"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Feb 11, 2019

Tormented by Ice Cream

I’m preparing to leave home for an extended period of time.  I’ll be house-and-pet-sitting on-and-off in the Lake Tahoe area for the next few months, if I can get there, and so I must defrost my teeny freezer.  It’s empty except for a burger and eight Fudgsicles.  How fast can I eat them?

WHOOSH – through the time portal back to Puerto Rico, where it was confirmed to me that God does indeed have a sense of humor; somewhat twisted in my case, for it’s been the only time in my life when a good friend was an ice cream distributor, and I didn’t have a freezer.

I met Joey at El Muelle, the supermarket where I worked shortly after arriving on the island with Ruff Life and crew. For minimum wage (around $5.00 at the time) I cashiered, stocked shelves, baked bread and helped with the books.  Joey would come in cajoling for the check he was due, along with the rest of the vendors.

We quickly became friends, and every afternoon on the way to the Post Office he’d stop and visit with the Captain (or me) at the kite shop, opening the back of his truck and asking what we’d like for a snack.  YUM!  As hot as it is down there, you never tire of ice cream.

We were included in the frequent parties he and Gayle threw on their spacious property outside of town in Salinas Fortuna. 

There was always an interesting variety of guests, most of whom were bilingual, unlike us.  Their record collection rivaled any radio station; there was a pool table downstairs; and the view from their deck was spectacular. Each New Year’s Day they smoked a whole pig, and the party went on all day and night.

Joey’s family came from the island and Gayle grew up there while her father practiced law in San Juan.  Once their youngest was in middle school, Gayle decided to go back herself for her doctorate degree. They loved entertaining, gathering up family members, UPR students and faculty, and fellow Gringos.  We all were encouraged to bring others along so you never knew who you’d meet. Boaters passing through were always happy to tag along, as did Sis whenever she came for a visit.

Joey often had product which couldn’t be sold because the package was crushed, the ice cream was old or some other reason…would we like to take some home?

GODDAMMIT!!  We unplugged Ruff Life’s refrigerator/freezer our first year cruising because it was sucking up battery power.  For 12 years we lived with a small cooler on the back deck which held milk, mayo, butter, cheese; not much; cooled by the bag or two of ice we bought every day, depending on the heat.

WHY?  WHY?  I cried to the heavens.  You offer such bounty when I DON’T OWN A WORKING FREEZER?!  What’s with that??!!

The only times we were able to accept Joey's offers were when we house-sat for friends during the summer, when Snowbirds flew north. We took everything offered, and if I didn’t like a flavor the Captain just said,

“Pour chocolate syrup over the top.” He was right.
Joey’s company commissioned me to paint some over-sized bars on the side of their warehouse in Ponce.  The perks of that job helped make the work bearable in the stifling heat, plus the money was good.  It was pretty basic, but you could certainly spot the building from the distant highway.

Towards the end of my time in Puerto Rico I was staying in Bert and Ginger’s house, and Joey asked if I’d like a box of ice cream sandwiches.  Sure; not my favorite but hey, something different.

That one box contained 4 boxes of 4 boxes with 8 bars each (might have even been 12).  That’s 128 ice cream sandwiches.  A week before I left I still had 96.  I was eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner; giving away as many as I could.  That’s where I flash-backed to this morning when I looked inside my freezer.

When Czar passed away we didn’t have any place to bury him, so our friends allowed us to lay him to rest under a tree on their property.

Gayle now teaches at UPR; the kids are grown with families of their own; and Joey still keeps a nice selection in his freezer at home for guests.

Good times were had by all.

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