Sunday, May 12, 2019

I miss you, Chad.

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin' love to his tonic and gin
I would have come across Piano Man at some point growing up and learning the modern classics. But, it wasn't just anywhere this happened, I heard this tune time and again at Chad Ferrand's house on Tolmas Dr. He had, like I would later, Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II two disc CD set. Disc 1 track 1, Piano Man, the maestro's nickname sake. We would listen to Piano Man repeatedly, run it in the background and play the afternoon away. The Entertainer, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Only the Good Die Young, the whole lot. We were playing 80s and early 90s classic PC games like Defender of the Crown and Scorched Earth.
He says, "Son, can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes"
I will always recall my childhood coarseness asking once why Chad had a need for such fancy basketball shoes. Chad wanted to keep up with the latest trends like all of us, but unlike the rest of us Chad could not use his shoes for their intended sport; he was unable to walk. Chad was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). His life was exceptional in so many ways. He was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by patient and skilled physicians; they tended to his many health needs from his first breath to his last.
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright
I am a shitty friend. Chad and I grew apart. Principally this was because I left New Orleans to attend high school out of state, and progressively as time went on we thought of one another less frequently and saw each other even less often. This is not unexpected among adolescents it would be the exception really across vast distances and prolonged periods to maintain all childhood friendships. No, I am a shitty friend because Chad ultimately succumbed to his condition in his early twenties, and I did not stop and take the time to honor and properly remember him. His loving sisters and mother reached out to me when they were putting together a memorial book in his honor. I said, yes! I will write something remembering Chad, and I did not. All natural childhood distance separation aside, this was different, this was final. I responded affirmatively and acted neglectfully. This was no childhood coarseness, this was not properly honoring the deceased, my friend.
Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there's someplace that he'd rather be
He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me"
As the smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"
In graduate school I struck up a fast friendship with Rachel Mintz. Rachel introduced herself with the same intense direct focus I would come to cherish in every interaction. She was a New Yorker. Unlike the Piano Man, who is an avid Mets fan, Rachel was pin stripes through and through. She exuded a love for the city and was always in a New York State of Mind. Rachel knew how to entertain and was always up for hosting a smashing 4th of July or gather a small group for fight night.
Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy
And probably will be for life
Rachel was always game for gathering. She had a joyous aura about her. She was always involved and progressing with something whether her art, a non-profit she advised, or work with the city. I was shocked to hear she passed away recently; cancer stole so many good years ahead right out from under her. I have a history of cancer in my family, and I have seen the not so young taken in their sixties and seventies, ok, perhaps, but forties? FUCK CANCER. That is a scourge I will be very glad to witness humanity get one over on. I have a profound respect for the beauty and complexity of nature, and mother nature is a brilliant executioner. Had Rachel seen that coming she would have been at the front lines working against it because she was just such a spirit, brilliant, impassioned and ceaseless.
And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone
Another friend recently noted that she's twenty plus weeks into cancer treatment, and another still has been fighting it while simultaneously precariously balancing the challenges with other conditions.

I have been sending them my thoughts and wishes for expedient recoveries. These people, my people, are important to me, and they are not going to go stolen unbeknownst to me or drinkin' alone.
Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
Many of the nights where I cuddle with Willa we will sing a song or three. I print out the lyrics to songs I know and love from different times, and Piano Man is high on the nostalgia list. She loves it; she sings the chorus. It's one of the tracks she knows best of the growing songs corpus we sing. And, with her enthusiasm and our practice the song takes on a new life for me. Such is the gift of masterpieces and being passed down through the generations.
It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"
I am a shit for not having written to honor Chad before now. His friendship and our camaraderie growing up left many indelible marks. I am so grateful he introduced me to Piano Man. I am so glad we had so many wonderful times together in life, and I wish him peace and comfort in his passing.
Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
Attribution: Piano Man lyrics | Songwriters: Billy Joel | © Universal Music Publishing Group

Monday, December 04, 2017

Fiesta de Chancho, A Pig Roast on My 37th Birthday

How did this all happen?

I have been wanting to roast a whole pig for quite some time; until my birthday this past Sunday, I had never roasted a whole pig. While living in Sámara, Costa Rica, recently, I was inquiring with my friend, Canuche about BBQ and whether whole pigs are prepared here. Turns out they do happen from time to time, but more importantly, he too had been wanting to roast a whole pig. He had participated in a pig roast previously, but he hadn't been the lead on hosting and preparing the whole pig. We set out together to make our first time roasting a pig with a lot of research, planning and preparation.

