Dorion Mode

February 6, 2020

Ode to Joy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robinson Dorion @ 21:52

During my childhood athletics were my main interest and activity. My mother had a piano in the house that did not really get any use and when playing an instrument was introduced as an option by the school when I was nine, I wasn't interested at all. I had baseball, basketball and football to play in the neighborhood after school and wasn't going to be sitting inside for anything really. Fast forward to my senior year of high school and my best friend Mark and I were driving around town1 talking about what it'd be like when we became old men. We resolved we'd be neighbors and sit in rocking chairs during long afternoons on his front porch or mine drinking rum, smoking cigars, playing chess and harmonicas and telling stories. He didn't play any instruments, but had musical inclinations on account of his father, Willy C, being a musician2 and part of a band, Satin and Steel,3 and furthermore was the music teacher at the county vocational school. We decided then to make a detour to Willy C's classroom to see if we could score some harmonicas. He called the music store down the road and sent us over and we put two Blue Bender C harmonicas on his tab and off we went. Below, one of the Blues Benders in question.


Though I carried the harp with me during my travels since, I didn't look into learning how to play it until a couple of months ago. Learning new things both helps you grow and keeps you young and music looked like a good area of opportunity. I found the aptly named Learn the Harmonica youtube channel and "Ode an die Freude", from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, caught my eye since I've been most interested in classical music these past years, primarily Bach and Mozart. According to my friend Chad, who composes and studies music, music started going downhill since Beethoven because he started the break away from counterpoint,4 but given the lesson was in the C harmonica and I like it, I went with it.

The first couple days I listened to the lesson and then wrote down the tablature notation,5 presented below, to practice without the video. The positive numbers represent blow notes and the negative represents draw notes and the numbers represent which hole on the harmonica to apply the air.

A: 5 5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 5 -4 -4
B: 5 5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 -4 4 4
C: -4 -4 5 4 -4 5 -5 5 4 -4 5 -5 5 -4 4 -4 3 5--
D: 5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 -4 4 4
E: -4 -4 5 4 -4 5 -5 5 4 -4 5 -5 5 -4 4 -4 3 5--
F: 5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 -4 4 4

I've been focusing mainly on this song, playing during previous down times, such as while walking across the city. I still have some work to do isolating the individual notes. Nevertheless, I'm making progress and enjoying the process and here's a recording I made this week.

Enjoy !

  1. Driving around for the sake of going for a drive is a popular past time in those parts. []
  2. His father was a good athlete and musician. Mark's older brother Billy turned out to be the musician and Mark the athlete. []
  3. They'd been playing together for over 30 years and I grew up going to their concerts prior to knowing Mark. []
  4. The Ode to Joy bit is in fact a break from custom in that vocals weren't commonly being included in symphonies prior. The vocals are derived from Friedrich von Schiller's 1785 poem. []
  5. If any readers have suggestions for representing music notation as text, please write in. []

January 21, 2020

Hawai'i Cruisin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robinson Dorion @ 13:39

About 18 months ago, during the previous family reunion of my maternal side at a beach house on Long Island, there were talks about a Hawai'i cruise to bring in 2020. I didn't know much about Hawai'i and figured it was overrated since gringos generally barely travel 1. As the date approached I had pretty low expectations and wasn't really looking forward to going all the way out there, but the maternal side has experienced a bit of diaspora 2 and I find spending time with family one of the best opportunities to learn about myself and where I came from. By the time the week was through, I needed it to be through because I was enjoying myself so much I barely slept 3.

Which brings me to the point that pains me to state, but must be stated : I didn't take any pictures until about January the 2nd, day 8 of 11 on the trip, at which point I took a fuckton4. I hopped on a red eye to Las Vegas where I spent the day awaiting my next red eye back to Panama. In the final stretch of my sleepless daze, I left my camera somewhere between the rental car drop off and my gate and didn't realize it till I woke up during the descent into PTY. The real blow is I leveraged up on dumb risk by not taking the 5 mins it'd have taken to backup the pics onto my laptop. The pictures presented below were gathered from friends, family and a cheap fondleslate5. The stupidity's mine to own and kill 6, so let's get to lookin' at some views of the Rainbow State.


Boom ! Above and below, bows on Waikiki Beach, Oahu the morning of December 27th.



Waikiki was swamp reclaimed by the Americans 7, above is the canal they cut where they frequently have rowing races which lies less than 10 blocks from the sand.

After boarding our vessel, The Pride of America (archived) by Norwegian Cruise Lines, the afternoon of Saturday the 28th, we departed the port of Honolulu, Oahu and cruised the sea for the night to wake up in Maui.


Above and below, Maui morning. Below after I'd been up early with the old man to hit the gym. The early morning gym routine lasted till about the morning of new year's eve.


We stayed in port at Maui from the morning of the 29th to the afternoon of the 30th. There were all sorts of excursions available and plenty in partnership with the cruise line. I didn't get off the boat at Maui. I did okay keeping up reading logs and blogs - trinque, bvt and spyked were en fuego - but as I explained :

dorion: << upon reflection, I went into the hawaii trip with pretty low expectations and not much of a plan, figured I'd spend a lot of time doing normal tasks. when I got there I started enjoying myself and then wanted to make the most of that and didn't properly adjust.

So let's delve a bit on what I enjoyed.

First off, a cruise ship is a feat of engineering guided by management to behold. This vessel is 13 decks, ~280 meters long, carrying 80k tonnage, ~2.1k+ passengers, ~900+ crew.

