Comfortably ensconced on the sizeable couch, TV remote standing alertly by at one end, at the other a rather large dog stretched out flat on his back, legs spread and genitals bobbing to and fro, he couldn’t help but ponder how it could be that the longer they remained on this island paradise the shorter the hours seemed to get. Between this puzzling anomaly and the recent emergence of a disturbing clicking noise whenever he bent the big toe on his kicking foot it was becoming clear that this weren’t no ordinary beach. Sure, it still had fat guys strutting around in tiny bathing suits, dark smiling ladies in white linen applying therapeutic ocean view massages and dozens of guys strolling back and forth along the shore trying in vain to look casual while secretly hoping to stumble across the occasional show stopper down to the last days of her vacation who has finally decided to pull out all the stops in her aversion to tan lines. But this was Roatán, popular attraction on the cruise ship circuit, and home to West Bay, reputedly one of the top beaches on the planet (albeit a list which quickly reaches double digits if polling is limited to locals, and triple digits when limited further to locals employed in the tourist industry). While West End is the main beach town, home of the night life and the place most semi-backpackers (Roatán isn’t so cheap, it turns out) reside, West Bay is the star attraction because of its beach. So, in addition to all the usual beach destination perks, being on Roatán in particular meant you were also fortunate enough to behold tight knit groups of long term residents smugly drinking beer from plastic coolers while splayed out on their private loungers, other men wearing ill fitting Dockers cinched stubbornly up around belly button level by shiny white patent leather belts as they doggedly searched for the world’s best happy hour deal, not to mention smiling islanders with hearts aflutter each and every time they successfully overcharge another lumbering cruise shipper for equipment that will enable them to flail around in three feet of water, gasping and drinking sea water through the far too well traveled mouthpiece of an old snorkel.
And so began, oh, around ten or eleven of the wee days of February 2012, roughly ten of which featured rain but hell, out of our control, so what you gonna do? Nice excuse to spend more time on the couch enjoying the big screen TV and playing Xbox (don’t worry, it was Kinect, the one where you have to actually move, so it’s still cool). Back in 2008 our friend Dory became the proud part-owner of a home just a couple hundred yards inland from this sandy wonderland and at somehow it took us this long to finally manage to grace his enticingly situated winter home with our couch-surfing, paradise-mooching personalities. We were greeted at the airport in Coxen Hole (I know, hilarious, right?) by Dory and his classic island cruiser, a dashing little Suzuki with just half a roof and a hole in the floor, but a full complement of relaxed Caribbean character to go with all the rainwater and the pervasive smell of wet dog. Which brings us to his trusty sidekick, an aspiring Springer Spaniel and itinerant urinator named Sawyer (more commonly known as Beans, or Hey! Will You Please Just Leave That Fucking Cat Alone?)
A quick and casual reunion, some rather welcoming weather, an urgent beer run and before you know it we found ourselves kicking back and enjoying the good life in Dory’s surprisingly large, multi-decked and always sandy jungle hideaway, beer in hand, feet up, watching Sportscentre just like every other lucky bastard in Canada, except with the pleasing smell of ocean in the air, and maybe just a hint of bat dung. And from there, well, our stay just took off, much like a Belizean plane coughing and lurching its way to the epic height of, oh, 300 feet or so. Or Dylan, the philosophy major who can recite Elizabethan poetry and knocked up your sister at a Pro-Life rally.
