Downloadable Swing Era Music
• Computer Columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune
I Remember Puerto Rico
I moved to San Juan in 1956 and planned on staying there forever. I was enchanted by the friendly people, the mild climate and the cool ocean breezes that made the tropical ambience seem endlessly comfortable and inviting.
However, my island fantasia was suddenly interrupted by an aggressive young lady named Marta. Here’s what happened:
I had quit my job with Cornet Variety Stores and drove to Miami, where I garaged my car and flew to San Juan. I had read that tax rates there were very favorable for businesses and thought I might do well by opening a bilingual sign-painting shop.
Furthermore, I've always been enamored of things Latin American, and had hoped to one day live in a Spanish-speaking environment.
I spent my first day in the Santurce neighborhood, acquiring an apartment that might become my regular residence.
On the second night I decided to look for a "singles" club where I might meet someone for dancing. I found such a place and noticed three young ladies in a booth on the other side of the dance floor.
While trying to decide which one I should ask for a dance, the decision was made for me when one walked over and sat down at my table. "So where you from?" she asked, giving me a quizzical look.
I said, "California," and she continued with, "So what you doing here?"
When I told her what I had in mind she asked, "So why you come to this place? You're looking for a woman — right?"
"Well," I replied, "I did hope to meet somebody with whom I might do some dancing.
"Okay," she said, "let's dance."
So we did.
The band was playing some romantic boleros by Rafael Hernández, so getting lost in the music was very easy to do.
And Marta turned out to be a very good dancer. After a couple more dances, Marta said we should leave and go to my place.
"My place?" I asked.
"Your hotel, your room. Wherever you're staying."
Well, I certainly wasn't expecting this, but I said, "Uh, okay."
Once inside, Marta sat on the bed and tested the mattress’ firmness by bouncing on it a few times.
Then she smiled and said we should get undressed and go to bed.
I was more than a little unnerved by the rapidity with which events were unfolding. But before I could say anything, Marta had removed her clothes and gotten between the sheets.
So I did the same.
I had assumed there would be some kind of foreplay, but Marta grabbed me and pulled me on top of her. Well, I don't want to get too graphic here, but suffice it to say it was a very wild ride.
Then we showered and went to sleep.
I don't know how long we slept, but I remember being awakened by Marta climbing on top of me and saying, "Wake up — time to do it again."
"Again? Well, okay," I thought, "then I'll call a cab and send her home."
However, in the heat of passion, it was easy to put off thoughts of calling a cab.
The next time I woke up, Marta was sitting in a chair looking at me. She smiled and said, "I'm hungry. How 'bout you?"
"Yeah," I said, "I guess so," still not completely awake.
"Okay," she said, "there's a café a few doors down the street. Tell them you want two orders of arroz con pollo, calle."
"Calle? Calle means street."
"You think I don't know that? It also means you take the food with you."
"Oh, you mean to go."
"Right — calle — and some café con leche."
"Uh, why don't we go together and eat at the restaurant?"
"Because I don't got nothing to wear. Now hurry up. I'm hungry."
"OK," I said. "Calle?"
When I returned Marta smiled and said, "Let's eat. Then we go back to bed."
"Back to bed? Well, I have things to do — places to go."
"What — you don't like sleeping with me? What you gonna do when you get married and your wife wants sex every day?"
Well, this left me momentarily speechless. However, I was finally able to point out that I had come to Puerto Rico to look into business possibilities.
"You got plenty of time for that. Right now you stay here with me."
When I tried to argue the point, she said, "Hey — you're with me now! And if I see you look at another woman, I kill you."
For emphasis she removed a switchblade stiletto from her purse and held it in front of my face.
That was enough for me. Later that night, while Marta slept, I sneaked out and headed for the airport. I also decided it would be better to start a business back in Southern California — which I did.
But that's a whole other story (and a successful one, I'm happy to report).