Thursday, December 31, 2009

Does anyone really care about you?

Did I mention that I have the flu??? Yep - but I am getting better daily - and hope to be 100% by New Years!!!

Paul McCartney asked "Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I'm 64? Interesting question, but how do you know if anyone really cares about you? This is can be a daunting question for some, but not for me. I'm also sure that Sir Paul's definition is falls far short of the mark. I've got nailed down tight. Ready? Huh? Here ya go, here's how you can tell if someone really cares about you.

First, lets talk Vicks Vapor Rub. Most of the folks my age have heard of or used Vick's VapoRub. VapoRub is a petroleum jelly based substance - kind of like Vaseline but it has something in it stuff stinks to high heaven (found out it is called camphor). I am wearing some now; and it smells like someone is operating a large asphalt roofing factory on my chest. Man does this stuff stink. It stinks up this entire Hilton Hotel Room we are staying in. On the otherhand, somehow, it seems to help clear up nasal congestion and make it easier to breath. What does Vicks VapoRub have to do with caring about someone? Simple -

  1. Anyone who will help apply this foul substance called Vicks to another person's chest; obviously cares deeply for that person. It gets on your hands and it will not come off easily.

  2. Anyone who will sleep in the same room with a person wearing Vicks VapoRub, obviously cares deeply for that person. Honestly, I'd rather sleep next to a great big pile of flaming cow chips than have this stuff on my chest......but somehow it does seem to help with cough and congestion...oooooh but it is nasty!!!!!

Tonight, Nancy rubbed this crap all over my chest. She didn't complain or anything. She knew it would help me breath and sleep better and that was all she cared about. This is how I know that Nancy truly cares about me.....Vicks Vaporub...the real test of a relationship!!! Put that in your romance magazine!

Man does this stuff stink!

All the best,


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Planning for Health Care Needs in Wisconsin

I have the flu!!! It's been over 10 years since I have had the flu, I get a flu shot every year. Maybe it is the cold Greenbay air that got me or maybe it is just bad luck; but I have the flu. Several people, including my sister have asked me if I think it might be the SWINE flu. I'm pretty sure it is not the swine flu, because although I have been grunting like a pig; I have not had any strong urges for slop. To the right is a genuine 3-D model of an influenza virus. ------->

I have a job to do up here in Wisconsin, and I need to be well to do it; so I went to the doctor to see if they could do anything to help me out. I went to this place called Waukesha Family Practice. It sounded like a nice place to me, you know "family practice" and it wasn't too far from the office.

Probably, most of you don't know it but Waukesha, Wisconsin was the birthplace and childhood home of Les Paul. He went by a number of names Red Hot Red, Red Hot Rhubarb, The Wizard of Waukesha. Les Paul, is one of the inventors of the electric guitar as well as a number of other recording and sound technologies. He was very famous in the 1950's, had his own TV show with his wife Mary Ford. Gibson Guitar still produces the "Gibson Les Paul Model" which is said to account for over half of Gibson's sales. It is a beautiful guitar, and has been used by some of the greatest guitarists of all time including Eric Clapton and Peter Townsend. I always wondered how Les Paul "invented" the electric guitar. The story, at least the way I got it was this. Les disassembled his mother's phonograph and used the stylus and cartridge as his first "pick up" (amplifier). I always wondered how young Lester managed to avoid a good old "azz whoopin" for tearing up his mother's phonograph. In researching this, I found out the Lester's mother was directly related to the Blatz Brewing Family and to the Stutz Family (Stutz Bearcat Automobiles), so money was not a problem for young Lester. I could go on about Les, and I will in another edition but right now I have to deal with the flu.

So, I tramp through the snow up to the Waukesha Family Practice Building, and take the elevator up. There are only two patients waiting - so I think I may be in luck. I walk over to the window to sign-in. I say to the receptionist, "I'd like to see a doctor because I have the flu". The receptionist, says do you have an appointment? I said, "no, I was hoping someone could see me." She spins around and starts to type on the computer. "What's your name", she says. I said, "I haven't been here before". "Do you have insurance?" she says. "Yes I have insurance." "What kind?" she asks. Blue Cross - Blue Shield. She then tells me that it could take 2 hours to set me up in the system, and that I should probably come back tomorrow. This woman is manually folding invoice to be sent to patients and stuffing them in envelopes. Behind her are a solid wall of "paper medical records" the technology of the 1800's I would guess. So maybe she is right...maybe it would take her two hours to "set me up in the system".

