"Contigo mano a mano"

Inching our way to Santa Olaya

     We left Albany at 4:30am on Thursday to catch an 8:30am
flight to Charleston, S.C. where we would transfer to a direct
flight to San Juan. We were flying USAir, after our original
flight with Midway was canceled by them.  The switch to USAir was
made for us and changed our arrival by only 20 minutes. While
waiting to board the San Juan flight, it was announced that the
flight was overbooked. Those volunteering to give up their seats
for a later flight would be given free round-trip tickets to any
destination of choice, if the tickets were used within the next
year.  Lydia and I were buying comic books and Charleston
souvenirs, so Lillian signed us up.  

     Except for the delay the plan sounded good to me and I
finally convinced Lydia of the potential for adventure; so we all
waved goodbye to the departing San Juan flight and began our wait
for our next step in our travels. It came shortly in the form of
a short flight from Charleston to Gainesville, Florida on a
little 10 seat plane. Lydia thought that was an excellent next
move. Thirty minutes later, we were in Gainesville, waiting for
our next flight, to Miami.  Lillian and Lydia watched soap operas
and I tried to arrange a message from us to Lillian's parents who
would shortly be waiting for us in San Juan, expecting us on the
USAir flight at 3:30pm, about 20 minutes hence.

     The ticket agent for USAir made phone calls to San Juan
airport for me and said that the message would be relayed to Don
Raphael and Dona Lydia.  An hour later, we boarded the next
flight for Miami on a 20 passenger mini-jet and made a quick 45
minute trip to the Miami airport.  There we settled in for a 90
minute wait for our last airborne leg of the trip to the island
via an American Airlines jumbo jet. I worked with the American
Airlines agent to get the message about our delay to Don Raphael,
this time they entered my message into the computer, verbatim as
I had written it out for them. "Unavoidably delayed until 8:30pm.
Don't wait for us. We're renting a car and will meet you at your
house later. We're doing fine."  Confident that they would be
notified, we ate potato chips and popcorn and waited for our
boarding call. During the wait, I also phoned ahead to rent our
car at National car rental.  Visa card in hand, I had a car
reserved in a few minutes.

     The flight on American was easy and uneventful, but not long
enough to allow them to show us a complete movie. The choice on
the southbound leg on USAir was "Sabrina", which we knew about
but had not seen. The choice on American, had our flight
originated 30 minutes further north, was "WaterWorld" which
Lillian and I saw in Paris, in v.o. For either film, switching to
channel 11 on the headset would have provided the soundtrack
dubbed into spanish, which is how I like to listen to films that
I already know. Last year I watched "Forrest Gump" that way...
"Vida esta una carton de chocolate...no se no."

     Our biggest problem upon arriving in San Juan airport was
finding our luggage which had remained on USAir, and got to the
airport at 3:30 as scheduled, 5 hours ahead of us. I went to the
American Airlines baggage services when we deplaned, and the
agent agreed to help us find our bags. Meanwhile Lillian called
her father to say we had arrived safely, and found out that her
parents were never given the message I sent to them.  They waited
at the airport for us until 6:30, and then, not knowing where we
were, went home. They called Lillian's brother in Delaware, and
he was able to track us down via USAir, and called them back to
let them know what to expect of us.  Her father said that they
feared that we had an accident between Albany and NYC, and never
made our original flight.  Once Lillian assured them of our well-
being we went with the American Airlines agent to find our bags.
At 9pm, the USAir staff had locked up and gone home and the next
shift was not due until 11:30pm, to meet the last USAir flight of
the day.  Fortunately, our agent was able to get us in a back
door, and there in a corner, looking forlorn and bruised from the
trip, were our bags. We collected the bags, picked up the keys to
our National rental car, and caught the shuttle to the rental car

     On the drive from the airport to casa Mulero, in the hills
south of Bayamon, Lillian and calculated our savings/earnings for
having agreed to voluntary bumping from the Charleston flight.
Three round-trip tickets were worth at least $1000. The extra
time for our travel was 5 hours. This meant that each of us had
earned $63 per hour for the time invested.  Not too bad for half-
a-days work.

