Archive | February, 2011

Costa Rica Retroactive Diary Day 5: Goddamn Bloodsuckers!!!

27 Feb

Hypercortizone eased my discomfort for seconds at a time. But it didn’t help much. Looked like I had a really bad rash, or poison oak, or elephantitis. Every time my arm itched my temper flared. I remembered when Paul thought I broke the laundry machine and he (jokingly?) suggested that I could stay an extra couple of weeks and work the costs off. The nerve of this guy huh?

At this point I knew I was heading for the hot springs in San Gerardo, from there maybe go to Domenical to get some beach time.

Sleeping the night before in this (two bit) motel: arms on fire, sirens going off, Calypso music playing down the street, fireworks going off, and my throat was hurting. Some vacation. It was like I was actively seeking  higher levels of discomfort by the day.

But I wasn’t as overwhelmed as when I first got into the country.  Despite the craziness this was still a good choice. Made me wonder about Mazatlan and El Bolson…..some day soon for both cities…..and I’d definitely would be ready.

It seemed like the more uncomfortable I got, the more I valued the experience. My throat was burning and my body felt like it was wilting from dehydration.

Luckily for me, on Costa Rican buses, people are allowed to come aboard on stops and sell stuff. Two Ticos jumped onto the bus selling chips, sodas, and “pipa” juice. I bought myself two bags of coconut water and drank them up (Hepatitis be damned).

I immmediately felt better.  In two short weeks I’d be returning to the states a completely different person.  Hopefully I’d be more confident, feel more solid. I’d survived a couple of weird scrapes so far and my Spanish was actually fairly decent for a negro gringo. I was starting to consider the option of teaching English in a foreign country…Japan maybe?????

Quite beautiful here. One of the nicest bus rides one can ever take (and cheapest 12 dollars for a 300km ride)  Cute little thang checking me out….dark skin, nice body…maybe 18 years of age. She seems DTF, which means she may have an STD.

Earlier in the ride I had a gal’s strong buttocks rested against my shoulders, and supported my back muscles. Then I had a guy’s crotch in my face for the next 40 kms.  He was polite though so I didn’t mind too much.

Cumbia music playing on the busses. I spotted a white kid and his mother and two sisters. “Hey Yankee.” I yell. “Where you going?”

Turns out he’s going the same place I am. Chirripo National Park. I follow him and his family to the a hostel and squeeze into the same place. Turns out we’re bunkmates–all five of us.  They are from Amherst, Massachussetts, which isn’t far at all from where I stayed out in the Berkshires. Nice people, they’ve even hiked part of the Appalachian Trail.

The mountain itself was beautiful and overlooked everything. The fog came up a couple a hours after we checked into our hostel. The way it ate up everything around me reminded me of the Berkeley fog out in the bay area.

It felt good up here. The hostel was really nice. Casa Mariposa. Run by two married ex-pats from Arizona. This had bed and breakfast written all over it. In the States you’d pay at least 45 bucks for a room here. Nice showers, wood everywhere. This was the first time I’d felt comfortable the whole trip.

I spent the night talking to a very lovely young lady from upstate New York and went to bed happy. So far this was the best part of the trip. I had no idea how long I was going to stay but it felt so good to be able to relax again.  I slept like a baby that night.


Fry St.

27 Feb

(For Andrew)

We watched her sway

in the drizzling rain

to Willie.

Because it seemed


“written the song just for her.”

She was drunken

stoned and crazy.

The front headlights

captured her dancing

in an almost tragic way,

like a scene

out of a

David Lynch movie.

It was too late to

be so loud.

But it was college.

and we lived in

a college town.

I wondered quietly

how long would

these organically magical moments

continue to happen with us.

~Edward Austin Robertson~

More of what the doctor ordered

14 Feb

And congrats to the Arcade Fire for winning a Grammy for album of the year (though there wasn’t much competition) Pretty sure that next  year’s winner will be Radiohead:

Definitely cause to dance:



12 Feb

My doctor says that I need more David Gilmour in my life.