I said really? She said, "yes you have got to give us a "heads up" before you come here." By now, I am sure this is going nowhere - my parting words

"OK, Lady, the next time I am on a business trip, 500 miles away from home, and I think I might get the flu - I'll give you a heads up." I can't believe I didn't end this conversation with....

Of course, that would have been "bad karma" - but JEEZ - when your whole body is aching, and your hair even hurts.....have mercccceeeeey.

All the best,


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Siemper Fi!

Today, I ventured out to the grocery store to get some things for the soup that Nancy wanted me to make - this is a killer soup is called White Chili Soup - I 'll share the recipe after the post. But that is not what this post is about.

As I was checking out, I saw a 70+ year old gent coming into the store. He wore a green jacket and a fur covered hat. Not too unusual up here in Michigan - you need a hat - but what was unusual was the emblem on the front of this gentleman's hat. It was the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor - the emblem of the United States Marine Corps. I recognized the emblem easily, it was the same one my father proudly wore - being a veteran of both the Korean conflict and of Vietnam. (a picture of the mighty Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is on the left) The gentleman's name was John, and he and I exchanged stories..mine are only based on what I was told my Dad; John's version are based on the actual experiences of a US Marine and Veteran of the Korean Conflict.

Korea was a very tough place to be. As the U.S. engaged in this war - the Chinese engaged on the other side. When this happened - the Marines were over-run by the Chinese. My Dad and his buddy Wayne, were part of the Marines who were overrun. As this fight / battle continued into the night, Dad and Wayne ran out of ammunition for their 50 caliber browning machine gun (BAR). My Dad told me that all they had left, was his 45 caliber Colt Pistol. Dad told me that he wasn't sure if he could hit the side of the fox hole with the 45. So there they stayed all night, quietly waiting to see what their situation would be in the morning. Dad told me that when they saw daylight, there were Chinese Regulars, laying dead, knee deep all around their hill top fox-hole. Dad told me about seeing the "frozen Chosen", a reservoir on the Chosen River. As he and Wayne tried to find their way back to their battalion, he was hit in the back by enemy mortar fire. This injury haunted Dad the rest of his life; but his buddy Wayne carried him out - Dad was later sent to Japan to recover from his injuries. My middle name is "Wayne"; because of this hero who personally carried my Dad out - I understand that his last name is / was "Cook", but I have never met him. (But I would love very much to.)

John, my newly met friend at the grocery store, arrived in Korea shortly after my Dad's unit had been overrun. John was a Howitzer operator, they were ordered to "fire at will" at the rapidly advancing Chinese. John's unit dumped over 2 shiploads of munitions on the Chinese over the next few days. They knocked over 50 feet of the mountain top off - and stopped the advance of the Chinese. These guys probably provided the cover that enabled Wayne to bring my Dad, back to the MASH.

John told me more about his exploits as part of the USMC in Korea. It was a very lively discussion until he then looked me in the eyes and asked if my Dad was still alive? I choked and said, "no Sir, I lost him years back". My eyes filled with tears and so did John's.

As we tried to part, with tears in both of our eyes, John said, "thanks for talking to me", and I tried to say "Happy Holidays, Sir" it wasn't easy for either of us.

God Bless Our Veterans! They gave more than we will ever know; or will ever be able to repay!

All the best.

michael WAYNE roberts

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Letting Go..on the weather...for a while

As many of you, who follow the world famous "Let Go Journal" know, Nancy and I have just returned to our World Headquarters, from beautiful Boquete, Panama. We spent two weeks there, and it was great. Of course, if you have been following the journal long enough - you know the "World headquarters" is currently located at 9972 Main Street, Whitmore Lake, Michigan (just North of Ann Arbor, Michigan). Well as many of my friends predicted - I may freeze my Texas (_l_) off this winter. That prediction is coming true faster / and harder than I might have thought. Nancy made some pictures of some folks that are not adjusting well to wintertime here in Michigan. Have you ever seen a duck try to walk on ice? If you think that is bad, you ought to see a swan try landing on it.....they hit and go for a long slide on their web feet. Below is a video of an altercation between a duck couple - here at the World Headquarters. Click on the arrow to play.

Just before we left to come back from Panama, I got word from my friend, customer and boss, Bryce Spencer, that I was needed again up North. But this time, it was not in beautiful Whitmore Lake, Mi. - in the sweet Michigan summertime. It is in Green Bay, Wisconsin in December, January, February, and March. So, many of my buddies who said I might freeze my Texas (_l_) off this winter could be right. On the other hand, being the eternal optimist; I think this may not be the case at all. In fact, Greenbay is a true winter time crystal gem; waiting to be mined!!! And if that can be done; I am the man for the job!!!

First off, I have a wonderful team and customer that I will be working with. Part of the reason I am up here at this time of the year - is that both of my customers are anxious to get started on improving their processes and profitablility - and they are shooting for a very productive 2010! I feel the same way - although I had a great 2009 - that is history - it is time to start thinking about the very bright future. I am all over this idea; like a Duck on a June Bug's (_l_). I mean I am all over it; like white on rice. I'm all over it - like a cheap suite!!!! I mean to tell ya, I am all over it like ugly on an ape!!!!! My professional advise to you has to be - "Stand back and watch for sparks!" So, I expect, my work will be fun!!!

We have already purchased our Greenbay Packer "Cheeseheads" - and are primed for the playoffs. Surely, either the Cowboys or the Packers will win the Superbowl! In all honesty, we had little hope for our current home town team, the Detroit Lions, so we are jumping sides. I have also been practicing my Lambeau Leap into bed every night! And although she sometimes complains - Nancy loves my Lambeau Leap! Especially, when I leap on her!!! Sorry fans, no picture included.

Further, we will be up near Lake Winnebago on this job. This is a huge and beautiful lake in Wisconsin. And we are looking for a lakeside chalet, and we'll find it, I am sure. This winter, Nancy and I will be practicing our skills in darts, pool, and Ice Fishing (heavy drinking); all of this to make sure we're ready for summer on Lake Winnebago! Remember, I told you to watch for sparks!!!!

I hope you all will start making plans, as soon as possible to visit us at the Chalet in Wisconsin! Please take time to practice your own Lambeau Leap before you come!!!!

All the best,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today ....Back in Panama City, Panama!!!

Today, we flew back from Boquete to Panama City, Panama. We are staying at the hotel I had originally hoped we could stay at, La Estancia. This place was an old U.S. Government outpost. As a result, the place has been protected since.....around 1911....I would guess. The place is pretty cheap...less than one-third of the cost of the Marriott where we first stayed.....but lots of travelers rate this place far higher than the Marriotts. I also prefer it.

This hotel has features that no other hotel in Panama...or most other places offer. The guys in this video actually spent most of the afternoon with us on our balcony.

FYI, the screen play in the video is based on a previous relationship I had, and is not reflective of my current love affair, with my lovely wife Nancy.

In two days we'll be back in the USA. At least for a while. More adventures are coming!

All the best,


Monday, December 7, 2009

Panama Fishing Excursion

We went on a little fishing trip yesterday, out to the islands off the Pacific Coast - just a few miles west of David (Dah Veed). Our guide was Rolando Chamorro with Boquete Outdoor Adventures.
Rolando is an amazing person, but we will get to that later. However, you can find out more about Boquete Outdoor Adventures here:

Rolando met us at our hotel, The Oasis, and drove us down through David and on to the small port called Pedregal. Pedregal is actually on a big river, and is pretty much surrounded / protected by Mangroves. Our Capitan was Capitan Ni Ni. This guy is amazing too! But again, I'll have to save that for later. First we gotta talk a little about fishing.

