Ageless Wisdom:

“Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.”


In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Broadway Comes to Jacó, "Twenty-Four", Chavez' Parity);
  2. Futbol, Futbol, Futbol! (The Return of Equipo Madrigal);
  3. La Feria (Let's Talk Fresh Fruits and Vegetables);
  4. Mangomania (How Schweet it is!)
  5. What's-in-a-Word (Ojalá, Pelota);
  6. ROMEO Corner (Gran Inca - Quepos);
  7. Founder's Quote (George Washington on the Road Well Traveled and John Adams on Property Rights)


Quepos Weather

Travel Quote of the Month


“Do not insult the mother alligator until
after you have crossed the river”.

Old Haitian Proverb




Broken News:

Broadway Comes to Jacó

Jacó is getting a new performing arts building called the Jacó Ocean Center.To inaugurate it, there will be an off-Broadway performance of Dickens' Christmas Carol produced by Michael Sgouros (owner - Players Theater, New York) and Brenda Bell (owner - Showboat Dinner Theater - Clearwater, FL). Performances are planned for December 20th through the 30th. This is a new, hour-long musical version of the classic Dickens story that also contains some Christmas carols sung in Spanish.

Artist's Rendering of New Jacó Ocean Center

Now here's the good news for you would be stars and starlets.

To the professional cast coming out of New York will be added a local cast to form the ensemble. As many as 16 local actors and musicians will join the pros. (GG will have to check his booking schedule to see if he's available at Christmas time for such a gig. These people have heard nothing in Yuletide warbling if they haven't heard the Golden Dude's O Holy Night in French fueled by a few glasses of Courvoisier V.S.O.P. - oh yeah, I almost forgot, I fuel no more amigos).

Auditions were held October 26 and 27 at the Center. Hope you made the cut!


Did you ever think if you only had one more finger you could really hold that golf club or tennis racquet much better. Well, maybe you haven't thought that, but I couldn't come up with a better segway for this article.

Yo, Get a Grip Man!

Meet Yoandri Hernandez Garrido, a Cuban paisano who lives in Baracoa, Cuba and who has a better grip on life than most. This is partly because he has 12 fingers and 12 toes. So everybody calls him "Twenty-Four", of course.

This condition, not as rare as you might think, is called "polydactyly". What makes Twenty-Four's condition so different are two things.

First, all his digits are perfectly formed. which is unusual in these cases. He's been examined by the best available orthopedists (Fidel's own doctor for example) and pronounced in perfect condition.

Of course, as a man with a curious, sometimes perverted mind, GG wondered for one fleeting moment if Señor Hernandez had been given extra appendages in any other area besides his hands and feet. Naw, I guess not because they would then have had to call him "Twenty-Six" or "Thirty". (Think about it Rio Lindans - it'll come to you)

The second difference, the one more important, is Yo's attitude. He views his condition as a blessing. "It's thanks to my 24 digits that I'm able to make a living, because I have no fixed job." He once got $10 from a woman who took his picture - this in an area where $20 a month is a typical wage.

"Since I was young, I understood that it was a privilege to have 24 digits. Nobody has ever discriminated against me for that," he said. "On the contrary, people admire me and I am very proud. I have a million friends, I live well."

Nevertheless, it occasionally caused confusion growing up. "One day when I was in primary school, a teacher asked me how much was five plus five?" Hernandez recalled. "I was very young, kind of shy, and I didn't say anything. She told me to count how many fingers I had, so I answered, "12!""The teacher was a little upset, but it was the truth," he said.

Hernandez said he hopes he can be an example to children with polydactyly that there's nothing wrong with them."I think it's what God commanded," he said. "They shouldn't feel bad about anything, because I think it's one of the greatest gifts one can receive".

Nuff said.

Chavez' Parity

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has achieved another parity with the Gringos. Not to be outdone by his obsessive desire to better (or beat up) the U.S., Hugo's Venezuela also recently received a credit downgrade from Standard & Poor's from BB- to B+. Good work Hugo. Methinks "B" stands for "Bottom" on the S&P scale.


Futbol, Futbol, Futbol!

One of the things I've come to like about living in my neighborhood, aka Barrio Los Angeles, is the proximity to an indoor futbol arena only a block away from my apartment. Some call it the "Futsal" which is a corruption of "futbol" and "sala" or hall.

