Puerto Rico Children’s Museum No Place for Kids

We took a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico last week and we saw a bunch of newsworthy things that really rocked the boat of our ability to take the cake. We’ll cover all of them in uncomfortable detail in coming weeks, but first I have to point out the horrible travesty on child-named attractions that is the Puerto Rico Children’s Museum. All I can say is that it’s no place for kids.

Museo Del Nino, Puerto Rico... No place to take your kids.
Museo Del Nino, Puerto Rico… No place to take your kids.

We’d setup our visit about a week in advance and we were pretty excited to see this, the only place in San Juan Puerto Rico dedicated entirely to children. We’d read some pretty okay things and the price looked good, but when we got there it all fell apart.

They weren’t expecting us, despite our confirmation from the government tourism agency, but that’s not normally a real problem. We’ve had that experience before, where we weren’t expected despite preparations, but these guys took the ignorance to some really extreme kind of new, unbelievable level.

We spent a good half-hour in the lobby, waiting for the chaperone to check out our credentials and permit us inside. We weren’t there for a traditional day of play, but rather an abridged 20-30 minute version in which we’d check out half of everything half of once to take a bunch of pictures and formulate our review.

They denied us entry, stating that they would permit us entry if we had called, but that we’d have to pay $31 to come in and perform our review… Please bear in mind that there were no children in attendance when we arrived and equally zero when we left discouraged and crying more than 30-minutes later.

The $31 for admission was more than 50% higher than what any of the four Puerto Rican guidebooks told us it would cost, even though the exhibits were unchanged since they were written.

During our painful wait, Brendan had to take a bathroom break, which happened to be upstairs. That meant he got a chance to take a full, though unsanctioned trip through the entire “museum.” The place is roughly the size of a convenience store, though spanning two floors. Worse still, most of the “fun” is supposed to come from interaction with other kids, of which there were none despite the place having been open for two hours already.

pr-childrens-museum2Left – This picture was taken in the lobby, which was about as far as we ever got in this place. It’s a shame because it seems like at least a three-star place, but with five-star prices, who will ever know?

After Brendan got a full (though unofficial) tour of the place, the ultimatum was set. We could pay $31 for 20-30 minutes of conspicuously lonely play or we could pass on the whole thing, despite a hurricane brewing outside and an obvious lack of grounds to dismiss us.

They checked out our credentials on the spot, and confirmed that we’d published more than 1,200 articles, including reviews from Canada, China, San Francisco, and other places. They told us plainly that it wasn’t a problem with our credentials, but just that no one had called in advance, even though we gave them the name of our contact, who inconveniently could not be reached at the time. So it wasn’t that we weren’t real or that we were trying to get something undue for free, it was that our person hadn’t talked to the right member of their staff of right persons… call me a child, but that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

The place was empty, it’s not like we were putting anyone out by our attendance. Further, we left without paying for admission, so it’s not like there was an opportunity cost. How come me, as a three-year-old, can see the plain logic in what these people, at ages presumably older than three, could not? Have I been taking my crazy pills again?

In Spanish it’s called the “Museo Del Niño Puerto Rico,” but anyhow you slice this acrid bud, this rose don’t smell nothing but sour.

We had endured enough such problems with Puerto Rico tourist attractions by this point so the last thing we were going to do was pay them an exorbitant amount of money to bring them promotion. We left.

It boiled down to a decision by our onsite liaison to deny us admission even to take pictures and write a review. As we were leaving into torrential rain with my brother Brendan in play-deprived tears, daddy said to the man, “You realize that if we leave now, this is going to be the review.”

He said that he understood and that we should only report our experiences exactly as they took place… This from a guy working at a Children’s Museum with his lower lip pierced and his hair gelled like a Hollywood B-movie actor.

So that, unfortunately, is our review. The place is the size of a convenience store, there are painfully few kids there (if any), and it costs five-times as much as the nearby historic landmark El Morro, which offers hours of enjoyment, countless exhibits, entertaining films, remarkable history, and doesn’t go out of their way to insure that kids have the worst possible time imaginable.

In no uncertain terms should anyone ever take their kids to the Puerto Rico Children’s Museum. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and they don’t give the first rat’s batooty about kids. Period and done.

Not much fun at the Puerto Rico Childrens Museum Above - The lobby makes the place look pretty spectacular, but the lobby accounts for roughly 25% of the total museum floor, so if you just check out that part and leave, you're getting like an $8 value.
Not much fun at the Puerto Rico Childrens Museum
Above – The lobby makes the place look pretty spectacular, but the lobby accounts for roughly 25% of the total museum floor, so if you just check out that part and leave, you’re getting like an $8 value.