Calle Ponce de Leon
Viejo San Juan
March 15, 1996

  M decides to take us on a walking tour of Old San Juan, and our
first stop, after convincing the kids not to jump into all the
nearby fountains which are filled with splashing and  laughing
children, is Casa Blanca, a fortress home built by Ponce de Leon,
conquistador and first governor of Puerto Rico. The Casa was
finished in 1525, but Ponce de Leon never lived in it, as he was
killed by Indians in Florida in 1521.  M has taken us deep
into the interior courtyard of the Casa where we are now sitting
in the cool shade while the kids splash and laugh in the long
narrow fountain here. The kids have wandered deeper into the
gardens and discovered a number of artifacts left by some
homeless persons, including a souvenir glass from the 1980 summer
Olympics, pots and pans, and a large votive candle in a glass jar
which has an indian prayer, written in spanish, stenciled on the
face of the jar.   

        F is telling us about her childhood and schooldays
in France, when the guard comes by, blowing his whistle, and
telling us that the Casa will be closed for the day, shortly. We
get the kids to return their finds, except for the Olympic glass
and the votive candle, back to the garden, and we make our way to
the exit. When we get there, we find it locked. M knows
another exit. Along the way, we meet another family, parents, two
young boys and two bicycles, who are also looking for the way out
of the Casa. We all get to the second exit and find it locked.
'No problem', says M. 'I'll go to the central guard-house
and they'll let us out.' He does. No one is there. It's also
locked up. We begin exploring the inner periphery of the Casa.
The walls are very high and the whole Casa is built on a hill. We
have commanding views of Old San Juan and San Juan harbor. We
have no chance of scaling the walls and dropping down to the
street. Soon, we are back to the main entrance/exit. We meet the
other family there as well. No one has found a way out.   

        We have no choice but to climb the iron gate which is firmly
closed with lock and chain. Victoria is the first to make the
climb. The gate is about 12 feet high, but the bars of the gate
are spaced widely enough that it is easy to put your feet between
them.  Victoria is up and over in a  short time. Lydia is next.
She gets to the top of the gate but gets stuck going over the
top. I climb up quickly and M does the same, going  over to
the outside. I give Lydia a boost over the top and M helps
her down and out of the Casa. Next we get five year old David
out, then F and finally Lillian, who is wearing a dress. She
ties her dress around her waist, and underpants flaring, does a
quick alley-oop and she's on the outside. By now, the other
family is ready for their turn. The two young boys are first,
then the bicycles followed by the mother and father. Set free, we
all give a big cheer, hugs and handshakes all-around, and then we
are back on the street, to finish our tour of Old San Juan.

        On the ride back to M's I recount for them our
experiences of the morning. Victoria had spent the night in the
country with us at Lillian's parents house. Normally, her parents
attend church on Saturday night, but having said that we would
accompany them, they decided to to go on Sunday morning, this
a.m.. As I explained, church begins at 8am.  We were to leave
earlier, however. In order to be ready to go, her  parents woke
us up at 5:30am. This gave us time to shower, dress, and eat
before leaving. Her parents had gotten up at 4:30am to shower and
dress, leaving the bathroom open for our ministrations.  By
6:45am we were ready, which was good, because we left the house
at 7:00am. By my watch, it took us 2 minutes to drive the
half-mile from their house to the church. We were the third group
to arrive. I couldn't figure out why we had to be so early until
Lillian explained to my that it was important for her parents to 
present us to the others at the church. By 8:00am, the place had
pretty well filled up, and from our pew in the back, I tried to
look attentive. The service ended mercifully at 9:30am and we
hurried downstairs for bacalaoitos and Maltas.  Then we drove
home, where Dona Lydia prepared an enormous lunch for us, which
we had at 11:00am.    