Second off, typically in communities 8 of 3k people everyone speaks the same language, there are more animals than people in the area and usually there are no traffic lights - y'know, rural. On this ship I don't know how many languages total were being spoken, but easily over a dozen. There are 16 dinning options, 6-7 bars, 2 pools, 5 jacuzzis, gym/spa, arcade, card room, library, theater, art gallery. With time limited to a week and people going on dry land everyday, you're not going to speak with or meet everyone even if you wanted to, y'known urban.

Third off, I enjoyed the dining very much. The first night our party of 23 ate at the Liberty Restaurant and every other night we ate at Skyline. The menus were great and this thing was all you can eat, all you can drink. I had trout, prime rib, paella, duck, salmon, assorted salads and soups, Manhattans, vino, steaks, cakes, pies, sherbet, espresso double shots with Baileys, you get the idea. Wanna try something and don't end up liking it ? Fine, order something else, it's priced into what was already paid.

Fourth off, the crew was great. At dinner, we had the same set of servers every night. The bartenders not only were remembering your name by the second day, but what you were going to order. I reckon it's a mixture of the aloha spirit, the weather, the management and being the only American flagged cruise ship going, which means it is complaint with all state 9 and federal laws 10. They typically go five months on, two months off. Live in barracks and eat mystery meals below deck 3 while being responsible for ship duties apart from their main gig, but save plenty. Whatever explains it, these people were happy to serve you and I was happy to be served by them.

Fifth off, being on a volcanic chain of tropical islands brought me back to my 22nd year when I was prospecting from Prospect Point on St. Vincent 11. Here, have a shot from a beach on Maui's northern coast to get the picture.


Sixth off, and really the most important, the family time was priceless. Below is the crew of 23 on New Year's Eve.


NYE was a blast and also where I really started to test my endurance. We arrived at the Hilo side of the big island the morning of the 30th. I didn't get off the ship. From what my parents tell me I didn't miss much, but a friend I met on the ship got hooked up with some BM boys and had nice cookout where they were gifted more grass for the time they had to make fire with it. Like everything, what you're able to make of a situation depends in large part on who you know. We pulled out of Hilo during the golden hour for NYE at sea.

By the 29th or 30th I'd been doing laps around the ship meeting as many people as I could, by the time New Years rolled, I had plenty to see. Met some peeps at the smoking deck 12 called Waikiki 13 on 13th deck aft around 22:30. I had a Manhattan 14 or two with family prior then switched to Amaretto on the rocks and a glass of water with every drink. They emptied the main pool and jacuzzis, the latter they filled with ice and champagne bottles, and had a band jamming through the calendar turning.

From there, moved to the "club" Mardi Gras till it closed, then back to Waikiki. Despite Sylvain from Quebec emptying his mini bar, I didn't drink more, but stayed up with him and the father son duo of Jim and Zak Danger telling stories. By 6, we had nautical twilight and breakfast was starting to be served so I went for OJ, eggs Benedict, bacon and yogurt and ate while the sun was rising over Kona on the leeward side of the big island. There is no port big enough on Kona for the ship and they were scheduled to dingy in to let people off since Kona is supposed to be the nicer side of the island. However, 1-2 meter drops in the sea caused the old sailor captain to call off the dingies and make a day at sea. I told my parents to stake claim to chairs by the pool as by 7 territory was becoming scarce. I went to sleep at around 7:30 and got back up around 11:30.

New Year's day at sea was really cool. When people have dry land access during the day, the ship tends to be empty. With no where to go, it was the opposite. From Kona in the southeast, our destination was Kauai to the northwest and our path weaved through the islands with plenty of scenery including whales and dolphins.

I reckon below is the northern coast of Molokai, where there were several visible waterfalls from the steep cliffs. I didn't verify if she was over 50 15, but she was cool.


The night of January 1st ought to have been low key, but then it wasn't. It started with my following through on a promise to play cards with my little cousin after dinner. I met her, my aunt and uncle at the Champagne Bar, which is close to the card room. My aunt was having a French75 16, a drink I'd never heard of before, which turns out is my maternal grandmother's 17 favorite drink and is now right up there with the Manhattan in becoming one of mine.

Drinks aside, the cuz was all business18 and we played a hand of heads up UNO, which I think I won, but it's still up for debate 19. After that, I teach them rummy, one of my favorite games. They're learning, taking their time since there's a decent amount of strategy given the simple rules, and they end up smoking me. For round two, they have 17 mins prior to a show starting they're planning to see, so we switch to speed rummy where when one's playing, everyone's egging them on to discard already. I got a good draw and my redemption as I scored +5 whoever was in second in cumulative.

With all that excitement and a new drink to explore, I went to the smoking deck to see what was up.


While Seth, pictured above, and Natasha at the champagne lounge - piano and player pictured below - naturally loved to make the French75, when I ordered it at the smoker's deck 20 I got glares and barkeeps asking for reminders on the recipe, but they all delivered and I'm not going to complain about having the French75 reputation and at the end of the day I think they liked it.


I stopped by my sister's room to get her to rally with me. While I was out seeing people, she was on vacation to relax and catch up with her close friends via phone/video/text, not talk to strangers. Doesn't mean she wasn't enjoying herself and actually got the cops called on her 3 or 4 times for noise complaints 21. For whatever reason she was in some old school Jay-Z mode so maybe the neighbors wouldn't have complained if she was bumping Bach ?


Anyways, I sold her on a 20 minute walk starting at the Champagne lounge - had to have her try a proper French75, ofc - then walking up with the smoking deck, see what's up and walk back to the room. I was running on fumes, had liquorburn22) anyways and was planning to get on dry land in Kauai in the a.m. So we get our drinks and head to the Heavenly Clouds. It's sprinkling as we walk up the stairs and a minute or two after we're there a proper tropical downpour proceeds. I don't recall how long we were stuck up there, but more than we bargained for. We were lucky to be back by midnight and my memory is a bit fuzzy now so I could've been up later.