It didn’t take long to settle into our beach routines for our time at West Bay. While my bed times strayed all over the map, Laynni rigorously upheld her tradition of early nights which meant that she (and usually I) continued to make early morning appearances on the beach, strolling from end to end, nonchalant except for the slight anxiety we displayed each time Sawyer stopped and tensed as though he may just be on the verge of dropping an heroic deuce in the middle of the gorgeous white sand to the distinct horror of all the early rising sun worshippers carefully monitoring our every move for lack of anything else to distract them, what with their copy of the latest James Patterson novel already having clumsily given away the suspicious nature of the beleaguered spy’s best friend from college who he just ran into under strangely coincidental circumstances, and it feeling still a bit early to start drinking. And I can assure you, none of them seemed that comforted even after watching me shamefacedly bury his steaming product under a generous amount of sand with several jerky kicks, before walking off hastily like the shy guy at the bar who finally developed the requisite level of courage and inebriation to approach the cute brunette with the tattoo of a ferocious looking rose on her ankle and most of her bra showing only to have her respond by pulling her sweater tighter around her and asking him where in God’s name he got that shirt, cuz her Uncle Gus was wearing one just like it when they found him passed out in on their front lawn covered in his own vomit last Halloween.
After the occasional swim, rare, but factual, bouts of paddle-boarding, some small talk with the local expats, a shower or two, maybe a snack, check email, channel surf for a while (nope, nothing on at 10:30 am in Honduras either), a good stretch of reading on the couch, eventually the sun would pass its zenith, the afternoon would creep upon us and our thoughts would turn to lunch and, inevitably, the big question, do you think Dory would want us to wake him up? Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t, and he always seemed happy either way.
Dory’s neighbours, a loosely knit collection of expats, vacationers and local entrepreneurs, clearly knew him well enough by this point not to question his absence on these languid morning excursions. Dory has always been a night person, even more so these days following summer after summer of of training his body to withstand marathon nights at Pizza Pete’s that only end when the sun begins timidly caressing the tops of the lake front spruce trees and the last man, woman or dog standing finally collapses face first into the mysteriously sticky couch cushions in a fitful version of sleep that involves a lot of dehydrated sputtering and uncouth farting. Many of said neighbours, after all, were also big proponents of long lazy nights spent drinking all manner of alcohol, chain smoking greedily, fondly sharing tales of future plans and past hijinks while occasionally collaborating to roughly recreate a number of vaguely remembered songs using nothing but a couple guitars and a shared mood of enthusiasm and loss of inhibition.
On the activities front we definitely enjoyed paddle boarding, in some places also known as SUPing, allegedly an acronym for Stand Up Paddling, but seemingly more to create further opportunities to amuse each other by greeting fellow boarders with the endlessly humorous phrase “Hey, ‘SUP? Ha ha.”. Anyway, basically what you do is stand up on something like a surfboard and paddle yourself around, in my case in a generally slow, deliberate and ungainly manner, much like the way I eat soup, or dance at concerts. Because of the weather we didn’t go out as often as we had planned but still had a good time – smoothly sliding along parallel to the picture perfect scene of West Bay Beach, spotting fish, turtles and sting rays, dodging erratic water taxis, at least once tumbling into the water – hat, shades, dignity and all – while trying in vain to point out a passing sting ray to Laynni (as usual, we had some irreconcilable differences of opinion as to the true direction of “left”) and, of course, the number one benefit of the “sport”, to hear true paddle boarders tell it, getting a terrific workout for our “core”.
Strangely enough, however, an hour of paddling at two miles per hour did not, in fact, leave us aching and out of commission the following day, unlike our most strenuous source of exercise during our time in Roatán, that being, of course, playing darts on Dory’s Xbox Kinect. A few drunken hours of standing as still as ten Salva Vidas and a seemingly always full bladder would allow, shoulder as tense as my parents waiting to hear from the doctor in early 1972, my empty hand looking almost sad in its feeble attempts to appear as though it were actually holding a dart and not just emphasizing a very strong opinion on the microcosm of social inequalities clearly visible on Survivor…. waiting, waiting, a sudden spastic twitch when the time seems right, triple twenty!! Bring it on, I’m inviiiiincible!! Damn, my arm is tired, though. Maybe it’s time to switch back to bowling. Although my ass is still sore from our game the other day. Equestrian? Sure, just need to be careful not to hit our heads on the fan any more. Maybe some downhill skiing, except I don’t like the way poling my way out of the starting gate makes it look like I’m jerking off two guys at once, one on either side and, apparently, liking it a bit rough.
