Hello all, thanks to help from Jose Antonio Brenes and Yolanda Pulido I was able to make a Spanish-language version of River Tree — which is now available on Amazon/Kindle.
I would like to hold fast to the opinion that this book is meant for young adults and above, but completing this exercise in self-flagellation (I’m doing it again) has convinced me that I do need to pay more attention to the words I choose.
22-year-old-me knew nothing about farming, ranching, guns or tractors. I was a recent college graduate with a degree in …ahem… Radio/TV/Film. I had a dead-end, low-paying job in the financial industry. My apartment was 400 square feet of finery decorated with things like an orange, corduroy couch I had picked up second-hand to watch my thirteen-inch television propped up on cinder blocks.
I think it’s fair to say that the best way to light a fire using matches made in Costa Rica is to already have something on fire nearby that you can use when the matches fail. These are, to be sure, the ultimate in safety matches and likely the best thing that’s ever happened to the lighter industry.
Admittedly profiling against sneezers and the great white unwashed, I happily give short rides to others. If things go awry my final destination can change to the next block, and I now keep a rag handy just in case someone slips past the phlegm radar.
River Tree takes a positive look at the circle of life through the prism of a river bottom pecan tree. This effort, an illustrated children’s storybook, is very different from my other novels. I wrote it several years ago in response to difficult questions from our boys regarding death, but it took me quite a while to find the right illustrator
Peter Davidson’s short life has been a series of challenges. The troubles began with the loss of his mother, something his father, Big Ed, has never overcome. His brother, Eli, wants only to escape their hand-to-mouth farming existence for life in the big city. Now fate has decided to dry-up the river that nourishes their farm.
Help comes from an unlikely source—a small, glowing Orb that Peter finds in the river bed. Orb claims that the world was once awash in peace and prosperity under his rule. He needs Peter’s help to regain his power and his throne. In return, Orb will cure all that ails Peter, his family, and the world.
Peter joins the quest to help Orb and discovers along the way that there are many different versions of the truth–and very few things in this, or any world, that are purely good.
I smiled, a little grateful that she seemed to have finally figured out that yelling at the person not smart enough to dodge volunteer traffic/parking duty was not likely to yield results and encouraged her to write that letter.
Me dio una mirada que había recibido muchas veces antes. Una mirada que decía: “Si no hay una regla específica en contra, ¿por qué no debería hacerlo?” En este caso, eso significaba que estuvo bloqueando un lado de esta calle angosta pero con mucho tráfico durante un par de semanas mientras el contenido del remolque estuvo expuesto al calor, la lluvia y los insectos que llaman hogar a Houston.
Our boulders, however long they are with us, may keep a tourist from driving off into the abyss. Like the horse trailer, they have turned the road into a complicated, one-lane affair where participants, including the public bus and the huge milk trucks, freely debate who has the right of way. Erosion, however, is not a process healed by time. Pura Vida may dictate that everyone just get used to the notion of driving around tape-laden boulders for the foreseeable future, but gravity likely has other, more compelling ideas.
Con esto como telón de fondo puedo dar fe de mi empatía con las personas que visitan Pura Vida y que parecen no tener idea de dónde están o por qué están aquí. He llegado a ser, principalmente en el pasado, esa persona.
I leaned forward and asked the cab driver, in broken Spanish, “Why are the sewers on fire?”
Without missing a beat he said that the sewers held a lot of methane gas.
I squinted at the rubble all around us where a city used to be.
“What happened to … everything?”
He again replied matter of factly, “Well, there was the earthquake, the civil war and, of course, the hurricane…”
Per britannica.com: Aunque la intención original de la encomienda fue reducir los abusos del trabajo forzado (repartimiento) empleado poco después del descubrimiento del Nuevo Mundo, en la práctica se convirtió en una forma de esclavización.
“How are you going to send the copies up here?”
The short reply said, “We’ll send them to you via encomienda.”
