Monday, October 31, 2016

State Side Volume 1: Guns, Booze, and Stereotypes

Powered Parachute, Flight, Texas, Fly, plane
Joe flying me around in his Powered Parachute - AMAZING!
It's hard to Belize I've been back a month already.  It seems like just yesterday I was enjoying the company of my friends, feeling the nip of the cool Colorado air, driving a car, and by the end of it feeling like I did miss the simple life here.  I'm glad to be back, even gladder I went, and truly feel like I've found a good balance these days (in most areas of my life - guessing the pan of brownies for lunch wasn't a good "balance" decision; but chill out mom that didn't really happen...or did it?).

Texas BBQ Briskett Sweet Tea Pecan Pie
First Dinner Home - Best Rolls EVER

So you want highlights?!  You want low-lights?!  I know you do!  I mean heck, the first section of my Cousin Jennifer's yearly Holiday letter that I read is always her "vital statistics" section...but that will come at the end.  Oh yeah...and this is only volume one of a yet to be determined number of releases. Lots of stories, and many may not reach the light of day.  But the sooner we get started the sooner we can go back to our drinks.

My Texas 'whip' - BMW 52?something

My window of time to see my main man Mark was incredibly tight.  I flew in on the 4th, and he left the 5th at 3pm for training in some other part of the US...trick is he was located about 340 miles away from my port of entry (the Bush International Airport - which had a lot of trees...but I really didn't see any bushes).  So after some yummy BBQ at Spring Creek, the BEST ROLLS EVER (like if Casa Picasso put their lobster sliders on this bread people would start WW3 for the rights to it) and a good nights rest I blazed a trail from Houston to Weatherford (just outside Fort Worth) in my parents sweet BMW 5 Series...that's right I haven't driven in 2 years and my parents were like "sure take our car on a 700 mile journey"...I keep telling you they're nice people.

Short Farm, Home Brew, BBQ, Texas,
Rita, Kristy, Joe - eating BBQ and sipping home brew

I truly cannot explain the what a relaxaing and joyous feeling it is to pull up on the Short Farm.  I met Joe and Rita (Mark's Aunt and Uncle) at Mark and Kristy's wedding many years back, and they are two of the most hospitable people I know (which runs like wild fire in Mark's family - and those they pick as spouses).  So much so that I stopped at their place when I was moving to Belize, originally for a night, and stayed 2...or maybe 3!  Joe crafts his own beers, which are on tap in the pool house, grills some great meat, and both he and Rita are such relaxing and calm spirits (which is odd since Joe is has an outwardly wild and exuberant persona) that you can't help but never want to leave.  Interestingly enough I'm pretty sure Joe will also be the neighborhood cat "lady" at some point...unless Rita can save him.

Glock, beer, shooting, Texas
Joe, Kristy, Mark - all packing heat...that target is gonna get it
For our day on the Short Farm we did what you do in Texas...shoot guns, grilled meat, drank beer, flew around in a flying machine, and played some pool volleyball.  Joe and I dominated at volleyball (Mark had already got his car service to the airport - a great story here, but will remain untold)...even when his neighbor (who's name escaped me) went onto the girls team; didn't matter, we cleaned house! Truly an amazing first day back - seeing so many great friends, sharing beer and food, and flying in Joe's Powered Parachute; which is basically a go-kart with a big fan strapped to the back - kudos to Joe for wanting to try a third time when the first two takeoff attempts didn't go so well...but these things are very safe.

Me and my Aunt Dorothy

After a night on the farm it was off the next day; I drove back to Houston, with a stop in Huntsville to see my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Kermit.  YEP!!  Kermit is my uncle.  Now you know why I can jump so high...and like thick women - for 'reals' though he's like a super famous author, check out his world famous book by click right HERE!!! For now we travel by air to Phoenix where my buddy Andrew and his lovely lady Amber live.  Two nights visiting his clan on tap.

Andrew is a friend from the old hotel days.  When I worked at Stonebridge Companies I was in charge of all Best Western and Wyndham branded hotels for them (that was 2 tiny hotels total...) and I went through Wyndham training with Andrew who worked for a company in Phoenix (at one point we were both SBC employees as well...and we're both NAU Lumberjacks!).

