One or two weeks ago, there happened to be an article in the Seattle Times (and I think New York Times) titled, “Laid-back life awaits on the far side of Costa Rica.” read the article here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2011607545_trcostarica18.html

So I thought I’d just like to say, farewell Puerto Viejo..

I remember when I was a wicked little kid, my family was lucky enough to go on great christmas vacations. We would go to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands every winter for a week and completely chill. We could go to any beach and there’d only be a handful of people around and everyone was super friendly. We made friends with a guy who lived on Gibney who years later I discovered through the magic of the internet was nicknamed Tarzan by the natives. Turns out his father moved there way back in the Beatnik 50′s and was one of the 1st outsiders to be truly accepted by the natives.. Tarzan was badass. He lived on my dream beach in a little hut surrounded by barbwire to keep tourists from walking into his garden. He gave us fresh squash from his garden and a killer recipe for a pumpkin soup that my mother still makes to this day. Nowadays, Tarzan is dead, his property has been purchased and subdivided into air-conditioned beachside villas costing thousands of dollars to rent.

My father would always joke that, you know you’re in a great place when a gallon of milk costs more than a bottle of rum.

That place became my template of paradise when I was very very little. Every year, we would watch that place grow and grow. The last time I went was when I was in high school. By then, everyone and their mother’s had gone to St. John and Trunk Bay. Bill Clinton had eaten at Morgan’s Mango. It was on the map. That trip, on this tiny tropical island, miles away from the freezing winter in Maine, I ran into a girl in my entry level spanish class. Later that day, my sister ran into a high school field hockey coach on the beach. And right after that, my mother ran into the owner of the shop next door to her office.

I have never been back to St. John.

Now, I’m not claiming to have been there at the beginning. Fuck, I wish I had been there at the beginning. Seen it before the invasion. No, I was there right before the end. Right before the tragic exploitative explosion. I had a handful of years of pure pleasure in a place I pictured perfect. I’ve been dreaming of finding another St. John ever since.

When I was trying to figure out where to go in Costa Rica back in 08′, I wanted a scrubby little town that tourists didn’t go to. But hell, the map has been drawn and roads have been cut through virtually every patch of jungled in every cursed country… so I settled for a small stoner town known for roadside bandits and lack of any type of amenities that most westerners would consider mandatory; Puerto Viejo.

From the get-go, I realized this was no secret garden, no untapped gem… I just did not want to see a fast food joint or a 4 star khaki-and-tie restaurant. I just wanted a place that wanted to be left alone. Of course, everyone knew about Puerto Viejo who I spoke to about Costa Rica, some had even made it there… But all agreed it was still in a relatively recent state of expansion and, if I hurried, I could still see it in somewhat of a pure state. And I was not disappointed (entirely..) Although, by the time I left, a brand new concrete 2 story superstructure had finished construction in the dead center of town and Chili Rojo had already opened up shop on the upper deck, tragically abicating their incredible hole-in-the-wall location on the side of the ocean, and the ongoing community stuggle to fight of a massive coastal marina was in full swing.

After reading this article, my spirits sunk, for my own selfish reasons.. I can only imagine the amount of revenue this will bring Puerto Viejo and how helpful it will be to the people and business owners. But God Damnit, is nothing sacred anymore!? Can a person in desperate longing for quiet off-the-beaten track go anywhere in a world of 3G networks and Air Conditioning?! How many times will we repeat the same sad mistakes in the sake of financial gain.

Ever since leaving Puerto Viejo, I’ve been saving money and trying to get back for an even longer trip to a place of silence and solitude as well as pure joy and happiness… I fear I may be too late…

Every Wednesday, we start the day with a three hour team meeting. Three. Hour. Meeting. Needless to say, all team member’s have perfected the art of space-cadetting; that artful (and professionally necessary) ability of jettisoning your brain off to a far away land full of beer fountains and chocolate doors. You can’t seriously think that your underpaid, overworked, shortstaffed, highstrung, discontented employees will actually be able to sit focused for three hours of drivvel pertaining to the job that, some of them, must surely hate.

Sure, there’s probably one or two amongst this group who are sincerely dedicated to what they are being paid to do. But come on. I think it must go without saying that, no matter how much someone may love their job, sitting in a three hour meeting will turn anyone into a negative, pessimsitic, asshole. As for me, well, lets just say I’m not the former.

