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Archive for June, 2005

Bureaucratic Ping Pong

Posted by evankessler on June 30, 2005

Today was completely retarded. I don’t mean to be insensitive to certain communities but if certain communities find themselves being offended by the word retarded than I’m sorry as that was not my intention. That being said, and I’ll say it again. Today was completely retarded. I was embroiled in a bureaucratic ping pong match between myself and the New York State Department of Labor. After my return from Las Vegas several weeks ago I had filed an unemployment insurance claim due to the fact that I’m currently lacking work. Unfortunately seeing as I was in Costa Rica for the majority of the past 2 weeks I’ve been unable to claim my benefits. In an attempt to set my benefits straight I dialed the phone number suggested on the New York State Department of Labor Website. Not only is this phone number impersonal but, it’s a maze of bureaucratic red tape and automated options. I must have typed into my keypad 15 different numbers before being given the option of speaking to a real live representative and when I finally got to that part after about 10 minutes of phone typing the message on the other end was something about “to talk to another person on this matter, call this other number”. However, when I followed their advice and called that other number, I’d be redirected towards the number I had just used. Talk about frustration.

I went back and forth with these two number selecting other options that I figured might give me quicker access to actual help with a heartbeat but to no avail. The closest I came on the first six calls was a message telling me to keep trying to call back every 15 to 20 minutes to maybe get a real person. Each subsequent call was met by a similar message until one time I finally broke through and you know what happened then? Give up? The person on the line put me through to an automated service to deal with my claim. Needless to say, the uncertain nature of my claim was not dealt with and I had to repeat the same process three more times including being bounced between the two phone numbers. I was in the midst of a nightmare. I was pretty much at the end of my rope when I finally broke through to a real person that actually talked me through the process and helped me out, but not without some automated assistance of course.

All in all, my ordeal probably took at least an hour and a half. An hour and a half where I could have been doing wonderful unemployed things like reading, or walking, or enjoying a nice ice cream cone outdoors. I’m making a call for all bureaucratic entities to steer away from automation and back to personal contact. Otherwise we’re all going to hell in a handbasket at the hands of automated help services. What’s next computerized 9-1-1 operators? I can hear it now, “If you’ve broken a bone press 1, If there is a fire press 2, if you have an intruder in your home press 3, and if you’re having a heart attack press 4, if you need automated CPR instructions press 9, all other inquiries please wait on the line for assistance. En espanol….”

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Picking Up Where I Left Off

Posted by evankessler on June 29, 2005

After 10 days of a hard earned vacation, I decided that I really should get down to business once the week started. Luckily for me, my business is being unemployed so I could do anything I wanted, as was evidenced in the 2 weeks leading up to my vacation. What exactly does that mean? Well, for one, it means any night is perfect for going out. Last night I went out in Williamsburg with Lauren H for Ahmad Saeed’s last night Djing at Bembe. It was a good turn out, no lurid details to report just good alcohol induced fun with good friends from the 709 Grand street crowd. I don’t think I made it home until 2am or so. I’ve decided that there’s something very unwelcoming about Williamsburg. Nearly every time I arrive off of the L train it starts to rain. If there is a god, he wants me to be as far away from hipsters as possible. It’s a wonder I enjoy going out on the Lower East Side. Pretty soon everyone I know will be living in Park Slope and Williamsburg and I will be forced to spend the majority of my time in said places. Those areas better get ready for rain.

Today was rather slow goings as I awoke at around 12:30pm but managed to swing right into productivity. Before I was ready to venture into the outside world I did some reading while I recovered from last night’s bout of alcohol dependency not to mention post-binge drinking bagel dependency. So far I’ve read 200 of John Irving’s, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I’m plodding through slowly but surely. If the weather’s nice I might have a 100 pages in one sitting sort of day tomorrow. I had more important fish to fry today, well figuratively anyway since I don’t eat fish. Though I suppose if I was frying fish I wouldn’t necessarily have to eat them. I could just derive some sort of sick pleasure from frying things.
Anyway, the figurative fish in question was my need to buy new sneakers. I had ruined my blue Saucony sneakers in the rainforest and had to track down a new pair since this particular make (Saucony Jazz) is the most comfortable pair of sneakers I’ve ever worn. I checked the Saucony website and they were not featured so I feared that they were no longer made. I usually bought them at Foot Locker but when I checked this weekend, no dice. The website listed a bunch of stores that sell them and on that list was a store called City Sports, to which I found the nearest location. Unfortunately the nearest location was 53rd and Lexington, which isn’t exactly near, but not exactly far. Perhaps, I shouldn’t whine. I have nothing but time. I went up to City Sports and to my chagrin found they no longer sold my beloved favorite sneaker. It was at that moment I felt fate dealing me a lackluster hand.

