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Costa Rica Great Escape:  August 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of my first business opening in Costa Rica — Super Pura Vida (located where Indra Inn is now). No, not the “pura vida” expression but a mini-supermarket name.

The backstory is about getting myself fired from a job in Rhode Island that was too good to quit. It was this awesome summer bartending gig at The Landing, in my hometown of Newport, that had enabled me to  spend every winter since 1995 living and surfing in Costa Rica. It was great work and easy money, part of a strategy that had served me well for several seasons. I’d stay in my buddy’s attic loft and save money for the coming winter.

I knew I had to get fired, but in
an intelligent way — one that left
room for begging to get my job back.

But the time came when I needed to pull the chute and bail out of the U.S. full-time for good. I promised myself that 1997 would be my last summer bartending, before buckling down and putting down permanent roots in Costa Rica. I was already well on my way to living the dream, with a purchase deposit on a Playa Grande lot and even an investor to back my construction plans for a supermarket and six cabinas. Anyone who knows me also knows one of my favorite sayings: “Somebody has to live here, so it might as well be me!”

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Quitting my job in Rhody was easier said than done. The Landing closed every September and reopened on Memorial Day, so it was a seasonal job and I never lost seniority. When push came to shove, I just could not bring myself to leave such a gravy job voluntarily. I knew I had to get fired, but in an intelligent way — one that left room for begging to get rehired if things went sideways in Costa Rica.

As it turned out, the surf and technology gods both ensured that my departure swan song in the summer of 1997 was perfectly orchestrated, but with no intelligence on my part being a factor. First came the gift of Hurricane Felicia, a storm for all the ages. It formed off Puerto Rico and hit category 4 churning towards Cape Hatteras. Then once the swell reached 200 miles south of Nantucket, she just stalled and wobbled around off New Jersey for eight days. To quote an old-timer at the time, “This shit just don’t happen, man!”

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Vintage photos of great summer times I spent with hometown friends, including buddy Dave (above), remind me why it was hard to leave Newport behind for good.

Felicia’s escape was blocked by 10 to 15 mph offshore breezes, and insanity followed. I was surfing the best swell ever during the day and still making $300 bartending at night.

I was also barely sleeping and knew something had to give. After 13 solid days of surfing and working, we wanted to throw a clambake and keg party, as the storm was finally pulling away and the next front approaching. So I, the genius, decided to call in sick … from my buddy Dave’s house. What I overlooked was that call waiting and caller ID had just been invented and many telephones were equipped with these up-to-date features. So when my lovely boss, Peggy Jane, noticed the message I had left on her answering machine was from Dave’s house, she called back and told me not to bother coming in to work ever again!

So my perfect ending to this perfect summer job turned out to be a telephone breakup. I even sent my buddy to collect my final paycheck, figuring I might still try begging for forgiveness after coming to my senses and realizing it was Felicia who had left me!

In any case, my hand was forced and my path started to where I am now in Puravidaville. It wasn’t easy cutting ties with all my friends and family and finally making a serious commitment to Costa Rica. Stay tuned for my story of how fun it was to be a first-time builder here in the 1990s.

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The Howler Magazine