Also, it’s a gringo joint: There’s a crinkled American flag, like the ones newspapers printed after September 11, taped to one wall, and dozens of shoulder patches, left behind by American cops and firemen, tacked up behind the bar—San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Boynton Beach, Waynesboro, a hundred other little towns you’ve never heard of.Eleven o’clock on a Monday morning during the Costa Rican rainy season and it’s all white boys at the bar, eight of them, except for one wobbly local named Fernando that the security guys keep trying to pour out the door.
Cheap blow jobs from old whores with drug problems?
The Red Zone, a few dirty blocks around the Central Market. There’s four by the pay phones at the edge of Parque Morazan. They’ve all got their own turf close by, and the cabbies all know exactly where they are.
“It’s very easy to become like a kid in a candy store when you first go to San Jos é,“ as Death says. No, at the better bars in Costa Rica, at the Blue Marlin, you’ve got to give a girl a signal, make eye contact, let her know you’re interested. What’s the tattoo, the one crawling up the small of her back? “But the little girl kitty is lonely, and she needs a big, strong male tiger.“ She means you, even though you’re neither big nor strong and have never been mistaken for a tiger.
There’s an expat in a bar called the Blue Marlin, which is on the ground floor of a pink hotel in downtown San José, Costa Rica.
He used to be a detective, did a bit of vice, enough to know how the world works, how people think. And they’ve gotta be a nice guy.“The expat takes a drink, studies the gringos again.
It’s late, and he’s drinking gin.“Now look at the guys.“ Another sweep with the glass. “Guys like them, to get a girl like one of these in the States, they’ve gotta have three things. “All these guys,“ he says, “they’ve probably got one of those things. But I guarantee you, none of them have all three.“When you’re not drunk and the place is almost empty, this is what it looks like: There are tables just inside the door to the right, three rows of them between the windows fronting the street and the wooden rail that keeps people from tumbling off the raised platform that holds the main bar, which is huge, two peninsulas poking out in the shape of an upside-down U.
There are TVs bolted to the walls and tuned to sports channels, because this is ostensibly a sports bar, and there are fish—stuffed fish, carved fish, and sculpted fish—mounted above the liquor shelves and dangling from the ceiling, because the “World Famous“ Blue Marlin is also ostensibly a fisherman’s bar, even though it’s hours away from any place where you might actually catch a fish.
Wait a little while—say, five o’clock—when the sun’s still clawing through the rain clouds over San José and before the streets are lousy with beggars and peddlers. There are a few and the biggest Asian kid you’ve ever seen, but the rest of the men here are gringos.
There are young guys in tank tops and old guys wearing socks in their sandals and a whole mess of graying middle-aged guys in polos and floral-print shirts.
They’ve got the bar surrounded three deep, and most of the tables are gone, too.—Christ, there’s a lot of them. A hundred brown eyes turn on you the second you walk through the door, trying to catch your attention before you even get past the security guard with the metal detector, like you’re Brad Pitt or something. “San José: the very best place in the world to get laid, I am convinced,“ an aficionado who calls himself La Muerte (literally, Death) wrote a few years back in one of the bajillion or so field reports that pop up when you search “Costa Rica sex“ on the Internet. There’s Key Largo and Atlantis and all the other bars, and the strip clubs that hang billboards—THE NEW NIGHT CLUB KUMAR: OH, YES!
Black girls and brown girls and beige girls and even a couple of white girls, brunet and blond and redheaded and skinny and chubby and tall and short and stacked and not-as-stacked, and every one of them single. When’s the last time that happened at the Bennigan’s in Parsippany? Even then, in 2001, the Blue Marlin was legendary among a certain sort of gringo tourist—the sort who likes a wide selection of pretty, inexpensive women in a safe place where the bartenders speak their language. —in English along the highway from the airport, and the street corners and parks parceled out by gender and age and fetish.