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Gringos extremos: Emerica in Central America.

Story #1 Panama City

WE KEPT BUMPING INTO MATTY AND CARL in the hotel lobby. Our skate shoes coupled with our obvious American-ness finally forced a connection, and the next thing you know we were on the business end of Matty's sales pitch. "Yeah bro! You guys are gonna trip on this!" he said as he made the circle of Naugahyde chairs, pumping our hands. "This shit is right up your guys' alley!"

It seems he and Cart were on a sales trip trying to hook up Central American distribution for their new type of wakeboard or wakeblade or something.

"You've heard of Biker Sherlock, right?" Matty kept asking. "Well he's totally reppin' our shit!" We all nodded enthusiastically, happy to be on the ground floor of a relationship promising so much comedic value.

THE DUO WERE in their mid-30s, badly sunburned and wearing denim shorts and flip-flops. Matty had on a backwards red baseball cap and a gold chain that followed the curve of his light blue O'Neill tank top. He spoke with the twitchy presence of the type of dude who tries to talk to you in the bar bathroom at 2:00am and had a large cyst on the white of one of his bloodshot eyes--a souvenir of a childhood spent in the surf. Carl seemed the classic stoner, save the presence of an ample WC Fields alcoholic's nose and a jock sensibility that barred the cultivation and maintenance of a proper ponytail. So set-in-stone was his sidekick status, Matty kept reintroducing him to us over and over again during our five-day stay in the hotel, "You guys met Carl yet?"

If you saw them from afar you'd think they were teenagers. But when sat side-by-side with Spanky, Herman and Leo (actual teens), Carl and Matty looked like what they were--the grown-up surf kids of rich Southern California beach families. Fuck-up retards bankrolled by weary dads in Hawaiian shirts. This was probably their fourth or fifth get-rich-quick Action Sports scheme, and we were taking the brunt of the full presentation.

"It pretty much has the speed of windsurfing, with the tricks of blading and boarding," Matty continued. A virtual demonstration of the wakeblade (complete with hip-swaying pantomime) followed with more wide-eyed nodding from us. Then, apparently exhausted from the fabulousness of the as-yet-unseen device, Matty sighed loudly and flopped into the middle of the couch. Though all eyes were still on him, he switched gears, lowered his voice and leaned in towards Spanky, who reacted by straightening up uncomfortably.

"So bro," he asked in a husky half whisper, "you had a chance to sample the fine poon-tang around here?" Carl, who had remained mute up to this point, coughed out a "Du-huh-huh."

We were eating in the hotel restaurant later that night when Matty and Car] spotted us and drug a neighboring wrought-iron table alongside ours. They appeared even redder than before and were totally blitzed.

"You guys catch any grinds today?" Matty asked. Before anyone could figure out how to answer such a question, he continued, "Yeah, we got some ladies coming by our rooms later--if you know what I mean! Sixty bucks gets you everything. Ever-y-thing! What rooms are you guys in? We'll send them over afterwards." He asked with the intensity of a quarterback in a huddle and again singled out Spanky for a confirmation of the game plan.

"That's all right," Spanky finally said.

"Oh, OK, you guys are married or whatever. Shit, you should have said something," he said, leaning back.

"They're not married," Heath offered. "They're, like, 17 years old."

"Well, that's cool, that's cool," Matty answered. "Actually, that's awesome. I can totally feel you on that."

Matty and Carl ordered two beers each and settled in.

Jet-lagged and eager to skate, we headed out later that night to see if downtown Panama City had anything to ride. After finding nothing we stopped to get some banana drinks at an all-night restaurant next to the casino. We were heading back to the hotel when we saw the flashing lights of a police car about a block up on our path. Like all the cop cars in Panama, the cruiser was completely civilian, save the flashing light with a cord snaking off the side of it stuck just above the driver's door. As we got closer we realized the cop had Matty and Carl up against a wall.

"Shit! Let's go around the block," Regan said. It was too late. Carl had spotted us.

"Dudes! Dudes!" he cried out. "These guys are with us! They'll explain!"

We walked up cautiously and saw that the guys had met their match in the arresting officer. He was roughly their age with a similarly spracked-out look in his eyes. He turned to us and started yelling in Spanish.

As had become the custom, we turned to Leo, our sole Spanish speaker who sheepishly tried to interpret but couldn't glean much more than the boys had been caught peeing in the street. "And this guy's a psycho!" he also noted.

Fed up, the officer turned to Regan, cocked his head like he was revving up for some profound statement and then finally blurted out, "Give me teep!"

"Give me teep!" he repeated, staring at Regan.

Though we all understood that the man wanted cash, Regan played the dumb tourist, looking at the cop then turning to us as if for help.

"Teep?" he asked, his face screwed in a comically over-the-top look of sincere inquisitiveness.

"Teep! Give me teep!" the cop demanded.

"What kind of tip? What do you mean?" Regan continued, offering his palms in further testament of ignorance. The cop slapped them away with one beefy swipe.

I STARTED TO REACH for my wallet, when the back door of a disco opened up and a group of six or so girls spilled out giggling and stumbling in high heels--a booming Shakira song providing accompaniment.

"Chicas! Chicas!" the officer yelled, his steely demeanor replaced by a wolf-like gape.

He pushed through us and immediately went over to paw the chicks in a slurry of Spanish. We stood there stupidly for a second, then Heath broke the spell with a "Let's fuckin' get out of here!"

With Matty and Carl leading in a drunken gallop, we dashed to the safety of the Hotel Las Vegas.

Spanky was the last to see our wakeblade bros. On a trip to the soda machine the following night, he bumped into them in the lobby as they were getting in from their latest bender.

