This novel is free for the next 24 hours. I’ve included the back-story again for those who didn’t catch it when it was posted on 5/29/13.
Driving in Panama
Dangerous is the one word description for driving in Panama. Although the roads are decent for the most part as compared to Costa Rica, they are substandard when compared to those of North America. The rules are different as well. I believe one of the most foolish decisions a person can make is to fly to Panama City, rent a car at the Tocumen airport, and set out for Boquete in Chiriquí province 450 Km away. The idea -- so one can get a ‘‘feel for the land’. More than likely they will get ‘THE FEEL’ of a ticket or two, an accident, and perhaps a few weeks in a Panamanian jail if they hit someone.
Another danger is to you and your vehicle each time you fill your tank. If it’s after hours, there’s better than average chance someone is watching the service station and will rob you and the attendant at the same time. Thieves prey on gas stations because the cash is carried by the attendants. A gringo with a plump wallet is ripe for a ‘two fer’.
The other danger at the pumps is bad fuel. I recently went through a myriad of problems because my old car wouldn’t run on MUD. What’s up with that? German engineering can’t design a diesel engine that runs on mud (lodo)? Three weeks, two mechanics, four total tank flushes, sixteen fuel filters, and I’m still not able to pull a grade because of the fouled fuel residing somewhere in my fuel system.
All in all, driving is crazy in Panama. Most gringos have dash cameras to avoid being prosecuted for murder if they run over a small kid or get hit at night by a car with no headlights. The gringo is always arrested and charged in a fatality; that’s JUST THE WAY IT IS!
So, my word of advice. If you are visiting; hire a tour guide, a chauffeur, or take public transportation. If you’re planning on living in Panama, take the precautions necessary to avoid getting killed in an accident or arrested for being involved in a collision.
THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM
In the late 1980’s I was on a long voyage into the South Pacific. I moored my boat for over three months in Guam to avoid being out in the open ocean during typhoon season. I had lived on Guam back in the early 1960’s and received most of my University education at the College of Guam.(back then it was an affiliate of Ohio State University) I passed through the island several times transiting to and from Vietnam and the Philippines a few years later.
When I arrived in the late 1980’s the sleepy little island I had experienced in 1960-1963 was no longer. It had been invaded by the Japanese. (again) In twenty-five years, the Japanese had recaptured the island by purchasing the beach-front real estate and building high-rise hotels and resorts.
I was appalled at first and then humored after I looked more closely. The Guamanian culture had changed drastically. What was once a laid-back Polynesian lifestyle was only evident in some of the villages in the countryside and a long way away from the hub of Agana. Many of the land owners had become millionaires. Their huts near the beaches were selling at downtown New York prices. Everyone had jumped on the ‘tourist’ bandwagon.
The tourists were predictably humorous, too. Since Guam was the closest tropical “foreign island” to Japan, the younger generations flocked to the US possession by the thousands. On any given week-day the tourist population from Japan usually numbered almost sixty thousand people. The guys wanted to shoot guns, eat steak and partake of the ‘pay-as-you-go-lust’. Massage parlors were located on every corner and in most strip malls near Tumon Bay.
The young Japanese women wanted to shop, spend time on the beaches, and sample the men; any men except the Japanese men. It’s true. I’ve never seen so many horny tourists in my entire life.
My eighteen year old son, who normally repelled women like a puddle of fresh puke, was able to get laid more than once. Of course he fell love right off and whined like a puppy when his Japanese squeeze climbed on a plane and flew back to her boyfriend and job in Tokyo. It took him a month to ‘get it’ and by then I was ready to continue our voyage. Mother Nature interrupted my plans; the late arrival of a typhoon that came close to our route south; so I waited another 30 days to get shed of Guam.
I finished the outline and began the novel, THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM, while waiting for my son to play out his string with the Japanese chicks. As it turned out this sexual anomaly was the only opportunity my boy had at ‘swinging’. He returned to the ‘puddle of puke’.
When I’d lived on the island in the early 60’s, I survived one of the island’s worst typhoons in history. In the fall of 1962, typhoon Karen devastated the island. There was considerable loss of life, the entire infrastructure was down for months, and many people went crazy.
One had to be ‘off’ a bit just to survive the small island’s quirks. Sane people were soon sent over the bank. Being confined to a piece of dirt only thirty miles long and six miles wide at the widest part made for interesting character adjustments.
I have to admit when I first arrived on Guam, I was spooked with the knowing I was trapped on a small island. I borrowed my dad’s car and circumvented the island. I made one lap in less time than it took me to pass security at the Naval base. It gave me the heebe jeebies. I didn’t go ding-bat crazy but the knowledge of how small the land mass was -- gave me pause and certain claustrophobic tendencies. I immediately enrolled in the University, got involved in scuba diving and created a salvage business. Those activities plus the exotic women – diversions – probably kept me somewhat sane.
The people I witnessed coming to the island in the late 1980’s were suffering the same malady or worse; instant insanity. This mental condition, referred to as Island Fever, is prevalent in many Hawaiian communities as well. On Guam, however it reaches an acute stage when it’s coupled with a natural disaster; like a typhoon or a tsunami. I know I experienced it! (Sustaining winds of 180 knots with gusts to 250 knots) I witnessed firsthand how some people react when faced with danger of imminent death. I didn’t like what I saw for the most part. People I had held in high esteem acted cowardly and petty when the danger was near. Other’’s who didn’t seem the type, rose to the challenges at hand and ‘glared back at the face of death’. I was fortunate to be included in the second category.I started outlining and writing THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM while on the island and during our journey. I had to set it aside on and off and finally finished the first draft two years later while commercial fishing in Alaska. It’s a big book – 102,000 words; pared down from the original 160,000. It’s racy, bawdy, irreverent, and laced with dark humor. A lot happens during the few weeks chronicled by the novel. I hope you enjoy THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM.