Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Natty Boh in Panama
I had no idea how wild Panama was until I read this week's guest column by Owl Meat. Wow. I've learned something today: Don't go to Panama. Here's OMG:
Because I was stuck in Panama City, Panama, I considered forgoing this week's post. Then circumstance and isthmus weirdness intervened to blow a chunk of Charm City my way in the Land of Unpleasantly Hot Living.
When you've got mad tech skillz, opportunities sometimes plop into your lap. It helps to be genuinely uninterested in any such opportunities.
In a country where businessmen have armed body guards the rules are topsy-turvy. That's why I wear a plastic watch to disguise my American thousandaire status. Despite my reluctance to throw in with shady bankers and ex-black ops wannabes, I will still hang out with anybody with a good story and a drink. ...
I was killing time in a cheap hotel playing nickel slots. A waitress brought me a local beer ironically named Soberana. In Panama City, a Cuba Libre is made with real Cuban rum. For one American dollar you get a pint glass of rum on ice with a splash of Coke, except in the Hotel Guadalupe where it's free with nickel slots. I left there with half a buzz and an extra thirty five cents in my pocket.
I heard that the interesting ex-pats hung in one place. I was expecting a dive bar in a treacherous barrio. The name of this Mecca of mercs and maenads, this cathedral of covert? TGI Fridays.
My friend Sergeant Chuck, a former Green Beret and now struggling real estate agent, met me at TGIF. It's a surreal time travel experience back to a lame future. Set your Cocktail clock to 1988 and your Cruising altitude to bizarre.
TGIF Panama looks like every other TGIF – fake random junk and olde fashiony signs on the walls. The first departure from Kansas: our bartender Onan. Yes, Onan, like the auto-erotic Old Testamentor or Dorothy Parker's canary, who spilt his seed upon the ground. Add bartenders tossing bottles in the air like they just don't care for extra weird.
The principals in TGIF held court at the bar with pot stickers and wings, while their "drivers" lingered nearby with shiny unhappy Glocks and Ruger Centerfires. There are few bar fights in Panama with all the legal strapped heat. It's a disquieting kind of safety. There is a kind of fake Fonzie vibe going on. Aaaaaaayyyyy ... let's all be cool. The whiff of possible assassination and kidnapping is the garnish to your Cuba Libre that even Onan can't supply.
When I went to the bathroom, I noticed a huge four by ten foot metal sign outside the men's room for Natty Boh beer. What message was the Universe sending me? It was so obscure. I decided it might be time to come home. Do I wish I had a photo of it? Yes, but taking pictures outside Panamanian restrooms inhabited by hombres with guns is so ... estupido.
(Photo by Owl Meat)