The last passport

CROOOOSH! squealed the black-haired, buxom, white-skinned, freckle-faced (think glass of goat milk sprinkled with cinnamon) Argentine as she leaned over the railing.

From five stories up, she had spotted the soft-drink truck parked on Calle Norzagaray in Old San Juan.*

It was Orange Crush that excited her 40 years ago. It wasn’t a soft drink that I favored then or now. But that moment seared onto my memory stone, and the memory appeared again this week in San Miguel de Allende.

I was with another young, lovely Latina, but this time sitting in El Comal de Doña Meche on Calle Insurgentes in the Gringo-infested outpost of San Miguel.

El Comal de Doña Meche is a gorditas joint.

Faced with a cooler stocked with varieties of soft drinks, I chose first an apple flavor, and we polished that off. I returned and spotted the Orange Crush, so I pulled that out, popped the top and set it on the table. Croooosh!

I can’t recall important things from last week. Yet I remember this silly thing decades later. I could almost smell the salt surf pounding the playa down at La Perla.

We were in San Miguel to renew my U.S. passport at the Consular Agency. It was a smooth process, and I arrived at 9:30 a.m. to find only one person ahead of me in line.

US-PassportcoverUnlike my Mexican passport, which is delivered on the same day it’s requested, the U.S. passport will be express-mailed to me in a couple of weeks.

Like the Mexican version, which I renewed not long ago, the document is good for 10 years. I will be into my early 80s, so these will, I imagine, be my last passport renewals.

And we celebrated with gorditas and Croooosh!

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* The photo seen in the link shows the five-story, pink building where I lived on the roof.

Remains of carnival

flags

WE’RE FIRMLY into Lent, but the banners of Mardi Gras still wave wearily in the street outside the Hacienda.

As if to cement the locals’ faith, none other than the Pope himself, the Argentine leftist Francis, arrives next Tuesday at the capital city just down the mountainside.

I’ve never been this close to a Pope, nor do I want to be. He will create traffic jams and other annoyances, but he will be gone on Wednesday, and we’ll settle into our sins again.

Caribbean memories

window

OLD MEN’S MINDS tend to wander, and they usually wander in reverse, which is to say memories as opposed to plans or anticipations. This morning my crusty cranium conjured up memories of Puerto Rico where I once lived. I’m here to share photos, yet again.

We’ll start at the top, a shot taken out the bedroom window of the tiny penthouse where I lived with an Argentine girl of 20 whom I called, then and now, the Argentine Firecracker. I rescued her from a sleazy San Juan bar, and she reformed herself rather nicely.

Had I chosen to reproduce these photos in their original, faded, 1970s colors, you could more easily spot her fire-engine-red panties there on the right end of the pillow.

Red is always a spectacular color for panties.

eats

AND HERE above is a shot from the balcony of an apartment on Mango Street that I shared at another time with a Brooklyn woman. That’s her on the beach just below. What always comes to mind on seeing that restaurant photo, where the crowd stands, is Johnny Nash singing “I can see clearly now” on the jukebox down there where we often ate chicken and rice.

Puerto Ricans make great chicken and rice.

The Brooklyn woman and I shared space and time during the first of my two stays in San Juan. When I moved back to New Orleans after five months, she packed her bags and her damn cat and followed me, uninvited. Sometimes I had that effect on women. It was the devil getting rid of her, but I wish her well, even today. She clearly did not see that I was not a keeper in those days.

But now I am.

brooklyn

JUST BELOW is the aforementioned Argentine Firecracker, hair blowing in the constant sea breeze of the penthouse digs. She was a part of my second San Juan adventure, which is to say she followed the Brooklyn woman about 18 months later. And she lasted longer.

firecracker

THOSE OF YOU who’ve read along for most of the decade I’ve been blabbering hereabouts may have seen these photos and read similar words, but new folks appear now and then. This will be fresh for them. And I enjoy my Caribbean memories.

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(Johnny Nash sings I Can See Clearly Now, a great song.)

Tropical music memories

HAVING WATERED the potted plants on the downstairs terraza, an every-Saturday-morning chore, I sat a short spell in one of the wicker rockers and listened to a song coming through the window behind me from the living room music machine. Roberto Carlos was singing El Show Ya Terminó.

borderIt reminded me of Puerto Rico, where I lived in the 1970s in a penthouse atop a five-story building on Calle Norzagaray* in Viejo San Juan — Old San Juan — overlooking the sea. I lived there with an Argentine named Silvina, a reformed working girl who always kept things from getting stodgy.

Once, she flew back to Buenos Aires for something or other, leaving me briefly alone high above Calle Norzagaray, but when she returned she brought gifts, vinyl discs of Atahualpa Yupangui, an Argentine folk singer and guitarist, and of Vinicius de Moraes, a Brazilian.

We spent many a late night — after I had returned from my work at the San Juan Star and she from her job waitressing at a restaurant-bar — sitting on our rooftop patio, next to the hammock, with Bacardi, Coke and music, watching cruise ships sail into the dark, starry nights.

Those two vinyl records have long vanished. I forget the title of Yupangui’s disc, but I have since purchased another of his albums on a modern CD. I like it, but far better is the compact disc I found of the exact other album she brought from Buenos Aires. It is titled Vinicius de Moraes con Maria Creuza y Toquinho.

mdThey sing in Portuguese which may be the loveliest language of them all.

I left Silvina behind when I returned to the mainland, but about five years ago she found me on Facebook. She was back in Buenos Aires, running a stable of taxicabs. She reminded me that I had introduced her to T-Bone Walker, so I emailed mp3 versions of T-Bone, and she thanked me.

She has grandchildren now, but I don’t — and never will.

It’s amazing where morning on a Mexican terraza will lead one’s time-stretched mind.

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* Calle Norzagaray is a short street, and I think the building where I lived is the pink one in the photo, but don’t hold me to that. It’s been 40 years, even though my second wife and I visited just 20 years ago.

(Other visits to the island are here and here.)