I was pretty wrecked when I woke at 7 a.m.ish and was on the fence about even going on the planned trip to the Waimea Canyons then the beach with my parents at 8:30. I saw my Uncle Al was vaping some medicine on his balcony, so I went for a pep talk with him through which I realized how much I needed to get in the ocean. This is also where the Hawai'i hospitality started to really pay. They're so organized and smooth getting you off the ship and to the rental car place. Shuttles are running every ~2 minutes so you barely need to stop walking. We get to the car rental and I see the famous golden roosters for the first time. This is where I'd insert those pics, but you'll have to use your search engine of choice or imagination.

Kauai may be the most scenic Hawaiian island, it's where a good chunk of Jurassic Park was filmed and the scenery for sure nurtured my Jurassic heart. We stopped at a grocery store where I picked up Kauai Kombucha and Kimchi, Rice Crackers, 19th green mix and some local guava candy. We drove west down the coast until Route 552 where we turned north toward the Waimea Canyon look out. The more traveled road is 550 to the east, if you make this trip, drive up 552 and down 550. At the entrance of 552, there was a papaya farm, where I scooped 3 small papaya, a bunch of apple bananas 23 and 3 tangerines. The SCOBY, fruit and sweet, salty, carbs had me coming back to life.

So we get to the look out, park on the side of the road and walk a couple hundred meters up the road to the vista. As it turns out, the state bezzle charges $5 and only accepts plastic, not "legal tender". The plastic had been left in the car, but as we're regaining our bearings on what the next move is, some lady walks up to us and says, "I'm only going to be 5 mins, I'll give you my ticket when I come out." "Alright, cool." As it turns out, there was a stand with a solid salesman dealing fruit and baked goods. I scooped a bag of lychees, a box of starfruit and a sack of super delish banana spring rolls. Win. A couple people asked me what this furry looking red thing I was biting in to was and were glad to learn that's what the thing they were drinking in their martinis looks like off the tree. Anyways, lady delivered the ticket and the state got skimmed for being stupid. Of course we passed it on when we were leaving on the condition the recipients pay it forward.





You kind of get the picture from the above, but please go see it for yourself. It's for sure worth it.


The failure to back up most hurts here. The culture warrior above was really impressive. When I got up there, my parents started talking to him and asked him about hunting, given his pike. He said they hunt small black tail deer, about 100lbs, but the unique beast they go after are wild bulls called the Hawaiian moose. These aren't rodeo bulls raised by cowboys, these are wild from birth.

Then he gathered the ~250 people at the vista around and gave a presentation. He explained the peaks to the north of the canyon is a mountainous swamp that averages over 350 inches of rain annually, is one of the wettest locations on earth and has more endangered species than all of North America 24. Then he broke down the etymology of Hawai'i : wai 25 means fresh water, ha means breath and i means consciousness. Control of the fresh water meant power on the islands, the elites went upstream and the seat of the Hawaiian kingdom were those mountains. While they're hunting and exploring in the canyon, they regularly find artifacts from their ancestor's civilization. Hawai'i : breath, fresh water and consciousness. Pretty cool, eh ?

Then he broke down the etymology of aloha, which he said has hundreds of interpretations, but literally : alo means sharing the present and ha as above means breath so aloha is the recognition of sharing the gift of the present breath with another.

He then showed us his conch and explained how they were vital communication tools. First, he demonstrated a long monotonous call which signaled meal time to those in the canyons. Then he demonstrated an alternating call which signaled the danger of an invader on the horizon of the sea. Shells were placed at strategic locations in the canyons to facilitate the spread of the calls throughout the island. Leaving home without your shellphone could mean you miss out on the fun of battle and wind up on the losing end of the raping and pillaging.

He went on to explain that hula dancing was originally a war dance only performed by men. In more recent times, these Hawaiians learned it's much more effective to have pretty girls in skirts do the dancing and figure out how to trade rather than fight.

This is where it starts to get interesting. He smoothly changes gears and says that recently, according the state laying claim to the park, the presentation he delivered us was illegal. He pointed to his woven donation basket for the first time and said that due to him putting a basket on the ground and sharing information about his culture, the state claimed he was a vendor and required a license to perform.

So he challenged it, he said, "Your honor, the prosecutor must establish jurisdiction. Show me the law." The state delayed, and delayed, and delayed and delayed and buddy went to court five times and on the fifth time, the judge dismissed the case. So he said "Wait a minute, if he doesn't have it now, he never had it. It's not like his dingo ate the law." The culture warrior goes on to explain that this whole charade sparked his curiosity and based on his study, Hawai'i was never legally annexed by the gringos.

He qualified all this, saying, "Don't just believe a guy on top of a mountain wearing a grass skirt. Do your own research."

Now, I had recorded what he said and told him I'd transcribe and publish it here and gave him my card, told him he could leave comments answer questions, etc. Given the disaster my stupidity caused, the above isn't verbatim 26, but I preserved the spirit of what he said and hope it's clarified in the comments. I didn't do the research because I don't really care if Hawai'i is part of USia or not. While they may, for some time, have benefited from the current arrangement, it's not a secret to anyone with a wit how tenuous the USKorea and the currency it relies on is. Hawai'i is certainly not like any other state and as long as they let me back to enjoy their beautiful landscape, welcoming, accommodating and competent tourist culture and keep the hula girls dancing, I care not one whisker what flag they fly.


Continuing on. Above, canyon view from route 550; below, sincerely yours.



Above as below, ocean view with with wavy grass on 550 descending.


Emerging from the surf of kekaha beach.



