DATELINE WEDNESDAY 14 AUGUST EL RANCHO PUBLIC GUN RANGE, HEREDIA 11:30 AM
I’m here watching my buddy, Ratso, instruct The Kid: “Gigi” in how to properly handle a firearm; in this case a Browning M-14 rifle. The kid has become very interested in military matters, of late. Ratso- a retired ( semi ) Marine Gunnery Sergeant- with time on his hands , was more than happy to vollunteer his services as drill instructor . None of the preceding has anything to do with why I’m here , though I did take advantage of being at the range to bust out a box of fifty with my .45 cal. model 1911 Colt semi-auto. A box of 230 grain full metal jacketed forty-five caliber rounds will set you back about fifty bucks USD these days. A bargain when compared to the cost of an anger management therapist.
The actual reason we are all here at the range today is so I can make contact with a source who claims he can set up a meet between myself and members of Frente Patriota 7 de Julio- Costa Rica’s newest revolutionary group who have not yet been captured , and remain on the run from government security forces. My source chose this locale.
We’ve been here for two hours already. My contact is now one-and-a-half hours late by standard international etiquette . Of course if he were to suddenly appear right now, by Costarican standards, he’d be considered early.
So Rat’ continues barking commands and raining down insults at Gigi while Crazy Tommy and Chino – who’d come along- joined me in enjoying every minute of the show: a comedy version of Full Metal Jacket.
Chino and Crazy Tommy take their positions on the firing line. They are going to compete with one another using a rusty, well used dueling tree.Chino is packing his fancy “Gucci” chrome plated 9mm H&K . Crazy Tommy has his old school snub nose Smith&Wesson .357 magnum. The shorter barrel of CT’s pistol has a real disadvantage when shooting at a target seven meters away , much less fifteen. Of course seeing as how Chino is drunk, it pretty much evens things out. Don’t get me wrong; Chino’s not that wasted. He’s okay for plinkin’ steel plates. We are after all professionals.
Standing side-by-side Chino and Crazy Tommy look like they could plug a subway tunnel. Their combined weight exceeds maximum capacity for most bridges in this country.
For all their physical similarities the two of them are an excellent representation of the two distinct Costa Ricas of today. One nation, two polar opposed parallel dimensions.
Chino represents those in Costa Rica who have to earn their living here: in Puravidaville . Small business owners, contractors etc: Tax Payers.
Crazy Tommy represents the other Costa Rica; the Costa Rica of those whose incomes are derived outside of this country. Many of them living full time in Costa Rica, for years, as “tourists”. We’ll call them: The Blessed.
For The Tax Payer this country is an ever increasingly difficult ( nearly to the point of impossible ) environment to survive in, let alone thrive in.
For The Blessed this country can be a true paradise; naturally and culturally- assuming of course you have a safe, secure outside source of income, and a positive attitude.
The world of each is foreign to the other. Crazy Tommy has his pension from where he worked back in New York at the Fulton Fish Market for twenty-five years, plus his U.S. Social Security pension of a little over $2,800. USD he receives each and every month like clockwork. The two combined pensions total nearly $5,000. USD per month – GUARANTEED FOR LIFE, Jack. Keep in mind, that Tommy Boy is only 65 years old and in fair health inspite of his excessive pasta consumption. Add to that CT’s various investments here in Paradise, and you can understand why he asks, “what economic crisis?” As he whistles “Zippity-Doo-Dah” and skips down the street.
Chino does’nt have time to whistle, and he’s afraid to skip down the street for fear the Municipality of Alajuela will fine him for skipping without a permit. His work schedule ranges from sixty to seventy hours per week . Add to that the four to eight hours a week he has to dedicate toward government compliance, he really does’nt have any days off. It’s a miracle he’s hanging out with us today. With the tonnage of new taxes his government has come up with over the last year ( you should see what they have in store for us next year- buckle up… ), Chino is currently handing over 60% of his meager $2,000. USD equivallent per month ( on average ) income. In the U.S. he’d be eligible for state and federal assistance.
Crazy Tommy sleeps like a baby at night after fun-n-sun filled days with his twenty-five year old girlfriend, at the beach, or window shopping down Avenida Central.