Birdfoot’s Grandpa

12 Feb

In fifth grade, my English teacher Mrs. Robertson taught us this poem. Her husband was a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. Many moons later,  I was working the media/ elevator for the University of Texas football program, when he stepped in. I immediately recognized him and told him I was a student of his wife’s back in 1989. I then added how she was the best English teacher I’d ever had.  This was always one of the poems that stuck with me the line, “We’ve got places to go to.” Stayed in my head enough that I had to look it up and post it.

The old man

Must have stopped our car

Two dozen times to climb out

And gather into his hands

The small toads blinded by our lights

And leaping live drops of rain.

The rain was falling

A mist about his white hair

and I kept saying

You can’t save them all,

Accept it, get back in

We’ve got places to go to.

But leather hands full

Of wet brown life,

Knee deep in the summer

Roadside grass,

He just smiled and said

they have places to go to too.

~Joseph Bruchac~

(Stolen Kisses) On Borrowed time

9 Feb


He flew in on Frontier airlines

into Denver.

Frozen Snow on the tarmac

thinking of that time he touched down

into Alaska

to meet up with a college friend

to shoot guns and chase the lights.

He was only a connecting flight

away from seeing his grand plans

come into fruition.

A Plantain farm

somewhere deep in Costa Rica.

The big payoff

for his year of frugality.


He kicked things off on

New Year’s Eve hitching

a ride with a malcontent buddy

down to Oklahoma City

for the Flaming Lips freakout.

The most spectacular show in

his life’s most recent memory.

Though his buddy was far from impressed,

he had a party to attend

and so they parted ways

with a promise

to meet later so

he could collect his booze

and belongings.

And when asked how he was going to get around,

he said ” I’ll figure it out.”

Then he focused his attention

towards the stage and the

performing of the “Soft Bulletin”.


And so the show ended.

He didn’t scramble nor panic

but made a call to someone

he knew that had floor seating,

and caught a ride to a party

in the Paseo district near the

neighborhood where his buddy

would be staying for the night.

He grabbed a drink and ignored

the other drunks and turned

his focus to the dimples

on her adorable face.

The more they talked

polygamy, anarchy, and

Edward Abbey,

the closer their faces got

and the lower their voices dropped

and the crowd around them disappeared.


Inside her house,

kissing in her doorway,

with his belongings

in the trunk of a cab

the meter running

the departure time nearer

his heart racing.

Slipping his tongue into

the tender and erotic,

hands sweeping across her buns,

her fingers dancing along his waist.

It couldn’t be the end

maybe back in OKC

or a farm in south Texas

but this wasn’t goodbye,

not at 5:30 AM.

Which is why he calmly ignored

the jumping dog pawing at his arms

and the running meter outside

and the bus sitting at the Greyhound station,

the people already boarding.

Because sometimes you just know

when the mojo is in your favor

that everything is running on time

that everything is okay.

She says to him,

“You have to go don’t you?”
and he nods his head yes.

They kiss one final time

before he heads out the door

and out into the

cold Oklahoma streets.

~Edward Austin Robertson~

Winter Blast 2011

5 Feb

We got hit pretty hard down here. And because Oklahoma can’t figure out whether its in the midwest or the southwest, the state is never prepared for when the winter storms hit. The whole city is shut down. But since I work at a 24 hour emergency shelter, we never close. Through some weird circumstances, most of the employees on payroll are trapped in their homes and can’t make it to work. I had a feeling I’d be relied upon pretty heavily, so I gathered up some provisions, extra clothing and hiked the 1.2 km to work during the initial blizzard on Tuesday (I unscrewed the handle from my broom and used it as a walking stick to guage the depth in questionable areas). That was around 3pm and I’m still here as of 5:22 AM February 4th.
I’ve been camping out here ever since. There were two other counselors here who were stuck and couldn’t leave the shelter until yesterday afternoon. But I’ve chosen to stay. Part of this is due to not wanting to go home until I absolutely have to (its still pretty nasty out–kinda like Empire Strikes Back) and also because we are still short handed. Some counselors have found it easier to get to work but its still pretty treacherous. Some have walked, others chose to drive.
We’ve managed to make it fun for the kids though. Games of football, XBox and of course television has kept us occupied. When the kids go to sleep I get to work on projects and the counselors all sleep in shifts. The best thing about it all is that I’m making hazard pay which is like time and a half, and my overtime pay kicked in this evening. And our local rivers desperately needed the precipitation and snow–they’d been severely dry lately.
So the sleepover continues for another couple of days. I’m very fortunate to be safe and we still have electricity.