Young Boys Practicing Between Games

"Equipo Madrigal"
Clockwise from the Left: Marvin (Papi - aged 50), Brian (22), Kevin (Friend of the Madrigals), David (18 - more on David HERE) and José (13)

The Kids Start Playing as Toddlers and Start Training Early in Grammar School

Futbol (Soccer in Rio Linda) is a national pastime here and just about every Tico has tried to play it at some time in their lives. Some continue to play into their 50's and 60's, like my landlord.

Regulation outdoor futbol fields are a minimum of 64 meters (70 yards) wide by 100 meters (110 yards) long. They may, however, vary to as much as 75 x 110 meters. This means that the playing area is from 6,400 to 8,250 square meters (7,700 to 9,900 sq yards). Compare this to a standard 50 x 100 or 5,000 sq yard U.S. football field. Both American football and international soccer normally use eleven players on a team.

The Futsal is much smaller than a typical outdoor field at approximately 27 meters wide and 66 meters long or a total area of 1,780 square meters (2,150 sq yards), less than 30% of the smallest outdoor field. As a result, only five players to a side are permitted. Allowing for goalies, that means there are only 8 men running the field in the Futsal versus 20 for outdoor games. This and the smaller hall make the Futsal a much more intimate experience for both the player and the spectator.

Before games start at the Futsal or during the five minute half time breaks, you often see young boys and girls out there kicking the ball ("pelota"). If you're old enough to walk, you're old enough to kick the ball. It's a very natural movement for even the smallest of tykes.

Now my landlord and his three sons are avid futbol fans and players. When Costa Rica scores a goal in an international match, I don't have to be looking at the TV to know it happened; I can tell from the chorus of cheers that emanates from their casa to my apartamento. The Costa Rican national team recently beat the U.S. 1 to 0. I heard about that goal immediately, of course, and then I heard about it again all the next day.

Marvin and his sons often play at the Futsal together, that is, they did so regularly before university studies took Brian and David to San José semi-permanently. I call the four of them "Team Madrigal" or in Spanish, "Equipo Madrigal" (picture left). Together, the family is a formidable team.

So it was a treat to see them all together again playing at the Futsal recently during a two week break from University. Los quatro Madrigals were joined by a couple of other locals including Kevin, an old friend of David's, who agreed to play goalie ("portero") that evening. And play well he did.

José, the youngest Madrigal at 13, is still a little young to play continuously in a game like the one they had that night. I have seen him play with his dad in other games and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in enthusiasm. Because this particular game got so competitive, José was confined to the bench for the entire game. Your time is coming amigo.

The three older Madrigals have completely different styles. Marvin is a good dribbler and controller of the ball. Brian plays a very intelligent game dancing around defenders and knowing just when and with what force to make a shot on goal. David is like a gazelle screaming down the court and arriving in enemy territory before the defenders have a chance to regroup.

The first period (they play two 30 minute periods at the Futsal) turned out to be a bit disappointing. Team Madrigal looked rusty, understandably rusty since it had been such a long time since all three of them had played together. Brian missed several shots on goal that in earlier days he would have made. David was outfoxed a few times turning over the ball to the competition. The opposing team was tough and the score quickly went to 3-0 for the bad guys. The period ended at 4-1. Things looked malo for Equipo Madrigal.

But in the second half, the Madrigal Magic was back. Brian started to hone in on the goal, David started stealing the ball more and Marvin was dribbling and passing to beat the band. The score became 2-4, then 3-4, then the game got tied up with a zinger goal by David. In the last ten minutes Equipo Madrigal scored two more goals and the game ended with a 6-4 victory. It was the best game I had seen at the Futsal in a year and a half!

We walked back to the casa/apartamento together, four Tico football dudes and one aging gringo fan, reliving the game along the way. Schweeeet!

Pura vida, Equipo Madrigal!


La Feria

Literally translated "La Feria" means "The Fair".

The more common use here in Quepos, however, is in reference to the open air market held on Fridays and Saturdays on the street at the waterfront that runs across the dike that (hopefully) protects us from the sea. This road is labeled "Tsunami Way" on the GGC MAP. Gringos would call what happens there on the weekend a farmer's market.

Las Ferias abound in virtually every city and town in Costa Rica. In the larger cities, they're usually called "Mercado" or "Mercado Central" and are housed in large, permanent buildings that are usually open every day but Sunday. Such is the case in San José, Heredia and Alejuela. The bigger the market, the more treasures are to be found such as piles of bulk spices and herbs you can purchase by weight or volume.

