Golden Gringo Chronicles
Edition 38 - October 2011

"Doing Latin America, Mostly by Luck
"


Published at Quepos
in the Province of Puntarenas
Costa Rica


(© Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved)

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In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (New Format Vote Results, Nicas at it Again, New Worm, MaxiPali & Subway Open, Dia de Independencia);
  2. Gullible Travels (Wherein GG's Scam Radar is Noted to be a Dismal Failure);
  3. Morphos (The extraordinary beauty of the big, blue butterfly);
  4. What's-in-a-Word (Monthly Paraprosdokian, Playas de Jacob, pajosa);
  5. ROMEO Corner (Gato Negro - Manuel Antonio);
  6. Founder's Quote (John Adams on Morality and the Constitution and John Marshall on Limiting Taxes).

Travel Quote of the Month

“I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to stop going to those places."

Henny Youngman

 

Broken News:

New Format Vote Results

The results are in, reported by Rasmussen and certified by Gallup; the new format for the Golden Gringo Chronicles wins by a landslide. Of those responding, the results were :

New Format - 89%; Old Format - 11%; Don't Care - 0% (I guess they really don't care)

I have to admit that I kinda like working with the new format myself. It's a bit easier to position things and write more naturally.

So let it be written, so let it be done. [First used by Yul Brynner as Pharoah Rameses II in "The Ten Commandments", co-stars: Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, Edward G. ("Yeeeaah, I told you Moses would get you into trouble") Robinson, Paramount Pictures, 1956]

Nicas at it Again

In October of last year, Nicaragua absconded with a piece of Costa Rican land in the northeast corner of the country. (For the original story go here: INVASION)

New "Youth Camp" on the Isla Calero
Costa Rica, without an army, couldn't do much more than complain to all the international powers-that-would-like-to-be-but-ain't, which the Ticos promptly did. The World Court in the Hague issued an order that neither side was to occupy the land pending the court's final judgment.

El Presidente Danny Ortega in Managua hasn't been too worried about the court and in mid-August of this year he built a half-dozen buildings on the island on the south bank of the Rio San Juan. This was just inside the long time recognized border of Costa Rica.

Reports say the establishment is a Sandanista "Youth Camp" and is intended to stir up patriotism in the face of national elections coming in early November. As many as a dozen Nica yoots have been seen going in and out of the building in recent weeks.

Oh Danny boy; nice thing to teach your youth dude - it's OK to steal the land for a camp kids.

New Worm

Speaking of low lifes, a new type of worm has been discovered in Costa Rica also. (Seems like a new species of something is discovered here every few months) The new worm falls into the official species called onychophorans but more commonly is known as a velvet worm. The one found was 22 cm long (almost 9 inches) and, according to scientists, "The worm seeks out prey with its antenna and then casts a sticky stream of filaments to capture its meal." I would have named it the Ortega Grande.

MaxiPali/Subway Open

In our July edition, the Chronicles noted Quepos would be getting a couple of new stores that were abuilding at that time and that they would hopefully be improvements to the community. We called the article "Encroaching Civilization" (see HERE). Both stores are now open and, as hoped for, are credits to the community giving this small town more options.

We we're told the larger supermarket/department store was going to be a Maxi-Bodega but evidently Walmart is trying to condense it's brands here (Maxi-Bodega, Pali, MasXMenos, Hipermas) so it ended up as a MaxiPali. Whatever Wally, it does represent by far the department store/supermarket with the widest selection and lowest prices in the area.

The Subway was tested by GG the evening of the day it was opened by ordering an Italian sub on toasted wheat roll. Dude! This is a real Subway. Muchas gracias, amigo dudes who put this shop together (I hear the franchise owner is the guy that also has the Honda franchise for Costa Rica). On my first visit, I also noticed the place was packed with Ticos, not just gringos; that's a good sign for any local shop here.

Now, you Norteamericanos who have a Subway or Quizno's in your town on every third block or so might think our hero has flipped out on too much gallo pinto. But let me tell you; in a small town in a remote area, this kind of thing is important to good mental health.

Bring on the sandwiches, hold the mayo, amigos.

Independence Month

September was independence month in Costa Rica. September 15 is the equivalent to July 4th in the U.S. This September was the 190th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain. Flags and various forms of the Costa Rican tri-color blossom all over the place including out the windows of cars and the back of pickup trucks. For more on this special day go here: INDEPENDENCIA

Felicidades, mis amigos Ticos!

