Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Bonnie Is Back

Service Department, Pure European, Ft Lauderdale.

Dear Hannah,

I took the Bonneville out for a test run this afternoon after I got the bike trailered home. I installed the windshield and top case prior to a quick spin on my "test track" in the Keys back country. I'm glad to report that even at 80mph I could sense no wobbles or anomalies.
I am delighted with the way you took care of my problem, restored my battered motorcycle to me in such condition it is difficult to realise this is a Bonneville that slid down Highway One on it's side five weeks ago. The paintwork is perfect and the few scratches evident elsewhere don't seem out of place on a daily rider with 26,810 miles on the clock.
Thanks for all your hard work and that of Jason and Lucho who put everything back together for me. And with no hassles!
Considering I spent less than a grand on accident repair (plus the three hundred and fifty for the front brake replacement) I think I got out of this mess very lightly.


This story I posted originally on November 29th 2007, and it came to mind after I ate roast pork Italian style last month while visiting my sister.
The weird moments in my life have all been powered by curiosity, and when I look back on those instants I find myself wondering how did that happen? The answer usually boils down to me being curious and taking advantage of the moment. Before our trip to Puerto Rico I had never heard of the "Suckling Pig Road;" then I was on it. Humor and curiosity are what create a marriage as far as I'm concerned so mine must be a match made in heaven. We're going into our 15th year of marriage and travel and we still amuse ourselves on the road. It took a healthy dose of curiosity to find ourselves sitting in what appeared to be a refugee camp chowing down on foods hard to identify by name or appearance in a lonely mountains fastness.Its a weird food, a whole pig, cooked and cut to pieces, but I've seen this style of cooking growing up in Italy, where rosemary is the flavor preferred by the locals. In Key West holidays are celebrated by Cubans cooking a pig in a box. Call them weird but they line a box with metal, put a heap of coals in the bottom and put the pig on top and replace the lid. It makes perfect sense on an island where digging a hole requires a back hoe and patience. In Hawaii the water table is lower and soil is widely available on the ground so they dig easy holes, drop in the coals and the pig and call it a luau.
There is a place in Puerto Rico's mountains, shaded not by palms but by pine trees called Cayey, and in this nondescript village every Sunday Puerto Ricans descend en masse and devour lechon, milk fed pork. We happened on the village mid morning and sensing an event we stopped our headlong flight along the tourist route through the mountains and, as I was accompanied by not one but two women, we inevitably started to shop.

Puerto Ricans like to shop too, as demonstrated by the fact that the more cars that showed up, the more people started to crowd the stalls and there was brisk business in knick knacks and objets de junque. My wife found a few oddities to cheer her up while I watched the human parade on the main drag. The street was lined with restaurants, each promising an "authentic" lechon and the women in town clearly preferred the yellow building with loud, very loud music, and an upstairs balcony giving them the opportunity to take a break from the music and observe the parade of talent in the street. On my side of the street the talent was in large measure, drunk and obnoxious, which made me feel right at home-all this way to find myself on lower Duval on a Friday night, thought I. However the Puerto Rican beauties defied convention and appeared to enjoy the raucuous attention from the slovenly imbibers of Medalla, and they preened and sniggered in a most alluring fashion on their balcony; the drunks own in the street thought they were alluring in any event.
Mercifully the lechon was ready and my wife and co-worker were all shopped out so we got in line at the most promising self serve and watched the machete fly as they chopped the pork into plate sized pieces.
The pork was easy to order- we asked for two portions and got a plate piled high with the stuff. The vegetables were rather more tricky. We pointed and asked and when the young woman (mouth stuffed with braces, exposing this place as a distant branch of the US tree) said "patata" we were no more enlightened as to what we were ordering. This is where curiosity plays its part. We pretty much pointed to one of each and hoped for the best. Patatas turned out to be a firm, sweet, roasted type of yam or sweet potato. We got a helping of breadfruit and of course rice and beans. A Puerto Rican tamale appeared to be made of something green and slimy and was generally voted down as inedible, but everything else worked out.
I'm not sure why I like breadfruit, but ever since I first ate it in Grenada 14 years ago with a heavenly curry sauce it is a plant I try to eat every time I am in the (true) tropics, where it flourishes. I watched a local at a nearby table fork his way through a plate of pork and breadfruit and he speared the white starch and ate it with not a drop of sauce of any kind which to me is the mark of a true fanatic- its pretty dry stuff. My work colleague shook her head and would not taste it. My wife has eaten it previously and kindly left most of the big white chunks to me, and so I dipped them in the bean sauce, and continued to regret the fact the breadfruit doesn't grow in the Keys. And also i regret the fact that there is an agricultural inspection on flights between Puerto Rico and the mainland. It keeps pests out, but it also keeps breadfruit out too, a heavy price to pay for agricultural purity.

A beer, sodas, pork, beans, yellow rice and a plate full of starchy vegetables set us back $22, served on Styrofoam with plastic utensils. We ate at a picnic table in a fair approximation of a warehouse. It was entirely satisfactory and culturally isolating for we saw no other confused mainlanders poking strange vegetables on their plates with consternation writ large on their faces. We were alone in a hall filled with lechon fanatics.