On Thursday, I drove into town to do the one thing I have avoided successfully for 10 months: The World Famous Chicken Drop at the Wahoo Lounge. Avoided, yes, but just the same, it gnawed at my curiosity.
“You need to do the Chicken Drop at least once,” said the collective voice of all San Pedro.
It is like the Poker Run and floating in tubes with a bucket of cold beers at the Palapa Bar. These are the little mini-tattoos of Belize experience that you attach to secretive parts of your body — and show to others on a need-to-know basis.
“Yes, I’ve been to the Chicken Drop. Thanks for asking.”
How to explain the Chicken Drop?
Well, have you ever been to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee? In the lobby is a very large fountain in which ducks float all day. Late in the afternoon — the special time of day we often call “happy hour” — mini-bars begin to pop up all over the lobby and people with a drink in one hand and a camera in the other begin to materialize as if from nowhere. At the appointed hour, a regally dressed hotel staffer appears and escorts the ducks out of the lobby and into an open elevator to the sound of a John Philip Sousa march that was written just for this occasion, decades ago.
That is Southern tradition, ya’ll.
The ducks go to the rooftop and a very nicely appointed cage for the night and the mini-bar tenders call for wheelbarrows to haul away the huge influx of gin-and-beer sodden cash from the daily ritual.
So, minus the Sousa march, that’s pretty much what the Chicken Drop is all about. There is a song written just for the Chicken Drop, and it was played often during the night.
The Chicken Drop happens every Thursday. Starting around 6 p.m., Wahoo’s elite Chicken Security team (I would wear one of those black T-shirts in a minute, for the sake of irony …) lays out the big board with its 100-square grid, each square a randomized number. When all bets are laid and numbers picked, Chicken Security brings out the first bird to the pulsing uptempo mad beats of DJ Barrington.
Some blissfully drunk tourist gets to prep the chicken — Jackson and Johnson were two of the birds. The lucky San Diegan, San Franciscan, Salt Lake Cityite, Houstonian or Bostonian whirls the bird gently (mostly) in circles, lifts it up and down a few times and then, with the help of Chicken Security, blows warm air up the chicken’s butt before dropping it on to the grid. And yes, “the Johnson” jokes flowed like Beliken beer.
I question the scientific underpinnings behind blowing into the chicken butt — but, I think it makes for good visuals and Barrington seems to like saying “chicken butt” a lot.
So, the vaguely disoriented chicken struts around the grid, pauses lifts one leg and vibrates its tail feathers until …. nothing. It moves on to another numbered square as the people with money in the game try to coax Johnson toward their own numbers. Sooner or later, last night it seemed mostly later, the chicken poops on a number and somebody walks away $100 BZD richer. That happens about five times a night. The finale is a $1000 BZD price for a $10 BZD buy-in.
That finale chicken hovered around the No. 7 square for so long I thought for sure Rose was about to pick up her second Grand Prize for the year. It didn’t. The poop and prize went to a local scuba diver, which made me happy. Locals seem to like to bet on the birds as much as tourists.
OK, Chicken Drop. Check. That’s done.