Jackson, A rainy end to an infrequent long weekend

drizzle in Anton
Weekend drizzle in Anton. Photo by Eric Jackson.

A once every five years holiday doesn’t
always create a long weekend

by Eric Jackson

The last time, in 2019, it was also on a Monday. The time before that it was on a Sunday. The time before that, in 2014, it was on a Wednesday. It was also on a Wednesday in 2009.

Inauguration Day is the July 1 after a Panamanian Election Day. It comes once every five years. It’s a national holiday when a lot of businesses, even little informal ones, don’t open their doors.

It’s also, if the truth is to be told, terribly disruptive to Panama upon whatever days it falls. Shredders have been shredding, and public documents have been going up in smoke in many a burn pit. Outgoing municipal, ministerial and presidential websites have been erased. Functionaries have been told that their government jobs are at an end. Stick-ups have been consummated, abandoned, or in case of re-election been put on hold until the next cycle gets up to speed.

I left home in the light rain shopping items and to-do things in mind.

Stop one — the water in the wetland is up a bit. Whip out the camera, and message is that the chip is protected. I unsuccessfully tried to fiddle with that. A category of to-do ideas — pictures to take — stricken from the list.

The higher water in the swamp was not only a photo op idea for me, but also a recreational opportunity for my friend The Gimpy Dog. Is she a “street dog” or a “shared dog?” A little bit of both. I am not the only one, perhaps not the main one, who feeds her. Mostly though, on rainy days she takes shelter at bus stops rather than at somebody’s house. She came to me on this day dripping wet wet from a dip in the little wetland. And as a demonstration of her affection, jumped on me with muddy paws.

And why do I call her The Gimpy Dog anyway? Isn’t that terribly disrespectful?

Thing is, when first we crossed paths she was in heat for the first time, from the asentamiento campesino down the street with a pack of males in pursuit. I looked at her, at her gait and shape and the “out-of-alignment” way she ran, and figured that this is a dog with hip dysplasia, who might live a rather ordinary life but should not be allowed to pass on this genetic problem. I brought her inside, contacted Animal Rescue of Anton, and bonded with her on an hour-long walk on a leash from my house in El Bajito to the Pan-American Highway, where they picked her up and took her to be spayed. They brought her back and were no doubt appalled by my rustic — or should I say slovenly? — way of life. But mission accomplished. I kept her inside for a few days of post-op recovery, then let her come or go as desired.

The Gimpy Dog is one of those canines that seems not to want to be owned. And the place down the street from whence she came? I think people came to some realizations about her hips, and about her not going into heat or having puppies, and decided that they didn’t especially want to own her, either. But the asentamiento is a collective organization, including some unfeeling characters and some kind-hearted souls. This dog gets fed, sometimes at my place, but she’s awfully skinny at the moment. Put some worm medication on the mental shopping list.

We sat together in the caseta for longer than usual, because this was a holiday with fewer buses running. Eventually I caught a Penonome bus, but I was headed for Anton on this day, so got off at the truck stop at the entrada by the Pan-American Highway.

WHAT?!? None of those expensive no-sugar Costa Rican chocolate bars this time? Oh, well. Just got a can of the Monster zero-sugar ginseng energy drink and crossed the street to the stop along the eastbound lane.

This was a heavy traffic day in that direction. Lots of people from the city were taking an early start on getting home from a long weekend. Soon enough a Penonome to Las Guias bus stopped and I headed in to Anton.

The Internet store, a one-man business, was closed. I kind of expected that. Scratch a couple more things off of the list for this day. Pick up hard-copy newspapers to read, check to see if any of the fruit and veggie vendors are selling anything that I want to buy for seeds to plant — they didn’t, and most of them were closed. Then a hampao, hsiu mai and Monster energy drink lunch at Lissy’s, where I am kind of a regular.

The ATMs were working as always. Back into the store, and picked up few items to meet the animals and me.

At the pharmacy two cops were standing around, a cabo and a teniente. But the corporal was female, so would that make her a caba? I have lived here most of my life, but all of my formal education is in English and picking up and refining Spanish is still a work in progress at my buzzardly old age.

President Cortizo had said his farewell and the hated old establishment parties had cobbled together a shaky coalition to run the legislature. Neither at the local nor the national level had anyone bothered to issue a dry law decree for this holiday. Perhaps the outgoing PRD, which has more than 730,000 members but got fewer than 135,000 votes for its presidential candidate on May 5, NEEDED to drink it off on this Inauguration Day.

On the bus back to the village, I sipped on bottled water but several other folks broke out the six-packs and these men were chugging beer and throwing the cans out the windows.

Got home in one piece, with the neighbor dogs and I greeting one another on the walk from the bus stop. The home guard dogs were annoyed about being shut in for a couple of hours. But it was going to be a mondongo night and they could smell that through my bag, so that took some of the edge off of them being left to guard the house.

Didn’t FEEL LIKE much of a holiday. I probably have to wait another five years to see another one of these.


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