Glazed Donut, grilled cheese, food porn
The Glazed Donut Gilled Cheese
Had a great time just relaxing, family dinners, chillin' each night in the pool with a HUGE PBR - it was 36 glorious ounces of PBR, and after being stuck with Belikin for 2 years it tasted like liquid gold; not as hot or melty as gold would be...okay that's a terrible analogy but I think you get my point. Amber made an amazing creation night one that she was nice enough to share, and I duplicated the next day...a grilled cheese on a glazed donut (Google just WILL NOT let me use "donut" without the "s" on the it THAT inconceivable that I only had ONE donut?!).  No joke - so simple and yet one of the best things I've put in my mouth.  You need a good amount of butter, gotta basically get the glaze melting again and then have it recrystallize into an almost hard shell coating. I can't imagine what would've happened had I tried to put some bacon in there - I'd likely still be standing in their kitchen in a comatose state.  In fact I see bacon with a butter/sugar glaze coming to a charter in the near future.

sharks, soap, hotel, amenities, toiletries
All my hotelier friends will appreciate what Andrew did here!
One of Andrews adorable kids made a couple uber cute comments.  Night one I get there and he's telling me how I'll be using his bed with the sharks on it - and I need to be careful and "don't let the sharks bite you."  Then later he was asking if Andrew was sleeping in the bed with me, I said I doubted it.  He asked if Andrew would us the top bunk, I again said I doubted it and that he'd likely sleep in his room with Amber.  He looked at me and said "but you're here only two nights, why doesn't he sleep with you?"  I love the innocence of youth, that humans can live free of the negative connotation and thoughts that something must be abnormal.  Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to have slept alone, but I loved witnessing the pure innocence of youth - something we rob far too often and early these days.

Kitty Cat Time

Beer is not hard to get in Belize, but it is in the states for minors.  At a gas station one night there may or may not (but definitely WAS) an offer for a blow job in exchange for buying this under age girl some beer...we left the gas station and she was still beer less.  The next day driving through town in a rather large F-350 a lady in another very large truck hit our mirror with her mirror.  After agreeing to a quick cash exchange for repair she asked us to follow her to work so she can get the money.  She was an attractive Asian woman, looked Vietnamese, very well put together, nice clothes, boobs too large to missed by a passing satellite.  Andrew looks at me and says "not to be stereotyping...but I bet we're headed to a nail salon."  After a few blocks we round the corner, pull in a strip mall and see a huge Pho restaurant...which we drove right past stopping at the nail salon on the other side.

The next morning I boarded a flight bound for Colorado.  The bulk of my time, the bulk of my previous life...well...same life but my previous self I suppose.  I had a lot of very interesting revelations about a number of things during my time in Colorado.  Some you'll hear about, some I'll keep for me, and still others I've likely forgotten already.  

Time to go see what the tide has brought in today.  I've been on a real winning streak the past 37 years or so.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Storms, Surge, and Hurricanes

This is the first Sunday I've not had to work in some capacity 2 years.  It's felt pretty weird really.  I've even gone over to the "shop" a couple of times - maybe subconsciously hoping it would magically be there this time, but nay not really.  I fancy myself as someone who accepts whats happened pretty quickly and already am planning for the next phase before the seas let the sands settle.

Don't get me wrong - the destruction of your business is not an easy thing to witness; but crying never cleaned spilled milk.  Strength and determination in the face of adversity is what must be brought to the table.  So we brought it.

In case you've missed what happened over the past few days I'll give you a brief catch up - Hurricane Earl hit Belize; only a category 1, but it doesn't mean Mother Nature didn't inflict a lot of damage.  We saw about 8 feet of storm surge and 75 mile per hour winds.  There were 24 foot waves crashing on the barrier reef; had that reef not been there we would've all been swimming for sure.

Who wants a day by day?  Well here it is -

Before the Storm:

Ecologic Divers Hurricane Earl Storm Surge Belize Category one
Rollers coming in about 2pm - 12 hours from Earl's arrival
We first started watching the tropical wave Saturday, but really paid it no attention till Sunday.  We were hopeful on Monday it would go north, or south, or die...but it kept on trucking.  Tuesday rolled around and it was obvious the best course of action was to Boy Scout away (as a Boy Scout is always prepared).  Most of the crew was on a big private sail but those left packed and hauled and got all the mission critical gear and equipment to safety in storage and the house.  We went to sleep that night hoping the forecasts of strengthening would not come to pass.  They did.

Wednesday - Earl is a Knocking:

Coca-Cola Belize dock Hurricane Earl
Enjoying a Coke and Cookies with Ash
It's official; we're getting our clocks cleaned, so be ready.  Packed up even more stuff to get it out of the office, haul the tanks to storage, hide the boats in the mangroves, take the catamarans to our super special spot, screw boards over the windows, kiss the crew and send them home to take care of their families.  We were all out by maybe 1pm, and the storm was supposed to make landfall about 12 hours later.  The outer storm was hitting us, winds were pickings up, rain was sporadically spitting and the surge and waves were already getting high.

I came back to the empty shop several times that afternoon.  Once to enjoy a coke and some cookies with my pal "Ash" as we studied the amazing surf breaking on the reef.  When I was locking up the last time I dropped my keys - they went straight between the boards and into a very dark ocean.  I promptly texted Germain, our accountant, to let him know I'd need his keys the next day.  About 2 hours after I was watching from the relative safety of the sea wall at the Phoenix...watching wave after wave hitting our building at higher levels.  I knew then that I wouldn't need that key in the morning...and I'd never see my favorite military boonie hat again.

