These were not all highway miles.

La Danza del Transito — en español

A menudo pienso en esa noche cuando veo a la Policía de Tránsito operando en nuestra zona. Muchas de las motos y cuadras que son multadas por Tránsitos comparten rasgos con mi ciclomotor libre: rotos, ruidosos; las bestias que se deberían haber retirado ya hace mucho tiempo. Los conductores sin licencia, y sin seguro tienen muchas cosas en común con mi yo de 1989 también.

The Transito Dance

It is therefore easy for me to empathize with the plight of those ensnared by Transitos—until I appreciate just how quiet and peaceful the streets become when Transito is in town. Car traffic converts to pedestrians and bicyclists. The pirate taxis disappear back into whatever dark corner from whence they came, and the chirping of birds replaces a non-muffled engine as the song of the street.

The Day I Rode My Bicycle to See the President

For as tiny as it is in terms of land mass, the various regions of Costa Rica are wildly different from one another. The Caribbean coast, besides being a coast, has little in common with the the Pacific coast (close your eyes on the Caribbean side and you might well think you’re in Jamaica). The greater San Jose area, with its population density and commerce, is nothing at all the Monte Verde district, and the many more remote parts of the country are all distinct, different.

A Monteverde primer: an essential guide to one of Costa Rica’s tourism gems

Cabs are generally available, but you’ll save yourself time, money and aggravation if you understand up front that Santa Elena is the gateway to the majority of the adventure parks; a hotel stay in Cerro Plano makes the majority of potential destinations in the district walkable; and Monteverde is known for natural beauty and the Quaker community, but has nothing to offer in terms of a post office, bank or pharmacy.

“¡Tres, dos, uno… pavimento!”

De manera titubeante señalé en un par de estas conversaciones que, desde este punto de vista, mi familia y yo, como nuevos residentes, éramos parte del problema. “Sí, pero ya estás acá, no hay nada que podamos hacer ya”. Un poco de honestidad en este caso fue más de la que necesitaba escuchar.

Objetos en el mapa, como en un espejo, podrían estar más cerca o más lejos de lo que parecen.

Él tenía un buen punto, pero no estaba comprendiendo la situación. Pura vida, como la he llegado a conocer en los últimos dos años, significa que usted debería estar contento que la señal apunta a la dirección correcta. El hecho de que alguien pudiera haber confundido qué signo debería ir donde desde un punto de vista de distancia no era realmente importante.

Brother Can You Spare a Usable Map?

I knew the sign. We had often giggled about it and some of the other signage in the neighboring countryside, which, depending on your route, indicates that Monteverde is getting further away as you draw closer.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

I, like the protagonist in Frost’s poem, did not want or need a fence. I liked the idea of sharing the greater area with our neighbors and letting all involved politely roam free — as we have for the past couple of years while we rented the house.

Franken-Carl-Louis

All of these men took time and effort to pass along their knowledge to me. I did know which end of the hammer to use, but other than that tidbit my experience with carpentry, plumbing, electricity, cows, horses and tractors was non-existent.

Sponge-Worthy

I haven’t been interviewing for new friends for a long time. I’m sure you’re a very nice person you seem to have a lot of potential, but we’re just not hiring.

The Fishing Trip that Wasn’t

My friends and I recently had the chance to visit the upper coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya for a fishing trip. We launched out of Costa de Pájaros – a place where hardy people do their best to eek out a living in these heavily fished (overfished) waters.

Stop, If the Mood Strikes You

I believe the intention of the sign, which means nothing to most tourists as they do not speak Spanish, is actually “be really careful making a left turn.”

How to Make Chocolate with Enthusiasm — and No Recipe

This conversation took place at our kitchen counter, where two cacao pods sat waiting to be transformed into a culinary delight—or a hot mess. I’d grudgingly agreed to buy them after being lured into the small grocery store by #2, who told me that they would be free because the store had given up trying to sell them. They were not, as it turns out, free.

The Plan’s the Thing

The Grandmaster showed a remarkable amount of patience with all of us over the next thirty minutes and even allowed me to escape without an official loss when we had to leave so #2 could get to his yoga class (yes, yoga and, no, there’s not time here to get into all of that). As we walked through the parking lot #1 looked particularly thoughtful and then observed, “It’s hard to have a plan.”

