walls are painted red, the roof, blue. In the middle distance, on the side of another hill, is the other house, which seems to be a twin of the close house, only it’s very tiny, since it is so far away. That’s it, there’s no other signs of life in this landscape. No roads or paths lead to the houses. No people or animals are on the land, no birds are in the sky. The painting is un-signed and there are no labels on the frame or wall to identify it. A good title for the painting would be: "The Boring Pass" or "El Paseo Borienquen".
The lobby, and the stairway in particular, are quite dim. It is very bright outside, a hot-sunny 93 degrees. In here, with light from only a small set of windows which look out onto the roof of the back-side of the airport, we need all of the light coming from the 40 watt bulbs to see things. The painting has been lit by one large kitchen-style light fixture mounted on the ceiling directly above the painting. It’s the classic round, birthday-cake-style lamp, with a 75 watt circular fluorescent tube inside of the frosted lamp-housing.
Lydia has figured out how to work the t.v. and has tuned it to canal 6 which is showing english language cartoons. The one at the moment is about kids living in a small town in the midwest, who are sponsoring a fish-fry at their school. For some reason, they can’t get any fish, so they have made fish cakes from potatoes cut into fish shapes.
Lillian and I are relaxing on the chairs, Lillian reading her book, "Cuba and the Night", while I type.
Looking around the lobby of the hotel, we immediately noticed framed prints on the walls. A closer inspection showed that they are made by Raimundo Figueroa. Raimundo’s print series, 12 of which have been installed in the lobby and hallways of the hotel, is called "Boarding Pass". Each print is done in a semi-abstract manner, with a color ground layer, various pieces of paper and cloth are attached to the ground, and the whole is over-drawn with repetitive, nearly recognizable icons...some shaped like hearts, others like various plants. Each print is then over-written with scribbled words in english and spanish. Another common motif is the use of numbers printed onto the ground in the same scribbled hand-writing. The prints do have all of the Caribbean colors, otherwise missing from the hotel. I notice the cartoon is drawing to a close.
As I look up, Lydia asks me "Daddy, how much longer before our plane leaves?"
I look at my watch, it is 2:58 pm. I do a quick calculation. "Two-and-a-half hours.", I tell her.
"Great", she says, " I can watch a lot more cartoons!"
Next: Quein Graznar?