Monday, 31 January 2011

Malawi Methane Mayhem

From Africa comes a story that is sure to cause reverberations...or, perhaps, prevent them. The country of Malawi is tired of its citizens making a stink. Not in opposition to the government...just making a stink. The government of Malawi plans to punish persistent offenders who foul the air. You got it. No more farting in public.

No farts for you!

Can you imagine the reaction to such a law? I'll bet residents think it's the shits. After all, the government intends to muzzle freedom of expression. I wonder what happens to a muzzled fart? The mind boggles. And the eyes cross.

No more tooting in the streets. And I'm not talking car horns. Of course, residents are skeptical as to how the new law will be enforced. Will there be a special fart force of Storm Poopers? And in public, how will they be able to tell just who the culprit is? To the cops' questions of "Who cut the cheese?" they'll never nail the nasal offender when everyone points at one another and says "He who smelt it dealt it."

South African activist Desmond Toot Toot expressed dismay with Malawi's move, saying a fart tied was far worse than apartheid.

Others say there hasn't been this much talk of flatulence since Madonna made her case to adopt her last child.

But Malawi's lawmakers appear unperturbed by the criticism and are not willing to bend...over.

Opposition leader Bingu Fartsalot, however, says the people's will, will out in the end. For now, however, the answer is blowing in the wind.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The More Things Change The More They Remain The Same.

Well it's been five weeks since I've seen her; since I felt her soft caresses on my body; felt her warmth next to me; experienced her suppleness and flexibility; let myself simply relax in her firm embrace. But I'm back, baby. And, boy, did I ever miss my couch.

Let me tell you five weeks of intensive golf playing for a neophyte such as me has resulted in pain and fatigue in parts of my body I never knew existed. And that last week with my brothers Whitey - Sir Punsalot - and Killer - Sir Drinksalot - really put me over the top. We played 18 holes a day followed by 18 bottles a day. At that pace I'm kinda happy it was just a week. Not only is my body bent out of shape but my liver's crying "mercy".

But it's nice to get back to reality (he tries to convince himself). This morning I powered up the MacBook to see what was happening in the world, and I must say I wasn't disappointed.

First I see where a 33 year old woman in Buenos Aires took a 23 storey dive off a hotel balcony and landed on a cab...and lived. That's gotta be a first. Usually you can never find a cab when you need one.

Then I read an article about WalMart coming out with a cosmetic line for 8 year olds - make-up and anti-aging goodies such as liptstick, eyeliner, cleansers, exfoliates and the like. Just what the world needs: tween tramps.

And finally I came across a story about a 65 year-old woman in South Carolina who hung her nephew's dog with an extension cord and then set it on fire. Why? Because she said it was a devil dog after it chewed on her bible. Boy, if that's what she did to a dog, I'd sure hate to be the Jehovah's Witness rep in her neighbourhood.

Funny, eh? I leave the country for 5 weeks and when I get back what's changed? Not much. I've still got plenty of material it seems to keep this blog a growing concern.

I'll be around to visit you guys soon.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

I Survived The Ice Store Of 2011

Well, one more day to go in golf heaven, otherwise known as Orlando Florida. It's been great getting together with my brothers Whitey and Killer, spending some quality time with them. Of course I'm talking about golfing, not drinking. Although, we've done a bit of that too.

Last week we had a great time one night after having had dinner at the Flying Fish restaurant at Disney World. We strolled down the boardwalk to a place called Jellyrolls. Jellyrolls is a bar like no other I've seen. The entertainment is dueling piano players who take requests from the crowd.

Dueling pianos.

Well, Killer, his wife, Whitey and I decided to send up requests for songs by Canadian artists - the Barenaked Ladies, Brian Adams, and the like. After about the second or third request one of the piano players said to the crowd "Looks like we have some Canadians in the audience" whereupon we hooted and hollared. So the guy starts playing the Canadian anthem. Well we'd been having a few silly pops by then so we sprang to our feet with our hands over our hearts and belted out the words. Ah, we did our nation proud. Well that's my recollection, anyway.

