James L. Tate eBooks
March in New York is still the winter, and it was on a frigid sleeting early March day when James Tate left his Greenwich Village apartment for JFK airport where he was to catch a TWA flight that would arrive in San Juan around noon. As the straining 747 was about to lift off the runway, the outer engine on the starboard wing exploded sending the plane literally bouncing down the runway. After the passenger’s anxieties had subsided an eerie silence filled the cabin for what seemed like an eternity until the pilot calmly made an announcement that apparently the engine had ingested a seagull, and that the plane would return to the terminal. Six hours later the author boarded another flight, but what he did not realize was that upon his arrival in San Juan the delay would result in the first of many treasured experiences that he would have over the next twenty-five years as an expatriate. In 1972, to disembark from the plane in San Juan you had to walk down the portable flight stairs and cross the tarmac to the terminal building. The author recalls, as if it was yesterday, upon stepping through the fuselage door and onto the flight stair landing, the surprising sensation he felt. He was not prepared for the unexpected blast of hot humid air that hit him in the face, considering the cold weather he had just left. At the same moment, he further relates, the salty smell of the ocean became apparent, and after a brief pause at the top of the stairs his eyes focused on an unforgettable vista. He remembers how he was gazing at the El Yunque rain forest mountain range, which was glowing in a golden green. The setting tropical sun was illuminating the western slopes of the mountains with such intensity that the outline of individual palm trees were clearly discernible in the not to far distance. The triple assault on his senses at that intense moment left him in no doubt that he was about to enter a different world. The morning’s incident, which the author admits had filled him with a degree of apprehension of maybe being a bad omen or an ominous sign of things to come, was actually responsible for the evening’s astonishing coupled event. “That night I had difficulty sleeping, James recollects, I was anxious to get on with this new life in this exotic place.” After an international career as an architect, contractor, and real estate developer, when reminiscing of the not so long ago past, it is the images and experiences as an expatriate that still fills his mind. Many remembrances are associated with Old San Juan, where he lived and practiced architecture after moving to Puerto Rico now thirty-six years ago.