Costa Rica Retroactive Diary day 4, Part Deux

4 Feb

I sat on the porch watching the clouds swell up and release. The rain came down and I waited, fuming.  Let me explain something real fast about Costa Rica. Eco-tourism is a big hit down there. And tourism is the main source of economy down there. So even to volunteer on a farm, one must pay a few dollars for room and board.

I of course had no real experience working on a farm so I viewed it as taking a training course. I’d pay the money, see some bad ass scenery  and learn a few things.

I’d paid up front for a week’s stay and since I was leaving early, he owed me money. I sat around waiting for a few minutes but the more I thought about this man’s instability, the less valuable my money became.

I saw this scene playing out.

Me: “Give me my money motherfucker.”

Paul: “Yea. your money, gimme a second to go get it. [opens up a drawer and pulls out a pistol and shoots me several times–as I flail about with every fired shot] Keep the change……. you filthy animal!!!!”

Absurd I know. Yet what was to keep him from doing it? He seemed the kind of cheap bastard to do something like that over 80 bucks. What was stopping him from killing me and burying me out in the jungle somewhere? He could do it and get away with it. Tell people I just left like some drifter.

Who’d know? No one knew specifically where I was in Costa Rica.  He didn’t even have to bury me and my belongings in the jungle. He could say it was self defense. I was colored (his words not mine) and I was on his property.

Seemed the safe bet would be to hike into town, get the fuck out and email him about the refund.  So I stopped by Efran’s little house on my way into town to say goodbye.

He and his sexy wife smelled of perfumed products and looked like they were going out 9possibly dancing). They said old Paul was off his gourd and that when he wasn’t in D.C. and on the farm property things didn’t run as smoothly. They offered me a ride and I took them up on it. I figured I could head to the cabinas that the Canucks had stayed at and then form a game plan.

But not before I gave them a push to start their 4×4. Viv and I pushed and pushed and she almost fell in the mud as the car sped off. I had to grab her by the waist to keep her upright. We hopped in the car and I sat next to their son Manuel–hitting every bump in the road along the way.

Even at dusk, people were out. Walking, riding their horses, standing outside and talking.  It was exactly how I’d imagine Costa Rica to be. Of course everyone knew everyone (but not in the nosy bible thumping small town way) and the family waved in recognition at everyone we passed.

They dropped me off at the guy’s property who owned the cabinas. He ran the place with his wife and kids. It had an outside bar (where people were singing karoake) and swimming pool in addition to the 3 big cabins. The guy had his own Tilapia pond, a zip line across the creek and a soccer field where they played on Sundays.

Unfortunately it was a Saturday and they only had 3 cabins. I knew it’d be iffy because of how lively the place seemed in comparison to earlier in the week. Sure enough, they were full. So I told him my situation (in Spanish mind you) and that it was an emergency. I needed a place to sleep the guy on the farm had gone loco and did he know somewhere I could go for fairly cheap.

“Estas Bien.” he said. ” Se de un hotel de mi amiga estan una vacancy.”

He called a cab (which was really a 20 year old with a car) and I reluctantly put my things into his car.

“Pura Vida.”  The man said. I was in good hands, but after the farm I was no longer sure of  anything anymore. I got into the car and the kid drove me deeper into a part of Siquerres I had yet to see. In the states these neighborhoods would be considered sketchy and that was before we drove through what looked like a set for “Children of God.”

Kids just standing around on the corners. People just out. All I was waiting for was the sneakers on the telephone poles.

I reached for the knife in my pocket and shifted it to a place where I could grab it easily. Clearly this young man was going to take me into a place where I could be robbed and stabbed to death. I had no idea where I was and I was fucked.

Well Bobby, you wanted adventure and you were about to get it.

Finally he pulls into this shady looking apartment complex and whistles.

