BLISTER 


;Love on the rocks, clearly no surprise. But barring the immediate availability of a white patent-leather straitjacket with rhinestones — and a padded room with padded cocktails — I'm going the more obvious route. I'm taking my love — the very same one that business-trip-lied to me, resulting in the most melodrama my mascara could muster — to the rocks. Or, more specifically, to a volcano that spits them.

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;God, I love symbolism.

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;Like a very special episode of The Facts of Life Goes Somewhere, Alan and I have booked a super-double-date trip with our good friends Taylor and Tim to the base of the Arenal volcano in the middle of Costa Rica, because that sounds relaxing, right? Talk of zip-line tours zip right through my ears, as do the words "hiking" and "water shoes." I have no idea what I'm doing.

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;"There's a hot spring with a bar in the middle of it," Taylor pitches with a slight Hispanic accent.

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;Oh, yes, I do.

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;Initially, things are going swimmingly, if you don't count the lethargic incompetence of the TSA (who make me remove said water shoes) and international travel in general. A three-hour trip in just 12 short hours, one bag of luggage lost? Awesome; pour me another.

;;We spend our first night in San Jose, because that's where the airport is, and are pleasantly surprised by the Hotel Santo Tomas, where we meet up with Tim and Taylor. Gorgeous tiles and high ceilings echo a Victorian haughtiness that seems other(second)worldly, smack-dab in the middle of a Third-World beans-and-rice nightmare, and I'm quite content to never leave the confines.

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;"Let's hook up in the morning to jacuze," Taylor creates a verb over my cocktail.

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;"OK, I'll see you in the Jacuzzi-poo," I'm even worse, spilling my cocktail.

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;The next morning, we're neck-deep in a cold Jacuzzi atop a rockpile that leads, by way of a tiled slide, into a kidney-shaped pool. Amid the gurgle of the not-calming bubbles I spot a sign, perhaps the sign I've been looking for my entire life: "Blocking the waterslide mouth will cause Jacuzzi to overflow."

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;"Oh. My. God," I fart an epiphany. "You're a waterslide mouth!"

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;"No, you are," etc.

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;But our respective slippery tongues aren't the reason we're here, and more quickly than you can say "danger zone" (there's a sign that reads that as well, tellingly), we're on our way to La Fortuna, our volcanic destination, to meet up with Larry and Gene, two Americans who run a gorgeous resort called Palo Verde. They set us up in our duplex cabin with a view of Alan's favorite, CNBC, and, oh yeah, the Arenal volcano, and boom, we're on vacation.

;;Well, not really. The resort's general manager, a super-hot 20-something local named Johann, is assigned to our every whim, which means that all of the jealousy that I secretly packed with my pain pills will somehow fall out of my luggage and into my mouth. We head out to dinner as a large group, and the alchemy of my emotional baggage and the pills contained within soon transform me from a chipper Natalie Green into an Under the Volcano Albert Finney.

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;"I am in hell," I Finney under my breath. "I mean, I don't eat shell … fish," I correct appearances.

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;The next day, Tim decides that he's game for a bungee jump from a crane into a shallow swimming pool, and Johann arranges it. My bitterness has only multiplied, as it is wont to do, and by the time Johann executes his jump (not as successful as Tim's, thankfully), I'm standing there in front of a video-camera lens providing scathing commentary and keeping Johann out of focus.

;;"All day, all day/Watch them all fall down/All day, all day/Domino dancing," I ;Pet Shop Boy. "This is a country full of rent boys, hmph."

;;And then, just that afternoon back at the resort, the Arenal volcano erupts its love rocks and everything changes. I'm happy again, and I even like Johann in that funny-straight-guy-who-has-posed-nearly-naked-in-a-local-gay-magazine kind of way. Is this what volcanoes are about?

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;"How old are you?" approaches an even hotter domino dancer, as I smoke on the patio.

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;"Thirty-four," I hate myself.

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;"Oooh, I think you look much younger," flirts Luis Miguel. "Your favorite color is yellow?" he asks, looking at my obnoxiously yellow watch. And the tides have turned. I love Costa Rica. This is what volcanoes are about.

;;"You are my muso," he oozes, snapping pictures of me with my own camera.

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;Or at least amusing.

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;Part of our visit to Palo Verde has been arranged around Larry and Gene's recent foray into a circuit party situation, minus the actual presence of a circuit. They've erected a bamboo bar (which, in typically American fashion, they've misspelled as the "Bambu Room"), and even staffed the bar with both Luis and Johann. A surprising number of knockoff-fashioned, floppy-haired gay locals show up, most gravitating just past Alan — who has a history of Hispanic magnetism — and to me. Sweet justice.

;;The hot springs follow the next day at a place called Baldi Springs.

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;"What time are we going to Baldi?" I quiz Taylor.

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;"Comb-over here and let's talk about it," he stabs my back and steals my brush.

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;Soon after, I'm throwing back margaritas, shirtless, in a communal pool of hot water — like a Wet 'n Wild for the Geritol/Vicodin set — quietly wondering why I've ever felt stress at all, why my life can't just be like this forever. Maybe it can.

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;Love on the rocks? I'll take it. Right here, under the volcano.

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com

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