A couple weeks ago, our supervisor trumpeting the greatness of our program and the successes we have each individually achieved in the last year or so, including our professional and educational future plans. From one co-worker to the next, he went down the line, “You’re on your way to completing your 500 hours to get qualified to evaulate on your own… and you’ve got your masters already!… and you’re getting ready to start grad-school for your Ph.D…” and turning to me, “and you…” to which all my other co-workers began to snicker and one chimed in, “you’re gonna be one hell of a painter one day!”

Let’s just say, it was one of those moments… One of those special times when you realize how fucked up the working world is. Sure, I understand why higher education is commendable. But really, what’s the big fucking deal? Sure, I don’t have a Masters Degree and I don’t have any interest in going back to school. I undersand that, in my field, that is kind of rare… just to call it with the B.A.. But what’s crazy to me is that supervisors seem to assume that, by hiring someone with a higher level of education, they are getting a better worker and therefore, they are more willing to pay them more.

It’s something that has flabberghasted me for quite some time now… really, I think this feeling set in just months into my employment…

So this is the first “real world” job I’ve ever had… and by that, I simply mean that it pertains to my college degree. I consider it, for a majority, total bullshit. I produce nothing and there is no finishline I am running towards. Basically, picture your childhood gerbil.. He wakes up, he feeds, and then he goes on his wheel and spins and spins and spins. He’s not going anywhere.. But this is what a gerbil does. I sympathize with that gerbil.. I think many of us do.

So yea, I was naive to this whole “professional job” thing… Before this, I did labor work, no degree required. But hell, I figured they’d work similar… You get hired on, they pay you shit, and you bust your ass every day until you get respect and a raise. This is how it is supposed to work.

But just because I gullibly assumed it, does not make it so. Now, you would think that if you work hard, you get rewarded. Bust your ass, you get a raise. You’re not disposable. They need you. This is America, after all- the land of opportunity… If I work harder than other people I will get what I deserve and they won’t. It’s this simple, and this is how I put it to my supervisor, “I believe that an individual should get paid according to the job the are doing, not the jobs they’ve done in the past.” Just because a person has been in the field for 10 years does not mean they are a good worker… perhaps there’s a reason they’re floating around looking for new jobs every year or so… they’re shitty workers.
The same goes for the overeducated, many people go to school no for passion but pension. The more funny letters you can tack onto your name can add several zeros to the end of your annual salary. And that’s fucked up. I think people should all get hired on at a flat rate, no matter their experience or education and, come evaluation time, lets discuss what you’ve proven you’re worth.

I want to tell you a story of my first experience in this muck. My first few months into this workforce of injustice. I was a real mule, man. You need something? I’ll do it. Need help with you’re work? Let me give it a shot. I tried hard and was good at my job. I may not have the highest level of education on the team, but damnit, you want something done, I’m the guy to do it. Its funny how quickly people will mistake this willingness for weakness. Trust me, you will be exploited. Let’s just say that I’m now the guy on the team who does a lot of the dirty shit work.

So starting out, we had another guy on our team who was highly experienced at exploitation and manipulation. He survived in the company for six months and did virtually nothing. Honestly, nothing. He was hired on because he boasted having 15 years of experience in the field and was paid the highest wage on the team because of this past experience. I, on the other hand, was hired on at the lowest possible salary due to lack of experience. As soon as the program started, it became obvious to me that this man was utterly incompetent, however, because of my green-ness and fear of total program failure that, instead of letting this man sink on his on (de)merit, I took on all responsibility for his unprofessionalism, took on his caseload, and shouldered his bullshit until the levies broke and it became too obviously unprofessional and immoral to handle anymore. When he began stealing donated items and petty cash, the mother fucker had to go. When it came to it, and the supervisors finally realized he’d been more money than anyone else and doing no work, they gave him a 30 day warning and failed to even check up on how he was doing. Needless to say, the bullshit continued. It was only after numerous complaints by clients and coworkers that he was finally asked to resign. Resign. Not get fired. And to the rest of the team who had been working double time to keep the team afloat for 6 months? no support, no recognition, no nothing. I realized that, although we are disposable to companies, there is also quite a bit of wiggle room; see, its a real bitch for a company to fire an employee, seach for a replacement, go through the interviewing process, hire, retrain, etc… It was then that I began to reevaulate the American Dream.