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Gullible Travels

(Sorry for the length of this article amigos, but I felt compelled to tell it all)

In early August our gilded hero received an anxious email from a lady in San José who I had been using as an intermediary in the effort to get a cédula (residency permit). She stated that Costa Rica Immigration sent her a notice that I should "get out of Costa Rica" in three days. C'mon amigos, that's not very friendly.

Coincidentally, I had been planning to go to SJ the following day with my Spanish teacher to visit Immigration and see for myself what the progress was being made. The email made me even more determined to see exactly what had been going on. I only changed my original plan to include a visit to the intermediary before we went to Immigration. After the meeting with the intermediary, when we were riding in a taxi to the government office, I asked my friend what he thought of the intermediary. Without hesitation he said "She's a 'pajosa' amigo" says he (see What's-in-a-Word section below for a definition).

Costa Rican National Seal

The meeting at Immigration confirmed the worse. Certified documents that I had given her in October, that she claimed to have sent to the Washington embassy for "authentication" as required by law, were missing from the official file. She claimed they were to be directly returned to Immigration, but Immigration said they it doesn't work that way. All Immigration had were copies of the certified but un-authenticated docs. Furthermore, Immigration said they had notified the intermediary in May that the documents were incomplete but there had been no response. The latest notice, Immigration said, was also a formal rejection of my application, which is why the exit order was issued. Ouch. Back to square one.

That afternoon I sent the intermediary a terse but professional email severing our relationship. Almost two years of effort and several hundred dollars down the drain. Dealing with the intermediary on this issue was painful and unnerving. It turns out that over two years there had been a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations on the part of the intermediary which I will ascribe, out of kindness, to her ignorance of the required process rather than outright fraud. In fact she was guilty of both. (Scam #1)

Needless to say, I wasn't feeling too good on the bus ride back to San José from the Uruca section of the city where the Immigration Department is located. I then suggested to my friend that we might go back to another area of Uruca to the MOPT office (Ministerio de Obras Publico y Transportes) so I could get a driver's license, which I had heard was a relatively easy task. We arrived at MOPT at about 11:30 only to find that the office for licenses is open only in the morning from 8 to 11:00.

But there were preliminary things that could be done. We went to the clinic, a short distance down the street, where I subjected myself to a blood test and an eye exam. A half hour and 20,000 colones ($40) later I had the two important documents. We then obtained copies of the first and last used pages of my passport and a copy of my U.S. driver's license. All these docs are required for a gringo to get a Costa Rican driver's license (since then the rules have once more changed and you now need a cédula to get a driver's license). I decided to stay overnight and try again in the morning. My friend headed back to Quepos and I got a room at a hotel near the center of the city that I have stayed at several times.

Feeling sorry for myself, I went walking on Avenida Central, San José's most popular walking/shopping street and decided I needed a little IGT (Instant Gratification Therapy)

Police First Notice
Illegally Parked Taxi
More and More Police Gather to Handle The Threat
The Bronze Mama with Shiny Breasts Outside the Banco Central de Costa Rica
Plaza Cultura - San José's Central Square Near the Teatro Nacional

I walked into La Gloria department store, a well known store among natives here and purchased two sport shirts in bright colors hoping in turn to brighten my attitude a little. Later I would learn the shirts were too small for me even though they were 2XL. Tico 2XL is not Gringo 2XL amigos; I'll have to exchange them for 4XL on the next trip to SJ. No comments please, there are just as many Tico dudes as big and heavy as our hero (almost).

After buying the shirts I stopped for a sit down on one of the public benches that dot the center of the street. I was there only a few minutes when a taxi came inching its way down the walking street, constantly beeping its horn to get people to move. It came to rest in front of me and in front of the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) Bingo Parlor. The driver intended to deliver some electronic equipment to Cruz Roja, even if he had to drive through crowds on a people-only street to do it.

Unfortunately, just as the driver began to unload the car, a couple of Policia Municipal dudes came walking by and then the fun began. The discussion was too fast for me to get an accurate translation but the body language was obvious: "Dude, you can't drive here". "But sir, it's only 20 meters from the cross street and the equipment is very heavy". "Dude, get a cart, unload at the cross street, walk the stuff down to the Bingo Parlor..."

