Costa Rica animals are abundant and varied. Here are some of my encounters with them. I think it was Liza Minnelli who once said, “Dogs are better than children, because they won’t grow up to write a book about you.” I couldn’t agree more, which is obviously why I have 7; Dogs that is, not kids. At least I haven’t gotten that infamous call yet; “his name is Junior, he is 13 and he needs a bike.” So I figured that I might as well start this story myself, and lay it all on the line, which is how this Newsletter thing came about. When you talk about your own faults, it’s not as bad as someone else throwing you under the bus. This way, when someone does write a book about me later, it won’t faze anyone. “Michael Simons is this, that and the other thing,” people will say, “Oh I already know that, I have been reading Tank Tops and Flip Flops for years.”
But I always have had a way with animals, and sometimes I do believe I am Dr. Doolittle. Just the other day, I was driving home, and there was this gorgeous Weimaraner in the middle of the road, just standing there. Cars were flying by, without even slowing down, and he was just in another world, oblivious to the danger around him. I turned my truck into both lanes and put it into park, so that everyone was forced to stop, and got out for a little one on one. Dozens of cars were backed up, obviously not very happy, but I could care less. I wasn’t about to let this beautiful creature get run over by a bus. It took only a few seconds for him to see me, and we connected, and he casually walked over, jumped in to the back seat of my car, and off we went. It was as if we were buddies for years. Thank God he had a collar, with a tag, and I called the number and a woman answered. She was distraught that her baby boy Bruno had gotten out and was beyond thankful that he was in good hands, and told me how to get to her home. It was a full blown cry fest when I got there, but my new friend was reunited with the family and all was well; Dr. Doolittle to the rescue.
Costa Rica animals are easy; its people that sometimes throw me for a loop. The other day, there was this bicycle coming down the road, and I would have bet everything I owned in the world, that it was being ridden by a bear; a midget bear. Like one of those animals you would see in a circus. It turned out it was a small man, quite possibly the hairiest man in the world, who had an entire body full of fur. I am not kidding you, like Bigfoot, but he was little. Maybe that was how the rock band Little Feat, got their name, I don’t know. Anyway, this man was about 70 years old and only about 5 feet tall, and there wasn’t one square inch of him that wasn’t covered in grey hair. I kept thinking, Dude, they have body groomers for that stuff now, this isn’t 1970, you are not Steve Austin and the $6 Million man. Body waxing is IN now bro. If you shaved all the hair off of this guy’s chest you could weave an Indian Rug or a Persian carpet; he is a walking fire hazard. Some people are animals, they just don’t know it.
I was in the sports bar Coconutz last week and this woman came up to me and I swear to God I thought she was a leatherback turtle. She must have spent the last 17 years lying in the sun. Her shoulders were like raw hide, they were so cooked, and she was grossly overweight. I wanted to say “honey, spend a few hours a day walking, preferably OUT of the sun, like maybe on a treadmill.” I have seen deep fried jalapenos that looked better, but then she started talking to me and it only went downhill. She was hammered; completely destroyed; she must have started drinking at about 6 am that morning, and I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. It got worse; she started to sing along with the band. She actually had an amazing voice, almost like an opera singer, and she was just belting it out, both arms stretched above her head like Pavarotti, but she was louder than the group, and they had PA equipment. Everyone was staring at us, because I was next to her, and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. Niko the manager came over and saved the day, telling her that she could come back on Tuesdays, it was Karaoke night, and she finally got the hint and shut up.
