The big-bellied guy from New York had the inside dope on everything. Poolside on Saturday, when La Puma had swum up to my chaise lounge and started chatting, he was stretched out nearby, and he tossed in a couple of remarks. K—-, floating at pool’s edge in her black one-piece, was talking about the Chinese, who are building a soccer stadium in San José as a gift to the nation of Costa Rica before its textile and agriculture industries are destroyed by “bilateral” trade. (China: “Oh, yes, we’re the world’s largest market, and your products will be welcome here!”) The New Yorker said he has a friend who’s a taxi driver here in Tamarindo, and according to this taxi driver, a pedestrian had been run over and killed on Friday and the cabbie passed the scene just as police were throwing a blanket over the victim. That was Inside Dope Number One.
Early yesterday, as I was returning from the beach, Old New York was wheeling his luggage through the front gate. He said that on his previous visit, he had been here later in March. I asked whether he liked it better this time around. His answer never was clear. Yes, there is in fact the Spring Break scene later in March. So he was glad to have avoided that. But it wasn’t as big as Cancún’s, and he had liked it. So he missed it. Things here had been pretty quiet through the end of February. He missed the Spring Break crowd. But he was glad to have missed it.
At any rate, he liked Portofino—especially the pool. His friend in San José owns a hotel and tells him all about the contamination of the beaches. No way he’s going into the ocean.
I thought the pool-only stance just fit perfectly with the it’s-all-a-scam attitude of so many New Yorkers. A four-minute interview was enough to make me sick to death of the guy.
“Ah, excuse me, but I need to get back to my apartment and count the tiles in the kitchen.”
I’m reminded of my first visit here in 2008. An American surfer dude said he confined himself to Playa Negra, which is downshore, because of the bacterial count in Tamarindo Bay. I’m more concerned about being run down by a bus or a taxi, than anything to do with the seawater.
Forty-two years after running into the surf for the first time and (dumb Nebraska kid) not realizing I should keep my mouth shut, I still can’t remember to plug up when facing a breaker. I end up spitting over and over again—Ptui! Ptui!—and trying to rid myself of the salty taste. How can the local dogs stand it when playing fetch with half a coconut shell thrown into the surf?
After seeing another tremendous sunset tonight, I was strolling past the beachside Hotel Diria’s gorgeous courtyard, where I once again noticed the orange blossoms in a tree. I asked a uniformed employee if it was a tamarind. He said it wasn’t—but he would show me one. He led me past the pool, through the reception area, and across the street. The Diria has a new uphill annex. But well before we started up, we stopped at a convoluted low spreading tree with small imbricate leaves. My guide plucked a seedpod from a branch. It resembles a peanut in its husk, except for the addition of a third pod. Twisting away the rind, he handed me one of the dried fruits from inside. It tasted vaguely prunelike (with hints of oak, blackberry, and chocolate). He said they can be soaked in water for a few minutes and are as good as new. I’m not sure why anyone would go to the trouble, not as long as potato chips are sold. But it’s nice to know.
I thanked him for showing me.
His name: Mauricio.
Dining this evening on the patio, I heard my name called. It was my old friends, La Puma and Loverboy. She wore a sensational red-and-white slip dress—I didn’t notice the pattern in particular, nor can I tell you what he wore.
“We moved out today,” she said as they approached. They had found another place, even closer to the beach, and much nicer, for less: $50 a night. “We’re staying another month. My son is coming down, and his sister.” She meant A—’s sister.
“You moved out today?” I said.
Indeed, it was explained (A— took quite an active part in this dialogue) that he’d forgotten a shaver attachment in their former apartment, which necessitated their return.
Then they turned and marched out of Portofino.
How I wish I’d said, “We’ll do lunch!”
Back to the beach: North of the estuary, a wildfire burned on the hillside. I asked a surfer dude with a terrific Afro whether these fires—I had noted one on Sunday before arriving in Pozo de Agua, and have seen them burning in other years—are of any consequence. He answered in English. They start because of the sun’s heat being magnified through a piece of glass, or the overheating of a small piece of metal. Or it could have been a hunter. But unless a village is threatened, or a ranch, no attempt is made to put out the blaze.
Then he tried to sell me weed.