Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 9
People see me now, and assume I was always Living Large here in Costa Rica. But actually I came from very humble beginnings when I first arrived on the scene. I was obviously determined to succeed and came to Guanacaste with the same attitude the Vikings had hundreds of years ago. “Burn the ships!” I sold everything I had back home and literally came with a suit case full of cash and some Tank Tops and Flip Flops. I sold my business in Florida, all my cars, my boat, my motorcycle, my condo and all my worldly possessions, and headed off on a new adventure in the land of Pura Vida.
I bought a one way ticket to paradise and set off to live a dream I have had for over 20 years. I truly believe that’s the best way to do it. Make it or break it, do or die. There is no turning back and there is no failure. Of course I still have a small storage unit back in the USA for all those things you just can’t get rid of for some reason. I mean, whose stupid idea is it that we aren’t allowed to get rid of our high school year books or love letters from our child hood sweet hearts? So my American Express card still gets whacked on the 15th of every month for $39.95 from You Store it USA. Dumb.
Do yourself a favor if you are following in my foot steps. Burn the books too.
Although I owned two gorgeous ocean view lots here in Playa Hermosa, I wasn’t prepared to build on them quite yet when I arrived. Of course there weren’t a lot of houses built back then, so finding a rental home was quite a challenge. We had 2 options and ONLY 2 options. We moved into this adorable little house just outside of Coco in a little community with a small pool. People call it the Flintstones houses because they are very similar to what Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty lived in. There were only 4 or 5 houses built then, so we took the only one that was available.
It was 2 bedroom 2 bath with a small kitchen and a little covered patio. There was no hot water, no AC, and the mattress was harder than a rock. I have gone camping in the Rocky Mountains in January and the ground was softer. There was a washing machine that you had to load by putting a hose in it and filling it up. Then when it was finished you had to pull the plug in the back to drain and of course there was no dryer. There was no dishwasher, and no TV and we had regular visits from geckos and scorpions, tarantulas and raccoons. But we were living in paradise and couldn’t have been happier. Besides, the boat was burning so we could not go back anyway.
We arrived on June 1st, 2003 and within a matter of a few weeks we were settled in to the community. As I told you a couple Newsletters ago, there is a gigantic fiesta every July 25 to celebrate the Annexation of Guanacaste from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. It is like the World Fair has come to town, as it is a 10 day fest of nothing but bull fights, horse parades, music, food, drinking and all out partying. They have rides for the kids and carnival games and at night it turns into the largest outdoor disco you have ever seen. Thousands of people flock to Liberia to dance the night away. They put up these huge stages with Latin Music blaring so loud you can’t even think straight. Of course they find the absolute hottest Ticas imaginable, have them put on these skin tight dresses, and shake and gyrate to try and attract you into their party.
My girlfriend had to go to the restroom so I was more than happy to wait for her outside one of these discos and take in the scenery while she was gone. With in a matter of minutes a nice gentleman was standing next to me enjoying the same views and we struck up a conversation. He was here on vacation from Cape Code and it was his first or second night in town. He asked me some advice on where to visit and I told him he HAD to come to Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco, just 30 minutes away. He was very excited about it until he found out I sold real estate. He immediately went into defense mode, telling me how he had no money, wasn’t able to buy and didn’t want to waste my time.
We assured him that we were not going to be pressuring him to purchase anything, and invited him to be our guest for a few days at the beach. When he arrived at our little casita, he was just completely taken by this house. He immediately started talking about all the little things he would do to make it better. Add this, build that, paint those etc. He told me “someday Mike, when I have some money, I am going to come back to Costa Rica and you are going to sell me this house” He stayed a few days, we had an absolutely blast, and when the time came for him to leave, we shook hands and he left to finish his vacation. It was the start of a 10 year friendship that still continues to this day. Well, guess what? A few years later, things came together for him and Greg came back and bought that little house.
You should see it now. Adorable. We always go to Liberia to stare at the dancing Pilsen girls every July, just to celebrate the anniversary of our friendship. We never get tired of it, I promise.
We moved a couple more times over the next year as we were planning to build our house. They were all wonderful in their right; until an opportunity came up we just couldn’t pass up. Two very good friends of ours owned an absolute mansion up on top of the hill in Monte Paraiso. They were going to take a year and travel the world and didn’t want to leave their house empty. They didn’t want to rent it weekly, as they were concerned about the wear and tear. You see he was an art dealer, and had some exquisite paintings hanging on the wall.