Because many of us work in fields that have pay based on time accrual instead of production, the “Work Hard – Get Reward” system does not compute. Thats why nobody on an hourly wage gives a fuck. They’re getting that $10.50 an hour no matter what they do. It’s also why salesmen bust their ass to lock down new customers; they’re going to see comission. To them, hard work does mean dollars.

If you are (un)lucky enough to have the rock solid hourly wage and the company-wide yearly wage increase, I ask you, why are you working hard? Since you have no control over Reward, the only thing left to have personal control over is Effort of Work. And if you try to tell me that it is about more than money.. that it is about Pride and Character and doing the best possible job you can, I’ll say, go get’em tiger! and have fun burning out.

So, work only as hard as you are getting paid to work. Keep it light, Don’t even worry about doing busy work. And if you have no drive or desire to do anything better with your life, continue to do the absolute minimum; and as your time of employment increases, so will your salary. You’ll still get that company-wide 3% raise every year. Don’t work hard. Work smart. You’re going to get the same paycheck every second friday no matter how much (or little) you’ve accomplished in that pay period. And if you have motivation to dump your shit job, ride it for as long as your can, build up a small pile of money, and do what you want to do- there will always be other jobs out there when you really need one.

You’re company has already decided how much to pay you to work. Now adjust your motivation to fit their penny pinching fingers.

Work sucks. I think this goes without saying. Which is a good thing, because I’m sick and tired of saying it.

Maybe because saying it doesn’t seem to do justice to just how horrible and shitty work really is. A majority of our waking life is spent doing crap we don’t want to do in the desperate hopes that we’ll get recognized, get salaried, get savings, and get freedom. No, this job is not my passion. It is a means to an end. No, I don’t want to go to a seminar to expand my knowledge of my field. And don’t you dare give me “homework.” Just give me my paycheck and I’ll save more until I can quit. Maybe some day, many years from now, I’ll have worked in purgatory long enough to actually afford to buy my way out, have my own land, farm, and live the life I want to live. For now, I guess I’ll have grind out another day.

Its so sad hearing people talk about what they want to do if only they had the money; be it starting their own coffee shop, farming their own land, travelling to Romania, whatever.. just as soon as they save enough money. I mean, I’m sure there are people out there that really want to simply work. yea, they exist. I’ve met ‘em! Even with a bank account that could finance a third world revolution, they continue to work their job. They love the title, the benefits, and all the junk they can buy with the winnings. Hell, that is their dream. Don’t make it ours. So let them keep the jobs. I’m cool with that. But why can’t we come to some sort of compromise? They can crunch numbers, make millions, and buy speedboats and Von Dutch shirts and we can do what we really want to do… whatever that is.

For all our lost years spent in the trenches, working in other people’s dreams, dodging shrapnel, we get just two single syllable words: work sucks. I feel so unfulfilled after saying it. Many times, my entire day, the walk to the bus, the ride into Seattle, the  8hrs of office time spent behind a desk, the ride home, and the hours of decompression afterwards; they’ re all spent brooding over the absolute detestment for this god forsaken thing they call a full time job, and all I get is Work Sucks?

No. I going to need someone to go ahead and come up with a work spiting catch-phrase that is so good that it’ll makes my pupils dialate and an overwhelming sense of calm roll over my entire body. I want my allakazam, my open sesame! That magical phrase that makes me feel like I’ve been dipped in sunshine and then I can just float through the rest of the work day with ease. Or just give me my fucking farm.

The other day, as I was walking down the hill to the bus stop for my Sunday morning day of work, the sun was shining for what seemed like the first time in months. I could feeeeel it on my skin, warmth! My God! We’ve almost made it! This bastard hybrid Seattle-winter thing.. this gray drip drip drip with the seasonal body-ache, is possibly, finally ending!

And suddenly, I was overcome with this beautiful wave of nostalgia… but wait, it was so much more than just remembering the past! It was time travel. I’m sure it has happened to everyone, right? You know, when you are literally taken outside of your body and find yourself back in that place… you can see it, smell it, and feel it. You are there. Its not a memory. It’s actually happening.
Fuck man, I’m no Doc Brown. I have no flux capacitor. I don’t know how it works. I didn’t ask for this gift. But it happened. One moment, I was walking down 178th St. NE in Lake Forest Park, WA at 9:45am and the next moment, I found myself stepping out of my best friends Explorer. It was July 14th, 2004 and I wasn’t wearing shoes.