        Telling M about lunch led to a quick dissertation on
family and eating, good manners, and the measure of the man (me)
by how many plates of food he eats (never enough). M,  it
turns out, has the reputation of a man of big food. He explained
to us how he and a cousin went together to an all-you-can-eat
buffet where the cousin challenged him to a number-of-plate-fulls
contest. After seven plates, the cousin dropped out. M then
ate six more, just for good measure, and only stopped at the
insistence of the rest of the people he was with. They didn't
want him to become sick. He said he could have kept going.  

We are leaving for Vieques in the morning and
I remind M that we can expect to get a glimpse of
the comet Hyukatake while we are in Vieques, as it is scheduled
to make its closest approach to the earth during that weekend.  I
don't mention it, but the weekend is also my 49th birthday; so
the prospects look good for an interesting party of some sort for
that day as well.

March 25, 1996
Vieques, Puerto Rico

A la vista el cometa Hyakutake

"Contigo mano a mano
 Busquemos otro llano
 Busquemos otros montes y otros rios
 Otras valles floridos y sombrios
 Donde descanse y siemprepueda verte
 Ante de ojos mios
 Sin miedo y sobresalto de perderte."

TinTin in the New World
Frederic Tuten, 1993

        Last night we walked the two miles from Olga's, along the beach highway
to the Inn on the Blue Horizon, a new, upscale resort and resturant run by
James, from Kentucky, and his lover David, from NYC. We walked there because we 
had the night to ourselves. Lydia and Victoria were spending the night with
their new friend Megan, giving Lillian and I a chance to explore the night-
time scene in Esperanza. We decided to go the the inn because it is the only
place we've found here which serves fresh garden salad. The inn is located  
at the end of a long dirt road, one-half mile from the beach highway, and about
100 yards from the ocean front. It is a very modern, low building, containing
the resturant and four guest rooms. A separate outdoor pavilion houses the
bar. The complex of buildings sits in the middle of a huge field, looking like
it was dropped there by a giant helicopter. A rectangular, azure pool with 
minimal decoration completes the setting. 

        The primary reason we walked to the inn was to stand at the half-way
point on the dirt road leading to the inn, which put is in the middle of 
the open field, in the middle of the night, with a nearly 360 degree view
of the night sky. Our goal was to view the comet, Hyakutake. According to
the local newspaper, the comet was to be visible to the naked eye beginning
March 19 through March 27. The closest approach to the earth was to be March
26th, when the comet would be at it's brightest.  The diagram in the newspaper
showed the comet as viewed in the southern hemisphere, starting in the proximity 
of Libra and tracing a line, in the northeastern sky, night by night, until it
connects with the north (polar) star.  That night, the 24th, the comet was suppossed
to be found just below the third star in the handle of Ursa Major (the big
dipper). The night was slightly overcast, but the dipper was easy to find. Not
knowing exactly what to look for, the best we could see was a bright but fuzzy
star near the handle. Not certain if we had seen the comet or not, we went
to the inn, had salads and rum and cokes, then started our walk back home,
to Olga's just as it began to rain.  

        This morning, as we were on our way to the beach, we met one of the 
other couples staying at Olga's, who asked us if we had seen the comet last night.
They said they went to a secluded part of Sun Bay last night, to snorkle and
to watch for the comet. They described it as a bright fuzzy star and said that
the tail was visible if you looked indirectly at the comet, from the corner
of your eye. It sounded to me like an odd way to view a comet and I realized
that for me, looking peripherally required that I look beyond the lens of my
glasses. I'm rather blind without my glasses, so I was sure that this technique
would do me no good, though I did consider holding my glasses to the side of
my head.  It seems that we did see the comet, without fully realizing it, but
we definitely did not see the tail.  

        Tonight we're on our way back to the
driveway of the Inn on the Blue Horizon for another attempt at 'a la vista
el cometa Hyakutake'. Lillian and I are walking again, actually it's one of
the things that we like about being in Vieques; we walk everywhere we need
to go. Nothing is more that a mile or two from where we are, so the walks are
relatively short, and good for us. 