The discussion continued for some time, involving even the manager of the Bingo joint who kept using his cell to call, I presume, friends in the police department. The number of police grew steadily until about a dozen were there representing four separate police organizations (Municipal, Traffic, Tourist and Fiscal or motor vehicles). A couple of elderly Tico men were sitting next to me shaking their heads and saying something like "Only in Costa Rica does it take 12 police for a parking violation". Finally a dude in a Nazi looking uniform showed up with "INSPECTOR" emblazoned across his chest and back and everybody kowtowed to him as he wrote a ticket.

After I had had enough of this entertainment I walked towards the center square (Plaza de la Cultura) and on the way noticed a bronze statue of a fat, virtually naked lady placed on one side of the Banco Central de Costa Rica. I watched amusingly as people passed and rubbed the statue for good luck; the men preferring the statues breasts or derriere. Those areas are getting shiny from so much attention and I conformed to tradition by polishing the left breast as old men sitting nearby smiled at me (it was a macho universal understanding thing, amigos). People do the same thing with the giant Bernini statue of St. Peter at the Vatican only with Pete it's his foot.

When I arrived at the Plaza, after a bit more IGT that consisted of a POPS double chocolate with almonds ice cream cone, I took a seat at the center of the square watching the kids having a great time feeding the pigeons while I slurped the creamy richness of one of the world's best ice creams. After a few minutes, well dressed, middle aged woman approached me with "Ooooh, am I glad to see you. I'm trying to get my husband George, you remember george... we saw you last at the licorera... you remember George". Silently I'm saying to myself 'hmmmn, George, George well I do know at  least one George... but I don't remember this woman...'

She said she needed money to pay for the car repairs and for gas to get back home. The licorera comment should have been the red flag as I haven't been inside a liquor store in over 20 years.

Then she did something that stunned me. She reached up slowly with two fingers to the corner of my left eye and gently but firmly squeezed out a blackhead. Now, I know I've always had problems with oily skin in that area and don't always catch them in the mirror in the morning but surely I must know this woman for her to do this. She repeated the process two more times while we were talking, depositing the waxy little extractions onto the leg of my shorts (what can I say?). We were just old friends meeting extemporaneously and helping each other.

scam

noun

1. a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.

verb (used with object)

2. to cheat or defraud with a scam.

sucker

noun

1. a person or thing that sucks.

2. Informal . a person easily cheated, deceived, or imposed upon.

3. an infant or a young animal that is suckled, especially a suckling pig.

4. a part or organ of an animal adapted for sucking nourishment, or for adhering to an object as by suction.

5. any of several freshwater, mostly North American food fishes of the family Catostomidae, having thick lips: some are now rare.

Somewhere in the conversation I must have mentioned Quepos. That produced a flurry of talk about her and George's villa in Manuel Antonio. Eventually I relented and gave her 20,000 colones to pay for the repairs and another 10,000 for gas to get to Quepos. total $60. She would, of course, leave the money in an envelope for me at Super Mas that I could pick up the next morning. With the money in her possession, she gave me a peck on the cheek, got up, turned and proceeded in a straight line towards the Grand Hotel at a pace that would make professional walking competitors proud. After a few seconds she disappeared into the masses on the street.

About five minutes later the realization set in that I had been bilked by a scam artist, albeit a very professional one. Having been emotionally shocked by the events earlier in the day, this last one added to the mental confusion. And she read me beautifully. After a while I chuckled embarrassingly to myself and finally came around to accepting the obvious. What the hell, I might as well chalk up the 30k to good entertainment and the BRS (blackhead removal service). Of course, when I got home there was no envelope for me at Super Mas, old gullible GG of course, inquired there without having any real expectation of success. (Scam #2)

After she left, my mental confusion was about as bad as it could be; close to that point where you might find little men in white uniforms chasing me around the square with butterfly nets. But it was obvious I needed more money. I remembered there was an ATM at the Scotiabank across the street that I had used before. I slowly rambled over there, put my card in the machine and for the life of me could not remember the proper sequence of the four digits that made up my PIN number, a number I had used a hundred times before.

After trying and failing twice to get the card to work I stopped and took the card out of the machine fearing that my bank would block the card on the third try. I went back to the hotel, tried to take a nap or at least rest and returned to the ATM a couple of hours later. This time I remembered the PIN perfectly and got my money. On exiting the ATM cubicle I ran into the desk clerk from the hotel and we stood outside the bank chatting for a few minutes. It was good that I hadn't left the area quickly as the security guard at the bank door yelled to me that I had forgotten my card in the machine and that the machine had eaten it.