In theory, I ought to have gone to sleep the night of the 2nd. However, the Kombucha, Kimchi, day in the sun and sand, and aloha spirit had me high. So I went to say hi to people. What started in the champagne lounge moved to the heavenly cloud and by the time we rally to Mardi Gras and I roll in to find it's motherfucking Latin night. I realized it's going to be a while before sleep and catch my 8th wind to represent Panama salsa. Long story short I danced a lot of salsa 27 and spoke a lot of Spanish with a group from Monterrey. They were savvy enough to get a bottle of wine and champagne at closing which I got sucked into draining with them. These Monterrey Mexicans talk a lot of shit, like the shit talkin' I'm used to being from New England, so we all kept it real and got along well. I got the invites to visit.

By 3 or 4 I'd had my fun with them and was in the mood for some gangster rap before calling it a night. I had brought my laptop out to DJ Latin beats in the champagne lounge after they kicked us out of Mardi Gras and headed up to the smoking deck. As I approached I heard it was loud up there and as I walk up the steps, Zak Danger was posted up by himself with Rick Ross Push It To The Limit 28 blasting. He sees me and says, "You want to hear some hacker shit ? Felix, from Montreal, has a Huawei phone with universal remote." He points to the TV and says, "He just changed the channel to some Japanese movie, changed the music to Rick Ross, said he was going to bed and bounced."

At that point we did the obvious thing and went to the Cadillac diner - open all night - ate diner food and crushed Arnold Palmers. Zak's from Cali, so on the walk there, I dug out a west cost hip hop gem from my middle school days, Gangster Nation by Westside Connection that Zak for sure wasn't expecting me to bring out given he'd pretty much only seen me wearing a suit and tie, including at that moment. Shrugs.


We had till 1pm in Kauai the next day. I didn't really sleep in, but as soon as I was up I was on a mission for Kombucha. There's a nice little beach next to the market by the port where I hung out for a while.

Upon departing port, we headed to the north coast of Kauai, the Hanalei coast, where dragons live by the sea and frolic in the autumn mist. As we were moving north, then west, there was rain on the coast, which some noobs thought would spoil the majestic views, but a barkeep informed me is better since there are more waterfalls after it clears.


Above, the double rainbow went all the way across the sky. Below, Kauai in the background, double rainbow in the mid ground and younger and older in the foreground.



So intense. The baddest motherfucking rainbow I've ever seen.


I reached for the pot of gold a the end of the rainbow during the golden hour and it paid off 29.



Hawai'i rum punch was the last drink served on the cruise. I only ordered it to order it, I had like 3 sips.


Last late night Cadillac diner meal.



Above is the Camaro I rented 30 Below, Felix and Emilie from Montreal. I paid for the car, they paid for the parking and the sushi. After we exchanged invites for Montreal, Killington and Panama.



Emilie said she's a sushi snob 31 and this Doraku is the best she's had. I don't know what else she's had, but it melted in the mouth.






We walked the beach after. And got a pineapple filled with juice, then back filled with kombucha.


Then we picked up something to smoke from Unco 32 and sat in the park and made a fire.


No children played with lighters in the making of this article.


Well positioned ladder trucks just in case negligent parents are letting their children play with lighters... Shhh !! The Fireman comin', whatchya gon do now ?


More kombucha. In Oahu I only found imports, nothing locally grown like in Kauai.



Standing on Waikiki wave breakers with Diamondhead Mountain in the background.











From another pier.



Kids just doing laps jumping off the pier, running up to jump off again.






The only filth on Waikiki was the predominately white trash, mentally retarded, homeless. I don't know if there's any plans to clean up the trash, but I was called a filthy whore by a toothless, shoeless... no she wasn't a whore, whores have money, something else. I think it must've been my posture that triggered her, despite being tired, my shoulders were back and I was breathing well. Aloha and all that.





Sidewalk waterfall and pedestrian street views. It tripped me out a bit how orderly the pedestrian flow is. First night I went to the chino for something. No cars in sight in any direction and people are waiting for the crosswalk light. In Panama, I walk through moving traffic as standard course. I was like, WHAT ARE THESE NERDS DOING WAITING. While I was still jay walking at the end, whatevs, the orderliness was quite pleasant. I will point out that my exposure to chaos did save a lady from crashing into me while driving. We were about even, her in the furthest left lane and me second from right on the four lane highway going into town, where we were simultaneously merging into the lane between us. She never saw me, and I saved her blind spot from a crash and a bad day. You're welcome lady.





Standard, well stocked ABC stores are on every other corner. Look for the local section for the goods. A package of soft cuttlefish caught my eye, which I picked up and nourished with. The clerks are all happy and are actually focused on doing their job well. Different country.








Kombucha, alkaline rain water, snacks, cigar and sunset.


Thanks for being you Hawai'i, until next time, aloha.

P.S. "There is no we, there is only V."


P.P.S. Ayo whaack, is this the beginner type wave you have in mind for lobbes ?


