Saturday, June 4, 2016

Quakers, Seabass, and a House of Ill Repute: A Blissful Day in Costa Rica


   I awoke this morning to the sound of rain, the presence of which has plagued my time in Costa Rica from the moment I arrived. Upon emerging from my room, within the not quite dingy hostel, I was informed that I needed to move my bike from the secure confines of the commons room for a non programmed (silent) Quaker meeting which would be taking place shortly. I quickly moved the lame BMW into an adjacent room as the Quakers began to file in. A bit curious, and in need of some inspiration for my next story, I decided that silence was in order and joined this meeting of nothingness. Following 45 minutes of reflecting on equal parts broken motorcycle in Central America and dysfunctional life in Tennessee the quiet time ended and a broad and informal discussion of general topics ensued. I must admit, I enjoyed it far more than having some overbearing know-it-all shout at me for half an hour. At the conclusion of the gathering the fellow directing the service and conversation, Q.D. (Quaker Dan), invited me to lunch.
 
  The restaurant Dan drove us to on the far side of town, in his late model Japanese sedan, was bustling if a bit plain. QD led the dinner conversation with constant, if measured, questions regarding my trip. Though I had queries of my own, as to how a Quaker ends up in San Jose leading services at a clapped together hostel teaming with fledgling revolutionary hippies, Dan's responses were brief and general. He was from Pennsylvania but did little to explain his departure from the States. When the inquiry was made he simply said that life there no longer suited him. I finished up my meal of Seabass and chips wondering what drove QD south while simultaneously delighting in the quality of the free food. Upon departing Mexico my cuisines' palatablity had taken a nosedive. This hip expatriate dive was a tasty place to dine. There wasn't a bloody plantain in site. QD paid the bill and asked rhetorically, "ready for drinks?". Quickly he added, "I know a place".

  We departed the expat side of town in favor of one of the old high rise hotels in the center of San Jose. As we walked up to the entrance QD explained that it was "sort of a sports bar". I entered the establishment to find a collection of well dressed 50ish year old men sat beneath an expanse of flatscreen televisions adorned with football matches and horse racing. We took a table and ordered drinks. Dan possessed a commanding demeanor. He stood about 6'3", and though perhaps in his mid 50's he was of solid build. He was well spoken, his words few and carefully chosen. He would have surely been a man of some importance in the Quaker community back in rural Pennsylvania. Before I again attempted to make sense of his place in Costa Rica our drinks arrived along with another American. This fellow, dressed in a cream suit more Matlock than Panama Jack, was acquainted with QD. As he was introduced to me and told of my motorcycle trip we were joined by two scantly clad ladies sporting broad smiles. If my presence held any of the stranger's attention it was very quickly diverted. He turned, engaging the young women in a torrent of fluent Spanish, and took each under an arm. The girls then questioned Dan and I, one offering me up a wink. QD's Spanish seemed good, but his response appeared dismissive. I simply shook my head and uttered poco Espanol. With that, Atlanta's greatest attorney wished me luck on my journey, said good bye to Dan, and disappeared into the bowels of the hotel bar with his new clients.

   I finished my first drink quickly and ordered another. There was a lull in the conversation following  the interaction with Mr. Confidence and I'd not quite figured out how to renew the inquisition of Quaker Dan. My benefactor looked to be contemplating something serious and he jostled remnants of his gin tonic. Just as my fresh beer arrived QD swallowed the rest of his drink and asked if I could find my way back to the hostel. I smiled and told him that I don't get lost. "I didn't think so" he replied. He had some business to attent to and needed to be going he explained. As he parted he told me how much he admired my trip, and just before walking away his final words
to me were, "The girls here will ask for one hundred but they'll take fifty".

  I took my time finishing the beer and strolled past a trio of smiling ladies in mini skirts sitting at the bar. I avoided their gaze and wandered onto the street. The rains, so persistent over the previous days, had subsided and the following couple of hours were the best I'd spent in San Jose. Roaming the streets in solitude I was happy to be alive.