La Feria in Quepos is a great place to sample the extensive fresh fruits and vegetables of Costa Rica that have been just brought in from the farms. Pineapples (yellow or white; yes Dorothy there are pineapples with white flesh that can knock your socks off), mangos, plums, several types of oranges, limes and lemons, several types of berries, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe and other melons, papaya, plantains, celery, lettuce, potatoes, carrots (often of the large nuclear variety than can double for circus tent pegs), tomatoes etc. Virtually any and every standard vegetable and fruit are available for the picking over.

But the great thing about La Feria in my view is the amazing offering of exotic fruits found there. Six examples of the more exotic types are shown in pictures below. and described further down.

Mamones (Lichees)
Guanabana (Soursop)

This is only a sampling of fruits common and fruits strange to a gringo. One of the things I like best about La Feria is that I seem to discover a new fruit there every month. Most of the vendors are amenable and will crack open a whatever-it-is to give you a sample. Life is good here.

Although vegetable and fruit stands predominate at La Feria, there are specialty stands as well. For example, there are a couple of fresh (we hope) fish and chicken vendors, a Mennonite table with all the sugar goodies like oatmeal raisin cookies and sweet rolls that I used to see in Pennsylvania Dutch country (the local Mennonite group still hasn't given me a good reason why they don't offer a Shoo-Fly Pie). You can even pick up a cute puppy or kitten, neutered and pre-treated for anything that ails it, at the PAWS tent.

That's Quincy in the Striped Shirt with Some of His Family, Left - Son Andrew (Scooby), Daughter Alejandra with Granddaughter Emma. In the Background is Son-in-Law Marco. Not Shown is Wife Irma, the Better Tica Half
Those Buckets Contain the Pickled Goodies

One last stall at La Feria deserves honorable mention. This is the table manned by Quincy, a dude that owns a bakery and restaurant about 6 miles east of Quepos in the country town of Naranjito ("Little Orange" - like the Oranges in New Jersey we have a big Orange (Naranjo) and a little Orange (Naranjito).

Quincy, although an offspring of gringo parents, spent 12 years growing up in Spain, 5 in Peru, some years in New York and has spent the last 23 years in Costa Rica He also has a Tica wife. Need we say he's fluent in Spanish and understands the culture?

Quincy offers some goodies that you just can't get easily in these environs. For example, one of my favorites is pickled green mangos. When mangos are plentiful here, you'll often see street vendors offering green or unripened mangos, peeled, sliced and in little plastic bags that include a small wedge of mandarina lemon and a tiny packet of salt. The combination of the tart fruit, even more tart mandarina lemon juice and the salt produces a great and tangy snack and, obviously, something much healthier than a Snickers bar (I'm also a fan of Snickers).

Quincy takes the green mango one step further; he pickles the peeled slices of the unripe fruit in a proprietary mixture of vinegar, brown sugar, ginger and a little bit of fresh chili pepper. (There's also a spicier version for those with more hearty tastes). I usually buy what I think is enough for a week and end up eating the lot in 3-4 lunches with a sandwich or just by themselves. I'm snacking on some now as I write this - yummers. Quincy also offers some wonderful dill, gherkin-sized pickles as well as great bread & butter pickles and also a variety of his baked products.

And for Quincy, it's not just baked goods and pickles. Tico land has yet to develop the art of cheese making beyond the bland, rubbery. suitable-mostly-for-melting-on-something types. Quincy offers harder and more crumbly cheeses like blue and manchego or flavored versions spiced with herbs or garlic, great for salads and with crackers. You can get a few imported versions of similar cheeses in the local supermarkets but you may have to sell your car or take out a second mortgage to pay for them. Quincy's prices are reasonable and a great value for the taste.

So, mis amigos, treat yourself to a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning at La Feria for some of the truly great Costa Rican taste and flavor experiences.

Buen Provecho, Bon Appetite, Dig In!



Ripe Mangos, the One on the Left Sectioned

Mangoes with cream

Ingredients: Ripe mango (not overripe), whipped cream (not too sweet) Instructions: Peel the mango and cut in small cubes or slices. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve with the whipped cream.

Unripe Mangos on the Vine

Spicy Mango Salad

1) Green sour mango 1-2 fruits
2) Roasted peanut or cashew nut
3) Dried shrimp
4) Thin sliced red onion
5) Dried chili
6) Chopped Red chilies
7) Chopped coriander
8) Palm sugar
9) Fish sauce

Peel mango and rinse with the clean water. Cut the mango to get long thin pieces. Mix palm sugar with fish sauce and a little bit of dried chili, adjust taste as you like. Put mango in a bowl then add peanut or cashew nut, dried shrimp, red onion and red chilies. Mix them well then add the sauce, mix them well and adjust the taste again. Serve on a plate, topping it with the cashew nut and coriander.

