Memoirs of a MasseurTodd Pequeen

R.I.P. The End of an Era

R.I.P. The End of an Era by Todd Pequeen

ICON—noun—a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of profound respect.

BARBA ROJA—restaurant—from 1975 until February of 2023.

The most fabled establishment of Manuel Antonio’s history was laid to rest last month. It is now only spoken of as “back in the day” and “remember when” banter in future drinking holes in our once sleepy beach town. I am still driving around with a souvenir of the legend. My hard-shelled extra tire covering on my Toyota, is somehow marked by the bright yellow paint from the railing of the handicapped entrance that leads from the parking lot! The memories that flood my mind are similar to that of most families—joy, friendship, love, sadness, loss, communion, betrayal, fights, dreams, and of course brotherhood. Like any celebrated drinking establishment—which the old television show Cheers, 1982 – 1993, made millions on—one could walk in and find a friend and a conversation almost instantly. They might forget your name, but they often remembered your face! Tourists never seemed to actually get the name right and locals in last ten years or so simply started calling it “Barbs,” everything is abbreviated these days. Regardless, Red Beard is no more, and I am very sure almost anyone reading this knows what is coming in its old and tired footprint. Sadness does not overwhelm me though, nor will the continued closing of iconic locations in this town. Everything and everyone have their beginnings and their ends, to mourn is a waste of time.

Literally millions of sunsets have been watched from Barba Roja, think about that for a while… There was a time back in the early 2000’s that everyone locally went there for what seemed like every night. Maybe that was just me! (lol) They had this tortilla chip and bean dip that was affordable and awesomeballz, but somewhere along the line that disappeared for who knows why. Like most things in this life change is Father Times way of letting you know the earth keeps spinning. Oddly enough those sunsets over the last few years were often traded in for voyeurism of the tourists walking on the non-existent sidewalk, combined with the luxury cars and trucks from San Jose leaving the beach, we got ourselves a show! There is now a permanent exit line parade during sunset hours from the beach going towards Quepos…enjoy the show ladies and gentlemen because it is tame compared to what it will be five years from now. Have you ever seen a hard-working troop of leaf cutter ants in full swing? Does that remind you of something? Equally destructive in different ways. Like every big project anywhere in the world the future and next step for the coveted property is all very hush hush. The more destructive the project the quieter it is—may I buy a permit please? As a massage guy who is quite low level compared to the egos or financial passions/obsessions of the wealthy, I prophecy a new development seems more than likely. Ironic being that three whole sections of our two-lane, dead-end road were literally washed out and needed tending to, yesterday. Mack trucks, steel beams, water limitations, and septic drainage are just a few of my requests from Santa this year. The “eco-project” down our Playitas road will add to the fun. Who are these guys? The “developers” creating a healthy and new standard for Manuel Antonio? I’m quite sure that I have never shared a beer with them at Barba Roja over the last 23 years…. I find that odd, I’m such a social guy.

I do see well-dressed men showing up around future job sites in their brand-new trucks with shiny shoes quietly discussing matters in dignified ways. In my head the conversation goes like this, “we can make the most money per square meter by doing blah blah blah.” “Commercial space on the lower level and luxury accommodation on the top and make that sunset and ocean view all yours, very secure.” “Private parking and a free year of golf at the nearest course just an hour north of here.” I’m going to miss the boat in this lifetime on those realities but I have many other conversations going on in my head. Like when Barba Roja had a meat smoker out on the street and a chef named Darren would welcome you with a hug and a sample of amazing pork ribs. Like when it could take you seven hours from San Jose to even get to Barba Roja and you would feel like you have traveled to the ends of the earth to the most fantastic exotic place in the world for a cold Imperial or Pilsen. Like when I would drive by and see my friends sitting at the bar and everyone would yell your name and buy you a beer because they knew you would buy the next one, back and forth, back and forth, until the chili guaros were served. My conversations involve love and friendships and the iconic location being no more but having friendships that are still very alive. I guess there will always be the next place but MA will never be the same, I need to talk to my therapist about this. Hasta luego Barba Roja, you were a magical place for all of the best things in life.

Todd Pequeen is a pioneer of massage work here in M.A. since 2000. He can be reached via WhattsApp or a phone call at (506)8830-7727, or at [email protected] or check out his website, You owe it to yourself to try his masterful work.