The Pirates Trail, PR & Uber in Panama Day 2 (July 31):
Supposedly other pirates get a fairer shake than Captain Henry Morgan. Not that you'd know this in Canada. Seagrams, the one time celebrity booze company known and loved for running rum and whisky into The States during Prohibition, and now sold off to Diageo amongst others, ran ads for years around his mystique, as do the new owners of the Rum of His Name.
In Canada, Captain Morgan and his rum present a glossy, youthful, and cavalier notion of rum drinking as the spirit of beach parties, BBQs and exuberant cultural mixing I've never found to be untrue in real life at such rum-infused festivalas. It has the spirit of authenticity and a common touch not easily simulated, especially as rum is the working man's and sailors' drink.
And to be fair, Diageo is a British company, whence the source of Western pirating mystique, so the brand is still in good hands. But outside your in group, bad PR can still sink you, as it did the Seagrams Company, in the end. And the Captain's rum is notably missing from the common store shelf here, tho perhaps for other reasons I'll get to.
Regardless, the man of relative fame and infamy features on the balcony of one drinking hole here in Old Town Panama. The poor souls fired their own city in 1671, rather than let him sack it inviolate. This would be doing the Russians proud now, but it was an earlier time, and Vodka is also not largely represented here.
Old Town, such as it is, and it's a gem, tho a bit in the rough cut, is focused much more on religious and founding government institutions. Fine, I suppose, and not without some charm, though a bit austere for my taste. Thank God Seagrams wasn't sold to Unibrau or some some such Teotonic company. But then the austerity is of the Old Line Hispanic flavour, here, with the post-Teutons (thus Teutonic, rather than Teutons themselves) always late to the party, having to settle for South America. And Latinate austerity doesn't lack at least a little flair. Just look at the clothes on the statues.
Now, despite the austerity, a visit to Old Town too early in the morning, not that I thought 10:30am would be early, does present some issues. Nothing is open. As far as I was concerned, a little austerity might have been in order, as I wanted another coffee and couldn't find one, having to settle for a not unpleasant walk along the waterfront with a few sleepy vendors clearly not fired up for business, yet.
After pretty much an entire self-guided walking tour of Old Town, I did find a coffee shop open, but being noon, I opted for a beer instead, having missed the coffee hour in my own none-to-austere thinking. Apparently they'd been open since 7am, so maybe there was a Teutonic relative involved, or an English one. Or maybe they just like guys like me, even if I couldn't find them first time, when it counted.
Still, getting home from Old Town presented another set of problems. Including PR wise. A planned ride cancelled, and I found myself at the Plaza Mayor, at the small mercies of the cabbies, circling like sharks all around. As culturally mixed and Bon Vivant as Canadians are, there's no preparing for this. In the wilds of Canada, if you turn left, instead of right out of the party, you'd hallucinate a taxi on your long walk to the next town, not have them circling around you.
The first cabbie I asked, after a very relaxed wait before discovering my ride was cancelled, wanted $15 dollars; the hostel has suggested $3 was right. Thankfully, though not prepared, I was experienced.
I had my own PR problem of how I looked, I knew, but then I'm a traveler, not a tourist, so I'd figured my worn out shorts, black T-shirt, and simple, adolescent smile would coax them eventually to give me a better price, and I had been to the Grande Terminal of all types of buses, private-minivans, and taxis the previous day.
Then, it had taken me four cabs and a lot of honking, before I had settled on a price with the driver. I simply told the next guy at Plaza Mayor the Hostel had suggested $3. He said $5. And off we went. No meter in sight, in his or any other optimistically painted 'taxi' I'd seen yet. I had been offered a pre-paid, scheduled Uber before I left, presumably to save me from this, tho I demurred such 'saving'. And even the 'Tour Guide' artist, Conrad, he said, denounced the cabbies and suggested Uber while trying to pick me up for a 'guided walking tour' before shaking me down for a coffee then spiralling out, maybe because it was only 10:30 and he wasn't on his game, yet.
Having seen the mass, anti-uber protests of cabbies here on the news, just the other night, I wondered, who are the pirates? Before settling into a siesta back at the hostel.