Here is Nancy reeling in her first Spanish Mackeral. These mackeral guys weigh 5 - 10 lbs (my guess) and put up a pretty good fight. Nancy hooked the fish, and hauled it in, all on her own. I was impressed, honestly, so was our guide, Rolando! We trolled the islands for about 2 hours, which was nice, relaxing, and we caught four of these beauties. They are so pretty when you see the colors on them - we released every one we caught (including a couple of times when I hooked the boat canopy). The second picture is Rolando and Nancy holding the catch.....I told you these pretty fish!

There are a lot of "vacant" and almost vacant islands out here. The area has been declared a "national park" since about 1996 I believe. The island of Parilla, which is about 30 miles around (again my guess) has only six families living on it. If you look at a map you will see some little specs. just out from David and Pedregal - one of largest of these specs is the island of Parilla, the other is Boca Brava - it actually has a hotel owned by some German folks. Parilla has no hotel, no electricity, no running water - and it is the birth place of Captain Ni Ni. Captain Ni Ni grew up here playing on the same beach where we had lunch, also nearby is the thatched roof house where Capitan Ni Ni's brother still lives. This beach (playa in Spanish) was kind of interesting, in that it had half white coral sand on the west side / and black volcanic sand on the east side. I've never seen the two that close together. On the right you'll see a picture of Nancy waking up from the boat. The boat is not all that big, but it is very comfortable particularly with the nice blue canopy to keep you in the shade. The picture on the left is looking back on the place where we had lunch. If you watch the can see Capitan Ni Ni preparing a coconut on the beach with a machete and a stick. This was pretty interesting as well. The video shows El Capitan preparing a coconut for us to drink. Capitan Ni Ni has spent his whole life fishing these water and probably knows the fishing and these islands better than virtually anyone.

On the way back from fishing we stopped at a turtle farm, that is supported by Boquete Outdoor Adventures and Rolondo. It is a "shoe string operation" supported by a few local people who want to restore the native turtle population. Basically, what they are doing is gathering the turtle eggs and creating a "safe hatchery' in the sand where the turtle eggs cannot get eaten by predators. As the turtles hatch they are taken to a pool filled with ocean water (of course) and they are raised until they get to a more viable size and have less chance of being eaten. The pool is actually a placstic child's swimming pool, but there were hundreds of little turtles in there (I only got close-up pictures of a couple of them). Finally, when the turtles are about 6 weeks old they are release to the sea. There have been over 400 turtles hatched and released this year. More are being hatched and released each week. Interestingly enough, there are no government support or funds made available for this effort. Just some people who want to protect and restore the environment.

The picture on the right is kind of interesting to me. As you may have guessed it is the sand where the turtle eggs are buried. The stick marks the spot. You can tell when the baby turtles are about to come out because the sand starts to collapse as the egg shells break. These guys will be crawling out probably later today or tomorrow. You can also see some of the egg shells from previous hatches lying on the ground. This is not a "high dollar operation" but for sure they are getting the job done. And I admire what they are doing.

It seems like it some time ago in this writing, but I remember that I was going to tell you a little about our guide Rolando. Rolando is an interesting character, his Father is an engineer who works on design and construction of fish hatcheries. He has built fish farms all over Central America. Rolando grew up mostly in Panama City. He completed his university studies in Graphic Arts (he says to please his Mother), but as soon as he completed his studies he took off on his own; always pursuing "adventure". So basically, Rolando, at age 27, has become an expert fishing guide, an expert kayaking guide (salt and fresh water), and an expert hiking guide. He gets paid to go on all of these adventures and of course he loves his job and it shows.

This year Rolando finished a four day hike which crosses the northern part of Panama - from Boquete to Bocas Del Toro (in Spanish the Bull's Mouth). This hike crosses the continental divide of Panama (very mountainous) and requires 12 hours per day - of serious hiking. I think I could make it in about 8 Days if someone would carry my beer and pretzal supply. Oh, and they'd probably need to carry by back pack too. Remember the old shows on Africa where you got 1 or 2 white guys hiking and about 20 other guys carrying all their stuff? I am probably best cut out to be one of the white guys hiking.

Anyway Rolando was delight as both a guide and as a person. His exuberance for life and adventure is almost enough to make me think about hiking. I think I'll go grab a six pack now and think about hiking across Panama. All this talk about hiking has got me "worn slap out".

