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Puerto Rico Paradise
Why would a guy quit a good job, turn down the offer of an even better job, and then go to Puerto Rico?
That's what I did in 1956.
The "Cornet Variety Stores" owners treated me very well, and I felt being their employee was a career opportunity that would last the rest of my life.
But when Joe Cornet Senior (the long-retired founder of the company) suddenly appeared and began meddling in the day-to-day business operations, I began to feel a little insecure.
So I decided to see if Cornet's main competitor (Rasco Variety Stores) would be interested in hiring me.
I was elated when Rasco's CEO asked, "When can you start?"
"Whenever you say, sir," I happily replied, and showed up bright and early the following Monday morning.
But I never started.
I apologetically told Rasco I had changed my mind and had decided to go live in Puerto Rico.
I felt badly turning them down. The Rasco people seemed very sincere and I have no doubt we'd have had an excellent working relationship.
(In case you've nver heard of Cornet or Rasco, they were small town "Woolworth-like dime stores" that went out of business in the mid-1990s along with most other "variety stores"such as Montgomery Ward, Kress, Ben Franklin, Kreskge and Sprouse-Reitz.)
But I was young and impetuous and felt sure I could start my own sign-painting business in San Juan and live there contentedly for the rest of my life.
I even found myself wondering how long it would take to meet a loving señorita whom I would marry and with whom I would raise a beautiful family.
Well, it didn't take long to meet an attractive señorita; but things didn't quite work out the way I had envisioned. Here's what happened:
One evening I decided to look for a night 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 another couple of dances, Marta said it was time to go.
"Go?" I asked, "go where?"
"Your hotel, your room. Wherever you're staying."
Well, I certainly wasn't expecting this, but I said, "Uh, okay."
Once inside my hotel room, Marta sat on the bed and tested the mattress 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.