My mother said there would be cannibals
10.02.2005 - 10.02.2005 32 °C
Day 14 began with a sinking feeling. We knew that this was the last day we would be in Panama, and that the only adventure that awaited us was chatting with the TSA at the airport. Well, getting to the airport could be an adventure, so it may not be a total loss. We rose out of the fog that came from too much to drink the night before, and slowly made our way to the restaurant. We did manage to put on some clothing first, which was good, as there are few things in the world worse for ones' psyche than dropping cooked meat products on ones' lap when one is au natural. Plus, the wait staff appreciates serving meals to clothed patrons. Knowing this would be our last meal amongst the supposed cannibals, we ordered appropriately - eggs, lots of cooked meat products, and many liters of coffee. Good cannibal fair, but hey, when in Rome....
We had a 1:00 pm flight bound for Newark, New Jersey, so we filled up on breakfast. Airplane food tends to be barely palatable, even for cannibalistic adventurers on a 7 hour flight, so we made the most of it. Cooked meat products store quite well in the pockets of cargo shorts, though I recommend against wrapping them in napkins - the grease just comes right out and they become dry. Over-stuffed, we sauntered back to the room and began the arduous task of organizing and packing 2 metric tons of luggage, plus various souvenirs purchased along the way. Fortunately for me, my Dearest is a Master of Packing. She packs, I mule......it's an arrangement that has served us well over the years, though I now have a tendency to graze, be it at the buffet or a grassy field. I do try to not be an ass, as mules are much more civilized and refined, and I love a good scratch behind the ears.
14 porter/bearers appeared at our door, and struggled to load the luggage onto 28 valet carts. They were steadfast and true men, and in a mere 3 hours, we were in the lobby at the reception desk. I tipped the bearers well, and they disappeared, no doubt off to see the house doctor for some pain killers. Oh, Senores, did you enjoy your stay with us, asked the receptionist? Si, we enjoyed ourselves by setting fire to the city, I expertly translated into my best Spanish. We consumed many tree branches, and the staff has been more gracious than incontinent ostriches. I was on my game. The receptionist simply smiled, and we checked out. Would Senores require a taxi to the airport? Yes please, and make sure it has extra mustard. Languages are my newfound specialty.
The taxi driver struggled to stuff every last pound of luggage into the trunk of his car, looking at us as if we were stealing stone relics from ancient burial sites. No Senor, it is simply our clothing and a few souvenirs covered in gold that were mined from the caverns of Old Panama City. I suspect he didn't entirely believe me, but he was kind enough. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he motioned us to get in the back seat while he tied the trunk closed with some conveniently procured baling wire. The poor vehicle would have been no match for the trusty Nissan, which had braved virtually every element thrown it's way. Off we flew. The driver was working on his tour guide skills with us, pointing out all the various sights we could easily stop at and meet his brother the curios salesman. The man had several hundred brothers stationed throughout the city and along the highway to the airport, all eager and willing to add to our 2 metric tons of luggage. No, gracias Senor, solamente el aeropuetro con queso. He didn't quite get the cheese reference, so drove on, slightly sullen that he couldn't make a sale. But his snails' pace did give us the opportunity to see that Panama City's beaches are mostly unused. The driver explained that the beaches are rarely used by the people, as most of the shipping traffic disposes of their bilge just offshore, thus polluting the sand and water. The seabirds didn't seem to mind, but it did give us pause for thought - perhaps if we had listened to the Police Commandante/Real Estate Agent, we would buy a finca more inland......perhaps somewhere along the canal....
In no time, were arrived at Tocumen International Airport, unloaded the mass of baggage, and made our way to the counter to check on our flight. Si Senores, your flight leaves in 2 hours. Will you be checking those bags filled with all our National Treasures? Si, we will check them. OK then, please go through security over there, and have a good flight.
Panamanian airport security isn't quite like American airport security. For starters, they don't use lubricant. But they do allow cooked meat products to be carried aboard in one's cargo pants, which is a good thing. They know how bad the food is on the planes. Passing almost effortlessly through the interrogation, though we had to leave our lighters behind just in case we set fire to the stewardess, we found the bar. We had an hour to kill, so why not juice up a little, maybe we could actually get in a nap on the plane. For us, it's nigh impossible to drink enough to actually sleep on a plane, but we gave it our best.