We’d been booking it down to Carver, MA for the last 3 and a half hours to rendevous with our brother in debauchery after couple hours of pass-out sleep and a hasty morning pack-job for the annual 4 day camping trip and gang reunion… SUMMERFEST… I stepped onto the rock parking lot and felt that summer sun on the back of my neck and the hot air coming off the over worked engine. And look who it is there walking towards us but Theodore Roosevelt himself. The trio. We all looked at each other and took, what seemed like, the first breath of relief we’d had in 361 days. And you better believe that we all had a couple of shit-eating grins on our sunglassed faces.

And so, as it goes, all the early birds began approaching us with secret handshakes and hugs before we set our sights on the backwoods; Jesters’ playground. Parents’ worst nightmare. The Forest of No Return.

You know that camera shot they do in movies where the main character looks down a real shady, omnious path and it seems to zoom in at you at the same time as it seems to stretch into infinity? Like, “oh shit… whats gonna happen in there?” Thats the backwoods. and when a little camper hits those michevious teens, thats where they venture to; amongst ‘the older kids’ with their 30 racks, cigarettes, pipes, trash, drinking games , curses, and perverted stories. The beach and lower zones before the Halfway house is for the adults and children. Stick to the path and you’ll be pretty safe. But you start trudging through brush, brambles, poison ivy, and fallen trees, and you’re in the kill zone. This is where we set up shop.

I wish I could tell you more about this place! But to tell you the truth, this was the point where I found that I had time travelled back to my walking to the bus stop. No time had passed at all, and I took my next step closer towards the bus stop.

Another time, maybe. Another time.

Once upon a time, on a sunny spring day in 2002, five immature high school boys sat aroud a lunch table in the cafa-chapa-gyma-torium of Cheverus High School in their ironed slacks, button up dress shirts, double-windsored ties, and blue blazers. A bet was made that day.

Among these boys, one sat who had no name. He simply went by his psudeonym, New Kiddie. New Kiddie was your stereotypical low-self esteemed teenager, desperate for the attention and admiration of his peers who would frequently use this desparation for acceptance as a fire on which to throw their horrible gasoline soaked ideas.

It was noticed by another of these lunch-table idiots that the school store was having a massive discount on all their chocolate Go-Gurt Pudding Pops; no doubt due to their expiration date. Regardless, you gotta exploit a great opportunity when it presents itself, even if its at the risk of a fellow classmates health.

Now, when New Kiddie sat down at the table with several Pudding Pops and announced, “man, these things are only 5 cents a stick!” A bargain was struck, and New Kiddie agreed: he would consume as many pudding pops as we were able to buy.

The dollars quickly began coming out of the pockets and onto the lunch table nd several minutes later, New Kiddie had a veritable arsenal of Go-Gurt Chocolate pudding pops in his lap. He began sucking them down casually and playfully, one at a time; then he quickly increased his intake by doing the ol’ two at a time trick. His speed increased and he  was blazing through the stack… 2, 5, 7, 12….

When he began to slow, he suggested his classmates assist him: he told two students to take hold of the ends of two separate tubes, aimed directly into his chocolate-filled gob and gave the count. 1….2….3! At that, the two students shot the pudding up the tube in less than 3 second, his mouth filling with the expired chocolate goop which began dribbling down his face.

From across the cafeteria, we could see the Freshman tables looking over at us with curious disgust as we hooted and hollered for New Kiddie to keep going. But, with his eyes rolling back into his head, he tapped out.. For the next several minutes before the free period ended, New Kiddie sat quietly with chocolate stained lips in a pile of empty Go-Gurt wrappers.

“I think I need to puke…. I don’t feel like I’m going to puke… but i think I need to puke.”

The boys went outside with New Kiddie who asked to be socked right in the stomach to hopefully expell the consumed tubes. The count was set. 1.. 2.. 3!

The punch was thrown at his relaxed stomach, protected by weak, unexercised abdominal muscles and several inches of fatty tissue accumulated over decades of laziness.  But New Kiddie flinched! He tensed whatever muscle he had in his abdomen. And so, the punch which was intended to rock the relaxed, Go-Gurt filled sack made contact with the tensed sinewey wall, resulting in New Kiddie doubling over without air, a sore abdomen, and a stomach filled with goo.

Sadly, this is where the story ends, for the bell rang, signaling the end of the period, and all the delinquents left for class while New Kiddie dragged himself to the boys restroom to pull the trigger in solitude.

The End.

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