The chicken what?
The stage was set. A giant grid with 100 numbered squares was set up on the beach. The bingo tickets had been sold. Now, everyone was waiting for the two-legged star of the show to arrive. Welcome to the chicken drop, a weekly highlight of San Pedro’s nightlife. The object is simple enough. A chicken is placed in the ring, and chooses the winning number through the arbitrary but indisputable method of dropping his load. Yup, I mean pooping.
Anton and I strolled on down to Caliente Bar, assured the chicken drop was the only place to be on a Thursday night on this lively Caribbean island. Truthfully, I was expecting a tawdry affair but Anton spied a photo-op. So how could I refuse.
Outside in the evening heat, people were already three deep around the bingo board. The DJ was warming up the clientele with Can’t Touch This blasting out from distorting speakers. Spurred on by the MC, an American screamed for chicken security to “Bring out the chickens!” She had been chosen for the dubious honour of ‘fluffing’ the chicken and depositing him in the ring. Apparently, this is a crucial part of the pre-chicken drop ritual.
Meet the contenders
The first chicken was a fine red and black rooster somewhat undermined but not fully cowed by the name Rice’n’beans. Spurred on by the MC, the girl lifted the unfortunate fowl over the corner of the ring and began to shake him up and down. Apparently, this helps to ‘loosen up’ the chicken and prime him for performance in the ring. Excuse the pun.
Enter Coco Leo
Chicken security, incidentally, was personified by the magnificent Coco Leo, a man who clearly has a story to tell. Leo could have been aged anywhere between 40 and 400. He wouldn’t have looked out of place on the deck of the Black Pearl. Wearing only ripped black shorts and with dreads hanging down to his waist, he had more than the remains of a fine physique. He carried the air of a man who could command sea creatures, tame wild dogs and shimmy up a palm tree in seconds. Perhaps that why they called him Coco Leo. In any case, a shell-shocked chicken was no match for him. He stood by eyeballing Rice’n’beans while the girl swung the placid creature around in a strange ecstasy.
Somehow, this odd gathering combines the wild-eyed fervour of vacationing Americans with the anything-goes approach to life of local islanders. Combined, they sanction and unleash a ritualistic scene more akin to Lord of the Flies than two weeks in paradise.
Drop the chicken!
Finally, it was time for the chicken to drop. As he was placed in the ring, the intensity of the crowd reached . The DJ pumped out some serious bass as the chicken cautiously tiptoed around the ring. Anxiously gripping their tickets, the crowd leaned in over the low barrier, urging the chicken to poop or move. But hemmed in by baying tourists, Rice’n’beans remained implacable, showing no signs of needing to go. After five minutes and no action, the MC ordered chicken security to deliver a ‘back up chicken’.
Bring out the back up chicken
A second girl took on the role of chicken fluffer, and proceeded to up the golden hen with a little more gusto then hold it above her head with shamanic intent. Just before release, Coco Leo lifted the tail feathers so she could administer a little puff up the bum hole.
With the addition of the back-up chicken, the crowd reached fever pitch. The chooks pecked around each other as the crowd waved and gesticulated with abandon.A few minutes in, Rice’n’beans stood on one leg and seemed poised for a poop. But in a surprise move, chicken #2 clinched (or clenched) it.
The poop dropped on lucky number 7.
Chicken security takes control
Immediately, Coco Leo appeared in the ring and stood majestically over the chickens. Staring down intensely, he whipped into action and swooped down to grab a chicken beneath each arm. As the jubilant winner stepped into the ring for photos, Coco posed rigidly with the two chickens locked beneath each arm. Flashes sparked as the crowd eagerly captured photos of the winner. Just as quickly as it had begun, the show was over.
The ‘bottom cooler’
After the performance, we met local business owner Sunshine. A regular visitor to chicken drop, she was nonplussed by the night’s affair. Apparently, the chicken fluffers just weren’t up to the job.
“He ain’t shy,” she said of Rice’n’beans. “He just wasn’t shook up enough.” And here she demonstrated a furious pop-fizzing shake up with her hands. “You need to really do him good. Give him a good bottom cooler.” Miming with her hands, she gave a strong puff up the bum of an imaginary chicken.
On these matters, it’s best to trust a local.