Shooting Pool in a Puerto Rican Zoo – Part 1

Ocean ViewYesterday, I drove to the Ocean Front Hotel & Restaurant for lunch. I was sitting at the outside bar eating a bowl of mofongo and nursing a cerveza, when two guys walk up and sit next to me. The guy closest to me, Alan, introduces himself and his friend David. Alan asks what I’m eating.  “Chicken mofongo,” I respond.  “Is it good?”  “Yes, very good.” The conversation moves on from there. To summarize, Alan owns a local radio station in Isabella, and other radio stations in Cabo Rojo and San Juan. He drives to this restaurant every Saturday for lunch.  After a few minutes of conversation, David’s phone rings. There’s a short excited exchange in Spanish, then Alan turns to me and asks, “Can you understand Spanish?” I tell him no.  He responds, “Ah, my friend is telling me that my sheep just had a kid!”  “Your sheep?”  “Yes, I am a farmer.  I grow fruits and vegetables, and I have some animals at my house.” He goes on to share that in addition to the sheep, he has a veritable zoo, filled with “…horses, donkeys, guinea fowl, chickens, pigeons, dogs, dwarf horses, dwarf hogs, emus, rabbits, iguanas, and a pet monkey.”  “A monkey?” “Yes, a monkey.”  “How’d you get a monkey?” He told me that many years ago he bought a couple of monkeys from a zoo that was closing, and after he got them they had a baby. The original monkeys had died, but the baby monkey survived. Then he paused and added, “I used to have a pair of lions at my house too, but they died a few years ago.” (Lions at your house?  Yeah, right! )

After finishing lunch and paying the check, and got up from the bar to head back to my car. After all, I needed to drive to Aguada to shoot pool all night.  Looking for a way to tactfully disengage from the conversation and exit the restaurant, I decided on a whim to ask the guy if he knew anything about pool, and if he knew of any places to play in the area. He smiled and nodded his head, “Yes.  So…you play pool huh?  Where are you going to play?”  “Probably in Aguada,” I responded noncommittally. “Oh, no, you shouldn’t play there. If they see a gringo come in, it would not be good for you. You should play up the road here.” He lifted his arm and vaguely pointed to a mountain rising out of the rain forest. I followed his gaze, and asked, “So, there’s a place to play up there?”  “Yes.”  “Oh yeah?  Where is it?”  “At my house.” He then added, “Now I’m going to eat a piece of chocolate cake for dessert. Why don’t you stick around and I’ll take you there. You can see my zoo, and then we can shoot some pool.  Would you like to go?” As he ate his cake, I had visions of Neverland Ranch and Deliverance dancing in my head. I did, however, remember that over the preceding forty-five minutes, every single person who had entered the restaurant had stopped by to say hello to him and shake his hand, so it was obvious to me that he was a well respected member of the community. I responded, “So, I can see a zoo and shoot some pool at your house?”  “Yes, that is right.” After a couple seconds of hesitation, I replied, “Hummm, OK.”

LOL!! You just can’t make this stuff up!! So Alan and David get into their Chevy Avalanche, and I follow in my rental.

Following

Just as I think to myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”, they immediately swerve off the main road and I follow, careening at high speed down a very narrow road leading into the rain forest. After a minute or two, there’s a sharp turn in the road, and suddenly we burst through the tree canopy and are driving up a road that has literally been carved out of a sheer rock faced cliff. The road seems better suited for bicycles. After climbing two or three hundred feet, we reach the plateau, turn right, and pass through a very small town. In five minutes, we’re pulling into the parking lot of a building that looks like a concrete bunker with a chain link fence around it, upon which hangs a sign: “Puerto Rico 740 AM”. Alan jumps out of his truck and motions for me to follow.  “Ever been inside a radio station?”

Radio Station Sign

Sorry to cut the story short, but it’s very late here and I need to get some rest so I can head out early tomorrow. Come back tomorrow evening for the rest of this story, along with lots of pictures and videos!

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