Belize barrier reef waves surf surge Hurricane Earl
Huge surf by our measure - 1/2 mile away watching 15 foot rollers
crash on the reef
That night the winds got amazingly intense.  Arriving at high levels and sounding like phantoms - if you've played Halo, think of the noise the Banshee makes.  It was so creepy to hear them coming and going, but not even feel them.  At about 930 the first wall came down off the shop, and the building was listing to the left.  Reports of other shops already being swallowed had come in over the radio. Earl was still 4 hours away...

Thursday - Earl arrives and leaves - and claims no lives!!!:

Where once there was a lovely dock - there shall be again.
Ecolgoic Divers 2.0 coming soon!
Earl's eye came over Turneffe and rolled right over Belize City around 2am or so; the northern most wall was about 10-15 miles south of us in San Pedro.  That's a hit.  We had northerly rotation winds that were driving white capped waves south, till it shifted around midnight to the westerly blow. I'm going to avoid posting many pictures of the devastation because I'm pretty sick of looking at it.  It's easy enough to find if you want.  The vast majority of piers were destroyed, or heavily damaged. Even big names like Palapa Bar and Ramon's lost it all.

Surge was still rolling in, and the beaches were completely covered with debris.  It's very surreal to walk a beach and see splinters of your shop scattered everywhere for nearly half a mile, then much more sporadically after that.   This was largely a day of letting things sink in.  Eric and I pulled boards from the surf and piled them on the sea wall, trying to just clear a little walk way and feel like we were helping somewhat.  The shop was gone, but the boats were not. We reorganized around what we had left; securing the boats, and planning our next steps.  We walked the beach and talked to our neighbors, trying to help and assuring that everyone was okay and accounted for.  That done, we counted it a successful day.

The days since:

Ecologic Cats Belize
Its only been a few days since, but we've been busy.  We've enjoyed a few sailing trips, brought the boats back around and put them back on the "dock"...or...ah...the rubble?!  But it's just nice to see them there.  Gives a sense of things getting better.  I can't explain the utter joy that was in my heart when the cats were back out front - ready to take on the days ahead.

Ecologic Divers Hurricane Earl Belize Ambergris Caye

Now we re-build.  Well tomorrow we sail, but then we demo/rebuild.  For quick updates be sure to like and follow Ecologic Divers Facebook page - I'll be posting on there often.

If you want info on helping out financially see Tacogirl's blog about it by clicking HERE; also lots more photos and information as well.    The best way you can help if you were/are planning a trip - JUST COME!!!  BELIZE is ready people.  Just come.  Visit, explore, spend money!  Give these communities a reason to keep working.
Found my keys...

And those keys I dropped in the ocean - the guys found them...but the door has seen better days ;)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Seasons of Friendship

Sometimes I think...most times I don't...but sometimes I do.  Lately I've been contemplating the cycles of friendship.  I'm guessing the vast majority of people can identify with the situation of leaving your family or friends, or a part of them, for a new adventure in life.  We've gone to college, prison,  maybe moved for a job, chased a girl across the country...or a dream around the world.  You think you can't wait to go home, to see your friends again and get back into that life; however as you've heard; "you can't go home again."  It doesn't exist.  Your spot with your friends doesn't exist.  That life has past, and a new future is the only option.  Like all things in this world, friendship is a cycle.

Me, Mark, Katie, Amanda (some of the High School gang!)
We have so many hours a day, and so many minutes to spend in communication with people.  Lives change, circles move, and I've seen the struggle to keep connections with people in circles that at the moment just aren't touching - and the cost is that the loss of connection with the circles they are touching.  I'm just grateful to have loving friends that I know would welcome me back into their hearts like years hadn't passed. no matter how the dynamic needs to shift.

Perhaps the most telling example of what I'm trying to say with the "touching circles" talk is how we can all be sitting around a dinner table and glued to our phones.  We're in a direct circle, 100% - yet we make a choice to engage people outside of that; and we inherently loose the closeness and connection we can develop with those people, around that table in that moment.

That is a micro example of what I'm talking about in macro - years of separation, holding onto the past, and not allowing yourself to engage in the present.

First team I was honored to manage - and all friends!
Back - Nicole, Brie, Me, Tammy, ?sorry?, Tammy(yes, another one)
Front - Sonja, Julia (Little J), Nancy
Don't get me wrong.  I love my friends, and look forward to seeing each and everyone of them when I see them again. Though I know fully well I've been replaced in their lives - true not in whole, but in function my role is filled.  So I make the choice to not engage that role on any sort of active basis, but instead engage my new roles, with people I can affect in a positive way NOW.  Some of those people still live 2,000 miles away mind you - but a good many of them are within 2.