The tortures of the daily routine of big city life dwell on David Reynolds, likely driving him to an early grave. Only the sanctity of his ‘farm’ in central Texas gives him respite–but that changes when he witnesses a series of odd, evil events. Something is challenging his ranking as the top predator at his farm or, even worse, he is losing his mind.
I am excited to announce that my suspense/thriller “What Lurks Beneath” will launch within the next ten days. Unlike “Will of The Hill” this novel is NOT for kiddos (there is nudity, or at least the description of nudity–thankfully for all it has nothing to do with me, or my nudity).
As the sweat exited my body in waves, and I struggled to avoid screaming, I pondered how a man this small could wield so much strength. I then reminded myself that he normally works with farm animals, which explained quite a few aspects of this experience.
This short story, which was inspired by the first school Things #1 and #2 attended here in Pura Vida, got a bit longer. Things #1 and #2 read the working draft and claimed to like it. There were no overt threats against their allotted video game time if they said otherwise, but I suspect that was part of the mix.
Ahora, en tiempos de crisis, las personas quieren compartir información que han escuchado. Ellos quieren ser útiles. Desafortunadamente, la mayoría de las veces esta información solo es un chisme que escucharon de otra persona que ya se ha expandido varias veces antes de llegar a ellos.
Challenges remain both here in our District as well as throughout Costa Rica–and Central America. Please do check out the links which show the various ways that you can help.
“Eso no puede ser correcto”, pensé. “Nate se convertirá en un huracán en el Caribe. Estamos en lo alto de una montaña en el lado occidental de Costa Rica. ¿Por qué sufriríamos acá de lluvias torrenciales?”
Our community’s story of surviving a temporál related to Tropical Storm Nate: landslides, fear and resilience
I do not know if there was a particular tipping point, but the bottled water craze later swept the globe. Many consumers continue to shell-out money to receive water in a plastic bottle—even when the source of the water is their own municipal water supply.
I stopped, as did the pizote. Standing just a few feet apart, we each tried to figure out if the other was who we remembered them to be. This pizote was definitely a bigger, stronger version of those in the pack that had called our porch their home for a month. He did, however, have that same, pleading look in his eye. The look that said I should go back inside and scare up a banana, or perhaps three if possible.
So tonight, like many to follow, I will strive to find a happy place between: “I went to college and nothing happened,” and, “Let me tell you about the time I pledged a fraternity.” Wish me luck.
Ahora estábamos a unas varias millas accidentadas y montañosas de mi casa y una vez más me preocupé por la condición de Paul. Parecía pálido y continuaba quejándose de su estómago. Cuando le pregunté con delicadeza cómo se sentía, él ignoró la pregunta y en su lugar condujo más arriba de la colina en los dientes de lo que resultó ser una tormenta de lluvia significativa.
Santa Elena es el “Monteverde” que saluda de primero a mochileros y viajeros de bajo presupuesto. Los boletos para todas las atracciones de la zona, incluyendo los muchos parques que ofrecen zip-lining, se pueden encontrar en un gran número de negocios. Indicación: aquellos que declaran que son la fuente “oficial” de los boletos lo hacen porque el 20% del precio de venta se remonta a ellos como el vendedor. La comisión del 20% es una gran fuente de ingresos para una variedad de operaciones y los turistas no reciben algún tipo de descuento si van directamente a la atracción para comprar sus boletos.
Mr. Van Damme had apparently been smitten with Mike’s girlfriend, so much so that he had written his personal, unlisted number on the back of her card and encouraged her to call him. Mike’s girlfriend showed him the card when he picked her up at the airport, and it had eaten a hole in his soul that went right past China and emerged on Mars.
I have spent most of my life unburdened by the tyranny of the metric system. However accidentally, I do know that a meter is a little longer than a yard. That meager base of knowledge, however, falls to pieces when the conversation takes place in Spanish and involves multiple systems of measurement (particularly when one of the systems dates back to the colonial period of Spain).