We studied and met to discuss our plans numerous times over the preceding month. We considered different cooking methods, sauces, sizes and everything else in between. A couple weeks before the pig roast we took a trip with a friend to a nearby town and met a kind farmer, who had several pigs. We met the family, the pigs, crossed over army ants along the way and struck a deal on a young growing little white pig. 

In the interceding weeks we finished our plans, ordered up all the materials, had a rack fabricated, and got started by picking up the pig a couple days before the roast. What follows is the outline of the steps for hosting our first joint Fiesta de Chancho.

I am not going to play it cool and say I was not nervous at points. We invited 80 people to a party, and I did not want to fuck up roasting a whole pig. The oven took longer than I would have liked to heat up, but that's one thousand pounds of cinder block for you.

I woke up at 4.30am, and I rode my bike past my favorite field lined with palm-trees, the ocean, a sky full of stars, and the first glimmers of day-break. We started the morning with some strong coffee. The second cup had a healthy pour of Bulleit Bourbon. I spent my 37th birthday tending a fire and roasting my first whole pig for 10 hours. When I took that initial bite of slow roasted bacon I got weak in the knees. It was everything I imagined it could have been. I drank beer with my legs cooling off in the river and laughed the whole day with my loving family as well as good friends new and newer.

I would like to shout out especially to my dear friends, Canuche and Mercy, for their partnership and hosting us at their hotel, Villas Espavel.

Here are a complete set of the photos from the pig roast in case you're interested.


Pick up pig, Friday AM
Clean and Brine, Friday AM
Pig drying/salting/dry rub Sunday 5 AM
Fire, Sunday 5 AM
Cooking at 7AM PIG ON!
Flip pig 10.30AM
Take pig off, 2.45PM

Oven Design and Materials

We tossed around ideas of oven, pit, in-ground with stones, rotisserie and others. Ultimately, we landed on a simple cinder block design with a separate charcoal fire. The oven had two entries where coals could be added to the oven for easy access under the shoulders and the hams allowing us control the internal temperature primarily. We liked this design because it allowed us to cook the meatiest parts of the pig while not overdoing the tender sirloins.

When we assembled the oven it was slightly wobbly, so instead of sticking strictly to our design we widened the second layer to four bricks for stability. Additionally, we filled some of the cinderblocks with wood and earth for stability. It added to the oven mass a bit, but little comparatively to the weight of the bricks.


In total we used about 65 cinderblocks
2 cinder blocks wide by 3-4 cinder blocks long (~3’x5’)
4 layers high for base + rack w/one more layer before the sheet metal top
Our rack was not built exactly to spec, so we had to break a couple blocks to shorten them just a tad for the top layer of bricks; not ideal but it worked fine.

Source for the design: Whole Hog | BBQ with Franklin | PBS Food (jump to 2:54)
How ours turned out:

Rack for Pig

We went with a custom fabricated rack, which sandwiched the pig. The idea was to bind the pig to the rack and cinch the two sides of the rack together tightly to ensure it was easy to flip and that we wouldn't lose any of the pig as it got really tender towards the end of the cook. Additionally, it was designed with the oven in mind, so that we could neatly add the pig atop the oven, and add one more single layer of blocks with a roof.

Source for the design: Pig Roast How-To! - Part 2... (YouTube)
How ours turned out:


Post construction at Villas Espavel there was a large stack of miscellaneous wood, plenty enough for 18+ hours of charcoal (only a small portion of the wood supply is shown below). The original plan was to cook the bigger pig for 18 hours over a 200-225 F fire.

Preparing the charcoal

We built a charcoal oven, which we kept burning tall throughout the cook, and with a handy spare iron window security grate the coals neatly fell through, and we shoveled them into the oven as needed.

Preparing the Pig Part 1

Crack the spine with a hatchet/axe and hammer all the way down in order to fully butterfly the pig

Prep the interior -- trim out the extra fat and pull the membrane off the back of the ribs

Wash the pig on both sides and be sure to scrub off all dirt and excess hair



4 Gallons of Water
1 Gallon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Cups Kosher Salt


Source for the recipe: Whole Hog | BBQ with Franklin | PBS Food

Inject the shoulders and hams with brine

Submerge the pig in the remaining base and add all the aromatics:

Preparing the Pig Part 2

Remove the pig from the brine and hose it down completely. Pat down the skin as dry as possible

Rub the interior (we used a Pepper, Paprika, Cumin, Garlic Powder, and Onion Powder mixture)

Flip and rub down the entire skin with salt

Dry out the skin with fans, remove wet salt and reapply; all the while bringing the pig up to room-temperature 30 minutes or more

Mop Sauce

We found a Mop Sauce with my grandmother's name, and additionally it had that Austin, TX vinegar flavor profile we were looking for!

