Just like Abbott and Costello envisioned it 70+ years ago…
What a strange day. It’s like something happened overnight that I wasn’t aware of. Moved into some kind of parallel universe, sort of. I mean Where IS everybody? I needed to go into David to do my pre-weekend shopping. Usually I have to stop a couple of times in the 150 yard hike out to the bus stop, but not this morning. Nobody home.
It was a short wait at the bus stop. One came by at 9:15. Now lots of times the nine o’clock buses are lleno (full) packed and will just pass by because there isn’t even standing room. I’ve had to pass up as many as three buses because they were ‘como latas de sardinas’ (like cans of sardines. Isn’t my Spanish getting better?). But this time there were only four people on a 36-passenger bus and only one young Indian girl and her baby got on before we got to the InterAmericana, three kilometers down the hill.
There was a net gain of two riders between ‘El Cruce’ (where the Boquerón road crosses the InterAmericana) and the 20 kilometers of so to President Martinelli’s Supper 99 supermarket which is the outer edge of what one would consider downtown David. From there to the terminal I was the ONLY passenger and the driver took side roads the buses never travel on which was cool because I got to see new things.
At the terminal I always hop on the Dolega bus since they depart every 10 minutes and pass by Plaza Terronal where the El Rey supermarket that I wanted to shop at is located. This is a very popular bus because people who work at Conway (Panama’s Target) Panafoto (think Best Buy) and other stores at Terronal use this bus and it’s general standing room only. Today it wasn’t even half full when it left the terminal.
The REAL Twilight Zone, however, was El Rey. Those of you familiar with Florida, El Rey is a Panamanian version of Publix. My footsteps nearly echoed off the walls. I’ve never seen it so empty. I asked the cashier if it was a holiday or something since it seemed as if the entire province hadn’t checked in at dawn. She just shrugged. ‘Es temprano,’ (it’s early) she said.
The normal hustle and bustle of the terminal at 11;30 a.m. was subdued. The Boquerón bus was in its slot and I was on my way home after a 15 minute wait with the bus less than half full. I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on. I think I’ll take a nap and hope everything returns to normal when I wake up.
I’m back on line, and had the best night’s sleep in nearly three months. What’s happening? Well, I moved again, that’s what. As regular readers of this increasingly irregular blog know, the lease on the house here in Boquerón ended at the end of November, and the house actively went up for sale. I was assured by the owners that I would have at least 30 days notice if the house was sold in which to find new accommodations.
I have enjoyed the security of the last two-year lease and have come to love this little neighborhood and the people that live here. I certainly don’t care to move. So, when a lady three doors away said she wanted to rent her house and would I be interested I decided, after a week’s contemplation, to move there. We had a lease drawn up for a year with a continuing option, went to the notary’s office in Bugaba and I spent several days dragging my junk up the little hill to the new house a hundred yards away. You never really know how much crap you have in your life until it becomes necessary to move it. That’s what I really liked about living on my boat. I spent nine months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and yet I was home every night.
I was almost instantly sorry that I’d decided to move on day one. First of all, the new house was stiflingly hot. The construction is typically Panamanian. That is, the walls are cement block. Not the thick block we’re used to in the States, but block that is half as thick. Probably a cost-saving design for countries where people don’t have as much money as they do in the States. Anyway, when the walls are up steel girders are installed, a galvanized tin roof goes on and a suspended ceiling with drop-in panels finishes it off. There’s no insulation between the ceiling and the roof and now, at the height of the dry season the temperature in the space between the ceiling tiles and the roof rises to nearly unbearable levels.
Of the two air conditioning units in the house I only had use of one. It was in the back bedroom and was an old window-banger type installed through a hole in the wall. Gaps of a quarter of an inch were visible all around, and with five panes of glass missing from the jalousie windows cooling the room was nearly impossible.
And the place was noisy. At the old house I could hear roosters crowing all day long, but they were about 50 yards away. At the new house there were dozens of roosters 25 feet away and they crowed, like clockwork at midnight, 2:10 a.m., 3:40, 4:15 and 5:55. Plus the next door neighbor’s two dogs barked at everything that moved between dusk and dawn.