I had this experience once before in Quepos and knew what to do. I went into the main hall of the bank, talked to a platform person, proved my identity (with passport) and retrieved my card within a few minutes (for the moment it's still a simpler process here to retrieve a machine-eaten card than in the States). By the time I got the card back I had become like the machine, hungry.

I went to a restaurant that I've been to several times before and which is in the ROMEO archives with a favorable rating, but the name of which I won't disclose until after a new, complete ROMEO re-review has been conducted (we ROMEOS are thorough). I had what was billed as a sirloin steak in a green pepper sauce. What I got was a slab of rubber beef covered with a black pepper flavored paste. That and a coke for $28. I don't think one bad meal in a restaurant rises to the level of a scam, but the experience surely was not appealing.

I slept uneasily that night and returned to MOPT in the morning arriving at 8 AM, The line was only about 15 people long at the gate. When I got to the security guard, he ushered me into a room where another 30 or so people were seated ahead of me. He told me to sit in a special section where I was the only one waiting. Since everybody else seemed younger I though I was, like at Immigration, being put in a preferential seniors line. NOT. I was in the waiting line for foreign applicants. After waiting another half hour, I asked the security guard how much longer? He went upstairs and produced the appropriate bureaucrat of record.

The man looked at my papers and summarily dismissed me rather roughly because my visa was expired (last entry stamp was September 11, 2010 from a trip back to the States). Of course, the intermediary I had fired the day before had told me I no longer needed to leave the country every 90 days because I had an "En Tramite" (or in-process) letter. Actually, what I had from her was a simple document status report they punch out of the computer at Immigration for anyone who asks. The MOPT agent wouldn't accept it in place of an up to date visa (a friend of mine has a real En-Tramite letter and it's covered with stamps and pretty signatures).

So, in effect, this was a continuation of Scam #1. I took the first bus available back to Quepos and began planning the trip to Panama to get my visa up to date. I left the next day.

rty
Paso Canoas
The Red Dot Lower Right
gty
Sign Posts at Paso Canoas Only 210 miles to San José

The trip down to Costa Rica's Pacific border with Panama ends at the border town of Paso Canoas and is not the most convenient bus trip from Quepos. There is no direct service to the south without a diversion through the inland city of San Isidro or through San José. So by bus, one takes the first one from Quepos to San Isidro, then changes buses for a second to Paso Canoas. The travel time is in excess of 4 hours and the distance from Quepos to Paso Canoas is about the same as Quepos to San José, about 160 kilometers but in the opposite direction and the road is better and faster to San José.

A friend was kind enough to drive me down to Paso Canoas so I could avoid the bus connection. In keeping with the bad karma of the week, our planned departure time of 7 AM slipped to 10 o'clock when his car exhibited a dead battery that morning. (waddayagonnado amigo).

We arrived about 1 PM and my friend decided to leave almost immediately for Quepos. Later he told me he made the trip in record time despite being stopped by the Costa Rica police for speeding ( hari krishna, hari krishna, hari krishna, hari hari ♪).

My plan was to pass through immigration, spend one or two nights at David, Panama, a town about 50 klicks in from the border and return on Sunday by whatever bus was available.

There's an old saying I love: "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans". Surely the saying was created with me in mind.

When you cross a border down here, the process requires both an emigration step and an immigration step. If you're going out and back in as I was, it will require four different stamps. I remembered where the checkout department was for Costa Rica and headed towards that area. As I approached the building, a fellow named Jonathan approached me. "Making the trip to renew your passport?" Yup, says I. "I can get you all four stamps, and you'll be in and out in two hours".

Paso Canoas Border Crossing
Panama Immigration Office at Paso Canoas

Now, this type of "expediter" is not unknown to me. The last time I crossed this border was about two and a half years previously and the veteran gringo I was with also used an expediter. At that time the "guide" cost me $40 plus a $20 charge to write a visa. So I asked Johnny what the fee is and he said $40. I decided that, if this dude could get me in and out without having to go to David and staying in a hotel two nights I would save both time and a little money. I agreed with Johnny's plan.

The immigration windows at the Costa Rican emigration office are on the north side of the building. We stopped on the west side to fill out the typical immigration form. Then Jonathan watched a certain window and at the appropriate time shoved me towards it. After a quick study and electronic swipe the stamp came out and step #1 was done. Easily done.

