MacRo LTD Blog

The Great South American Con Game

Sometimes you just have to leave the country to pull off the perfect scam!

So, my wonderful wife and I have just returned from a fabulous 2 week vacation that took us and three other Frederick County, Maryland couples from the heights of lost Inca city of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes to the Ecuadorian islands of the Galapagos. Yep, that makes 8 of us who made the journey: two doctors, a lawyer and a commercial real estate broker along with our brides … who I hasten to add have all accomplished more than the 4 of us guys combined … just ask them!

The trip was planned by these ladies nearly a year in advance.  It involved eleven airlines flights, two train rides, countless overland road miles … and 7 days aboard a lovely catamaran.

Both of these destinations were high priority bucket-list items for all the travelers.  None of us were disappointed in the least.

Since this a post for a commercial real estate blog, surely I can take a bit of space here to describe the features of the metropolitan areas, villages, farmland, open space and incredible terrain: lush, green, barren, steep, raging, spectacular, productive, quaint, unique and in some cases uninhabitable.

Our experiences included enjoying some of the best Peruvian delights that many only read about:  enjoying a scrumptious meal of “cuy” (aka Guinea Pig), alpaca steak and chewing handfuls of coca leaves throughout the day to adjust to altitudes over 10,000 feet.

Sailing through the Galapagos, we met up with all the UN-usual suspects: several varieties of giant tortoise, enormous and colorful land iguana who dutifully guarded their home turf, sea lions galore tending to their newly born pups, acres of wretched looking spiny sea iguanas dawned in more than 50 Shades of Gray, the fascinating Sally Lightfoot crabs and the renowned Blue Footed Boobies among a grand mixture of other unique bird species. I must confess, much to my bride’s dismay, I broke down and bought a t-shirt that says “I Love Boobies” … being the birds, of course!

Below the surface of the crystal blues waters that encompass the 130 volcanically induced islands, we swam with colorful fish, sharks, lobster, sea turtles, sea lions and those iguanas … they’re everywhere!

That about sums up the travelogue portion of this post.

One of the great lessons of the trip was that we learned how these unique creatures that Charles Darwin made famous found ways through generations of evolution to adapt to the harsh environments that their ancestors somehow stumbled (or floated) upon several millennia ago. Being there one learns how very clear the game of the Survival of the Fittest has played out.

The Galapagos Islands have experienced the introduction of many new species since their inception.  With few outside predators many of the different species of birds, reptiles, fish and sea lions have thrived.  Within each the fight for survival is more a game of threats and cons than actual battles to the death.  But it wasn’t until the trio of man, his rapidly reproducing goats and “tag-along” rats seriously threatened the delicate balance of that special ecosystem. Fortunately despite years of irregular funding from a historically unstable Ecuadorian government, there continues to be a growing population of supporters who have diligently tried to mitigate the threats from the outside world … but funding is so limited that the threats remain very real.

As in the case of the Incas’ nearly 500 year domination of the South American continent west of the Andes mountains, once established and the Incas too maintained their dominate position with a unique con game of subtle threats to keep their diverse empire of tribes in check rather than acts of war.  But all this ended when the outsiders arrived.  In the case of the Inca it was about 200 Spanish conquistadors in 1532 who conned an entire civilization with false promises into their ultimate demise.

This brings me to the title of this post.

In what Great South American Con Game did my crowd scheme up?

Well, it turns out that one member of our band of eight travelers, Dr. Casper E. Cline (known to most in our community as “Cap”), who has very recently retired from his well respected internal medical practice, celebrated a birthday the second day of our trip. The other seven members included his wife Nancy, Bob (the other doc) and Betsy Fisher, retired lawyer Jim and his bride Amy Clapp, and yours truly and my better 80% Nancy.

So … this idea came up among the group … (Okay, I’ll claim, as it has always been something I’ve wanted to do). What if, over the course of the 14 nights that we were in the southern continent, we threw as many birthday parties for Cap as we could?  I mean we’re all on vacation, and Cap isn’t getting any younger … why not celebrate a several birthdays in advance?

It seemed that while some may have been a bit reluctant, my enthusiasm didn’t wane.  So while in Peru, each night we walked into a new restaurant, our waitress was informed that we were celebrating a birthday for “Casper.”  Of course each restaurant was happy to oblige with a uniquely well candled decorated decadent dessert.  Things went great for the first 4 nights, where in most cases many of other patrons joined in with song as the restaurant staff delivered the flaming party favor to our table.

Incredibly, Cap seemed more surprised every night!

The fifth night out did present a potential problem, however, as we decided to return to the same establishment where we began the great birthday con … Now, I will not tell you Cap’s real age, but let’s just say he is a “bit” older than I am … and we both qualify for Medicare benefits.

Thinking creatively, I pulled the same waitress aside who served us that first night and told her that our friend had reached an age where he experiences short term memory lapses.  Consequently he does not recall the events of the last several days.  “Would you mind providing us with another birthday celebration?” I asked.

More than willing to compensate for Cap’s newly inflicted disability, the staff once again offered up a “memorable” conclusion to a wonderful meal!

The last week of our trip was spent with 7 other travelers from the United Kingdom and a crew of eight on a very nice catamaran that cruised us around many of the significant isles of the Galapagos, where we got into a great routine of snorkeling and hiking twice daily.

While our new friends were wonderful folks, we figured the jig was up on celebrating more of the good doctor’s birthdays into his advanced years, so we confessed to our Peruvian crimes, and became satisfied that 5 consecutive celebrations had turned out to be a very successful con!

Not to be outdone, our native Galapagoian guide and leader of the crew did not forget and surprised us all on the last night with a special surprise from his chef … you guessed it … a birthday cake that topped all of the previous five!

Hey, it wasn’t really a con at all! Just a really good time!

…. Next week I’ll talk about Frederick Commercial Real Estate!

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The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital, as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, and currently serves as Co-Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Council to the Mayor of the City of Frederick … to name a few.


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