On a lovely reent repeat visit to this gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage city, and the previous night, although on my various travels I’ve been hit up (and once literally stuck up) for cash, this one took the cake (the flan?). 

A local friend and I were enjoying a drink at one of Old Cartagena’s landmarks, the outdoor bar/restaurant Café del Mar (below), perched up on the ramparts of the 17th-century stone city walls. Afterwards, taking a slightly roundabout stroll over to a taxi stand, at one point we started down one particular block that was pretty much deserted.

Suddenly – WTF? – I heard my name being called from behind me. A pleasant-looking 30-something dude with a bit of a ‘stache started rattling off in Spanish – oh my god, you came back, so great to see you, don’t you remember me it’s Luis Fernando I brought you fish and lobster the last time you were here two years ago yadda yadda yadda…

Luis, Luis, Me Gotta Go

So. It’s happened to all of us, right? We meet someone who appears to know us but whom we can’t place?  We play along, in the hope that something would be said to light up the ol’ lightbulb over the ol’ noggin. Wasn’t happening.

And then, all of a sudden the happy patter switched gear. My wife is having a baby but there are complications and she needs a transfusion and B-negative blood is very rare here only private blood banks have it and they’re very expensive and I need to get together some money by 11:30 tonight or she could die…  All delivered with impressively glistening eyes and quivering lips.

I did my best to be sympathetic but frankly was getting pretty suspicious by this time. For one thing, given how my last visit here was set up, what this character was saying simply couldn’t’ve happened. So I pleaded bank card failure and managed to extricate myself with my own stricken look.

So how then did did he know my name and that I’d been to Cartagena two years earlier? The only way I can imagine is that he was actually up at Café del Mar eavesdropping on my friend and me. In Spanish, “cojones” can also mean “chutzpah,” and so at least for that, as well as a certain measure of creativity, I have to give credit to Luis Fernando, if that is indeed his real name.  It was admittedly an uncomfortable moment, but it did add to my repertoire of cocktail anecdotes.  So dude, wherever you are, this gringo says muchas gracias.




images| DPA, 2. Mari Versiani/Flickr