Would you spend $3000 in Bocas del Toro, Bastimentos Island, for a month of services without having a clue what these services really are? Or for an unspecified "miracle drink" that cures anything from cancer to impotence? You probably wouldn't, but that's what one Bruce Crosby, a US expat living in Bocas, offers on his "Panama Minor Miracle" website.
On his site, Crosby claims he worked as a computer expert until last year when he retired to Panama. Once here, he teamed up with a guy called "Minor". They have secret drinks together, some sort of seeds which are ground and mixed with water. On their website, they claim that this drab helps to lower bad cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and balance blood sugar (diabetes). prevent cancer, arterial sclerosis, and coronary thrombosis, fight breast, lung and prostate cancer, control obesity, cravings and some allergies, improve mental function, diminish inflammation and liquid retention, develop a healthy baby before birth. As if this isn't enough, Crosby then writes that the stuff can be used to treat menopause, impotency, constipation, skin and hair problems and premenstrual symptoms. A sort of noni type of stuff.
The site then has some pages with the usual Bocas promotion, and then they come around to make the reader a strange and suspicious offer:
"So here's the deal. Use the "Let's Talk" tab to arrange to meet Minor and me on the deck of the Pirate Bar in Bocas for beers. Then you tell us what you really want and Minor will tell you if he can provide it. If you like what you hear give Minor $3000 (cash please) and he'll give you a prepaid cell phone and your first pound of Minor Miracle grind. Then for the next 30 days use your cell phone to contact Minor or me or our call center so that we may:
Arrange your entertainment.
Translate for you.
Keep you supplied with Minor Miracle grind."
The call center is "staffed with natives," the site says.
So, what is this miracle cure? And what is the "entertainment" worth $3000? Bruce Crosby won't tell us. We need to rely on his and his friend's "local knowledge" and of course the trust and mutual confidence that paying $3000 for an unknown product to a total stranger brings.
It gets even more intriguing on the contact page:
"Minor and I are selling local knowledge and connections combined with personalized service. Let's be frank -- with an entry price of $3000 we're selling a high-end service. The only way Minor and I can ever hope to prosper is by having you go home and tell everyone you know how good you feel and what a wonderful time you had. Minor Miracle grind will make you feel good. And Minor can arrange most anything that you might want in the way of entertainment -- all you have to do is ask for it. But please have enough common sense to wait until you're down here before you start asking for things that George or any of his friends in high places might find objectionable."
Miracles with Minors: Life with Bocas Boys
What are these "things" that "George or any of his friends in high places might find objectionable," we wondered? The website doesn't tell and Mr. Crosby did not answer repeated questions about it.
The answer lies in another section of the website, titled "My Story." After digging through 23 badly written chapters and viewing hundreds of pictures (some of them reproduced with this article) we were intrigued to learn that Mr. Crosby shares his accommodations on Bastimentos Island with several young local boys. Kids, actually. Various lines in Crosby's story grabbed our attention as they possibly reveal something about the nature of his relationship with these children, whom he calls "the magic boys":
"Bombo is my magic genie. Anything I need done I can ask Bombo and it's as good as finished. "Bombo go tell my school I'll have to miss my lessons today because of my sore leg." Instantly Bombo goes into motion, accomplishes the task, and returns in minimum time ready for the next assignment. Always of good cheer, always busy, Bombo is a dream come true. I went in the bathroom today to shave and there was Bombo in the shower with a mop scrubbing it with some kind of disinfectant."
"I had been living with Russo about 2 hours when he went walking by in a towel having obviously just taken a shower. About 4 hours later here he comes again wearing another towel. This catches my attention and he notices so he says to me matter-of-factly "I bathe." This presents an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity that is simply too good to pass up."
"My first night living with my three magic boys went fairly smoothly. About midnight I noticed that it had been quiet for awhile. So I got up and checked on the boys. Each one had fallen asleep wherever he had last been when his mainspring finally wound down. Bombo had actually managed to find his way into the lower bunk bed in the boys' room. Angelo was asleep on the couch in my room. Russo was asleep on my bed."
"Russo has magic hands. He can stop pain simply by touching you."
"So far every single boy-night has been spent at my home, only one boy-night has NOT been spent in my bedroom, and nearly half of all boy-nights have been spent in my bed!"
And on and on it goes. We're getting a pretty good idea what that "high-end service" may actually be. "Minor Miracle" obviously does not refer to some grounded rainforest seeds. The following really does leave very little room for interpretation:
"All my neighbors have boys -- nobody knows why -- it just turned out that way. All these boys treat my front yard as their own, a situation I encourage by giving away little packages of Oreo cookies most days. At first I handed them out as I practiced saying, "Here's some cookies for my friend ..." in Spanish and inserted their correct name. But now I just appear on my front porch and start throwing them in their general direction while they scream encouragement and scramble to get them. It's kind of like feeding peanuts to the animals at the zoo, only more fun. Of course I'd be arrested, commited, or at the very least investigated closely and then told to knock it off for such behavior in Estados Unidos. But as Minor likes to say when I point these differences out to him, "You're not in Estados Unidos Bruce! You're in Panama now and Panamenos don't like anyone telling them they can't do something!" Actually there are whole lists of things I can do down here that I'd be arrested for in Estados Unidos but I don't think I'll go into that here because George and all his friends in high places have a funny way of getting their noses bent all out of joint. Suffice it to say that if you're willing to take responsibility for your actions, Panamenos are willing to ignore them, up to a point."
Throwing cookies - yeah, right. We asked our contacts in US law enforcement if they were familiar with this character. Currently, the matter is being looked into or so we were told.