A Note to My Subscribers

If you subscribe to this blog, you might have missed notifications for the last umpty-ump posts. In which case, you might have missed a whole run of The Ponce Chronicles, which I know you don’t want to miss out on. (Something was broken, but now it’s fixed–I think.) Here’s a good place to come into the story, if you want to catch up:

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 1

In any case, I hope you’ll get the proper notification of all my future can’t-miss posts.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 12 (Season Finale)

Crash. That’s what we did upon arriving home in Arlington this week. Despite our best efforts to get everything wrapped up, cleaned up, and tied up ahead of time this year, we were still up until 3 a.m. the night before our flight home, getting things squared away. But we got a ton done on the place, and left it in better shape than it’s been in many years. Here’s a shot of the ponds, partially filled with rocks.

Arriving home, we pretty much crashed and burned. Allysen got started on rabies shots, because of the dog bite, and I got started on an antibiotic because of a persistent ear infection. Even our daughter got to go to the docs for a toe infection. So for the last few days, a great deal of time has been spent with us apparently lifeless in front of the TV, staring unblinking at the flickering screen, empty pizza cartons strewn about the place. We are hoping someone will come along and water us and bring us back to life, like a house plant that’s been ignored for too many weeks.

We’ll leave you with this idyllic seashore memory, from Rincón.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 11

I said I would not be doing major repair work on this trip. But that was then. The contractors who did some of the heavy work did a shoddy job, and there was no one else to finish the work, and it needed to be done. So a lot of things have been getting fixed, spaced out over time. By me, Allysen, and our friends.

The paneling in this bedroom used to be falling off the wall. It’s not anymore.

The deck! We got the deck painted, after some badly needed repairs! Mark helped me with this formidable job.

The koi ponds are getting filled in. It’s not something we wanted to do, because they are beautiful. But they were also a hazard to anyone here with small children. And they were breeding mosquitos. I tried to drain them on a previous trip, but failed. So we’re filling them in with rocks from the back forty, and hope in time to make the space a sunken garden. Allysen and Misty have been carrying buckets of rocks from the back forty, to fill in the ex-ponds.

The car! I backed the rental car over some rocks too high for its low-slung profile, and tore loose a panel underneath that covers the oil pan and other things. I was in the pits, because we’d declined the insurance coverage in favor of other coverage options, but it seemed unlikely they would cover this, at least not without enormous hassle. I was dreading the time lost, and the cost. Then a miracle occurred. The guy who came to fix the dryer told us about a body shop down near the port, where he was sure they would take care of us. I was skeptical, but we went anyway. The nicest mechanic in Ponce brought it in right away, jacked it up and crawled under it, and fixed it for us on the spot. No charge. Just a totally unexpected act of kindness from a complete stranger. And a big weight off my shoulders.

Another day found Mark up on the roof with me and some tubes of silicone, looking to plug leaks around various skylights. There was a lot of MacGyver’ing involved, especially around the creaky wooden structure of one big skylight. Did we succeed? Only a big rainstorm will tell us for sure!

Yesterday I painted the bridge over the ex-ponds.

Then I got on a rickety step ladder with a drill and a bunch of screws, and I set about to make these ancient sliding doors not feel as if they will fall down at the first gust of wind. Mostly screwing them in place, as the cost of proper replacement is prohibitive, and anyway, no one seems to want the job of doing it. Well, I have done it.

I concluded by resting on my laurels and waiting for Allysen to return from Home Depot, before going out for a hard-earned dinner of ceviche at Sabor y Rumba.


The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 10

This one is heartbreaking, and if you don’t want to read it, I won’t blame you. But it is a part of life here, and thus a part of the chronicles. I wrote about the street puppies earlier, which were already tearing at our heart strings. We buried one of them after returning from Rincón. It had been hit by a car right in front of our driveway—and just left there, probably by someone speeding up to the abandoned hotel lot above us. That was hard enough.

But two days ago, one of them got caught in our driveway gate while it was operating. We took it to the vet clinic at PetSmart, where x-rays showed a broken hip. Ultimately, we decided that the kindest thing we could do for her was to put her down. That doubly broke our hearts. She was a sweet little critter. The doctor was very kind, and we stayed with her to the end. She needed a name to be seen by the clinic, so Allysen called her Satita—little Sato (Puerto Rican mutt). After that, we took Allysen to the ER, to be seen for the bite that the terrified puppy had given her. What a lousy end to a good week.

Our hearts ache for both of them, but also for the lives of the rest as street dogs here on the hill, and indeed all over.

Edit: Report has it that a neighbor has adopted one of the puppies, so that’s good news.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 9

Mark and Misty are friends from our church in Cambridge, whom we had not seen in at least 25 years, maybe 30, since they moved to Texas. They came to visit and help out. Man, did they help out! But more importantly, it was really good to reconnect with them and get to know them all over again. Misty was very fond of my rum punches. Here’s a picture of us at Vistas Restaurant, close to sunset.