As I boarded the subway back downtown in defeat, it occurred to me that I would just take the subway down to Canal St. and walk up Broadway since there are a ton of shoe stores on Broadway. My hunch was greatly rewarded as my trophy awaited me in the very first store I walked into. Hallelujah.

I killed time walking up Broadway and stopping into random stores I had no interest in being in for the the next 45 minutes as I was to meet Jaime Weisfelner at Crate & Barrel at 6pm and then we were to get some dinner. Jaime had to get a gift for a bridal shower at Crate & Barrel so I helped her pick it out, though I think she would’ve gotten the same thing had I not been there (Spice Rack, It wasn’t for that close of a friend). Afterwards we walked to Okinawa on Laguardia between Houston and Bleecker where we ate some Japanese food and had excellent conversation which is almost a given with Jaime, on both accounts. I don’t recall Jaime and I getting any food other than Japanese when we’ve gotten dinner recently, and I don’t recall ever having a bad or awkward conversation.

Afterwards we went our separate ways and I went home to watch Stella on Comedy Central which was okay. I can’t say for sure what Jaime did. I didn’t plant a homing device this time. My brother called at 11:30 PM and asked if I wanted to meet up for a drink. Despite my being in boxers and watching the Daily Show, I said I would meet him. I got dressed first and then he came over and we hit up the Village Tavern for a beer and some friendly brotherly chatter. On our way back we ran into my brother’s friend Theodora, who I’m pretty sure was the Theodora that is Keith Richards’ daughter whose picture is further down this page who I met at a Donna Karan party several months ago. I was introduced again, even though I was sure we had met, anyway, the 3 of us had a funny if brief conversation and went our separate ways. And so, as always, I ended up here, typing for you. I love you guys, whoever you may be. Show yourselves!!!

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I’m Back!!!

Posted by evankessler on June 27, 2005

That’s right folks, I’m back in town and more unemployed than ever. Look out world, because the possibilities for Evan Kessler are endless! Oh man, did I just refer to myself in the third person. That is horrendous. Strike that remark from the record. I return to this website 12 days older, 12 days wiser and 12 days more well read if that makes any sense. I learned many valuable lessons on my trip to Central America, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that I should never fly American Airlines again, oh and that you don’t need to wear those ridiculous money belts when traveling. Nothing says tourist like reaching into your crotch underneath your pants to receive currency while bargaining in a foreign market. I bought way too many security precautions when preparing for this trip and I used maybe two of them. That being said, I didn’t lose anything so all my security measures did the trick.

Also, I learned that you don’t make many friends for life while traveling for such a short time. I wish I had given myself longer to travel. I met some really cool people and hung out with them over the course of a day but then I usually had to move on to another destination really depriving myself of meaningful personal experiences with other people. Most of the people I met were traveling for extended periods of time and had days if not weeks to explore certain destinations whereas I was rushing to see as much as I could in such a little amount of time.

That being said, I think I accomplished a lot as well. I set certain goals for myself on this trip. Okay, maybe two goals. I wanted to go to the Rainforest and I wanted to take a surfing lesson, and I did those things. All in all it was a good trip and a much-needed break from the realities of life in New York City, such as my crumbling apartment and my non -existent employment situation. Not that I was particularly troubled by those things it was just nice to not have to think about them. Thankfully my apartment did not burn down while I was gone though a tree did fall on it.

In any event, I am back and ready to conquer the trials and tribulations of everyday existence and discuss those trials and tribulations as I see fit. However, if you want a recap of the Costa Rican experience, click on the red entry below. As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida,” whatever that means.

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Costa Rica- Miami- New York Day 10-11 The Long Way Home

Posted by evankessler on June 26, 2005

That’s right, the vacation blog has been extended one day because the vacation was extended past it’s initial end date by 12 hours. The story of the journey home is a harrowing one. It’s a tale involving Canadian girls, machetes, hammocks, flight delays, airline incompetence, alcohol and vouchers.

When I last left you I was waiting for my shuttle to the airport. My flight was leaving at 1:48pm Costa Rican time and I arrived at the airport at Noon to find an extremely long and slow moving check in line. It was so slow I was worried I was going to miss my plane. As time wasted away, I grew more nervous about the fate of my flight arrangements. I had moved about halfway through the line when we learned that the flight would not take off until 3:15pm Costa Rica time, which was troubling to me because I knew that meant the plane would not land until around 8:15pm (EST) in Miami and my connecting flight was scheduled to leave for JFK at 8:40pm (EST). I knew I would be cutting it close. When I finally got to check in, I was informed that there was no way I could make my connecting flight as I would have to go through customs in Miami before heading to my connecting gate. The airline representative presented me with vouchers for free lunch at the airport, a free hotel room in Miami and free dinner and breakfast at the hotel to go along with a ticket reservation on the 8:15am flight to JFK.

