When last seen, my old friend Dedson was leaving the area in a battered Range Rover, bound for a ‘tour’ of Latin America. This was years back and the ‘tour’ he had planned revolved around the dented left rear hubcap that he swore bore an image of the Virgin Mary when the angle and lighting was right. “People will pay good money to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary on a dented hubcap,” he assured me. “Especially humble God-fearing Latinos always on the lookout for the latest Our Lady of Fatima.”
I had studied the hubcap at length, from all angles and at various hours of the day, straight and sober, unstraight and unsober, but the alleged vision never materialized. There was one occasion when I caught a fleeting glimpse of an image that strikingly resembled Moe of the Three Stooges, but it turned out I was staring at the hubcap of a different Range Rover. I wrote off my friend as another hopeless expat lunatic, brains fried from too many hours in the equatorial sun. My last sighting of Dedson was of him behind the wheel of the Virgin Mary Express, heading north on the highway toward San Jose, plumes of dark diesel smoke streaming from the tailpipe.
Fast forward to last month. After years away, Dedson reappeared on the scene. When I asked him how his ‘tour’ had gone, all he said was that it had lasted as far as the San Jose area, where within an hour of his arrival the sacred hubcap had disappeared, along with the rest of his car, when he left it parked with the engine running while he went in search of prospective hubcap believers. But that was all in the distant past. Dedson was a man of the present. He wanted to talk of his new interest, which was the website known as You Tube. He asked me if I was familiar with it. I confessed to having blown many an evening watching videos ranging from the professional to the homemade. “That website is a gold mine, you know,” he told me. I wasn’t so sure. If anything, You Tube seemed to be the validation of Andy Warhol’s long ago pronouncement that in the future everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. Ephemeral fame was the norm. Anyone could post a video about anything there, regardless of content, meaning or quality. It was more like a huge internet video flea market than a gold mine. Dedson assured me that there was money to be made once a viewing base was built up. He invited me to come visit him in the following week to show me first hand how his idea would become golden reality.
The next week, I spotted Dedson riding a tricked out mountain bike down the main street of Quepos. On his head was an elaborate helmet that had been adapted to mount a video camera. As he passed I heard him talking into an unseen microphone. “I am now approaching the mercado central and bus station of Quepos,” he intoned. I walked quickly toward the bus station where I watched from a distance as Dedson attempted to interview locals. He had removed the helmetcam from his head and was aiming it at himself as he spoke. Then he rotated it and pointed it toward the people milling about. People stared or laughed or moved quickly away any time Dedson approached. Eventually he got back on his bike and rode away, helmetcam securely on his head.
A few days later I caught up with Dedson at his cabina at the edge of the jungle. He paced the floor and spoke of You Tube hits and the limitlessness of cyberspace and the endless stream of money that would surely be flowing his way once his videos began circulating. “I’m calling it Costa Rica Bikecam,” he said. “I’ve already got it trademarked.” He invited me to see some of his videos. For the next hour I strained to keep an interested look on my face as I watched a series of shaky, blurry, nausea-inducing mini cam shots, overlaid with Dedson’s incomprehensible monologue. It was like watching The Blair Witch Project minus the fright. There were shots taken in town, on the beach, in the palm fields. The lighting and sound quality varied wildly from shot to shot and Dedson had an annoying habit of trying to instantly translate every word spoken by his various Tico subjects. He shouted over them, mistranslated words and phrases, and generally came across as a bilingual illiterate, if there is such a thing. Dedson finally, mercifully switched it off and looked at me expectantly. “One word,” he urged, “Give me your best one word summary of what you just watched.” A lot of words came quickly to mind: Unwatchable. Incomprehensible. Lousy. Sucks. Really. Bad. I racked my brain for something positive to say. “One word wouldn’t do it justice,” I said.
At that moment I was thinking of the time my son, then in junior high school in the US, informed me that he and some friends had formed a rock band. When I asked him what songs they did he told me they couldn’y yet play any songs, but they had a really good name for the band.
“Trademark,” I finally said. “Costa Rica Bikecam. Great name. Good thing you got that trademarked.”