And the Award Goes to…

I left him where he lay and waded back in to the throng at the front desk. A few photocopies later, a new key in one hand and lifeless #2 in the other, we got in the small elevator and headed up to our room. #2 breathed hot air into my neck as I got to our door and tried the key which, of course, did not work. Neither cursing nor repeat efforts produced a different result, and #2 slowly slid out of my arms and created a puddle against the closed door.

Ladies of the Bucket

Menu Guy advised us that the Ladies of the Bucket were technically not allowed to be on the beach. What they were doing was against the law, and if we called the police we could, perhaps, get our $30 back — presumably to then use those dollars to buy hamburgers.

Lock, Stock and One Lousy Accent

Just last week I gave myself an “atta-boy” when a women I’d just met told me I had a Colorado accent. Truth-be-told there is no such thing as a Colorado accent but I was born there, and, more importantly, I hadn’t switched to New Jersey mode (where she was from) so I took it as a compliment.

Cachivache

“This is radar detection. There is alarm for police if you exceed maximum speed. It go in window in front of car.”

Thanksgivings to Remember, and Forget

In this era—the mid-90’s—deep frying was typically reserved for things like french fries and—if you went to the state fair—Snickers bars. Could I fry a turkey? Sure, I thought. Probably. A turkey though, was a large, thick hunk of meat. People had a hard enough time producing an edible turkey in an oven. An undercooked, but yet over-fried turkey was a very real outcome.

Of Trash, and Nudity

I had read an article somewhere about how Monteverde had a robust program, but what existed in print didn’t seem to have any signage, or basis, in reality. I again slowed my car and asked another Tico walking by something that probably equated to, “Where be the trash?”

That Time We Almost Went Fishing At the River

A few minutes later I took another deep breath as I tried to dive down about 10 feet into the murky water to free my cast net from whatever held it in a death grip below. Another few minutes passed before I emerged from the river clutching the shredded remains of my net in my cold, wet hands.

I Don’t Want It!

I’d once again drawn the short straw on the parenting front and was using my hands, and my girth, to pin #2’s hands to his sides whilst trying to avoid catching one of his flailing knees in my face. No one was having a good time here on the dentist’s chair, least of all the patient.

Talladega Day

The second biggest cheer of the day came from the announcement that Brad Keselowski’s motor had blown from, you guessed it, debris. Mr. Keselowski, the leader for roughly half the event, was done for the day. In unison the entire crowd, comprised of people who have long-declared sole, undying loyalty to one of the 40 drivers (presumably even Brad Keselowski), jumped to its feet and applauded.

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

I’d had enough work done on cars here in Costa Rica to know that the odds of his car actually being fixed within 24 hours were really, really long. On the other hand, I’d already received permission to disappear for this trip. I thought to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And I went for it.

Manopause and the 21 Hour Day – Every Day

A dark secret? Sure, that could do it. But you and I have no dark secrets worth fretting about, and most of the juicy bits took place over 30 years ago. Many of the people we’d be worrying about are likely dead. Does anyone really remember that I chose to be the one and only person to ever stage-dive at at 10,000 Maniacs concert? I doubt it and, more importantly, Natalie Merchant and I are both too old to care.

A Lobby on the Second Floor Isn’t a Solution

There were things I grew to hate about that job, but one of them was NOT our group or the ribbing they gave me — if you’re a chubby white guy from Texas named Marshall who drives a truck you’re going to take your share of abuse in Newark.

Thank You — France?

It’s definitely a small world in which we live. A small world full of independence day celebrations where relations with the prior empire are in many cases surprisingly good, and at least in a couple of cases, the prior contributions of the French are under-appreciated — unless stinky cheese is present.

El Día de la Madre

Y sabemos que en realidad no trabajas para nosotros

Seguramente alguien va a venir y limpiar todo

Si no vamos a trabajar en ello, tal vez, ya veremos

Spend More Time with the Family

In my brief absence, apropos of nothing, #2 began asking questions about the finer points of the human body. My bride directed him to a large book specifically designed to answer those questions for kids. The book had been sitting undisturbed on our coffee table for some time and I viewed it as a large, expensive coaster.

I Thought I Feared the TV

It’s going to be interesting to see if this exposure impacts or accelerates #1 and #2’s interest in the fairer sex. #2 has already exhibited a precocious approach, best exemplified by his outburst at the tender age of 4, “I kissed a girl — and she liked it!”