I thought that things could be worse. A night in a decent Miami hotel wouldn’t be so bad. Meanwhile, a girl at the counter next to me had gotten her bags stolen just at the airport and the American Airlines people kept saying it wasn’t their problem, which it really wasn’t but they could’ve been more helpful.

I walked towards my gate slightly annoyed and sat down for a minute soon deciding to use my $10 lunch voucher. There was much to choose from in the way of crappy American fast food. The food court had Papa John’s, Schlotzky’s Deli, Burger King, and Church’s Chicken. I chose a deli sandwich and got the wrong one but ate it anyway. It wasn’t bad.

Having finished my hearty meal,  I hauled my stuff over to the gate (puerta 4B) and sat down next to some lovely Canadian girls. I became fast friends with Danielle and Amy from Windsor, Ontario. We would spend many hours in the airport hanging out together waiting for our plane to take off. I got to talking with them and learned that Amy had bought a Machete for her boyfriend. I was not aware that you could bring a Machete back through customs even if it was in your carry on bags. Ironically, later that night Amy would have trouble getting her hammock on the plane as the flight attendant said they were restricted from being carry-ons because they could be used as weapons. I’d like to be privy to that meeting where they decide that hammocks are weapons.

Friendly Canadians Amy and Danielle

Anyway, Danielle and I talked a lot as well. She was leaving Canada to teach English in Korea. She also wanted me to send her some of my pictures because she didn’t get enough nature photos and liked what I showed her. Danielle also proposed a game where Amy and I listed our pet peeves and whoever had more won. I don’t remember if we actually won anything for having more, but apparently I won the game. I also let Danielle write a faux journal entry for my wait in the airport. I was having a great time with them and it felt like being stuck in the airport together we were on an accelerated getting to know you curve. They also encouraged me to start drinking with them as we began to realize that we would be at the airport indefinitely. It’s somewhat ironic that two of my favorite people I met on the trip, were met on the way out of Costa Rica.

Time wore on and we kept getting more and more invalid excuses for why we weren’t leaving San Jose. First they said that a part was broken and a bunch of mechanic looking guys walked by. I maintained that they were actors hired by the airline to pretend they were doing something. Next, they said that the crew had been on too long and needed to be replaced so we had to get another crew to fly and man the plane. Then, I heard something about bad weather in Miami. Then actual bad weather set in in San Jose.

We kept getting the run around but we got a dinner voucher to somewhat appease our anger. We made the best out of things as Danielle, Amy and I figured it was sort of useless to complain at this point as pretty much the entire gate was complaining so we just hung out and got some dinner. One of the guys at our gate who was talking to us before came by freaking out that his bag had been stolen at the gate while he was sleeping, but he eventually found it somewhere.

We all ate dinner at Papa John’s and then went to the smoking lounge bar that had a karaoke video playing classic late 60’s and early 70’s songs. We had a couple of beers there but we decided it smelled too smoky to hang out in. For the next few hours we just wasted away waiting for the plane to finally board which it did around 10pm Costa Rica time and we finally took off 9 hours after our originally scheduled time.

Sleepy Canadian

By the time we got to Miami it was 3am EST and all of our vouchers were utterly useless. They gave us a $5 voucher for breakfast, which was somewhat absurd since you can’t really get anything at an airport for that little money. We had to go through customs and check-in for our connecting flights. After checking in it was around 4:30 or 5. I split off with Danielle and Amy at this point as our gates were seemingly far apart.  My ticket read Gate D40 and they were in E-something. When I made it to D40 the sign read “DEPARTING FOR LOS ANGELES” then I read the departures screen and saw my JFK flight listed as “GATE E6”; another case of Airline incompetence. As I walked over to E6 I came across Danielle and Amy in E2 and sat with them til 7am. I said goodbye again and waited to board my flight.

Thankfully, my flight to JFK boarded on time and I was in the airport by about 10:50am, nearly 12 hours after the original time I was supposed to be there. I was completely exhausted. I took the Super Shuttle home and arrived around 12:30 to find the apartment immaculate but still having a certain large hole in our ceiling. It was so clean that I thought we had been robbed. I did not let this trouble me as all I wanted to do was pass out for a short while.

I headed out of my apartment at 6:30pm with no real desire to leave my couch but I really wanted to go see The New Pornographers at Prospect Park for Celebrate Brooklyn! I met up with Maureen Hoban at her house in Park Slope, which had a hilarious model of the Eiffel Tower with a picture of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise on it. It was part of their float for the Mermaid Parade earlier in the day.

I got burritos with her and her housemates before heading off to the concert. We arrived just before the band went on. We sat pretty far in the back as it was very crowded so it was hard to see the concert, but they are such a good band that I enjoyed the music. I’ll have a better chance to see them when they play Webster Hall in a couple of months. Anyway, It’s late and I’m feeling under the weather so this is where the travelogue ends. Two of my fingers are falling asleep. Stay tuned for the Costa Rica photo album.



