When walking on the beach near my hotel on Gran Canari three days ago, I became aware of two swarthy complected men who seemed to be shadowing me. When I first detected that the two had separated, and that one was talking on a 'walkie talkie' rather than a cell phone, the hairs on my neck began to 'prickle'............thoughts went back to my last posting, the phone interview with Nigel Smith, for The London Sporting Times. This article had brought me about 27,000 reads, and several email requests from persons in Pakistan, asking if they could meet with me to discuss several of my past postings. As my usual, when receiving a request from persons in Pakistan, I just ignored them........... And it is entirely possible that I might have been acting paranoid upon seeing these two individuals, but the "prickle" on the back of my neck, made me take immediate defensive maneuvers. When something seems 'wrong', I don't second guess my intuition. I take action. This just might be the reason I am 66 years old, and still breathing.
I had been walking on Maspalomas Beach most of the morning, and was casually dressed in a light blue, button down, cotton shirt, khaki colored cargo pants, and jogging shoes. As my usual, I had my waterproof security 'envelope' hanging, from a stainless steel link chain, around my neck. In this 'envelope', I always carry my passport, $500 in U.S. fifty dollar bills, and a Visa card. My cell phone was in one of the cargo pants pocket, but I did not use it to call up a taxi, as I feared that there might have been some way, for someone wanting to do me harm, to 'trap' my position using coordinates from my phone. As I was near the IFA Faro hotel, I was able to 'grab' a cruising taxi in the nearby car park. I told the driver to take me to the Hotel Avenida de Canarias, about 8 miles away.......one of the cheaper hotels near the Gran Canari airport..... A place where I could get a room, and a place from where I could phone The Riu Grand Palace, where I was currently staying, and closeout my account there.
After getting a room at the Hotel Avenida de Canarias, I rang up the manager of the Riu, and asked him to put my luggage in storage, as I had, without notice, been called away for personal reasons. I told him that I would be catching a private plane to take me to Lisbon that day, and I further explained that in the next week or 10 days, I would be returning, and spending another week at his hotel........... and would retrieve my things then. Of course I had no intention of returning, or retrieving my baggage........ or my laptop computer. I also was not going to travel by private plane anywhere, let alone Lisbon. I would make reservations on LAN for the next day to San Jose, Costa Rica. Gran Canari now seemed a bad choice to 'work from', and having been many times to Costa Rica, I believe it a much more friendly destination from several standpoints; Cheaper for one, and the relative closeness to Florida, another. The fact that the country has no standing army is a definite plus, and lastly, the fact that some 100,000 U.S. expatriates live in Costa Rica, proves to me that it can't be all bad.
Within 2 hours, I had made reservations on LAN, and with the usual 'glitches', I finally procured a round trip ticket to San Jose, with the return ticket being an open date to Miami. And to my relief there were no phone calls or persons visiting me unannounced the rest of the day. I took my meals in the room, and after an uneventful night, I was going through customs in San Jose before lunchtime, in that tropical paradise. I had not been to San Jose since the mid 80's, so I caught a taxi at the airport, and told the driver that I wanted to go to The Park Hotel, downtown. He said that he had no knowledge of this hotel, and I guessed that it was possible that it had closed down......possibly because of an incident I remembered from sometime in the mid 80's....... A bomb exploding in the hotel car park..... should my memory not be failing me. This 'dung heap' of a hotel was owned by someone from Ft. Myers, Florida, and it had a reputation as a cheap destination (anything goes without the management asking questions) for expatriates. I suspect that after that bomb incident the government would have had a reason to see it closed once and for all, and I guess that a lot of the regular 'crew of expats' would have found a new 'hangout' with less government scrutiny. Without a doubt, The Park Hotel would be history now, and not wanting to make my driver curious, I asked him if he knew of any hotel, downtown, that catered to U.S. expatriates. He seemed to know what I was asking about, and shook his head in the affirmative, and continued the 20 minute or so drive into town.
When the taxi 'hit' San Jose, the streets were crowded as usual, and the smell of diesel exhaust was as strong as ever, making my eyes water profusely. The downtown looked a little more shabby than in the past, but this could be an impression given my jet lag. Amid the horns honking, and exhaust fumes, we stopped at a small, semi refurbished, hotel, Hotel Dunn Inn. It was conveniently located in the old, upscale, historic, neighborhood of Barrio Amon. The driver led me into the hotel, and I signed up for a minimum two day stay. I paid the driver and gave him a $10 tip for the good service, but before he reunited with his cab, he proceeded to tell me to call him up if I wanted to visit some of the places that cater to expats. He further informed me, with a smile and a wink, that he knew all the places where the women were very friendly. In fact, he said that he had a niece who likes to meet Americans, and he could call her up if I wanted. I thanked him, and told him that I would be resting for a day or so, but would give him a call when I was ready for 'the guided tour'. He left me a card with his name and address, and I just shoved it into my pocket as I headed to my room.
The room was no surprise. Typical cheap furniture, a refreshment bar that had the polite addition of several condoms placed on the top, and a flat screen TV, with a Post it Note attached that informed "Magic Jack" could be used to call the states for free....along with free high speed wi fi. The neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city, and now looks to be home to Nicaraguan street gangs....... sketchy at best, but as I was going to be looking for a rental house in one of the nearby cities the next day, I didn't care one 'hoot' about the neighborhood, the taxi drivers niece, or the punk Nicaraguan street gangs that had spray painted half the neighborhood.
I was in need of immediate nourishment, and had the manager call a taxi to take me to one of the better restaurants in the area. And here is a hint when traveling in the rougher parts of a town in third world countries: Always travel by taxi, always eat at Korean restaurants, and don't take ice in your drinks. Local beer is maybe not fashionable, but it is the best way to not have to use the private clinics. And I suspect that the management of this 'dive' had inside information on the quality of the 'friendly women' of the neighborhood; Those condoms, on the mini bar, might be a good investment even when sleeping in the well worn bed by yourself. Tomorrow, I will move to a nearby city, and rent a house for a year, to use as a base from which to write and work. Alas, Dr. Pangloss (Candide, Voltaire) was so correct in his assumption that everything is for the best, and that man lives in the "best of all possible worlds." I am going to enjoy Costa Rica once more........... Maybe I will get myself one of those green and red parrots, and teach him to say, "Obama needs to go, Now!".
Lord Howard Hurts