A couple of weekends ago, I got to take a little Sunday retreat up to Earth Lodge, an occurrence that isn’t all that foreign to me, a presence not all that surprising for the folks up the mountain. Earth Lodge, as is often the case, was hosting yet another fun-loving event on its serene and hippie-friendly front lawn. However, this time I’d come hungry for blood, my competitive spirit on heightened alert, my taste buds thirsty for…Brooklyn.
For those of you unfamiliar with Guatemala’s suds selection, for many years it basically boiled down to Gallo, which (like Budweiser or Michelob in the US) has several varieties that are fairly similar, or Brahva, the equivalent to Natural Lite. However, unlikely as it sounds, Guatemala has recently become a massive outlet for Brooklyn micro-brewed beer, imported into the country by none other than Mono Loco showman extraordinaire Boston Billy Burns, a Yankee-hater and world-class…cornholer.
Cornhole—that’s why I was arriving with a mean competitive streak. For those of you unfamiliar with cornhole, a beanbag game invented in the states, it is one of those “sports” that both yields a lot of poop-talking and is best played with a beer in hand. And this is why Boston Billy and his Brooklyn brew have suddenly entered the picture: Brooklyn was sponsoring the fourth annual tournament, with discounted beer and proceeds going to our favorite NGO, Las Manos de Christine.
Now, for yet another fact to clue you in on: When I was a resident of Earth Lodge, I was known to be one bad mammi-jamma on the cornhole boards. Some might even have said (at my heavy suggestion) “the best they’d ever seen.” However, like so many greats before me—Dan Marino, Ted Williams, Pistol Pete Maravich—I had never won the big one, never taken down the best Antigua had to offer. So, Brooklyn in hand, I attempted to remedy that situation.
What I learned that Sunday afternoon, however, is that without regular practice, as I had when living at the Lodge, skills diminish. All was going well. Emma and I had taken our first two games with relative ease, never really breaking a sweat. Then, we hit a buzz saw in competing couple, Bryant Hand (Las Manos founder and cornhole amateur at best) and Mari (Las Manos teacher and professional gardener). They smacked us around: 11-1.
Shaken but not completely stirred, we rested confident that we were still in this thing, a double-elimination type situation. Then, we had to match up against Boston Billy himself, and his wife Kate, hot off a win and rolling their way towards the finals. Kate was so cocky as to have played a couple matches with a baby strapped to her chest. They, too, handled us as if we were a pair of LeBron James clones in the 2011 playoffs. From there, I had no choice but to became a spectator, something akin to washed up has-been cheering from the sidelines.
In the end, it was the Cinderella team of Jeff Duncan (husband of Salina, the Las Manos leader), and Elias (a basketball-enthused Swede) who took down Billy and Kate in the finals. Handshakes were exchanged, celebratory and consolatory beers hoisted, and in the end, we all accomplished what we’d set out to do: Had a great time raising some cash for a great cause. On a mission to keep the spirits of us losers up, Drew (owner of Earth Lodge) made the rounds with Earth Lodge’s new freshly smoked cheeses on the house. It worked. thirty minutes after the tournament, pick-up games with side bets commenced and the heavy tension of stoic competition dissipated.
I love this about living in Antigua, a place with some serious business and equally as serious support happening. It seems just about every weekend something tremendous is going down, something both fun and philanthropic to be part of: Runs, barbecues, music shows. Without a doubt, swilling some Brooklyn brews over games of cornhole at Earth Lodge to raise money for Las Manos de Christine basically sums up the ultimate amalgamation of fundraising for me. I just wish all my friends, from Baton Rouge to Russia, could be part of it.
Until then, I'll keep you informed. Cheers.
In 2013, I took a year to work part-time and pursue a travel writing career on the side. Part of my mission was to explore the depths of one Central America's great tourist attractions and take from it what I could. These are thoughts on Antigua Guatemala.