Merle's Mop Sauce

1 cup vinegar; cider or wine
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup salad oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 each lemon; thinly sliced
3 each cloves; crushed
2 tablespoons ginger; grated
2 tablespoons dry mustard

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until flavors are nicely blended. Use to baste any meat or poultry.

Source: BBQ-Porch by Carey Starzinger

BBQ Sauce to serve with pulled meat

Espresso Barbecue Sauce

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) freshly pulled espresso

Brisket drippings, for flavoring
Mix the ketchup, both vinegars, the soy sauce, garlic and onion powders, and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the espresso, and then add the brisket drippings to taste. Let cool, then transfer to a jar, bottle, squeeze bottle, or however you want to store it. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Source: Aaron Franklin

Cooking Method

Based on what we learned from BBQ with Franklin our goal was to get the pig butts to an internal temperature of 203° F and the hams to 185-190° F. To do this we wanted the fire under the shoulder butts to be 220° F and under the hams 215° F. Given our first attempt we decided to aim for a universal 225° F oven temperature and if time ran short, we would raise the temperature up to 250° F to finish the pig.

How did it actually happen with the oven? It took us well over 90 minutes to get the oven up to temperature, and that put a pinch on our cook time. As we ran long on our cook we settled for hitting 185° F internal temperature front and back, which was cooked enough, but we would have liked to get a bit hotter.

After the pig had cooked the first three hours skin side up, we mopped the skin, flipped it, and mopped the interior. Thereafter we mopped the pig interior every 40 minutes or so til done.

Pulling the meat

We let the pig setup 15 minutes after pulling it from the oven. We separated out all the bones, gathered up all the meat, shredded it and chopped some that was slightly tougher. Then, we mixed in a substantial amount of the skin that was crispy and delicious.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Swapping eBay for Swappa

As with many times in the past I upgraded my mobile phone, and I sought to sell my older model. I erased the phone, cleaned it up, took some pictures, and with eBay's assistance quickly listed the phone. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there's a new minimum guaranteed price feature if a couple required tweaks were applied to the listing. Great I thought to myself the phone was going to sell for even more than I suspected it was going to.

Alright, a week later the eBay listing closese above the minimum. Wait for the buyer to pay. Wait for the buyer to pay. Wait for the buyer to pay. Begin dispute process. Several more days pass, and the listing and fees are nullified by eBay. Agreed that the buyer was bogus, no fees, and relisted, so we're back on our way to selling the phone again.

Several days into the second listing for the phone I am solicited by a buyer via eBay's messaging. The buyer was traveling abroad from their native Netherlands. Send the user an invoice, and they would pay via Paypal directly; oh, and I am supposed to preemptively take down the eBay listing. Take the scammy bait, and I send off a paypal invoice. I get a pretty good looking Paypal payment spoof email, and the address I am supposed to mail the phone is in Nigeria. Log into my Pay Pal account, and there's no balance; clearly this is a scam. I look up all the eBay/Paypal spoof and scam reporting addresses and forward all the correspondences.

Ok, I let the second eBay auction listing go to its natural conclusion. Get a couple questions within the last few minutes by a buyer, and that buyer wins the auction. An hour goes by, two hours go by, a day, and eventually enough time passed without payment to file my third action of trying to sell this phone. Again, the buyer turned out to be a bust, and the item gets relisted for a third time.

Fast forward, there's a winner of the third auction, and this time there's an invoice followed by a successful legit Paypal payment! Great, my money is in escrow, so I go over to UPS, and I send off the phone to Florida. Phone is received by the supposed buyer, and a couple days later the Paypal dispute email comes in -- the buyer's account was reportedly illegitamently used to purchase the phone on eBay. I felt comfortable from the outset because selling through eBay and collecting through Paypal I was covered by Paypal's Seller Protection. Paypal ultimately ruled in favor of the buyer's account and repays the buyer, and I am unaffected by this decision because I sent the phone off in good faith as described and covered by Paypal's protection.

The summary for selling this phone is three auctions, four scams, I'm paid, some rando got my wiped iPhone 6, Paypal bought my phone, and eBay lost a customer. All this took five weeks duration and lots of time dealing with a shitty purchasing ecosystem.

