Act I, The Vacation.
I did not go to sleep until about two ay-em. At three-thirty that Tuesday morning, I had to get up and go to the airport. Rich dropped me off, and I checked in both my suitcase and duffel bag for $46 (American Airlines charges not just for the second piece of baggage, but ALL pieces). When the woman behind the counter asked for my ID, I presented my military ID (which makes the airport nonsense run just a tad smoother for me). Upon seeing that I was a member of this nation's armed forces, she promptly informed me that I was not required to pay to to have my baggage checked in, and I was given a refund.
I slept on the flight to Miami. I chilled out in Miami for a few hours. On the way to San Juan, my contacts became so hazy that I couldn't read my book (The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown...very good). So I chucked them down the sink in the lavatory and put on my glasses.
I landed in San Juan and walked to claim my luggage. After an eternity, my duffel bag came. After another eternity had passed, it occurred to me that perhaps my suitcase would not be making an appearance. So I want to make a claim, and had to deal with a man with no sense of urgency and a pronounced lisp, who felt the need to translate everything I told him from English to Spanish under his breath as he ever so slowly typed in the information.
I finally met up with The 'Rents and The Sis, and was surprisingly subdued over the loss of my suitcase. Three years ago, the last time I was in Puerto Rico, I landed to find my suitcase damaged, which put me in a bad temper. Then, inexplicably, my right breast became exposed to the fiendish delight of some young airport employees. This put me in a towering rage, and I screamed vulgarities at them in English which they no doubt understood.
So here I am, three years later, my suitcase MIA...and I'm merely subdued. Bummed. Shows how far I've come in stressing over things that are beyond my control. I console myself with a greasy, cheesy, heart-stopping Baconator from Wendy's, and we get into the rental car for the drive to Adjuntas.
We arrive at my grandmother's, get fed, and stay up late, all four of us, discussing anything and everything from movies to history to whatever else crossed our minds. At some point we saw my fifteen-year-old cousin Rodolfo, who has lost weight and now wears glasses, and my cousin Ada, now twelve years old. Rodolfo currently lives alone in the house next-door to my grandmother since his father, my aunt Millie's ex-husband, moved out to go live with a girlfriend or something like that. Naturally I was outraged when told, and couldn't (and still don't) understand why he doesn't live with my grandmother or go live with his mother and step-father in Montana. Well, my grandmother feeds him, but apparently he doesn't want to live in Montana (he's fifteen years old, he's not old enough to have a choice in the matter!!), and besides, he's doing well in school and soon Millie and her husband, Brock, plan on moving to Puerto Rico and into that house, which belongs to Millie in the first place. Whatever.
On Wednesday, we go to my Aunt Aracelis' house to see her and my cousins Geramy and Antonio. We also see Sasha, a friend of Geramy's and the niece of Noemí, a woman who went to school with my mom and Aracelis. We let Aracelis know that the physical address provided for the delivery of my suitcase is hers (my grandmother's house has no physical address, as she lives on the side of a mountain; my aunt lives twenty minutes away in a more urbanized neighborhood on said mountain). We leave my mom with my aunt to look up classmates on Facebook and make fun of them, and take off to mooch on my Uncle Fred's wireless.
I call the 800 number provided by the airline a few times, but the automated voice thingy isn't telling me anything relevant. So after a few hours (and a delicious meal provided by Fred's wife, Cuca), I get a hold of a living, breath representative, who informs me that my suitcase is living it up back in Miami, and she has no clue when it will make it's merry way to San Juan. Frustrated, I hang up. We go back to Aracelis' house, and my dad calls the airline to speak to another rep. After being told that the airline pretty much could care less about my suitcase and my lack of clothing for the coming week which they will not reimburse me for, my dad bitches him/her out and says that if my suitcase isn't put on the next flight out, he's getting a lawyer. And he hangs up.
That evening my parents take me to Plaza del Caribe, the mall in Ponce (where I was born) to buy me clothing. We see my Uncle Edwin, who is head of maintenance at the mall. I get some shirts, pants, and (thank God) underwear, and we head back to my grandma's.