So he asked if we wanted to live in the house for the year. We jumped at the chance. “Oh by the way” Fabian said, “there is one catch. Kiki and I just got this new puppy and you have to take care of it for us too” JACKPOT! Are you kidding me? Like this was an inconvenience for me? Nobody loves dogs more than I do, so having a Rottweiler puppy was like winning the lottery. Her name was Meka. They had named her after some famous beautiful woman from Spain, and she was just an angel.
For the next year, we raised her like our own, and grew very close to this gorgeous creature. As far as she knew, I was her daddy, and another life long friendship was created. Let me tell you how great this house was before I forget. It is sitting on a cliff, with an unobstructed view of Playa Hermosa Bay, the Four Seasons hotel and the entire Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Papagayo. WOW. We felt like rock stars and lived like it too. I don’t think I ever actually lied, but I never went out of my way to tell anyone I was renting the house either hahahaha. I would just say, come over to my house for cocktails, and a party would be started.
I can honestly say that living in that house created a lot of sales for me over the next 12 months. It was one of those properties where the hair on your neck stood up the second you walked through the front door. People especially loved the two statues by the pool of naked Indians, famous local art collected by many who live here. It was designed after a house in Marbella Spain and could easily have won an architecture award. When my friends returned from their world travels, it was very tough moving out and leaving behind my little girl Meka. So at least twice a week I would go over to visit her and get some doggie loving.
Many times I would be with clients and say, I gotta stop by this house for a couple minutes and say hi to an old friend. They would chuckle as she would lick my face through the gate. I found myself needing another furry friend, as that unconditional love is impossible to replace.
It was Christmas time and we went to San Jose to do some shopping at the mall. My girlfriend went right and I went left and we agreed to meet back in the middle in a couple hours. I hadn’t taken 5 steps when I saw her. There was a doggie sale at the mall, and they had dozens of puppies in cages, lining the walk way. Every one of them were jumping and barking, flipping and jerking, except for one. She was about the size of a Coke Can and had a little Santa Claus sweater on. She was staring right at me, hypnotizing me as if she was telling me “You and Me! We are OUTTA HERE!” I yelled to my girlfriend and she came back down the mall. We spent the next hour playing with the puppy on the floor, trying to talk ourselves out of buying her; it didn’t work.
It’s a big responsibility to have a dog as they will never be able to take care of themselves. Kids at least grow up and can make themselves a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, but not our canine friends, otherwise known as furry children. They ALWAYS need you. That is probably why they love us so much. They aren’t stupid, they know they don’t have thumbs and can’t open the food themselves, although they will give it a heck of a try if you aren’t paying attention. We finally agreed to the commitment and went up to the counter to pay. Now, let me tell you a little secret. No matter how long you live in another country, you will ALWAYS convert their money into your money. So when I go to the grocery store, and see 10,000 Colones I immediately think $20 bucks. When I go to the computer store and see 400,000 Colones my brain immediately says $800 clams. Even when you buy a car, you see these huge numbers, c13,000,000 your brain just goes $26k. It never changes and I am sure it is the same way for the Ticos. When they hear Dollars, they immediately change it to Colones.
So I asked the girl at the counter, Cuanto Dinero para la Perra (how much for the doggie in the window)? Mil Dolares she replied. I looked at my girlfriend with this stupid look on my face and she asked me what was wrong. I said they want $2 dollars for the dog. That can’t be right. But before I even finished my sentence I realized she said DOLLARS not COLONES. So it went something more like this. What’s wrong honey? They want two dollars for this dawww WHAT? A THOUSAND DOLLARS? FOR A STUPID DOG? They want a thousand dollars for this dog honey. My girlfriend kissed the puppy on the nose, looked her right in the eye and said “you are cute but not that cute” and put her back in the cage.
We were pissed. We were positive that they were gringo pricing us. All the way back to the hotel I was sure they were ripping us off. They only charged us a grand because we are gringos we said. They saw us coming a mile away. We are not that stupid we declared. Well………… you already know how this went when we got to the hotel. We of course couldn’t stop talking about this adorable little puppy and we were so upset with ourselves for not buying it, I mean we could easily afford it and she was just absolutely precious. So we called some family in the USA and asked the how much is a pure bred Yorkie? We found out they are about $1500 to $2000 back home, and we were all of a sudden singing a different tune.
