Sunday, October 25, 2009


Why do words vanish when I attempt to write them down? All day they flutter around me like butterflies. They are frolicking in the air when I wake up in the morning. They float nearby when I am eating, walking, driving, working, even at the most unlikely times and places images, ideas, and themes present themselves, promising more to come. But they lie. When I finally pick up a pen or sit at the keyboard... poof silencio nada.

I wanted to tell you about the colony of vultures riding the currents over the canyon, crossing, lifting, diving, swooping. But now I don't know where to start, how to frame it, how to make it worth your time. Now that I am sitting here, all I can think to do is blurt out, "Oh hi. I saw vultures flying over the sad river today". I feel like I'm doing kindergarten show-n-tell. I suppose this is why I write poetry. No matter how hard I try to settle on a point of view, images, words, sounds, ideas, events, thoughts spontaneously rearrange and realign themselves, take on different proximities, shift gravity, turn inside out, take on new meaning or lose meaning entirely. Poetry is the best way I know to reconnect whatever dots are left.

So... while I'm at it, I might as well mention the pandemonium of parrots that fly over the house morning and evening. Perhaps I will take a photo of them tonight. So far I haven't bothered because they are smallish and green, not flaming red, yellow, blue, orange parrots and, being the rainy season, and don't look like much against the drab gray sky. But they are very very loud, all squawking at once and constantly. No wonder pandemonium is the word used to describe them as a group.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Evening recap

We have been without internet for the last 24 hours due to a huge storm yesterday. It's the rainy season anyway but this one seemed worse than usual. I think we are getting the edge of the hurricane near Cabo San Lucas. I swear lightning nearly broke the window. Anyway, we lost power for the day and into the evening and the internet was down until this afternoon. Now it's late. My eyes are blurry, I have a headache, and the urgency to explain why I love Costa Rica has, in the meantime, subsided. It is an interesting place though, and I don't mean because you can zip line through the jungle canopy or raft white water. I love that the Harpy Eagle (still) lives here even though I didn't know anything about them until now.

For the last few days, M. Lee has been reading out lout to me about Costa Rica to me from the Moon Handbook. In case you also didn't know, Harpy Eagles are huge. Their wings are some 200 cm (6 ft, 7 in) across. I'd love one to drop by the Bird Park. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm at breakfast yesterday, I told Maria, the really nice Nicaraguan cook, that the Harpy Eagle's wings are 20 ft across. That's how I remembered it at the time... BIG WINGS. The internet was down and the book was upstairs so I winged it. Today she asked Lee for their name in Spanish. At that point, it occurred to me that probably I should do a little fact checking myself. I just did and damn. Now tomorrow at breakfast, I get tell Maria how I, um, kind of overstated the size of Harpy Eagles that, in fact, they do not grow to rival the size of small airplanes. What a bummer. Now they seem like puny little sparrows.

Anyway, Costa Rica is wild with life of all shapes and sizes. For example, according to Moon, it is home to over 1,400 species of orchids. I did not know that orchids are such beguiling creatures. "One species even drugs its visitors. Bees clamber into its throat and sip a nectar so intoxicating that they become inebriated, loose their footing, and slip into a small bucket. Escape is offered by a spout - the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As the drunken insect totters up, it has to wriggle beneath an overhanging rod, which showers its back with pollen." I swear that's a direct quote.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Local news 7:02 AM

Just wanted to say ... I have fallen in love with Costa Rica. I will attempt to explain why later but right now I have to find some breakfast. I am famished.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sarchí and beyond

This photo goes under typical tourist shots. DB's husband insisted on taking it. The cart in the background is the world's largest ox cart (Guinness Book of World Records). His wife's cousin owns the factory where it was produced and so, naturally we had to stop by and see the operation. Actually, it was pretty cool.

The Alfaro factory is a pretty amazing place. They do beautiful woodwork, all with a combination of hand tools and machinery powered by a water wheel.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good photo of the water wheel. It's pretty amazing. It drives the pulleys that run the saws, sanders, drills and lathes that make the carts, trunks and other carved wooden furnishings the artisans produce there.


Notice the elaborate tool cart.