They are super into birding, and they photographed (and showed us) lots of interesting birds right here, near and around our property. That bird that we thought was some kind of owl? A white-winged dove. (Wait, did I get that right? Mark, correct me if I got it wrong.)

Here we all are, at Casarboles.

They left today, headed to see some other friends on the island, and then to go spend several days at Vieques, which we have never been to and which sounds beautiful! We are envious.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 7

Oddities are always fun, and we found a few in Rincón. On the way into town, we passed these humongous gears in a field by the side of the road. We don’t know what they are, or what they’re from. They seem to have been placed there as a sculpture. A truck parked nearby had the word “crane” on it, and that got us wondering if these were taken from some old, enormous crane. The big one was probably 15-20 feet high. Edit: I later learned that these were left over from now-defunct sugar cane operations.

The second was botanical. It was a tree right next to our hotel balcony. It had a very odd trunk, splitting into multiple, curving sections just above the ground. Rather alien-plantish, actually. The thick, smooth branches appeared to be bare when we arrived, and also when we headed out for dinner. When we got back, it was stunningly transformed—filled with beautiful magenta-pink flowers, with very fine filaments. The next morning, most of the flowers were on the ground. The second evening, the scene was repeated.

An internet search revealed it to be a Pseudobombax ellipticum, also called a shaving brush tree, or a Dr. Seuss tree. Proof that nature has a sense of humor?

Here’s one of the flowers.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 6

Rincón is a charming seaside town on the west end of Puerto Rico. It’s known for its surfing and gorgeous beaches. Allysen had always wanted to see it, so we visited for a couple of days to celebrate her birthday. The beaches lived up to their reputation. The character of the town was a lot like parts of Cape Cod, but warmer. Lots of seaside hotels and eateries. Here are some pix from our stay.

This is Dome Beach, named for the dome of a decommissioned nuclear reactor, visible in the trees. It’s a favorite surfing location; we watched some surfers enjoying the swells, including one fellow zooming on a surfboard with a hydrofoil under it, which levitated the board above the waves.

At the same location is the beautiful Punta Higueras Lighthouse, surrounded by a park.

Our hotel, Rincón of the Seas, was right on a long, lovely beach, perfect for walks. It also had a pool featuring a swim-up bar, which was fun. (I ordered a daiquiri, which was totally forgettable, but the ambience was enjoyable.)

Rincón attracts a lot of English-speakers; in fact, we chatted with folks from Texas, South Carolina, and Utah. We also had brunch with a childhood friend of Allysen’s, at a delightful café called the English Rose, which we reached by driving a narrow, winding road with truly alarming roller-coaster ups and downs. At one point, while approaching a crest, I croaked—with feeling and total sincerity—“I really hope there’s a road on the far side of this incline.” I could well imagine pitching off into space, and that would have been that.

And finally, while waiting for dinner at another restaurant, we got into selfie mode. Here’s what we looked like.

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 5

The Ho Chi Dog Trail, which we have worked so hard to shut down, is open and thriving. Or perhaps we should call it the Ho Chi Puppy Trail, since it’s a litter of stray puppies that’s currently thwarting our best efforts to close off entry. They can get under gates and between bars that the larger dogs cannot. And then they trot warily through the grounds, and presumably out again. They and their mother are sometimes to be seen up on the street, but we think their den is somewhere on the side of the hill, in the brush outside the house property, in the “back forty.” We hear them squawking; they sound like squeak toys. Once again, we are faced with the question: Do we try to trap them and take them to a vet for worming and neutering and shots, and then…??? Or do we let nature take its course?

Update: Allysen managed to snag a picture of three of them.

This takes me back to 2013, when we had a previous great Invasion of the Puppies. (Several of the puppies you see in the photo below ultimately came to Boston and found new homes, and the rest found homes in Puerto Rico. So, happy ending there.)

The Ponce Chronicles 2024 — Part 3

It’s quiet here on my last full day in Puerto Rico (for this round). All our guests have left. Crystal back to L.A., which we hope hasn’t washed away in the rains there, and A’s cousin Vanessa and her husband Cesar back to South Carolina, via San Juan. The air here has turned intensely humid and muggy. Earlier, we had a brief wind-and-rain storm that made me wonder if I’d missed the memo about an approaching hurricane. Wish I’d taken a picture.

Tomorrow, I return to Boston, while Allysen stays to greet Jayce and her boyfriend who are flying down from Boston at the same time I’m flying north from San Juan. We’ll pass each other over the Atlantic. While I start dealing with house issues at home, Allysen will be working with a contractor she’s found to do some of the larger repairs needed here. (Cesar and I fixed a bunch of small things, including—long-time readers will recognize this—yet another patch on the fabled Ho Chi Dog Trail.)

I’m going to close out this chapter with various pictures from the visit. First, Crystal and Allysen at El Yunque…

An egret at the beach at Caña Gorda…

An interesting tree in the dry forest right next to the beach…

And an evening at a new discovery, a delightfully idiosyncratic Ponce restaurant, El Rastro. This is Vanessa and Cesar.

I’ll be back down at the end of February. Lots to do between now and then.

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