I caught a break on the second of March, though. I got a call from the landlady’s daughter. She said her mom was very sick and that the doctor wanted her to move back into the house here in Boquerón since the house she was living in in Bugaba was still under construction and the dirt and noise wasn’t conducive to a good recovery. Her mother, she said, would return my deposit to me so I’d end up living in the house for three months but only paying for two.
A quick email to the landlord of the old house was all that was needed to be reinstated there. So, over the last week I packed all my stuff and moved once again. You never realize how much crap you have in your life until you have to move it somewhere.
When I mentioned to my neighbors that Gladis was going to be moving back in to her house there was a lot of eye rolling. She is NOT popular here. Everyone asked if I had a lease, and when I said I did they all said, “Then tell her you won’t move.” I didn’t get into how I didn’t like Gladis’s house, so I settled for, “To what purpose? If she’s sick and I say I won’t move then I’m a bad guy. What do I get out of being a bad guy? Nothing.”
So, here I am, right back where I started. Who knows how long I’ll be here since the house is for sale. I’m not looking forward to having to move again.
Oh, the only bad thing about the move is that there’s a tree just on the other side of the fence here that’s in bloom and the pollen is absolutely kicking my butt.
All over the world it’s Mardi Gras/Carnival! Unfortunately everyone isn’t smart enough to enjoy the party.
This is my 26th smokeless day. It hasn’t been easy. At LEAST a dozen times a day I’m ready to break down, hike up to the Chinos (sort of a Panamanian 7/11 and called a ‘Chino’ because they’re mostly owned and operated by Chinese families) and buy a pack of cigarettes. But I haven’t.
Today I had to go pay the water bill for the old house. Normally I pay it at a ‘Multipagos’ at either Romero or El Rey supermarkets, but for some reason I couldn’t actually follow, the girl at the Multipagos at Romero said I had to go to IDAAN (the water company) to pay this bill.
The easiest IDAAN office to get to is in Bugaba. That’s also where they make the cigars I enjoyed up until a month ago. Now, I quit smoking cigarettes over two years ago when I switched to cigars. The only advantage of cigars over cigarettes, at least as I see it, is you don’t inhale a cigar and I’ve already done extensive damage to my lungs. But I’m a nicotine addict. Have been since I was 12. And I have to say that I DID enjoy smoking my cigars. Really enjoyed it whereas smoking cigarettes was just shutting off the withdrawal symptoms.
Well, I checked my cash stash and had enough on hnand to buy a month’s supply and still have enough left over to finish off the month without having to go to the bank to get more. So, I went down to El Cruce, where the Boquerón road crosses the InterAmerican Highway to pick up a bus for Bugaba. (It’s in the opposite direction from the buses I ride into David)
There’s a big caseta there. A caseta is a bus waiting station. The one at El Cruce is about 70 feet long. It’s basically a large bench with a roof to keep things dry when it rains. Plopped right down in the middle of the floor of the caseta was a used condom. That gives one pause to think about what must have been going on there last night or early this morning.
There are easily eight or nine different bus routes that stop at El Cruce. Two of those, the Cerro Punta bus and the Serrano bus, pass by the cigar factory. The others don’t. I decided I’d take the first bus that stopped at the caseta and that would determine whether what I would do.
After contemplating the discarded condom for a moment I looked up to see a Cerro Punta bus whiz right on past without even slowing down. Okay. Perhaps the Serrano bus will be next. But it wasn’t it was a Puerto Armuelles bus, it had empty seats and I took it. Now I could have taken that bus into Bugaba and waited around for a CP or Serrano bus and gotten to the cigar factory for an extra 35 cents. But, instead, I got off at the town’s center, walked down to the IDAAN office, paid the bill and put another $10 down against future payments (water’s $2 and change per month), walked the two blocks up to a bus stop and got on a bus and came home.
Right now, I’d REALLY like to have a smoke, but I don’t have anything to light up.