All the best,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

American Florists....You are not needed here!!!

A few of my acquaintences from the business world know that I have a couple of flower shops that we own back in Texas; my sister is the brains of the outfit, and she and our dear friend Shelly are the artistic talent that makes these two beautiful flowershops click. I hope to be out of the business by the end of this year since, I have little talent to contribute to the cause. On the other hand, I can assure all American florists, you are not needed down there in Panama.

Some of you know, Nancy (my wife; mi esposa) and I are spending a couple of weeks down in Panama. What will surprise the florists even more is....we are staying in a town called Boquete. (pronounced Bo Ket EH). Which I think must mean Boquet in English. But honestly, I am not sure how to spell boquet in any language - but I think you know what I mean - a bouquet is a pretty arrangement of various flowers.

Well anyway, lets spend a minute or two talking about beautiful Boquete, Panama. There are approximately 12,000 souls in Boquete, only about 1,000 of the souls are Americans. I think this may be a good thing. The pace of life is very slow here, almost nothing happens on time. This really fits my personality to a TEE! The temperature here doesn't vary much on a year round basis; by and large it will be between 65 - 80 degrees Farenheit daily. The temperature is pretty much constant because 1. Boquete is very close to the equator and 2. Boquete is high in the mountains along the continental divide here in Panama. Essentially, it is spring time all year round.

Here they grow what is arguably the world's finest coffee. There is a farm here (finca in spanish) that raises a variety of coffee bean called Geisha. This coffee was rated number 1 in the world for flavor a couple of years ago; it sells in some elite coffee shops for $18 US per cup; or you can buy a pound to take home for around $400. Suffice it to say that the coffee here is extraordinary and the best I have ever...or probably will ever have. If you would like to order some great coffee fresh from the hills of Panama, this is a place I can recommend highly:
Those are Finca Lerida beans growing on the right. Click to enlarge. I have met the owner and can testify to this fine coffee's taste and to John Collins' dedication to making the highest quality, environmentally friendly coffee in the World! Cheers John, or as we say down here Salud!

The flowers here are absolutely amazing. Corn Plants, which I have been wanting for my office grow wild here on the side of the road; so do bird of paradise plants and these other things that are called Heliconica, according to my sister.

If that's not enough for you get a look at these they are not at a flower shop...they are at the local Texaco Gas Station, along with these pretty red things that Nancy is holding in the picture.

The orchids are from a not-for-profit animal shelter and they were taller than me. And there were lots of them, I tried to just focus on one - because the wind was blowing and I was getting blurry pictures; but hey...this is the best I could do.

On the fruit and vegitable side of things - Banana's seem to fall out of the sky - I think you can buy 10 bananas for about 25 cents. Coconuts are about the same. Worse yet, there are so many orange trees and oranges here - that I would bet that most of them are never eaten.....they just fall off the trees and lay there.

The only problem I can find with Boquete is that Gringos have come in and driven up the prices of land and homes. Right now an acre of land here would set you back as much as $50,000. Again, this is due to ignorant speculation, and will most likely change soon. But you can almost see how it could happen; a lot of the Gringos say that this is the Aspen Colorado of Panama. I don't believe that for a second, Aspen isn't near as nice. This is the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve got the boot. Check the picture to the right, this is the first place, I was ever able to find a fig leaf big enough to work for me. Yoiu can click in this picture to enlarge...but it mostly enlarges the fig leaf.

Buena Vida y All the best.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Interesting Folks here in Boquete

Over the last couple of days Nancy and I have met some really interesting people here in Boquete. I decided to write a few lines about them so that you could get a sense of just how interesting they really are.

First off, allow me to introduce you to Mr. John Collins. John, is currently the managing director of La Finca, Lerida; one of Panama's most prestigous coffee plantations. In Espanole, Finca, means farm and this is one outstanding farm / farmer. That is a picture of John relaxing in his home at Finca Lerida on the right.