 

Pizza Trailers Find Profit in Licensed Cartoon Theft

I love pizza and commercially licensed, protected cartoon characters as much as the next guy, but when it comes to full-price pizza sold at a cost equal to the piracy of the very same cartoon characters who lured me over in the first place, I’ve got a beef, and it ain’t that mystery meat sprinkled liberally between the melted mozzarella.

Sponge Bob and Squidword apparently love Elian`s Pizza trailer.
Sponge Bob and Squidword apparently love Elian`s Pizza trailer.

I’ve been to China, so I know all about the unlicensed use of trademark characters to promote a business that neither pays nor deserves such credibility. What I didn’t realize is how rampant such practices are here in the United States of America.

And by “The United States” of course I mean Puerto Rico. It’s technically the United States, depending who you ask, but only barely, and this is the proof to my pudding.

The pictures on this story come from two different places, on two different days — in case the wardrobe changes didn’t make that abundantly clear. It seems everywhere you turn in Puerto Rico, you’ll find the misappropriation of beloved cartoon greats, and it’s not just in fun,but to sell Americas unofficial favorite food, pizza.

As an elite member of the media who has never actually had material stolen (since our reprint is largely permitted without cost), I don’t actually have a vested interest in the matter but, no less, I accidentally declared a boycott on these pizza-mongers in my own way – by showing up before they actually made their first slice of pizza for the day.

That’s what I do to keep the dollars flowing into the pockets of the likes of Stan Lee, who is surely hurting for money because of such theft. If copyright laws were enforced Joe’s Pizza would have paid his due $20,000 in legal fees to secure a fair, binding arrangement by which to use the image of the Credible Hulk (that’s what we call him (since we haven’t dug up anything on him to actually make him “in-credible”), for the paltry sum of more than they earn in a year.

Of course, Stan Lee et al would never approve of such usage for any amount of money, and even without the image the pizzeria-on-wheels (sans motor) would likely earn the exact same amount of money, but all that is beside the principle of the point of the matter of the res ipsa loquitor.

And that’s me getting all Latin on you right there, legalese style, baby.

Still, you have to admit these are two pretty strange trends here in Puerto Rico. First that the otherwise licensed images are stolen, and second that there’s no oversight or enforcement of such infractions.

Above - Even Dominic has his doubts, and that guy loves pizza bigger than me.
Above – Even Dominic has his doubts, and that guy loves pizza bigger than me.
Above - I know Sponge Bob loves Pizza, and it's arguable that he might love Elian's watermelon just as well. Not sure what any of this means, but still.
Above – I know Sponge Bob loves Pizza, and it’s arguable that he might love Elian’s watermelon just as well. Not sure what any of this means, but still.

 

Nightmare Profile – The Search for Lost Luggage

Something woke me up the other night in a cold, hot sweat. It was so disturbing I swore I’d write an article about it, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I should really start keeping a journal or, for that matter, learn how to write but, in the meantime, I’ll tell this story in its stead; that of the tale of lost luggage.

Is that my luggage?
Is that my luggage?

Imagine, if you will, a journey undertaken by travelers unto destinations near or far but, regardless, requiring the assistance of airlines. If this sounds scary to you, surely you have traveled before or talked to someone who has. The security screening isn’t just thorough, it’s needlessly overblown and nothing I’d wish on even my own worst enemy or nearest brother in either direction of age.

The whole “shoes off” business is bad enough, especially when it comes to my tiny, sockless sandals that could no more contain a bomb than an ounce of wayward sand, but such needless necessity is the life we travelers live in the post 9/11 world, where the obvious tourist is subjected to the same nonsense rigmarole as the most obvious would-be terror-monger.

If you had thought your luggage was unsafe before the advent of the needless hassle that is the “post 9/11 security” then you can just imagine what it is t’day.

And this is exactly what (maybe?) has woken me up in a fight of sleepless fury on this very night.

Prior to 9/11, you could safely guess you’d arrive at your destination within plus-or-minus six hours of the intended time, but your luggage had no such expectation. Now, however, you might not even arrive at your destination at all and your luggage is thereby left to fare that much worse.

luggage-animationLeft – Can never be too sure what’s going on, but I’m pretty sure this is a member of my staff watching literally tons of luggage transit hither to thither with nary the pound of scrutiny it surely is expected to have had… and that ain’t good.