A nice old Tico woman with glasses comes walking up and says she has a room for 10 bucks. I look around and realize its a hotel. The hotel that my driver said was really nice. I paid the cabby 8 bucks (he had no meter inside the car) and paid her 10 bucks and she unlocked a pad lock to a room (think ACE motel in Austin on Manor street–doors on the outside) and I walked in.

There was a white curtain with flower patterns where there should have been a bathroom door. I slammed the door shut and pulled out my blade, violently ripped open the curtain and saw a toilet without a lid– and a shower that was a little nicer than a university dorm’s (on those weekends where there wasn’t custodian service) I had no shower shoes so it was going to be interesting. I was just happy there wasn’t anyone waiting to knife me on the other side of the curtain.

I put my stuff on the floor and sat down on the bed (but not before checking the mattress for dead whores and bed bugs). It was not the nicest room I’d ever stayed in but for 10 bucks it was going to have to do.  There was a “restaurant” in the hotel. Which ended up just being a picnic table on the patio and I sat down with a Lonely Planet and a menu.

I ordered the fish and french fries and two cans of Jugo. Then I opened up the Lonely Planet, found a city with a hot springs and decided to go to San Gerardo de Rivas. The lovely woman had two sons one who spoke decent English and between my broken Spanish and his broken English we were able to figure out my cab situation to get to the bus terminal. And from there we figured out which buses I needed to take and what times I needed to catch them.

The Tico family were very sweet and helpful and I felt foolish for my paranoia earlier in the evening. I was quickly realizing just how nice Ticos were outside of the city of San Jose. I’d read so much about crime and theft in the San Jose area (and felt so overwhelmed when I first flew in-I got out of there as soon as I could.) that it worked me into a frenzy. That coupled with the maniac plantation owner and I was seriously questioning my decision making.

So it felt great to be at ease and gracious. These Ticos were amazing. And to have been in such a tight bind and have everyone help me as best as they could was even more uplifting and humbling. The woman called the cab driver who dropped me off and he said he’d pick me up first thing at 6:30 AM to get me to the terminal.

I heartily ate me salty fish and fries and drank my thick juice and went to bed. It was 8:30 at night and I was exhausted. I was also coming down with a cold and my arms were itching like crazy. It was a good thing I had stolen some Anti-itch cream from the first aid kit at the farm.

I rubbed it vigorously onto my arms as the couple next door to me had embarrassingly loud sex (from the way she sounded dude must have been  knocking it out the park–I think I counted 8 orgasms). This went on intermittenly til about 2:30 I think. I kept waking up to hear her loud moans. I had to admit I was fairly impressed with their stamina.

The Chico Bar hotel. Wow. It was sinking in that I was in a foreign country. I had come all this way to stay in quarters even filthier than the place I was living. My arms looked like I had leprosy, elephantitis and poisons ivy.

But something (my spirit guide maybe) was telling me that whatever my ailments a natural hot spring might cure.

Like it or not, my adventure had started. Though it was a bit more adventure than I wanted.  Though this certainly wasn’t what I had in mind when I went on vacation, using my Spanish to get me out of some jams was kind of fun. I was really finding out what I was all about. My adventure had officially began.

Suddenly Everything Has Changed

4 Feb

Some events in life force you to never see the world the same again.

Day 4 Costa Rica Retroactive Diary Pt. I

3 Feb

The old man has really lost it. The first part of the afternoon was spent planting trees (50 of them) and grasping a machete, keeping my eye out for the King snake and the Fer De Lance.

I was hot and sweaty and itchy (these arms are on fire). Yet I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and getting to know the ranch hand, Efren. Innaresting guy. Had lots of girlfriends. Figured he must be a pretty charming guy to have pulled such a lovely woman like Vivian. We had a good time and decided to meet up for Boleta (Billiards where the 15 and 2 are in the side pockets) at 2 o’ clock.

In the mean time old Paul decide he wanted his fence painted. Not just any fence–the fence to his Tilapia pond. This wasn’t how I saw myself working on a farm. Painting fences like Tom Sawyer (or Nigger Jim?) for some smug jerk off from Maryland.