  1. 50% holding passports is generous []
  2. Originating in Franklin county Illinois - pre-War of Northern Aggression it gets a bit foggy and the Smith maiden name may have been assumed by a particular character - my people on this trip converged from Panama, Vermont, Long Island, Maryland, Florida, Illinois and New Mexico. []
  3. You know how elite military crews do "hell" week where they get sleep deprived and do a bunch of difficult tasks to separate the wheat from the chaff ? For me, a ~sleepless week in a tropical paradise aboard a floating city was something of a heaven week. []
  4. Way more than a shitload for those counting at home. []
  5. I originally brought it because I typically travel with my edgerouter, plug in downstream from modem and sit on ethernet with static IP. I didn't know how flaky the WiFi on the ship would be, nor if I had to debug my wpa_supplicant or dhcpcd configs. I plopped down the ~$350 for unlimited bandwidth over 2 devices and never had a problem with the lappy. []
  6. The general approach moving forward is to set aside these, "eat this exercise ball in one bite" articles and shift to the live blogging approach, which'll cause more frequent backups. []
  7. Not to be confused with United Statist. []
  8. Cruising this time of year means a lot of families, which means a fair share of old people, but plenty jovencitas. []
  9. The brain damaged 21yo drinking law the failed colonies has maintained so far aside, the bummer here is the last bar open, Mardi Gras, closed at 2am. The degeneratesavvy ordered bottles at last call. []
  10. The latter is at least what one of the barkeeps explained. He said he'd not work on another ship []
  11. At which point in the writing I'm pretty well irritated the bones of my Fabled Outlines lack meat to link to. []
  12. If you get caught smoking anywhere else, it's a big fine and they basically throw you overboard since fire is one of, if not the biggest, danger on the ship. Maybe they don't throw you overboard these days, but just go smoke with the smokers and have a chat. []
  13. If any NCL people read this, consider renaming the smoking deck to "Heavenly Clouds" or something along those lines. The ship is Pride of America after all and the late Bill Hicks is one of that country's greats. Know your audience, playing Hicks tapes from the 90s will keep asses in seats among that crowd today. []
  14. The go to drink my that has kept my paternal grandmother alive pushing 98. Two parts Canadian Whiskey, one part sweet vermouth and cherry juice in lieu of the traditional bitters. []
  15. Daughter, not pictured, was 17. []
  16. A New Orleans drink named after the 75mm cannon the French placed there during the war of 1812. 1.5oz gin, 0.75oz lemon juice, 0.75oz simple syrup, fill the remainder of the champagne flute with champagne of course. []
  17. Maybe I'm weird for drinking grandma drinks or maybe my grandma's are kinda cool ? I dunno nor care really, decide for yourself. []
  18. Her parents were at the table and she wouldn't deal them in ! []
  19. So get this : they had this new fangled deck where one of the wild cards is make your own rule and another wild card is switch all your cards with mine. So I draw the make your own rule wild card and I dunno wtf to do, so I solicit help and auntie suggests, "Gimme all your wild cards." "Sounds good." One of the wild cards I get is give me all your cards. I hold this one till UNO and play it last. Did I go out and win since I don't have any cards to trade with her ? Or did I lose since she's to give me her cards ? Can I exercise half the option and deny delivery ? Asking for a friend. []
  20. Where screwdrivers and BudLight (burp) is more the norm. []
  21. Maybe a record setter ? []
  22. Kinda like sunburn, 'cept from booze and on the inner skin of your digestive tract rather than your outer wrapper. Urbandictionary apparently doesn't know about it, but I didn't make it up. (Sincerely : I don't usually drink much at all and DD'd plenty of times while in VT. []
  23. The small sweet ones. []
  24. Not as if it's so easy to map, similar to the ocean floor. Seems to me it's basically direct cloud to river fountainhead. []
  25. I later learned mea means reddish, so Waimea means reddish water. []
  26. Dingo and gringo are artistic license I took. []
  27. The girls were pretty pretty, but pretty noob dancers, but it was fine because when you're a girl you just have to follow a man who knows how to lead. []
  28. Not the song I'd have thought to pick, but probably perfect. []
  29. I for sure had a lot of fun that night starting off telling people I found a coin on the ship that afternoon. I let them hold it, first time most had touched precious metal. When they asked where, showing them the picture and the technique I used to extract it. Laughs were had. []
  30. In Hawai'i there's more cars than people. They automagically upgraded me. []
  31. I said, you mean you have refined tastes ? []
  32. Local slang for anything on the BM. Unco asked if we were cops, and Felix clarified he's Canadian. []

November 14, 2019

Life on the Isthmus, 83 months in.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robinson Dorion @ 09:22

November 2019 marks my 83rd month living in Panama City of the isthmian Republic of Panama. I arrived a month prior to my 23rd birthday which means I'm about 100 days away from turning 30. As such, the majority of my adult life and over 20% of my life in total has been spent here, unavoidably making a marked impact on who I am1. Why I immigrated here and why I intend to stay for the foreseeable future will be covered in this article. This isn't about why you should come or stay away -- it's an overview of my subjective experience -- judge for yourself and drop me a comment if there's anything you'd like clarified or an important aspect you reckon I've overlooked.

First the context for why I chose Panama in the first place.

When I arrived in January 2013 I was on a mission working the best opportunity I was aware of. Where I was living was only important in the scope of how it would help support the prosecution of that mission. Worn out by the island nonsense, Panama's prospects were relatively bright: a competitive offshore banking industry, six month tourist visa for gringos, and centrally located in the geography of the western hemisphere.

My colleague Ashe and I took a six month lease on the first apartment we looked at and set up shop. We continued our hunker of grinding on our work and didn't get out much the first six months. The bank prevented us from dealing directly with clients in our country of residence2 as the brokers were never required to obtain any sort of securities license.

After another year working the bank, I upgraded my mission upon correcting my evaluation to recognize the centralized nature of so-called offshore banking and learning enough about Bitcoin and Coinapult to take a job with the later in February 2014. Coinapult's office was across town, which caused me to hire a driver who picked me up everyday at 5am so I could avoid the traffic3. After 8 months of that commute, I moved within walking distance. By March 2015, Coinapult folded, but unlike all the other gringos who worked the company, I stayed. So, why ?

While, Panama has made others of note and assuredly more refined tastes than your author ill, I've learned to like it.

Tú sabes, Panamá: corvina, patacones, ron Abuelo con agua de pipa, comida mala, tiempo peor, La India jodiendo Dormida, Panamá4.