In contrast, after that sale was completely done and past, I needed to purchase another new phone, and I went to Swappa. I looked over the available offerings, and the phones were priced well in a marketplace setting. I purchased a phone, and within a week it arrived in the listed condition. That was easy, and the purchase too was covered by Paypal's protection.

TL;DR I will be going to Swappa in the future for my cell phone exchange needs. eBay is broken.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Such Great Heights

I belive in endowing community services and providing more people the mental space and freedom to be educated. I firmly believe everyone on the planet ought to have stress free access to fully funded education; furthermore, they should be able to pursue the most advanced degree they desire to achieve. Throughout my life I will aspire to accomplish this mission.

My education has been world class by all standards. At the Taft School, which I proudly and fondly remember, I was inspired by the mission "Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret (Not to be served but to serve)." I have served my myself, my family, and my community. By being whole of self and mind, I have been able to contribute actively and outward.

Many years back when I was considering undergraduate studies programs I became enamored with a school called the Webb Institute. It carries the name of William H Webb, who fully endowed the school. Any student driven enough, talented enough, and fortunate enough to attend will receive a 100% tuition-free experience. This is a world-class institution. I was not passionate enough or competitive enough, performance-wise, to reasonably complete with the best of the best that attend this fine institution. Their focus is on naval architecture and marine engineering, and undoubtedly some of the finest vessels to ever traverse the worlds waters are conceived of by Webb Institute graduates.

Upon recently learning Harris Rosen's story I am also inspired. My desire to reach further and do more has been reinvigorated. Despite some setbacks early in his career, he has been a very successfully entrepreneur and hotelier. In recent years he has emphasized his philanthropy, which includes providing broad access to families needing assistance both money and time-wise to attend school.

It can be disheartening when you fail to mesh with those surrounding you professionally; Harris Rosen had similar struggles early on, and those challenges resonate with me. I see my challenges in the past as fruitful learning opportunities to dissect, to wrestle in that uncomfortable space, but also as firm ground to spring forth and achieve new heights. I am a lucky person to have had so much rich quality education, to have a healthy and happy family, and vigor to create a brighter spot in a seemingly encroaching world. Harris Rosen has risen above his personal challenges, and he has given so much to those around him.

My friends over at Flocabulary worked on a beautiful PSA piece along with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation on the global time poverty struggles. It highlights such a critical issue facing our world that there are stresses forcing in on families everywhere. Let that sit with you a minute. How high on the Maastricht hierarchy of needs are you and yours?

I believe in hiring others to help out our family and expand the time that we have to be more productive and to be more restful. A recent survey found those buying services, which free up time, can make you happier. This is not a conflicted position because there are both people needing work, our ability to pay, and freeing us up to complete other activities.

Should it be this way? I don't think so; I think everyone should not only be able to be as educated as they would like to, but they should be able to spend their time anyway they want to as well. I think there's a very bright spot in the future to introduce many more robots into society. Human intellect is key to realizing and fulfilling the potential that creating robots would mean for humanity. Essential tasks and services could be swiftly and more correctly handled by robots freeing up vast swaths of humanity to pursue other educational, productive, creative and recreational activities.

Willam H Webb and Harris Rosen are heroes to me. They and their legacies are helping create the world I want to see. Think about your community a moment and consider whether your neighbors have the resources they need to subsist, to see themselves and their children advance to the degree we all know is possible. If there is a disparity there, I ask that you consider their needs and consider whether you have the ability to change their future. Do you have a dime or an hour to spare to advance their/our destiny to such great heights?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

There is a "me" in Costa Rica

We quickly set in pretty swimmingly (literally every day and many days multiple times daily) when we first arrived. Willa was in a local camp here, CREAR, which runs during the mid-year school break, and she began her school the following Monday in mid-July. We sorted through our long term rental situation, and Marla and I each then took a couple weeks of Spanish classes, more in fact for Marla who is still continuing. Our language school Intercultura provides world class education with a deliberate focus on Costa Rican history and culture. Completing each class it has become progressively easier to have a richer experience here in Sámara. I took a couple cooking classes, which is an offering at school's kitchen each week, and I learned how to make yuca tortas and picadillo.

There are the occasional shrieks in the morning like when a crab was in the house the other day. We have worked on an ant encroachment into the house a couple times. Dislodging about a dozen wasps nests arounds the eaves took some efforts by our landlord the other week. While taking out our green waste the other day, which included some head to tail fish bodies Willa and I drew the attention of a racoon; the bandit started trailing about 10 feet behind us; thankfully, tossing the food waste into the horse field beside our house, the usual target, sent the racoon racing to get to the fishy remains first. Occasionally, a golf ball sized beetle will slam itself into the sliding door at night. We may have been reading and the slam jolts us back to the surface of our immediate surroundings.

