The Highway, the Danger Zone, and Beautiful Boquete


It’s just before 6 a.m. and the roosters are cockadoodle doin’ it well, which is how LL Cool J would’ve written it if he’d been raised in the rainforest.  Lizards are a-skitter and there’s a chorus of birds singing lush and falsetto.

Boquete is in the northern part of the country, closer to Costa Rica then Colombia.  I hoped to come here post-urban adventure to finish this vacation with utter relaxation: sipping local “the world’s best” coffee, hiking to waterfalls on the volcano on which my room is perched, and snapping sloths in their natural habitat, while pleased, I think about how gross and cool it is that they’re slow enough to grow an entire ecosystem in their fur.

I am just so gosh darn lucky to have gotten here alive.

Within a moment in the cab, I realized that something was amiss.  We wove down the road like the thread on a seamstress’s deadline, and my driver- Josef- kept groping for something while muttering anxiously en Espanol.  “Up,” he demanded, and I eventually understood to hoist my butt as he groped at the seat underneath me, emerging worryingly with keys and an expression of true satisfaction.

We stopped at a gas station and inexplicably switched from a yellow cab to an unmarked SUV.  Josef grinned at my puzzled face, then rev’d the engine through a blast of rap music that assaulted at full volume.  As my shell-shocked brain retreated, he tossed the beer cans into the back and took off, with me in the front clenching every muscle in my body as I noticed the tv set in the dashboard flashed some skin in a thong and then the accompanying soft core pornography.

“You like?” asked Josef.

I just stuttered.  Grunted.  Remembered all the prayers of my youth.  As it turns out, I was not the quick-thinking survivalist when the internal warning bell screeched in time with the hybrid Spanish gangster beats.

On the road, we blew through alto signs like red meant “go” and octagonal meant “faster” and my puppet self jerked at every makeshift, hairpin turn.  The music became a reasonable volume of rhythmic “f” and “n” words, and as I thought of it as Tupac with Tourette’s, I pondered my options.

Ask him to stop, that I’d reached my destination?  There were no streetlights on this rural road: no.

Bail bravely from the bucket seat with a pavement-softening power roll?  All of AC/DC’s thunder struck and the heavens gushed through their opening.

So much for prayer and plan b.

Sooner than anticipated- Josef lurched maniacally at 125 in opposition to the speed limit’s 80- we arrived at the aptly named Haven.  There, he became gentle and shyly offered me his phone number.

I dully checked in, and on each of my trembling body parts.

And in bed I intend to stay until I recover.



Sex (or not) in la Cité

Saturday, April 18, 2014

“What the fuck is this?!” asked the cabdriver, and please excuse the language but it’s a solid, descriptive quote and I have no intention of editing.

“You going to France?  Fuck.”  At this point he became pensive, but only for a couple of seconds because if first impressions are correct, he’s not a particularly pensive kind of guy.

“I got arrested there once,” he said casually upon resuming speech. “Apparently you’re not supposed to have sex under the Eiffel Tower.  Well, you are.  But you’re not supposed to get caught.  Hey, you’re an attractive woman!  You might even look okay with a beard!  Attractive women can pull off anything.” *

And thus begins my next trip over an ocean.  This one has absolutely no connection to being professional except that I booked it a few weeks ago when showing my classes a picture of Mont St. Michel and realized I’d like to look at it via eyeballs rather than Kodachrome.  So without the shackles of ambassadorship, I embark.

*best weird compliment since “you’re overeducated and he misuses a lint roller”

Monday, April 20, 2015

I didn’t actually embark because airlines are willing to pay you $700, sometimes, to take a direct flight the next day instead.  Thus, I landed Monday morning, somehow made it to Christine’s, and got to hang out with her and the kids in Luxembourg Gardens.  This is a staggeringly beautiful and well-maintained place where all of the trees appear to be shaped into giant double-popsicle shapes by helicopter blades.  You should read a book there sometime with the ducks.  Since I was feeling jet laggy feelings, I went to bed instead.



*side note for family: Christine and the kids were great.  Nic’s a cute little chubby thing who smiles constantly, Nate’s all happy-go-lucky pretending he’s Spiderman, and Anna is sweet and smart as a whip, suggesting with a giggle that I should visit Napoleon’s chocolate tomb and -when necessary (most of the time)- softly correcting my French.

*side note to French friends: my French is atrocious, but better for knowing you.  Though I haven’t found context yet, I can easily bust out phrases that high school conversational French students would kill for, like “Christ in a culvert!” and “Dominic: born in God’s hotel” and “oh!  My body part is cold!”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sacre Coeur is quite a hike, but the walk is full of quaint little alleys and Paris’s last urban vineyard- in which you cannot, as we learned, have an affirming glass of red while casually trailing your fingers through the grapes from which it came.  It’s good, though, because of developing bun muscles and the impressive views at the end.  There are impressive views everywhere here, actually.  Anna taught me that 200 years ago, too many people were getting gross diseases and all up in each other’s business, so they razed the place and appointed a guy to rebuild the whole thing to exacting standards.  He was actually fired because people thought he was too extravagant, but the parks and architecture still reflect his vision.  It’s nice.  Think New Orleans meets medieval meets a Napoleon complex with sprinklings of statues and gold.  And think French women behind all the windows doing postpartum kegels, because that’s what Christine learned at the beginning of her time here, and whoa.

I’m sorry I made you think that.

Now think about my meal!  I went straight French and had cappuccino with my escargot, champagne with the baguette, and white white with my penne with foie gras. Christine and I split a profiterole. I’d’ve thought about it all day, but this- later:

“It’s 9:47 p.m. and I took the train to the Eiffel Tower, where I’m having a very charming French evening. To my right is a Sound of Music ballroom scene, a crescent moon dipping magnetically toward the couples and the music grand but dim, like it’s been trapped in a Parisian snow globe.  To my left is le Tour, lit golden and majestic.  Also to my left is the bottle of champagne I bought in touristic obligation, which I opened surreptitiously until a guy tried to sell me another.  There’s a book in my lap.  C’est bien.”

Well, that’s as far as I got before this French homme tried to make out with me during the sparkly part.  It started when the E. Tower went all Electrified Fairyland- as it does on the hour and which is visually insane- and this man asked me to take his picture.  Next thing I knew- bam- he was getting all nuzzly and I was murmuring “mais non, mais non” like a good little French girl.  These stereotypical Europeans are forward, right?  My very favorite pickup line ever was from that Turkish guy at PLC who stared deeply into my eyes and said, “86 Commercial Street.  You come or you don’t.”  And this guy was equally not subtle, except with lips instead of words.  It was hard to get excited about it, though, because I hadn’t showered that day and was feeling less “I’m confident and ravishing!” than I was “he’s probably trying to lower my guard so he can pickpocket me.”  So I kept squirming my face around as he tried to bulls-eye the lips, until finally I just shoved him and proudly said, “bonsoir.”  Sorry, adventurous friends and cabdriver.  Pas de romantic interludes as he was moving too vit and I was smelly.  Also stranger danger.

Think he would’ve liked me with a beard?

Eiffel Tower