The first difficulty that'll hit you when you step from plane to jetway will be a wall of humidity. Panama City has two season: less sunny and more humid5 and more sunny and slightly less humid6. The temperature stays between ~23-33 degrees C and humidity between 80 and 90%. During rainy season mornings are typically bright, cool and pleasant, evenings clear with an afternoon storm ~5 days a week. The thunder and lightning can be quite impressive, with thunder seemingly setting off car alarms and chains of lightning that span the sky. Summer can pass months without rain7 and the high skies bring more breeze to provide relief. While visitors are prone to shock from the heat and humidity, I've acclimated to not pay it much mind8. So you bring an umbrella when you hit the street May-November, deal with breaking a light sweat when you walk across town midday9 by throwing your suit coat over your shoulder10 and hit the A/C to knock out the humidity a few times a day11. While the city is hot and humid enough the cooler mountainous areas like El Valle de Anton12 and Cerro Azul13 are accessible enough14.

The local food culture is quite rudimentary and so-called restaurants tend to pay waiters as opposed to servers15. The relatively strong dollar against other fiats makes Panama relatively expensive in the region with restaurant prices comparable or more expensive to North American and Europe. The relatively weak dollar in dollar terms16 combined with Panama's cooling economy generally means the streets are much quieter and restaurants much emptier17 than they were a decade or two back -- so I'm told.

Why is the economy continuing to cool you ask ? Like most things, it's multi-faceted. The high-level summary of my understanding is gaining control of the canal combined with Greenspan/Bernanke/Yellen artificially low interest rates fueled a ~2 decade real estate boom that's run out of legs. Meanwhile, the competitive advantage Panama earned from a well advised legal asset protection regime has been eviscerated by outside pressure from the virtual fiat banking system. Trade volume in the Colon Free Trade Zone trade has fallen by 1/3 measured in nominal dollars since 2012. These cooling pressures have been offset somewhat by the canal expansion project, incentives for multinational corporations to headquarter here and relatively friendly immigration laws.

The Panama Canal Authority gained full control of that 7th wonder of the world after USG control phased out from 1977-1999 and much of the Canal Zone has become privatized18. The 10 year expansion project19 was finished in 2016. While in 2018, the canal transits were down20) ~3.5% from 201021, cargo tonnage was up 24.5%22 and tolls were up nominally 74%23 It doesn't go without saying that virtual measuring stick misnamed dollars had its M1 diluted from ~$1.6T to ~$3.6T (125% (!!!)) over the same period because those counting at home already knew that. I dare you to price those revenues in the numeraire you ought to be using, the BTC, which experienced even greater inflation that the fed's thingamajig. The bottom line is, over the past decade they've moved more tonnage for less purchasing power.

For another data point on the logistics side, the Colon Free Trade Zone at the Caribbean entrance of the Canal has seen trade volume drop from $30B in 2012 - $19B by 201624 and was $20.5B in 201825. I'm embarrassingly not intimate with the causes here, but word on the street is trade has fallen off as the Venezuelan socialist shitfest continues to deteriorate combined with the Chinese and US establishing more direct trade routes with Colombia26.

To paint a picture of the real estate bubble, up until 1996, there were 2 buildings taller than 30 stories27. Today, there are 38 taller than 40 stories, 13 of which are greater than 60 stories. This looks cool in pictures, but the facts on the ground are the skyline frames a mostly hollow interior. I didn't find vacancy statistics published, but it's not unheard of for office and apartment buildings to remain 50% unoccupied and hotels are fortunate to have 30% occupancy28. From my perch, this bubble has been fueled by the primary cause of all bubbles: artificially low interest rates29, and is primarily being popped because former influxes of foreign capital that were attracted by Panama's formerly competitive legal self-defense mechanisms have since peaced out with those mechanism being eviscerated and secondarily because they've already overbuilt.

Before we get into the opportunities this may present, let's explore the problem further. In terms of the capital flight, back before Bitcoin started eating the world30, tax neutral banking was a thing and Panama had a multifaceted legal framework that proved to be competitive for those who execute plans for self-defense. Sociedad Anonimas with Bearer Shares, the Panamanian Private Interest Foundation, zero capital gains tax, territorial taxation, no central bank or legal tender laws attracted substantial foreign capital for a country with a population of 3 million. The 2008 bubble that had to burst was a crisis not wasted by Hussein Bahamas and fellow bureaucrats of western demonocracies. Sure, it wasn't the first bankruptcy they've declared and won't be the last and like the others, they attacked individual privacy and continued to pressure the financial institutions they license to divulge more information. FATCA was passed by the failed European colonies in 2010 and yurop followed through with CRS31 in 2014 ; with access to the virtual corresponding banks who remit the monopolized virtual fiats32 as the sword of Damocles held to the neck of the smaller virtual banks in the smaller fiat jurisdictions. Despite reluctantly falling in line as the socialist continued their invasion33, the Isthmian Republic continues to have an on-again off-again relationship with various gray and black lists. The tradition seemingly to be on-again as an inauguration gift to each incoming administration, with 201934 being no different. As everyone expected, substantial has capital walked away to take better deals and 'all of a sudden' more lawyers were seeing less fees for corporations and foundations and introductions to banks for new accounts.

So what does a bursting bubble look like ? Deals can be found today, though you've got to hunt for them. In my experience, for whatever reason, many owner's would rather leave a rental vacant for months, sometimes years, at a price that may have been filled in the market 3 years ago but is quite a ways away from today's market reality than have the apartment filled and cash flowing. Older buildings tend to have higher quality construction than the boom time shiny (!) high rises. Also, you're more likely to find a longer term owner who owns it outright rather than has it mortgaged. $4-6/square meter monthly payment deals35 are available at present on the rental market36. I've lived near the city center my entire time, namely in El Cangrejo37, Punta Pacifica38, Paitilla39, San Francisco40, Coco del Mar41 and Obarrio42. In my scale of values, Marbella is the other neighborhood I'd consider living. It's west of Obarrio and spans from Calle 50 to Avenida Balboa on the water. Other neighborhoods I'll note here that are rather towns on their own are Costa del Este43, Casco Viejo44 and El Dorado45.

