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Episode 12 - June 2009

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Marine Invasion, Loo in the Lite, Retirement Department, Boobs on the Bus

A Tip from GG: If your email system is scrambling the format of this document, make sure your message format toggle is turned to “HTML” not “Rich Text” or “Plain Text”. In Outlook or Outlook Express this is found on the email menu bar at the top of the screen. Also, you can display a ruler (View/Toolbars/Email) at the top of the screen, which I’ve set to screen maximum to accommodate the pictures and text more easily; that is, 0” left and 13” right. Correcting both of these settings should allow the document to be reproduced as designed. If all this sounds foreign, consult a teenager, for they know everything about these things. gg

Cathedral Point Playa Espadilla – Manuel Antonio (GG’s Main Hangout)

U.S. Marine Invasion

So there I was walking in downtown Quepos one morning when I heard the wap-wap-wap of the helicopters overhead. I looked up and saw two U.S. Black Hawk choppers descending rapidly. Within a minute or so both birds (see how easily GG shifts to the appropriate shop talk) occupied the main Futbol field in Quepos and what appeared to be U.S. Marines began pouring out of their interior. I was stunned.

Had Obama declared war on Costa Rica? Had Chavez finally gone mad in Caracas, was marching north and our leathernecks were here to set up a first defense perimeter in the strategic hamlet of Quepos. Would our fair village go down as the modern equivalent of Bastogne before further reinforcements arrived? Should I rush back to mi casa and fill large bottles with water and check the supply of canned goods for the forthcoming battle? The urge to panic was great; I fought it as best I could.

As it turned out, this was not a threat but instead a joint inter-American effort, part of a task force called Fuertzas Aliadas Humanitarias (FA-HUM in military parlance). The intent here is to be prepared to provide an emergency response effort in the event of disasters. Given the penchant for earthquakes here, this is a prudent and welcome move. It was also nice to see U.S. tax money being used for something positive rather than bailing out General Motors.

Later that day I ran across 5 or 6 of our military boys lunching at Dos Locos. They were from several states in the U.S. and, as usual, were clean-cut, positive young men and extremely polite, a credit to their uniforms and to their country. I haven’t been “Sir’d” that much in many years. It is very respectful but it also makes one feel old.  

There was one casualty of the exercise. The power of the downdraft from a landing Black Hawk turned out to be more than the roof of a local chicken coop could withstand. The roof simply blew off scattering muchos pollos all over the neighborhood. To my knowledge, no one was hurt by the accident but the big birds sure scared the hell out of the little ones. As I left the area, efforts were underway to recapture the panicked poultry and I noticed no cockerel shortage in local stores or restaurants the following week. It gives an added meaning to fly the coop, doesn’t it?  

Loo in the Lite


  A funny thing happened to our hero the other day on the way to Mucho Musculos Gymnasio for the morning torture session.  It was 7:30 AM and broad daylight. Dawn here is always between 5:30 and 6:00, always.  Suddenly, I encountered a gentleman of considerable years with his back to me and his front close to the wall of a hotel. Yeah, you guessed it; he was relieving himself on the wall and producing a stream, a rivulet which I had to dance around to avoid. Upon finishing his business, he staggered off, leading me to believe he had consumed a rather large quantity of a local beverage such as Imperiál, the most common national beer here.

This is the first time I’ve seen blatantly public urination in Costa Rica, but I was seized by a fit of nostalgia dating back to the mid-seventies when I lived in Brussels. The Belgians were known then, and I have to believe still are, for their rather common practice of doing the same thing as the Tico gentleman described above.

During my visits and residency there, I frequently encountered urinating Belgians along the sides of highways perched against a half opened passenger door of a car in a vain attempt to disguise what they were doing. In the heart of Brussels I often found someone poised in a corner of a building or in an alley when I left the office where I worked. (My experience and training gained in Belgium at avoiding the rivulets helped me in the latest episode) Even in the Bois de la Cambre, one of the most beautiful near-urban forests in Europe, it was not uncommon to see Le Dude slightly astride a 150 year old oak tree, watering its roots.

Now, the French seem to have a certain preoccupation with this bodily function. After all, they are the inventor of the Pissoir (p-swär), that convenient but curious contraption (there I go again but, hah!, now I know this is Alliteration not Onomatopoeia as I looked it up on www.dictionary.com) Pissoirs were common in Paris when I lived in Europe but also were seen in many other smaller cities. I remember seeing (and using) a few in Brussels.

