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Merriment in Every Cab Ride

Chilón has had just about every cab driver (a dozen, anyway) in stitches. A bunch of them were laughing so hard, they were pounding on the steering wheel and dashboard. Chilón makes everyone feel good. It's extraordinary I watch faces that are solemn, or maybe a little suspicious, begin to smile, and then laugh. One time Chilón and a cabbie were laughing so hard, the cab was shaking. Today we got a cabbie who told Chilón at least 30 jokes, rapid fire. Screams of laughter…

El Gringo y El Mexicáno

Photos by Chilón

Left and above: at the Cinco Hormigas Rojas hotel, below on a nearby street

On the Streets of San José, Costa Rica

The photo above, on the right, is a protest against "Free Trade" ('TLC)").

Pulperías, the Mom and Pop Stores of Costa Rica

There was an exhibit in the museum of paintings of the pulquerías of Costa Rica, the neighborhood mom and pop grocery stores that are being supplanted by "mini-supers." These paintings looked like they were all the work of one artist, but the 30 or so paintings were all done by different artists.

Grasshoppers On Motorcycles: Chapulines en Motocicleta

The word chapuline means grasshopper in Spanish. In Mexico, the word is used to describe a politician jumping from one party to another. In Costa Rica, chapulines refers to thieves who rob people on the streets. Two guys will roar up to a pedestrian on a motorcycle. One will jump off with a knife and demand your money. And they'll roar away. San José is a wonderful city in many ways, but it has its dark side. Its a crossroads of cultures: people from Nicaragua, Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia — come here because of desperate poverty at home. It's a strange mix. The hospitality and warmth of just about everyone here, the good vibes and openness and positive attitude, with the backdrop of ripoff artists. Every door and window and courtyard within the urban area is barred. There's concertina barbed wire on roofs. You can't leave anything in a locked car on the streets for 5 minutes. When we go out at night, we take enough money for dinner and a few beers and leave passport, my silver bracelet, everything else in the hotel room. It's just a fact of life in this city. Yesterday 2 chapulines jumped off their M/C and accosted a priest carrying his church's donations. They were wearing M/C helmets with darkened visors. When they asked for the money, he told them they were stealing from God. They shot him in the leg, grabbed the money, and vrooom!

Cinco Hormigas Rojas, Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Above is the entrance to the third hotel we've checked into here, the Cinco Hormigas Rojas (the Five Red Ants), where the owner, Marya Guell, an artist and bohemian, has created a unique oasis in the midst of the city. The garden is like a jungle, and the inside is charming and whimsical; the walls filled with paintings, sculptures, masks and paper maché art of the owner.
The National Museum of Costa Rica: I am not much on museums, but this one is wonderful. It's the history of Costa Rica, from pre-Columbian times to the present, and the exhibits are tasteful and hip and not overwhelming. I'll try to write a bit later about what I learned about this country today, but I'd recommend to anyone living here or visiting here to go to this place. One of the features is a huge butterfly garden, with 1000s of butterflies floating around. As you walk through the ferns and tropical plants, the butterflies flit around you, like they're saying hello.

Old Pink Building with Soul

We've been in San José for 3 days and we have so many photos and so many fine experiences I don't know where to start. Chilón has been cutting a swath of good vibes and good humor everywhere we go. We were just in a taxi and he had the driver laughing so hard he was pounding on the wheel and the car was shaking with their laughter.
I didn't realize I had this picture until I looked at my photos today.
When a Tico or Tica says goodbye, the say, "Pura Vida." Pure life. Right on.
The people here are wonderful.

Sambadá's Latest Music Video

My son Will is a member of the Santa Cruz Brazilian band, Sambadá, and here I am in San Jose, Costa Rica, and just discovered their new video:

Chilon Con Ticas

Chilon and Ticas at Blues Festival

Guitar Shorty and Hs Talking Guitar

Acknowledging that I am prone to exaggerations, and have been told same more than once on the home front, I've got to say that one of Guitar Shorty's gun-slinging guitar solos last night was the best guitar playing I've ever seen in person. I closed my eyes during sections and followed his mastery and taste in the back reaches of my brain. The Club Cubano was packed with hundreds of blues lovers, and by the time Shorty came on, the crowd had coalesced into an organic whole, and the playing was brilliant. Chilón, who in a former life was a professional photographer in Mexico City, placed himself up front, and shot some great photos.

Incredible All Day and Night Blues at Club Cubano, Guachipelin Escazú Feb 7, 2009

Guitar Shorty and Chilón at the Second Annual Costa Rica Blues Festival Feb 2009

I cannot believe it! The next morning, having a café au lait in town I saw an ad in the Tico Times for the 2nd annual Costa Rica Blues festival, featuring Guitar Shorty. And who should wangle a joint photo with Guitar Shorty but Chilón, he with the golden tongue.

Day One in Costa Rica: Peruvian Panpipes Playing Beatles Song in Alajuela

It was 3 hours to Houston on a rickety long-in-the-tooth Continental jet, packed to the gills; then a 3 hour wait, then another 3 hour flight from Houston to Costa Rica, this time in a brand new B-757, with individual TV screens for each seat — better! Still, discomfort and indignities abound in 21st century air travel, like the officious jerk who removed every single one of about 40 objects in my backpack.
I got a room in a little hotel in a small town close to the airport because I was picking up my friend Chilón, who's coming in from Mexico City tomorrow morning. I hit the streets, groggy from no sleep, but excited by how different everything was. Comfortably warm.
A lot of people in the central park, big very green trees and a deafening din of birds. Two serapé-wrapped Peruvian guys had recorded songs on a loudspeaker and were playing along with pan pipes. A lot of young lovers snuggling and nuzzling on the benches. Hey, it's the tropics! People are relaxed.
Young punkish dude had a pet iguana and in a surly manner said OK to take pics, and that he'd had the iguana), which was a beautiful specimen) for 5 years. I walked over to the corner ice cream store, got an espresso milkshake, and went back in the park, and listened to Peruvian pan pipes playing a Beatles song.
I walked around for a couple of hours, reveling in the different landscape, and shot photos. As I was walking back to the hotel, two motorcycle cops came down the road on nimble and lightweight bikes, doing wheelies. Skateboarders doing incredibly graceful things on 4 little wheels…