Or how my mid-life crisis got its ass kicked
BASED ON A TRUE STORY (sort of)
By Nick Dangier
“NOW GO HOME AND GET YOUR SHINE BOX.”
The Kahuna and I weren’t with Gus more than fifteen minutes before he took off to arrange our flight plan with Aviacion Civil. The two of us headed back to the bar to brief Ratso and finally eat our lunch. I was starving- not having eaten anything since Tigre’s fish camp that morning. As we were rounding the corner into the interior bar entrance we heard the unmistakable sounds of what the Irish call a “donnybrook”: glass breaking, furniture crashing and in this case a sound that I can only compare to the sound poor Luca made when we slid that spike out of his nut sack.
I was truly not surprised to find Chubby George Clooney hanging (literally off his feet) by his neck from Ratso’s left hand, while Sunburned Rasta thrashed around spastickly, like a cat with its head stuck in a gym sock. Rat’ had him in a hold I’d never seen before. The dreadlock gringo’s whole face was clamped inside Ratso’s big mitt of a right hand. Dreadlocks did not seem able to free himself from Rat’s Kung Fu grip. The skinny kid’s arms flailed wildly as he let out a muffled scream into Ratso’s sweaty palm, trying to communicate what I can only assume was something like: “LET ME GO YOU CRAZY BASTARD, I CAN’T BREATHE!” Ratso’s grip couldn’t have done much to alleviate the pain of the kid’s sunburned face either.
The two gangstas were lying prone- face up- on the floor atop the debris of a dozen broken beer bottles. One of the wannabe tough guys was rolling from side to side, cupping his nose in both hands as blood seeped through his fingers. The other appeared unharmed. He remained still, meekly holding up his hands surrender style, as he kept his focus very much on Ratso and in a very compliant way. Looking directly at the two demoralized hooligans lying on the floor, Ratso said in a calm and measured voice: “Que payasos ustedes, eh. Vaya a casa- haga las mamas suyas orgullosas, no tristes, chicos. Sean protectores de sus barrios, no verguenzados. Ahora vete. Hale ya!” The bartenders and waitresses clapped enthusiastically while giving Rat’ a standing ovation. Ratso did not take a bow. As commanded the two former tough guys got to their feet and limped out the side door. As they were leaving Ratso called out to them in spanglish as if as an afterthought: “And pull up your pants por dios!”
Now Rat’ turned the sermon on Sunburned Rasta, saying: “And YOU… bullying people who can’t fight back, because they don’t agree with YOUR political point of view IS fascism by its very definition!” To punctuate his statement Ratso gave the terrified cameraman, former roadie for Screaming Trees and ANTIFA supporter, a quick short shove sending him flying backwards, which caused the kid to trip over a downed bar stool, landing him in a sticky, brown puddle of tobacco spit the Dominican hooker contingent had left on the floor below their side of the bar. “Anteefee” Rasta wisely stayed down.
Finally it was Chubby George Clooney’s turn to face the music. Now that Ratso had dispatched of Sunburned Rasta he was able to wrap both hands around Chubbo’s neck. “And YOU, mister fake news…” Ratso leaned in close until the tips of their noses were literally touching. Then with barely a whisper he said: “…be nice.” That was it. Rat’ released his grip and let George Clooney’s doppelganger tumble back into the booth. Slowly Chubbo’s face went from eggplant purple back to blotchy pink. He said nothing. He just sat there clutching his throat with both hands and gasped for air. This was a benevolent side of Ratso I was not accustomed to. Could our Ratso be mellowing with age, dear reader? Maybe soon the lame will walk and the blind will see.
Expecting to hear police sirens at any moment, I asked our bartender to wrap up our lunches (TO GO!), squared the tab and followed the boys out through the lobby exit before a crowd gathered from the commotion. It had all happened in less than 90 seconds.
According to The Kahuna, Chubby George Clooney is some kind of TV journalist big shot. I wouldn’t know. Queenie and I used our television set for target practice back when the kids were toddlers. And we’ve never even considered buying another one since. Ratso explained how Chubbo, upon noticing the MAGA hat Rat’ was wearing, commenced a tirade of insults at him. When Ratso had finally heard enough (Gunny Rat’ is actually no huge fan of Trump) and decided to confront his antagonists -verbally only (at first)- the Trump hating troublemakers let the liquor go to their heads and came at him. A major strategic error on their part. First to step up were the two now repentant former toughies, followed close behind by the dreadlock cameraman with the ANTIFA tee shirt and sunburned face. Chubby Clooney never made a move, other than running his mouth. He cowered in the back of the booth and actually tossed an empty plastic Club Soda bottle at Ratso which he casually deflected before dragging the famous journalist out from behind the table by his Adam’s apple.
Ratso has a history of straightening out big mouth blowhards. That day at the Intercontinental Hotel bar in 1988 was one of those occasions. Although the target of Rat’s ire that day paid more severely than Chubby Clooney and his pals suffered this day. Of course, in Ratso’s defense, I have to say that we were all younger then and much less polished and civilized than we are today.
Like the incident which had just transpired, Ratso had nearly blown the beached Beechcraft mission as well. That was when Rat’, The Kahuna and yours truly were tasked with recovering or destroying in place a “company” aircraft that had been lost in the Bluefields area of eastern Nicaragua while on a night time re-supply mission in support of Contra-Sandinista forces. We’d actually gone in posing as Peace Corp workers, using aliases and forged documents. It was the lamest of covers as none of us fit the mold.
