SOMEBODY’S BITCH

2. BOB’S HOUSE OF MEAD

In Costa Rica.
There are the now usual suspects of Falling Coconuts, Scorpions, Howler Monkeys and Coyotes. Please look up, people, is all I can say. And also down. And cut their tails off first, the ones that still squirm around after you cut them in two. Don’t mind the howler monkeys, though they sound like escaped convicts, they really only want bananas. It’s the coyotes you have to worry about. Take one image of a ghost. Now light that ghost on fire. That’s what they sound like, in packs of curdling screams. But this time in Cabluya, it wasn’t nature that was the problem. There were actually dangerous Humans to contend with.

I found this pre-Colombian cemetery that turns into an island every day at high tide. It reminded me of a fairy tale so vivid that I was now bringing one to a close. So I put up in the haunted town. Not by spirits, this time, not that I found. (I was sort of looking.) Just with some genuinely nasty characters.

Omar my landlord liked to shoot squirrels at random points in the afternoon in the garden directly behind my kitchen. Over time I grew to understand the signs- the ravaged barking of his dog for twenty or so minutes before the inevitable Pop! and then the Thud.
Almuerzo? I would ask. Lunch?
And my neighbors to my left, a couple of Israelis, were building an apartment complex the size of Williamsburg on a half acre of land. First I though it was only one house.
Es mucho? It’s a lot? I asked Omar, meaning the scope of the project.
Es bueno. It’s good. Said Omar, not understanding the scope of the question.
It was like this, wherever I went. This should have been the lesson early. There is no escape from the noise. It would follow me from the largest city to the quietest stretch of Ocean. Wherever my little head rested, there would certainly be a power tool not far away.
But Omar’s little casita was cheap and painted purple and was set back off from the road far enough so that the pueblo would have to do some investigation before they robbed me. And I didn’t yet know that Omar took to shooting. Or that the locals wanted to rob me. I took the place. Two months. Dead plants and all.
But there was something missing.
Something missing, here in Costa Rica.

Ah yes. I remember. Or at least I think I do. An indigenous population. They had gone missing completely. Unlike in Guatemala or Mexico or Honduras or Brazil or Chile, whatever tribes had once roamed these parts were obliterated so completely (collective memory included) the Ticos had now effectively sold the entire history of their neck of Paradise over to a couple of cocaine addicts running Surf camps.

I ranted and I raved but everybody was too busy buying and selling to notice a man ranting and raving. Thankfully, Bob listened to me. Nobody else in the town cared to.
“I don’t own shit.” Bob said.
And neither did I.
So I didn’t mind that he was old. And a Redneck.
“Ain’t nuthin’ but Rednecks from where I come from.” Bob explained.
There was something charming about his Willie Nelson headband, inability (or absolute total refusal) to speak Spanish, wrinkles and revolving bottle of lukewarm beer.
“I love you, brother.” He sometimes said.
“I love you too, Bob.” I tried to say back, but only ever got out the first word.
“We are multi-dimensional, light energy essence beings.” Bob often said in his mild or serious bouts of inebriation, reminding me of something, it seemed, that I should have known. Somewhere deep in my consciousness I should have known that I was not just raised by wolves but rather energy beings. Or something.
“Thanks, Bob.” I was sure to say back.
At which point he went to find a bottle of Mead- always close. He made the stuff himself, in a couple of jugs in his kitchen in a simple yet exquisite process. He put labels on the honey wine and sold it like moonshine.
“You drink?” He asked, my first time at his round card table.
“Yes I do.” I said proudly.
“You ever try Mead?” He asked.
“No.” I answered. I had no idea what the old loon was talking about.
Then he poured me a glass.
And everything changed.
From the labels he pastes with glue.

