I wrote about my college and law school years (1986 to 1993) in my previous two posts in this series; today, I will reflect on my first few years of “island life” in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (1993 to 1995). During that first fateful summer after law school (the summer of ’93), I bought my first car (a dark blue Jeep Wrangler with manual transmission), studied the intricacies of the Puerto Rico Civil Code and other areas of P.R. law at the University of Puerto Rico, where I took Professor Ernesto Chiesa’s excellent “JTS” bar review course (I passed the notoriously difficult P.R. bar exam on my first try), and began my legal career as an associate attorney at the prestigious firm of McConnell Valdes, the largest law firm in Latin America. But what I remember the most are not my material possessions or my early professional accomplishments. What I cherish the most from this time are my memories of the walled city of Viejo San Juan, one of the most romantic and magical places in the world. Like a moth attracted to light, I made my way to the old city as soon as I graduated from law school and checked in at the Gallery Inn on Norzagaray Street, overlooking the ocean-side neighborhood of La Perla. The legendary proprietress of the Gallery Inn, the artist Jan D’Esopo, put me in touch with a local realtor, Merce Roca, and that is how I somehow ended up renting the first floor of Ms Rosa’s charming colonial-era building on Calle Caleta de San Juan #58, between the Cathedral and La Puerta de San Juan, where I lived for the next 24 months. Ms Roca’s first-floor apartment had tall ceilings and was furnished with many pieces of Caribbean art–paintings, sculptures, even an old-fashioned barber’s chair–and the tall doors of the main living room and the small colonial-style kitchen all opened out into a garden. Moreover, I had to walk through the garden to reach the bedroom, which was nestled in a small cozy room behind the garden, where tiny tree frogs (the famed coqui) would sing their two-note lullabies late at night. Alas, all good things must come to an end. I eventually left Old San Juan behind when I bought my own place in the historic neighborhood of Miramar and began my academic career at the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, but my metaphorical heart will always belong to Old San Juan …
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