As some of you know I volunteered my time at a charity event this past weekend working as a bartender. The event was Friday, Saturday and Sunday at a theater, Anita Villalaz, in the old Spanish-Colonial area of town called Casco Viejo. We also had a small cast and crew party after Sunday’s performance in Casa Arias (It was built for Tomas Arias, president 1903-1904, one of the founders of the Republic of Panama) another beautiful restored home where we had the reception on the rooftop. So you think after a long weekend of running errands and buying countless bags of ice , beer, plates and napkins that the work is all over right? Not to mention I did work my normal job Sunday morning for 8 hours before Sunday’s performance and party, but when Monday comes around, after another 8 hours of the normal work day, Jerin and I take on the task of picking up all of the leftovers from Casco Viejo.
We went up to the rooftop of Casa Arias to collect our things and stumbled upon a group making a commercial, pretty cool! So after carrying 4 coolers full of drinks, water and ice, a few cases of wine and cases of empty beer bottles down 3 flights of stairs, sweating profusely, we decide it’s a good time to make a drink, rum and diet coke, yum! We are out front of Casa Arias standing there enjoying our refresco, the homeless gentleman, Robert, that we actually hired the night before to watch everyone’s cars at the party comes strolling by and strikes up conversation. This guy is speaking so fast and not so clear, it makes it very difficult for us to understand him, I am catching about every 10th word. We were at the point where we were just ignoring him and not even trying to understand what he is saying, but this guy loves to talk and continues without skipping a beat! What else are two gringos to do in a situation like this but to offer the guy a drink and it was no surprise that he instantly accepted the offer. Now Robert is telling one story after the next, he knows every person in Casco Viejo it seems, what car they drive, where they live and his stories always begin as such. He is speaking to every person that passes us in the streets and they seem pretty amused to see two gringos sitting with Robert on the sidewalk, drinking rum in the middle of the day. The more we drink, the more we understand his Spanish and the more entertaining this has become. To add to the scenery it has started raining fairly hard with loud claps of thunder and lightning occasionally but still enough light to see down the streets. So we are sitting on the footsteps of Casa Arias, enjoying some rum and cigarettes in the rain, talking about whatever comes to mind when I notice a faint English word come out of Robert’s mouth. I start giving him a hard time, saying he speaks English and here we are struggling to speak and understand his Spanish (for the last hour), of course I didn’t really believe he spoke English well enough to converse with us but apparently I was wrong. He says in a thick Spanish accent, “I speak English”. As if this wasn’t a big enough shock to us, completely caught off guard and laughing, a well dressed business woman passes us in the streets and briefly speaks to Robert and continues on, “I help her with her English” he says. So not only does he speak English, but he gives English lessons too! Robert knew more about American pop culture than I did, movies, actors, musicians, you name it, he knew about it. We also invited Robert to our Thanksgiving day feast and party, we will have to go back down into Casco Viejo a few days before and remind him. So I think we are all sufficiently drunk now, in fact we trespassed onto a property for sale at the end of the street just to see what the view of the ocean looked like, don’t worry it was beautiful! Just another typical day, drinking in the streets of Casco Viejo, making new friends.