But it's been a fun week, spent mostly golfing. After only five weeks of golfing under my belt I'm no expert, but I'm having lots of fun. After such a short time I can honestly say I'm particularly proud of my practice swings

Look at that form. Too bad the ball's still on the tee.

Usually, after 18 holes of golf we have to "get ice". Killer has a tub outside where we keep the beer. So every day we have to "get ice". But you see "get ice" is a euphemism for stopping off for a few beers at Sundays, a nearby British pub, next to Publix, where we actually get the ice. The day before I arrived Killer and Whitey went to "get ice" and had so much fun at Sundays they forgot the ice. Luckily, since then they've had me to remind them to actually get the ice. One afternoon we spent so much time "getting ice" we actually bought flowers for Killer's wife so she wouldn't be mad at us. That woman's a saint for putting up with us. Whitey says he's gonna get us all T-shirts that read "I Survived The Ice Store of 2011". Whitey's such a card. Especially after a couple of Coronas.

The "ice store".

Well, it's been a great week and I'll be sorry to see it come to an end. Oops, gotta go. My brothers are telling me we gotta go get ice.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Welcome to the U.S. Eh?

To Serve And Delay

Why me? Why do these things always happen to me. Canada/U.S. relations hit a new low last night when I touched down in Miami en route to Orlando from Panama. I know our dollar's worth more than the American currency in the current economic smack down but, hey, do you have to take it out on me?

So let me back up a bit. We left the condo in Bijoa Tuesday morning at 11:15, well in time for the two and-a-half hour drive to the airport. We made good time, traffic was good, we didn't get lost. We were humming our way through downtown Panama when from behind us we hear sirens. So we move over to the right lane. All of a sudden three police motorcycles whip by us in the left then one, whish, two, whish, not three, four, five but six dark windowed SUV's whip by us...and I mean they were moving. I'm thinking they're either shooting an instalment of Criminal Minds in Panama or that's the President's motorcade. Well, bringing up the rear were two guys in army fatigues on a motorcycle with the guy on the back extending his arm, pointing at us to STAY BACK. Hey, who's gonna argue with some guy in sunglasses armed with a sub-machine gun.

So that was exciting. Little did I know it set the tone for what was going to happen later in the day.

The American Airlines flight departed on time from Panama on it's three hour flight to Miami. I deplaned all set for the steeplechase marathon of Immigration, collect bags, Customs, re-check bags, security (oh, boy a pat-down) and determine the gate of my next flight on to Orlando. Shouldn't be a problem, Hell, I've got three hours. How long can it take?

So I get in the "Visitors" line up at Immigration. Things are moving slowly but surely. I reach the agent, who's friendly enough. He asks me how I am "Fine, thanks, how are you?" He asks me where I'm coming from "Panama" Nice there? "Great but hot" Bringing any money into the country? "Not much" ...pause... sir, this is purely routine but would you step back against that wall, an officer will be along in a moment? I feel myself going down, down, spiralling uncontrollably into a dream - a nightmare. What did he just say? Wait a minute, what's this about? Shit!

It's not like I was singing ICE, ICE Baby as I approached Mr Customs Man. But maybe they're gonna bust me for that five pound bag of Panamanian coffee (Yeah, I said coffee) I've got safely stashed in my golf bag. Five seconds later a female agent escorts me to THE ROOM. I'm shocked when I enter. She tells me to have a seat and wait for my name to be called. Oh, sit in here, with these other 100 people?! I felt like I was in a holding tank. Remember Alice's Restaurant. Remember the Group W bench? Let me help you...

...and there was all kinds of mean
nasty ugly looking people on the bench there.
Mother rapers. Father stabbers.
Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there
on the bench next to me!
And they was mean and nasty and ugly
and horrible crime-type guys
sitting on the bench next to me...