WE GOT A DEAL!!!!! LET’S GO BACK AND BUY HER!!!!! I LOVE COSTA RICA!!!! Obviously the mall was closed and I have to say it was the longest night of my life. We were panicked that someone else was going to buy our little girl and we were out the door in the morning before the sun even came up. We got to the mall about 2 hours before it opened and sat outside the entrance. You should have seen the look on the faces of the guards. Man these gringos sure like to Christmas shop huh? It reminded me of high school when we would wait outside to buy concert tickets for days before they went on sale. Then we would sprint through the mall to get to the record store to be first in line to buy Police Tickets or Van Halen. When we got to the store, THANK GOODNESS, she was still there.
You should have seen everyone staring at us as we practically smothered this puppy to death, and she returned the favor by completely cleaning our faces. We didn’t do a very good job of negotiating but I think we ended up paying about $935 for her and off we went. As we drove back to Guanacaste that day we were discussing a name for our new family member. My girlfriend said, we have to name her Millie because we paid a Mil for her (thousand). YES that’s a great name I replied and her middle name should be Dolores for dolares (dollars). So since we paid mil dolares for her we named her Millie Dolores and she is without a doubt the princess of my life.
The two most important things in her life, are me and food, and not exactly in that order. She wakes me up every single day at 430 am by kissing my face over and over. The second I open my eyes, she jumps off the bed and sprints to her bowl; More food please.
Well fast forward a couple years and I am building my house on the golf course, Casa Pila. What’s the story behind that name you asked, you guessed it? Stay tuned for another Newsletter. I never moved into the house up on the hill, but instead moved out to the golf course in Sardinal, another Newsletter I promise. Besides, Ocean View is over rated, trust me. About this same time, my friends up in the mansion decided to try a new adventure in life.
Every 7 to 8 years, they move, so they can experience the entire world before they die. They have lived in Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, England and Spain. New York City, Panama City and Costa Rica. They are now, last I heard, somewhere near Fiji or Bali, doing the Buddah thing. God Bless them. So when I sold their house, they obviously couldn’t take Meka with them and it was only obvious who was going to adopt her. ME.
I sold their house to a great guy named Pete from Michigan who has also become a very good friend. I have the greatest job in the world. I meet the best people from all over, and I get to spend my day showing gorgeous properties to cool humans, drinking cold beer on the beach. It really sucks man. I have hundreds of friends now, all over the world, so if I ever decide to travel the planet, I know I have plenty of sofas to crash on in every city around the globe.
Literally the day I moved into my new house, my newest family member entered my life. I have workers I pay to pick up trash around the area and this one particular day, he came back to my office looking like he had seen a ghost. He had this puppy in a cardboard box that was half an inch from death. It seemed that she had been hit by a car, and someone put her in the trash can believing she was dead. Half the bones in her body were crushed and she was covered in ticks and fleas. It was a dreadful site. She looked at me, with this huge dark eyes, almost as if to say, Why? Please save me. I started to cry. I immediately put her in my truck and raced to the vet. He took one look at her, and told me that it would be better if we just put her to sleep.
I told him, You don’t dare put this animal to sleep, you fix her, I don’t care what it costs, and keep her alive. Cesar looked me right in the eyes and said “do you promise me, if I save her, you will take her home and not set her back in the street. Because if you are going to just let her ago again she is better off dead” I promised him I would bring her home, and in his broken English he said “It will be a miracle if she lives.” Well, I guess Miracles happen, because about 2 weeks later he brought her back to the office. She still looked like hell, but she was alive.
I asked my secretary, how do you say Miracle in Spanish? Milagro she said, and hence her name. She has been hit 2 more times by cars in her life and she still keeps going. She is the sweetest creature in the world, but definitely not that smart. Cute but dumb. She walks with this horrible limp but is the most loving animal you have ever met. She knows she is lucky. She is a little goofy but she is everybody’s favorite.
It’s funny because all three of these names start with M, but it was never planned that way. Meka was named by Fabian, Millie Dolores is Millie Dolores, and Milagro was a no brainer. But all of a sudden, people started teasing me. Oh, Michael has such an ego; he names all his dogs M after Michael. How small minded people can be huh? LOL. But then it became obvious, that from then on, M was going to be the modus operandi, or so I thought. Another friend of mine had to return to Florida and gave me his dog Dude. As I told you in my first Newsletter, Dude was a hippie and hanging around wasn’t in his cards. He ran away daily, and wandering was more his gig. He now resides on a ranch in Arenal, chasing cows and horses everyday, which is way more up his alley.
