The journey to NYC passes uneventfully, although the service is abysmal and many passengers, including me, end up severely dehydrated. The second leg is delayed by a pair of brightly clad Italians reeking of cologne, who race on board trailed by gales of laughter and applause from their already seated friends. The plane is jammed with Puerto Ricans going home and a low, happy babble of Spanish rises from the seats around us. Marco is blessed three times. First, a lady with a less than firm grip on a McDonald's bag containing a coke tries to stuff far too much into an overhead bin. Second, a flight attendant drops a bottle of wine while trying to rearrange the overcrowded bin. Finally, the child behind us somehow manages to fling her cup of water in such a way that it splashes the people in the row ahead of us as well. Everyone claps and cheers when the plane lands, including us.
Marco's old friend and mentor, Cheo, picks us up from the airport, full of smiles and hugs, and gifts us immediately with four bottles of rum. Before driving us to the flat he's set up for us in Condado, the tourist district, he gives us a brief, crazed driving tour of the immediate vicinity. We're a block from the beach. Cheo's a ball of energy and gladness and he keeps us up for hours talking and drinking rum even though we've been traveling for some sixteen hours. Eventually, when our reptile imyril's nictitating membrane has completely filmed over her eyes, Marco puts his foot down and chases Cheo out so we can sleep.
From left to right: Brugal Añejo, Ron del Barrilito Tres Estrellas (Three-Star – they also make a Two-Star), Ron Barceló Imperial, Ron Cubaney Reserva. Cheo is wearing an Arsenal shirt. We got it for him last year and it has his name and favorite number on the back.