I love the blue house.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Outtakes 10.10.09

We went with Jim, our host here at the boarding house/B&B, to a farm he has in the hills outside of San Jose and here are a few photos from the afternoon.

Truck stop hooker?

School boys

Another in an ongoing series of out-of-focus photographs shot through the window of a moving vehicle. Fuzzy but something about this image really speaks to me.

El gato de la granja
The farm cat.

Bob - farm manager

About eight months ago Bob was walking along the Rio river when he noticed a burlap sack in the water. He noticed it was wiggling so he fished it out and untied it to see what was inside. Turns out it was...

Little Rio

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday outtakes

Mellon man

Words are not my thing. It has never been more clear. They are unreliable, obtuse, demanding bastards and tonight I am really too tired to deal with them so, instead, here are a few outtakes from our day in downtown San Jose. The first one I took though the dirty window of a cab as we drove through the coke a cola district. Not a very safe place to walk, even during the day.

Time warp

What century is this? The sight of these two people smoking over their meal in a Peruvian restaurant gave me the feeling that we had somehow made an unexpected turn and ended up back the '40s. Crummy photograph but a strange scene, especially as there was a body guard type guy standing just outside the door. That's his coke bottle still on the table in front of us. He ate at a tiny table right at the entrance. When he finished he went outside and leaned by the door with his foot on the wall and waited for his boss, a huge man who came out about a half an hour later with a couple of equally oversize friends. The body guard/driver escorted his boss to the Mercedes parked directly in front and they drove off. It fit right into the intrigue of the afternoon's distorted sense of time and place.

Costa Rica is the cleanest country we have visited in Centroamerica but it is not without its heaps of trash. The difference between here and other places is that, generally, it will be picked up. I took this photo through the sweaty window of a bus.

Wooden horse

We have spent most of the last two days sitting in the dentist office waiting room. The appointment was 9 am but we didn't get out of there until after 7 pm. What can I say? Things are different in Centroamerica. We did enjoy our lunch at the Peruvian restaurant. The second day we ate at Vishnu's downtown. Much cheaper and vegetarian.

I especially like the photo of the giant chicken...

Between the raindrops

Sunday, October 4, 2009

San Jose graveyard

We walked downtown today. It's about four miles away. We took the bus back. The afternoon rain had started by then plus we didn't want to go back down through hell's bottleneck, that's what I call it, the ravine below the graveyard. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place, we were about a foot away from traffic the whole way through.

M. Lee took this photo of me before we hit that stretch of the road. We didn't know what we were headed into but even so I was wondering about the wisdom of smiling before an open grave.

Wild bananas over the cemetery wall.

Street kid, probably strung out on glue.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Street dogs under a Harvest Moon

Tonight, night of the Harvest Moon, the muffled voices of three dogs playing in the street attract me to the balcony. They look up, wary for a moment, then quietly return to their play. They have the night and life to themselves. The street is a stage in amber light. A frustrated fourth dog shouts and whines from the wings as they trot out of sight.


Naturally, we must start the journey with the standard... photos from the plane.

LA night. Just so you know, capturing the red flashing light on the wing tip was really really hard but you're worth it.

Morning star, Guatemala

Guatemala sunrise

Strange fruit, Costa Rica

Man and bird, San Jose Saturday market day.

Friday, October 2, 2009


We were met at the San Jose airport by Jim, our host. He was carrying a bouquet of red carnations for me but, luckily, managed to do it without being embarrassing or serious. And already he and his wife Bibi have made us feel completely at ease in their lovely B&B/home a feat because it is not at all in keeping with our usual, preferred funky style, but more about that later.

Besides us, there are also a couple of permanent residents living here, both named John, both American expats. One is a guy, turned poet in later years, who hung out in the North Beach clubs during the '50s so, almost undoubtedly, heard M. Lee's dad play back in the day. Yes, we had a mini poetry reading over breakfast coffee, sticking to a couple of poems each. We have very different styles but it was fun.

The dogs are barking at the wind tonight. It howls restlessly over the rooftops. It's the rainy season here but there has not been much rain. We're going to the Saturday market in the morning. I'm sure it won't be as interesting as the Mayan market in Antigua but we'll get some fresh vegetables and I'll get some photos.