Talk about a bitter, sad irony on a #tbt memorial

Talk about a bitter, sad irony on a #tbt memorial !?

Symbolically, this Black Lives Matter memorial is located right in front of where another massive loss of human life occurred nearly 34 years ago.

Ironically almost as careless as to how police act out at black people, with total disregard for human life. It was back in 1986 that 3 disgruntled employees, allegedly involved in a labor dispute, sat the then world-famed, DuPont Plaza hotel ablaze, on December 31.

97 lives, most of them American vacationers from mainland United States, ready to enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebration, perished that afternoon, and over 150 more were badly injured.

This was one of my favorite hang out places on this island during the early 1980s. It had great discotheque, beautiful restaurants. The renowned, famed Italian, Fontana Di Roma, was where my Honduran paisano, former shipmate y buen amigo, Matute also from Puerto Cortes, was the head bartender. I always brought them a couple of bottles of duty-free purchased Amaretto or Frangelico I’d picked up in St. Maarten, and dinner was on the house.

Unwritten policy throughout the hotel and casino was that officers sailing onboard cruise ships received special discounted rates since they figured we were responsible for bringing in the tourist to the island. Of course, these were far less greedy times, and hotel managers, didn’t mind sharing in their profits… together we all partied cheer and celebrate.

We also received a $50.00 chips or a gambling voucher, to play… however, one was required to wear a blazer or dinner jacket while inside of the casino. Back then, all men did, while women wore evening dresses. It was just like in the classic movies. Of course, they figured that most sailors knew nothing about gambling and always lose a lot more.

Nevertheless, I didn’t gamble, nor would I wear a blazer, however, the casino provided them for you if you didn’t have one of your own. Of course, this was after all still Puerto Rico, whom in their right mind walks around with a dinner jack on their shoulder, just in case a casino itch floats around in their minds.

So the casino had a coat room with a tailor on staff that provided you with a perfect fit… these nicely designed.

Since I didn’t gamble, I was therefore allowed to cash in my chips in exchange for cash, tip the guys nicely after dinning at the Fontana Di Roma, and spend the rest of the evening dancing at the disco, until it was time for us to grab a quick cab and head back to our Ship in Old San Juan… hence sailing down to Venezuela, Martinique, etc… Lots of memories. So many, sweet, bittersweet memories of my younger, younger years.

Unfortunately, I no longer lived in the Caribbean when these selfish, man-made disasters took place. I was already living in Connecticut, but the news hit home real hard. I still wondered about the dozen of employees, who worked there, the countless vacationers and their families, I never again heard from my friend Matute, the bartender. Almos each time I visit Puerto Rico, I try to make it down here to quietly honor their memory in prayer… to reminisce on life as a 20-year-old merchant marine officer, in a place loaded with so much fun, permeated by darkened sadness and dreadful killings at an alarming rate of disregard.

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