As I wrote earlier, I now have a moderately high speed connection to the internet. I don’t really know how fast it is. The cable company says 5 mbs, but it’s probably not. It IS fast enough to stream movies, though, so I signed up for Netflix. This past week I’ve neglected my reading a bit and have been watching, and listening to, some great musicals. There are going to be a few clips here, so put on your headphones, crank up the volume and enjoy…
When I’d signed up for Netflix and was browsing their menu I saw The Blues Brothers. Wow, haven’t seen THAT in a long time, so I clicked on it. It’s pretty hard to beat a musical lineup including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Fats Domino…the list goes on. How can you top great music and the total destruction of automobiles?
With the Blues Brothers taking place in Chicago, a city I lived in, off and on for five years, brought me to another movie I loved. Chicago. I especially liked Queen Latifa…
Then I had to fill up on Jamie Foxx’s Ray.
As much as I admired Jamie’s work in the film, there’s only one person who can carry this song…
Then there was the incredible Cadillac Records. The story of Chess Records and performers I liked from the first time I heard them back in the late ’50s and early 60s. Artists like Muddy Waters, Little Walter…
And Beyoncé absolutely nailed the fantastic Etta James…
And this is here because, well, it’s MY BLOG and I love Playing for Change and this clip…
Yesterday was one of those special afternoons that come along every so often. I got to meet a couple of Statesiders who read my blog. John and Susan are fellow cruisers from Oregon who, several years ago, sailed from their home in the States down through Central America, passed through the Canal and ended up in Florida for a time. They liked what they saw of Panama and are now down here doing their ‘due diligence’ and exploring the country with an eye on retiring here. They have rented a house up near Boquete and are out meeting bloggers who live in the area. They came to visit me yesterday afternoon.
I showed them around my neighborhood and then we piled in their car and we went up into the hills to take the Ruta Sur over to the Branding Iron, a watering hole down in Dolega where the road branches out to either Potrerillos or Boquete. It was a chance for them to see some of the pretty sights that Chiriqui has to offer. One of them was way up in the hills probably close to a thousand feet above sea level where sits a 30 foot power catamaran up on blocks. The owner, also a gringo was standing in the shade of a palm tree and we stopped and talked to him for a bit. Then we proceeded to the Branding Iron where we could sit a place for for a couple of drinks and swap sea stories. It would leave them on the route back to where they’re staying and give me easy bus access to get back home.
It was kind of depressing to walk into the Branding Iron to find that the two t.v.s hanging on the wall were tuned to Fox Gnus. Yuck! They felt the same way. I told them that we shouldn’t be too harsh about Fox. It actually saved my life. I told them I’d been in a horrible car accident a couple of years ago that left me in a coma. I’d been in the hospital for several months, attached to tons of tubes and monitors when someone came into my room and turned on Fox News on my t.v. Naturally I had to get up and shut it off!
All too soon it was time to go our separate ways. They took me down to the bus stop in Dolega a couple of clicks away and in less than five minutes I was on my way down to the depot in David.
As I got close to my street I saw a about a dozen people standing around on the corner. What had drawn the crowd was that two of my neighbor ladies, Maíde and Francia, had set up a table in the caseta (the bus shelter) with a two burner gas range where they were cooking up almohábanos and smoked pork slices. Neighborhood residents were lined up to buy the almohábanos by the dozens which the two ladies loaded into paper bags which were quickly taken to houses in the area for cena (supper).
This was my first experience with almohábanos. Doing a Google search I see that it’s a popular Latin food. It’s made of corn flour and fried up in hot oil. Almohábanos is more of a kind of food product that takes various shapes and permutations. The ones being prepared by my neighbors looked like those large fritter-like things at the top of the plate:
I bought a plate with one almohábano and a slice of smoked pork for $1.25 and took it home where I downed it with a frosty bottle of Panamá. The almohábano was actually pretty bland and nearly tasteless but it was better with the addition of a bit of Pace salsa. Maíde and Francia were doing a land-office business, but at $1.25 a plate I can’t imagine they were making a whole lot of money. I almost suspect that it was as much a social event for them as it was a business enterprise. But so it is, here in Panama.