Chino stays up at night worrying what new tax, regulation, or tramite the government will hit him with in the morning; how he’ll pay for the new gas range and broken water pipe, and still have the money for a proper family Christmas, after paying his employees their alguinaldos ( extra MONTH of pay due all employees as a Christmas bonus- by law ).
People like Crazy T live under the radar in Costa Rica. Other than the $1,100 USD they are obliged to cash into local currency (colones : current value 565 x 1 USD), and possibly property taxes (residential and agricultural are dirt cheap), The Blessed feel little, or no pinch from the government here. Those who have no interest in legal residency, whom prefer to remain “tourists” are even more free of government harrassment.
So you have to visit Nicaragua, or Panama for three days, every three months, to re-new your tourist visa. Hell, you can catch all-inclusive four days\three nights excursions to San Andres, out of our own Juan Santamaria International Airport, for less than $300. bucks USD airfare included throughout the year. Many opt to overstay their tourist visa, then simply pay the fine ($100. USD per month over ninety days) when they decide to leave the country for whatever reason. No fuss, no muss. In my three decades-plus living in this wild-n-wacky place I have never witnessed anyone being deported, or encarcerated for over staying their tourist visa.
This is certainly not an indictment of The Blessed. To the contrary. Retired pensioners and long stay “tourists” provide critical sources of foreign income for a country teetering on bankruptcy; filling our Central Bank with precious euros and U.S. greenbacks. They also provide jobs for unskilled\lesser skilled labor in an ever increasingly more technological world. Maids, gardeners, handy men and green grociers all benefit from the foreign expats living here with sources of income originating outside of Costa Rica.
So what’s the lesson, you ask? The lesson is that no good deed goes unpunished in the eyes of today’s Costa Rica government. In short: If you want to stop loving Costa Rica, all you have to do is open a business here. The more people you hire the faster it will happen. The government here will come down on you like a mountain of bricks. You will soon come to the conclusion that there is no greater crime in Costa Rica than creating jobs for those who didn’t have one before.
Typically what happens to foreigners (or nationals) who dare to create a small business in Puravidaville is that they all start out full of hope and vigor, but most all seem to end up in the fetal position, curled up in the corner of some dark furniture bare room mumbling incoherently to themselves until some family member sends them airfare home. This is the tragic reality of today’s Costa Rica you won’t read about in any tourist brochures, or investment pamphlets.
It all begs the question: Why doesn’t our government, here in Costa Rica, help the private sector small business job creaters, which are the backbone of every economy on earth, if they truly care about their people? Maybe the answer is they don’t care.
With the massive amount of money laundering happening in Costa Rica today, along with the billions of dollars being sent back to Costa Rica through Ticos working abroad, in the form of remittances, money is pouring into government coffers like never before. If our government here wasn’t so utterly inept and thoroughly corrupt we’d be looking at huge government surpluses, a strong colon and near zero unemployment today instead of the disaster unfolding before us.
Think about it for a moment. Every Costarican working up north, sending their salary back home to Costa Rica like clockwork each and every pay day, aint blocking the entrance to Puerto Moin, or carrying protest signs outside La Casa Presidential. And every Tico small business owner who goes under, and every Costarican who loses his\her job due to the closing of that small business, are candidates for a northbound caravan. So basically you rob and steal from the private sector until they go broke. Then you watch as tens of thousands of your people flee to other countries for a means of feeding their families. They aren’t here any more to start any trouble, such as holding their corrupt, criminally incompetent government accountable, yet they keep a solid cash flow of dollars going to those very same theives that created the deplorable social environment which made them kiss their loved ones good bye in search of a dignified life for themselves and their families, in the first place. It is a despicable reality of our current state.
At this rate it won’t be long before the Costarican government is not only the biggest employer in this country, as it is now, but the only employer left in the country. Try explaining all those luxury shopping malls then. All of us with a double digit IQ, or higher (that disqualifies everybody in the government) know what that would mean: EL GRAN COLAPSO…
It doesn’t look like my guy is going to show.
Chino easily won five straight “duels” against Crazy Tommy. T’s six-shot magnum revolver is a beast from hell, but no match for Chinos sixteen-shot magazine fed semi-automatic.
As far as the kid, Gigi, Ratso says he has “Maggies drawers”, but promises to “square the kid away”, in time. That we have loads of.