A Day In The “Yard”

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It looks something like this. Only with more people, filthy streets and overflowing sewers

So here we are. The fourth day of my self-imposed hiatus from Those Damnable Forums. I guess that today went better than yesterday, as in no mood swings or anything like that. Although last night I had a sudden paranoia attack. That sucked ass, but at least in the end I was so tired from trying to install Fallout and failing, that thankfully I didn’t need to take my favorite pills for that job.

What did I do today? Well it was suggested that maybe getting out of the house and going to the local flea market would be a good idea to take my mind off of all the shit. So with nothing but four bucks and a debit card with what is left of the $26 that I earned for that one day of training on that job that I had to quit the next day, and which apparently never seems to work that well within the Puerto Rican ATM network, I did just as my ancestors did, and walked all the way to town under a hot sun on a humid day, to reach “The Yard”.

If I’m going to keep describing my home as a prison, then I may as well start assigning prison/psych hospital terms to the people and places here. My actual home, deep in the boondocks is “Solitary Confinement”, because that’s where I spend most of my days without much contact save for my computer and shitty local TV. The “Yard” is my hometown proper and is the nearest place that I have access to at the moment. The rest of the island that I haven’t seen in longer than a week to several years is where the “General Population” lives and the airports and seaports are the “Gates”. A lot of “inmates” who have stuck with the “program” have managed to win their pass to freedom, yet they are never truly free for the simple reason that they chose to get with the “program”. That “program” being “how to be the average Puerto Rican and give up your individuality for material gains”.  But I suck at being like everyone else, so not only do I not win a pass, but I end up in Solitary for it.

The walk down to the Yard is pretty much a mundane thing if you’re used to living in small town Puerto Rico. Roads that never get repaired unless it’s an election year and full of potholes, sidewalks (wherever they bother to put them) that you can’t actually walk on because they are overgrown with weeds and littered with trash and literal horseshit, putting your life on the line every time you have to walk on the actual road once the sidewalk ends because Puerto Ricans don’t know how to fucking drive and the encounter with the occasional fellow inmate who is more fucked up than you (meaning the neighborhood drunk, the retarded guy or a person who actually needs to be put in a real mental hospital). The only thing of note was when I encountered what was apparently a large group of Schwinn Bicycle enthusiasts who were riding through the neighborhood. Lately there have been a lot of weekend bike rides that have been taking place. Is this a sign of bike culture coming to it’s maturity here? That would be awesome, considering that when gas prices rise on the mainland, it ends up being more expensive here and the day will come when our obsession with cars will be forced to come to an end. In the meantime, they run the same risks that I, as a pedestrian, runs because Puerto Rican civil engineers in the 50’s and 60’s never imagined the day when bicycles would be more than kids toys and that the island’s industrial boom of the mid-20th century would not last into the 21st. So a typical Puerto Rican road has no such thing as a bike lane and since back then it was assumed that everyone was going to be rich and own a car, then everyone will use it to get anywhere, even if it’s just down to the corner store.

Upon arriving into the Yard, it was when once again I was reminded why would rather spend my days in Solitary if I can’t even go into General Population. About 90% of the inmate population on this island have a generic look and feel to them. To the tourist that comes to visit, they may look like your typical Caribbean Latinos. Always laughing, always partying, always dancing, always talking. Then they go home and carry away the memories of a friendly people and you hope that they stay there. “What if they want to come over here and sell drugs or rob our house?!” If you’re like me though, who happens to be like the other 10% of the population who is either an introvert or just plain anti-social, then the 90%’s behavior gets old real quick. I kinda blame it on our homogeneous culture and ethnic background. For hundreds of years, despite relative closeness with the other islands, Puerto Rican’s and their culture have been kept apart from the rest of the world. God, King and the fear of pirates was what ruled our lives. So most of us fled for the mountains, where our language deteriorated and so did our DNA, as we eventually started to interbreed. It’s kinda creepy when you think about it, but every inmate here is related to another in some way. The result is a people who pretty much looks the same, dresses the same, thinks the same way (political and religious differences don’t matter as they all present themselves in the same manner), speaks the same, you get the idea. It’s pretty much Iceland or Japan down here, only with more kitsch and loud music.

So there I was, in the Yard and in the Sunday flea market. It never changes. The lines of tents on the parking lot of the Yard’s sports complex, the sun beating down on you. The sellers selling you the same thing that the guy a few spaces down is selling and at the same price. This isn’t like your quaint little Farmer’s Market in your major urban center up in North America or Europe, with the organic produce and the artists trying to sell their stuff because they were never good enough to put up an installation in a gallery. Just a lot of fake designer purses, costume jewelry, imitation perfumes, Chinese electronics and pirated games and movies. If you’re hungry, well there is the usual plethora of kabob vendors, the lady who makes frappes with anything from fresh fruit to chocolate chip cookies and maybe a guy who will sell you a beer under the table.