Finca Lerida was founded in 1917 by Tolief B. Monniche, an engineer who designed the auxillary locks for the Panama Canal. When he finished his contract, he was worn out from the years of intense work and pressure involved with designing and building the canal. Mr. Monniche, decided to take a vacation when his contract was complete, and spent his time in Boquete, Panama, where he bought the land, and buildt the farm now known as Finca Lerida. He build a fantastic home here, which still stands today, and is the home of John Collins whose family bought the farm in 1957.

John Collins was one of six children, whose father was the Ambassador to the Panama Canal during the 1950's. John was born here, and as such, has always been a citizen of Panama. He is fluent in both English and Spanish. Maybe more. When he walked in the cafe at Finca Lerida, I thought he would be an interesting character and hit him with my very best "Buenos Dias!" He responded with more Spanish than I can handle, but at least I knew he was for sure an interesting character. I invited John to join Nancy and I at our table, which he did, but not before going in back and grabbing his own mug of Cafe Lerinda's famous and fabulous product. I asked him if he came here often, and he said yes, "I live and work here."

John told us a lot about the history of the farm, from it's early beginnings under Mr. Monniche, to his lastest strategies for expanding the awareness of the high quality coffee produced here at Finca Lerida. John is currently working on a multi-year plan which will veritcally integrate the farm and its products. Currently, they are working to create the necessary equipment and processes to manufacture their own fertilizer and energy. This will eliminate the need to purchase these commodities to operate Finca Lerinda, thus making Finca Lerinda more profitable and even more environmentally sound.

John conducts tours of the farm at least twice a week. He is probably the only owner / director of a coffee plantation that conducts a personal tour - weekly. This tour goes all the way from "coffee bean" to coffee cup. It's a great tour and will expand your knowledge of coffee immensely if you have the chance.

Speaking of the environment, Finca Lerinda is approximately 900 acres in total area. However, the coffee production is only about 200 acres. The remainder of Finca Lerinda is dedicated to tropical rainforest - and has some of the best bird watching in the all of Panama, and for that matter, all of the world.

A lot of people believe that the Quetzal is the prettiest bird in the world. I realize that this is the kind of thing that starts arguments, I have friends who believe the prettiest bird in the world is the Mallard Duck, and I do admit that they are pretty, some think its a swan, some are thinking cardinals or hummingbirds....but trust me a lot of people (who have seen the Quetzal, believe it is the prettiest bird). In any case, the Quetzal is one of the 100's of bird species you can see on the Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation. Here's a picture of a Quetzal so at least you'll know what I am talking about. One more thing, John has a professional bird expert who conducts bird watching tours on the farm.

John lives in the home originally build around 1920 by Mr. Monniche. He inspected every inch of the building, inside, outside, underside, top-side, and remains convinced that the engineering of Mr. Monnniche, is the best that can be. In fact, he feels that some of his recent construction may not have achieved the same quality, and took as much as 3 times longer to complete. Still, he is happy with the outcome and the new lodges John designed and built are very nice.

I asked John a little about Panama City. He told me he likes to go down to Panama City about once a month to recharge his batteries. He says that the traffic, crowds, and noise are really obnoxious and gives his batteries a charge. He mentioned occaisionally, he likes to drag a bus driver off a bus and give him a good country arse whoopin. Apparently, this battery charge gives John what it takes to get back to Boquete and the farm, and get back in the tranquility of this fantastic place, which he calls home. Honestly, this place is so peaceful, that it just might lull you into a twenty year sweet dream. I can see how this could happen. So as John Collins says "a little aggravation is good for you."

The world could use more John Collins, not just because he is a pioneer in ecological farming, but because he makes a great product and is wonderful person to have a visit with. If you get a chance check out his web site @ You can also email him @

Better yet, if you happen to be in Boquete, Panama...drop in and see'll be glad you did.

All the best,


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Panama - How It Really Stacks Up - Part 1

I don't want to be one to give up early, but it is starting to look like this Panama thing is a some sort of ruse!!! Everything I read / heard, which included BusinessWeek, Forbes Magazine, Smart Money, and for Heaven's sake even Home and Garden TV said that Panama was one of the Top 10 International Retirement Places. The key factors that influenced these publications (as I understood them were)

1. Low Cost of Living
2. Comfortable Climate / Life Style
3. Safety
4. Low Taxes
5. Access to Affordable Healthcare

Everyone is saying that Panama is the next Costa Rica. So far, not too many of these things are coming true; worse yet some of the ones that could be argued as true....are changing for the worse rapidly. I'll try and elaborate on what I have seen so far and you can decide for yourself.