        Standing again, in the middle of the field, half way to the inn, we
are looking up at the night sky. It's about 10 pm. Again we see the soft,
fuzzy bright star we saw the night before. This time it is even closer to
the stars of the dipper's handle. As our eyes adjust to the darkness and
accomodate the dimmer lights of the starry sky, we can begin to make out
the tail of the comet. Suddenly it comes into full view. The tail is 
enormous. It spans fully one third of the sky overhead. The tail goes up
from the body of the comet at about a 30 degree angle; and the more we look,
the brighter the comet becomes.  

         Transfixed by the comet, we don't immediately notice that we have
been joined by Megan, her father Ian, and James, one of the owners of the inn.
On his way out from the restaurant, James had told his staff to turn off the
few lights in the parking lot, so as they approach, we are suddenly plunged into
near total darkness. Now the comet emerges dramatically from the vast field of
the starscape. The head and tail pulse with increasing brilliance. The head
seems to cycle through a change of colors. No one speaks for a few minutes, 
then James begins to ask some questions about the comet. Because Lillian had
translated the news article for me, I had a number of facts at hand. James 
immediately picked up on the name, and in his best southern drawl, Kentucky
bourbon in hand, said: "HiyoufromKentucky?".  That became his running joke
for the rest of the night.  

        Lillian and I walked back to the pavilion and ordered salads and
Cuba libres; they went back to the restaurant to finish their meal, and we
agreed to join them for dessert.  Their meal took quite a while, so we had
a few more drinks and were about to leave, to walk back to Olga's when their
waiter escorted us to their table.  Wine was served all around and Ian 
launched into a long story about the night time scuba dive that he and Colin
had made the previous night.  He told of finding sleeping fish and holding 
them, sleeping, until they woke up and swam away. He admitted to his fears
for his son, when they became separated. Colin joined another group on the
other side of a coral reef. The only way to 'see' anyone else, more 
than two feet away, was by the glow of the phosphorescent tube each diver 
carried on their belts. The routine was to count the glowing spots to
confirm the number of divers in each group. Ian counted and came up one short.
The missing glow was his son. Fortunately, he avoided panic, and in a while
the divers were all grouped together again.  Meanwhile, Ian came upon a two
foot sleeping puffer fish.  He poked at the fish, and it blew itself up to 
the size of a two foot medicine ball.  

        During Ian's diving story, James and David have poured more wine for
all of us. At the end of the story, Lillian announces that she has
a song to sing for everyone.  James has the staff turn off the house music
system which has been playing pleasant but unobtrusive latin music, and all
eyes and ears turn to Lillian.  She stands and makes a short introduction 
to her song, 'El Preso Numero Nueve', which is a confessional dirge and 
lament of a prisoner, condemed to death for his....
Lillian presents a haunting rendition of the song, and on the last notes, 
the resturant bursts into applause and cheers. James and David both tell her
that her singing reminds them of Edith Piaf.  With that, we all order 
deserts and another round of drinks.

March 28, 1996
Chupacabra: It which sucks the blood from the goat

     Lydia and I have decided to take a walk from Casa Mulero to the
tiendita, Santa Olaya Mini-Mart, up the hill and down the road.  The sun
is hot and it's just after lunchtime.  We grab some money, hats, skin-
cream, and the beeper which opens the porton, the big metal gate that
keeps us locked inside the grounds of Casa Mulero.  Lillian and her father
are each having after-lunch siestas, so it's a good time for Lydia and I
to take a little adventure together.  The Casa is located at the end of
a narrow road which snakes into the jungle-like countryside just beyond the
hamlet of Santa Olaya.  I put the beeper in my pocket. Usually, as we go in
and out the gate with the car, we give the beeper to Lydia. This time, as we
approach the gate, Lydia says, 'Wait a minute, how are we going to get out'.
I press the beeper and the gate opens. 'How'd that happen?', she says. I
push the beeper again as we exit and the gate starts to close. 'Oh, I get
it', she says, 'you've got the beeper in your pocket.' We make it out the gate
just as the dogs, Sol and Cheevy, come running up behind us. 'O.K.', I say,
'we're on our own.' The problem with walks along the little road is that 
many people from outside the area come here to dump their trash. It's also
a popular spot with car thieves who bring their spoils here and strip them of
all the valuable parts before smashing the rest and setting fire to the 
remaining hulks. What that leaves us, are numerous piles of trash, household
and light industrial and many rusted auto carcasses.  