One of the things that struck me when I moved from the cold, snowy north to Florida was seeing oranges on the ground rotting. After all, being a native New Englander, GG thought oranges were only grown in supermarkets. I had never thought one would be left on the ground to rot; hell I never saw a rotting orange anywhere, they were always eaten before they could reach that state.

Mangos are the Costa Rican version of Florida oranges. They're plentiful, growing wild in the jungle as well as in orchards. Seeing this precious fruit rotting away is not at all unusual. The same goes for papaya, bananas and a lot of other tropical fruit. What are you gonna do amigo, God provides and we can't eat them fast enough.

I once saw a man emerging from the jungle near the top of Manuel Antonio who, one would have to say by his disheveled clothes and beard, was more than likely a homeless dude. He had a small hand of bananas tossed over one shoulder and a mound of mangos as well as a papaya held against his chest by his left arm. He was not going to starve that day.

I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve had a mango tree in the Garden of Eden (at least until they opened their first Taco Bell).This fruit is lightly sweet and so tasty that it had to have been in paradise. I've never heard anyone say they don't like mangos. Here's another plus: I saw on a nutrition website a ranking of fruits by sugar content and mangos came in as one of the lowest. (Good to know for us diabeticos)

If you've followed the Chronicles for a spell, you know our hero is not the sharpest tack in the box when it comes to knowing stuff about things. Like, dude, how do you peel a mango? With difficulty if you use the brute force method that I employed until I knew better. Duh. So I was pleased when a recent email came across my e-desk from a food website that showed me how to do it.

The mango has a very large oval-shaped seed at the center. Cut a thin slice (1/4 inch or so) off the top and bottom of the mango so you can stand it up easily on end. In doing so, you will likely reveal the direction of the nut - but looking down on the fruit shows the orientation as well..

Slice close to the nut on both sides parallel with the long direction of the nut, yielding two large slices. You can slice across these in sections if you just want to eat slices with skin on or you can peel the skin of the section and then slice across or you can score the fruit across and lengthwise on the soft side without cutting through the skin. If you score it, you can "pop" it out  and cut off squares of fruit as shown on the picture upper right.

Also to the right is a couple of recipes for mango, one for ripe fruit and one for green. If you're a diabetic dude like me, the simple mangos with whipped cream is a great alternative to a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce at night, not that alternating these two methods is a perfect way to live.

I'm not a fan of strongly spiced foods so I replaced the chilies in the green mango salad recipe above with a very small dash of hot sauce. I haven't the foggiest idea what "palm sugar" is. Perhaps it's just unrefined cane sugar - I just substituted a bit of brown sugar and I also used a teaspoon of bottled Oyster sauce that I happened to have on hand to replace the fish sauce.

One word of caution I picked up while researching this article:

"Mango peel and sap contains urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis in susceptible people. Cross-reactions between mango contact allergens and urushiol have been observed. Those with a history of poison ivy or poison oak contact dermatitis may be most at risk for such an allergic reaction. Urushiol is also present in mango leaves and stems. During mango's primary ripening season, it is the most common source of plant dermatitis in Hawaii." 

Dude, so don't go to Hawaii, come to Costa Rica - pura vida! I've never had any problem but just in case you're sensitive that way, you have been advised.                      

Proverb:       "If you don't eat mangos that fall on the ground,
                   be sure to be strong enough to pick ones on the tree."




Ojalá [o-hah-lah’]

"I hope so!" is the most often heard meaning of this word. My not-so-trusty online dictionary lists two ways the word is used:

  1. As an interjection; for example, ¡ojalá lo hago! = I hope she does it or ¡ojalá fuera viernes! = I wish it was Friday!

  2. As an interrogative like Would to God!; for example, ¡Ojalá que él viva! = May he live! or ¡Ojalá que vaya! = I wish he may go; I wish he went

However it's used, it's important to get that first character (the upside-down exclamation point), the "¡", in front of the word in the written form to give it the exclamatory emphasis called for by proper Spanish.

I'm told the word originally came from the arab influence that permeated Spain over the centuries and is an adaptation or corruption of the arabian plea to God: "Inshallah!", meaning God willing. Sounds good to me.

