Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Old blue bricks are like old blue people. They are askew and broken in tiny and monumental ways but they are still holding their position. They could not be more unique and discolored by experience but they fit in. Their role is what they are. They are the silent placeholders of experience.
When the people of the world were still reeling from the aggression of the Mongol empire, while the old people of Asia, Europe, and Iran told tales of human horror passed on by their parents, there was an oven in Spain.
A small, rugged, Spanish man who didn’t know his age, when asked would duck his head into his customary smile of humility and accidental secrecy to say “I was born 1500.” He worked tirelessly cooking blue bricks in a giant oven for a frightening boat captain. A huge dark man given to the leadership of unmanageable adventurers and warriors. Maybe his size appointed him and maybe it was his inability to censor his reaction to conflict. A dangerous man not to be disappointed.
The Captain would come tomorrow to collect every last one of his blue ballast bricks if the night’s mayhem did not delay him. The small man did not sleep that night. If there were not enough blue bricks then the Captain’s ship could not sail from the sunbaked Spanish port town and into the small man’s memory.
As the ship sailed, the underpaid brick maker stood dockside with a handful of other kind people who often find themselves the subjects of brash, fearless, immoral men. Their goal was to see, with their own tired eyes, the remedy for their constant trepidation. They needed to report to their families, their priests, and their customers that things would be different now. They needed to say with the confidence that had been squeezed out of them by bad men that they had seen a hundred and fifty or more soldiers, conquistadors, and high sea criminals finally pumped from the bilges of their little town along with the giant load of blue ballast bricks the little, quiet man had labored over.
Nearly five hundred years later as I walk the streets of Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is not lost on me that since that sunny day in Cadiz, Spain those wise blue bricks have lived a thousand lives and are now all around me. They have sailed thousands of treacherous miles witnessing atrocities and wonders. Holding ships steady as humanity struck out painfully and joyously. Raising warriors to heights of advantage and guarding lives with their own. Laying down to carry millions of people, animals, and crafts safely from everywhere to anywhere above the perils of dirt and earth and nature. I watch as people from all ends of our modern world, myself included, walk over them and awkwardly roll luggage, avoiding them with intent as they try to tell their story to deaf ears.
Old bricks are like old people. The more they have to say the less we can hear them. Their language seems irrelevant so we avoid their clunky surface. We roll our baggage to smooth contemporary paradigms as they duck their heads in a customary smile of humility and accidental secrecy, swallowing their stories deep into the hulls of sinking treasure ships.