So there I was, on a fall November night that was supposed to be epic, giving myself up to be detained by the Panamanian police…But the story doesn’t start there so let’s back track. After two nights of living it up on South Beach for my birthday with some of my Inner Elite brethren, some of us had plans to go to Panama City for the next stop on my Birthday Tour. Truth is, just up until two weeks prior to this trip I had been totally oblivious to what Panama City had to offer. Out of all the destinations that were on my list to visit, Panama was not even on my radar. It never came up in conversations amongst particular members of the Inner Elite when they spoke about their travels, that is at least not until two weeks before I actually went. I was thinking to myself the only thing synonymous with Panama for me was the Canal. Upon doing research I found that it was at least worth it to visit since I’d already be in Miami and flights going to that region of the world fly out from MIA anyway. Once that decision was made I had to inform fellow Inner Elite member and World Artist, Zozan World of the trip. His music embodies the Afro Latin culture so I knew if anyone would be able to enjoy this trip it’d be him.
Upon arriving in Panama City, Panama we immediately felt the hospitality of the Panamanian people. They have a very laid back and calm spirit about them and take pride in serving to make sure you are well taken care of. From the conversations with our chauffeur from the airport about where we should eat and party, to the hotel concierge mapping out the rest of the day for us and setting us up with another chauffeur, we instantly felt at home. We decided to try a restaurant that our first driver Juan suggested and that was probably the best decision we made all trip. I say that because the food was good, but more importantly we met some gentlemen there, Armondo and Carlos, that would shape our 24 hour visit and formed a brotherhood with them that will last a lifetime.
To pass time while anticipating what the Panama City nightlife had to offer we decided to go to Albrook Mall which is the largest mall in all of Latin America. I truly valued the moments speaking with the employees at the mall as it allowed me to further test how much Spanish I could really speak. It was in these moments of conversation and laughter when I realized that you won’t really know how much of another language you can speak until you truly have to. When you find yourself in a situation where the people you’re speaking to speak very little English you’d be surprised how your mind shifts to be able to communicate with them and recall what you’ve learned.
At Eleven o’clock on the dot Carlos aka “Calito” came to pick us up from our hotel for the late night festivities. Every single time Zozan and I stepped out of the hotel it felt like a scene from a movie, a movie titled “One Night in Panama” (See what I did there). On our way to Ashé, a discoteca (which would be a nightclub in the States, because a “nightclub” in Latin America refers to a strip club) to hear and dance to some Bachata, Salsa, and Reggaeton is when the trip took an expected turn. Literally right up the block from Ashé there was a random police check to check everyone’s ID’s and then let them be on their way. But see this wasn’t a police check in the States where you show your driver’s license and keep moving. No, they asked for your passport if you weren’t from the country, which obviously I have, but didn’t think to bring it with me on our late night endeavor. After Carlos and the police officer had numerous back and forth dialogue about the situation, it was determined that I would need to stay with the police and my only hope of being free was that if Zozan and Carlos could bring back my passport from the hotel. After trying to explain to the officer that I simply left my passport at the hotel and even trying to show him my half broken North Carolina driver’s license, he wasn’t having it. So there I was, on a fall November night that was supposed to be epic, giving myself up to be detained by the Panamanian police. Under the circumstances I was surprisingly calm, maybe it was the shot of Jack Daniels on the rocks that Zozan and I took right before leaving the hotel (Which while the situation unfolded I remember saying this is a complete buzzkill). I had a sense that everything would be fine, but couldn’t help but to think of Chevon, Arianna, Symone, and Brielle (My wife and three daughters) and just how I was going to explain to them that I was locked up in Panama. As I stepped out of the car for some reason it felt like a slow motion shot (Leave it to a Filmmaker for everything to feel like a movie). As I walked towards the Police officer cool as a fan he said some things to me in Spanish that I didn’t neccessarily understand. When he saw the slight confusion on my face he then proceeded to ask me did I speak Spanish, to which I replied “poco”. With slight disappointment in Spanish he said something which I translated along the lines of “Come on brother, you have to be able to speak more Spanish”. From there he told me to go ahead on with my night. So literally moments after I decided to face my fate for the evening I was getting back in the car. Even though Ashé was right up the block, we bypassed it and went straight back to the hotel to get my passport. Now we were ready to party.
From the outside Ashé didn’t look like it had too much to offer but looks can be very deceiving. As soon as we walked in the attention shifted, like something out of a… well you get it. Once we got to the table that seemed to be reserved for us I looked around and realized that the spot was 97% women. And out of that 97%, 96% were the most beatiful women I’d ever seen in my 36 years of existence packed in one small area. Mind you that the previous two days I had been in Miami so that’s where the bar was set as far as beautiful women. As the music blared through the speakers while beautiful women danced to seemingly fight for our attention with drinks continously flowing, Zozan and I realized that we had been dropped off in the middle of Paradise. At that moment it all made sense why some of the people I talked to that had been there said things like “You’re not coming back”. This was the type of nightlife experience I had been chasing since I used to frequent nightclubs in my 20’s or even since the first time I partied on South Beach last year at the famous Clevelander. It took me just a short time (and a few drinks) to follow the intstructions my road dog Zozan gave me for the night. He told me to simply “Be Free”. See he walked in ready to set the dancefloor on fire with some Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue. Me on the other hand had to get into my zone to be able to dance particular styles of dances I wasn’t as accustomed to. But somewhere around a huge 808 kicking and my fourth drink I was ready. And at that point there were no language barriers or inhibitions that could stop what was inevitable. Good music, good drinks, and beautiful women mixed with the spirit of celebrating my birthday and knowing I only had that night to party in Panama all came to a head. From that moment I was free. And that led to having one of the most memorable nights ever. And to think, a few hours before I had no idea if I’d even be able to experience this due to being detained by the police. Funny how these things work.