Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Watching the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica there is only one sport … soccer/futbol. So, watching the NFL is an exotic mysterious thing for Ticos. For me, and a very small group of friends, it is a pleasure when it is time for the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. Here’s an idea of what it’s like…

Last Saturday, after a hard day of working, I went home to watch the Patriots and Jaguars game but things don’t always turn out as planned. When I arrived home and popped a beer, I discovered that my cable was not working and there was zero reception. I assumed it was out only in my house or neighborhood so we raced into town to watch the game at Club d’Amigos only to learn when I arrived that cable was out in the entire city of San Ramon… Bummer!! My friend Fito and the other old men at the bar convinced us that the only thing to do was have a few drinks, relax and enjoy the night. At halftime, the cable suddenly returned and it ended up being a very cool night. We watched the second half at the Club, explaining the rules and strategies of American Football to the dozen or so Club regulars. We drank a few Guaros, snacked on fresh cerviche … and ended up having a blast.

Yesterday was the Giants (Los Gigantes) and the Packers playoff game to see who goes to the Super Bowl. A tradition for years, I went to my friend Jimmy’s house to watch the game with Janet, Jimmy, Graciela (Jimmy’s girlfriend) and Ralph, the German tennis teacher. In Green Bay, where the game was being played, it was 24 below with the wind chill factor. We lounged in San Ramon in a perfect 75-degree day, not at all jealous of the fans at the stadium. After the pre-game show broadcast from the U.S., the announcing shifted to a Spanish broadcast from Mexico…not what we were hoping for. We were all hoping for a John Madden commentary, but instead got a couple of guys from Mexico and Spanish commentary. We had to adjust. When the Packers had a long touchdown pass, the announcer declared, “vuelta la tortilla” (flip the tortilla) to convey the momentum change. It was comical, not insightful and different.

Living in Costa Rica is often a test of how open you can be to the twists and turns in your plans. I love watching the NFL and after 7 seasons here, I still don’t know what to expect. From the cable system being down to a shift to a Spanish feed from Mexico ... anything can happen.

Most importantly, I had fun with my friends ... new and old … and didn’t have to be in the sub-zero weather in many parts of the USA. And … the drinks only cost a buck here.

It is 2 weeks to Super Bowl 2008, Patriots vs. Giants … I will make plans for the game, but I’m sure it will turn into a different day than I expected. This aspect of Tico life keeps you humble, flexible and open to unexpected joys in your day-to-day life.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Old Fashioned Barber Shop

In the USA, I often hear people lamenting the closing of small personal businesses as corporations make it hard to compete. Once a way of life has passed, it will probably never return.

As a boy in Brooklyn, NY, I remember going to the barbershop on Nostrand Ave. with my father, a classic bonding experience. The old barbers, Augie, Noah and Mooney would ply their trade and men and boys shared the ritual. This is before unisex shops, $100 haircuts and hip stylists.

Here in San Ramon unisex shops and high style are easy to find. I prefer the old fashioned barbershop …… where masters Pibo and Paco have cut hair for decades. The estrogen free zone has big leather barber chairs and wood floors. The atmosphere is right out of the 50’s or early 60’s with no hint of modern life. They use long straight razors for shaves with nice warm lather. They use their scissors with confidence. There is no music playing and no hint of the world outside. When they put you all the way back in the chair, it feels like all your worries drop away. It is an experience, not just a haircut.

Money is money and everybody needs some, but quality of life, connection, and simple rituals bring peace of mind. Life is a journey to find a balance that works. Everybody’s formula is different. Having money and things is a part of the mix, but cannot substitute for things that are missing.

Immersing myself in the culture here in San Ramon has taught me many life lessons that have made my life better. There are no black and white answers… just a never-ending exploration.

My trip to the barbershop every 2 weeks for a beard trim and haircut is a nice part of the journey.