My first visit to Puerto Rico was in mid December during one of the weirdest years in my life..
Some friends and I flew in and were picked up by adventure capitalist, Evan Venditti, in a shit box Toyota van, he had customized with bamboo, from the rainforest he was living in, the interior was all wood and looked like a tiki bar, the van was actually a thatched hut on wheels you might see on a beach in paradise.
We stayed in an apartment complex, in ocean park, almost directly on the beach. It was a scene like out of a book I imagine an old drunk novelist would write, painted stone cement, with metal gates on the windows, beach sand scattered about, feral cats, and half wild dogs everywhere. Spiked fences, christmas lights on iron bars, rooftop camping, with gunshots in the not too far off distance…
In one of the apartments was a en ex-patriot retired merchant marine known simply as the Clutch. I was told he was called the Clutch, because when he walked he stepped like he was trying to engage a clutch in an automobile. I mostly saw him sitting in his one room apartment, with the door open, cage door shut and locked, watching american idol’s talent show on TV, clapping his hands at the entertainers, and stomping his weird foot. His own paradise on an island in the tropics. The clutch was sort of the mayor of this fucked up Puerto Rican melrose place where we stayed with our friend Vicio Del Toro. Vicio had a ramp in his living room, 2 pitbulls, named Dixie and Midget, a bunch of toys, and starred as our tour guide in our off beat puerto rican untelevised reality TV show.
The island had an interesting mash up of beauty and nature, combined with overdevelopment, slums, historical landmarks, palm trees, coconuts, beaches, penned up goats, roaming animals, bad traffic, tourists, criminals, children and more…
At the end of the block was the beach, which turned into a cruising strip for gay prostitutes, where the Clutch would trade 20 bags of cocaine for favors. “Two bags” he would shout in spanglish
We first set off to Quebradilla to sight see, and wander, via automobile, and then pedaled throughout San Juan, and the old city on bicycles. I got to see stockades and fortresses, and landmarks from hundreds of years ago, fancy new hotels and casinos, and eventually ended up beneath the fort in Old San Juan in one of the most notorious ghettos in Puerto Rico. It was called La Perla, and in shambles layed a small community on the side of a sea cliff, half abandonded multi generational shitholes with a reputation so bad, the locals described its legend as being worse than most people know. We chilled on the coast where it was rumored bodys were disposed of in pieces to be devoured by sharks. An old man gathered coconuts from a tree and gave them to children. No one bothered us, but we could sense the danger,even though just a few hundred feet above tourist flew kites and ate cotton candy.
Steady Rollin -Puerto Rico from TiogaBMX on Vimeo.