Other people are just flat out scared. I feel sorry for a lot of these people, I do. You see it every day in this business. We go out of our way to give people the best advice we can, but you know the saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Not even Dr. Doolittle. I have watched people lose the dream of owning a piece of paradise, because they wouldn’t spend an additional couple thousand dollars for a condo. Are you kidding me? And then they blame us, because they were cheap. “My realtor didn’t do his job.” No, it’ your loss, not ours; they have to go back to the freezing rain or snow but we still wake up and its 88 degrees and sunny. I had another client recently, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, but he just couldn’t get over his fear of something new. He went out of his way to TRY and find something wrong, everything wrong, with owning a foreign piece of real estate. Just because someone went for years to a University and then after Grad studies, doesn’t make them smart, just intelligent. We see this all the time, and it just makes you wonder. How long are you going to keep making excuses for NOT enjoying your life? I mean, come on man. I see people 65 and 70 years old, still contemplating. Really? How much time do you have left? Make a decision for God’s sake, you have spent your entire life, sitting on the fence, waffling. For once in your life, go with your gut!!!! Take a chance. Stop looking at the ROI; it is not all about the money. Besides, how much money do you really need? Start living the Pura Vida! And then they come back a few years later and wonder why we don’t remember their names. I am sorry, do you own something?
And then there are the neg balls; you know these guys; we have all seen them; people who just wake up on the wrong side of the bed every single day, their cup is always half empty, there is always a cloud with no silver lining. I was talking to this guy a couple weeks ago, and he told me he was going back to California, because he could live cheaper there than Costa Rica, and he went on to beat up on our little country. “I am happy for you” I sarcastically told him, but I was a little perplexed, as I used to live in Southern California and it is INSANELY more expensive than here; three to five times as much. “Where in California are you going?” Fresno he said. I was stunned. Speechless. For the first time in my existence, I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I started looking around for hidden cameras, as I figured this had to be some kind of a joke. Nobody would leave paradise for that garbage heap. Fresno? Have you ever been to Fresno? It is the armpit of the nation. It was voted the DIRTIEST city in America by Forbes magazine. It has some of the worst air in the country and the water supply is so bad that they tell pregnant women NOT to drink it. Over the last ten years it has had a crime rate DOUBLE that of the average US city, and it is seconds from bankruptcy. It is infested with illegal aliens, factories and landfills, and it isn’t even on the ocean, as it is surrounded by agriculture. When the wind blows the wrong way, you would think you were working at a pig farm. I mean they should test Nuclear Weapons there because nobody would miss the place. It is a total dump, but I guess it’s cheap. If the guy would have said he was moving to Newport Beach, San Diego or Malibu, because it was a more happening place, I probably would have agreed with him, assuming he had enough money to retire there, but Fresno? You are an idiot, I told him. Have a great trip, don’t come back and don’t send any of your friends. Enjoy HELL.
I had a client from New York City 6 or 7 years ago, though, that absolutely took the cake. He was the singular most negative person I have ever met in my life. Many New Yorkers are pricks (I can say that because I was born there) but this guy was the King of them all. No matter what I said, he would bust my balls. You have to understand, that I put everything I have into every client I get in my car. Even if you are not going to buy, I am going to do my best to show you this great area of Guanacaste. I point out the best beaches, the best tour operators, even the best margaritas, massages or fish tacos; because I want you to enjoy your trip, even if you don’t buy a property. This is an incredible country, and I am proud to live here and be an ambassador for this great nation, culture and people. No matter what I said, he would hammer me. “Oh Mike, you are so full of it, blah blah blah. Mr. Salesman, it can’t be all roses, blah blah blah” This went on all morning, and I was so close to just turning the car around and dropping the SOB back at the hotel. I thought, let’s take him to a great lunch on the beach, put a cocktail or two in him, and maybe he will lighten up. I remember thinking how glad I was that I didn’t live in a big city anymore; people are just wound way too tight up there.
As we were sitting at the beach, waiting for our food, the wife asked me about diving, as I told them I love to scuba. She was actually a sweetheart and I found myself wondering how she ended up with such a sour human being. I truly felt sorry for her. Some of the best diving in Latin America is right off our coast here in the Papagayo, I told them, which is how I ended up coming in the first place. We see HUGE marine life here; turtles, manta rays and eels, and sometimes, I went on to say, we even get whales in the bay. Not all the fabulous Costa Rica animals are on land. “Ohhhhh, here we go again” Mr. Negative screamed out. “Now I have heard it all. Whales!!!!! What a crock. Come on Mike, stop lying to me!” At this point, everyone in the restaurant was watching me, because they could tell I was at my breaking point. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not very good at sucking up; I would make a terrible Politician. I was seconds from just ruining this guy’s day, telling him where he could go and walking out on the tab.