So I sat there, not half-an hour, not an hour but two hours before they called me. Luckily they let me keep my clothes on, not like in Arlo Guthrie's story. The guy asks me if I know a place called Matinoba. I'm thinking what the hell is this guy about? A geography test? I tell him I've never heard of it. His partner corrects him "Manitoba". Oh, sure it's a province in Canada. "Did you ever go to prison in Manitoba?" What? You've got to be kidding. No. Never. "Ever been arrested in Manitoba?" No (nervous laughter). "Ever been arrested?" No. "Hmm...okay give me a couple of minutes." I guess they thought I was one of those Father stabbing rapers. But they seemed to clear things up in about five minutes and let me go. Not so much as a "sorry". I collected my luggage, hit Customs, re-checked the bags, got a pat-down (meh, nothing to write home about), and made my connecting flight. And I got to see the U.S. Immigration system - your tax dollars at work - up close and personal. Welcome to the U.S, eh!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (7) Size Does Matter

The day we drove my wife and Tante Poutine to the Tocumen Airport the other side of Panama City we were up with the birds. Their flight was around 1:30pm but it's a 2 hour drive and their charter company Air Transat tells you to be at the airport 3 hours in advance of your flight. We left Bejao for the airport about 6:15am. We off-loaded Poutine and Mrs D with their luggage along with my mother-in-law while my brother-in-law, his son and I made arrangements to trade our van in on a sedan. The deal done we met the departees on the departure deck. So, first step accomplished: arrive at airport on time. We knew it was too good to be true. Turns out the airline's computer's were down and all passengers and their luggage would have to be processed by hand. Luckily our two travellers were in Club class and were among the first passengers to be processed. There were tears all around, not on my part of course, and hugs and kisses as we said our goodbyes and waved to my wife and her aunt. Next stop: MetroMall.

Once at the mall, which isn't too far from the airport we decided on breakfast. It was about 10:30 and I don't think the food court does breakfast because hardly any of the establishments were open. We settled on hamburgers at the McD outlet, which evidently didn't do breakfast either. Then we hit the stores. I was looking for some golf shirts, so that I might at least look like I know what I'm doing when I play, but found out the hard way that often XL must mean medium. I did get a nice shirt at a sportswear store that fits well but the 3 I bought at a bargain basement place are a tad tight. And nothing comes in anything over XL. Don't they know size matters? Gee, they have small people in Panama.

Odd thing about Panama. People move a little slowly. I'm not talking about people on the roads. Once behind the wheel some kind of transformation takes place and they zip and zoom like dive-bombing hornets. But retail clerks and cashiers, that's another story. In a department store called Stevens we just about tore our hair out we had to wait so long to pay for our stuff. There were seven people all appearing very busy behind the cashier's counter, but only one of them was ringing in purchases. I don't think the other six were "in training". But they sure weren't big on customer service.

Anyway, it was well past noon, the trunk was full with our shopping bags and it was time to head for home. Driving through Panama and finding the main highway can be a challenge. But we managed to find our way after trips up and down some off the beaten path side streets. I don't think it was the regular route but I guess my brother-in-law knew where he was going, or at least had a good sense of direction. It was the scenic route you might say.

So we've found the Pan Americana highway and we're happily on our way home. And I can almost taste a nice cold Balboa out on the condo balcony when - zip - my brother-in-law's taking a right exit off the highway into the town of La Chorrera, about an hour shy of our destination. Why? Cause he thinks there might be a hardware store where he can find some drapes for his balcony. Well we found a huge home store so my brother-in-law, his son, the mother-in-law and I all pile out and trot into the store. No drapes, but they do have some fans he's looking for. He makes his choice and the sales guy piles two huge boxes into a shopping cart and wheels them to the cash at the front of the store.