We also took advantage of some of the cheapest scuba diving we’ve done anywhere in the world (ten dives for $300 incl. equip) with Roatán Divers, run by some friends of Dory’s. Did some excellent dives and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that really epitomized everything we were coming to know about this island, even though the weather didn’t always cooperate. Strangely enough, on our first day we did a cave dive (wriggling our way through a tight entrance into the dark and eerie “Bear’s Cave”), which I had only done for the first time a few weeks earlier when I went cenote diving in Tulum. Still cool, though, even though the day ended with a very cold and rainy boat ride back to West End with everyone dripping wet, wrapped in soaked towels and violently shivering through blue lips as though we were coming home from Mario Lopez’s annual Thanksgiving Day paddling pool orgy. At least we were lucky enough to get nearly a full hour of sun during our surface interval while we hung out on a dock near the dolphin habitat watching the trainers dole out the mid-day feed of fish, chum and encouraging smiles much like they were waiters at Red Lobster’s Sunday buffet. Which, I guess, would make the dolphins the squealing, unruly kids tapping away on the side of the lobster tank, and us the creeps hanging out at the window tenaciously scratching our crotches and occasionally creeping people out by offering to carry their kids to the car in exchange for a cigarette.
It was kind of fun that my very last dive of our stay turned out to be a memorable one, and not just because it was a big milestone for me – dive #50 – but because unlike all those other dives I’d been on where the themes were always “peace”, or “beauty”, or “weightlessness”, or “hands-free urination”, this time around instead of just being some chump observer following these smug little fish around in their garish coral homes, all on eggshells not to disturb their habitat or scare the little bastards, always feeling like some second class air breather, well, this time, this time things were going to be a bit different, my scaly little friends. That’s right, this time I started killing some shit. Oh yeah, that’s right, equipped with a nasty three-pronged spear and the most rudimentary of demonstrations as to how the harmless looking rubber elastic dangling from the base could be used to transform it from essentially a really short stick for collecting chocolate bar wrappers in the park into a deft and stealthy weapon of middling destruction. Now, just hold on, there’s no cause for alarm for any of you pacifists, environmentalists or people who simply consider it unwise to arm me with a sharp object outside the immediate vicinity of a minor emergency clinic, I assure you we had nothing but the most admirable of motivations. In fact, one could even say we were modern day crusaders single-handedly saving the environment from near certain destruction in order to preserve its splendour for many, many future generations if, I suppose, one were a person who really liked to exaggerate and was more or less full of shit. But, in truth, the lionfish, despite their colourful fins, vicious looking spikes and graceful feelers combining to make them one of the more stunning fish around are, in fact, currently the number one scourge of the Caribbean reefs. The fact is, this isn’t their natural habitat, and their very presence is the unfortunate result of an unholy union between a lionfish farm off the coast of Florida and that saucy, troublesome minx, Hurricane Katrina. Now the lionfish are everywhere, and with no natural predators in these waters they are fearlessly mowing down smaller fish from Mexico to Honduras while reproducing monthly instead of annually thanks to the warmer, apparently more erotic Caribbean waters. It’s like the difference between your normal annual birthday sex night when, after getting a babysitter and taking in a practical dose of carbs at Venice House, you find yourself quietly, so as not to wake the kids, grinding away under several heavy blankets and smoldering gaze of The National’s Peter Mansbridge, and a 52 week all-inclusive in Mexico where your wife spends seven hours a day baking in the sun, drinking mojitos and watching Chad, the lithe entertainment director, lead hourly wheelbarrow races. So, as you can see, they needed to be stopped. Which I did, twice, the second time almost spitting out my regulator when an impressively large specimen declined to go quietly into his sharp, metallic grave and chose instead to fight back, shaking my spear arm like the fat on the back of Drew Barrymore’s arms. Luckily our guide, Matt, who was also the only reason I had even noticed any lionfish in the first place, quickly intervened and administered the killing blow, leaving me free to pump my fist in triumph and awkwardly attempt an underwater Kenny Powers Crotch Chop. I…..am……Poseidon. But most of my friends call me Possy.