Contents May Shift During Flight

His hot breath stinking of garbage that to my knowledge he hadn’t eaten, my dog pushed still closer from his awkward perch on the passenger seat and once-again dry-heaved. I flinched yet again, trying to push him back over to his side of the rental car whilst keeping one eye on the road — which I couldn’t see through the torrential downpour we’d driven through for the past three hours.

Internal Acoustics Versus External Reality

I gave the US the benefit of the doubt for the better part of the last year. Perhaps there is a large group of people that truly care about the dating habits of Caitlyn Jenner (and hopefully none of these people are registered voters).

Gringo con Nombre Secreto

I’m a gringo. I don’t take any offense at wearing this descriptor but there are a lot of complicated, cultural issues surrounding the declaration of your nationality here in Costa Rica.

A Month to Reminisce — But Not Miss

The CFO still talking in my ear, my landlord raised the bottle of mildew cleaner and gave a couple of perfunctory squirts before he turned, still ignoring me, and headed back towards the door. I cupped the phone and cried out to him. He at last acknowledged my presence by turning and stating, “That outta do it.”

A Romantic Gesture Involving 1,250 Miles and Gas Fumes

The Bronco at a gas station is equivalent to a puppy at a park. The problem is that no one asks you how you made the puppy. I can handle the basics, but when the conversation turns to all of the various types of carburetors that Holley makes I’ve got to tap out. When asked if I’m responsible for all of the upgrades I go with the line, “I’m the guy that bought this from that guy.” Everyone’s still disappointed, but it goes a lot quicker.

It Never Hurts to Look, Until It Does

The hands immediately withdrew from my mouth and the sucking straw was banished to the basin. His face still just inches from mine, he leaned in even further and asked, “Are you looking to buy land?”

Birds in the Water

Several frustrating minutes later of attempting to explain what I’d hoped to be a pithy anecdote I’d exhausted my lousy Spanish and the patience of all involved. One of my newer friends tried one last time, in Spanish, from his point of view. “You mean he was ON the wagon again, right?”

Tale of the Tape: Galloper vs. Land Cruiser

I’m not saying that Hyundai didn’t try with the Galloper, which delivers the ride quality of an actual horse, but the budgetary constraints were apparently insurmountable. The end result is an SUV that smacks of the McDowells vs. McDonalds saga depicted in the movie Coming to America.

Birds and Bees & Monos y Polillas

We are fortunate to now live in an environment surrounded by natural beauty. Nature, incidentally, doesn’t wear pants so close encounters like the one captured in this picture are an inevitable fountains of questions and entertainment.

Leave Well Enough Alone

Upon returning home I discovered that our car had indeed been converted into the vehicle equivalent of that odd time in the late ’80’s when gold was almost out but brushed nickel hadn’t quite stuck the fashion landing. It wasn’t an ugly faucet with alternating bands of contrasting colors, but my present to my bride had that same inability to state it’s preference in terms of its color scheme.

Of Funerals and Corporal Punishment

I bring this up because quiet contemplation in the Quaker church also extends to funerals. My challenge was to keep our boys quiet during a 2+ hour service so large that much of the seating was outside (in view of the playground and lots of other things tremendously interesting to young boys).

The 14 Foot Artificial Reef

I began to turn us about, carefully picking the exact time to turn without getting side-swiped by a wave while mindful of the following sea which could quickly pour over the transom. Were it not for all prior evidence to the contrary it actually seemed like I knew what I was doing.

Archest-Nemesis Meets Valentine’s Day

In real time this meant that a girl in his class had rebuffed his world class charm for almost two years (that’s right — we’re going all the way back to Kindergarten with this feud). I had socks — many of them — with longer tenure, but then again #2 was only seven so this feud has gone on for nearly a third of his life.

Male Bonding and How It Triumphs Over Composting and Aged Periodicals

The petri dish that was #1’s backpack was a ready supply of fuel for the large tupperware container that my bride had designated as the composting collection bin. I lifted the lid of the container to dump in the moldy morsels and was greeted by a large cloud of what I presumed to be fruit flies. We didn’t seem to be growing any dirt, or vegetables, around here, but we were definitely doing our part to increase the fly population.