But wait! Look at that BBQ! Man, it's a Weber. Oh I like that. I think I should get it. Of course by now we have no van. We already have two huge boxes that I doubt will fit in the trunk and my brother-in-law wants to take the BBQ too! I tell him we don't have room. The salesman tells him the last one is the display model. I tell him that it'll never fit. I tell him the solution would be to ask them to dismantle it and we'd come back the next day. But he wants it today. I tell him the behemoth BBQ is too big. So we measure the BBQ. We go out to the parking lot to measure the trunk. Guess what? IT'S.TOO.BIG! Guess what he does. "Hey, maybe if they took it apart we could come back tomorrow." Hello! Where were you half an hour ago when I said this??? Size matters!!!

We stopped off for dinner on our way out of La Chorrera. Chinese food, of all things. No Balboa…Sprite. It was around 7:30 when we finally got home. I had TWO big Balboas. They tasted really good. Size matters.

By the way, I'm off to Orlando today for a week of golf with my brothers. Nobody told me I'd be going from 40 degrees celsius to 17. Ah, well, at least it's not as bad as home where there's snow and it's something like minus 24! So I may be back at you later this week. If not, I'll see you in a week!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland - A Pictorial Pause (2)

Hola amigos! We're often on the go here in Panama, driving one way or the other on the Pan Americana Highway to small towns to shop, have dinner, do some sightseeing and so on. The other day I even got my hair cut about 15 kilometres down the highway in Coronado - $8.65! When we drive I'm usually in the shotgun seat, so I take lots of pictures...of signs...sometimes with scantily clad women...

OK, that last one wasn't at the edge of the road. But it's one of my favourite spots...the edge of the ocean. My month in Panama's quickly drawing to a close. Be sure to check out my last instalment of my Adventures in Panamaland this Tuesday.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (6) I'm Charged!

The other morning I awoke with a start to the sound of the surf pounding upon the sand. It was 6:15am. I staggered sleepily out to the balcony and sure enough the waves were something to behold. I quickly got dressed, grabbed the camera and made my way between the horizon pools to the beach. From the balcony, the pools actually hide the beach and up until now the waves. But what moved me to preserve this Kodak moment was the fact that I could see the waves from the balcony this morning.

When I arrived at the beach I beheld a sight of nature unleashed. The waves were crashing and the surf was rushing up the beach further than ever before. The bases of the thatch-roofed umbrellas were covered in water and one had even been knocked over by the constantly rushing water. I snapped my pics as the sun was rising and stood back and enjoyed the moment - a panoramic view of nature doing it's work. It was quite a start to the day. I was charged.

Speaking of charged, when I returned to the condo my brother-in-law was in the midst of searching high and low for his cell phone charger. Just the other day over another incident I'd told him I thought this kind of thing ran in his family because his sister, my wife, is always putting things in places she says she'll remember but, alas, always forgets. He's just the same it appears. I call it CRAFT (Can't Remember A Fucking Thing). Anyway, he'd looked everywhere; in every drawer and cupboard, under every bed and piece of furniture. He was frantic. Without it his phone would crap out and we'd never get that call from the internet company to book an appointment to hook us up to the internet, the cable and a home phone. What? We'd miss the call about the internet? Even I joined in the search.

We were all searching now, even my mother-in-law. You remember her. She's the one with diminishing eyesight who asked her son to open her half-lime at dinner one night thinking it was a container of tarter sauce. Since then there've been a few other incidents like when she dried the lettuce for the salad on paper towels. The salad was good but, what's this? Is this paper towel in my salad? Yep. We sure laughed over that one. Pass the paper towel salad please.

So anyway we're searching, searching, searching for the damn charger. And guess who found it. Yep, my nearly-blind mother-in-law. We all got a "shock" out of that one. Way to go Maman!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (5) Quatros!