“NO, Damn it. Listen to me!!!” I barked. “THERE ARE WHALES IN THIS BAY!!!!” and I turned and pointed towards the ocean. Literally, at that exact second, this monstrous grey whale shoots up out of the water, 20 feet in the air, like Moby Dick, and crashes back down into the ocean, causing this massive explosion of salt water; may the ground open up and swallow me into Fresno right now if I am lying to you, he wasn’t more than 75 yards from the shore. Probably 25 people were standing on the beach, and they all started pointing at the whale. Let me tell you. I have never seen a man go white as a ghost, but this guy did, and the entire restaurant jumped up in a roar. Like when Mick Jagger enters the stage. Michael Simons summons whaaaaaaaales!!!!!!!!!! The place erupted, and it was at that moment that I KNEW I was Dr. Doolittle. If you thought I was self-centered, egotistical and all about ME before, this was the moment where my head really grew to extreme proportions. I can’t even wear a baseball hat anymore it is so big around. “Thanks, thank you very much. I am here all week. Come back Thursday for the next show. This is where I talk to the Orcas and the Dolphins, you will love it.” This ship of fools sails every night and every day.
Overall though, the majority of people who come down looking to live in paradise are amazing individuals, as it takes someone with a little adventure and a positive attitude. Of course, like any community, we have a couple members that nobody likes but for the most part, you never see them because they aren’t invited anywhere. I am not saying that we are all great friends, but we are all friendly to each other, and everyone knows everyone else. It is a phenomenal way to live. I remember when I lived in the USA, I would come home at night, drive my car into the garage and close the door, and I might not see a neighbor for weeks. I didn’t even know 95% of the people on my block, and I lived in that house for years. It isn’t like that here. We all get along, and we all respect each other’s differences, something that absolutely doesn’t happen back in your world right now, and you would have a hard time saying something bad about anyone here. The people in our little beach towns are great!!! Everyday more and more people are realizing that the “grind” is taking them nowhere and they are packing up and moving to paradise, many of them after their very first trip. I can honestly say that I have made thousands of friends since arriving here in 2003.
Between you, me and the palm tree, my dogs run my life, way more than I control theirs. For the most part, they do what they want. They tell ME when they want to eat; talk ME into taking them for walks; and if they are dead set on doing something, or going after something, there is not a darn thing I can do about it. Every single day, I take my pack of mutts for a spin around the golf course. Sometimes, I run with them, and sometimes, I take the golf cart; but there is absolutely no way on this earth, they are skipping this, because they LIVE for this moment. For 6 years they have chased all the Costa Rica animals you can imagine: birds, iguanas, squirrels and an imaginary ghost creature, and theynever caught any of them. NOT ONE. But they have come so close, and a couple times TOO close. They chased a Pizote up a tree once, which is the Costa Rican version of a raccoon; a Jaguarundi another time into the bushes, which is wild cat; and even had a serious bark fest with a bull through the fence another time. Fortunately, they never got to any of these animals, because they would have come out of it severely injured. One time, I was in my little GEM car, with Rod Stewart cranking on the CD player.
Out of nowhere, this massive beast, almost as tall as the cart, ran into my view. I almost had a heart attack; it scared the living daylights out of me. At first I thought it was an Ostrich, I am not kidding you, it was that big, but I knew I wasn’t in the land of down under. OH MY GOD, I thought, that is the biggest turkey I have ever seen. Thanksgiving dinner here we come. Well; my dogs thought the same thing, and BAM! They shot after it like a bullet from a gun. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for them to stop, but they were having no part of my discipline. Only 4 of the 7 took off after it, as Millie was on my lap, and the other two want NO part of confrontation. They are true Ticos. “I’m not chasing an Ostrich are you? Nope. Do I look like Crocodile Dundee?” and they turned and raced back home to the safety of Casa Pila. Now, I have never seen a wild turkey run for its life before so I didn’t really know what to expect, but with 4 fired up canines, inches from his heels, he really turned on the steam. They don’t really run, and they can’t really fly, so it is somewhere between the two. Almost like those big bouncing balls with handles your kids climb onto at the gymnasium. Boing boing boing boing. It was like a cartoon. Each time the turkey came down; my 4 dogs were chomping at its feet. Then it went back up into the air a couple meters or so, and my dogs would lose ground. Then it would come down again, and nip, snap, bite; but they just couldn’t get it.
