Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"The Least Worst is the Best"

Another evening of gagging and vomiting watching Florida campaign ads that point blame, provide no solutions and manipulate records and statistics willy-nilly to make trend-sucking dilettantes look like heroes. At least Costa Rican candidates come right out and say it: "El menos malo es el mas bueno" ("The least worst is the best"). Here's an ad by presidential candidate Luis Fishman that aired in January right before Costa Rica's presidential election, which was won by, Laura Chinchilla.

Here's the song's translation:

I'll vote for Luis
my baby will be born soon
The least worst is the best
that's why i'm voting for him
He's the best.
A realist, w/o illusions, I believe him
that's why in February
I'll give my sincere vote to Luis
I'll support the least worst
with flags and a banquet
I'll celebrate it honking*.
I'll follow him.
I'll vote for him.
He's the besssssssssssst!

“The least worst is the best. Fishman.”

[*In Costa Rica, soccer and election victories are celebrated with incessant car honking.]

I mean, if you're going to waste a sh*tload of money on political ads that say nothing, they should at least be entertaining.

¡Pura vida!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

La Bandera Roja

Or "The Red Flag", in English. I got to carry the red flag today! Always a sign of good luck and fortune. At least, that's what I think. Red flags usually conjure negative connotations. But in this case, it's just the opposite. You actually want a red flag. Here's the deal...

The road construction workers here have a pretty cool method for getting around having to communicate with walkie-talkies when they shut down a one lane segment of 2-lane road and, subsequently, have to funnel 2-way traffic through a single lane, with traffic in each direction taking its turn. When the traffic from one direction subsides or is cut off by a flagman, traffic that is stopped in the other direction is mobilized. Sounds easy enough.

But sometimes the segment being repaired straddles the top of a hill, or wraps around a curve winding up/down a hillside or mountain. This makes it impossible for the guys at each end of the segment that is closed to make a visual connection with one another. Walkie-talkies solve this problem allowing them to communicate over the hill or around the bend. But what do you do when you don't have radio communication and have to rely on your eyes?

THAT'S WHERE THE RED FLAG COMES IN!! A guy at each end of the segment stops traffic in one lane while repair work progresses in the other. A flagman at one end of the segment has a red flag. Once the segment is clear of traffic, the flagman with the flag waves traffic through (e.g. downhill) while traffic is stopped and waiting at the other end to come the opposite direction (e.g. uphill). After enough (downhill) vehicles have passed, the flagman stops oncoming traffic, but gives the flag to the driver of the last vehicle proceeding in that direction (e.g. downhill). When the driver of the last vehicle reaches the other end of the segment, he hands the red flag off to the other flagman, thus signalling that the lane is clear and ready to flow in the opposite direction (e.g. uphill). The process begins again in the other direction, with the last (uphill) vehicle handing off the flag to the flagman at the other end. This goes on until the segment is repaired - which is, like, usually, a really long time.

Freakin' ingenious! I always feel very important when I am the privileged driver mantled with the weighty responsibility of carrying the red flag to its destination, passing it into the hands of the flagman at the other end with the athletic grace of a Jamaican Olympic relay runner!

¡Pura vida!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pikin Star

Disclaimer: Nothing that follows can be proven or substantiated. It should be considered rumor and heresay and nothing more. I mean, what are blogs for??

The latest rumors on the mysterious Pikin Star shrimp trawler fire in Bahia Hermosa on Tuesday are:

Alleged: One of the other two trawlers anchored off the beach (supposedly having a crew of Columbians) had a beef with the Pikin Star. The beef started, allegedly, when the Pekin Star's crew ignored the "Columbians" when they had run aground offshore some time in the near past. Supposedly, "Columbians never forget."

Alleged: All Columbians are hookers, drug dealers and murderers who never forget.

Confirmed:  The "Columbians" were mysteriously absent during the attempted rescue of the Pikin Star. They moved their boat farther away from the burning Star so as not to catch a spark. Another trawler tried to assist in dousing the conflagration, to no avail.

Alleged: Someone set fire to the Pekin Star - somehow, in broad daylight with a dog on board (and a shitload of shrimps in the shrimp hold!).