Part of my rationale for a month's sojourn to Panama was to put those 3 golf lessons I took back in September to good use and finally play some golf. Mrs D and her aunt - Tante Poutine (her name is Jeanne but I call her poutine because she comes from Warwick, Quebec, the undisputed poutine capital of Canada) - hung out for two weeks and then headed back to cooler climes. -10 to -20C in Canada these days. Masochists! No, not really. Eskimos, maybe. For me this is a dream vacation. The best of both worlds. Two weeks in this Central American paradise with the wife, two weeks without her AND four weeks of golf. After all I have to hone my skills before I meet up with Whitey and Killer, the other Dufus dudes, for a fifth week in Orlando. Wait a minute. Bonus. Three weeks without the wife! I miss you honey. Heh, heh, heh, heh.

So that's my plan. Practice golf for four weeks so I can show my brothers a thing or two.

Luckily my brother-in-law's condo community has a golf course. My first game wasn't too bad. Remember, I've never golfed before. I hit a 57! Of course the course (see what I just did there?) at the Bijao (pronounced be-how) Resort is only 9 holes. But hey, what do you want for the first time. I had a blast. I even scored better than my 11 year old nephew. Hey, he's good!

In Panama, at this time of year, you've got to start your golf game early because by noon the temperature's in the mid to high 30s Celsius. So we started around 8:30am and finished in the high 30s Celsius. I shudder to think how long it would have taken us to play a regulation 18 holes…and how hot it would have got.

I made some shots I was proud of. Mostly I made shots I wasn't very proud of at all. I seem to have an affinity for water and sand. But hey, after all, this is Panama. Panama's all about water and sand. One hole in particular was memorable. I addressed the ball. I drove for all I was worth and ka-ping my ball made a beeline for a short stone wall, bounced off onto the sandy ground beside a water trap. Ha, I thought, I could play that. Not as optimistic as I was, my brother-in-law suggested I take the stroke and use my ball retriever instead. Down I climbed near the water to get my ball. I took two steps…and immediately began to sink into the sandy mud. Shit, I thought, quicksand! My mind raced wildly with visions of those classic western movies were the cowboy wanders unknowingly into quicksand and sinks quickly to his waist before lassoing the saddle on his trusty steed and being pulled to safety as the dramatic soundtrack swells. I could hear the soundtrack swelling in my head and I sure didn't have a lasso, let alone a trusty steed. Luckily I was able to extricate first one foot and then the other before the mud had reached my mid-calfs. Boy, that sure was a different take on a sand trap!

One last thing, as I continue to hone my skills. Apart from a driver for teeing off, I pretty much stick to a 7 iron on the fairway and a putter, of course, on the green. This moved my brother-in-law to wonder aloud why I'd spent so much money on my golf set because I never use the other 12 clubs. What with all the balls I've lost so far, he's got a good point. I could have spent that money on more balls!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland - A Pictorial Pause

Before we carry on with updates about our ongoing adventures, I thought I'd share some pics that I couldn't post earlier. I hope you enjoy these, just a fraction of the pics I've taken so far.

Stay tuned for more "Adventures in Panamaland"!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (4) You Know You're Getting Old When…

Life's been hard on our Panama holiday. My brother-in-law didn't get his internet installed until a little over two weeks after I got here. So I've been having withdrawals. I posted my first piece from Panama December 30th on the fly from an internet cafe - $1US for an hour! And I decided to leave my Blackberry at home. Anyway, let's continue with our adventures…

When we first arrived at my brother-in-law's place at the Bijoa golf/beach resort on December 21st there was nary a soul other than us here. We'd spend a lazy day at the beach, play a round of golf or sit in the late afternoon glow of "happy hour" with hardly a sound to be heard. That all began to change around Christmas when we noticed with annoying frequency the loud buzzing of what might have been over-sized insects but were really Kawasaki 4 seater ATVs. They seem to be the mode of transport of choice of the Panamanian well-to-do who live in the complex. My brother-in-law says the units here - condo apartments, town homes and houses - are basically used by well off Panamanians as their weekend and holiday beach residence. The rest of the time things are pretty quiet. Nobody here but us and the security guard ninjas.

