That is also a lie.
You might recall that it was when last we were together, I’d mentioned I was going away to prison for a couple of weeks. This was an untruth. The fact of the matter is that I left American soil and buggered off to the paradise that is Costa Rica with my family to assist in the celebration of my beloved mother and father’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Fifty years of weddedness might seem like prison to some, and beyond that, ten days in the company of one’s own family could be considered a bit like that as well, but in this instance, it was nothing but love, laughter and a whole lotta other mushy stuff.
The first day found the whole gang converging on Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose with about two hours of sleep in 40 between the lot of us. After a bit of decompression, showers, and the ever refreshing post-travel teeth brushing, we learned of our itinerary. (Actually, everybody knew of it but me. The fact that I arrived with a change of clothes in and of itself was a miracle.) For the next nine days, we would be traveling roughly 900 miles up, and down, and across the country, drinking in its vast and varied landscape, all the while filling our bellies with the respective region’s delectable fare and our brains with an incomprehensible amount of education from our accompanying guide.
If my brain were more of a sponge, I could potentially relay all that I learned in a concise fashion, but it’s not and I can’t. One crucial fact to note that in 1948, President Jose ‘Don Pepe’ Figueres abolished the country’s military and committed the funding to education and environmental concerns. Like America’s Theodore Roosevelt, Done Pepe was a revolutionary thinker when it came to preserving open space, of which Costa Rica has in spades. It’s an environmentalist’s wet dream, and one that allows visitors the chance to experience its bevy of native plants and animals in their natural state.
So without further ado, pop the corn and let’s get on with the slide show.
On our first day out, we explored the active crater at the Poás Volcano high above San Jose;
I’ve been spending a lot of time both in the gym and on the bike. I was sure that if it erupted, I could outrun whatever hellish material spewed from its bowels. If not, then it was a very pretty day on which to be incinerated/buried alive;
From there, we dilly-dallied around the countryside until we stopped by Cafe Britt to take a tour and learn about Costa Rican coffee. For me, standing amidst the coffee plants was akin to a junkie traveling to the poppy fields of Afghanistan.
It was like I’d come home;
Besides being a producer of coffee, pineapple, cocoa bean, sugarcane, coconut, and every other type of plant you want to eat, it’s also home to an array of flowers that look like they were conceived of by an insane person completely cracked out of their gourd on acid;
On which little black buddies were almost always doing the hustle;
Eventually we made our way to a rainforest. I can’t remember if this was this day, or the next or the one after that. I mean, I’ve only had like, two concussions in my life, but I can’t remember shit anymore.
Anyway, one thing I do recall is that the rainforest reminds me of a story a painting teacher once told me about a man who visited a place that was made of beautiful landscapes colored by every shade of green ever known to exist, and millions that were not;
We saw eyelash vipers, and tons of exotic birds birds here, but what made the greatest impression was when standing near the exit of the preserve, a mom and baby Tapir sauntered past;
Have you ever been standing around, when suddenly a pair of endangered species wander by that you’ll probably never see again in your lifetime? It was like that.
Saying goodbye to the rain forest, we made our way to a pineapple plantation where we learned everything there is to know about the delicious fruit except how to get it to grow in Oakland;
I think we finished the day with our arrival to La Fortuna- A town nestled at the base of another volcano called Arenal, which in 1968 blew its top, killing 87 to 114 people, depending on where you get your information. I refer to my initial statement relating to currently being generally fit and feeling pretty good about being able to outrun the spewing fiery and poisonous death, should it have occurred.
For the next two nights we stayed here, and of all the places we visited, this is one which I think I would most enjoy a return to.
On the following day, I resisted the urge to travel by boat upriver to Nicaragua, and I hung out at the pool with DM and Sue, where we solved some of the problems of the world, though at this point, I’ll be damned if I could remember what any of them were;
Upon waking up refreshed on day four or five (of whatever) and not really ever wanting to leave, we dragged ourselves to the hanging bridges of Guanacaste;
It was at this point I realized that in some past life, I spent living in the rainforest. It’s a place I feel a sense of security unlike anywhere I’ve ever been;
Naturally, having a return visit to a home from long ago, I found it necessary to baptize myself;
While both feet were on the ground, my head was occasionally on a bike;
Feeling recharged and inspired, we beat feet to the Pacific Coast and stayed in the ridiculously luxurious JW Marriott in Pinella;
During a day spent pool side with my life partner, (where I made friends with this guy;)
I bought us a round of double vodka and sodas, which wound up costing $64.00, quickly imparting the lesson that when you stay in a resort, you pay resort prices. Anyway, the joke was on them, because I took the cup.