As we walked  towards the Panama immigration office, we were joined by a second young man, our Panamanian contact. Johnny then said the new man would need $40 when the process was completed and he, Johnny, would need $60. He left me with José and the two of us approached the Panamanian immigration windows in the same surreptitious manner as Johnny and I had done on the Costa Rican side. I felt a little like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca when he's at the airport, waiting nervously, trying to get Ingrid Bergman out of the country. "Here's looking at you kid".

Our first trip to the Panamanian immigration window resulted in a rejection. They wanted proof in the form of an outbound ticket of some kind that I intended to leave Panama after my stay. This seems to be a common requirement for both Costa Rica and Panama these days, so José and I rejoined Johnny and we all went to a bus ticket office strategically located between the two buildings. I bought two bus tickets that are good for 90 days, one from David to San José and one from San José to David to satisfy both authorities. $15 each, total $30. Thus was an official scam in my mind - am I to believe the authorities really think a $15 bus ticket will really motivate me to leave their country? I kept thinking the owner of the bus company is probably the brother-in-law of the head of the immigration department. (Scam #3)

While waiting in the Panamanian line with the bus ticket in hand, I was approached by a little woman selling a small postage-like stamp for one dollar which she carefully affixed onto the last used page of my passport. I'm sure the stamp was meaningless as she sold me another one on the way back that accidentally fell out of my passport and the agent at the window never said anything. Just another entrepreneur working her way through college (I would say this is barely a mini-scam - it's hard to be cross with a little old lady).

Selected Passport Covers
hyu jui
Good Ol US of A
Costa Rica
This One a Little Worn
iko fty
Panama
Nicaragua

Finally, having secured both Panamanian stamps, we went back to the Costa Rica building and waited again in the shadows for just the right agent. Johnny had told me not to react to anything they decided to give me in the way of a visa. But then the agent passed my passport and en-tramite summary to the office manager, a petite lady who quickly scanned the documents and said:

"I'm not giving you 90 days; you've been in Costa Rica a year without leaving"  - and she threw the passport and doc at the agent almost yelling: "30 days". He stamped it and hand-wrote inside the stamp, for some reason, 20 days, my guess is he confused 20 and 30 in English like I do in Spanish. Having been summarily dismissed by two bureaucrats in as many days, I bit my tongue but the libertarian in me wanted to shout.

I returned to Johnny and we reconnoitered at the bus station. He disappeared for about ten minutes and when he returned, the "2" written in the passport had magically been overwritten in the same ink into a "9" to get a 90 day visa. "Did you do this?", asked I of Johnny. "No, no, no Señor, the agent." "I could get thrown into jail for tampering with a visa and passport, couldn't I?" "No Señor, all will be fine" (yeah, right). (Scam #4)

So now, I went to take the bus. Well, guess what, the bus ticket is written only to go through San Isidro. Can't get anything up the coast. I knew if I went to San Isidro, I would end up staying there over night and I believed, if I could get to Dominical, I could easily get a bus to Quepos.

Johnny said he had a friend who drove a taxi who could get us up to Ciudad Neily (nay-lee) where I could get a bus to Dominical. After a 20 minute wait we headed up the coast road in his friend's taxi 18 klicks to C.N. When we arrived I paid the driver $30 only to find that the last bus to Dominical had left 20 minutes earlier. "Now what?", says GGG (the Gullible Golden Gringo). "We can catch the bus at Rio Claro" says amigo Johnny, another 18 clicks up the pike. Off we roared; 20 minutes and another $20 later we pulled into the tiny bus station at Rio Claro. The bus had already passed through the town. Arrrrrggghhhh!

"Where's the next place to catch it?", says I. "Dominical" says Johnny. "But that's where the bus is going!" says GG. "Si Señor". Considering the rate at which we were burning up my money I figured it would be at least another $100 taxi trip. "How much to Quepos? "$140" All the frustration of the last three days came out. I called their heritage into question and suggested they perform some rather perverse actions on themselves. I then got out of the taxi. (Scam #5)

Now Rio Claro is just a wide spot on the highway and is best known for having the intersection that leads to Golfito and the Free Trade Zone, which I had visited some months before. I found a pleasant, very clean motel across the highway from the bus station for $28 with A/C. mini-fridge, wide-screen TV but no hot water in the shower (the owner had pre-warned me of this). The arch through which one reached the reception area said, in Spanish, "Through here pass the most beautiful women in Costa Rica". Maybe, dude, but they must have been vacationing in Panama as I saw none of them while I was there.

