NYC - Puerto Rico Day Parade
The first time I went to the Puerto Rico Day parade in Manhattan, I really didn’t know what to expect… I thought it would be a parade, and what could be surprising about that? There was the usual pageantry, bright costumes, good brassy music, pretty women, horses and a lot of military, which I didn’t expect. The parade seemed to go on forever, and the pride in the people’s faces on the sidewalk said it all. My wife and I had gone to Puerto Rico and stayed at Vieques as well on our honeymoon. We loved it down there, and we were primed to see the Puerto Rico Day parade. The party lasted much longer than we thought, and it wasn’t long before it got dark, and people started to drift into the side streets of the city. I was adventurous that day so my wife and I just followed the crowd, just like we would do in a foreign country. Pretty soon we were able to see the street vendors selling food and beverages, and we were starting to get hungry but wanted to sit down. I spied a stairwell going down to a basement, and there seemed to be an awful lot of traffic for a basement! There was no sign but only happy faces going down and up the stairs. I had my big balls on that day, and just took my wife and walked down the stairs like we belonged there. When the door opened at the bottom of the stairs, we had full unencumbered access, and could see there was a lot of gambling going on at various tables that were set up around a very large space. Off to the side was a kitchen, and we were beckoned to step in and take a seat as if we were family. I bought a pitcher of fresh home made sangria, and we ordered authentic ethnic food, and we giggled like schoolchildren. One minute we were in a parade, and the next we were stuffing our faces in a basement kitchen and in a place I had never seen or been to before, and I really can’t remember where I was to this day! I paid for our meal once we were full and left a handsome tip, and then we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts… whoever they were. By the time we had returned to the street it was much darker, and fireworks, started to light up the side streets of the city. The party was continuing long after the parade had ended. I was drunk on sangria, and in no shape to take the train back to Long Island, so I suggested to my wife that we just find a hotel, and crash there for the night. We had no clothes except for the dirty ones we had on our backs, and I must’ve looked like death warmed over. But the hotel, took us; it was a famous hotel in Midtown… and maybe my American Express had something to do with my access? I lied and said our baggage, was on its way and would arrive later. I was pretty much embarrassed about our condition , and for whatever reason the employees did not care that night. They knew we were lying. My wife and I passed out blissfully in our fresh hotel room, and I woke up in the morning with a bad case of cottonmouth, and rushed into the shower, and put back on my dirty clothes, as did my wife, we ordered room service, got a quick bite to eat, and we got the hell out of Dodge. Folks, the Puerto Rico Day parade, is anything but just another parade! Embrace the after- parade nightlife, make friends with strangers, eat great food.. and maybe just maybe, keep your eyes open for a compelling stairwell that goes down to a place, that has way too many happy faces going up and down, for it to make any sense. You might get treated as we did, with great food, and great drink, open arms… and no questions asked. Great memories!!