The last boing, the turkey went over a creek that was about 12 feet deep and 15 feet across. It cleared and made it over, but my dogs didn’t; they were not so lucky and down they went; rumbling, stumbling and tumbling; yapping and squealing the entire way to the bottom, as they crashed against the rocks. I have never laughed so hard in my life, even though I thought there was a very good chance they might all be dead LOL. As they were limping back to the house, dejected, embarrassed, and covered in mud and leaves and definitely a little pissed off, my Dr. Doolittle side of me sensed that come hell or water high, these dogs were not going to let the next sucker off the hook that easy. Unfortunately, that day came last week.
As we were just finishing our morning walk and coming up over the 18th tee, ready to make the last strides up the first fairway to my house, Pablo and I both saw it. Before we could even mutter a sound, POW the dogs were after it. NOOOOOOOOOOOO I screamed as I chased after the pack but there was no way they were slowing down. This Howler Monkey had come out of the trees, for some reason, and was walking across the fairway to the other side. Normally, monkeys don’t ever come out of the canopy, unless there is absolutely no other way to get where they wanted to go. And on this course, that is not an issue as there are thousands of trees and hundreds of monkey corridors. They say, that when a Howler has committed some kind of primate crime, like stealing food, or having a fling with someone’s monkey wife, they are banned from the tribe, forced to live the rest of their life alone, so maybe that was why he was there, on the ground, and out of the safety of the heights. Whatever the reason, he was a prime target for 4 of my dogs, they are very slow on the ground; he had no chance and they were on him in seconds. The other two; same story; Outta here! “I ain’t fighting no monkey are you? Hell no, my name isn’t Tarzan. Let’s go back to the pool” and they were gone. Let me tell you something; this little guy put up one heck of a fight, for the 5 or 6 seconds it took Pablo and me to get to the melee. He was like a little 2 foot tall Bruce Lee; kicking with both legs; throwing karate chops and punches with his little arms; and screaming this high pitched squeal just like the Kung Fu fighters in the old 70’s movies. But 250 lbs. against 30, he wasn’t going to last long.
Now, I have done some really stupid things in my life; borderline insane or moronic depending on your point of view; jumping out of airplanes, flinging myself off bridges, cage diving with man eating sharks in a frenzy and racing just about every kind of vehicle known to man at speeds way above the norm for safety. I can tell you right here and now, that the absolute dumbest thing I have ever done is to jump into the middle of a dog fight with no regard for my own safety, but I was not going to allow my fur children to just rip this little creature apart without giving it my best shot and saving him. The fight had moved, from the tee box to the cart path, which meant that I was sliding into this fiasco on a mix of concrete, asphalt and rocks, like a baseball player stealing second base. I came in with two feet up, like I was taught in little league, and both hands open at approximately ear level. Each one of my feet, connected with the mussel of one of my dogs, and I grabbed the other two with my fists. I was pulling my Rottweiler in one hand, and my Bernese mountain dog with the other, while kicking the living crap out of the other two with my tennis shoes. The monkey was right there with me, still holding his own, throwing jabs like Mohammad Ali. Yah Yah Yah Yah Yah!!!! My dogs were literally pulling me across the pavement in all different directions, trying to get through me to get to the UFC Lightweight Champion of the Jungle. Pablo!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was screaming at the top of my lungs. HEEEELLLLLLLP.