I had a pleasant dinner at a restaurant suggested by the motel owner and relaxed in the room with a small sundae purchased at a Pali near the restaurant. It was the first real rest I had in three days. The next morning I went for breakfast to another restaurant nearby (the standard huevos fritos with Gallo Pinto that was acceptable but didn't measure up to our Come Bien restaurant in Quepos).

The Equipment is Comfortable

I caught the bus at 8:30 for 5,000 colones after not being able to use either of my tickets purchased at paso Canoas because the bus that goes up the coast is not the one that goes to San José even though it's the same bus company (Tracopa). The question prompted a five minute conference between the bus driver and the ticket agent. Finally, they said I would need to go to their San José office (about 170 miles away) to exchange the ticket I had. Yeah, right.

As I got on the bus a lady in the first row motioned me to sit next to her. Cecilia lived in Paso Canoas, spoke no English, had no children or grandchildren and wouldn't stop talking, which was great for me as it afforded me an opportunity to practice my Spanish and she made the two hour trip go faster.

I finally arrived in Quepos shortly after noon on Saturday and passed out for a two hour nap when I got home. The odyssey that began at 6 AM on Wednesday with the trip to San José was finally over. I could now turn my thoughts and planning to the best way of getting all new documents for a new application for a cédula. Moral of the story? Be just a little skeptical of strangers offering personal services, like blackhead removal and "friends" with taxies and, oh yeah, follow the government procedures as written.

¡Pura Vida!

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Morphos


Last month's issue contained an article on the Legend of Zurquí, a tale about the spiritual connection between humans and butterflies (see LEGEND OF ZURQUI).

A Handy Morpho (Typical Size)
If You Didn't Know Better You'd Think This Was a Flowering Vine
A Morpho in Full Glory

I have a friend who lives on a mountainside south of Quepos who often talks about encountering Morpho butterflies. For him, there is no question of their link to spirituality. He meets them outside his home in the morning - it's a form of meditation.

A Morpho can be up to 20 centimeters in length (that's 8 inches in Rio LInda) and are prevalent in tropical climates, particularly in South America, yet they are fairly common here in Costa Rica as well. They are typically blue on top and brown or reddish-brown on the bottom. There are at least 80 species however, and sometimes they come in greenish and purplish hues.

The blue wings of a Morpho are so fancy, shimmering and beautiful that Indiginos (native Indians) in the past often used Morpho wings to decorate their headdresses and costumes.

Like many insects, Morphos have a short life span compared to humans. Here's what Wikipedia says about their life cycle:

"The entire life cycle of the Morpho butterfly, from egg to death, is approximately 115 days.

The larvae hatch from pale green, dewdrop-like eggs.

The caterpillars have reddish-brown bodies with bright lime-green or yellow patches on its back. Its hairs are irritating to human skin, and when disturbed it secretes a fluid that smells like rancid butter. They feed on a variety of leguminous plants (like locust, wisteria and coffee - ed.).

The caterpillar will molt five times before entering the pupal stage. The chrysalis is jade-green and emits a repulsive, ultrasonic sound when touched (it's in Spanish of course, and it says: "Dude leave me alone" - ed.).

The adults live for about two to three weeks. They feed on the fluids of fermenting fruit, decomposing animals, tree sap and fungi.They are poisonous to predators thanks to toxins they sequestered from plants they fed on as caterpillars." (mother nature provides - ed.)

Morpho butterflies feed on the juices of fermenting fruit with which they may also be lured. The butterflies wobble in flight and are easy to catch (just like some Delta Airlines captains; you'd wobble too if you fed on fermenting fruit, decomposing animals, tree sap and fungi - ed.)."

The internet literature (what did we ever do before the internet? - oh yeah, we went to the library) also says that Morpho butterflies are forest dwellers but will venture into sunny clearings to warm themselves and that they typically live alone, excluding mating season of course.

As a anciano pensionado (retired old fart), I can relate to both those characteristics.

 

What's-in-a-Word

Monthly Paraprodoskian

“A diplomat is someone who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.”

PARAPROSDOKIAN:  Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation. "Where there's a will, I want to be in it." is a type of paraprosdokian.

