Terry's niece, Alison Brown, has just begun working as a cultural attache at the American Embassy in Panama. Terry and I decided to fly down for a visit. As the plane approached Panama City I was surprised by all the new sky-rises that sparkled like the Emerald City. Alison picked us up at the airport in her sporty little yellow jeep. Getting into and out of Panama City by car is apparently a challenge. Allison couldn't find the highway back to the city so we wandered the back roads back to the city. Coca Cola signs and Kentucky Fried Chicken joints were everywhere. Housing for many consisted of hastily constucted tenements with tiny balconies where laundry was hung to dry. The cement structures were covered in a dark wet mold that dripped down the facades.
Alison's apartment was in a brand new sky-rise tower that looked like it belonged on the Las Vegas strip. Her thirteenth floor balcony had a great view of all the new construction so I grabbed a dining room chair and sat outside to sketch. Walking up to the low glass railing gave me vertigo but once I was busy sketching, I forgot the height. Alison's neighborhood sprouted up in the last year. She lives across from a brand new hospital and a block away from a sparkling mall. Land has been cleared for two new sky-rises behind her building. Little had been done in these empty lots in the months that she has been working at the Embassy.
At night the skyline is mysteriously dark. Most of these new buildings are deserted. Few lights flicker against the starry night sky. There are rumors that Colombian drug money is laundered into the new construction. It is hotter in Panama than Orlando. My shirt was sweat stained before I completed the sketch. Alison took us to the mall for some delicious tapas. The mall looked like any mall in America with its chrome furnishings and giant screen ads.