Archive for February, 2009

A University Dwelling

February 13, 2009

When you think of college towns and university districts, you probably conjure up images of stately old homes, tree-shaded streets and quaint shopping districts peppered with funky second-hand stores, independent restaurants and bookstores. This paradigm does not hold true for Costa Rica. In Heredia, the district around the Universidad Nacional is rife with flourecscntly lit copy shops (no copyright laws here), a smattering of fast food/greasy spoons, and a horrible buzzing throng of reckless drivers piloting rickety cars. At the entrance to the Universidad Nacional, next to Burger King, is my favorite house in the area. While all homes are surrounded by high cement fences topped with barbed wire, and have bars on the windows and doors, this apartment takes the concept of “house arrest” to a new level.

Sweet Digs

Sweet Digs

Every time I see this particular house, I imagine it full of criminals clutching the bars, banging their tin cups, desperately watching the masses below as they scurry with their napsacks to a class on philosophy or dentistry or industrial engineering. Maybe the architecture school could use this house as a project. Then again, maybe they designed it.


Just Another Night At The Bar

February 5, 2009

I lost power at home at 4pm yesterday (it was still out when I left home at noon today), rendering both my internets and my kitchen worthless. So I fired up the Lesbo Rider and made my way down the hill to Bulevar, a college-type bar in Heredia, for some people watching, chicken fingers and suds. Once again, the local didn’t dissappoint.

The sun was setting and the drones where scurrying back to their nests. I especially enjoyed watching the women. Other than leering offensively as the lone gringo peering out at the sidewalk, I watched these women propelled briskly onward, stairing straight ahead, clutching their purses tightly under their arms. Every one the same. You can see it: these women are afraid. They don’t amble, they don’t stroll. She’s trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible without being fucked with. This, in the heart of a city that isn’t even considered that dangerous (although I could show you five spots within a few blocks where people have been killed recently).

I was contemplating this when the horns started honking. Hundreds of them. A taxi driver swooped into position, blocking the cross street like a police car setting up a parade route. And a parade it was. A steady stream of red taxis trundled past, honking like the Ticos just won the World Cup, in a pace known locally as tortuguismo, or “turtleism,” which consists of moving as slowly as possible without actually stopping. These taxistas drank beer, hooted and whistled at the frightened women, running lights and basically having a good time protesting whatever it was that irked them; there was no way to tell what the cause was. Not a single police officer or traffic cop was around.

Then, once the blockade moved on to new urban mayhem, the normal pace of life returned. The speeding. The noise. I came to realize that there is no pleasant sidewalk cafe experience in Costa Rica. The locals won’t allow it. Motorcycles, cars, buses, delivery trucks overloaded with bananas or furniture or coffee pickers, they all barrel down past Bulevar as if the bar were an observation deck on the Autobahn. And because many of the vehicles are in poor condition, and many others have either removed their mufflers or installed glass packs, the decible level is like drinking beer inside the turbine of a 747, vibrating the streets with tremdous levels of sonic pollution.

Once, I drove the Lesbo Rider around for a couple of weeks with a hole in the muffler. The resulting rumble was deafening. I sounded like I was tooling around in a Formula One race car, until you looked and saw a dented, fat Subaru slowly rolling past, it’s pasty driver grinning at pedestrians. I should have painted flame and fake bullet holes on it.

In this condition, I gave a guy I just met at a party back to town. I was actually a bit chagrined when I fired up the LR and our heartbeats all changed with my RPM, but my new passenger nodded his head and said, “Dude, this car sounds sweet.”

So I’ll just continue sipping my Imperial, staring out the glassless front of Bulevar and seeing how life unfolds.

A Black Girl Scrubs My Pots

February 2, 2009
This negrita works every day, at least on the ones I choose to wash dishes.

This negrita works every day, at least on the ones I choose to wash dishes.

It would appear that the brass at Clorox de Centroamérica, who produce this sponge, have not read Mammy and Uncle Mose, and are thus uninformed regarding current protocol regarding race-related imagery. It almost seems like a throwback to Darkie Toothpaste. I suppose many Costa Ricans find solace in a double-use black girl dutifully scouring caked-on bits of hamburger or fetid feta. I see it, however, as an extension of the passively racist attitude that many Costa Ricans hold. While ticos are quick to point out that the United States is a racist nation and has a long history as such, the next breath might let loose phrases like me tenían trabajando como un negro, (they worked me like a black man), to which someone else will reply, si, pero es que hoy los negros no trabajan (yeah, but blacks don’t work any more). Then stupid chuckles all around. Well, I’ll tell you what, my negrita works dilligently and effectively.

This theme is rich and deserves a longer analysis, which I don’t have the patience to post right now. If anyone has any specific questions, let me know and I”ll try to answer them.