in Old School

Death in Panama City

I’ve always loved the rain. When I was a lad I would dream of the rainy season. I’d picture myself in a thatched hut with a beautiful, bronzed-skinned girl. She’d swat mosquitoes from her naked breasts. I’d angrily pound the keys of a rusty Underwood. I was writing the great American novel. Hemingway would weep.

For Ernest Hemingway rain symbolized death. At the time he was a favorite read. Perhaps this is why my dream always ended with me rotting away in a malarial cot, feverish, delusional; a medicinal gin and tonic my only comfort. I’d lapse into a sweaty coma. My girlfriend wailing into the jungle “ai si yo solamente arregle este maya en el mosquitero.”

Life is full of regrets. I reckon that’s why god gave us rum and shotguns.

Years later, it was my need for a high speed internet connection that led me to choose city life over a jungle hut. In Panama City I don’t spend my days swatting mosquitoes. Indeed, I’ve never been bitten by one. Nor do I pound an Underwood. I scribble in a $.50 raya ancha notebook, and edit everything on a Toshiba Tecra.

Some might say, I’m not living, I’m “dying.” After all, there’s no book deal, no Pulitzer Prize . Only a hackneyed web Zine, and a half-bottle of Flor de Cana. Hold the quinine. Still, after many years of fantasizing, I have taken the first steps into a new world.

I’ve moved to the tropics. I have a beautiful girlfriend who’d lament my passing. I’m writing, learning Spanish, and living in Panama City. And it’s the rainy season. If this is death, it’s apparently a slow, and painless one, filled with love, learning, good sex, and friends.

But even the best deaths are not without painful setbacks. A couple of weeks back, the tropical rains I dreamed of as a boy, stopped. The days got hotter, more humid. I was surprised, even a little worried.

This wasn’t the normal suffocating heat that precedes a refreshing tropical rainstorm. It was unrelenting. Why was it getting hot again? In Central America winter runs from May to November. It was late June. Where was the rain? Where were the blood-sucking mosquitoes?

My girlfriend had often told me how rainy and cool it gets in Panama for the winter. Actually, she used the word “frio” or cold. I didn’t expect to be wearing mittens. But I was hoping for cool temps and daily rains.

I guess temperature’s relative. Because as each day passed it got hotter and hotter. I began to dread walking about the city. I’d return home, fatigued, shirt soaked with sweat. And yes, I dialed up the air conditioner, something I almost never do.

I felt lethargic. It became a chore just to breath. I didn’t even want to write. So I asked my girlfriend, my go-to Panama expert. “Que pasa?” She rolled her eyes, and assured me it would rain again. ” Tranquilo baby,” she said, “es El Veranito de San Juan.” In English, that’s Saint John’s little summer. Apparently this brief return of summer is a regular event. It roughly coincides with the birth of Saint John the Baptist.

In the U.S. we have Indian Summer. In Central America, the green season (aka winter, or the rainy season), begins in May with a month or two of heavy rains and cooler temps ( 70’s – 80’s), then, around late June, early July, it gets hot, humid (80’s-90’s).

Mercifully, “Veranito de San Juan” only lasts for a week or two. Then the rains return bringing cooler temps. My girlfriend was right. For the last couple of weeks the storms have been so strong trees have been toppled, streets flooded, houses inundated, people electrocuted, and all the car alarms on the block triggered by explosive thunder.

And I’m writing again. It’s the rainy season. I’m dying, but the dream is alive.

-Cojito @ Panama After Dark.

Sex Friends

Care to Comment?



  1. Dear Baby Cojito:

    It's Mama Cojito.

    When are you giving up on this "living with the Natives" and coming back to your father and I in Asbury Park?

    We miss you, immensely. Papa Cojito longs for the day that you return and he and you can sit in front of the old black and white television and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon while watching reruns of "All In The Family" in your underwear.

    We worry about you. Please say of "the drugs." I hear they're dangerous.

    – Mama Cojito.

    (Nevermind me. It's just the codeine.)

  2. I actually bought some rum at PriceSmart, a couple of weeks ago. Before reading your article.

    It was "Panama Jack's Rum" or some shit. I'm not a big drinker, so I pretty much just bought it because of the beautifully designed label and visions of someday having a Costa Rica Jones Rum.

    Lofty dreams for a guy who gets drunk after his second beer.

  3. yeah, i was thinking it would be cool to have your own brand of rum. maybe put a tweaked-out crocodile on the label. but then it takes 7, 12, 18 yrs to age a good rum. that's a long time to wait for a drink, and return on your investment.