The Judge That Left No Reasonable Doubt About Jury Duty

All of the steam from the defense side of the equation then evaporated when the courtroom was enveloped with hard-core, gangsta rap music that someone in the room used for a ringtone. This is not Fresh Prince, happy rap. This was heavy, loud stuff. It was obviously coming from the direction of the defense team’s table, but the Co-Counsel and the Defendant directed their eyes to the ceiling and tried to bluff their way through it.

Non-Flying Squirrel

Your life was precarious, the threats were many and various: cars, busses and weak-limbed trees — not to mention the ongoing issues with your increasing crop of fleas.

Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Give You No Misinformation

This is a slight stretching of the truth as I couldn’t really remember why I thought they were Chinese, but I did think someone had told me. Lest you judge or seek to infer some sort of racism, I please remind you that chubby, overworked white guys are often found wanting in this area. I do not think my ignorance is bliss. At times it’s downright uncomfortable.

To Whom It May Concern

Your use of scotch tape is creative, but I would please also remind you that we live atop a mountain in Costa Rica. In this setting eggs are remarkably plentiful, and cheap, whilst rolls of scotch tape are roughly $5 a shot.

Guns, Animal Shelters and Steel Jackets

Goofball is usually dressed in a sniper’s camouflage suit — the kind where the sniper sneaks up on his target slowly, in plain view, because he’s wearing a the equivalent of a burka grassy field. In the unlikely event that Goofball’s camouflage worked and you didn’t see him standing by the side of the road, he also sported an oversized, fake hand gun painted orange in a holster on his hip and twirled a sign touting the availability of a concealed hand gun licenses.

Tools & Stuff

Without turning to look at me our son pointed behind us, in the general direction of our house. This was, to be sure, unsettling but then again it could have been worse. He could have found the actual snake.

Ferry-go-Round

What you probably can’t reconcile is the bigger questions: 1) why did anyone make this movie, and 2) what kind of person would enjoy watching it? These were the questions posed to me by our 10-year-old as everyone in the crowded, heaving ferry that connected the island of Ometepe with mainland Nicaragua was forced to view this offering on the television strapped into the wall, directly above the bathrooms.

Reggie Miller and the Zombies

I awoke a little on edge, hungry. I’d eaten the normal dosage of food yesterday. I’d even managed to get down the better part of a cooked tomato, which I’d previously loathed but actually tasted pretty good here in Costa Rica. Moreover, I typically had coffee for breakfast and don’t eat until lunch so the hunger is a mystery.

Texas Flood

I’m sorry, there’s some folks further down in a tree that really need me. I’ll come back for you in just a minute. Cars don’t float you know.

Posse Payroll

Several scraggly eastern European men decked out in American “gangsta” garb stride in and stare at Mr. Smith. One of them slams the door behind them.

Sunday Morning Wenus

The physical attribute known in most circles as the penis was called the “wenus’ in our home. I am to blame for this term, which dated back to the occupation held by the character named Chandler on the show Friends. On the show the term is used to convey an explanation of what it is that Chandler does for a living. I co-opted it as a way to be able to discuss the male sex organ with the boys in public without having to actually use the p-word. Besides Minecraft, their favorite topic was, and is, the wenus.

2002 French Holiday

Well, tonight I’m going to be your lover. (kisses her) It’s so peaceful here. No kids, no noise. (looking out over quiet town) I think noise has always been the problem. Can’t concentrate.

Phone Booth Sketch

SG takes no notice and begins to MUMBLE in German into the phone. Cupping the phone with his shoulder to his ear, he bends down to take off his shoe and begins picking at his toes, while repeatedly saying “Yah, Yah.”

Another Encounter at the Gym

I reached my locker and began to change. The dryer still droned on in the near distance. I took my time as there was no way I was going back that direction until it was clear that the crisis had passed.

You Are Banished From the Land

This part of the world, which is known for trees and meth labs (not in that order) was so laden with foliage that there were few actual views (the few spots that could offer a vista were typically obstructed by billboards advising against the dangers of meth).

That Wretched Place

“You know, it’s all dark and there’s no room to move.” His volume elevated as he shifted around in his car seat to further illustrate his point. “I had to get out of there.”

A Trip to the Hospital Meets Free Bike Ramp

Less than a heartbeat later the slow motion aspect was gone and everything, particularly the ground, was coming at me all at once. The item that troubled me the most is my rear tire, which was now leaking seriously to the left as I descended.

