You know all about it—the 73 billion bucks that the 16 or so public agencies plus the general government in Puerto Rico owe. And you know that the governor came out last Sunday in The New York Times saying that the debt was “non-payable.” So we are in full crisis, or near full crisis, since we did manage to pay 1.9 billion bucks that we owed. And you even have read the Krueger report, which details all the various paths that led inexorably to the edge of this cliff.
But while the island has been in crisis, the café where I write has been in crisis, too.
“I have to raise $60,000 by the end of the month, Marc,” said Lady, who was faced with the twin challenge of just getting to the bathroom, since about half of her shin had been removed in a recent surgery. So she was crippled on various fronts.
Well, there were various attempts at help, though there was also a certain lack of coordination. In fact, for insouciant going-your-own-way, poets could teach even cats a trick or two.
There was Geronimo, who declared that he would cook a delicious dinner, all with the finest ingredients that he had himself collected from remote and mountainous locations on the island.
“He made lasagna out of nettles, Marc,” reported Sunshine the next day. “I mean, I saw him making the stuff, and he couldn’t even touch the things. So he was using this!” Sunshine then held up the large tongs that bakeries use to get the doughnuts out of the cases.
“And he expected anyone to eat this stuff? I mean look at this.”
So he showed me a completely untouched tray of lasagna, each piece of which was adorned with, yes, a nettle.
“So did anyone come?”
“That’s what I asked Lady…”
“Seis de mis proprios gatos….”
Right—six of her own cats, which is twice the usual number for describing an event failure, but still not very good.
“Then Geronimo turned around and told Lady that she owed him $170, since he had spent that on ingredients! Can you believe that?”
“Well, those nettles don’t come cheap….”
It had been rather unpromising from the beginning, since Geronimo had conceived the affair based on the purchase of tickets, the minimum price being $60 per person. The only trouble was that even the person nominally in charge of the event—as well, putatively, of Geronimo—couldn’t understand the concept. So that boiled over into hurt feelings and recriminations and then, when another friend (who had not incidentally contributed 1000 bucks to help) had stepped in to mediate, Geronimo had ordered her out of the kitchen. Well, well—we all know that chefs can be fussy.
The next step was to set up a crowd funding site, and so Lady’s sister-in-law—her Latin blood at full boil—stepped up and created a site on GoFundMe.com. She described with the pen of Dickens the dastardly actions of the legal foe that had brought Lady and the Passage to the brink, nor did she spare the adjectives, of which “petty, vindictive, mean-spirited” were the more palatable. Ah, it was vigorous indeed but…
“Lady, you have GOT to take that thing off the Internet, and you’d better hope your step-father or whoever he is hasn’t seen it. Oh, and especially the judge!”
“BUT IT’S TRUE!” cried Lady, who was anyway not at her best, since now it wasn’t going to the bathroom, but rather going down the 25 steps out of her apartment that had been the challenge.
“So write it to me and text me…”
Right—do that, and then to the work of….well, what? Shouldn’t there be signs? How are people going to know that there’s a crisis? I decided to try to make a flyer, since my version of Word has templates for such things, but guess what? The photo—which anyway was upside down and refused to get right side up, and who knew that a photo could get so drunk?—was either swallowing the headline—Save The Poet’s Passage—or the headline was swallowing the photo. The point was, they were't not cooperating, which meant that the good Taí, always my cavalry coming over whatever technological hill I’m in front, had to step in. This she did, efficiently, and even refused payment! Thanks, Taí.
So now it’s time to herd up the many people who love the Poet’s Passage, who kiss Lady every time they see her, and ask her for twenty or thirty bucks half the time they see her. If Lady could find the word “no” in her capacious and poetic vocabulary, she’d have the 60 grand.
“I’ll join you, just as soon as I finish this poem,” says Carly, a poet and ex-worker, who was exed after some financial unpleasantness.
“MOTHERFUH! I can’t believe that Niggah ain’t out here with us, pounding these damn streets under this fuckin’ sun!”
So said Montalvo, whom I had enlisted, along with Norma. So it’s just the three of us out there, since Carly is grappling with the double weight of double paternity, which means that he is absorbing the poetic and air-conditioned atmosphere of the Passage, while his girlfriend calmly observes the twins shitting on the all-white sofa.
“Well, I’ve certainly found out who the sharks are,” said Lady, since she had been fielding various proposals to buy the building at ridiculous sums, or buy the café for the purpose of turning it into a cat café—brilliant, but impossible according to the Health Department—or other schemes, all very much not to the benefit of Lady.
So it all worked out, though a day before Lady had to go into court and tell the judge if she had the sixty grand, she was still over ten thousand short. But no problem, since 10 grand materialized in an “off-line donation,” and somebody just donated 15 bucks 26 minutes ago, even though the goal has been reached (we’re at $60, 720) and the crisis is officially over.
So we’ve moved on, or rather not, since the point of it all was that nobody wanted to move on—not Elizabeth’s two children who have valiantly responding to the crisis by alternately playing video games or snoozing, and not Carly nor his girl friend nor their progeny, doing what progeny do in the first year of life, and not the tall grey-haired gringo in the corner, who knows—slightly—how Lady got the sixty grand she needed to keep us all in place.
What don’t I know?
Where in the hell Puerto Rico is gonna get 73 billion!