     On their walk yesterday, Lydia and Victoria made creative use of the
huge pile of discarded tires lying next to the road. The girls took some time to
move them around and created an obstacle course with tunnels and jumping 
stations, which she is showing me at the moment. 'Very creative', I say. A 
small creek runs alongside the road on our left, down at the bottom of 
an increasingly steep ravine. At one time, according to Don Raphael, who
lived here as a small boy, the creek ran full almost the whole year-round;
but now, it runs with a small trickle, except in the rainy season, during
December. Don Raphael used to play and swim in the stream, and there's a small
swimming hole back behind the Casa. A few years ago, Amaury, Lillian's 
cousin, took Lydia and I on a long hike through the jungle and along the
streambed. Amaury was 13 at the time and has also lived here in sector
Mulero his entire life. He's very sweet and knows just enough English for
us to get by when we're together.  Even those few years ago, the stream
was somewhat cleaner than it is now, but even then I would not have considered
getting into the waters, given the car husks and other deitrius there
at the time, even more of which is there now. Regardless, the landscape, small
and large, is beautiful here in the country. All kinds of flowering plants 
grow wild, showing brilliant reds, yellows, white, orange and pink colored 
blossoms. There is bamboo, banana trees, palms of many sorts and the incredible
flowering tree called flamboyan.  Another plus is that the jungle is 
relentless, and over the years regularly reclaims the landscape for itself;
covering the trash-heaps with a thick growth of heavy green plants.

     As Lydia and I reach the first crest in the road, she grabs me and
says 'Look, there's a little donkey by the road!'  I look up and see a
calf, tied by a long rope, standing near the road. 'It's a cow', I say.
'Not that one', she says, 'the other one, over there.' I look, and see
something that at first, is hard to decipher. It's small, about the size
of large collie dog, but it has very smooth, grey hair, or fur. It is moving
away from us, from a spot very near the calf. It's walking slowly, across
the road, towards the thicker jungle to our left.  I look more closely. It
has very distinct haunches, not at all like a dog, and a long, straight,
thin, rope-like tail that is strangely colored, almost pink.  We're looking at
it from the back and I'd like to see it from the side and front. I grab Lydia
by the hand and we walk more rapidly towards it. It doesn't seems to notice
us, so we gain a little ground. It has big ears that stand straight up. The legs
seem quite thin. It turns to look our way. The face is very strange, without
any kind of snout. Then it moves away from us.  It's climbing quickly to the
top of a small mound, off the road, at the edge of the deeper plant growth.
It stops and turns to look directly at us. I swear, it has a human-like
face. They eyes are very intense, tinged with red. I stop us right where
we are. That's it, I realize, the chupacabra, the beast which has been
terrorizing the island, sucking the blood from goats, pigs, dogs and

     I read about it in the New York Times, the week before we left
Albany. I even brought the article with me with the idea of making a trip
to the east end of the island, near El Yunque where the sightings had been
reported and where mysteriously dead animals had been discovered. The
chupacabra reputedly attacks an animal, sinking its fangs into the neck and 
making a quick kill. Then, in some unexplained manner, it sucks the entire
quantity of the animals blood out from the body, without leaving any visible
external marking on the animal's carcass. Autopsied animals have shown
internal bruises and mutilated organs, but other than the fang marks on the
neck, there are no other external wounds. Local theories are that the creature
is a devil-animal of some kind; it's reported to jump straight up in the
air like a kangaroo and emit a stinking sulphurous smoke from its nostrils.
Remembering this is enough to make me not want to drag Lydia any closer to
whatever is presently staring us down.  What I want to do is get
to the top of the hill to the bar, La Herradura, where there must be a
number of local men who as a group, I am sure, would be anxious to help 
get a closer look at this creature. I move Lydia and I slowly closer; the
creature turns and moves deeper into the jungle. We pass by, and it 
continues to watch us from behind some palms.  