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Costa Rica Day 10 Leaving On A Jet Plane

Posted by evankessler on June 24, 2005

San Jose, Costa Rica 8:56 am

Just thought I’d kill some time before my airport shuttle comes in an hour and a half. Yesterday was not the most eventful day in the world as it consisted mostly of the near 6 hour bus ride from Tamarindo to San Jose. Before that, I had some lunch in Tamarindo at the Coral Reef, a cheap and tiny restaurant that served mostly Casados. I think I had my best meal of the entire trip there. I went with Joe and Rosalie, whom I had met in Monteverde, and had the chicken casado and a jugo de pina. In total it ran less that $4.


Delicious Casados



Joe and Rosalie

My bus came and picked me up at the hostel and from that moment on I was on the road. While on the bus I talked to a Russian guy from Philly who was on his way to Jaco. He told me he was moving to the Bronx to work at Montefiore Hospital. The conversation lasted a half hour or so before I decided it was time to take a nap. We made a stop-over at a Soda (the same thing as a cafe) so our drivers could eat and so that the people transferring could transfer.

Waiting for my ride at Botella de Leche

When we got back on the bus headed towards San Jose there were some new people seated in front of me. One of whom was a beautiful 26-year-old girl named Kelly from Las Vegas who was traveling with her family. I talked with them most of the trip eschewing my Ipod for human contact, which tends to be a big step for me.

Apparently, Kelly was heading back to school in the fall to get a masters in Psychology. Her ultimate goal was to work with Sex offenders and serial killers. Different strokes for different folks, that’s what I say, but she was definitely interesting and fun to talk to.

Anyway, it was fun while it lasted, but I’ve come to a realization; I don’t think you can call it traveling if you’re only going for 10 days. I met people on the road who were going from country to country over a span of months. That’s traveling. I was on vacation. Anyway, I’m back in New York tonight around midnight hopefully.

Tomorrow, The New Pornographers are playing at Celebrate Brooklyn. Unemployment kicks ass.

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Costa Rica Day 7-9 Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Posted by evankessler on June 23, 2005

Tamarindo, Costa Rica 10:34am

Sunset at Playa Tamarindo


Ok, I know it’s early, but everyone here is usually up by 6 anyway so it’s basically midday. Plus, I don’t have much to do today save for wait for my bus back to the big city. When I last left you I had a surfing lesson and I was hanging out on the beach. I’m sure if you read the entries below you’ll fondly recall their content. Now it’s time to catch you up with what happened between last entry and this entry. Let’s begin with Tuesday night, shall we?

After the day of Surf ‘n’ sun and reading, I made dinner for myself back at the ol’ hostel and watched Game 6 of the NBA Finals. I also got in on a little 3-Man drinking game action with a guy named Ben from Calgary and a guy named Chris from San Diego and two Swedish lesbians who are kind of annoying. Drinking begot more drinking and soon we were at Pasatiempos down the road where a cover band was blaring out a subpar version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  I conversed with a guy named Tony from Indiana also staying at the hostel. We were only there for about 2 drinks and then headed back to pass out.

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day. I sat around the hostel recovering most of the morning and then did a little walking around. Joe and his girlfriend Rosalie whom I met in Monteverde showed up at the hostel this morning. It was nice to see some familiar faces. Later on I rented a board to attempt another surfing session which was largely unsuccessful. I think I was meant to take a surfing lesson more than I was meant to develop it as a hobby. I guess the upside of travelling alone is that no one sees you when you completely embarrass yourself. After the failed surfing session I got my book and read while drinking a fresh pineapple juice and a Fanta on the beach. I think Fanta is a thousand times better in Central America than it is in the U.S. I’ve tried it back home and it does nothing for me. When I drink it here I just want another one straight away.

I returned to the hostel at about 6pm and watche CSI and Alias with a bunch of people as I made my dinner whilst drinking a 40 0z. of Cerveza Imperial. I was anticipating a night out but the more I drink the less likely it seemed. Joe and Rosalie told me they were just going to a field to watch fireflies. I took a candid photo of Joe while he was sitting on a swinging chair talking and I think it could be the gayest photo ever. It could be in one of those disturbing half naked firemen calendars. I told his girlfriend I would send it to her and she could put it up on her wall for the month of March.

The Gayest Picture I’ve Ever Taken

They went to sleep soon after and I was hanging out playing another game of 3 man with two guys named Tyler and two guys named Ben. We went out around midnight to a place called Mambo. Our crew actually consisted of 3 guys named Ben and 2 guys named Tyler and me. The 2nd and 3rd Ben were from San Diego and Dublin respectively. Canadian Ben played foosball against what could have been the Costa Rican National Team. These guys didn’t lose a game all night, though they were pathetically way too into it. Several beers and a shot of Cuervo later we headed back to the hostel which was bizarrely out of power and we sat talking around the kitchen table by candlelight until we felt the need to pass out.

