In Paris I am staying at Tate’s cousin’s apartment.  His name is Max and he is getting married.  He is back on the farm preparing for the wedding so his apartment is free.  It’s a nice apartment.  High floor.  One-bedroom.  That’s the issue, really, is that the one bedroom is occupied by a Mexican who I will refer to as Rosa.  Rosa works for Cartier and Tate’s theory is that she really wants to be French.  I don’t agree, I actually think Rosa just doesn’t identify with Mexican values anymore.  She has recently surprised herself and her friends with the discovery that sex is important for relationships and general well-being.  She is currently on the hunt for a pair of remote control vibrating underpants that she saw in a Katherine Heigl movie.  She seems positively thrilled in this pursuit.  She has a feeling like that feeling of first getting to college – I can do anything I want and what I choose to do will define who I am.  Rosa is no longer defined by Mexican social mores, she’s defined by vibrating underpants.

Rosa is a bit of a character.  A couple of funny things.  First, she told the Paris Cartier people that she was in town for a wedding and they arranged a big meeting for her.  Rosa is responsible for like all the Cartier watches in Mexico or something.  So there are like product people, marketing people, etc.  Something like 20 people for this meeting just for her.  She is excited.  She needs lots of advice from Tate about what to wear (more on this later).  She shows up 45 minutes late to this meeting.  When she recounts this, I am a bit incredulous.  As much as I had to hear about this meeting the night before, how special it was, how special a person she must be to have this arranged for her, why show up 45 minutes late?  Well, she’s Latin, and there’s an expectation that Latin people are late to meetings.  So it’s fine.  Frankly, what she really wants to let us know is that she saw her old boss.  She was with her new Paris Cartier friends, looking like “a little Salma Hayek” (literally her words), and she “knew he had wanted to fuck her” before, so this was a triumphant moment for her.  To me the day sounded like a disaster, but to her it was a big win.

Ok, on the clothes.  Tate thinks Rosa’s clothes are hilarious but they make a lot of sense to me.  Basically, Rosa has an entire huge suitcase full of clothes, but every single item is made out of soft t-shirt material and is brightly colored.  To me, it’s like, duh, comfortable and bright colors, who doesn’t love that?  But apparently that’s not very fashionable.  I guess the lack of variety is odd.  But I know what to get at Christmas if my sons date Mexican girls and I need a present.



Thank you Zanex for allowing for pleasant flights across the Atlantic.  I got off the plane a little groggy for a short layover in Frankfurt on the way to Paris and immediately purchased the smallest bottle of water I have ever seen.  3.5 Euros.  $4.65.  Oh, hey Europe.

When I find myself slightly bewildered in a foreign place such as the Frankfurt airport, I often ask myself this grounding question: what would Jeff Gordon do?  Clearly Jeff Gordon would get the sausage and pretzel combo for 3.99.  Thanks, Jeff.

In most cities it is pretty straightforward to get from a major capital airport to the capital city.  You put some money or card into a machine, it gives you a ticket, and you get on a train.  At Charles de Gaulle, the train is closed.  There’s no explanation, there’s just this big banner blocking off the turnstyles that probably says “closed” or maybe “fuck you.”  I ask some dude how to get to Gare du Nord (forgetting that I should mention Paris, as Gare du Nord just means “North Station”).  He points at a bus and says “Mitry.”  I assume this is just French for “Paris” so I get on the bus.  Clearly what happened was that the train workers went on strike (but first they made a big banner that said “fuck you”), and CDG airport had to round up some buses and drunk, angry homeless people to drive them.  Or at least that’s what I assume based on how the bus driver is throwing us around on our way to God knows where.  Having way too much luggage, I am in the middle of the bus with nothing to hold onto.  I am flying all over the place.  I feel better as we appear to be getting on the highway.  Maybe we are going to Paris and it will be a steadier ride.  Nope, we veer off the highway at the first exit and start driving through an industrial area.  I am starting to realize why the French get a bad rap for smelling.  I definitely smell some BO, but worse it’s clear that the French just fart whenever they damn well please.  And I can only assume that a diet of snails and cheese makes you fart a lot.  Thank god the bus emerges from Industrial Zone 7 and miraculously there is a train station (Mitry).  Yay.