Besides taking my mental health leave from Solitary, I came here looking for one thing. Sunglasses. Particularly, aviator style. I have been looking up and down for a nice pair because if I am to move forward and become the best Anal Agitator that I can be, then I should do it with some style!

Kapt’n K: One of Industrial’s cultural icons

I found some here and there and the most affordable ones were just 6 bucks. I had to have them so like the fool that I am, I went off in search of an ATM machine. The nearest ones being in the Yard proper, I took the stupid way out of the market and ended up taking the long route through a neighborhood on the outskirts, and a long-ass walk into the Yard, just because I thought that I could cut through a lot of backyards and empty lots. But when I finally get to the bank, I realized that today was not going to be my day with money or machines. The first bank ATM didn’t want to take my card and only gave me a balance. I went to the ATM next door and still no joy. All this time I was thinking that I was just having shitty luck with the card, mind you!

I got hungry, so I went to the local Chinese place. Chinese restaurants in Puerto Rico can be found a dime a dozen and are always run by illegals who are using the place as a money laundering operation by some Triad boss back in China. Or at least that’s what I was led to believe anyway. But despite not being REAL Chinese food, it’s good, no matter where you go. So I order up a BBQ rib and fried rice combo with a side of french fries. Good thing that the girl who was ringing me up tried to charge me before they started cooking. The card didn’t pass their either. She told me that perhaps since my card was “American”, that the machines couldn’t accept it as they are all connected to the Puerto Rican ATM network. It’s a small town with most commerce being in the form of small Mom & Pop shops. Where else could I get some fucking food? The only place that you are guaranteed to find, no matter where in the world you are; Micky Dee’s and BK! Of course that meant a half-mile walk to the other side of town. So I slogged it through near-100 degree weather and humidity until I finally make it to BK.

BK in Puerto Rico is more of a franchise operation than a branch of the main US operation so it’s pretty autonomous and we even have our own product menu, the latest edition being fried chicken, of all things. So in the mood for some chicken, I go in and order. The same story. Shame, since they had such a nice A/C. I go across the road to Micky Dee’s and order some nuggets, thinking that hey, unlike BK, Mickey Dee’s here is pretty much the same as the US version, right? It was not meant to be. Same fucking shit. However it was only when the manager came to check out the situation that I realized that it wasn’t perhaps my card’s fault, so much as it was that the whole fucking ATM network was out of order in our area. Hungry, tired and hot, I decide to try one last place. A bakery. I find one and with my last two bucks I buy a bottle of soda and a cherry turnover. I read the paper as I enjoy my soda and turnover and find that the hottest story off the presses is that we are now ranked #7 in places where cyber-fraud is the biggest. My mother is taking computer and Internet use classes right now. Will they teach her how not to fall for that letter from the nice Nigerian prince?

On the way back to Solitary, as I was crossing the bridge, I notice two black spots in the muddy river water moving about. They were turtles who were just enjoying their little life in the half-shell. Sadly I had no pizza on me to offer them, though. As I went up a hill and rounded a bend, I was stopped for directions from what I took to be a group of weekend tourists from General Population, accompanied by what I took to be a gay dude of foreign origin. His accent points towards Venezuela. It was Gay Dude who spoke. “Can you tell us where the boardwalk is?” At first I’m kinda stunned because they did take me by surprise, but I told them to follow the road until the get to the highway bridge, cross it and head on straight until they hit the beach. Couldn’t miss it. “Thanks Boy!” Gay Dude yells at me enthusiastically. I was kinda shocked to be honest. Was he being courteous or was he actually hitting on me? I never thought that the same problem I have with women (not being able to tell of they are being friendly or if I’m being hit on) would also happen with gay men! Either way, to be honest it felt kinda nice. I’m not like most of the guys on the Damned Forums, where if they get hit on by gay men, they either cry or recoil. It’s kinda flattering, really. To bad he wasn’t my type!

The bike riding crowd got bigger and was blocking the road by now. Big fucking group. But I neither care for the cars trying to pass by or the bike riders waiting for the rest of their group. I’m just a prisoner heading back to his holding cell away from them, back in Solitary. Then my life can be described by this song.

If you can understand German, then bonus points to you! Now you know how I feel!

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