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Three-dot Stuff At End of Trip

I'm at the San José airport, just about ready to get a flight to Houston, then back to Calif.…yesterday went out to the Univ. of Costa Rica to see the Insect Museum (Museo de Insectos), which is hard to find (in basement of music bldg.) and wonderful. There are some 14,000 species of butterflies in Costa Rica. Was hungry so went into student cafeteria and had a pretty good meal for $2.50, surrounded by maybe 200 college kids, talk about noise…I've shot about 2500 photos in 6 weeks…One big problem with my super duper little Cannon Powershot G10 is shutter lag; it means I never know what I'm going to get when shooting people or action…one sure pays a penalty in weight by lugging around a laptop and accoutrements, but it's the only way I can prepare photos to post on the blog…I wore out a copy of HOME WORK dragging it around and showing to people; reaction was great, especially the carpenters I showed it to, they invariably went through every page, even when they didn't understand English…sitting at a bar one night in Bocas, I met Steve, a 31-yr-old pilot from Seattle, who had just been laid off by Continental (he flew 737s), said he was getting into fishing, as the airlines jobs were not coming back…I asked all the cabbies about number of tourists and all said there are way less, maybe 50% less Americans than last year…I went underwater sightseeing with mask and snorkel in Bocas del Toro, the reef had coral that was purple, yellow, green, blue, all pulsing with life…much as I love warm water and the relaxation of balmy weather, I'm happy to getting back to my home base's cooler climate. Nothing like San Francisco fog to get brain cells energized.

The Dichotomy of San José

It's such a wonderful city in so many ways, but there's the pervasive threat of violence. It's got worse in the last 10 years, a cabbie told me this morning. Ticos attribute a lot of it to Columbian and Nicaraguan immigrants. Every house or store has bars on every window and door and usually steel spike-topped (or rolls of razor-sharp barbed wire) fences. It's extraordinary. You may have to enter 3 locked doorways to get into a building. A lot of people carry guns; there are gun stores in SJ with dozens of pistols on display in the windows. It seems to be the same in many big cities in Central and South America, the non-patrolled areas are like war zones, and it's getting worse with deepening poverty.

One Restaurant, One Bakery, One Espresso Cafe in San José, Costa Rica

Left: Flan de café (coffee-flavored flan) at Pestaurante Whapin. Wow, was this good!
If you find yourself in San José, capital city of Costa Rica, here are three places I highly recommend.
Latte etc. and pastry: Cafe de Correo in the Correo Central (Central Post Office) Fresh-roasted, barista-skilled coffee drinks and good pastry. Old building, high ceilings, elegant place.
Soulful bakery: Pincho Pan, corner of Calle 3, Ave. 5. Good coffee, wonderful donuts, empenadas, artisanal bread. Strictly locals.
Caribbean Food: Restaurante Whapin, reggae-calypso-themed restaurant in quiet neighborhood. (200 m. north of El Farolito in Barrio Escalante (About $2 cab ride from downtown). Walls lit-up orange and green, chef is from Puerto Limon, best meal I've had entire trip. All patrons were Costariccense the night I was there. John Lee Hooker record playing. Wonderful ambience. A little stoplight flashing red/yellow/green; hey, I never realized that stoplights have Jamacian colors!

Basket Case Harley

Spotted this on my way home this afternoon. How about the craftsmanship!

Back In The Big City, Oh Boy!

I'm a bi-polar traveler. After 5 or so days in a big city I need to flee to cleaner air and less pavement. Then when I get out away from it all, a week or at most two, I want to connect with both more people and yep, the internet. After 6 days in Bocas de Toro and environs (I'll try to give you an updated take on this very beautiful and wonderful, but, but…) I got a Natureair flight from Bocas back to San Jose, from where I fly home. I was pretty lethargic from the tropical heat in Panama, but getting to this 3000' elevation, mountain-surrounded city gave me a jolt. Wake up, dude! Checked into the unique little jungle-in-the-city hotel, Los Cinco Hermigas Rojas (The Five Red Ants) and ventured out for dinner, after which I stumbled into some kind of cultural festival in a downtown park. Right away it felt good.

Thousands of mostly young Costariccenses, lots of children, fire-jugglers, gymnasts, and best of all a band I was sure was Irish — fiddler, bagpipes, guitar, drummer and a guy who clogged as additional percussion. They were sensational. Here and there young people were dancing like Irish jigs. They turned out to be a Costa Rica band, Perigrino Gris, The Celtic Band from Costa Rica.
Not known outside the country. I'm not kidding, these guys would knock them out in New York, or London, or San Francisco. People were all jumping and dancing and yelling. I tried to get one of their CDs at 3 stores today, but they were sold out.

THEN, as I walked back to the hotel and passed the Escuela Metallica, the 100-year old beautiful prefabricated steel building (shown here in the daytime), there was a stage in front, and a small orchestra. An organ started playing Bach, and a spectacular MacIntosh-generated light show started bathing the building in light. I've never seen anything like it. The crowd would gasp or go ooooh! Children were transfixed. It went on, with different music for maybe 45 minutes. When it was over, there was about 20 minutes of world-class fireworks. I shot maybe 30 pics.

On my way home I wandered into a patio where a group of avante-garde dancers were whirling and twirling and moving graceful and artistic (and flexible) ways. It makes me think there may be some kind of cultural revolution going on in Costa Rica, a blending of world cultures. Pura vida!

Mark Morford: the Best Columnist Around

The best columns I'm reading these days are those of Mark Morford. He writes perceptively about anything that catches his eye. He is brilliantly articulate and wickedly funny. Trust me; if you have sensibilities at all like mine, check him out. The San Francisco Chronicle has dropped his weekly column, so you can only see it on SFGate.com. (Click here.)
A recent excerpt:
By Obama's own insistence that he be held accountable for it all, no one knows for sure if all of these spectacular, historic moves -- the bailouts, the massive recovery program, the jobs, housing, overhauls in health care and education and etcetera -- if any of it, will actually work.
It is, by every estimation, the biggest political and fiscal gamble in a generation, maybe five. It is dicey and dangerous and wildly progressive in scope and ambition, and you know this is true because many bitter, unloved Republicans are seething and whining and tearing into every Obama idea they can find, simply because said plans don't do enough to fellate the wealthy and worship oil companies and ignore children.
Maybe longtime pundit David Gergen said it best when he noted that Obama's agenda is more than merely a stack of dramatic, expensive proposals. It's actually more akin to FDR's New Deal rolled into Lyndon Johnson's Great Society; the grand sum of what Obama is attempting to do just so happens to be "the greatest political drama in our lifetime.
This, then, is our grand takeaway. If Obama can pull it off, if he can follow through with even half of these massive, historic overhauls, it will result in one of the most profound transformations and redefinitions of American ideals in history. And I gotta say, it's damn nice to write that sentence and not be referring to warmongering and torture and God-sanctioned homophobia. What a thing."

See interview of Morford by Steve Outing on Pointer Online.