Matt CassedayShambling Through Paradise


Shambling through paradise headerAfter 15 years at the beach, I was back in the city of San Isidro del General. I had come full circle from the 1990s. The place had not changed much, except there were double the people and triple the vehicles. This made things difficult, as the bicycle had previously been my preferred means of transport. Over the years I liked to joke that I was signing my death warrant every time I went out for a bike ride on our narrow potholed roads. Now it was even more daunting with more cars, more people—and with the addition of cell phones and texting, already easily distracted drivers were all potential killers.

Back in the 90s I had ridden just about every road that existed in the San Isidro/Perez Zeledon vicinity. I had just gone through a messy divorce, and cycling was a fantastic outlet. To give you an idea of how avid a cyclist I was, I would sit my son and daughter, then aged 5 and 4, across the long frame of the bicycle, make sure they had solid holds on the frame, and pedal them the 5 miles or so up and down hills, through traffic, into the center of town to drop them off to their mom on the occasions they stayed with me. My daughter had a child’s bike helmet, my son preferred to wear a too-large motorcycle helmet that a previous housemate had left behind. (This is one of the many things that made Costa Rica great in my eyes—had I cruised around a busy city street in the states in this manner I may well have ended up facing a panel of child protection services agents and been stripped down to an occasional supervised visit; here, where it was not unusual to see a family of four hanging on to one another while puttering down the road on a 125cc motorcycle, no one batted an eye).

Years ago, I wrote an article that detailed the occasional encounters I had with an actual pervert, always while cycling around San Isidro. He was right out of the pervert textbook—a squatly built, homely little guy who looked to be in his 20s or 30s, barely 5 feet tall, and he lurked in the same patch of tall grass along the side of a curve in the road in the neighborhood of El Hoyon—the first neighborhood reached when entering San Isidro from the direction of Dominical and the beaches. As I approached on my bicycle he would emerge suddenly, calling “Que rico! Que rico!” His hands would be down in his pants—sometimes his pants were pulled down far enough so he was exposed-and he would make weird little slurping noises while doing his wanking ritual. I carried some rocks with me on one occasion and threw them at him when he appeared from the brush. He shouted something and a pack of inbred little Costa Rican street dogs shot out of the brush and ran at me snarling and barking. I pedaled away and decided to find a future detour around the curve in El Hoyon.

Over 15 years had passed and I was back. We had a house north of downtown, on the first hills at the distant base of the 10,000 foot Cerro del Muerte. I was into hiking now and began exploring the various routes available. On the other side of the road—the old Pan American highway—there were various paths, all of which included some challenging steep hills. My favorite path was one that took me past a small cluster of rural houses, down a steep narrow gravel road to a gulley, followed by a kilometer of 2 long uphill climbs. Just after the gulley, at the beginning of the ascent, there was a small, closed up house on a knoll to the right. It was the only structure along the uphill kilometer.

One morning, starting my climb up the hill, I heard a door open in the closed up house. And then, this: “Que rico! Que rico!” I glanced up and there he was, one hand working away down in his pants, the other hand waving at me like we were long lost buds. It was him—the same pervert from the 90s. Miles from his previous hang out spot. He was back to haunt me in a new century! There was even a collection of growling underweight curs at his feet. I waved and continued my climb. On my return, I heard him making the same Beavis and Butthead slurping and grunting sounds as years before. On my subsequent hikes, I chose to ignore him, which seemed to make him bolder. One morning he made such a racket that I had to look up. He was standing in the doorway of the shack, hands working feverishly at his exposed little dong, smiling down at me, like some wacked-out gnome, some disturbed lawn jockey come to life.

Around this time, a small prefab house was going up on the same lot, yards from where the pervert stayed. One weekend, a man with a nice pick-up truck was present. As I climbed the hill, I stopped and introduced myself. This was the owner of the lot. It was a delicate topic, but I had to let him know that his caretaker was a literal whack (off) job.

As I explained, he looked toward the shack, looked back at me, and said that, why yes, the fellows building his house had told him the same thing. And that was it! Like a public masturbator was nothing out of the ordinary, just another one of the guys in the hood! You’ve got Quincho who plays his music too loud and Chepe who drinks too much and falls asleep in his front yard, and…..Chiquitico who likes to expose himself to all the passersby!

I made the hike a few more times, but after a couple other encounters, decided it best to look for a new route. In retrospect, I figured the property owner was probably family, and that by installing his demented family member in such a remote place, he was at least minimizing the contact he could have with the rest of the world. I moved on. There were numerous other hiking paths to choose from—none of which included weird little guys calling to me with a gleam in the eye and a hand down the pants.