Hooked on the Outdoors, November 2002
Location: Isla Boca Brava, Panama
Accomplishment: Scaring off his “guests”
Some years ago, Frank (pronounced “Fronk”) cashed in his trade-show-booth business and bought an island. He now runs a resort there with his busty Panamanian wife, who cooks and cleans while Fronk barks orders and goes on boat rides with the guests. And while tropical resorts are essentially alike, Fronk’s stands apart in one crucial respect: he seems to truly resent his guests.
Or perhaps he only resented us. We hitched a ride to the island with an aging fisherman covered in skin cancers, who charged us a fraction of Fronk’s price. Irritated, Fronk directed us to some pygmy-sized hammocks under a palapa. Hoping to break the ice, we ordered piña coladas and black, chewy oysters, and asked Fronk what he did before he came to Panama. “Oh,” he said. “You Americans couldn’t understand.”
What we did understand was that Fronk’s years in the jungle had effected a Kurtz-like transformation in our host, and that we wanted to get the hell out of there. We retired to our hammocks and spent a long, sleepless night swatting mosquitoes, listening to Fronk’s dog wrestle with a howler monkey, and waiting for dawn to break.