It wasn’t what I was looking for but it gave me exactly what I was after.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- I didn’t end up here because of my stupid diet. Honestly. Yes, I have a food problem — the optimal diet for humans is completely at odds with what’s available for the traveler. I explained it a little here. But this wasn’t to blame for this decision.
I’m eating lunch at Dennys.
On my first day back in Puerto Rico.
I didn’t see that coming.
To preface this. I’m not and have never been into food when traveling. I merely eat to nourish my body and food is not an avenue of tourism for me. 90% of the food in the world is just slightly altered takes on the same five things anyway. And I don’t find it interesting. But I usually don’t take my disregard for food culture this far.
After I left La Verguenza I still had around three hours to kill before I could check into my apartment on the cusp between Santurce and Ocean Park in San Juan. I trudged through the old cobble stone streets of Old San Juan for a while with a fully loaded back that started feeling way heavier than it should have. I wasn’t really carrying much of anything but I suppose I’m a little out of practice — this was the first trip I brought a rucksack for in about five years. (I’d evolved into a suitcase traveler long ago … when you’re working for a major finance publication and giving public talks you often need need to wear passable sets of clothes, and they can’t look like they were just pulled out of a backpack.)
In other words, things were getting to the point of not being much fun anymore, so I hailed an Uber and began riding to the neighborhood that my room was in. Along the way I spotted a burger restaurant that looked a good place to fill my gut with ground beef and told the guy to let me out. But when I got closer I realized that it was some shitty fast food joint. But next to it was a Dennys. I was done with walking around and I knew I could get a giant pile of eggs. I also knew that the wouldn’t kick me out no longer how long I stayed there.
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I went in and ordered a half dozen eggs. The waiter looked at me confused when I said I didn’t want anything more, but they always do that everywhere.
But as I’m sitting here just looking around typing this I’m noticing that this place is happening. It’s completely packed with people — big families eating together. It reminded me of those small town diners where I grew up in rural Upstate NY that everybody goes to because there’s literally nowhere else to go. In an odd way, it was kind of the place that you look for as a traveler — you just sit back and watch people, listen to their conversations, feel their vibe. It was what I was walking around looking for but couldn’t find in Old San Juan, which was all trendy cafes, restaurants, and bars packed full of tourists.
You either travel to find isolation or to be among people. If you want to be among people you have to go to where they are. Apparently, in San Juan that means Dennys.
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