Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 125
Wild Horses – Playas del Coco Tope (Horse Parade)
In this day and age, there is lot of anger going on, many different opinions on the state of the world, and it is hard for many people to see eye to eye. But there are two facts that are impossible to dispute and almost everyone agrees; The Rolling Stones are one of the greatest bands of all time and Costa Rica is the happiest place on the planet. One of my personal favorite songs is Wild Horses and we have our own version of that here as well too. It is called a TOPE.
Two or three times a year, our little community of Playas del Coco, celebrates life with one of the biggest parties known to mankind, the horse parade, and it is quite possibly the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Hundreds of people, come to our little pueblo, dressed in their best Cowboy outfits, and ride their prized possessions down the main road of town. You have to come early, to get yourself a spot on the side of the street, as the entire boulevard is blocked off to traffic. This bash lasts all day and into the night. Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.
It starts about a mile from the beach, by the Luperon Grocery store; goes down through the center of town; turns around at the boardwalk; and heads over to the bull ring on the road to Ocotal. I have never missed one in 16 years. Every bar in town is packed to the gills, as thousands of spectators start drinking early, waiting for the excitement to pass. Believe it or not, this year it almost didn’t happen. Just like everywhere in the world, there are politics and petty arguments here in Costa Rica too.
Due to issues unbeknownst to me, they decided to bypass the most vital section of the path, which flows right in front of the most popular 5 or 6 bars in town and just head over to the rodeo early. Literally, up until 5 days before the event, nobody knew this was going to happen. You can imagine the uproar, when everyone found out. Not only would the best viewing spots in town miss the action, but a tremendous amount of business would be lost, costing these bars an astronomical amount of money. People were pissed.
I called someone I knew on the committee and he said he would get right back to me. Over the next hour or so, about a dozen voice texts went back and forth, between myself and various members of the community. If you have ever spent one day with me, you know that Michael Simons speaks his mind. I don’t hold back; I don’t sugar coat; I tell it like I see it. People love me or hate me for this, and that is just how I have always been. Needless to say, more than a few people were insulted. If I ever run for public office, I am sure this voicemail will resurface the night before Voting Day, to haunt me. It will be my Romney 47% comment or my Hillary Deplorable remark, most likely costing me the Election as well.
An emergency meeting was called by the city council, to discuss a change in plans, and a few of us were asked to appear. I felt like I was on trial. We were brought into this small chamber, with about a dozen of the most important and prominent Costa Rican business owners and local politicians, who were very offended by my comments. But after about 30 minutes of some heated arguments, everyone started to calm down, and cooler heads prevailed. After all, I don’t have a room full of trophies, for my inability to negotiate. Thanks to Zi Lounge and Coconutz and their $5000 donation to cover the costs of the additional permits, and security, the original circuit was reinstalled, and everyone was ecstatic. The show must go on.
Personally, we arrived about 7 am to claim our spot on the strip. Our brand-new Tank Tops Flip Flops RE/MAX tent was set up, and we were ready to rock n roll. Hundreds of people were out early, getting read for the huge event. It was like the Super Bowl. There were massive barriers being put into place by the police, 50-gallon drums and caution tape stretched across the boundaries, and every locale in the area, grabbing their footprint on the route. It is first come first serve. There are huge stages set up, that blast music all day; models in beer dresses slinging drinks; and vendors selling everything you can imagine.
All the local restaurants have little food stands in front, ready to feed the participants and the spectators, and a plethora of families form their little camp sites, waiting for the show. Many people bring their pickups and flatbed trucks, and just set up shop in the back; folding chairs, umbrellas, beer coolers and all. It is a tailgate party, second only to LSU. You won’t really understand how serious they take this event, until you see it. Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.
COCO CARE is one of the charities, most dear to my heart, as they help rescue and find homes for the animals on the street.
If you have been following me, you know that our Tank Tops Flip Flops shirts have really taken off. You cannot walk through Coco without seeing dozens of them. It is a charity brand and 100% of the proceeds goes to local Costa Rican foundations. For the second year in a row, we designed a rocking TOPE shirt with all the sales benefitting CARE. It was a killer design of a SeaHorse, which was the logo this year of the event, and we were there with our logos on, ready to hustle our goods. As usual, we started drinking early and hard, we are professionals; don’t try this at home; Yes, we even pay for our own beer. ALL the yield goes to the organizations. Then the show began.
The riders are probably 2 kilometers long, no kidding. They are from ages 4 to 80, and everyone is having a blast. There are marching bands, and dance teams; baton twirlers and floats; even the 10-foot-tall Mardi Gras Puppets; all spaced out in and amongst the horses. The town choses a Queen of the TOPE and a young woman, gets to wear the crown, leading a procession that King Arthur would have been proud of. There is a tradition here, where the horses actually dance; clickety clock, clickety clock, clickety, clickety clock; all while the rider delicately holds and drinks his beer without spilling. They got this stuff down man. Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.
