love and hate


The Cathedral of San Juan Batista is the second oldest building in San Juan.  The Roman Catholic church also contains the remains of famous explorer Ponce de Léon.  (Robert K. Hamilton/Baltimore Sun)


There has been a lot of discussion among my peers lately about when to retire and where to retire to. We are indeed the fortunate in that we’re in a position to imagine a where. I have known for a long time that I want to retire in an urban setting, in fact, it’s embarrassing that I’ve talked about it for so long but have made no moves in that direction. I love Old San Juan and would love to retire there, and I will say right up front that I have only stayed in Old San Juan twice, both visits totaling only a week. But I fell in love immediately. And I hear all the cautions of my friends loud and clear and I understand the need to investigate further, but for now, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Old San Juan is easy to get to, no passport required, and currency is the U.S. dollar. Everyone speaks English. It is gritty with grace, poor but not angry or dirty. On my last visit, I struggled to find a cigarette butt on either the sidewalk or the street. The vacant houses boasted painted and tidy facades, for sale signs were not covered with graffiti, in fact, I saw little to no graffiti at all. The population appears to be older, sedate, with not a lot of children nor restless twenty year olds. It is beautiful—beautiful architecture, flora, food, people, music. San Juan is on an island that touches both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, for cryin’ out loud. It is a historic walled city, the national park is magnificent, and it feels very romantic and very European.

And so, the hate part of my subject and title, and pardon me while I editorialize. I don’t like to do that but figured, hey, I’m the editor, it’s perfectly okay on occasion. While I do not want to pull a Kim Basinger and threaten to leave the country over political issues (as if anyone would care), I find myself disenchanted with America right now and Puerto Rico is an appealing compromise. I hate all the hate. I hate guns. I applaud the discussions over flags and race, but we cannot legislate hate. We can legislate guns, but short of a massacre on Capital Hill (God forbid), it certainly won’t happen in my lifetime. The price of freedom seems to be our children and innocent others. I’m on the edge of old and wouldn’t mind distancing myself a bit from the obsessive posturing and burying my head in the sand—in Puerto Rico—a U.S. territory—that feels like Europe.


photo credit: Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second oldest cathedral in the Americas