On the brighter side, Panama has maintained a more competitive stance attracting immigration of companies and people who run those companies or otherwise. A wise decision that's mitigated the logistics, real estate and financial contractions has been the Multinational Headquarter law first implemented in 2007, which provides substantial tax46 and labor47 law incentives to qualifying companies. Over 150 such companies48 have obtained the license and many of which operate their Latin American headquarters under it. In a country with ~3 million and a city with ~1.5 million, ~12k residency visas for employees of multinationals and ~21k friendly nations visas49 have been issued since 2012.

Since finding Bitcoin, I've not looked hard for employment with more traditional companies. On the one hand, there are less opportunities in the market, but on the other hand quality skill and work ethic do tend to be scarce. The future will tell how good of a decision that has been, but for better and worse that's my advantage/problem. What I can tell you is once you have a residency, work permits or operations license for your corporation are a few hundred bucks and some forms.

In terms of the general picture here moving forward, the Torrijos50 political line was re-elected in this year with Laurentino Cortizo becoming the newest president. They were last in power 2004-2009 and there are high hopes of a turn around and return of the boom in the streets. As I understand, their agenda priorities include bringing transparency to the spending of the public purse51, making labor laws more agreeable to management, and emphasizing tourism52 and technology as emerging economic drivers to fill the hole in the chest of the golden goose the socialists' attack on licensed capital has made.

What they mean by technology isn't exactly clear to me. As far as I've seen, they're complete infected by the cultural cancer of tvphones. Cuckerburg and Bahamas were down here in 2015 shortly after Facegram acquired Whatbook for $20B or whatever it was. As far as I understand, since then, all the data used by usg.fb apps and twatter are 'phree' to the end luser, which has made whatsapps' use in particular ubiquitous53, primarily as an asynchronous walkie talkie54. I tend to think they mean fast food technology. While I've received numerous complements when I flash my Nokia feature phone55 I can tell by looking at their faces that to not have whatsapp would be like shooting their family, friends and dog. On the other hand, ~no one has known the meaning of my GPG fingerprint on my business card. There are even several OTC brokers56 here that trade several BTC at a time over whatsapp.

I'm currently of the position that sane computing is desirable politically, but to date, those with a chance to matter have allowed themselves to be DDOSed from learning what sane technology is. To a degree, this is understandable. The good 'ol days of competing globally on the strong privacy and asset protection front are sorely missed57 ; the back office management of the information was largely paper based while the front office was largely face to face58. My understanding is computers weren't necessarily central to the business. What is keeping me here on this isthmus is the opportunity I see to be useful in working with select individuals to better understand their computing environment to help them bridge the gap from the current socialism to sound money, sane computing and personal sovereignty through digital security.