Let's start with what is by far Panama's largest city which happens to be named Panama City, Panama;

  1. In terms of low cost of living - it seemed that condo's were routinely offered for sale at $250,000 for 2000 sq. foot apartment. Now this might be considered a bargain in New York City.....but for most Americans it is an outrageous price. Only 18 of 381 cities in the US had a median condo price at this level.

  2. They say you can hire a maid down here for $160 per month, so everyone has a maid. Well this may be true, but there are a few probs with this as well. First, the maid will live with you 24hrs x 7 days per week. Secondly, maids and most categories of labor here are asking for minimum wages, as they can no longer live on the wages being paid. This is in large part because we Gingos (and Western Europeans) have run the cost of living up. Relative to maids, gardners, etc. there is a story here in Panama about a man who hooked a huge fish, the fish fought very hard, but the man didn't give up. After a long battle the fisherman asked himself, "do I have the fish or does the fish have me?". So they say it is with "hired help" down here; its not clear who has who.

  3. In the heart of Panama City, near the Presidential Palace, is Casco de Viejo. This is a very old area with some very nice architecture. However, most of it is under reconstruction. The good news is they say it will be finished in 2020. The bad news is to get there you have to drive through slums and condemned buildings with hookers on every other doorstep. I am not necessarily against legalized prostitution, but it ain't a pretty sight at $12 per hour (which according to our taxi was the going rate). I guess you get what you pay for - but this looked like more than I could stand. The driver also told us that the "girls" had to go to a clinic once a week (on Wednesday's) to be checked and certified - I don't care what the examiner's job pays - I ain't interested.

  4. In terms of safety, we were warned by Panamanian police not to leave the 4 to 6 square block area where they patrolled, near the Presidential Palace. Even though I showed them my tattoos and told them about my experience in mixed martial arts and my college boxing career - they still advised against getting out of their sight. It was interesting to me that the preferred method of robbery here is still from behind with a knife to your throat (I read this in a travel guide). At least here in Panama they still have a strong sense of tradition!

  5. In terms of comfort Panama City, Panama is very warm, in fact it is damn hot. If my sister were writing this, she'd say "Panama City is hotter than a three-balled tom cat!" and she'd be right! Worse yet, it is also so humid that everyone you see is "sweatin' like a bastard at the family reunion". I saw a couple of New Yorkers who had the misfortune to get an unairconditioned cab from the airport to our 4.5 star hotel. These poor boys looked like they had been rode hard, and put up wet. Not a pretty sight; but not that serious. With a cold shower and air conditioning these guys will probably stop sweating by early tomorrow morning anyway.

  6. In terms of investment, Panama City might not be a very good choice, especially right now. There were 15 building cranes working on 50 story apartment complexes there, and none of them were moving. Most of the people, who I ever knew who would want to live in a 50 story complex, lived in New York, City. New York has Broadway, Sports, Fine Dining, Museums and every aspect of culture you could name. New Yorkers' would be pretty disappointed with Panama City. My bet is it will probably be a very long time before Americans get stupid enough to pay these prices, but with Americans you can never tell. As P.T. Barnum once said, "there's a sucker born every minute". I am sure P.T was right. However, not every sucker born has a spare $250,000 in his pocket.

  7. Finally, the country is now having to look at changes in its tax laws to pay for all of these infrastructure improvements. I mean, when you have a goal of moving in 10's of thousands of Americans - they expect stuff - like roads, police, garbage pickup, etc. So there goes your cheap tax rates.

Don't get me wrong. We are having a great time. But everything here is not exactly as advertised. I think we will have to think twice before we plunk down a quarter of mil. for one of these joints. Northeast Texas keeps sounding better. I'll keep you posted.

All the best,

Your faithful foreign correspondent,


PS. After Nancy read this I cleaned it up a you can't really trust it anymore since I had to "sugar coat" it for Nancy.