When we tried to fly to Puerto Rico, we were almost headed-off at our first (of three) excessive checkpoints. Baby Dominic, so small as to remain in a stroller, refused to surrender his 100% cloth bear unto the X-Ray security scrutiny, the screeners remained unconvinced of his innards until such time as the bear was ripped from his arms and stuffed through the machine.

Plainly this innocuous bear could be an agent for evil, though no credible threat to any such ends has ever been conceived, devised, nor executed…. So Imagine how our luggage must have felt.

It would be easy, at this point, to suggest that what woke me from my slumber was nothing more than a bout of indigestion, the incessant screaming of the neighborhood roosters, or a common sense of understanding so ubiquitous, though somehow too simple to escape those governmental agents paid such meager billions, but it wasn’t. It was something more than that, though what, only the history of these events will tell.

All I could fear in this hypothetical instance was that my luggage would be lost (for the first time in my pan-continental travels). That’s the fear I faced, and it was a very real one at that.

Not because I know better (which I should), nor because it’s happened to me (which it hasn’t), but because I can see the luggage whirling all around me, and still I remain as powerless as a gnat to determine (or understand) it’s whereabouts.

I’m beginning to think the gorillas who abuse my check-in luggage do more than ensure my bags are battered. Now I’m starting to think they’re the ones in charge of this whole banana-charade.

Although I awoke, snug in the wooly confines of my own bed, I can’t help but think that this whole thing would be different, if only for the smallest of single factor… if our President was an aerospace guy, instead of an oil & cattle guy, maybe the lax restrictions wouldn’t be on the testing of mad-cow and the foreign wars of oil, but instead slanted towards making routine travel for routine tourists more accommodating.

Al Gore was famously pulled aside for a 2nd screening in the wake of 9/11. Maybe instead of that, they should have put an extra ounce of effort into a real threat or two, and maybe in ways that don’t cost billions, but save billions instead… but what do I know, I’m just a 4-year-veteran of the news business? What the heck do I know about senses common or otherwise?

Above - I know I'm pointing, even in this (my dream sequence), but isn't somebody supposed to be looking at this stuff?
Above – I know I’m pointing, even in this (my dream sequence), but isn’t somebody supposed to be looking at this stuff?

 

Municipal Cemetery Offers Wide Selection of Free Bouquets

Fresh flowers are hard to come by, especially when you live in a warm climate, as we ephemerally do. These are that much harder to find when you add on the language barrier and my total unwillingness to pay any amount of money for them, but I’ve found a place that has a wide selection, always fresh, and unless I miss my guess, they’re free.

Note the many fresh flowers behind us. Pretty pretty, I say.
Note the many fresh flowers behind us. Pretty pretty, I say.

The headline gave me away, I’m sure, but this magical place is a cemetery.

It’s not magical in a “bunch of dead people in the ground” sort of way but rather in the less creepy, lower cost sort of “take what you want” sort of way.

Unlike other places with a great selection they have pretty much no security, since people are dying to get in, but never leave, and there aren’t a bunch of people standing around watching you. I mean, there are a bunch of people, technically, but they don’t speak up to protest, so I’m sure it’s fine to help yourself.

I was more preoccupied running around and checking out the fancy stone and concrete decorations, so I didn’t remember to take any flowers, but I’m sure it would have been fine.

Next time I go I’ll totally check it out, though. All kinds of great, beautiful stuff, and there’s a fresh selection every day so if I don’t see what I’m looking for I can just come back the next day and poke around.

Further research tells me that doing this would be really disrespectful, so I guess I’ll just admire them where they lie, but that’s just as good to me. Last thing I want is the responsibility of putting them in water and throwing them away the next day when they’re dead.

Where do flowers go when they die anyway? Maybe that’s the thing, that the cemetery is the place for people and flowers once they’re dead. Something I’ll think about if I remember, but I make no guarantees.

Above - This is how big the florist shop "I See Dead Flowers" is, seen from the safe distance of my balcony. (Click to see full-sized picture.)
Above – This is how big the florist shop “I See Dead Flowers” is, seen from the safe distance of my balcony. (Click to see full-sized picture.)
Above - It's hard to understand how many flowers they have, so click to see it bigger and you'll see, for lack of a better joke, the big picture. (Click to see full-sized picture.)
Above – It’s hard to understand how many flowers they have, so click to see it bigger and you’ll see, for lack of a better joke, the big picture. (Click to see full-sized picture.)