Bob’s House of Mead

The nectar of nectars is the most natural alcoholic drink ever surmised by man. Imbued with legendary intoxicating and aphrodisiacal qualities talks abound of the joy, happiness and tragedy brought to its imbibers.
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Scandinavians and Assyrian people procured this legendary drink as a vehicle for Saturnalian revelry unmatched today. The Inca and Aztec Indians also brewed Mead and held it in reverence.
Indeed Mead is a noble drink.
For more than 12,000 years the masters of the day such as Virgil, Plato, Beowulf, King Arthur, Queen Elizabeth all likened part of their enjoyment of life to Mead.
Who would have thought that the bees, the moon and the magical brews of man would combine to add to the bliss and memories of weddings? Drinking Mead has been held responsible for fertility.
If Mead was consumed for one moon after a wedding, then in nine months a baby would be born and the Meadmaker congratulated. The custom of drinking Mead at weddings and for one month after initiated our present day custom of the honeymoon.
Interestingly, Mead drinking developed quite a reputation for its ability to increase the chances of bearing sons. So much so that a special drinking cup, called the Mazer Cup, was handed down from generations to generations. The couple who drank from the cup would bear sons to carry on the family name.
Who’s you’re Daddy now?

Ingredients: honey, water, yeast, time and love!

I added the part about Bob being the Daddy. I came up with an entire advertising campaign around it- probably sometime after the fourth glass. Supermodels would coddle gorgeous baby boys. Then fade to a wrinkled, seventy-three year old Bob grinning widely and saying- “Whose your Daddy now?”
“Welcome to Bob’s House of Mead.” The voice over would say in a deep masculine voice, closing the scene.
Hey, we were going to build an enterprise.
“You know Hooters?” Bob asked, fondling his own tits.
“Yeah, I heard of it.” I say, surprised that he had as well.
“Bob’s House of Mead is gonna be bigger then Hooters.”

Sometimes things looked dark. Many times to me, but even to Bob sometimes. Even in the ruffled jungle of Costa Rica, with the majesty of the Ocean and the crystal bed that lay just beneath it and the space and the time inherent in it, things could look dark. Even in paradise I could be miserable. So Bob introduced me to the concept of Yin and Yang.
Pointing to his rice and beans, he said- Yin.
Pointing to the three empty bottles of Mead, he said- Yang.
Though it was natural, these low tides, I became insecure about our relationship.
“How do you know you love me?” I would ask.
“I read your aura.” Bob would say.
“You sneaky fucker.” I would say, not knowing what the hell Bob was talking about.
“I read it twice.” Said Bob, a sneaky fucker indeed.
“How’d I do?”
“You’re still here, aren’t you?”
“I guess I am.”
“I haven’t kicked you out.”
“It’s true.” I said, feeling a little more comfortable, leaning back against the garden chair that was in his kitchen, which was his whole home really.
“I kicked out Maya.”
(He sure did.)
“So you’re doing alright.”
“Well, alright.” I said, feeling better.
“Now I’ll show you a fucking guitar player,” said Bob, unfolding his spry legs from their full lotus position to put in a Maddox Brothers and Rose cassette.
“You know these guys?” He asked.
“Nope.” I said.
“Then you’re an asshole,” he said, and turned the machine up loud.

Professionalism for a Korean War hero at the latter stages of life can be slack at best. Let’s just say Bob’s House of Mead wasn’t exactly a military camp any longer.
“Bob!” I say loudly at his door, leaving my sandals on the step outside.
“I’m drunker ‘en shit.” Says Bob, opening the screen door finally. It’s approximately 9:30 in the morning.
I don’t care that Bob is drunk because I am completely unnerved and need somebody to talk to. I start to tell Bob about Juan.
Juan had beat a woman so bad she became deaf. This was the story I heard. I believed the story. It was a small hamlet on the side of an island. There was very little that nobody heard.
“Juan Pistola.” Bob says nonchalantly.
“Juan Pistola.” I repeat, as if I was now actually in one of the many Telenovelas that ran from dawn to dusk throughout all of Latin America. Of course up until this moment I had never heard of Juan’s last name. I had only agreed to walk his dog.
“Yea. He shot a man in the face at about, oh, four feet.” Says Bob. “And he got away with it. Juan Pistola.”
“Yea, well. He doesn’t like me.” I say.
Which is probably an understatement after the things I called him to his face and the fact that I allowed his dog off the leash for a total of seven minutes- the time it takes to kill a neighbor’s duck.
“Not good.” Says Bob.
But it was not Mr. Pistola that I was here to speak about. I was here to tell him about Fu.
Fu had picked me up the day before and given me a ride in his imposing SUV with tinted windows. Now why a Gringo carrying a machine worth more then the annual salary of most Ticos, along with his passport, credit card and lucky charms would get into a very large Jeep with tinted windows, I am not sure. These are the questions I tend to ask myself later, usually a hair late in the game.