After two nights in the lap of luxury, and a reluctant goodbye;
-we stopped fooling ourselves that we were JW Marriott types of people and meandered through the cattle ranches of Guanacaste, en route to Tarcoles River;
There we were treated to a couple hours of bird nerding and surprise sightings of this little lady;
and her considerably larger counterpart;
I wished that I had a chicken caracas to throw to him, but unfortunately, I hardly ever travel with those anymore.
After a day of being looked at like I was a snack, I was tired, so fortunately we headed south to our accommodations at the mouth of the Manuel Antonio Rainforest;
It’s just night after night of squalid conditions.
On our last day before returning to San Jose, DM and I woke up super early to get into the park before the inevitable crowds. We first hiked to the summit of the ridge, where you could see the entire Pacific Coastline while being serenaded by howler monkeys. It was truly a breathtaking thing, one of which I took no photo of because I forgot.
Then we walked through the jungle as white face and squirrel monkeys clambered in the trees above us, to a small tropical cove I really wanted to swim in, but as part of the preserve, it was littered with hermit crabs, iguanas, little back spider looking crabs and an array of other critters so we took some shots and then headed out;
We finally arrived at the beach that was good for swimming, which we did with vigor.
From the water, we saw little raccoons stealing people’s stuff. That part was funny, because it was not our stuff they were stealing.
Eventually it was time for food, so DM and I made our departure, the timing of which was good, because it looked as if a cruise ship had arrived, belching its contents of fat, loud, shuffling and occasionally Romney shirt wearing mouth breathers into the previously peaceful confines of the preserve. We glided out, as they heaved and grunted their way into the jungle. If natural selection was a law, none of them would have returned.
There were a couple more days and a couple more adventures, but this post has worn out its welcome so I’ll wrap it up now. I’d like to thank my parents for putting up with one another long enough to be able to justify such a lavish trip, and here’s to fifty more;
I would also like to thank our guide, one Mr. Fausto Rojas, who without his insights I would not have learned, and ultimately forgotten as much as I did. I would also like to mention that Costa Rica, if it were to be a person, would be perfect. They are surrounded by assholes, yet maintain a neutrality and an independence that is almost graceful in its execution.
I have fallen in love with its history, its landscape, its food and its people. Come hell or high-water, I will return.
Pura vida, thank you, and goodnight;
As a final and unrelated point, (and what would a AHTBM post be without some kind of rant?), I would like to mention that upon my departure, I stopped by a book store in the airport to pick up some reading material. One book in particular caught my eye called ‘Assholes Finish First‘ by a person named Tucker Max;
Neither the title nor its author were names I was familiar with, but with a penchant for writers like Jim Goad, and David Cross, I thought I’d found something that I could sink my teeth into. After reading the first chapter about his acquisition of a police issue bull horn, and the terror he proceeded to unleash with it, I thought I had found a new writer to praise.
Similarly, I found his honest perspective on meeting people who were familiar with his writing, though not who he is as a person vaguely relatable, but as the book continued, my appreciation soured until after plowing my way through two thirds of it, I actually became embarrassed to be seen reading it in public. At this point, the declaration has been made that I’ve considered purchasing a round trip ticket back to Costa Rica to get a refund.
Now, I should include that I don’t disparage anyone for pursuing their dream to become a writer, and his drive to achieve success is beyond compare. I would also like to note that Tucker Max is clearly no dummy, plus he doesn’t care for Dane Cook, but the contents of the book- Story after story detailing sexual conquest after sexual conquest read like a depraved and developmentally arrested thirteen year old’s diary detailing very clearly that he has little respect for anyone save for the face in the mirror, and maybe not even that. I found myself repeatedly wishing that I could turn the book into compost, or that I had a wobbly table with which I could use my purchase to steady, thereby giving it some redeeming quality, but alas, the twenty three dollars I spent on it was now his, and I was left in possession of a book I wouldn’t sully the confines of a trash can with.
If the prose of a seemingly sociopathic misogynist is something that would tickle your fancy, then perhaps his efforts might be for you. If not, then send the money you’d spend on his books to Planned Parenthood or a shelter for battered women. Or maybe just set the bills on fire and be done with it.
If this is what counts as a New York Times best seller, then I’ll stick to re-reading Chuck Klosterman or David Sedaris, both of whom Max has been repeatedly, and inexplicably compared to.