 

Caribbean Could Benefit from Qualified Exterminator

I know that us beggars are of the sort that we shouldn’t also beg to be “choosers,” but sometimes the shoe fits, the meme matches and (in this case) the bugs just bite too hard. Pardon my begging booty a minute but, is it just me or could the whole island or Puerto Rico benefit significantly from the work of a qualified, competent exterminator?

This is an actual picture of one of the many household friends that helps us diminish our insect problems.
This is an actual picture of one of the many household friends that helps us diminish our insect problems.

I know there’s a lot of support from the pro-infestation lobbyists but this gets ridiculous sometimes. The teeny-tiny ants were cute until they bit us inside-out, which is about the time we found out they’re fire ants (to the dismay of my unpredictably delicious dad who easily had 200 bites visible before we pieced the jigsaw together), but I got to tell you, the mosquitoes are no better.

Patrick, the most bug-intolerant of our lot, was the most gracious of all, though even he wouldn’t partake of my runaway squishing spree nor Dominic’s unexpected eating spree. He tried to coddle the fire ants, thus giving aid and comfort to the enemy and that’s no good.

Am I mad with madness here, or could this island not benefit from a sound dousing along the perimeter of do-not-pass chemicals?

puerto-rico-pests2Left – You can sing “La Cucaracha” all you like, but these roaches don’t mind it a bit. I only saw this one downstairs (which is technically outside), but I come from a place where you have either spiders or tiny cockroaches. Here you have both and in bad ways with a vengeance. Here you get jumping spiders (too smart to be stomped out by the boot of an adult) and cockroaches too…. that isn’t cool.

We knew we’d have to keep especially tidy here, but these varmints can hone in on a drop of inhumanly invisible fruit juice* splashed upon the floor and follow it up with a sound gross of bites on the daddy-man legs, which he isn’t too pleased about. Is a lack of infestation too much for him to expect when he’s otherwise clean and tidy?

Apparently, it’s exactly too much to expect.

I haven’t suffered the worst of it myself, being somehow embarrassingly less delicious, but our publication schedule and quality have at least been the victim of it. With literally hundreds of red, swollen (some infected) nibbles about him, Daddy-O’s been distracted from our duties to say the least.

If you plan to travel to tropical climates, or are living in such places, there are a handful of suggestions I’d like to put forward:

First, keep as clean as possible. Don’t drip, spill, or leave anything out that the micro-critters may wish to devour. Scour your counters, put your open chips or cookies in the fridge and always wipe up after yourself.

Next, spray yourself down with a good, name brand insect repellent, preferably including the main, active ingredient “Deet,” because that’s your best chemical defense.

Then, if you know you have an insect propensity but you don’t want your kids to inhale the killer-chemo (not to mention yourself), instead just as you go out each day spray yourself down. You know when you’ll be gone for hours, so spray all the trouble spots with a vengeance and be gone for a while. You’ll kill plenty, deeter some more, and never have to hassle with the insufflation of the fumes.

And when all else fails, regardless of the cost, call in a professional exterminator. Odds are all but certain that they understand the local vermin better than you ever could, and they have access to the real poisons the likes of which you and me can just imagine and keep avoiding.

There are a ton of really great things about Puerto Rico, but the presence of bugs just doesn’t make the list. At least we have these imported “tropical house lizards” to keep them a bit in check. Not just that, but for reasons even I can’t understand, us junior folk take them as cute, while we insist the bugs they eat are disgusting.

It all works out for the parents so, there you go. Viva los lizards, y muerte unto the G-darn mosquitoes, no?

*What’s that you’re saying? Kool-Aid isn’t fruit juice?

lamp surrounded by tropical bugs Above - This is the light downstairs, by our washing machine and suspiciously boundless play area. We accidentally left the light on and these are the countless bugs we found clammoring about the incandescense upon our return.
lamp surrounded by tropical bugs
Above – This is the light downstairs, by our washing machine and suspiciously boundless play area. We accidentally left the light on and these are the countless bugs we found clammoring about the incandescense upon our return.
fire ants eating bread Above - As if the natural infestation isn't enough, Puerto Rico has more than its fair share of ants, often of the "fire" variety.... Sure, the locals may instead call them "ants de la fuego" (as I've just decided) but they're every bit as ferocious in the nibbling.
fire ants eating bread
Above – As if the natural infestation isn’t enough, Puerto Rico has more than its fair share of ants, often of the “fire” variety…. Sure, the locals may instead call them “ants de la fuego” (as I’ve just decided) but they’re every bit as ferocious in the nibbling.