Back to the M theory, I figured. A friend from Wisconsin was visiting, and as we drove through a huge rain storm just at the last second I saw in my headlights, this tiny little head sticking up from a pothole. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out. Dog number Four I told her. Since she was from Madison it made the naming pretty easy and the pack of Ms continued to grow, as they seemed to just appear out of nowhere.
Early one Sunday morning, there was a pounding on my door. Pablo my care taker was standing there with tears in his eyes. It seems a pack of monkeys had come down out of a tree to run across the golf course. My Rottweiler, doing what dogs do, took off after them. She has probably chased 6,000 birds, squirrels, cats etc and never caught any of them, but today was her lucky day, and not the monkeys. She caught the monkey and killed it. She brought it back and dropped it in our driveway, with this incredibly proud look on her face. I got the SOB. Finally!!! We couldn’t be mad at her, as this is what dogs do, but it was very sad as it was a very small monkey.
It’s funny how word gets out quickly, because within a couple days, everyone was calling my dogs Monkey Killers. They could save a drowning baby from a flooded river and nobody would give them a biscuit, but kill a little monkey and all hell breaks loose. So Pablo and I put the monkey in a bag and took off to try and figure out where to bury it. Now, disposing of a dead monkey is not an easy task, you can’t just drop if off in a garbage can. So we decided to take it to the big Tempisque Bridge and drop it in the river with all the crocodiles, and let Mother Nature do what she does with so many other creatures.
On the way to the burial we passed this woman walking through the park in Sardinal and behind her was this tiny, adorably cute little puppy. It looked up at us, and I swear it turned around and started walking the other way. As we returned from bridge, this puppy was half way down the dirt road to my house, almost as if some sign from above told her to head east. As I stopped the truck and picked her up, both Pablo and I at the same time said “Monita” We knew Little Monkey was the perfect name for our new family friend.
When I got back to my house, I had a heart to heart with Meka. I told her that since she took the life of one Monita she had to help raise this other one. She was the perfect mom, raising this baby as if it was her own. There really isn’t a bad bone in her body. Monita on the other hand, is the problem child in the family, always getting in to something. She has that Napoleon Syndrome as she is the smallest of the pack.
One day I was driving home and these two puppies were just walking down the dirt road by my house, seemingly heading to Casa Pila. It was as if the dogs in Sardinal all told them, “just keep going down that road. There is this stupid gringo at the end, and he will gladly feed and house you. That’s it, just keep walking, you can’t miss em.” So I picked them both up and brought them home. Since one was a male, I gave him to a friend as I decided I wasn’t taking on any more boys, after my experience with the stoner Dude. I guess the female dogs are very similar to the Ticas. They figure once they get their paws on a rich gringo, they ain’t leaving. LOL. After some consideration, I named this girl Margarita, but a friend of mine, after babysitting her for a weekend, decided the name was too long and shortened it to Maggie.
The pack kept growing. I talked to my father later that week and told him of my new friend. He said; “let me see now, if I can name all your dogs. Millie, Meka, Milagro, Madison, Monita, Maggie and Malina.” Malina? I don’t have a Malina, but thanks for the name, now I am ready when the next one shows up.
My phone rang one afternoon, and it was a friend of mine from Coco that runs the rescue center CARE. “I know you already have plenty of dogs Mike, and I normally wouldn’t ask you, but I am not taking No for an answer. There is a dog in Coco that is owned by a drug user. The neighbors say that it is being abused and left outside all night in the rain, tied to a tree. We can’t just give it to someone in Coco, as they might walk by and see it one day. Since you live out in the country, I need you to adopt this wonderful creature and give it a good home.
Done Deal I told her. So later that night, like a Seal Team, they snuck into the back yard of this house, cut the chain on the dog and dog-napped it. Malina found a good home, and without a doubt, this dog craves attention. She is a mix of some sort of Spaniel and Bernese Mountain Dog and you can’t possibly go around her without her huge paws taping you on the leg, until you scratch her neck. She practically has a doggie orgasm, she is so excited. I told myself that this was it, NO more dogs, as my yard was full. Well………… we all know that wasn’t going to happen.