The old John Denver/ Peter, Paul, and Mary song kept flowing through our brains: "We're leaving, on a jet plane, don't know when we'll be back again.....". It would be some time, but not because of the cannibals, or the fact that Panama has a garbage issue, but because there was further adventure to be had in other parts of the world, not the least of which was simply getting home. We happily waved to the pelicanos that had gathered to see us off.
7 hours in an airplane seat in steerage can do something to a man. Insanity was not out of the question, but that damn stewardess had our lighters. Still, we made the time fly by (ha, get it? airplane joke). Gratefully, the skyline of New York/New Jersey came into view. Oh look, there's the Statue of Liberty. We landed in the ancestral Land of Cannibals on time, but there was one more leg of this adventure that needed to be passed. Well, two, if you include driving from Milwaukee to home. Still two hours before the last flight, so we found the smoking area of the airport, cleverly concealed behind a set of invisible doors next to the garbage dump. A chilly breeze blew off the Hudson River, carrying with it faint aromas of the city in the distance and the Cargill terminal just next door. Ah, America. As we smoked, we gazed out at the International terminal filled with planes headed to far off destinations. Soon come my Dearest, soon come. We shall be off on adventure again one day.
The flight from Newark to Milwaukee was thankfully short, as the pilot knew we needed to be home. Really, we told him, so he had shifted into overdrive and landed at Mitchell Field in just a few short hours. Unless he lied to us....a distinct possibility. Still, the last leg of the journey was at hand. Filing through Customs was remarkably easy, as we had no lighters. Do you have anything to declare, asked the friendly latex-gloved TSA person? No, not really, just these 300 kg of National Artifacts mined in Panama City and parts beyond. That's funny Sir, now do you have anything to declare? No, just these finely cooked Panamanian meat products stuffed into my cargo short pockets we obtained at breakfast this morning. You obtained cargo short pockets at breakfast this morning, he asked? Ha, that's even funnier sir, now do you really have anything to declare? Yes, I do......there are no cannibals in Panama. I think this was the final blow, as not only had the drug sniffing dogs just finished biting through my pockets and consuming our breakfast, but the highly trained TSA agent had enough of my jokes. He allowed us to pass.
Another song swept through our brains, this one by Jimmy Buffett: "Just two more hours to go, losing any more hope of scoring any more dope, and we still have to do another show......."
I knew that soon I would be back in the Beer Mine.
But I also knew that we were so very close to finishing our adventure. This was February in Southern Wisconsin after all, and the weather was not apt to cooperate. Navigating our way to long-term parking, we found her, sitting there in the cold, shivering. Our beloved Beaner-mobile. The chariot that had moved us through so many adventures right here at home. We piled the 2 metric tons of luggage into her, and sat down in seats that fit us like a warm glove on a cold night. Turning the key in the ignition, there was silence. Son of a bitch. Dammit all, I had left the dome light on, and two weeks later, the battery was dead. Fortunately, cannibals in Milwaukee long-term parking are equipped with battery chargers, so after a short search for them, they hooked up and Beaner roared to life. Left turn, right turn, onto the on ramp, and away we flew. Beaner took her time in warming up, no doubt punishing us for abandoning her in a lot full of strange cars. But a few short hours down the highway and we were home.
Damn if it wasn't colder than shit. We weren't dressed for this kind of weather, hopefully the furnace had held steady. Indeed it had, and a few more hours of muling the luggage upstairs and we were finally home, visions of giant buzzard mosquitoes dancing in our heads. The children-beasts were not in a good mood, having also felt abandoned. But we were now home, and after a few scratches behind the ears, the beasts were assuaged and ready to sit on our laps. But first, a cocktail.....
We slept for 15 hours, and dreamed of adventure yet to come.
So endeth our adventure in the Land of the Cannibals. Stay tuned for the next riveting installment, wherein we mount an assault on the Emerald Isle. Or go back to work, one of the two.......please bring your tray tables and seats back to the upright position and prepare yourselves for more adventure......