  4. lol i know. it's killing me. i've got nothing on Panama because i'm working in the U.S. the good news, my sad, and whorish visit will only last another month. i'll be in panama drinking flor, and writing again after that.

  5. Hello Cojito. Have you made it back

    home? (PC)I mean.Just wondering when

    you will be back on your pages. It snowed here today. Need my panama fix, and I know I'm not alone. I was at Playa Blanca last February and I really like your take on the real Panama life.

    Chow Man, be safe



  6. Hi Cojito,

    do you ever write in your unique style about diet, health or exercise? If so, I'd love to feature it on a website that I'm helping put together on behalf of the Oxford Health Alliance (and yes, that Oxford in England). Email me and I'll give you details. But times' short — 21 October's the deadline.

    Hope to hear from you soon.


  7. thanks everyone,

    quick update: i return to Panama in early November. i'll be there until late may. (although i might make a sidetrip to Mexico for a month). i'll return to cape cod for work next summer. unless writing for oxford health alliance pans out ;-).

    this year i stayed on cape cod a month longer than i wanted. i needed to make a few more bucks. but its getting cold on the cod. i only packed shorts for my trip. and damnit, i refuse to buy warmer clothes. i gotta leave soon or i'll die of hypothermia.

    i'll be posting stories again the second half of next month. i hope and plan for this Zine to grow and evolve. i enjoy it. but it doesn't pay the bills. and i find that when i'm working here (cape cod) i just don't have the time for it.

    kaylois: "diet, health, or exercise?" hmm … does writing about rum, gambling, and whoring count? seriously, thanks for thinking of me. of course i'm both flattered and interested. i'll drop you a line.

  8. just got back from a wonderful month in pc. sorry i missed you by a couple weeks. checked up on your girlfriend and her sister and all is fine. She's a wonderful girl – working out every day because whe wants to look good for you– she REALLY misses you. my new appartment is up and running and the view is fantastic. Little sister has a key and you and A. are welcome to use the jacuzzi. i'll be back in jan and we'll look you up. make sure little sister doesn't throw any parties at my place! :)

  9. lol "parties" … now you know those girls are clean and sober. its me you have to worry about. where'd you hide the flor de cana? and will i have to get out of the jacuzzi to get more ice?

    seriously, thank you. how are you doing? i hear you had a cancer scare.

  10. i'll tell little sister to bring you all the ice you'll need – i'll also tell her to dump it directly on your nuts Senor Party Animal … :)

    my doctor wants me tested for prostate cancer because my psa is up.. oh well, vamos a ver…

    ps. oh darn! i guess i drank all the flor de cana… looks like you'll just have to fill the liquor cabinet while you're there. we'll go 50/50 — you buy the rum and i'll provide the ice.

    hey… do you think that costa rica jones might make a good husband for little sister?

  11. I know of some that were willing to take a collection for a long pair of pants for the stubborn one…..imagine goosepimpled, lower legs..did I mention stubborn with a tropical mind???

  12. hey now, i've got great legs. along with a quick wit and a dirty mind they're my best assets. as i recall, you wanted me to cover up with a pair of your boyfriend's nasty old sweats. i can't wear that shit. i'd lose my street cred.

  13. your site design is beautiful, but your writing is pitiful. i wonder if women from panama find this indian princess shit offensive? why does the ex-pat community continue to make me sick with its constant thrust for native wives, tax cuts, and poker dens? i think if i ever moved to cr/panama/lo que sea, tengo que "go native" a escapar de los tontos gringos como ti. es una lastima si no hablen español y expecten todo de todo del mundo.

  14. elle – lol y es una lastima que tu no puedes entender lo que lees. perhaps if you spent more time listening, and trying to understand, rather than condemning, and feeling offended?

    not sure why you think the gringos down here don't speak, or try to learn spanish. i've never met any like that. but then i live with natives. poor natives. where you at?

    just got back from the hospital where i dropped $3k on an operation for my latina "princess." a life-saving operation she would never have been able to afford. where you at?

    it's true many white men like latinas, poker, and tax cuts. i could guess at why that makes you sick. but i'll leave that one for you, and your analyst to suss out. that is, should you ever feel the need to climb off that very unattractive high horse you rode in on.

  15. weed? yes, you can find weed anywhere there are surfers. it usually isn't very good but it's cheap and does the trick.

    just be careful. even though marijuana is readily available in the beach/surfing communities of Panama and Costa Rica – it's still illegal. and if you somehow get caught with it you could spend years in a filthy, overcrowded cell, waiting to go to trial.