I get to Paris with this plan: meet Tate somewhere in the Gare du Nord train station.  According to the Mission T-Mobile store guy, who I would trust with my life, my phone will work in France.  False.  Now the plan to meet “somewhere in the Gare du Nord train station” seems foolish.  As I remember, it’s pretty big.  Sure enough, I get there and it’s not only very big, with multiple levels, but there’s really no obvious meeting place.  I wander around for a while, randomly jamming my credit card into phones unsuccessfully, until I literally run into Tate.  It turns out that it’s fine that it took 45 extra minutes to get to Gare du Nord because Tate is 45 minutes late.  “It’s better to be lucky than have a reasonable plan,” I think to myself.  That turns out to be foreshadowing for the rest of the trip.

This group of Americans that hiked Volcan Maderas with me happened to be in San Juan del Sur while I was there.  They were going out one night to celebrate a birthday.  We drank a lot of rum and went to the bar where everyone goes, called Iguana something.

At some point in the night I had lost a bet and had to do a “birthday dance.”  Somewhere along the way I had acquired this truly bizarre cardboard mask.  It only covered the top half of my face.  The mask was what appeared to be an old man, maybe 65, wearing some kind of electoral victory hat.  And in black and white.  Needless to say, anyone wearing this mask looked really creepy.

So I am wearing this mask and do the birthday dance.  I utilized a combination of dance moves that I have learned from friends over the years: Thomas´ levels, Weber´s stomp dance, and Conor´s move that I will refer to as pinwheels, where you run back and forth, and move both your arms like pinwheels.  It´s actually more like the hands of a clock, where you stop each arm at certain times.  Obviously in rhythym with the beat and running back and forth continuously.  So after level-stomp-clock-dancing to a particularly epic “Evacuate the Dancefloor” remix while wearing this creepy mask, I look up and the entire bar is watching me.  Two different groups came to join us, with one dude commenting “this is obviously where the party is happening.”

When we were leaving the bar, it became clear that my sandals had been stolen.  Who steals sandals?  Most likely they were jealous of my dance moves.


I decided to start with a lesson.  Jose was my instructor.  On the way to the beach he picked up some pizza, so I offered to drive.  As I am driving we notice a police checkpoint.

Oh shit man pull over.

(I pull over)

Do you have a license?


(Checks his pockets) I don´t have one either.

Just tell them I have a license but I left it in my hotel, and I don´t speak Spanish.

We get to the checkpoint.  The cop is trying to get a bribe out of my surf guide who just keeps saying he doesn´t have any money and besides aren´t they friends?  Finally the cop turns to me and I just respond “No hablar espanol” (Lit: No to speak Spanish).  He gives me a look of disgust and we are on our way.

I always forget how hard surfing is.  As a beginner, they give you a funboard.  Getting that thing out past the breakers is ridiculous.  But on the positive side once you get out there, it´s very easy to stand up on.  It´s like a sidewalk.  You can run around on it.

The next day I went on my own to another beach with much bigger surf.  Also a smaller board.  That day there happened to be an earthquake in Chile and all the gringos were scared of a tsunami.  Jose said “No way man.  No tsunami.” so I headed out there.

While surfing I am only thinking about one thing: death.  Death is right around the corner at any moment when you are surfing.  One time while paddling out, I ducked under a wave.  I thought I had made it, but I got caught right at the very tip.  I ducked too early.  The sensation was bizarre.  It was like the wave was sucking me in and taking me along with it.  I was caught in the tube and being twirled around voilently.  After a few revolutions I was completely disoriented and I really needed air.  I swam in what I thought was the right direction and barely made it to the surface in time.  So right there, no big deal, just ducking under a wave, and I almost drowned.

You could also be hit in the head by a surfboard or attacked by a shark.  And that day I also had to watch out for tsunamis.

Many surfers say that the best part about surfing is how you feel after you get out of the water.  Your mind is totally clear.  You feel like you can do anything.