     Lydia and I go next door to the Mini-Mart and buy candy, soft
drinks, chuchifritas, plantain chips, ice-pops, and El Vocero the
news tabloid that her abuelita, Dona Lydia, likes to read every day, and
which features graphic photos of local residents who have been stabbed,
shot, mutilated or otherwise beaten to death by friends or spouses the 
day before. The photos are always accompanied by graphic two-inch headlines 
in bright red ink, announcing the days top death story. We give our money
to the patron, pack our stuff in a bag and head back down the road to
Casa Mulero. As we reach the bottom of the hill, behind La Herradura, I look
carefully to see if the chupacabra is anywhere in sight. I don't see anything.
I'm still reluctant to go deeper into the overgrowth by myself, and I
certainly don't want to leave Lydia standing alone while I do. For the 
moment, the calf is still tied to the rope and standing where we left it,
next to the road.

March 29, 1996

I just downloaded two messages from my Compuserve account.

This first is from Robert Sietsema and the second is from Nicole:

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 10:51:15 -0500
Message-ID: <960328105114_258171546@emout10.mail.aol.com>
To: 70651.2742@compuserve.com
Subject: Re: comet comment

Hey! We were just in PR two weeks ago! We went to the hot springs at Cuomo,
and spent several nights at Patillas in the Southeast corner, one of our old
hangouts.  We met a couple of other families from New York there (by prior
arrangement) and had a blast. Coincidentally, I've got a friend named David
Factor who is doing electrical work at a motel undergoing refurbishment on
the island (there can't be too many).

Did you fly in or take the ferry? How was the comet? (Better let me read the
rest of your piece before you need to answer).


From: N
To: jan galligan <70651.2742@compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: comet comment
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 13:42:55 -0500 (EST)

i loved your message, we saw the comet but the tail never.
there is one piece of bad news here.
one of the bird had died. stuart found it next to the cage last week. he 
didn't think it was necessary to tell you. but i thought the news was not 
going to be so terrible for you, but for lydia so i thought it was better 
to let you know so you could prepare her or decide how you want to tell 
her instead of all of you discovering it on midnight or so when you 
arrived on the 2nd.

i hope that you guys are having a grand time, it does seems like it with 
your message.


March 30, 1996

I am looking at my horoscope in the Elle magazine Lillian bought in
Miami while we were waiting to make the final leg of our journey to
San Juan.  After awhile, having finished the novels, and reread the three
copies of the New York Times, anything to read seems interesting. Sitting on
the cusp of Aries and Pisces, I always consider the advice of both signs.

 Events of the last six months should indicate that a cycle has
 finally come to an end, although strained relationships and power
 struggles continue to be the norm.  Finances and partnerships are
 on very thin ice, but this is no time to throw one of your famous
 fits and walk away.  Listen to your heart and you will discover
 forgotten dreams that can now come true.

 By the 3rd (of April) you will have to face the fact that others
 have not been honest with you. The problem will be how to disentangle
 yourself from situations that threaten your security and happiness.
 Planetary aspects indicate that by facing the music you will secure
 your own position and have others dancing to your tune as well. 
 Financial issues must be given serious attention. Be more businesslike
 and as for what you're worth.

Lillian is a Scorpio. Her horoscope reads...

 Resist the temptation to sell your house, quit your job, become a
 hermit or join an ashram. Before the end of the month, you will
 be faced with financial upheavals that will leave you feeling
 vulnerable. Polish your crystal ball and you will see your star
 is on the rise, and April is just a slight adjustment in the flight

Copyright: 1995
Jan Galligan Jan Galligan c/o Sprynet
All Rights Reserved
Last modified July 15, 2000