On Thursday, the vacation finally swings into action. We drive up to San Juan for some tourism. I call the 800 number again, and this time the automated voice tells me that my suitcase has arrived in San Juan, is scheduled for pickup at 0800 and should be delivered within six hours, hooray!! Meanwhile, we walk the Paseo del Morro (a trail along the seashore that winds around the fortress of Castillo San Felipe del Morro), and we see a lot of stray cats that Trish photographs (she plans on putting together a photo essay concerning these poor animals; or more information on their plight, go to Save a Gato) and Puerto Rico's version of Charlie Brown's Kite-Eating Tree.
We then walk over El Morro itself, and my dad and I continue on while we leave Trish and Mom to chill out on the grass and watch the people with their kites (the inevitable victims of said Kite-Eating Tree). I'm so stoked about El Morro, because I haven't walked through there in at least eight years. It's better than I remembered, and the view is amazing.
We end our excursion with a delicious meal at a restaurant called Raíces. I ordered for the main course mofongo relleno y churrasco (mashed plantains stuffed with a delicious and tender skirt steak), and for desert I had flan de queso (cheese flan!!). We headed back to Adjuntas, and I was looking forward to attending the Patron Festival that night in the pueblo, but it was rained out, same as the night before. On the bright side, we were able to go get my suitcase from my aunt's house, yay!!
On Friday we went with my Uncle Fred for a long drive along the southwestern coast of the island. Our intention was to see the lighthouse in Cabo Rojo; my dad loves lighthouses and photographing them. Unfortunately the road to it was closed off for the day. So we scoped out the salt flats real quick (apparently said salt flats are Puerto Rico's oldest industry), and then ate at a seaside restaurant that I walked away from with a lot of bug bites.
On Saturday, I woke up with the beginning of a sore throat, courtesy of Trish, whom I'd been sharing a bed with. We left my mom with my grandma and went to San Juan so that the two photographers could do their thing while I enjoyed the sightseeing. Well, we arrive only to find that my sister had left her memory card two hours away in Adjuntas. So we drove around for more than an hour trying to find her a memory card so that the day wouldn't be wasted. Finally we found the mall that we used to go to all the time, Plaza Carolina, and found the card in a Radio Shack packed with people and a child screaming so loud I thought he was going to choke and die right there.
My dad then drove us to the rain forest El Yunque, and he and Trish got some lovely shots of the surrounding mountains from the top of a tower. They got some great shots at La Coca Falls as well. At this point the bug that I'd caught from Trish, as well as a very stiff and sore right ankle from the San Juan trek a two days prior, was bringing me down. I was feeling lethargic, my throat was hurting more and more, and I was getting chills.
From El Yunque we were driving along the through a town called Loiza, and I was laying down in the backseat when the two paparazzi I was stuck with began exclaiming in excitement. I shot up in my seat to see that we had literally driven right smack into Carnaval de Loiza!! My dad parked, and we ran around taking it all in. After a while we walk into a store to get some water. I'm starting to feel a tad weak at this point. We go back outside, and after a few minutes I become lightheaded and almost pass out. I try to tell my dad, but he's distracted and not paying attention. So what else is new??
We get back in the car and eventually get out of the town (traffic was crazy backed up), and I make every attempt to get comfortable, but it's not happening. After a couple of hours we stop at El Mesón, a sandwich shop, and eat. We get back to Adjuntas at last where I take a Motrin and crawl into bed. I am full blown sick at this point and I have a fever. Fortunately the Motrin gets rid of it, and a few hours later when everyone is heading to Uncle Edwin's to watch a boxing match, I'm able to tag along.
It was Miguel Cotto (from Puerto Rico) against Antonio Margarito (from Mexico). The Mexican won, damnit.
