Today was gallery day for me. I had to make the trip to San Juan to replenish the prints that had been sold over the month. Since I don’t drive this trip usually entails a journey using three local modes of transport there and back. As usual I walked out to the highway where I would wait for the first publico going to Bayamon on the first leg of my trip. I was fortunate today in that a neighbor came by with his wife and offered me a ride into Bayamon.
Obviously I accepted rather than wait around for the cramped ride in the publico. We engaged in small talk mostly of how everything is going up, food, gasoline, services etc., etc. This went on as we made our way along route 22 to Bayamon. As is my custom I spend some time looking at the surrounding landscape and taking in the so-called progress of man. Little by little every nook and cranny is being invaded for the purpose of building more and more homes and complexes. You can see the many stretches of land that are being ripped of woods and foliage to make way for construction. I could not help but to think of Eric Sloane and his book Eric Sloanes America where he wrote of all those things that were vanishing and had vanished.
Well after a short ride we finally pulled into the train station where I got off gave them my thanks and proceeded to board the train. This part of the trip is always enjoyable as it is comfortable with air conditioning and is a smooth ride. Unlike the trains in New York for instance, we have not yet been contaminated with crime on the train though no doubt that will come later. I normally take the train until I get to the Roosevelt Station rather than the last stop at Sagrado Corazon. I do this because the bus stop at Roosevelt is always empty and not mobbed with people as is the case at Sagrado Corazon.
The bus came quickly and I was off on the final leg of my trip to San Juan. As on the highway I could see many area’s along the Ponce de Leon that are being re-constructed or have been torn down completely to make way for the new construction that seems to be taking place everywhere. In some area’s entire blocks have fallen to the wreckers ball and I could not help but to think of the lives that had been displaced because of this. As is usually the case it is the poor that end up getting the shaft. I noticed that there was an ever larger population of homeless on the streets trying to pan-handle some money. This is more noticeable in the metro area or in the towns on the island. Rio Piedras has a large population of homeless as does Santurce.
After passing the new construction just past Dos Hermanos where I believe yet another hotel is going up we finally made our way to the terminal.
I strolled along Tetuan towards the gallery as I always do and here too the street was being remodeled on the south side. After walking the three blocks to the gallery and having gotten my checks and replenished the prints I began my trip back. Sometimes I stroll around San Juan and see if there are new stores or galleries but not today. Good thing too because when I got to the bank to deposit I found out they had closed that branch down. Now I had to make yet another stop in Hato Rey at the main branch to deposit.
It was lunch time by now and the streets were full of people going out to get their lunch at the various eateries. I took care of my business at the bank and proceeded to catch the next train out of the Roosevelt Station. The ride back to Bayamon was uneventful and I was there within a short time.
Since I had come into Bayamon on the north side in the morning I had not seen what had been going on in the interior of Bayamon along the main avenue. The quaint little plaza that had been there as far back as I can remember was being torn up for remodeling! This caught me by surprise because I did not know there was such a program in place. This little plaza which starts at the north end of the terminal for publicos and ends at the main street that runs through the center of Bayamon was to me a breath of fresh air with all it’s kioskos selling all manner of things from live chickens to Puerto Rican souvenirs in little wooden and cement huts much like what existed in Piñones many years ago. No doubt the people that had been there for ages will not all come back when the remodeling is finished. This is what usually happens when the government conducts these projects. These are usually times for political pay-off’s, favoritism and nepotism, but then again that is the Puerto Rican way! I felt sorry about the whole thing and sorrier still that I had never photographed the plaza as I had always had in mind. Now it is gone forever just like the Plaza del Mercado which burned down a couple of years back.
I caught the publico on No. 2 across from Martins Chicken. The Publico was crowded, filled to capacity so the ride back to the valley was not all that comfortable. I thought of many things on the way back and viewed the passing landscapes as we went west. I always end up feeling a bit sorry on these trips since I get to see the constant changes that are going on at an alarming rate.
I got off at my stop, bought some smokes and encountered another neighbor on his way back to the “ barrio ” as we call it and he offered a me a ride. He had recently came back from Pennsylvania where he and his wife had been trying to get ahead with no success. He related an all to common story to me of trying to make money only to pay it out for rents that are very high. Along with that came the usual stories of discrimination, police harassment and now the constant vigilance because of the immigration problem. I sympathized with him very much as I too had left New York because of and I don’t even look Hispanic. I told him that there was no place like our island for us and I would never leave it.
He dropped me off by our home where our dog and cat greeted me. It felt good to be back and I spent the rest of the day lost in deep thoughts about our island and our future.