It is a challenge for us though, to pay attention to the show, as so many people swamp our booth for shirts. Word has gotten out about what we do, and it is incredible to see the support. We sell hundreds of tank tops, when we do these things, as everyone is getting behind the cause. It is funny though, to see the difference in the cultures, especially with the women. Latina women like their clothes TIGHT. Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT complaining. Nothing like a set of painted on jeans, but I do wonder: did your sisters hold them open while you launched off the bed? Seriously, how did you fit into those bad boys? I LOVE IT! This young Tica came up and wanted to purchase a shirt. Now, I have been buying women clothes for a long time, so I am pretty good at sizing you up. Trust me. I can tell you your bra size, pantie size, shoe size and dress size with just a glance, and I am very rarely off by more than a snippet. So, when this woman said she was a small, I almost choked on my Angry Goats Beer. “Why don’t you try a medium” I told her, still knowing that would be a tad tight, and I am being polite. She took it. I saw her a couple days later, and she somehow fit into it. It looked, though, like it would blow out at the seams. God Bless her.
It reminded me of the I LOVE LUCY show, where she was determined to fit into shoes 2 sizes too small.
The Gringas (North American Women) are the complete opposite.
We were doing another fundraiser a couple weeks later. This one benefits another amazing charity, PATAS Y MANOS. This team of dedicated volunteers do so much for the less fortunate. They not only do neuter and spay clinics for animals, but also food baskets for the poor; uniforms and school backpack programs for the kids; and now they have focused on the local Police.
We were selling St Patrick Day shirts, at the exact same spot on the street. The shirts said BESAME, SOY GRINGO and the event was another huge success. All the profits from this event went to train our local police in English, so they can better communicate with tourists, and CPR: a must that believe it or not, isn’t common knowledge with the local beach cops. All the officers stopped by the booth, and it was a real chuckle watching them wear their KISS ME I’M GRINGO shirts. One young, muscular man, told us we should have put BESAME GRINGA on the shirt instead (Kiss me Gringa). He asked if he could help, by sitting in the booth offering free kisses to all the women who bought a shirt. You just gotta love a guy with game.
This voluptuous woman came up to the booth, to pick up a couple shirts and support the cause. She was from Illinois. Trying to be polite, I asked if she was a Large. “Oh honey, I am definitely an XL. Maybe even a 2XL. There is no reason to suffocate and torture these puppies at my age” she said, as she squeezed her breasts together. Oh, the difference in cultures.
We did another fundraiser event, the SOL FEST, at Puerta del Sol hotel, and the first 200 in the door, received a free shirt. I am not exaggerating, when I tell you; people were lined up half a block away, one hour before the doors opened, just to get their TANK TOPS FLIP FLOPS. The brand is really taking off.
There are some people, like Dave, Steve and Ron, who buy EVERY single shirt we make. I think that is all they wear. David is building a new house and he told me, that he is making the closet extra big to make room for more TTFF digs. Steve was joking with me one day, saying that he thought he had nothing left in his closet but my brand. I told him “There are 365 days in a year. If you wear one during the day, and one at night, and take a couple weekends off, when you get to 700 shirts you can stop.” Besides, it is going to a great cause. Ron was probably the funniest. He said that he never would have even considered wearing a Tank Top, but now that he lives in paradise, it is all he wants to put on. PURA VIDA BABY.
One of the funniest traditions of the TOPE is the Horse shit bingo. Squares are chalked up and down the street, and numbered one through 20. People pay $5 to pick their square. You can pick as many as you like. The first horse to drop a pile on a number, and the winner is declared. Everyone who picked that number, splits all the cash. Well, the same as anywhere, there is controversy; like the NO CALL in the Saints NFC Championship. One year, the pile landed right at the line. A judgment was made, and it was determined NOT to be inside the lines. The game played on. Another year, two bombs landed at the same time and it set off a massive debate amongst the gamblers, all who were seriously lit up by that point. But this year, topped it all, only because I was the guy who got burned. This horse, lifted his tail, and nothing but air came out. At the last second, this tiny little dumpling piece of nothing, flew out and landed on my number 11. We were ecstatic. No one ever set a rule for size or weight. I was sure we won the pot. But after, so many crybaby losers wanted a recount, they did an instant replay and ruled an incomplete, dropped pass. I am telling you. I got robbed man. I had already spent that cash baby. The system is rigged. I am calling for a formal investigation, into Collusion and Obstruction. I want retribution!
As nightfall came, and we ran out of shirts, we started to break down the tent, as this massive roar came closer and closer, louder and louder. There were a couple of men, drunk out of their minds, galloping down the street, like The Lone Ranger and Tonto. They came to a halt, just in front of my truck, and passed me $20 for a shirt. I took mine off, and handed it to him. It was the last one we had.
Talk about Wild Horses!
Man, you couldn’t drag me away!
Hope to see you soon.
Come on down baby!