Confirmed: The entire crew of the Pikin Star was at a clandestine bar in Playa Hermosa drinking when the boat caught fire.

Confirmed: The incredibly pissed-off owner of the boat has a daughter here in P. Hermosa. She's granted anonymity here 'cause I know her.

Alleged: Some of the "Columbians" on the rival craft are living in P. Hermosa, at least part-time, when they're not with their real wives. Same goes for the crew of the Pekin Star. There are only a certain number of women to go around here. Not surprising something caught fire.

Confirmed: Not all the shrimp burned. One very foolish woman who bought a giant sack of diesel-soaked leftovers real fuckin' cheap, - even after being warned that they were contaminated - took them home, cooked 'em up and shared them with her sister. Apparently, she thought that if you cleaned them really well and boiled them with lime, you could de-contaminate them - NOT!

Upon gorging themselves (these were big-ass women with a big-ass bag-o-shrimps) they fell ill and were forced to visit a private clinic for treatment of upset stomach, nausea and diarhea. The shrimp were dumped outside the house next to Playa Hermosa School and are stinkin' up the joint. "¡Asquerosisimo!", stated visiting members of El Culto the other night during services at the public school, which also doubles as a private church.

Alleged: None of this is true.

Alleged: All of this is true.

¡Pura vida!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sports Bars?

I hail from the Great City of Chicago - "The City That Works". That's a catchy, double-barreled tag line that well represents my city. Chicagoan's are notorious for our work ethic - a "hard-nosed", "stick-too-it-ive", no nonsense, blue collar, "get the job done" (and well), mid-Western work ethic. Even our famous and numerous gangsters have had the same work ethic. Still do. Arguably, it is because of this work ethic that Chicago, a city born as a mid-19th century frontier outpost in a swamp on the shores of Lake Michigan, has become World Class. One might argue geography, but let's face it, it's people that make a city work. And Chicago works!

We work hard and we play hard. Which is what makes Chicago one of the best sports towns in North America. We take our sports and our teams seriously, and our sports fans are second to none. Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox, Fire. Pick a team. If you're from Chi-town, you've got an opinion on them all. Today was Sunday, and I wanted to see the Bears/Seahawks game...

...So I walk inta 'dis Sports Bar dis afternoon ta try 'n' find da Bears game on TV. I mean, it says "Sports Bar" right dere on da sign. So I says ta myself, "Disa'd be a good place ta grab a beer an' watch da game. Who knows? Maybe dey got brats too!"

I gotta be careful here what I say, 'cause dis is Mayberry and I don' wan' any problems wit my neighbors tellin' me dat I'm not welcome in dere place a business. Anyway, here goes... 

So like I was sayin', I walk into dis joint and see a buncha TV's on da walls and none a dem got da Bears on 'em. So I says to da manager, "Hey, Sweetie, how 'bout puttin' da Bears game on one a da TV's ya got up dere? Oh, an' bring me a Old Style too when ya gotta chance." Well, dey don't got Old Style. Sumthin' wit a eagle on da label. Den she hands me a book dat da cable company gave her wit dates an' channels an' all kindsa crap in it, an' asks me what network da game is on. I'm like, "Hey, sweetie! Do I look like da cable guy here?"

20 friggin' minutes later, wit Cutler gettin' his ass sacked off by Seattle (I'm watchin' dis on da Internet on Sweetie's computer while she's huntin' for a signal for da remote in da kitchen, or somethin'. Cripes!), Sweetie's still askin' me who da Bears are an' can't even find da game on any of da TV's. So she gives up - and den tries to sell me a bucket a beers an' some chicken wings! Which is all dey got 'cause da kitchen blew up, or somethin', and dey can't cook pizza.

Dat's when I told Sweetie, "Thank you, but NO!", an' walked out da door to try an' find da game at anudder sports bar. Took me tree tries in two towns!!! Crap!! 

Dis ain't Chicago. Nuttin' works.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Sometimes I lie awake in bed at night and think about this stuff...

Entitlement: Why is it expected - yay, demanded - that I share what I have with you just because I'm a foreigner and I have it? Oh, wait... guess I just answered that one.

Klingons: When I asked you if you wanted a ride to Coco, I didn't mean you AND your entire extended family!