This blog post for one was paused recently while I was writing poolside comfortably in the afternoon shade. Marla was reading and Willa watching a great new show, Tumble Leaf. There I was enjoying a nice quiet moment, and a yellow tailed wasp (they're the more aggressive lot compared with their all black brethren), and it started giving me a full body scan like a disgruntled TSA agent. I stood up, and the scan persisted seemingly even closer than before. Well, I was having none of it, and inside I went. One thing I most certainly do not want to experience here is how badly my body will react to a yellow wasp sting.

At our new house things went a bit south with the pool after an algae bloom kicked up. Ten days and many visits from the guys tending to the pool later it's back to looking crystal clear. Separately, it took a handful of visits from the landlord to work out all the kinks of the new house squeaks here, clogged drain there, missed times to connect on issues, and so forth. Everyone has been extremely helpful and able to do much with every contact we have had.

Dropping Willa off at school the other day I observed the metal shop immediately adjacent kicking out welding sparks. I became concerned because kids just like us adults have a very difficult time looking away from the allure of the blue glow. Much like yesterday's total eclipse starring right at it is an opthamologist's nightmare. After suggesting a couple ideas to the school a few friends and I are working on creating a "screen" to shield the kids' eyes. This was a necessary distraction from getting to my sabbatical business. We're far along now and will hopefully wrap it up in the next couple days.

All this is to say that I somewhat anticipated sabbatical to be a bit more readily apparent with vast swaths of free time to work on me projects. There are a few areas of study that I need to make a plan for, and then carve out and execute on that time squarely among the needs presented in renting a house abroad, parenting an energetic fournado, and all the daily life maintenance needs. That said my long wait for Game of Thrones season 6 is over. I signed up for HBO Now yesterday and binged through the first six episodes. I'm ready for Sunday's epic finale.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Fournado is Real

About a month back I thought... Willa is vacillating between having an amazing time and struggling to adjust. It's hot, there are lots of bugs, and so much is different than she's used to. That said she's had huge breakthroughs in the pool in early July, and that is her happy place. We're getting fruit smoothies everywhere we go, and we're trying to be sure and address her needs constructively; although, sometimes we've just needed to put our foot down and tell her she's being a diva and suck it up. It's been a very interesting chapter in the process.

Today, along with a parent friend, I went to school and sunk some lemongrass plants in the play yard. There are tons of mosquitos, and Willa, nearly as much the target as I am, is still coming home with bites regularly. One potential remedy is to plant lemongrass, which mosquitos apparently don't like so much, and try to keep them at bay. 

Willa has been my planting helper all along back in Brooklyn and wherever the occasion arises. I'm at school and helping get this planting underway, and she has glommed onto my leg, and there is no letting go. We're moving from spot to spot, and Willa is constantly underfoot. "I want to help you with [this]... I want to help you with [that]" 

We sink one plant, and then we're working on the next plant, and I explain one of her classmates is to have a turn putting a plant in the ground, and at the risk of destroying the plant Willa will not let go of it. I do let go impressing a big mud stain across the front of her dress. It's hot, she's muddy, she's a crying mess, and I cannot get the plant out of her clutching hands. Prying the plant away from her we have to step aside to talk and calm down. Now we're both out of sorts, and I punish her by taking away pool time this afternoon. We have had to lose pool time or TV show time on a few occasions because of run-ins like these. 

Trying to leave school after the planting successfully completed she was a hot mess and would not let go. She explained she was tired and had to go home; well, this is an often refrain should either Marla or I see her at a school function anytime between drop off and pick up: "I'm tired", "I'm sick", "I don't want to be here." The teachers are super cool and helpful, and they often step in to lure Willa away bringing her attention elsewhere.

This is probably just four more than I am being a bad parent. I am not as quiet as feel like I should be. The heat doesn't help keep my temper down. My A-type and things needing to be repeated time and again and resulting in snotty bubbling emotional messes is not an easy place for either of us to end up. It's not nice once you arrive there; it's not easy to diffuse, and it's not so easy to just stand up and carry on. Willa's former teacher shared an excellent list of  32 Tantrum-Tamer Phrases to Use With 3 and 4 Year-Olds in Meltdown Mode. Marla and I talk about these situations when we've calmed toward the end of the day and gird ourselves for another eventful encounter in the near future. It's constant, and I want to help Willa grow, understand and appreciate along the way. She's teaching me when I see myself losing my cool (in more way than one), and that's forcing me to redouble my efforts to be my best self for both of us.