Typical sunrise at Bijao, near San Carlos, Panama

Is it just me, or am I getting old? I swear the drivers and their passengers of these things ripping around the pathways here have an average age of 7! I'm not kidding. When I was a kid and my parents told me to go play i the traffic for an hour I knew they were kidding (I think). But not only do these kids play in the traffic they all have their own little vehicles! And speed. These things whip around here so fast I swear they'll soon need a traffic cop…or an ambulance. And it's the same thing at the beach. Kids on ATVs are everywhere roaring up and down the coast. When did beaches stop being for people. Well, I suppose things could be worse. Two years ago when we stayed at the Royal Decameron resort not too far from here, there were horses being ridden up and down the beach. The word to the wise on that beach was look before you step.

Over New Year's this place was jumping. I think the entire upper crust of Panama City migrated here to celebrate the holiday. And I think the average Panamanian family must be quite large. We'd sit on the balcony or at the beach and marvel at the pre-pubescent kids, crawling up and down in packs, all on their cell phones. Cell phones? At the beach? Who the hell are they texting? Their friends are all here!

Mrs. D enjoys our first sunrise over the Panama Gulf

But it's not just kids. Everywhere you go in this country people employ the salute known internationally. Right arm raised, bent at the elbow, cell phone implanted firmly in one's right ear. Let me give you an example of how crazy it is. We were at a party the other night, meeting some folks from Panama, Columbia, Sweden, us from Canada - a real United Nations affair. People sat at dinner tables in the back yard and animated Spanish conversations drifted to me from the different groups of people. The loudest voice of all was a woman at the other end of my table. I just figured she must be telling her seat mates an interesting story. I turned to see who was talking. Turns out her animated conversation was with someone on the other end of her cell phone. Most people go to parties to socialize with the people there. Not talk to someone who isn't. Don't they?

I am getting old.

My brother-in-law got his internet. I can post pics now. Yay!!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (3) Stranger In A Strange Land

There are times during our stay in Panama when I really identify with the title of that Robert Heinlein science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. I'm visiting a Spanish speaking country and apart from "si", "gracias", "hola", and "dos cervezas por favor" - the essential phrases, of course - I can't speak enough Spanish to get directions to the bathroom. On top of that Mrs D's family is French. Add in her mom's cousin and her husband who hail from Quebec's eastern townships and who visit once and awhile from the nearby Royal Decameron resort I'm totally lost. Sure, my wife, her brother and his son all speak English but when they all get going en francais, they're not gonna stop and translate for the poor old English square head. Of course, I guess I only have myself to blame as after years of french language lessons when I was a public servant - your tax dollars at work - I know about as much French as I do Spanish. So you can understand why sightseeing, grocery shopping and the rest of our activities can be a bit of a challenge for me from time to time.

One day we picked up my mother-in-law's cousin and her husband and the eight of us took off about 30 clicks down the road to Penonome, a small place pretty much at the exact centre of Panama. We found a parking spot, disembarked and decided to split up. My brother-in-law and his son went one way and my wife and I and the french geriatric set - her mom, her aunt, the cousin and her husband - were left to fend for ourselves. None of us speak Spanish, I don't speak much French and after about half an hour of wandering up and down the main street of Penonome I'm beginning to feel a little like I've been adopted by the retired refugees fleeing from the French old folks home. But the day went well. I took a lot of pics. And we had fun passing by the street vendors and going in and out of all the stores, largely populated by the Panamanian locals.