I can´t speak for others, but for me this is true primarily because when I get out of the ocean I am so thankful to have made it out alive.  The world is brighter.  My smile is more common and wider.  Oranges and beers taste better.  And I feel great.

No internet for a while

I am currently on the Rio San Juan.  Very little internet connectivity plus I spend most of my day on a boat.  So may be a little while until more updates.

San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur is a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean that is either the best place or worst place in Nicaragua depending on your perspective.  Ok, the capital city Managua is definitely the worst place, but you know what I mean.  Some people love the overpriced cheesy tourist places and the plethora of English speakers with good ideas about how to comfortably spend dollars while others describe it as artificial, ruined, etc. “Like Costa Rica” which is a terrible insult here.

I had originally planned to go, then decided to skip it after talking to some turistas and locals here, but then I met (I kid you not) six more Swedes after getting back from Volcan Maderas who raved about it.  Awesome surfing, parties on the beach, resorts with cheap Nica Libres and three infinity pools (they kept repeating this point, “three infinity pools!”,  then explaining again what infiinity pools are.  Should have been a clue).

Good arguments were made by the Swedes, particularly David who passed along great wisdom by saying ¨You know, there are two sides to every story.  Hiccup.  You know, there are two sides to every story.  There are always two sides to every story.”  Needless to say I was convinced.

Since arriving in Nicaragua I had heard that the two most dangerous types of people were cab drivers and the police.  The police are always stopping you for bribes for some weird infraction that they have clearly just invented.  They are nice about it though.  They just aren´t paid very well.  The cab drivers are apparently quite evil.  Every single one, whether “official” or not, is apparently hell bent on getting you to trust him and get in the cab so he can drive you out to the middle of nowhere, strip you naked, and leave you to find your way back.

I ask my hotel to arrange a cab to take me from the Ometepe ferry dropoff to San Juan del Sur.  $30 they say.  I am wearing a shirt that says “45” on the front so they say a cabbie will be looking for “cuarenta cinco.”  Sure enough, no cabbie hailing 45.  Big dude walks up to me.

Cab to San Juan del Sur?

Si, cuanto cuesta?



I get in the cab.  By no means official.  The guy is really friendly.  Maybe too friendly…  He asks if we can pick someone else up.  This is pretty common so I say sure, but in a miscommunication he is led to believe we can only pick up a single additional person (there´s always room for 4 plus luggage even in tiny Nica cabs).  We pick up this guy.  They don´t really say much to each other, just “San Juan del Sur” and a nod.  Seems a little suspicious.  A knowing nod.

As we drive the driver starts explaining something to me.  His Spanish is really fast and accented.  He is not slowing down because I am stupidly nodding my head pretending that I understand when really I am trying to look into his eyes in the mirror to see if he is lying.  Something about being a bus driver.  He also drive a bus.  He went to school for it and is the only one allowed to drive it.  But anyone can drive a taxi.  He likes to drive the bus at two o´clock.

We start heading out of town onto a highway and he pulls off the road.  Uh oh.  He gets out of the car and comes around to my window to assure me that this new random dude from the side of the road is a really good driver, too.  What the hell?  Dammit I am definitely getting robbed.  This is some kind of switcheroo so when I try to explain what happened to the police they have an alibi, or something.  God knows.  I am so hungover.  Hard to think.  Oh well let´s just see what happens.

Turns out the new guy is very friendly and much easier to understand.  The other dude had to go drive the two o´clock bus to San Juan del Sur.   No idea why he was then picking people up from the ferry at one thirty in a taxi.

San Juan del Sur has a very touristy feel to it.  Jaded locals, lots of gringos and chules walking around with hats, sunglasses, flip flops, board shorts and pale skin.  Overpriced coffee shops and cheeseburgers.  However, the bay is beautiful.  It´s set between two cliff faces that are largely undeveloped.  Beautiful sunsets.  I am able to get some surprisingly good gnocchi in town.  I like the town ok.  The real reason you come here is the surf at the nearby beaches.

Trip extension

I am staying down here another five days.  I now return Saturday March 13th.