Carolina, Puerto Rico — While Polar Vortex Part Whatever is tightening its wicked arctic grip on the defenseless bare scrotum of the northeastern United States, things are looking relatively good here at the El San Juan, and the news that some 1,500 flights into JFK have been preemptively canceled is met with something between stoicism and merriment: So we’re all stuck here with the 88-degree poolside weather and the perfect beaches and the $20 snifters of Zacapa XO rum for another day or two. We’ll live.
It isn’t always pretty: There’s the usual tacky casino, although here it is tucked into an off-room behind a set of double doors, like something the suits at Hilton are slightly ashamed of, rather than splat in the middle of the main floor of the hotel, Vegas-style. Instead, the lobby tonight is hosting a dance band as a wedge of oldsters and not-quite-oldsters salsas and merengues the night away, the whole thing having the distinct feel of a cruise ship that never leaves port, with vast and bulbous expanses of semi-exposed gynecomastia not so much deeply tanned as rotisseried, the gentlemen accompanied by desiccated former queens of happy hour, their tiaras abdicated approximately sometime during the Clinton administration, who are still bravely clinging to the clingy cocktail dresses and the brutal tanning regime — prom-queen jerky. An elegantly outfitted wedding party makes its way through the crowd, bridesmaids and groomsmen scanning the bar scene at an establishment christened, with admirable forthrightness, “Meat Market.” The silver-maned septuagenarian king of this particular dance floor has his well-honed act momentarily upstaged by the bad bar mitzvah dancing of a rummed-up young interloper, whom he challenges to a push-up contest. He wins.