On Sunday I'm not feeling to hot, but DayQuil keeps me going. We drive to Ponce for the day, and I enjoy myself fairly well. I get some souvenirs for myself, The Boyfriend, and The Brother. My dad took us to see The Cross in Ponce, and across the road was Castillo Serralles. We also saw the Parque de Bomba, and went to La Guancha, the boardwalk, where I chowed on empanadillas and a shrimp pincho, and Trish spotted some authentic looking Taino folk whom I bought a ring from.
That night I went with my dad and Uncle Fred to the fiesta, finally. We saw my dad's friend Raymond, who was the only person on the entire island curious enough to ask about my divorce. (I was surprised, I expected more nosiness.) I kinda stood around bored while my dad greeted and chatted up his high school buddehs. I then spotted Noemí and her drunk boyfriend, who kept going on about "la maleta" (my poor suitcase). I spoke with Noemí for a while, and not once did she speak English to me or encourage me to speak English, even though she can speak it well herself. So I got to stumble and stutter over this forgotten language while she and another fellow asked me about military life, more or less embarrassing myself.
Act II, The Sickness.
I'm dropped off at the airport to find that my flight to Orlando has been delayed FOUR HOURS as they wait on a mechanical part to come in from Dallas. I am bewildered; this is eerily reminiscent of three years ago, when the flight out of San Juan was delayed an hour while they fixed the brakes. I go to speak to the guy behind the counter to find out what the hell I'm supposed to do, since the plane would be landing AFTER my connecting flight takes off, and as I waited in line he came over the intercom asking for me. He threw out my old tickets and gave me new ones, telling me as he did so that I'd been re-routed through Miami and that my luggage had already been transferred. Sweet!!
I felt like shit on the way to Miami, sitting there in my seat curled up in a ball. We land, and I set out to get my hands on some DayQuil, stat. I get that, some water, and some Vick's Vitamin C supplements, yum. I sat around eating half the box while I waited...and waited...and waited some more. Oh, noes!! The pilot has been delayed coming from New York!!
Are you fucking kidding me?? Will I ever make it back to St Louis??
We finally take off, forty minutes late. I still wasn't feeling hot, but I wasn't dying so I just sat back and enjoyed an episode each of How I Met Your Mother, Rules of Engagement, and The Big Bang Theory. Finally, after a long day of The Sickness, I touchdown in St Louis and meet up with Rich at M1 to get my luggage. And we wait. And wait. And wait some more. I happened to glance at the screen for M2...and my flight information was posted there. Wow. Thanks. So we went over there and waited...and waited...and...you get the idea. I happened to see the reflection off the metal of the carousel, and I saw my suitcase. I walked around the desk next to me, and there it was next to my duffel bag.
Later that night, I was really feeling like shit as Rich tried to put me to bed. I wasn't any better the next morning, so I went to sick call that afternoon and got hooked up with lots and lots of Motrin and some kickass antibiotics that started working almost immediately.
Act III, MORE GODDAMN SPIDERS.
There's a line of spider webbing that starts at my driver's side view mirror and connects to the driver's side door. I saw no spider yesterday or today, so I was trying to ignore it. I was driving to work, and suddenly I saw a spider the size of a quarter without the legs hanging onto that bit of webbing for dear life. I was instantly in fight-or-flight mode and terrified, on the verge of tears. At the red light before the gate I watched as it cautiously made it's way to the mirror and SLID BEHIND IT.
Once I had parked, I climbed out my car on the passenger side (yes, my phobia is that bad), and walked into work feeling miserable. A few hours later one of my favorite sub-accountants , NM, offered to come out and kill it for me. So we went to my car and saw that the webbing was gone. NM tapped all around the mirror to no avail. He suggested that the spider had moved on, which I very much doubted at the time, but perhaps the spider decided that living on my car was not worth the wild roller coaster ride of my daily commute. Regardless, I will have someone else take a look at the damn mirror. That spider was orange and black, a color combo I have never seen on any spider. If anyone knows what the hell that thing is...wait, never mind, I DO NOT want to know. Not now, not in a million years. I just want it removed from my vehicle, dead or alive.
Epilogue: Belated review of The Dark Knight.
Awesome. Go see it. NAO.