I wandered up to the boat bar at Samoa after a grueling day of
waxing Swell’s hull under a cloudless sky. The place was deserted
except for two gringos with their backs to me as I walked up to
order a club soda. Cigars and local artisan crafts were spread
across the bar in front of them. “Club soda por favor,” I told
Claudio. The closer man turned to look at me, and a Cheshire grin
quickly spread under his bulbous nose. A half-inch gold chain draped out of
his light yellow polo shirt with “B. Levell” dangling at the bottom
in an absurd display of diamonds set into gold.
I almost choked on
my first sip of soda when I saw it. Apparently I was more
interesting than the crafts and smokes, because his attention
instantly shifted my way. The scene was just too interesting to
pass up, so I pulled up a stool and listened to him banter on in a
thick mid-Western twang. He was 73, owned property in Golfito,
night clubs in Nebraska, and loved gambling.
“Can’t I buy you a drink? You hungry? You want a cigar?” He
repeated with cartoon-like animation. I didn’t want anything but he
wouldn’t give up.
“I’ll have ice cream I guess.”
“Bring her some ice cream!” He shouted to Claudio, who shared my
delight in the comedy of the situation. A chocolate milkshake and a
banana split were both set in front of me a minute later.
“Ice cream?” He said with a look of disgust, “Can’t I buy you a
drink? You want to go to the casino? Come on let’s go to the
casino.” He said flashing a wad of hundreds. Annoyed that I
appeared unimpressed by his offers and his cash heap, he
“How about high-card-low-card?
You know how to play? Hey bartender, you got a deck of cards back
“I think so,” I replied non-chalantly as he shuffled the
red-backed deck and flipped over a six of diamonds. “High.”
The next card was a ten of clubs. He slapped a hundred dollar
bill on the bar in front of me. His lips sort of twitched as he flipped
over the next card. The pile in front of me grew and shrank. When
he realized that I wasn’t going to accompany him to the casino
(which I wasn’t sure even existed in Golfito) he ended the game. I
sucked the last sip of milkshake from the bottom of the glass,
shook Butch’s hand, stuffed three crisp hundreds in my pocket, and
wandered off to check my emails.