He would come around a couple times a week, obviously checking out the girls. At first they would bark him away, but within time he won them over. Before you knew it, he was here everyday, a permanent fixture at Casa Pila. I mean, 5 girls, 2 meals a day, and a free bath every week sounds like a pretty good deal. Sign me up, I would never leave (Madison and Maggie passed away last year). So we got him snipped and all his shots, and had to come up with a name. It wasn’t that difficult as this is one fortunate dog: he is hung like a horse. Life isn’t fair I tell you. Why this was wasted on a street dog, I have no idea: must be somebody’s idea of a sick joke. I mean, I didn’t exactly get the short end of the straw but come on man!
So we named him Macho, and that he is. He would strut around the yard, like a king with his harem. Our pack of girls, love nothing more than their daily runs. I try to go with them some days, but my life is hectic and I don’t always have time for an hour walk in the morning. So on those busy days, I just jump in my golf cart, and we race around the golf course at 6am. There goes Mike, walking his dogs. Every dogs dream has to be taking a poop on a fairway or a tee, because that’s where they always end up setting up shop (yes I pick it up my golfing friends so don’t panic).
Every Sunday I load the girls in the back of the truck, with Millie Dolores on my lap, and off to Matapalo beach we go. In my opinion, this is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen anywhere in the world. It is 20 minutes down the Monkey Trail near the RIU hotel. The beach is over a mile long and you can actually drive your truck right on to the sand. It is also a phenomenal swimming and snorkeling beach and one of the best campsites in Costa Rica. Macho though, refused to get in the truck. It just scared the BeJesus out of him, and he would jump out at the first chance and run back to the house. So Pablo and I decided that if we got him to go to the beach, he might change his mind.
So we loaded him inside the truck and off we went. Well, he had a blast. As a matter of fact he had so much fun; he refused to get back in the truck. We chased him for an hour and he still wouldn’t come so we gave up and went home. I mean any dog that is stupid enough to leave 5 beautiful women to spend the night on a cold wet beach, deserves to be left alone.
That was 4 weeks ago. My females never leave. People are amazed that they just stay in the yard and don’t leave. I always say, they came from the other side of the tracks, they are NOT going back. They know a good thing when they got it. Smart Ticas. They got their Gringo.
Well this Sunday, we went back for our usual run and swim. As we were half way down the beach, we heard this howling and turned around and who do you think we saw? Macho. It was like something out of a movie, as he came strutting down the beach towards the women, cool as a cucumber. You would have thought it was John Wayne. The Great Return of Macho. The females dropped me like a three foot putt, and off they went towards the stud. It just goes to show that some things are more important to women than money, and Macho’s got it, I don’t. Hahahahaha.
Ten minutes of licks and moans and the family was back together. It wasn’t nearly as much work to get Macho back in the truck this time. I guess he realized how good he had it after all. They are all outside now, sleeping off the day. I actually feed about 7 other dogs; I just can’t bring them all home. So I tell my less fortunate friends, just keep them at your house and I will gladly pay for the food and vet. You love them, I will feed them. But I gotta tell you there is nothing better than coming home after a long day, and being bombarded by my furry children. It takes me 10 minutes just to get to the front door as I am overwhelmed with love. If I could find a woman that happy to see me at the end of the day, I might just consider marriage. The odds are pretty good that I will probably keep collecting dogs, so if you have any ideas for cool names, shoot em my way. Just make sure they start with the letter M because I gotta keep feeding my ego, you know what I mean, right?
An anonymous poem
I RESCUED A HUMAN TODAY. Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them. As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life. She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well. Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved, at least I could save one. I rescued a human today.
If you have had a great experience with my office and Costa Rica, I want to hear about it. Please send us a video of yourself telling us WHY and I will post it to my website for everyone to see. Or send me an email and I will put it in my Testimonials. I appreciate your business and that you have decided to read this Newsletter more than I could ever tell you. THANK YOU. Please take a little more time and check out the entire site. We have added a lot of information lately that I am sure you will find helpful. Also, please forward this to any friends you think might be interested in learning more about Costa Rica. Is there a story behind Tank Tops and Flip Flops you ask? Of course, but you have to stay tuned for another Newsletter. I hope all is well. Stay healthy. God Bless you and your families. Stop procrastinating and hurry back!
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