Theft: What's the point of stealing a lock and chain if the lock is secure and you don't have the key for it?

Twist-ties: I've watched many a gallant Tico caballero repair alambre (barbed wire) with the grace and methodology of a spider spinning its delicate web. But give one of these 'naco's a twist-tie and a bag of Bimbo bread, and it's as if they immediately become afflicted with palsy as a result of some sort of mild anurism that turns them into the bread's namesake. After repeated, contorted attempts at securing the bag, the twist tie inevitably ends up on the floor with the bag tied in a knot.

Whites: It never ceases to impress and amaze me how someone living in a pochote shack with dirt floors can get their hand-washed clothes so blindingly WHITE!!

Lids/Zip-locs: OK, so I get leaving the beans on the stove for a few days as long as they're heated up before going to bed at night and are covered. They get more delicious with each passing day and make a killer gallo pinto on their last. But what the hell is up with the inability to put a lid or plastic wrap on a container placed in the fridge, to screw on a cap or to zip a zip-loc?! Must all food odors be free to comingle in the sacred sepulcre of the ice box temple? Is it some sort of cult thing?

The Lost Generation: I've noticed that the kids of many parents who made money during the real estate boom (and subsequently blew it all on pick-up trucks, booze, shoes and hookers), and had a fleeting taste of what it was like to be "rich", still consider themselves above getting a job. [sic] Only poor people work. Well, look in the mirror, kid!

Dirt: Am I the only one who finds sweeping dirt a contradiction; the ultimate exercise in futility?

...and then I go to sleep. Buenas noches. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Spanish translation: "Fruit-bearing". Typically used in Spanish to describe fruit trees. I've always had a green thumb. Well, not always... Most of what I learned about plants came from watching my mother and father transform the yards of vanilla spec-houses in vanilla white suburbia into world class, jaw dropping landscapes. No matter where we lived, the landscaping around our modest houses made the houses themselves look like a million bucks. It was, and is, a hobby of theirs that, apparently, is genetic.

A couple of years ago a large tree nearby our house snapped its taproot and came down, taking 3 more trees with it, nearly landing on the house and forcing us to cut down another tree upon which it came to rest. My garden under the shady, dry forest canopy became exposed to the blazing tropical sun, literally, overnight. So, taking into account one of my favorite John Wooden quotes ("Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.") I began to transform the now very sunny space into an orchard - sun loving "frutales"!

I planted what I had in pots that I grew from seeds first: a marañón (cashew tree) and an aguacate Haas (Hass avocado). I then transplanted a naranja valencia (Valencia orange) that was suffering in the shady canopy behind my brother-in-law's house next door (we live on the same 3.7 has./7.5 acres). I also transplanted a guanábana that a neighbor had given me that I had planted too close to the house in too much shade. Next was a limón mandarina (Mandarin lime) that my other brother-in-law had given me that was languishing in a plastic soft drink bottle bottom. That was five trees, not very big ones. But that's all it took... I became a "jungle planter crack head"!

In the coming months I cleared more trees, bought, - or was given - and planted banana, mamón chino (they say they don't grow in this part of Cost Rica - mine's thriving!), mamón criollo, níspero, aguacate criollo, manzana de agua (water apple), limón dulce (lemon), carambola (star fruit), guayaba, guayaba criollo, maracuyá (a vine), mandarina (tangerine), noni, Tommy manga and mango. (What North Americans call a mango up there is called a manga here. They're big, hybrid fruit. The wild trees with the smaller yellow fruit are called mangos. Both are delicious!)

My orchard has a couple of years to grow before bearing fruit (though the marañón will probably get fruit this year). It's back breaking work clearing and planting. Then, there's maintaining the orchard, keeping the undergrowth from becoming overgrowth. And last year I had to water them all nearly every day because we had no rain during the rainy season and they couldn't put down good roots. But it's also one of the most personally satisfying and, yes, relaxing things I have done and continue to do. Walking amongst my fruit trees in the morning in the fresh air with a cup of coffee clears my mind, lowers my blood pressure, calms me, centers me and allows me to focus. It's a Zen thing.

Some people raise rabbits or breed dogs. I'll stick with my frutales. They don't run away, they don't bite and - most importantly -  they don't give me any lip.

¡Pura vida!