Two Guys Named Ben

This morning I have absolutely nothing going on except the aforementioned wait for the bus back to San Jose, which effectively ends my trip. Now the only thing I have to do is make it San Jose, make it to the airport on time and not get held up by some unforeseen customs issue. Wish me luck! Pura Vida!!!

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Costa Rica Day 5-7 Surfin’ Safari

Posted by evankessler on June 21, 2005

Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Let’s go surfin’ now, Evan Kessler’s learnin’ how. Come on and Safari with me. I had my first surf lesson today. More on that later.

When I last left you I was gearing up for my last evening in Santa Elena. After my blog session I headed back to the hostel where I ran into my new British friends Louise and Jess, from the Snake and Frog museums the day before. They invited me to join them for dinner and I did. We went out to a high class joint (well high class for such a small town like Santa Elena) called Morphos. We each had a plate of Casados, which is a traditional Costa Rican meal with rice, vegetables, black beans, and plantains plus the meat or vegetable of your choice. We even got a nice bottle of Argentinian red wine and toasted to Santa Elena. It was a nice way to end my time there and I enjoyed the company of my new Brit friends.

Brit Sisters Jess and Louise

Afterwards we headed back to the hostel and Jess and Louise headed to bed and just as I was about to head back to my room, I ran into a guy from Santa Cruz, CA, named Joe who I had met with his girlfriend earlier in the day. Joe had told me that he was going to get a beer at the town bar so I said I’d join him. When we got to Bar Amigos the party had already started. The diversity of the patrons truly ran the gamut of townsfolk. Everyone from 15-year-olds to tour guides to farmers to American tourists were there. Everyone was dancing with their ladies and drinking Cerveza Imperial and having a good time. It was quite the difference from most NYC bars (that’s an obvious statement) where each bar caters towards a specific interest. This is the only game in town so everyone goes here. Joe and I stayed for a couple of drinks then turned in.

The next morning I woke up, got some breakfast and read my book while I waited for my bus to Tamarindo from Santa Elena. The bus came 10 minutes early and there were only 2 other people aboard. The bus drove about 5 miles an hour the entire first hour of the trip down the windy mountainous roads leading down from the Monteverde/Santa Elena area to the Pan-American highway, where we would transfer buses. The rest of the trip seemed to fly by and I was in Tamarindo by about 2pm if not earlier.

I told the bus driver to drop me off at Hostal La Botella de Leche. He told me there were two and then he said something in Spanish to imply that one was worse than the other. Since he was using words outside my knowledge of the Spanish language I was left to guess which one to go to. I think I picked the one he said was worse but I’m not sure.

When I got to the hostel it seemed pretty cool to me. Nobody was there, just a dude on a couch watching MTV. He introduced himself as Wences and booked me in a room for 3 nights. The space seemed clean and had a nice setup. It was basically a big living room with bean bag chairs and a tv that seemed to be rotating between MTV and soccer. Wences asked if I was a surfer to which I responded, “No, but I want to take a lesson.” He told me he would take me for a lesson the next day (today) and that he’d give me a cheaper deal. SWEET!

I spent the next couple of hours sitting on the beach, eating lunch, writing in my journal and reading. I was just kicking back and enjoying the smell of the Pacific Ocean. I went back to the hostel after a bit and hung out the rest of the day. The hostel was actually kind of weird. There’s really no one like me there. Everyone is a surfer from somewhere, walking around shirtless and talking about the waves. I felt so out of place, but it’s sort of interesting to be in the middle of. I don’t even think I’ve really learned anyone’s name. I’m not lonely or anything though, I’m just sort of observing. For what I can tell the basic surfer schedule involves waking up early, surfing for a couple of hours and then watching TV and eating snacks. Later on, I made my own dinner and watched The Incredible Hulk Movie on HBO and went to bed.

This morning I woke up at 8:15 am and ate breakfast in preparation for my surfing lesson with Wences. I walked over to his surf shop at 9:50am got a wetsuit shirt and went out with Wences, 2 girls from Mississippi or somewhere, and an old guy to catch some waves. At first it was pretty hard to get up. I was having problems getting my foot around in the right position so I would have balance on the board, but after a few tries and Wences helping me catch the waves, I managed to put together a few good rides. The waves were pretty big today too and I managed to take some big hits as well. It’s fun to get smacked around by the ocean. I’ll take that over a day at the office any time. I can’t believe some people get paid for that. Outstanding. I think I’m going to take out a board for a half-day tomorrow to try on my own. We’ll see.