Playas de Jacób

Once upon a time a Jewish gentlemen named Jacob acquired considerable land, including beachfront, on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This man's name was Jacob (the usual english pronunciation applies here, accent on the first syllable: jay - kub). To locals he became know as Jacób (accent on the second syllable and pronounced hah - kōb). His property became known as Playas de Jacób. Eventually, Playas de Jacób was shortened to Playa Jacó (ha - kō). This, I'm told, is the origin of the name of one of our most popular beaches, located about 40 miles north of Quepos.

Pajosa

Spanish has its share of naughty words and this is one of them. Recall that the word was used above to characterize the intermediary I recently fired. In this context, pajosa means "bullshitter" when applied to the female intermediary in the article above; if you're a guy it would be pajoso. I'm told the word is derived from "paja", which my Oceano English-Spanish dictionary is defined this way: "1 straw (gen.). 2 (fig, fam) waffle, padding (en un texto, un discurso) ■ hacerse una - (vulg) to wank (British); to jerk off (USA)". (Hold the emails, I'm just quoting verbatim from my dictionary, amigos).

Again, we see the flexibility of the Spanish idiom.

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ROMEO Corner

(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

GATO NEGRO - Manuel Antonio

  Location: On the east side of the Manuel Antonio main road near the top of the mountain, across the
                      street from the airplane (El Avion) restaurant.
      
Hours:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
   
Parking:  In front of the restaurant, limited in the high season.
    Contact:
Telephone: (506) 2777-1728; fax: 506) 2777-0822; web site:
               http://www.restaurantegatonegro.com

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M., Mike L., Roberta W., Bob N.

Gato Negro, the Black Cat restaurant. has been a Manuel Antonio landmark for years but somehow none of the reviewing ROMEOS had been there before.

We had planned to review another restaurant that evening but were surprised to find it closed on a Saturday night. So we ended up at the Gato Negro as a back-up just at dusk.

This is a second floor restaurant at the top of Manuel Antonio that doesn't seem to have a view of the Pacific largely due to the restaurant across the street (El Avion) blocking its view. There is, however, a view of the jungle through the back end of the open-air dining room.

To access the restaurant requires negotiating a flight of stairs on the outside of the restaurant open to the elements. Anyone with a problem in mounting steps are thus advised. If there was an elevator, it wasn't apparent.

The main dining room is pleasantly decorated in shades of blue, green and white that carry over to the table linens. The lighting is a little low for negotiating the menus.

Also, the menus are printed in small type that make it a bit of a challenge for a troglodyte like GG, who always forgets his glasses. But this was only a minor irritant.

31/2
$$$$$

The menu is extensive offering a large variety of appetizers, soups, meats, fish and pastas. Three ROMEOS chose bruchettas to start that were remarked on very favorably. Yours truly had a gazpacho that was well flavored like the classic but had a consistency more like tomato soup and lacked the familiar chopped vegetables.

All four ROMEOS chose different entrees: a steak with porcini mushroom sauce, a plate of jumbo shrimp, a mixed salad and our hero had the daily fish special consisting of a firm whitefish covered in a fruit sauce made of papaya, pineapple and mango. Except for the salad, the entrees were accompanied by small mounds of mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The steak, fish and salad got good marks but the shrimp were reported to be a bit bland. It should be noted that the portions were adequate but not large. we ended the meal with three orders of the house cheesecake and a cupper of vanilla ice cream. The cheesecake was good but not remarkable.

The group agreed that the highlight of the evening was our waiter, a young fellow named Maurizio ("Mau") who was attentive, pleasant, courteous and efficient. Over the course of an hour and a half we learned that Mau lived in the country east of Quepos on the road to Naranjito and was half Dutch, but had no knowledge of his father who left before his mother found out she was pregnant. (Never trust a Dutch sailor, they've repeated this behaviour across half the world's oceans)

The not so good news about the Gato Negro experience was the check. Out total of $183 ($45 per person), without alcohol, was pushing the envelope even for Manuel Antonio. But be advised that the restaurant offers the same menu on Sundays at a 50% discount. That price level would make it a good deal, so plan your visit for domingos, amigos.

The ROMEO review group gave the Gato Negro a three and a half sloth rating for ambiance, food quality and service and a full five dollars for cost level.

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Founder's Quotes

First, from the most staunch moralist politico of the revolutionary period:

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
-- John Adams, Address to Military 1798

And then from the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:

"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation." --John Marshall

don Beto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!


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