"Hey, we got chicks coming by again," Matty started. "You should totally come up and party with us."

"Yeah, I'm kinda tired," Spanky replied, "Thanks, though."

"Yeah, well, they won't be over for awhile," he said. "Come up and burn one with us. We got the killer shit, man!"

"That's okay," Spanky said politely.

Carl stared vapidly. Matty's brow furrowed and he shook his head, visibly offended.

"Wrong answer!" Matty barked, "You know what, dude? Wrong answer!"

His cyst-y eye shook slightly as he stared at Spanky. "Wrong answer," Matty said again, softly.

The showdown ended when Carl made a "gu-huh" noise and they turned to walk towards the elevator. Spanky watched them as they stomped away and he couldn't help smiling. Then, when the doors were about to close, Matty bounded back out into the lobby, holding the doors open with one flip-flopped foot. >From this wide stance he pointed at Spanky, his hand in the shape of a pistol.

"You know what, dude?" he barked, "Back at home I get more chicks than anybody! Anybody! You hear me?"

The proclamation hung dumb in the air as he stepped back in the elevator and the doors closed. With tears of joy in his eyes, Spanky ran up the stairs as fast as he could to tell us the story.

Story #2: Tamarindo

SKATE TRIPS (LIKE LIFE) often involve a lot of late-night shitty TV watching, and one of my favorites in this genre is E's Wild On program. Have you seen this show? It's on cable after 11:00pm and features a hot babe traveling around the world to party hardy and avoid popping out of her swimsuit. She and her camera-toting lackeys go from country to country, but always end up at similar looking beefcake bars and discos where they have the same discussions over and over with the hunky patrons. No matter what land they're in or the local language, the interviews always go something like this:

"(Name of place) is beautiful! Everything is party, man! So sexy, mans and womans! Great for make party! I love it! The beach is nice, for example! Dancing and sexy! Sexy party! Party!"

The camera then backs up for a long shot where an assembled crew of local party animals stiffly yell, "Wild On (name of place!) Whoo-oooo!"

I've watched many, many episodes of this show but had never actually experienced such decadence on a skateboarding trip until my visit to Tamarindo. Not only does the Playa Grande resort have its own menagerie of wild birds and monkeys (and a two-story hot tub and swim up bar), but it had, just months earlier, hosted the Wild On program as they went bonkers in Costa Rica.

TAMARINDO IS ON THE PACIFIC COAST and hot as hell. We went from the ocean to the pool and back for three days straight. As mentioned, there was a swim-up bar where you could sit on a stool, your lower half moistened, and enjoy drinks and (as was the case with Herman and Heath) full meals of pasta and pizza. I don't know what it was, but there was something that just didn't seem right to me about eating a plate of linguini while shiftless and halfway wet, so I opted to get out and sit along the side of the pool to enjoy my meals.

Costa Rica thrives off of tourists, so they've got all kinds of diversions to keep them occupied and spending their cash. One afternoon we went on a Canopy Tour--a newish amusement invented in Tamarindo where tourists are slung through tree tops on zip cords.

We suited up in some 1978 hockey helmets and weird groin-binding harnesses and were soon coasting along on metal lines high above the dusty forest floor. We saw a couple of monkeys (though I did not get to achieve my life long goal of pegging a monkey in the ass with a D battery), and maybe a bird or two. Other than that, we pretty much got bored real quick. Being young men themselves, our guides sensed our restlessness and encouraged us to try more advanced zip-line techniques such as going upside down and the spinner. By the last run we all had mastered the inverted Batman style, which is only a little less thrilling than it is hard on the nuts.

AFTER OUR TIME IN PANAMA, Leo, Herman, and Spanky's appetite for bros had been seriously whetted. "Why try and meet chicks when it's so much funnier to meet bros?" Spanky explained.

So, despite the party-time Spring Break vibe of the Tamarindo bars, the kids weren't even thinking about chicks--just bros.

"Bro! Broseph!" Spanky would call out to the meatiest of meatheads. "What the fuck's up, bro?!"

The bro's response was immediately positive. "Oh, bro!" they'd answer back, offering the latest make-the-potatoes fist pound. "Whazzup!"

On one especially good encounter, 30 seconds of bro small talk led to a heartfelt bro tale of epic magnitude.

"So the next thing I know, these two chick are totally naked--in my pool!" the bro explained excitedly. "In my fuckin' pool! And they're, like, touching up on each other!"

The kids couldn't believe their luck. Always one to push the envelope, Spanky's bro quest got nastier as he shifted gears from simply becoming bros with the bros, to seeing how much he could anger them. This was successfully accomplished by accusing them of being Canadian.

"I told you, bro, I ain't no fuckin' Cannuck!" a shirtless man, three times Spanky's size kept yelling.

"Whatever," he'd chide back. "Go back to Canada."

Fortunately, Spanky could always calm them back down by getting them to talk about the day's tubes.

"But were they totally tubular?" he'd ask sincerely.

"Totally bro," they'd answer.

A note: Most of these two stories are fake--well, the first one more so than the second. What's not fake is the fabulous time we had in Panama and Costa Rica thanks to our fantastic new friends Ernesto, Pochito, Nina and Andy. Muchos gracias!


NO MATTER what country you're in, the mall sucks. At least in Costa Rica the names of the shops actually reflect the exploitative nature of a consumer economy. And while many may find the name Rape a little harsh for a store selling items as innocuous as cargo stretch pants, the honesty is refreshing. There was a shop called Excess (as if named by Communists), as well as a store with pretty much the best name in the history of modern retail--The Do Do Boutique. Who says there's not truth in advertising?
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Author:Burnett, Michael
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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