This is how Americans sound when they introduce themselves. I’ve met a lot of Yanks down here, as one would imagine, what with it being just a short plane ride away. It’s kind of like melanoma-prone Brits who move to Spain: escape their boring lives back home to sit in the sun and do SFA* all day with the money they accumulated back home, driving locals out of the property market and damaging the economy in the long run. Just like that.

…No, that’s too harsh – some of them are genuine, lovely people who came for a better climate, simpler way of life and more open, less greedy proto-capitalist society. That I can respect.

The Sex Trade

What I have difficulty respecting is the Merkins here for the sex trade. On entry to Costa Rica, there was an immigration form that said explicitly “sex with children is forbidden in Costa Rica” along with a warning of punishment. The same was repeated in the airport – twice. For such lengths to be taken suggests that this was and is a serious ongoing problem. Prostitution above the age of eighteen is legal in Costa Rica and there are certain areas with a thriving sex trade.

I find sex tourism undesirable, but I have no issue with prostitution or the sex trade in general. It’s perfectly acceptable and I understand the need for it in society. A few years ago, I debated the topic of legalising prostitution in the Irish Debating National Finals – we lost  (probably because I misplaced a sheet and said “Oh, Balls!” really loudly during my speech, but I digress) I was convinced of it beforehand and I remain convinced that it should be a well-regulated, safe system. I don’t have a model to base that opinion on; most sex trade systems have failed pretty badly from what I have read. The Dutch system is the most sensible, but contains tens of thousands of illegally trafficked women from Eastern Europe. The Costa Rican system is similar, but not as closely regulated. Most of the trafficked prostitutes here are from Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama and far, far too many street kids are dragged into it. Sometimes literally.

Even Paradise has its dark side. Merry Christmas, by the way.

I’ve avoided this and the Johns as much as possible. I’ve always said that if you have to pay for it, you’re doing it wrong.

The Fat Man

I had the (mis)fortune to meet some of these Clients in Dominical while waiting for the bus. I’ll attempt to be fair in the following, but some criticism and judegment is only natural. I was curious to explore the sort of person who would come here for the sex trade.

John 1 was an old crusty hillbilly who we shall call Fat Man. Aged about 70, Fat Man claimed to have worked in a steel factory until retiring in his mid-50’s, he spent his time between Wisconsin and Texas. Inappropriately dressed in a large grey sweat shirt that lived up to its name and dark blue jeans, he was perspiring and complaining that it was too hot- I wonder why. He asked if I was having any luck with the Ticas (female Costa Ricans), I replied jokingly with “My Spanish isn’t good enough for that yet!”

“Ye don’t need Spanish, boy, you just need money and to do this:” he said as he air-humped vigorously and made several sexual movements. This was within two minutes of meeting him.It was a disgusting sight and I cannot even imagine how it would appear while he was naked. I would advise you not to, too. My friend Adam looked repulsed and rightly so. I was curious to understand this brain of his, though, so I continued talking with them.

The Outlaw

He was with a friend of his he dubbed ‘The Outlaw’, obviously Texan Whiskey Tango* who, according to Fat Man, “can really hold his liquor!” (subtext: alcoholic), “is wanted in every Southern State!” (subtext: possibly a petty criminal) and “used to drive his big blue van down to Mexico. Now, the border police would be on tha thing straight away! He put a bed in the back ‘cuz a hotel’ll set ye back about $6! Why pay $6 when you can put a hotel in your own van? So he’d drive down to Mexico and pick up a lady, take them to his van and then just drive down the street and pick up another!” (there is no subtext here). The Outlaw had a trucker hat on to disguise his receded hairline, a black handlebar moustache, grizzled old skin, was quite tanned and wore a sleeveless shirt and stained jeans. He was thinner and spoke with a real Texas drawl, though he tended to mumble a lot. He had a constant goofy smile on his face and seemed to be quite happy all morning. He lived in a trailer park just north of the Mexico border.

He, like Fat Man, had brought no luggage with him for the weekend.

This was now on a busy bus back from the beach to San Isidro, a city of about 40,o00. Buses here are usually full with several people standing for most of the journey. Not being assholes, we offered people our seats or simply made no move to take them – most of them needed it more than we did. The Outlaw stole a seat from a woman with child who was making her way up the bus and then refused to give it up when she asked politely. We were too far away to intervene. He tapped his lap and offered to hold the baby. She promptly turned around.

Anyone who spoke English knew precisely what Fat Man was taking about previously. After the bus cleared up a bit, we took two seats that were free – right opposite the Fat Man. I was sitting window seat across the aisle the aisle seat, hoping to put some distance between ourselves. No success.

I always aim to treat people with respect, even if they have not earned that respect or even if I have no respect for them whatsoever. I listened and talked with Fat Man for almost an hour. I gleaned more from him than he could have known- his eyes, body language, the lines of his face – dark and deep brow lines, like he had spent a life in perpetual confusion.  He was in Costa Rica to escape his mundane retirement back home, his wife and his children were all spoken ill of.


