Panama City has 20 of the tallest buildings in Central America, but the Trump Ocean Club is the highest of them all – 284 metres high, 68 floors – making it officially more upwardly than anything in all of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize. At night, depending on how many drinks you’ve had – and we’d had a few – the penthouse of the Ocean Club is vertigo-inducing, what with the ocean black beneath you as you peer down from the balcony that rings the space – itself just a little too narrow, just a little too rub-up-against-the-stranger-passing-in-the-opposite-direction for comfort. That night, the wind was blowing hard up here, and the women in sleeveless dresses shivered.
Rumor has it that the entire top floor of the building once belonged to one man, and he roamed in scenic vastness through tens of thousands of square feet, perhaps crisscrossing his floor to admire his contrasting vistas – in turn the huge open ocean and then the curves and edges of his fellow skyscrapers in the city. Maybe he escorted a date to a bedroom as big as a football field, or took a dip in the infinity-edge pool that hangs daringly 68 floors over the abyss.
But he’s gone now, and the penthouse belongs to a casino, and the views are ignored by the slot machine players, and the light is a little too bright for romance, and the sound bounces off the windows. Now there’s a bar by the infinity pool, and a pair of hookers in heels you could call skyscraper are smoking and bored and ignore us, and there aren’t enough people or Baccarat tables, enough sweat or luck or high laughter or gay tinkling ice cubes to give the penthouse the advertised allure of the Trump lifestyle that was supposed to sell this place, you know, before the bonds were downgraded. It’s like the party’s over, but it’s not over, it’s early. The most beautiful girl in the room – all in Grecian toga white, as perfect as a column held up on six-inch heels – looks smudged. Was crying in the bathroom – a foul-smelling place – in her recent past? We lounged uneasily, listening to a fellow describe what he would do if he ran this zoo – which admittedly sounded much better than it was now. And then, like the investors, we fled.
story © Dianna Carr image © Francis Tremblay