(I could hear my cousin’s voice in my head saying ” You dumbass why the fuck you wanna work on a farm anyway, slavery days are over.”)

“This will protect my fence from the rain.” He said.

What’s protecting the fish from the poison? I thought. Had to chase away the ducks to keep them from sticking their nosy beaks into the goods. I saw BP and Exxon spills all over again with every catastrophic stroke of paint.

“O que Bueno. Muy Increible.” The old fucker was doting over the job I was doing and neglecting to see the black paint dripping into the pond and creating oil puddles.

I finished the job as best as I could without feeling guilty–thinking about the tilapia lunch I’d had two days earlier.

Slept the night before with the knife under my pillow. Pauls’ steps around the house had become heavier and heavier. The skin under his eyes were starting to sag and once again–like the morning rooster, I awoke to him screaming “Shut the fuck up.” to the dog on the chain (that he said wasn’t even his).

Something else weird had happened the night before. Having only a couple of clothes to work in, I threw my clothes and sneakers into the washer machine and took a nap. Before I nodded off I heard some rattling, which gave me reassurance that my “Chucks” would be washed.

When I woke up to take the load out the washer, I noticed a note written in red marker across both the washer and dryer:

“Do not touch the machines without permission.”

Then again in Spanish:

“No toque las máquinas sin permiso.”

I scratched my head and wondered why Paul didn’t just tell me not to use the washer. He’d clearly seen me go into the back laundry room. Shaking my head I pinned up my wet clothes and wondered about the hot springs in Costa Rica.

I went into the kitchen to grab a drink and that was locked too with a posting of rules on the door.  None of the written rules were ever told me on the website or on the exchange of emails before I came. Even when I arrived I wasn’t sure what he expected. Now he was pulling this passive aggressive shit. Why couldn’t he have just come to my door and told me not to use the washer?

I thought about all this while we ate lunch in awkward silence. Paul sat next to me and he asked what I had planned for the day. I mentioned that I might take a walk into town (more like flee)and he said he might want to accompany me. I figured this might be the best time to tell him I was probably going to take off that evening. I couldn’t imagine spending one more night in my cabin.

I realized that it was close to 2 o’clock and I was to meet Efren at the stables to play Boleta. He and the Nicaraguan stablekeeper, Miguel were there already racking them up.

We played a few games and I was clearly the worst, but I was rather enjoying their company. I didn’t mind that they were making fun of my terrible billiards skills either. I just kept looking out at the beautiful countryside and taking things in. It was finally settling in that I was in Central America, on a farm, playing pool and talking in Spanish with a Tico and a Nicaraguan.

Time flew by and we kept playing game after game and I was cool. The rhythm of being on a farm was taking hold. I was getting used to the pace. Get up, get out and work, eat lunch and then work more until there is no more work. Eat dinner. Chill. It was quite a relaxing method of living. I could get used to it.

My thoughts were interrupted by yelling down the road. It was obviously a gringo and Paul was the only gringo in town. We thought he was going to come in and catch us playing (Efren said Paul would get angry and wonder why we were not working on something) but he kept on walking. So we kept on playing.

Finally Efren’s son Manuel came and told us that Paul was looking for me. I suddenly remembered that I told Paul I’d grab his work boots for him since he’d left them at the stable earlier in the week.

I went and got them for him and headed back up to the main house. It was locked. I went around back where the bathroom was and grabbed a stick and broke the lock. Then I took a shit. For a second I considered leaving an upper decker. I thought better of it though. good thing for everyone that 23 year old Robert wasn’t out on the farm. He definitely would’ve done it. Besides, it would have been Vivian’s mess to clean up.

After I was done, I went back outside, relocked the back door. And climbed up the gate to where my room was (I’m trying to explain the dimensions as best as I can–so bear with me this isn’t a Dickens novel).

I then went to my room and packed my clothes and decided I was going to wait on the front porch for old Paul to return. I was going to get my partial refund for what was supposed to be a week’s stay (most farms in Costa Rica you have to PAY to volunteer).

As I brewed over what my next step was (hot springs in San Gerardo maybe?) it started raining and I slowly had a sense of time, place and situation. How the fuck did things get so crazy for me?