You Mean I’ve Got People In Here?

The conversations regarding the nether region are not always centered around the people storage or ticks. The majority of the time it’s come up it’s because I’d taken yet another blow to the crotch. The boys are fascinated by how debilitating this is to me, while it has no impact on them — yet.

Paralysis Through a Complete Lack of Analysis

The door that both of our pets exited just minutes before remains wide open on the other side of the house (about 25 feet away). Our beasts have declined the opportunity to use that same, still very much open door and have instead decided to stage a sit-in at a closed door. This, and opposable thumbs, is why we’re still on top.

Boat — and other 4-Letter Words

We were now in a stalemate of sorts as the roaring boat engine kept the trailer, and the Explorer, from becoming an artificial reef, but Bill, who was now officially freaked, had yet to make a difference with whatever he was doing inside the vehicle.

Our Three-Legged Dog Meets the New Math

We’d adopted Katy from a shelter a couple of years earlier, and she seemed determined to make up for her initially “free” purchase via a series of 4 digit transactions at the pet hospital.

Flácido

She again pushed her index finger into the flesh above my knee and, this time with an accompanying clucking noise and a shake of her head, restated, “Está flácido.”

An Outing with the F-Word

We came to the last stop sign involved and made the turn to go the final couple-of-hundred-yards to our destination. As we turned, waving to friends in yet another SUV mirroring our path, my oldest son announced, “I learned the worst word you can say at school today.”

Laugh Out Loud

She called out the total owed, and that effort appeared to tax her. If a chair had been available she would’ve been sitting. Were it not for the surveillance camera pointed directly at her she’d be laying down on the floor.

Just Another Day at the Gym

He was at it again. Per usual he was naked, and still dripping from his time in the nearby shower. He stood at the long counter of sinks, gazing in to the large mirror with a narcissism that could not have had anything to do with his actual appearance.

Costa Rican Gas Can

It occurred to me as I digested his answer that in the three-plus months I’d been in Costa Rica I’d yet to see an actual gas can. There were, however, a lot of guys holding weed eaters over one shoulder and a plastic jug in their free hand. The jugs, which looked like something that originally held an industrial amount of vegetable oil, often had a scrap of plastic secured by a rubber band as a lid.

Cathering

Based on the services he’s detailed on the back of his truck, it’s clear he’s going to get his pizza in you one way or another.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

There was no escape from Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that morning, so I chose the seat directly below the TV with the idea that the outward facing speakers might not be able to pierce my skull from this position. I was wrong.

Adventures in Roofing, and Gravity

Black clouds spitting lightning and growling thunder spilled out into the previously blue horizon. I saw all of this as I stood between the ribs of the rafters, and it occurred to me at just about the same time it occurred to the roofers that it was about to rain inside my house.

My New Barber – Almost

I thought hard for a minute about whether or not I wanted a T-Rex emblazoned on the side of my head for the remainder of this trip — and however long thereafter it took my scalp to reforest the affected area.

The Open Water Crossing to Little Corn Island

The elderly woman’s hand right hand clutched my wife’s left knee in a death grip. Her free hand was cupped beneath her mouth, catching most, but not all, of the vomit that was now coming out in regular intervals before tossing it over the gunwale and into the water just in time to make it back for another batch.

The Deal

Lowell sits at a wooden table — also covered by a plastic sheet — with a large, chrome handgun in his mouth. Lowell is 38 by calendar but these were not highway miles and his face shows it.

The Deal — the movie short that was far from quick

If the script calls for a boat, and, well, you don’t have a boat, there won’t be a boat in the movie. Similarly, if a poignant scene over a freshly dug grave backlit perfectly by a harvest moon is essentially ruined by problems with the digital camera that you don’t discover until post-production…. Well, you’ll see soon enough.

Dark, Hot and Fruity

The door opens and there, framed in the light from the hallway, stands a naked, already sweaty man. He’s holding something in his right hand but I’m more than happy to divert my attention back to my show.

Compro – The Costa Rican Car Purchase

I was in this predicament, in the midst of Alajuela, Costa Rica, because I’d agreed to purchase a car from a person I’d never met who was no longer in the country but had left his driver, and as it turns out, his attorney in charge of the sale.