  1. While I've spent more time in my childhood environment of Vermont's green mountains, I didn't choose to be born there. I've chosen to live here. You see the difference ? []
  2. Commission splitting agreements weren't prohibited, but also weren't encouraged. I believe I had some, but it never made up any substantial part of my book. Looking back, capitalizing on this to a greater extent would've been smart, but what can you do except learn ? []
  3. 'El tranque' in local parlance. On the one hand, it's a big fat tragedy of the commons problem with too many free roads and cheap financing for vehicles. On the other hand, observing the traffic tells you a lot about Panama itself. Traffic laws aren't strictly enforced and open space is filled to keep it fuckin' moving. Ever had a taxi drive 300 meters on the wrong side of a side street to bypass a 100 car line up ? Yeah, he'll pull over onto the sidewalk should oncoming traffic pressure him to, only to continue when it has passed. How many minutes did he save you ? He'll be more than pleased with a $1 tip on the standard $2 fare (never metered), believe me. []
  4. You've seen Snatch, yes ? []
  5. From May-November with October bringing the most rain. []
  6. From December-April []
  7. Can be a problem towards the end of summer if the hydro power reservoirs are low. []
  8. Perhaps this is an effect of growing up in America's northeast as an athlete where I'd shovel the driveway and shoot hoops past my hands being numb (makes it easier when you're in the gym), where baseball games could be snowed out midseason (or played through a light snow shower) and you're excited to buckle on the your chinstrap and shoulder pads during football's double sessions in the middle of August's hot, humid 15 hour days. That is, what you're doing is more important than what the weather is and if it sucks -- embrace the suck, winning will be that much better. []
  9. Walking mornings and evenings doesn't cause my skin to leak and I walk pretty much daily. For sure it's more of a driving than walking culture, but ~everyone apart from gringo tourists wears pants (and usually sleeves too) year round whether they're walking or not. []
  10. Wherever your destination is will likely be cold with locals pumping A/C like it's their job, so do guard against being cold inside. []
  11. I sleep fine with a ceiling fan and only occasionally run the A/C at night. []
  12. ~140 km drive from the city to the west. []
  13. ~41km drive to the east. []
  14. For that matter, San José, Medellín, Bógota and David in Panama's westernmost province of Chiriquí are all 1-2 hr flights away. []
  15. Cause they wait more so than serve, geddit ? On the one hand, this may annoy you, on the other, they're not going to be bugging you and won't care if you sit and talk for an hour after your meal prior to asking for the bill. They're not going to ask you, you've got to ask for it. A 10% tip is standard. []
  16. With all the Venezuelan style in principle inflation these past decades, the dollar hasn't bought a nickel for some time and how many bucks to buy a buckskin these days is an exercise for the reader. []
  17. The supply of cafes, restaurants and bars has at least tripled over the past decade I'd say. []
  18. The zone was an unincorporated US territory until 1979 and USG formerly headquartered SoComm here, cutting the country in two geographically. []
  19. So get this: instead of reusing the original design of the original canal which chains the ships to locomotives to guide them through the locks, in the expanded locks they use... tugbots. 15 of the 700 (~2% !!) transits of the expanded locks experienced damages the first 6 months. With the bigger ships there is less room for error, yet they chose the design with less stability. []
  20. Source: Georgia Tech University, Panama via The Panama Canal Authority. ( []
  21. 14,230 in 2010 to 13,795 in 2018 []
  22. ~204M vs ~255M tons 2010-2018. []
  23. ~$1.5B vs ~$2.6B 2010-2018. []
  24. Source: Georgia Tech University, Panama via National Institute of Statistics and Census of Panama (INEC) (archived). []
  25. Source: Georgia Tech University, Panama via National Institute of Statistics and Census of Panama (INEC) (archived). []
  26. Dem COPs have been getting ragdolled these past years too. []
  27. Sourced via Wikipedia. []
  28. The oversupply of hotel rooms lead to a law prohibiting short-term rentals. Short-term rentals of course can be found. []
  29. In the 90s the Effective Fed Funds Rate was above 5% most of the time and only briefly touched below the 3 handle by a whisker in December '93; compared to these last decades where 5% was only breached those few fateful months in autumn 2007. []
  30. There's a Trilema quote about Bitcoin being an eater of worlds, but I wasn't able to track it down. If you recall it, please link me ! []
  31. They signed onto this "Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement" with 97 other countries which means they all automagically give the information they have on you to whatever other country claims you. []
  32. I don't have to tell you it's some one and zeros on some server plugged somewhere 'in teh cloud', you know all about that I'm sure. Tell me again how US-no-longer-dollars or GB-no-longer-pounds are fundamentally different than WoW Gold ? I know, I know, only weirdos and children have WoW Gold, whereas ... []
  33. The so-called Panama Papers (The leaky law firm was global and the majority of corps in the dump were BVI.) scandal (It certainly is scandalous to allow your client db and emails to leak from a derpy wordpress.), the stick up of Waked and the multi-decade attack on a fundamental characteristic -- fungibility -- of what competes to become the market's most marketable good were big raids in 2016. []
  34. Word on the street is the 2014 gray listing lead to the loss of upwards of 70 (seven zero) virtual fiat correspondent accounts. How you like 'dem apples ? []
  35. Encuentra24 and OLX are the primary online entry points locals use. Craigslist is essentially dead here apart from gringos not knowing the better places to look. I've also walked through the neighborhoods I'm interested in and asked the guards about vacancies in the buildings that appeal. []
  36. I've not considered buying here, would rather save the BTC, you know ? []
  37. Central, older, commercial, residential, very walkable. []
  38. Coastal, central but a bit isolated, more expensive. I only lived there to walk to the Coinapult office. []
  39. Coastal, residential, more central than Punta Pacifica. This is the primary Jewish neighborhood with 2 temples. It's a great walking neighbor on it's own and is adjacent to La Cinta Costera park which stretches the coast ~3km to Casco Viejo. []
  40. East Central, easy to walk, mix of commercial, restaurants and residential. Parque Omar forms San Francisco's northern hat. []
  41. Coastal sliver east of San Francisco. Very residential. []
  42. The most central neighborhood it lies between Via España and Calle 50, two primary tranque arteries. It's a blend of commercial and residential. The metro follows Via España so there tends to be a lot of foot traffic. []
  43. A relatively newer development between the city center and airport, best accessible via ~5km toll road. Many multinationals are headquartered here. []
  44. The primary nightlife and tourist destination west of the city center. []
  45. 5km North of the city center, this is Panama's China Town. While Chinese are ~everywhere in the world, they have a long history here, first as imported labor for the Canal. Every neighborhood (And every town in the interior I've visited for that matter) has multiple bodega's referred to as Chinos. []
  46. Not only in terms of corporate, but also executive compensation. []
  47. One of the more onerous labor laws is 9 of 10 employees are supposed to be Panamanian. There are traditional ways around this such as an employee contracting through a company he owns or having a consulting agreement that's less binding than an employment contract. []
  48. Archived version of original pdf. []
  49. Implemented in 2012, citizen of 50 countries are eligible. I obtained this visa in 2014 by a) forming a corporation, b) depositing $5k in a local bank (which can be immediately withdrawn), and c) submitting various documents along with the application including a police background check from your country of origin. It was really a piece of cake and provides me lifetime permanent residency status with the option to apply for naturalization after 5 years. []
  50. You know, the guy that managed to negotiate control of the canal with that Georgian nobody cares to remember. []
  51. Former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) was extradited from Miami on corruption charges after fleeing shortly after his term was over. []
  52. Primarily focusing wellness - e.g. medical tourism, adventure, ecology - e.g. vegan hunting stuff like bird watching, and digital nomads. []
  53. I wonder how much dirt on public officials, etc. has been collected and sent north for sillycon valley and co analysis.. []
  54. Who wants to type with thumbs when they can talk ? Who needs to read when they can watch the tv movie ? "People who don't want to end up being fuckin' waffle waitresses, that's who !" []
  55. Complete with flashlight, thank you very much! []
  56. The OTC market has some depth. Some volume is settled via internal bank transfers, but cash is king here. []
  57. And the imposed change deeply resented. []
  58. Even today I understand this to be so in some cases. []

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