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'Erik, guess what? I found him! Owwww.' Darren figured the scorpion was somewhere in his compression suit, but reaching into the suit sleeve he now had confirmation.

He pulled his hand out and squeezed the sting, he pushed several drops of clear fluid from his finger, and the scorpion crawled off back into the wilderness.

Our hostel was on a jungle island composed of two volcanoes set like a pair of pointy witches' teats to create the world's largest island in a fresh water body: Isla Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua. We took a ferry to get here and we rode our bikes around scaring all the women and children with our big bikes and our full-bored mainland big-boot swagger. Our ferry was the Che Guevara, though calling it The Butcher of Cabaña would have been fine with me (Che had this guy killed). The irony of it laboring to bring a bunch of bougie tourists to be served by impoverished natives was not lost on me, but the island found its own little ways to exact revenge.


woot ferries

We arrived at the hostel Little Morgan's where we were greeted by Oakland Raiders gear waving in the wind and strange items hanging from the walls. The stank, hard-drinking inhabitants had gone native, living among fuzzy caterpillars and dirt floors and lumpy handmade furniture that threatened to spill you on your ass or, worse, conceal those fuzzy caterpillars. They had half a centimeter or hair coming off them and I swept a few off of me and only later found out that actually touching the hairs would result in a melt of flesh very much like the 'molecular acid' from the Alien franchise. This was no joke: the proprietor himself crushed one on his chest while sleeping and ended up with a large open wound, so I heard. This man, the proprietor, was a thick-build Irishman from Oakland, complete with a Raiders tattoo and a past I won't discuss here. His five-year old son was the eponymous little Morgan and he seemed to grow up in a loving environment of constantly-rotating hostel employees, the current ones a set of gorgeous German women and a pair of playful younger American men. The father, I think also named Morgan, seemed a dangerous, loving type with an edge of volatility that reminded me of one particular Oaklander from my own not-to-be-discussed past. I saw a strange interchange one day with him and his son, wherein a local brought the son a pair of smallish but realistic-looking toy shotguns, and the father walked over and broke each in half over his knee and his son asked why he did that and the father answered, 'Because they were already broken.' The father then handed one half, an action without a barrel — just the trigger group, magazine, and stock — back to the son to play with and he threw the rest away. The remaining toy was still a faux-gun because the son pointed it at his dad and the dad grabbed it and said, 'Never point a gun at your father.' Good advice, but what did it all mean?

little morgans

house rules



Later in the evening we'd play trivia. In the wet earth our bikes were falling over when we met a fearsome threesome:

Fun fact: Gabby got her nickname when I went to give her a standard-issue Erik-style megahug and got no compression. Gabby: 'I was a swimmer.' Well there you go.

We ended up going together to get pizza at a rumored pizza joint. We all walked up the unlit main road to a small sign and then traversed a slippery trail into the dark jungle. Without lights it wasn't scary but it just seemed odd, but sure enough after ten minutes of darkness and mud and mossy stones we came across a crowd of backpackers in a clearing eating pizza fresh-baked from a wood-fired clay oven.

After our successful excursion we decided to get together the next day for more shenanigans. First we'd ride motorcycles to the base of a trail, then we'd hike up through ravines for an hour to get to a grand waterfall. The base wasn't deep enough to swim, but I managed to find a way to look like a fool. On the way up we saw an abandoned hydro-power station, and once back down somehow Megan's bike's battery died but we jumped it with our motorcycle jumper cables, which sexy adventure motorcyclists like us always keep handy. On the ride back it seemed that everyone was looking at me with a huge bike and a cute girl riding on the back, and I felt really good being envied, and I wondered what darkness dwells in me that I need others to want what I have just to feel satisfied.


Waterfalls can be magical

magic waterfall

Afterward we rode horses along the beach where waves lapped the shore. The horses drank the water, which tripped me out until I remembered, duh, freshwater. At the restaurant we sat outside and I ordered a whole grilled fish just in time for it to go completely dark, leaving me to search for bones by feel. The menus we ordered from had confusing headers and food names and then we realized that the printer had incorporated editing feedback into the final printout, leaving us with a section titled 'Dessert why aren'n [sic] these in Spanish.' After dinner we rode the horses back along the beach in complete darkness in the wind and rain, and I couldn't see in front of me and I couldn't hear anything and occasionally I'd shout 'Marco' into the darkness but no one ever answered 'Polo' over the wind. I had to trust the horse knew where to go, which it did because I'm alive, but I did think of all those people of horse-times who died of being thrown from a horse. The horse stumbled over driftwood and I thought of Christopher Reeve and I held on tight, I got hit in the face with branches, we wandered into the lake, we discovered fellow riders quite suddenly and they disappeared just as quickly, I wondered why they'd have us ride like this and then we were on the road and all was fine.

Because of our success we all decided to meet up in San Juan del Sur for a second round of awesomeness. Darren and I decided to stay for a week to do Spanish school before going into more expensive countries. We filled our time with many diversions.

And then the fearsome threesome did something I wasn't expecting, something that touched me in a very personal, special place, something that fondled me right in the heart: they made me a card to commemorate 15 Aug 1998, the date of when I first came to California. I mentioned off-handedly that I had recently had the anniversary and they picked right up on it.

our little secret

It was then I realized how much we had done together and how quickly shared experiences can make you fast friends, but it also highlighted how quickly it can all be over when we have to move on to our individual paths. This is why each interaction is so valuable. On the one hand, I tell myself that each person I meet I'll never see again, thus freeing myself to act as I wish, without consequence. But if I will never see them again, doesn't that weight each moment as extraordinarily precious? As irrevocable? This tension I have yet to resolve.

Next time, the customs dudes won't release my papers until we pound a brewski.

viva panama

No, really.


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