Pissoirs are simply permanently fixed metal screens, open above the chest and also below the knees, and as a result, open to the atmosphere (which gives a new meaning in the dead of winter to the idea of “bitter cold”). The screen surrounds a metal urinal with a drain which I presume does not go into the water runoff system, but I don’t know that for sure. Pissoirs were placed conveniently around town at strategic locations of high foot traffic. The airiness of the system provided a further convenience in the event one wanted to continue a discussion with a companion outside of the screen or simply sing an aria to the general public.

The Belgians, however, raised the art form to a unique level. There is a statue in Brussels less than two blocks from the magnificent, gothic Grand Place or center square of the city. This statue is of a very young boy naked and urinating. It has come to be known as the Manneken-Pis. Really folks, I didn’t make this up.                                            

The story goes that somewhere in the 18th or 19th century a certain Duke was visiting the open air market at the Grand Place (the market is still there and still a great place to go on Saturdays and Sundays) when his young son wandered away. A frenzied search followed and finally the Duke found his son at the exact place the statue is now located and in the exact condition depicted by the statue. The Duke erected the statue to commemorate his gratefulness; he couldn’t have known it would become a national symbol.

The Bruxelloise treat this legend with some seriousness and a good deal of tongue-in-cheekiness. The statue is dressed in different costumes at different times of the year, depending on whether the celebration is religious or secular. I seem to remember that different groups have rotating responsibilities and often compete as to who can come up with the most elaborate or unusual costumes. The icon has become synonymous with Belgium. It has been depicted there in every conceivable type of knick-knack or artistic representation. Why, I even remember buying a small gold plated charm for my (ex) dearest’s bracelet. And I thought they called these things lucky charms?

In case you think this whole story a fabrication, I found a link for the skeptical reader: http://www.manneken-pis.com/intro.html. And here is a good site for viewing the statue in various dress: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Manneken_Pis_van_Brussel.

I’m just happy to be living in a country that is known for monkeys and rice and beans rather than urinating boys.

I shiver at the possible historical consequences that might have resulted if Junior had been doing #2.


Retirement Department





Boobs on the Bus

Recently our hero boarded one of the regular half-hour buses from the beach to downtown metropolis Quepos when I was joined by a good friend, a ventarena (see What’s-in-a-Word Department, Issue 11 for an explanation of this word) named Jaime. Jaime makes the best snow cones on the beach, a pleasure I’ve had to forgo since being recently diagnosed as a Type II diabetic. Jaime, a Tico friend of his named Chris(tian) and GG occupied the row of raised seats in the back of the bus. These seats, about five abroad, are mounted some two or three feet above the main deck of the bus, presumably so the bus design could crowd in a few more passengers over the engine compartment. The higher seats provide somewhat of a bird’s eye view of people boarding and exiting the bus.

Mahi-Mahi anyone? Who’s the dude?

At the next stop, a lady of more than ample (read immense) proportions, including her top section, boarded the bus.

As men would, a discussion ensued concerning how to describe what we were seeing. Chris likened her “pechos” (breasts) to sandia. Sandia is the Spanish word for watermelons. The watermelons here are the round variety about 12 inches in diameter, not the more common oblong type found in the U.S. of A (although that might  have been a more appropriate description for this woman). Jaime then offered his preference that such appendages should be in the range of cantaloupe size while I was expounding on the virtues of  mangos.

As an aside, and to continue the conversation, I asked, in my best Spanglish (Jaime and Chris have less than basic English skills) what does one call a flat-breasted lady in Costa Rica. All I received were looks of great puzzlement. I began to illustrate what I was trying to say by slapping the palm of one hand against that of the other. Again, no comprendo. I then resorted to my French, which is still somewhat better than my Spanish. I told them that the French refer to a flat-chested woman as having “les oefs sur la plat” or “eggs on a plate”. I then reached for my Océano diccionario to get the Spanish word for flat only to find there wasn’t one; I guess mesa (table) or plano or something like it serves this descriptive need. Frustrated, I continued to look for other descriptors, but whatever I tried didn’t make sense to them.

Then it dawned on me. There is no adequate description here for what I was trying to say because the condition in Costa Rica is rare. There is no need to describe it.

Yes, my friends, life is good here.


Postscript: As I’m writing this, Good Morning America is featuring a story entitled “Can Breast Milk Heal Adults?” Aha! The medical community is finally developing the insight that many men have accepted as natural law for eons!



Pura Vida! y Solo Bueno!
Roberto de Quepos
El Gringo de Oro

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