Surfers on Playa Tamarindo

After the lesson, I got some Ice Cream, and sat on the beach with a tropical drink reading a book. This is the life.

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Costa Rica Day 5- Butterflies without Cheese

Posted by evankessler on June 18, 2005

Santa Elena, Costa Rica 5:01 PM

I woke up at around 8am this morning with absolutely no idea what to do. I went to the front desk of my hostel and asked for the list of activities. I wanted to hike at one of the town’s biological reserves but apparently missed the lone guided tour at 7am. I guess I missed the boat on that one. I decided to make the trek to the Butterfly Garden which was about a 2-mile walk. I wasn’t lonely though as I was accompanied by a stray dog the entire way. If there’s one thing Costa Rica has plenty of it’s friendly stray dogs, not to be confused with The Stray Cats, who released the popular album Rant and Rave with The Stray Cats featuring the guitar slinging talents of Brian Setzer as well as such classics as “Sexy &17”.

Un Stray Perro

I arrived to find the Butterfly Garden completely empty of tourists at around 11am. I tentatively opened the door as it seemed too quiet and saw a girl who could have been either Costa Rican or American, so I said “Hola” then slowly realized she was American, so I started the English conversation. The girl, whose name escapes me, brought me to a room and showed me a short film on butterflies, most of which consisted of their mating habits. It seemed to be an oddly perverse film. One line in the film was “the butterfly kama sutra is somewhat limited” but the visuals they showed were quite animated and might make a parent with their child somewhat uncomfortable. Three words: Flying anal sex. Or at least that’s how it appeared to me.

Once the film had ended, the girl who greeted me when I first walked in showed me all kinds of insects including Walking Sticks, Praying Mantises, huge beetles who were trying to kill each other as we spoke, Scorpions, and even tarantulas. Okay, so tarantulas are arachnids but you get the point. She also showed me a Costa Rican bug that could kill you over a 30 year time span. They suck blood from you and poop on the cut they make. The second you rub it in after scratching it, it starts a process whereby your heart will eventually explode in 30 years. SWEET! Next she showed me the life cycle of the butterfly in a diagram and showed me all of those cycles in actual specimens in cases. Afterwards, she gave me a container and said, “this butterfly is ready to be released into the gardens. When you get to garden 4, you can release him and name him.” Awesome.

I was soon met by a lovely Canadian lass by the name of Christine  who led me through the gardens and pointed out all of the different species to me. It was probably my favorite tour of the entire trip. It was really pleasant with butterflies flying all around. There was good back and forth conversation with my guide. When I got to the 4th garden I readied to release my buttefly into pseudo-freedom within the confines of the butterfly garden and had Christine take a picture right before and during it’s release. The right before shot worked, but the during one didn’t. Anyway, I named the Butterfly “Bill,” for Jaime Weisfelner and Jessica Iselin. They like to name everything “Bill,” so I did it for them to know that somewhere in a butterfly garden in Costa Rica there is a butterfly named “Bill” flying around. I’m not sure exactly what species it was, but it was an Opsis something. I decided to walk around the gardens one more time to see if I could get some good pictures, specifically of “Bill,” but got some of other species instead. “Bill” was too hard to find. As I was walked in between the gardens, some weird animal that I have not yet identified crossed my path. It could’ve just been another stray dog, but I swear it was rounder.

Releasing Bill Into The Wild

This One Looks Like An Owl

This is an orange butterfly at the Butterfly Garden. Wow, right. Wow.

After my swell butterfly experience, I headed to the Monteverde Cheese Factory. They’re supposed to have good ice cream. It was quite a long haul there and I came upon two Canadian girls named Christine and Michelle, en route to the factory who were headed the same direction but instead hiking up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve. When we finally reached the cheese factory, I decided | wasn’t that excited about the cheese factory and that I’d walk with them to the Cloud forest. It was a long walk, I think it was about 6 kilometers from where we met. It wasn’t too exhausting and the weather was nice.

When we got there we signed up for a guided tour to start around 2pm and get us back by 4pm since that’s when the last bus back to town left and we weren’t going to walk seven kilometers back to Santa Elena. Unfortunately, our tour guide began late and it started to rain. I bought a poncho at the gift shop, and we were off.

When we got into the forest I realized I was stupid for buying a poncho because you really can’t get too wet in these forests when it’s raining on account of the shelter created by the massive amounts of trees. Within the first minute of our hike we saw one of the rarest birds, the Resplendent Quetzal. It almost sounds like a fake name but it was rather astonishing. The guide wanted to stake it out and watch it for 20 minutes, but we wanted to see more of the forest. One of the girls suggested we move and the guide did, though he kept looking for the Quetzal to reemerge.