“Stop!” I cried out. Fortunately, he eventually did. When he rode back to me, scowling, I explained that I needed something warm to drink—and maybe something small to snack on. Paul shook his helmeted head no, sending water flying and for effect also shook his hand that he had extended my direction.
As a child my father and I shot rubber darts at the visage of Richard Nixon whenever he appeared on the television screen. I didn’t really understand the deep level of contempt being expressed for our president. I just enjoyed the opportunity—the encouragement—to shoot darts that stuck to the screen of the TV. NOTE: my nominal interest in politics (via the rubber darts) ended for eternity in 1974 when Mr. Nixon resigned and the dart guns were stowed).
My sensitivity to this particular word came from a conversation I had early on in Costa Rica when I asked a local for the name of a bird perched in a nearby tree. I unfortunately used the word pajero in place of the actual word for bird–pájaro–to hilarious, unintended effect.
I was in this smelly fix because we spent the first few days with our RV engaged in what is called “freedom” camping in the parks of New Zealand. The scenery was gorgeous, and it beat the heck out of listening to the sliding doors of fellow campers slam shut all night in formal RV parks (though we did plenty of that too). Freedom, however, had a price—and that price was the regular emptying of the small black water container.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One normally does not get quite so excited about pavement, unless one has just spent 45 minutes driving up the unpaved, rocky, hole-filled expanse that is the 17-kilometer portion of 606 between Guacimal and Santa Elena/Cerro Plano/Monteverde.
mis conversaciones con Gustavo durante nuestro recorrido se limitaron a ideas entusiastas como, “es extraño que las iguanas no parecen asustarse por la gente”.
Gustavo sonrió y, con una mirada divertida en su cara, “es porque no comen aquí”.
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.
Relaté esta historia a mis amigos, algunos de los cuales recordaron leer sobre ella. -¿Entonces estamos pescando en el mismo lugar donde murieron millones de sardinas?
We used my car for the free tour, which was good, as there was a lot of ground to cover. It was even better when the guide turned to me and asked if my car had four-wheel-drive and, if so, if I’d like to drive out onto the muddy path recently cleared by heavy equipment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
She narrowed her gaze, trying to see if I was kidding. “Well, let me ask you. Would either of your boys or their friends ever put one of these beans in their mouth if they came across it?”
I knew I couldn’t throw-up as Thing #1 was justifiably freaked out enough on his own without me adding vomit to the equation. That said I couldn’t wrap my arms around the idea that things that were very much supposed to be hidden on the inside of his body were staring out at me.
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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
“This is radar detection. There is alarm for police if you exceed maximum speed. It go in window in front of car.”
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.
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?”
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’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.
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.
This process was supposed to be orderly and methodical, with me marking down each item on a master inventory and indicating something profound about it to satisfy the burning curiosity of the folks in Customs. For example, “Medium box, study, contains yearbooks that haven’t been opened since the first Bush presidency — H.W. not W.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Through it all I confused everyone who showed up at the shop. I didn’t have to understand the 150 kms per hour of Spanish that was being spoken to, about and around me (what’s up with the big gringo?) to know that I’d truly found a new low in self-confidence.
Is it a good song? No, but that’s what I like about it. Does the intensity of #2’s performance shine through? I think it does. For better or worse.
I have, however, recently — and repeatedly — failed a new kind of test. Here in the land of pura vida that test is called, “¿Eres más grande que este caballo?”
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
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.
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!”
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
How did someone (me) purported to be amongst the greatest dog-lovers in the world get to the point that he’s kicking dogs to the actual curb at 1:30 a.m.?
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 mood around our house was directly related to the current health of the squirrel, and at times it felt like we needed not only a veterinarian by a psychologist.
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.
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.
Step Three: Take a solo trek up the path that leads to the top of the fall, then walk the bed of the creek that feeds the fall to its edge — and stop!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.