Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Me: What is that? Pointing to his necklace
Tour Guide (aka Johann, aka Joe Patience, aka Fang): A scorpion in amber. I love scorpions.
Me: I used to see those a lot when I was a kid. At sleepovers. In basements and garages. I never see them anymore in Arkansas. Also wolf spiders. I saw them a lot. Not anymore.
Fang: We have one species of wolf spider in Costa Rica. The Brazilian Wolf Spider. Phoneutria. You won't see them during the day, but if you do a night tour, you might. They have the most painful bite in the world. I've never experienced it, but I hear it opens up the pain pathways to your brain and makes it seem even more painful than it really is. Something called capsaicin.
Me: Oh! My brother has studied that. He's a food scientist. He's written an article on it. That's the ingredient in spicy chili peppers. It's supposed to be really good for you. It's in animals too?
I read online that it was discovered in tarantula venom in 2006. Causing maximum pain to bite victims. Animals can defend themselves by activating the sensory nerves of their enemies, just like certain plants do. And they are doing research with capsaicin and cancer cells as we speak, using it to kill the neoplastic cells and their progeny. Wow.
Pain and pleasure exist as a continuum, in the brain. The amygdala is a big source of neurons that are the epicenter. When I was a teenager I was fascinated with the amygdala. I started my own comic book with that title. Drew a few comics. Imagined it as the name of a band. That never really went anywhere.
I think (this is just me here, not research or the internet) that experiencing both pain and pleasure is good for us. Opens up neural networks, allowing us to think bigger and wider. Sparks creativity, to help find solution. Reduces conformity.
So maybe when I do the night tour of the park this Thursday I need to try to get bitten by a Brazilian Wolf Spider?
I'm not that crazy.
Me to young bartender poolside last night: Martini. Straight up. I like vodka. Grey Goose. Oh, and I like it just a little bit dirty.
I held my fingers up, thumb and index, to show him how much.
Bartender: I've heard that about you.
I honestly think this is such a small, quiet resort that they talk about us and our preferences and he was communicating that, but I couldn't stop laughing.