I’d like to tell you we spent many long hours bailing water out of the jeep in order to tour around sampling as many as possible of the impressive and varied restaurants Roatán had to offer. But, then again, we’re talking about the guy who spent two months in India and had butter chicken once. So really, if you think about it, it’s more or less your fault for being so foolish as to expect that from us. Grow up. Anyway, Dory introduced us to a friendly little deli fairly close to his place that had great sandwiches and one of the best French (beef) Dips we’ve ever had. Ever. I mean, it was really good. Which is why Laynni made us go back four times in five days. Hey Laynni, where’s the beef? Ha ha. It wasn’t all just beef dips, though, there was also a lot of breakfast cereal, 2 for 1 pizza and some awesome roasted chicken to go. I’m sure our No Reservations invitation will be arriving any day now.
And, last but certainly not least, the capper on a great visit was watching the Giants win their second Super Bowl in five years (Shocking domination! Never a doubt! Where’s Peyton? Why aren’t they showing his wry grin? Could he be in the mascot costume? Nice catch! Victory!) on Dory’s big screen TV from the comfort of his giant sectional, surrounded by naysayers, Brady-lovers and irredeemable Irish Eagles fans, basking in the glow of triumph, inebriation and imported Guatemalan snack chips. Hard to top. Even our very own Super Bowl parade the following day was a rousing success, full of cheering, frivolity and peeing on trees, at least until Beans wandered off to make some guy really uncomfortable out by sniffing at his lounge chair way too zealously, and we lost Dory to the attentions of yet another girl crediting him with far too compassionate a nature simply based on his ownership of a cool dog, and then Laynni finally got fed up with me maneuvering my way in front of her wherever she walked, then calling her the Giants’ Super Bowl Caboose and laughing maniacally. Good stuff, all around.
Cruise Shippers Unhappy with Length of Stay
Coxen Hole, Roatán, Honduras – Several passengers aboard popular Caribbean cruise ship, The Floating Buffet, expressed their displeasure yesterday with the length of time allotted to Roatán within their seven day cruise itinerary. With the ship putting into port at 10 am and making a hasty departure at 2:30 pm cruise directors felt they had provided plenty of time for even the least mobile and most uncomfortably full guests to totter around the authentic derelict streets of Coxen Hole, take the tour bus over to West Bay Beach for some sun tanning and unintentionally comical attempts at snorkeling, and still have some time left over to browse the stalls in search of the perfect Enjoying the Good Life on West Bay tank top, or maybe a delightfully spontaneous fake tattoo.
“Not so”, says Walter, retired former owner of the third-ranked Carl’s Jr. franchise in all of Missouri, now a dedicated geranium enthusiast. “This island isn’t so big, ya know, I mean, tell me this? What’s a guy like me gonna do with 4 ½ hours on an island this size? I mean, by the time you leave the dock, well, shoot, you’ve already seen the town. Ok, I get it – a few chicken joints, a few black fellas, a couple old cars. It’s what we travelers call “character”, see? Then over to some or other dang beach, West Beach, or West Berry, something like that. Well, gee, I tell ya, once you seen one, you kinda seen ‘em all, know what I mean? A couple photos, a couple a those, whaddya call ‘em, Salty…Salmon….I don’t know, some local beer. Have a look at a few more black fellas and, hey, I’m good. Why waste all day here? I’ve still got lots of islands to check off in my Cruise Journal, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna go back home and listen to that damned Raymond, two doors down? Go on and on about how he’s been to 27 islands again. Him and his front yard, the place with all the tacky fake wildlife? He never even thought of that until I got that family of plastic chipmunks for the big elm, the one closest to the driveway. I tell yo—, …..what’s that now? Oh, sure, sure. The point is, that is way too long to spend on one island.”