Fat Man spoke mostly in bitter jest, his stories meandered among empty revelations and needless crudeness. We spoke of politics:

“I’m afraid someone’s gonna to shoot the President. Naow, I hated the last guy as much as you Yurrupeeens, but I don’t know anything about politics! I’m jus’ a peon in this all. I’m afraid someone will shoot him ‘cuz he’s a Muslim.”

I countered: “No, he’s not a Muslim, he went to a Christian church for twenty years.”

“Still, I don’t trust him even though I voted for him.”


Fat Man asked Adam where he was from, to which he replied he was from California. They thought he was Hispanic and weren’t too diplomatic about it either. Adam didn’t bother correct them and say he was Jewish. That probably doesn’t go down too well with possibly-racist White Trash (irony intentional). Fat Man told a story of taking a caravan to California and how much he hated the place and Californians. Right in front of Adam – who couldn’t care less what the guy thought.

He brought up race twice. Once early on, at the busstand, the other while on the bus. He spoke of social problems with “blacks” – his lack of understanding and consideration for issues of race symptomatic of the American working class. I rebutted that putting things in terms of race was far too simplistic as for any measure, there are too many factors like earnings, religion, political representation to consider before simply reverting to ethnic origins. Fat Man was ignorant and he knew it. It was very likely he simply lacked the cognitive ability to come to any conclusions by himself. This was the sort of person the Republican charms into voting for (generally speaking; he did claim to be an Obama voter). He was not intelligent, old and wilfully unaware of the world except for National Geographic specials on Ancient Egypt – an interesting but ultimately irrelevant topic. He claimed to know little about politics or the ways of the world several times.

I asked if he wanted to know more so he could better things for his children. “No.” he replied, “I’ve done my work. My kids can look after themselves.”

As we left, he shook my hand; I wished him luck.

He then shouted to The Outlaw at the other end of the bus: “Hey, Outlaw, did I ever tell you what I liked about California!?! Nothin’!”

Adam ignored him with his head held high.

And Now For a Brief Visual Guide To ‘Merkins on Beaches

Fat people and beaches do not mix well. Sunny beaches are like one long sexy photo shoot and fat people are welcome to get behind the camera, but not in front of it all that often – think of a work of art: no one wants to look at a piece that is the end result of years of poor upkeep when a finely crafted labour of love and ego is standing right next to it. This is why when people complain about size-zero models, I like to point out that fatness, not anorexia, is a far bigger killer and far less attractive. In fat, sorry, fact, maybe if more healthy shaped models were out there, the urge to be fat and unhealthy would be reduced in modern society – I know I’m being facetious, but size-zeroes are better role models than the rhinocerine monstrosities of daily life. More thin models could save lives.

They say that people should be comfortable in their own skin, and it’s true. But if you have enough skin for two people, it may get a little uncomfortable is all I’m saying. For the good of mankind, and for ourselves, we should eat right and live healthy lives. This means not being too overweight and not being too thin. Most people know this in Europe, but 60% of Americans ignore it. Fat people are a bigger drain on society because there are more of them, they eat more and are generally louder, malodorous versions of humanity. On the bright side, they make us slim people look far more appetising… so maybe I should be encouraging their propagation for purely selfish reasons…

At a beach, a whitey coming from winter back home can usually expect their skin to come out as follows:

1. 2. 3. 4.

1: This is the skin that is covered up, usually under shorts or bikinis. It stays roughly the same colour as it was before. Does not contrast well.

2: This is the skin that received a little sun and is pinkish, not enough to burn badly but not enough for a lasting tan, either.

3: Bronzed up, well-tanned, unburnt, healthy skin. Well played. That’ll impress.

4: You didn’t apply enough lotion. Not even close.

As for me, I have yet to burnt badly yet, so I have something that looks like this:


No, no… something’s really not right there…

THAT's more like it!

I would put up a naked picture of myself, but I intend to have some sort of career with dignity when I get back.

Now, on a normal person, this balance is acceptable and with care can look quite good. Tan lines are to be expected unless you spend all day on a nude beach. Even so, one can expect that the face and arms, which are usually uncovered, will look a little darker/redder. This is not a problem for most people.

On a fat, irresponsible Merkin, this balance…is… not so much… Oh…. OH… OH…

Oh, God, you haven’t seen what I’ve seen…!

Since I'd rather not paparazzi fat people on the beaches, I Photoshopped this image of Michelangelo's 21st Century David which shall have to do. If you're wondering what the bright part is around the crotch, let me remind you that once you're that fat, you won't even see your junk again - and neither will the sun. The Fat Man, for example, probably hadn't seen his since 1986. Original image can be found here.

Seriously, they need help.


1 Comment

Filed under Bovine Excrement, Brain Food, Dearest Diary of Mine, Humour Snack, Some 'Ol Bullshit, Soul Food

One response to “‘Merkins

  1. Dee

    Hi Jamie
    I’m just catching up on your blog/musings …and we’ll have another go at getting you on skype soon. Epic snow and ice here now on the melt, well, nearly gone. Thought of you when i was skating on cullimers pond (possible a first for Cobnor, as it wasn’t a skatable pond in the old days)…remembering that skating in france when you did all those leaps and stuff – twas mighty cool. D xx

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