Now my worker Pablo is a sweet man, dumber than a tree, but loyal and honest as the day is hot here, but he is obviously not as stupid as me, because he was NOT going to jump into that accident waiting to happen. So he grabs this big tree trunk of a stick and starts to wack my dogs on the back of their heads, and they finally let go of the monkey. This was my chance I thought, and I did a “turtle” over the top of the little guy, knowing there was no way my dogs were ever going to bite me. Well the Howler, bless his little heart, didn’t understand that I was there to save him; figuring I was just another attacker and he turned his anger on me. The most excruciating pain I have ever felt, hit me like a ton of bricks, as this little bastard sunk his teeth into the inside of my thigh. It felt like a hot metal iron, just pulled out of the fire, was shoved into my skin and I looked down to see the back of his little hairy head, as he was ripping and tearing at my muscle like a knight at the Renaissance festival chomping on a turkey leg. I grabbed the little puke, and tore him from his meal, and threw him about 10 feet across the tee.
Well, you guessed it; the dogs were on him again, and I had to get up and hobble back over to the melee, and fling myself in again. It took Pablo and me another 5 or so seconds to get it back under control, but we saved the monkey. He was obviously a lot worse for wear than when he started out that morning, but he had enough energy to climb up a tree and out of harm’s way. As he turned to go up the vine, he looked back, and that Dr. Doolittle sense came over me again. But instead of thanking me for saving his life, he had an incredible amount of disappointment, almost anger in him, as if I had done him some wrong by saving his life. It hit me at that exact second that maybe he wanted to die. Maybe this was his suicide mission. Maybe his life was so miserable, that when he saw that pack of dogs, he thought “this is my easy way out” and by rescuing him, it forced him back to the world he was trying so hard to leave; a screaming wife, the 3 loser kids, a failed banana export business, IRS tax audits, Obama care and a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. Maybe that was why he bit me, I don’t know. Well, whether he loves me or hates me, I cannot concern myself, I am not a monkey psychiatrist, but I felt good knowing that Pablo and I had done our part to help Costa Rica animals live a little bit longer.
By this stage I was a complete disaster. My thigh was pouring blood and the back of my leg, arm, buttocks and shoulder was completely scraped and bruised. As I was walking back, at a very brisk pace to my house, my mind was racing with anxiety. Do I have Mad Monkey disease? Rabies? Or Ebola? Maybe I have HIV, isn’t that how that got started, by a chimpanzee? I started to jog and my heart started to race. I was really panicking, borderline flipping out, and when I got back to my house I went right to my computer. I Googled everything I could think of, and every article told me I was going to be ok. I didn’t believe it. I started calling everyone I knew, at the monkey rescue centers, and they also told me the same thing. You will be fine; there has never been a case of Rabies in a monkey in Costa Rica. I still didn’t believe them. Finally, after consulting with both of my Doctor friends, I felt I was going to be ok, but I knew I still needed to go see one of them, as the wound was pretty deep. After some minor repairs, a tetanus shot and a gargantuan amount of antibiotics, I was back in the saddle again, selling paradise, living the dream. I found myself looking in the mirror though, to see if there were any changes. Was my beard heavier than it was before? Is that a tail I feel growing or just my wallet? I bet I can climb a tree lickety split. Oh my God, am I going to be a Monkey Man Jack or a Dr Jekyll and Mr. Monkey? Is my voice deeper than before and will I start to Roar or Growl? Am I becoming one of the Costa Rica animals?
The toughest decision I had to make was whether or not to call my Mother. We all know that you don’t want to cause your Mom any extra concern or stress than they already have for their children, and a monkey bite would surely keep her up at night worrying. So as always seems to happen, she will find out about this extraordinary event along with the rest of you, by reading this Newsletter. I love you Mom. Don’t worry I am fine.
The next day I was still a little stressed, so I did what anyone would do under difficult circumstances. I went and got a Pedicure. I know this much now. The next time someone tells me they are a little nervous about their move to Costa Rica, I will chuckle. You have nothing to be scared about, I will say. The only thing that I fear is that the monkey would have turned his head and bit 8 inches to the left, and I would be signing Soprano with that woman at Coconutz on Tuesday’s Karaoke night.
Pura Vida. See you soon.
PS I was going to do my part to boycott Russia for its flagrant violation of International Sovereignty, and stop drinking their Vodka. But then I looked in my bar and saw 4 bottles of Stoli left from my party, so I think I will start my sanctions in a couple months. I will keep you posted on this epic event.
Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 44