It started out well enough. I was headed to Paquera to negotiate my weekly dose of reality- responding to emails, reminded the world that I had not fallen off completely, not quite yet. We’re having a grand old time- me and Fu and the two young girls in the back seat. Fu is asking them questions in Spanish. We’re all laughing. It’s good to be alive, I think to myself, getting rides from friendly neighbors. Fu is about three time my size and he’s now asking the girls (who are particularly pretty) how much they made the previous night.
“Not bad.” Says Fu in Spanish.
“Well. Alright.” I say.
I’m in full support of any local economy and then as the Jeep speeds along- there are no driving rules on this stretch of Costa Rica- I start thinking about why the passenger seat was free in the first place. Surely a man as shady as Fu would have preferred to sit next to his favorite prostitute? He goes on to ask his girls in the rear view mirror.
“Have you heard about the gringo with the guitar and the two thousand dollar computer?”
The girls giggle, and I smile politely, but I’m all of a sudden not having any fun. I’m looking out through the tinted glass- across the scope of sky and ocean that bring men like me to places like these. The sheer expansiveness breeds a possibility in my own mind I like to think. An anonymous writer in a strange land, seeking out the inner and outer terrain like any decent explorer of any generation. But I was no longer anonymous. I was a well known commodity. I was a mark.
“Chew, you mean.” Says Bob.
“Yea, I guess.”
“Second biggest cocaine dealer in Montefuma.” Says Bob without hesitation. “Colombian. More dangerous then Juan Pistola. Not a man to be messed with. You know him?”
“Sort of.” I say.
“Not good.” Says Bob.
“He almost robbed me.” I say.
And I mean almost because I can speak Spanish at this point, like an eight year old or a Native American, with no past or future tense. Everything is in the moment anyways, I justify to myself, not having the discipline to delve any further. And although my laptop was far below the two thousand dollar mark that Fu had estimated, I was still holding it at the time of our conversation, a little tighter after I understood the question.
Having spent nearly a decade in New York City, I had it in me some street smarts by the moment I was confronted by this conversation- some understanding about a man in crisis. The world was his at this moment, completely his own. I was just a guest- in his speeding vehicle, in his town, in his country if you wanted to get existential about it. And I was about to be jacked. I notice the doors are locked, of course they are, but that I can roll down the window.
“Hey!” I say loudly, as if I recognized somebody the moment I do.
“Permiso.” I say to Fu. I say it loudly because we are approaching ninety miles per hour on the stretch of sand, kicking up boulders in our wake, a sandstorm behind the elevated tires. “Es mi novia en la playa. Necesito hablar con my novia.” It’s my girlfriend on the beach. I have to talk to my girlfriend.
Surprisingly, Fu pulls over to the side of the dusty road, unlocks the door and lets me out. Like a cat who knows where the mouse is hiding in the cracks, his sense of power is absolute. The jacking does not have to happen now. It can happen anytime.

Bob rises from his shoulder stand, goes to his bedroom and returns with something in his hand.
“If you’re gonna carry something, carry this.” He says.
With that he flicks the switch and a sharp point of a long blade is now pointed right at me. Held by a 73 year old madman high on his own Mead.
“Take it.” He says.
I hesitate, holding up my palms in a form of surrender.
“Take it.” He says, forcing the knife into my hands.
There is a pained look in his eyes now and I am no psychic, no matter what Bob’s reading of my aura says, but I know I’m not going to like what comes next.
“I’m a trained killer.” Says Bob. “They trained me how to kill.”
“Who?” I ask.
“The fucking government is who,” says Bob shortly, not wanting to be distracted. “Now pay attention.”
I was paying attention.
“I was a gunner in Korea. I don’t talk about it much. But I used to mow those fuckers down. I could see them fall like tall grass.”
“Wow.” I say, not knowing what else to say.
“Look him in each eye. First left, then right.” Says Bob, looking me deep in the eyes.
“Tell him- I love you brother.”
“OK.”
“Then tell him again.”
“OK.”
“Then if he doesn’t let go, gut the motherfucker.”
“Excuse me?” I say.
“Gut him like a fish, from East to West.”
“Shit, Bob, I thought you were Macrobiotic.
“Don’t be a pussy about it.” He says, preparing for his twenty minute head stand.