One of the funniest incidents so far involved Tante Poutine. She's a great person and we try very hard to communicate with each other, given the language barrier. One night we're out for supper - just down the road at Los Camisones (the place where "The Specials" are so special they've run out of them) - and the waiter asks us all if we'd care for a beverage to start off. Well up until then Poutine and I were used to enjoying a cerveza or two during the afternoon's "happy hour" at the condo. No better way to bond than over a beer. Our beer of choice has been Balboa - the beer of the masses in Panama. It costs $3.12US a six-pack and is named after some guy who founded Panama or something. He must have been pretty popular. He's got a statue in a park named after him. There's a road that bears his name. He has a tree named after him here and even the condo we're in is named "Balboa II". But for the life of her,Tante Poutine couldn't say "Balboa" to the waiter. Her order kind of went like this: "ball bow, non, ba bowl, uh, non, bow boo, oh non, bill boa…" It was truly a Kodak moment for everyone. And days later I still had the tune "Won't you come home Bill Boa" stuck in my head.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Adventures in Panamaland (2) Miguel

I'm on the fly posting from an internet cafe in Panama. Waiting for my brother-in-law to get his internet installed. Can't post pics for some reason but here's our next instalment...Happy New Year everyone!

We've met some wonderful people on our trip to Panama, mostly through my brother-in-law who has met up with them while on previous visits. Juan Carlos and his wife Marcella are a delightful couple who live up the hill here. They have a striking house with the central part of the house's interior open to the skies. Out in the backyard they've got their own pool - like the 5 other pools on site aren't enough for them - and they have a fantastic view of the rest of the complex, overlooking all the residences below, the beach and the ocean. On New Year's eve they invited us to their place for a dinner party, along with about 45 other people. I was surprised that so many people spoke English. The neighbour next door, for example, was actually American and her father had been in the armed forces stationed in what used to be the canal zone. Her grandfather actually worked on the efforts to build the canal, Thomas, a good friend of our hosts, while now a resident of Panama is originally from Sweden. Juan Carlos's wife Marcella's family hails from Bagota, Columbia. It was most interesting to encounter these folks and socialize with them, all of whom went out of their way to speak English to us.

Earlier in the day, my brother-in-law and I helped Juan Carlos out by driving down to a nearby restaurant and with the help of Juan Carlos's nephew Miguel brought back 4 banquet tables and 30 chairs in the back of our van. We took them back to the restaurant the next day on what had to have been the hottest day we've encountered thus far on our holidays. So we not only attended a party but we got in a good work out too.

One of the first people we met upon arriving at the party was Miguel's father, Juan Carlos's brother, also named Miguel. He was quite jovial, spoke English, and seemed to have had a wee start on the celebrations. But nevertheless a nice guy. Mrs D and I met so many people that night we were glad there wasn't a test later to see if we remembered their names.

Midnight was spectacular. We had a great view of the resort's fireworks on the beach, the fireworks from the nearby hotel The Breezes to the left and those of the Royal Decameron resort down the beach to the right. As well we could see more fireworks behind us from little towns down the highway. From our perch on the hill it was a fabulous panorama of pyrotechincs. And of course the champagne was flowing to toast in the new year. Which was a good thing, considering what had happened to me. I'd spent a rather dry evening you see. We'd been told it was a BYOB party so Mrs D and I dutifully packed up a bottle of wine for her and 3 Balboa beers for me. We arrived. Met the father and son duo of Miguel Sr. and Miguel Jr., and stashed our booze. I poured a glass of vino for my wife, opened a beer for myself and my brother-in-law, who doesn't drink, settled in to his customary cranberry juice. We began to circulate and socialize and tried our best to avoid Marcella who desperately wanted my brother-in-law and I to dance.

Oh, time for another drink. I poured my wife another glass of white wine and went to pull another Balboa from the cooler. But there weren't any. What the..? Don't tell me somebody's gone and swiped my beer? That hasn't happened to me since my college days. It was a long, dry party until the champagne came out at midnight. My brother-in-law had done a little investigating and determined who had swiped my beer…the effervescent Miguel Sr.! Oh, well. I let it go and chalked it up to not keeping an eye on my beer. Besides there'd been enough fireworks already. But guess who shook my hand and wished me "Happy New Year" about four times before we called it a night…a wobbly Miguel Sr. I think good old Miguel's new year started just a little bit earlier than the rest of us. And he rang it in with Mr. Balboa!

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