Soon after we came upon some howler monkeys traveling in a pack of about 15 through the trees above. Thankfully for us, they weren’t masturbating furiously or throwing crap. The guide decided to move us to a shorter trail since we had to leave soon. On that trail we saw a few robins, caterpillars, some larvae, and a bunch of millipedes. The guide picked up a millipede and it went to the bathroom all over itself.

I split off the tour at around 3:45 to make it back in time for the bus, but the girls stayed. I had to go back to town to book a bus to La Playa Tamarindo for tomorrow morning. I met a couple from St. Louis as I waited for the bus and as it turned out we ended up not having to wait for the bus, since one of the guides said he would drop us in town for the same price. A dollar is only a dollar no matter who’s driving you and he drove about ten times faster than most of the drivers around here, so it all worked out.

This is me, and two girls I met (Christine & Michelle) as I was walking towards the cloud forest.
We took a tour of the Cloud forest together.

I thought I’d arrived back at the hostel too late to book the bus to Tamarindo but I was just in time to snag one of the last spots. I leave 9:10am for La Playa Tamarindo where I’ll be staying til the afternoon of the 23rd when I head back to San Jose in time to make my flight the next morning. Look at me planning and stuff. PURA VIDA!!!

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Days 3-4 Costa Rica- More Rain, More Forests

Posted by evankessler on June 17, 2005

Santa Elena, Costa Rica – 7:50PM

So I’ve been away from the internet for a bit. When I last left you I was going out with some people I met at the hostel, (still day 2). That night I went with Will and Ashley (a just married couple) and their friends Courtney, Susan, and I think a guy named Art. We walked to a bar called Luigi’s Casino & Bar. On our way there we were followed by several stray dogs, which was kind of funny. We looked on as they marked their territory. The bar was absolutely empty when we walked in save for 3 Costa Rican men. We got our beer and walked to the back. One of the men took courtney and started dancing with her. Ashley taught me a drinking game called bull/moose which didn’t really seem like much of a drinking game. Apparently you’re supposed to drink with the hand you don’t write with, and if anyone ever catches you using your usual drinking hand then you have to either chug the beer or pour it on your head. That’s not much of a choice, but it’s an easy one. We only had one drink then it was back to Gringo Pete’s (the hostel).

Gringo Pete’s

The next morning, I woke up bright and early at 7am, since the sun comes up extremely early. I re-friended the original people I met at Gringo Pete’s, 3 girls from Florida (Jackie, Nancy, and Emmy) and one of their boyfriends (Ron). I tagged along with them and went to this swimming hole with a tarzan swing and natural waterfalls which was absolutely beautiful. We got back around Noon and still had the entire day ahead of us.

After the swimming spot I got some lunch in town and signed up for another tour similar to the one I had taken before but with young people and much cheaper. Also included in this one was a hike that basically took us through the rainforest. The tour left at 3:15pm and left with people from the hostel including all of the Florida peoples and a couple named Carl and Mariah who live in California but are moving to upstate new york. As soon as we arrived at the rainforest tour a torrential downpour began. I guess without the rain it would just be a forest. A forest with many deadly things. Deadly things that we did not see. It was about 15 minutes before the lightning from the rainstorm moved far enough away. So that we could actually get into the forest. Inside the actual forest wasn’t so wet, all of the huge leaves on the trees really serve as covering so it feels more like drizzle once inside.

Our tour guide showed us poisonous trees, healing trees, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and even some toads. We weren’t allowed to walk in front of him because there are something like thirty-seven poisonous species of snakes in Costa Rica and he had to scope out the situation.

After the rainforest hike we were all drenched and were going to get more drenched as we stood to watch the Arenal Volcano spew some more lava in the pitch black night.

The Light looking thing is lava

During our viewing of the volcano I felt a couple of bites at my ankles. I didn’t know what it was so I just kept slapping at my ankles. Every so often I would feel a sting. When I got on the bus I looked down at my shoe and noticed a crap load of ants on my shoe. Not just any ants, evil ants. Imagine normal american ants, and now imagine what they’d look like if they looked like Looney Tunes updated for the future (i.e, Loonatics). Pretty scary.

Afterwards we headed to the hot springs at Baldi and sat in more hot water. Baldi had some pools of hot springs that were as much as 180 degrees. I put my legs in and felt like they were boiling so I promptly removed them as I was reeling in pain. I also met some nice Brits on the hot springs but it was mostly uneventful.

After the tour I went back to Gringo Pete’s, changed out of my soaking clothes and got some dinner. I sat down at a bar in town that was also a decent restaurant and to my surprise were the married couple that was on my original tour that consisted mostly of old people. I don’t remember their names, I think the husband was Will, and I feel bad because I talked to the wife for awhile and she was really nice but I can’t remember her name, they lived in Alberta Canada though. We talked all through dinner and then we headed to our respective residences.