The world news media reported, erroneously, that the plane had been shot down by Ortega’s communist forces.The truth is that the pilot-an American citizen- had simply run out of fuel while searching for the drop zone and was forced to execute a dead stick landing in a banana plantation not far from the coast. “A couple gallons of gas and she’ll fly.” The pilot had informed us via the Clipboard Dudes. It was a constant crap shoot during night time re-supply missions, as to whether or not the Contra unit on the ground would be sober enough to remember how many signal fires to light.
The pilot, a “company” contractor like us, was captured by Sandinista forces and a U.S. State Department team of “Clipboard Dudes”, as we called them, was working on his release. He and his twin engine Beechcraft had the distinction of having been a part of legendary pilot, patriot and accomplished smuggler Barry Seal’s “Flying Circus” before Seal caught a fatal case of lead poisoning in the parking lot of a Louisiana motel in 1986.
The big mouth that Ratso stuffed his fist into that day in Managua belonged to a tall, lanky goon of a guy- same age as Rat’ and I, mid twenties- named “Billy”, who claimed to be from Brooklyn, New York. He was down in Nicaragua with a group of wealthy, young, over pampered and under educated American Bolsheviks, calling themselves the “Quixote (something)”, who were based somewhere in the U.S. state of Maryland. This group was dedicated to enabling the spread of communism in Latin America and wholeheartedly supported murderous tyrants like their host Danny “The Butcher” Ortega.
It’s always struck me as strange how self-proclaimed “champions of the poor” always seem to be people who never in their lives had to go without a meal or do an honest day’s work. The kind of people who grew up with servants and attended private schools whose tuitions were higher than the average American family’s (let alone average Nicaraguan family’s) annual total income. Such was the case that day in Nicaragua.
Billy from Brooklyn was a large Lurch-like character. Thin as a rail with a huge afro style perm’ and standing well over six feet tall, he resembled a long dirty Q-tip. He didn’t fear five-foot nine-inch (and 3/4″) Ratso at first. Noticing us in the crowd and correctly making us as gringos, Billy began an anti-American rant from atop his chair in the middle of the crowded bar; seemingly for the entertainment of his friends and other mostly international hippy types: pro-socialist, pro-Sandinista in the room. He jabbered on like a pandering politician (irony of ironies), waving around a bottle of Tona cerveza, splashing the foamy liquid all over a shy, skinny girl from Columbus, Ohio who wore old-fashioned horn rimmed glasses and spoke very little. She was sitting at the table beside Boss Tweed. The poor girl seemed very enamored with the Sasquatch looking loudmouth from NYC. Evidently A-holes are more of a novelty in the Midwest.
Billy Boy eventually worked himself into a hysterical and fact-less diatribe about then President Ronald Reagan, saying that he was a “cowboy” (which people like me consider a compliment) and “dangerous warmonger” (which people like me also consider a compliment) that was going to bring about a nuclear “holocaust”. Something that anyone alive today can attest never happened. Quite the contrary truth be told, but none of that was what lit Ratso’s fuse. What set Rat’ off was when Brooklyn Billy had the huevos to bash the United States Marine Corp and the Corp’s history in Central America. “Capitalist thugs”, I remember Bigfoot saying. That was it. For Ratso it was: To hell with the op’. This clown must pay. And pay the clown did. Chesty Puller and ole Pappy Boyington would have been proud.
When it was all said and done, “Billy” (whose real name is Warren), who would actually go on years later to become mayor of the biggest city in the United States, a failed Democrat candidate for President and groundhog murderer as well, learned three very life changing lessons that high noon in 1988: #1) That USMC LINE training is worth every penny of taxpayer investment. #2) That just because you show up riding a jackass doesn’t make you Jesus Christ. And #3) It’s harder than you think to chew a knish with your jaw wired shut. Too bad it wasn’t permanent. That was thirty-one years ago.
Meanwhile back in the present… We packed the Cessna with our gear and lashed The Kahuna’s gigantic sailboard (sans sail) to the aircraft’s right side pontoon. We’d need it as a “flop board” on our insertion. Then we taxied out onto the airstrip at Pavas Airport. The Kahuna made one last instruments check, revving the engine as he did. I was riding shotgun in the co-pilot’s seat. Ratso was sprawled out, with our gear, on the rear bench seat. My adrenaline was pumping in-sync with the revving of the engine. We were finally underway. Over the roar of the little motor The Kahuna motioned for us to put on our internal communications headsets with boom mic’, which we did.
“Welcome to Kahuna Air”, our wisecracking pilot said. “Please extinguish all smoking materials, unless you’re smoking weed, in which case we respectfully request you pass it forward to the pilot first… current temperature in Barra del Colorado is 195 degrees Fahrenheit with 200% humidity…” As if by magic, The Kahuna’s voice suddenly switched from robotic pilot guy to 1950’s rock-n-roll disc jockey. “I now dedicate this old tune to my two fay-voh-rit’ mass-oh-kists: King of the Road by the late, great Roger Miller…” Murray The K then flipped the on-board comms’ over to his iPad play list. The song was one of our most cherished road trip anthems back in the day. Both Ratso and I gave The Kahuna the thumbs up, which he returned smiling ear to ear. Our wack job of a pilot slowly pushed the throttle forward sending us hurling down the runway. Smoothly we ascended into the cloudless sky, taking up a heading of north-by-northeast toward our RV with our old compadre Junior and his waiting boat. I’m a man of means by no means, King of the road… TO BE CONTINUED in next week’s explosive, mind blowing, spine tingling edition of The Costa Rica Post. DON’T MISS IT!