How do I know it's all going to turn out alright? I wasn't there, but the other day Marla and Willa are walking to school in the morning. Willa points out a bird to Marla and asks, "You know which one that is?" Marla says no and asks whether Willa does. Without skipping a beat Willa explains, "That's the Red Hawker-Nawker, and it's habitat is..." She apparently goes on for several extensive descriptive and imaginary educational vignettes about this fictitiously identified bird. Willa is smart, she's imaginative, and she's creative.

Some days Willa embodies the perfect pura vida, and other days she is mired in her fourness, and some days she rapidly vacillates. So she lost the pool today, and we'll spend some time talking about it while doing other things. Am I doing it right? I certainly hope so. The fournado is real, and she's the sweetest little monster I know. People say they miss this time -- I think they have memory loss. The Red Hawker-Nawker is a keeper for all times.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

An early take on pura vida

Pura vida has mostly been a call of pride and mutual agreement that things are pretty alright. Pura vida is the national expression of Costa Rica. It is a way of life. It is how one is doing when you ask, ¿Como esta (how are you)? It is an expression of agreement that life is pretty great here.

Take for instance after having worked with a real estate broker here for a long while to find a long term rental with a tight profile. He very vigorously identified properties fitting a our specifications, but they didn't quite suit us save one that was great, but it disappeared within a blink; friends of the owners would be taking the place before us. We canvased the area for all brokers working within this town of 1,500 residents, and we found exactly what we were looking for through another party, and it was tough for me to write the message explaining the situation. I felt bad to deliver it in an email, but I had an opportunity to connect with him in person shortly thereafter. Both his response to the email and seeing him in person the affect was the same. Pura Vida. He was glad our family has been able to find exactly the place we needed for the time we are here in Sámara. What a choice notion to affirm life exclaiming, "pura vida."

Unrelated to the apartment, during my recent mourning period a new friend explained that Costa Rica is a place where cell phones come to die. My language instructor affirmed this after a discussion in class this past week. So, a couple weeks I went out near shore fishing. Everything was spectacular about the entire trip from early rise right up until the final minute of the trip back to shore. We were successful out at sea bringing home some yellow fin tuna, and we split up the catch among the three different parties. When at nearly the last moment the boat to shore skiff came sliding in ashore, and the boat skids up on the rocks turning sideways. Everyone else successfully gets out of the skiff, and I put my leg over the side of the boat at which point it gets shoved broadside by a wave, and I was tossed face first into the shore. My hand and knee took a mild skinning and beating. Worse still my cell phone was in the cargo pocket of my bathing suit. Newly dunked I immediately sprang into action tossing the phone. My new buddy graciously and selflessly began hooving water off the device and wiping it down.

Time goes by and alas the phone is dead. Like dead dead. Like there's a single red light blink if you attempt to power up the device. I'm fairly sure I'm singlehandedly responsible for assassinating my phone with an electric surge before it was fully dry and ready for such an encounter. Well, much time gone by and energy spent a new phone will make it to me with about a month's long gap in between.

Back up a week or two before the phone's death, and I was shocked to find myself here and spending as much time as I did on the couch making sure I traversed every corner of my old internet stomping grounds. And, as it turns out that is a lot of information. My phone was also quite handy for walking around with as it has the local data plan making it easy to stay in touch for our family and explore new towns, etc. However, did we HAVE to have this up to the minute access? No. Pura vida. Could the death of my phone be cause for exclaiming, "pura vida"? Yes, in fact it is.

Without constantly reaching for my phone I have been reaching for my book. I finished a great one, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. And, then I moved onto the next book in my pile.

Not to be outdone with the downside of pura vida I had to pause writing this story at home, which I'm doing because the internet has been down for four days (pura vida). I had to pause because Willa killed the iPad. She wanted to give me a hug while watching her show, and with the cord sufficiently wrapped around her waist she dragged the device off the coffee table and the screen cracked into a million shards making the iPad dangerously unusable. Pura vida.

Before we left Marla and I discussed what this year would be for us, what we wanted for Willa and overall how would this time would change our family. Well, the resiliency we discussed and agreed would be very beneficial for all of us is being served up daily. Things are different here in a great way, and we are beginning to embrace all the amazingness and all the challenges that pura vida has to offer.