It's also dangerous to be too judgmental. Couple of years ago, the Managua authorities decided to disrupt the smuggling. The response was brutal. Stone-cold cartel killers walked into the police station and cut the throats of five top cops. So now it's don't ask, don't tell-and tax what you can. People 'round here don't dream of winning the lottery. They dream of finding a wash-up. Even the most respectable families have a bale or two of beach-combed coke buried in the yard for a rainy day. Takes a strong man to burn hundreds of thousands of dollars in a country where teachers make less than $100 a month. So much of that gear washes up on these beaches the Colombians have issued a lost and found number. 1-800-I've got your stash. Call and they'll buy it back. Though I'm guessing that could be a fairly tense midnight rendezvous.
"Right here, sweetie." We stop by a sign for Sally Peachy. Sally Peachy? Was your barrio named after a stripper? "You're looking to get a hot slap. Call me at eight." Which eight? "Big eight. Bye, sweetie." Bye, sweetie.
Sally Peachy becomes North End, and the island changes. Brig Bay's mostly Mesquito Indian and mainland Spanish. North End is mainly black. The people here call themselves Islanders and speak Creole, a sometimes sing-song, sometimes sludgy English patois. It's nicer round here. Fresher, cooler and, if not richer, then more comfortable, more established. The centuries-old Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal churches all boast new roofs and towering spires. The houses are well-crafted wood, not crumbling cement, with proud fences and watered lawns. The dogs are on leads, the baseball team has uniforms, and the grannies rule these roots. Fat-thighed old dears sit on high porches with their legs too far apart, daring passers-by to take a peek at the one thing they never want to see. Sometimes I love being shortsighted.
Despite the disturbing distractions, there's still no better place to do some serious thinking than the saddle of a motorcycle. And right now, I have me a big decision. After a weird year of failed plots, lost plans and too much drunken inactivity, I've suddenly been hit with two world-class choices. Ride L.A. to B.A. for Motorcyclist magazine or fulfill another lifelong dream and finally open that barefoot bar in the tropics.
I need a sign. "Queen Hill." That'll do. I wander off-road, heading up the rocky track toward the muddy ghetto. Another potential nightmare on a two-up touring rig that's a sweet dream on this little shitter. Even when a wide-assed woman hitches up her skirt and hitches a bike hike. I say "Yes" only because I can't think of a polite way to say "Don't be ridiculous, love, you're far too large." This is motocross on donuts. But the bike doesn't complain. So neither do I. "What you doing up here, anyway, son?" Me? I'm going to see The Pyramid.
Behind the Children's Park, behind the tangled scribble of noisy kids playing overlapping baseball, football and catapult wars on the same scrappy space, a group of Spanish artists from souloftheworld.com are building a pyramid. And as usual, chief sculptor Rafael, the prophet look-alike with the luminous white clothes, white beard and white ponytail, is struggling to explain why.
Imagine an enormous cube inside the world, a cube sized so that just the tips of its eight (count 'em) points peek through the Earth's surface. Still with me? Rafael reckons there's only one possible way to position this hypothetical cube so that all eight points emerge on land. And his latest, greatest and maybe last project is sculpting pyramids on all these far-flung sites. Why? "It's all about Platonic forms and..." He's interrupted. "I'll tell you what is." Oh, hello again, fat pillion. Go on then. "It's a drug detection device. Right, son?" Wrong, ma.
I run Rafa back down the hill. "I hear you have an important choice to make." Weird news travels fast. "If you decide to ride, let me know. I need someone to scout our next location in southern Chile. It's called El Porvenir." He smiles his messianic smile. "Which means The Future.''
Back at the beach bar, Big Archie's comforting little Anna Banana 'cause her favorite duckling's just been kidnapped by a crab. Little Archie's slapping Littler Archie with a wet fish. Ooh La La's sitting on the bar talking rings'n'tings with her impossibly pretty posse. Pop a cold Victoria and wander down to the seashore, where the red and blacks are a-flapping in the wind and watch teens clamber over a shipwreck climbing frame. I love this easy island where even the sun sets slowly. But it never really was a tough decision. I'm still not ready to give up The Road.
Mike bounces over with his new baby in his arms. "This isn't such a bad place to live, you know." I know, but... "But you're leaving anyway. I understand. Maybe next year?" Maybe next year. Ooh La La dances over, a kinky slinky in a denim mini-skirt and painted-on eyebrows. She squeezes my hand and gives me an amber-eyed wink that makes my nuts crinkle. "I'll miss you for a week. Right, sweetie?" Right, sweetie. Next day I catch the puddle-jumper back to mainland Managua.
Next stop: L.A., baby. Or wherever I can find a new bike. MC