A friend, a long time ago taught me something profound. Look at the details and find amazing things in the ordinary. We took the Golf out of P lot and drove far from our UMass Amherst campus to go to some pizza joint out in a neighboring town. I thought he was taking me for some romantic, secluded evening. When we got there I was a little surprised. It was a diner-type place that looked like it hadn't been updated ever. So we sat, me a little ruffled, and he describing little things to me...things I never saw. His descriptions and his enthusiasm and passion for the little things blew me away. (There was that romance I was looking for). At that age you don't need much to get you going, but he really made me think...about more than just that place. He was way cooler than I gave him credit for. This date changed me forever. Since then, the little nostalgia of a place rivets me.
Some places have it, and some don't. This is how I felt when we found El Batey.
It was also on my Yelp list. It's located directly across from El Convento on Calle Cristo. I peered in from the street and the graffitti on the stripped down walls pulled me in. I lost Andreea for a minute and called her in, as I checked the name of the place. Yes, I read that this may be our favorite place, and it was. The juke box kicked ass and the afternoon sun filled the place. We sat at the bar and were so happy the vodka tonics were $4.50. The place reminded us of home...of Vincent's and the ironic thing is, when we walked in and spoke to each other about it, someone said, "This is it!". For those of you that know, Vincent has a neon sign out front saying the same. The bartender, another Cristobal, poured us a few.
We sat for a while taking in the ecclectic and energy filled place. There only were a few people there, but the spirits danced around the room, like the charicatures of the famous that adorned the walls. A young girl next to us was with a much older man, both of them natives I think. While trying to figure out if they were together or something else...the old man began to sing to her loudy along with the juke box. It was out of a movie. He did not care who heard. He reminded me of Ibrihim Ferrer, his Cuban neighbor. Another regular sat at the bar smoking a cigarette with his two dogs napping on the floor catching some rays. El Batey is the only bar in San Juan that you can smoke in.
After taking many pictures and getting spirited ourselves, we left to walk around a bit more, although we both just wanted to sit and stay the afternoon right there.
***check my flickr over there on the right nav for more photos of PR and El Batey.