Pelota [pay--tah]

As mentioned in the article above on Futbol, the ball itself is called a "pelota" in Spanish. Both my online erratic dictionary and my hard copy Oceano confirm this as the primary meaning of the word. But, as usual, there are also interesting uses of the word, to wit:

  • jugar a la pelota -> to play ball (both in the game and in life's activities)
  • devolver la pelota a alguien (figurative) -> to put the ball back into somebody's court
  • hacer la pelota (a alguien) (informal) -> to suck up (to somebody) (peninsular Spanish)
  • en pelotas -> starkers (British), butt-naked (United States)
  • ser pelota -> to be a creep (peninsular Spanish)

Another handy dandy multi-purpose word from our latino buddies.


ROMEO Corner

(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Gran Inca - Quepos

Location: On the street that runs from the Banco Nacional to the El Gran Escape restaurant
                    and on the opposite side of the street from both.
     Hours: 5 PM to 10 PM Tuesday through Sunday; closed Mondays.
  Parking: Main street parking, normally ample at night.
  Contact: Just walk in.

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M., Bob N., Beth M. (visiting Auxiliary Member)

A ROMEO review evaluates atmosphere, service, food quality and cost, combining the first three into a sloth rating and the last as a dollar cost level compared to other regional emporiums. Our visiting ROMEO (Juliette?) summed up this restaurant in a nutshell: "It's all about the food" says she. She was right on, that's the outstanding feature here; the rest is just plain.

The restaurant is a simple rectangle shape with one of the smaller ends completely open to the street. The place was probably a dress shop before and could be changed back to one quickly. The other end of the rectangle housed a small kitchen and prep area open to view.

There are about a dozen square tables, all of the same size, arranged in three rows running in the long direction of the room. The tables might be labeled "mesas typicas" as both the tables and seats are dark, hard wood typical of Tico restaurants (and uncomfortable for an aging gringo's sensitive back).


The tables were completley bare when we sat down, no place settings, no flowers, nada. One wall is adorend with a long mural showing the requisite alpacas and mountain scenes of Peru while the other has pictures of Peruvian cities and other sites (probably the closest I'll ever get to Machu Pichu). All three ROMEOS thought the fan above was running a little too fast (our food cooled rather quickly) and the piped in music was a little too loud.

The Wall Opens at 5 PM - "Open Sesame!"

The menu consisted of a large blackboard leaning up against the wall with about a dozen items written on it. We had a little difficulty interpreting the names as a few of them were peculiarly Peruvian but the waiter, a "Chepito" of San José extraction, helped us through it. He was attentive, helpful and courteous throughout the meal. The chef and meal prep person are a husband and wife Peruvian team, the real McCoy.

Two of the R-dudes chose the fish special for the day while the other went for the Peruvian equivalent of arroz con camerones (rice with shrimp). The fish was a corbina filet that had been fried to a gentle crisp and mounted over lightly spiced cooked potatoes, then covered with a rosé-colored sauce containing shrimp, calamari and small squares of ham. For the life of me I could not disect the components of the sauce but it was mild, a touch sweet and had an excellent flavor.

There were no garnishes or adornments on the fish plate, the only other thing was a mound of plain white rice but the ROMEOS found the sauced fish outstanding. The other ROMEO found the rice with shrimp, although seasoned differently than similar Costa Rican fare, also was very good. After getting turned on by the fish dish, I was looking forward to some kind of Peruvian dessert to round out the meal but unfortunately, there were no desserts offered or available.

Despite the service and food being excellent here, the limited menu and stark ambiance prevent us from bringing the rating up higher than four sloths. The three main courses with non-alcoholic beverages billed in at 21,000 colones or about $14 per person, giving the Gran Inca a low three and a half dollar rating making it a great value.

(P.S. - After our visit I was talking with a Tico friend who had been to the restaurant a couple of times and who could understandably translate the menu. He said we missed a couple of featured specialties: a piquant ceviche very different from it's Costa Rican cousin and a sauced loma (filet of beef) that he thought was outstanding)

We'll have to make a return visit soon to sample these and others.


Founder's Quotes

Balancing the First Federal Budget

First, from George 1:

"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass." -- George Washington, letter to Benjamin Lincoln, 1788

George, you were an incurable optimist.

Then from the chief moralist among the founding dudes:

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou shalt not covet' and 'Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free." -- John Adams, A Defense of the American Constitution, 1787

don Beto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!

To Contact GGC World Wide Headquarters (yuk, yuk) to request deletion from the Chronicles distribution, make comments, suggest topics or criticize my bad jokes, just send an email to: Be pithy but kind. I'm sensitive.
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