This morning I woke up at 7:30 in preparation to leave on a Jeep-Boat-Jeep ride from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Basically, you take a van to the water, you take a boat to the land, and you take a van to Monteverde from the boat. It’s pretty simple but it takes about 3 hours. There were a wide array of Americans on the boat, from the Florida people from my hostel, to a bunch of girls who just graduated college from Montana, to some Long Island girls. The whole trip was pretty harmless except the girl, Emmy and her boyfriend Ron didn’t stop making out. Even when we were all in a van facing each other they kissed about every four seconds in nauseating fashion. Tongues out for all to see their glory, I guess.

I split up with the Florida people when we arrived in Santa Elena next to Monteverde at around 11:30am. I got a room at La Pension Santa Elena for 5 dollars a night and signed up for a Canopy tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. At 1:30 I left for my canopy tour. The canopy tour consists of 11 ziplines going above and through the Cloud forest, which looks the same as a rain forest above. It was an absolute adrenaline rush. I arrived with a bunch of people who were on a bigger all-inclusive Costa Rica tour and met two twenty-somethings named Bobby and Kelly who seemed really nice but had the most generic sounding names of any couple I’d ever met. The rest of the people seemed like they were midwestern, though quite a few were New Yorkers.

The Cloud forest was breathtaking. You were harnessed in and sent flying down zip lines as long as a half- mile or as high as 5,500 feet through rainforest and white clouds. At some points you couldn’t see anything except for the cloud you were in, but you could look down and see how high above the trees you were. It was absolutely outstanding. It started raining towards the end of the zip line tour but it didn’t dampen the experience. Get it, dampen the experience. Oh man, I love puns.

While I was leaving the cloud forest I realized how little money I had left in my wallet and since I had recently failed in an attempt to access more money at the ATM I had thoughts running through my head of being stranded in Costa Rica. When I returned to the hostel I immediately headed to another ATM, and luckily for me, it was successful. I will not be stranded here. On my way back from the ATM I met two British girls who were staying at my hostel named Louise and Jess. I tagged along with them to both the Snake and Frog observatories. We saw all of the poisonous snakes and frogs that this country has to offer as well as the non-poisonous snakes and frogs, and even toads. It was quite an interesting flurry of activity. As a result I am slightly spent, so I think it’s time to get some food, and maybe a beer and get ready for the day ahead. As they say in Costa Rica, PURA VIDA!!!!

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Costa Rica Day 2 When They Say Rainforest, They Mean Rainy Forest

Posted by evankessler on June 17, 2005

So, after leaving off last night, I actually had a really good time and my hostel was awesome. I met some cool backpackers (Josh, Conor, Wedge) from Florida and California (Becky) and we played spades and drank for a couple of hours. I would´ve walked around San Jose but it wasn´t actively encouraged by anyone from there.

After Josh, Conor, Wedge, and Becky went to sleep, a guy named Topher was chatting me up and we stayed up drinking ’til 2:30am. He was still drinking when I left, but a good guy nonetheless.

Topher the dude at the hostel

I woke up this morning at 8am and saw those guys eating breakfast in the main room of the hostel. Unfortunately, I didn´t have much time to talk since my tour was leaving soon. I was really excited to meet more fun new people when I got on board for the tour, but I was the only one on the bus from my hostel. We stopped by other hotels picking up people for the tour and with each stop my expectations dwindled about the tour. It was pretty much just old Spanish people and me, with the exception of an Irish mom and her 13-year-old daughter who live in New York (Sheila and Shannon). They were pretty cool and I spent most of the day talking to them. Our first stop was a crafts store in Salchi (?) and then we got a good lunch in another town. Our next stop was the Tobagon Hot Springs in the middle of the rainforest near La Fortuna.

Costa Rican scenery

When they say hot springs, they’re not kidding. Upon dipping my first foot in the water I was hesitant to put the rest of my body in for fear that I might boil my genitalia. Once I got in it was another story. It was extremely soothing. As I soaked in the hot springs a torrential downpour  began, which led to an even more unique and somewhat inspirational feeling. It was like you were in the middle of two of mother nature´s miracles. That sounds extremely sentimental and lame. Oh well. In one of the springs an iguana ran by me which was pretty cool. We spent 3 hours at the hot springs, which may have been a little too much. That being said, it was still enjoyable. Afterwards we had an excellent buffet at the hot springs and went to see a night view of the active Arenal volcano where gathered in pitch black to watch the lava drip down the side from a safe distance.


Some Hot Springs Action

After Arenal, the tour bus dropped me off in the middle of rainy La Fortuna to fend for myself and find a hostel. Luckily, I stumbled onto Gringo Pete’s and here I am, safe and sound in a La Fortuna at an Internet cafe. It’s about to close so I have to go, but I´m going to have a beer with some folks that I met at my hostel. Good times.

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