Sunday, November 23, 2008
Well then, let’s call it a day of rest and let it go at that.
The swell continued to fall off overnight and this morning it’s the smallest it’s been since I’ve been here with the exception of the first day. But, unlike the first day, the strong northeast wind continues to blow and intermittent rainshowers are raking the island, and Surfer’s Beach is most definitely not an option.
It’s a choppy mess up this way, again, and once again we load up and roll to Rincon.
Today is going to be Hang Out At The Calypso Day, and Claudie is in his element, schmoozing with one and all, as I do my usual thing and hang back, maintaining a small but effective distance from The Scene, taking my ease while watching things unfold all around me.
The waves are clean enough I suppose, but it’s plenty crowded and following the preceding four days in a row, the chest-high surf just doesn’t strike any resonant chords in me and I give it a pass for the day.
The Calypso, in case you didn’t know, is the epicenter of all that swirls around the waves in the Maria’s area, and draws a remarkable and endlessly fascinating panoply of human beings that ebbs and flows, surges and spins, everchanging, ever staying the same, in a complex social vortex all around the it.
It is a very self-contained sort of place, with a bar where you can sit and talk to your friends, people watch, check the game on tv, or just relax and view the waves and riders at Maria’s, in a supercasual surfer-friendly environment that I suppose might be best described as “downhome front porch.” There’s also other small boutique-type shops all included under the same roof somewhat like cabins in a ship, upstairs and downstairs, including a small surfshop among other things, although, thankfully, nobody is ever going to mistake this place for a shopping mall.
All in all, it comes across in a delightfully relaxed manner which belies the depth of work and organization that’s been put into maintaining it in fine shipshape condition.
So ok then, I’ll sit tight here and let the time slowly slip by, doing nothing, thinking nothing, and having nothing, that could interrupt the delicious ambience in which I’m steeped.
Along the street and all around me, all sorts of interesting characters are passing through my field of vision.
Beautiful girls dot the landscape like precious jewels.
Gawking touristas occasionally enter the scene and some of them have a seat at on a barstool and partake for a spell, while others, perhaps a bit more uptight, standing out from the crowd in too-formal attire, move on down the line looking for something a bit more Republican than what they’ve found here.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our rental car, and we’re parallel parked immediately in front of the bar. Just outside my open window, perhaps a foot away, an ixora bush, covered in those wonderful tiny pink blossoms, abides just below eye level. I reach out and pick a small beautiful four-petaled flower and all of a sudden I’m transported back to my childhood by an idea that I have never had even once, in the intervening decades. Ixora flowers have a thin stem below the petals, and I’m now remembering that if you disassemble it correctly, you can remove a sort of thread from within, and there will be a single miniscule drop of nectar on it. Place the thread between pursed lips and draw it out for a tiny measure of sweetness. And so I do, and it is good, all these long years later.
Puerto Ricans of all stripe and color glide through the scene. It’s their island, after all. Mothers with babes in their arms. Older men casually eyeing things all around them. Laughing children. Teenagers walking by carrying fins and bodyboards. Hotrodders in their cars with boombox sound systems blasting a Latin beat. Svelte beauties with dusky eyes. Tattooed toughguys. You name it.
Surfers of every imaginable type also enter and exit the force field. Old grizzled veterans of many a winter down here, fooled by nothing, missing nothing, watching it all go by with wise eyes. Young hotshots who think they’re going to rip it up and show everybody how it’s done. Clueless newbies with Bic popouts under their arms. Burnouts who’s glory days are long behind them, moping by in an alcoholic fog. The occasional pro, exuding a vibe of businesslike purpose and agenda. Cookie-cutter guys, with cookie-cutter hairdos, cookie cutter surfboards, cookie-cutter clothing, and everything else of a pre-packaged and pre-approved mass media nature, all the way down to the Volcom stickers, tilted at just the correct angle, Group Individuality incarnate, peer-pressure rebels to the bitter end. Extraordinarily beautiful women, obviously in shape for whatever the ocean has to throw at them, ignoring the leers of all the horny losers, purposefully heading towards the ocean with no-fooling-around surfboards under their arms. Nondescript-looking guys who can surf rings around everybody, pros included. Sponge riders coming back from the water, dripping wet and laughing together. Some guy with a gash in his board and a fin missing, wearing a long face. Young grommets bouncing around like rubber balls, yelling, laughing, poking at each other, blissfully unaware of what the far future has in store for them. And on and on and on it goes.
Corvette Guy arrives, aging, overdressed, and in less than ideal shape, struts around for a bit, attempting to look important, and then departs when nobody pays him the least attention.
Three knock-dead gorgeous women clipclop by on horses, and everyone stops for a moment to admire them, only going back to what they had been doing when the equine apparition disappears around the greenery down at the edge of the beach sand.
Once in a while, people I know from back home, including a few I have not seen in years, or even decades, spot me and indulge in a bit of conversation before continuing on their ways. Surfing is truly weird when it comes to bumping into people you know, while visiting distant locales. Happens all the time.
Claudie eventually grabs his yellow longboard, goes out to catch himself a few waves, and then returns with a wide smile on his face.
An occasional police car rolls by, but no-one seems to mind, and the cop inside gives no indication that he has the least interest in anything.
The breeze wafts through the greenery all around, giving the whole area a tropical smell and warm caress before it moves on out over the water and tears a white nimbus of spray off the top of a shimmering wave.
A spandex-clad bicyclist rolls by in a blur of bright colors and reflections, ignoring everything except the immediate pavement ahead.
Just down the street, the pincho guy has fired up his rig and the first batch of pollo pinchos, tasty nuggets of chicken skewered on thin sticks, looking like kebabs but without the uselessness of things like onions and green peppers, are steaming and smoking atop the black metal bars of the grill. I’ll be having a couple of them before it’s over. Absolutely delicious.
Laughter and a thousand overlapping conversations continue to pour from the Calypso, like water from a firehose.
Overhead, the cotton clouds congeal and dissipate, on a schedule all their own, as the sun continues to slowly close the gap between itself and the watery horizon.
Cindy, who owns the place, appears now and then and is in constant motion, dealing with the million and one little things that cannot be put off, that have to be done and done now, or otherwise the place will start to come apart. She never stops, and it doesn’t really look to be all that much fun.
The sunset watchers begin to arrive. Some head directly for the beach, while others hit the bar first for fortifications before completing the last hundred meters of their trip to view yet another edition of the Mundane Miracle that is a Puerto Rican sunset.
People are pairing off in couples, here and there, each with their own program for the coming minutes and hours.
Once in a while, Claudie’s maniacal laughter pierces the air, and everyone seems to recognize it.
Darkness begins to fall, and now a parade of surfers leaving the water begins, first as a trickle, and then as a more solid stream. High fives. Shouts. Animated conversations in a tangle of English and Spanish, with hands mimicking the movement of a surfboard on a wave. Shrugged off rashguards thrown sopping wet into the back of trucks. Boards strapped to roofs. Buddies on the shoreline waiting for their friends to depart the aqueous playing field. Beautiful girls greeting their still-dripping boyfriends. Dogs running around, looking for missing masters or perhaps maybe just anybody at all. Motor vehicles fire up and growl and rumble out of the parking lot, some stuck behind others, some breaking clear and departing with a screech of tires and a blast of music. Soon enough, it’s all over and a sort of peace and tranquility descends, despite the ongoing raucousness emanating from the Calypso.
Lights glimmer and then flare as the darkness becomes complete, and the crowd continues to swirl around the bar.
Eventually, Claudie has apparently had enough, and comes ambling over my way and without fanfare we depart into the night.
A new swell is supposed to hit tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it.