The measurement of distance is subjective. I learned this on my quest to find Piñones in Puerto Rico last summer. I had finished my work for the day and had a few hours of free time to discover for myself if Piñones, off highway 187 just outside of San Juan, was really the fried paradise that it was cracked up to be. I managed to squeeze myself into a pair of shorts, throw on my tennis shoes, grab my cellphone, some cash and a credit card and headed down to the lobby of the hotel.
“How far is Piñones?” I asked the valet.
“Hmmm…it’s about…well, about a mile away or so,” he responded hesitantly.
“Are you sure? I’m thinking about running to Piñones and if it’s too far, I might die.” I declared dramatically.
“Umm. Let me check…hey guys,” he called to his colleagues, “how far do you think Piñones is…”
“Oh, it’s like a 15-20 minute walk,” a young American valet with perfect hair answered confidently, “you just have to get to the bridge and it’s right passed the bridge…it’s a….uh….20 minute walk. 2 miles, tops.”
I tried to give him my best piercing stare but I don’t think he fell for it. He did offer to get me a taxi, which I turned down. One of the best ways to get to know an area is by foot and considering that today’s destination was a deep fried food paradise, I felt it was imperative that I get some exercise before my quest.
After running for about 20 minutes [surely I run faster than people walk, so shouldn’t I have hit the bridge at least 10 minutes ago??], I started to get a sinking feeling in my stomach, which had no relation to my hunger. To my right, I see cars stuck in a traffic jam worthy of Los Angeles, to my left I see tons of families picnicking happily at the beach on the Sunday afternoon heat. Dead ahead, I did not see a bridge.
I slowed my pace to admire the views, to take in the sound of laughing families, and to breathe in the smell of the barbecue grills filled with meats. I halfway hoped that THIS was Piñones and I was just directionally confused. The curious stares that were pinpointed on me as I inched closer to the grills were indication enough to me that I was not at Piñones.
The first indication that I arrived at my destination was the colorful murals of slaves that splashed on the walls of an old building. The area was originally the settlement of the African slaves that were brought in to work the sugarcane fields.
- crowds of locals,
- lots of families with kids eating at the kiosk [what parent wants to deal with a sick kid?]
- frequent turnover of food,
- constant grilling/deep frying of new food [if they aren’t cooking anything, you don’t know how long it’s been sitting around]
- the dreaded line, if there’s a line, there’s frequent turnover and people are there because they like it