Please also understand this isn't so much a statement of miles, but distance in life; needs, goals, plans, behaviors, and of course pizza toppings.  I suppose I really don't know what my point is to any of this...maybe just to be a little aware of when you hold on too long and you pass up on the opportunity to invest in the now for something that once was...and could be again...but isn't right now.

I know...clear as mud.  Such are the musings of a Meandering Fool.

Now I have to go fulfill a promise to a friend - binge watching Stranger Things here I come!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to Guide: Hooker Advertising

I've never been a hooker. I've never slept with a hooker...okay I guess no one "sleeps" with hookers - but to be clear I have never paid for sex. Well hell...isn't that what dating is? To be as clear as I can be - I have never taken money and given it to a women (or man) for the express intent of getting sex. Okay people?!

So what do I know about hooker advertising? Fair question - I'm not very suggestable, ads really don't have much effect on me. However, a hooker that advertises her craft well can really make a guy think twice. I have experienced first hand this version of advertising on two occasions (once again...didn't buy the product; but I sure enjoyed the ad).

If you were one of the 7 people that read my last blog you say the reference to my Father's great experience. Well he has graciously let me tell the tale; the tale of the day he first experienced the advertising of a skilled hooker. A technique I like to call the Stealth Ninja Penis Wrangle.

The sun as waning (if that means setting...cause it was setting) in the west; nothing more than a faint yellow resembland of the blazing ball is was just minutes earlier. My Father and I strolled harmlessly down the street in West End on Roatan in Honduras. We wre minding out own business an lazily chatting about the prospects of taking in some highly recommended Thai food (I tried to use that word that mean food, the one that starts with the "c" but I couldn't spell it close enough for Google to figure out what I at Thai's Place - side Thai I've had in 2 years.

I saw a spark of electricity shot through Pops. As he turned slowly to his left (where I was walking maybe a pace back) I stopped and stood in stunned silence awaiting the reason for such a quick and unexpected guttual reaction to...well I had no freaking idea...apparently nothing. I gave a quick scan expecting to see some epic topless big 'uns somewhere...nope...that wasn't it. So I looked back at Pops, cocked my head to the side and likely raised an eyebrow in interest.

With a grin from ear to ear my father picked up his right hand and crookedly pointed at the young woman in the red dress that had just walked past us. I hadn't even really noticed her till his motion. as he pointed he simultaneously asked "did you see that?" through the excited toothy grin of teenager.

All I had noticed was a girl, in a red dress, walking down the street opposite us.

Well what I missed was an event that had not happened to my father in any of his previous 71 years on the planet. Seeing as I have been approached by some...well...hourly girlfriends lets call them; I was a bit more familiar with their advertising techniques.

You see, as this well put together young lady walked by Pops, she stealthily reached over, and gently fondled his twig and berries, gave his a smile, and just kept walking. An even that made his day...nay...his entire trip.

And that is the story of the Stealth Ninja Penis Wrangler.

Looking back I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me that we walked up and down West End every night there after!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Roatan - A Fool's Guide to West End and West Bay

Roatan was awesome!!

beach, sun, sand, ocean
West Bay
So it's been far to long since this Fool meandered anywhere...and Roatan was the choice of places to break that drought.  Tropic Air  did an amazing job getting us there and back.  We all saved 10% on our flights by using the discount code!  The voyage started as a two man show - me and Pops, Easton.  My friend Heidi heard about the voyage and wouldn't be denied access to this lovely idea either - so along she came.

When a hotel is ranked 12 of 14 on TripAdvisor...there is a reason.  Don't let your friends tell you otherwise...choose another hotel.  Night one will go unmentioned as we all know I won't blast people and places; there are price points for all types, I can respect that.  Really it was a good thing I learned quickly that West End isn't my scene.  We spent night one there; it is a crowded part of Roatan, lots of people and things going on...something I wanted to escape a bit more.  After night one East and I bid Heidi adieu and struck out on our own - bound for West Bay...and my vibe!

Beach bar, drinking, Roatan, Honduras
Beach side at Paradise Oceanic

There we found the lovely Paradise Oceanic compound, and after being shown around by the lovely Cristy (on her day off no less) we dropped down the card to checked in (by 'we' I totally mean East a good Pops does for his son).  My office for the few days had a pretty stellar view as well.  With that settled the fun was to begin...

West End (WE) v West Bay (WB)

Roatan, Honduras, beach, sun, dive,
West Bay to West End
As stated earlier WE was a much 'busier' place.  Don't get pictures of high-rises and's one street.  It is just a packed street.  Bars, restaurants, dive shops, gift shops, people...everywhere!
It is very well done though.  I live in San Pedro, the thick of "fun" on Ambergris Caye - I wanted seclusion.  I will saw that if I lived on Roatan I would certainly visit often for food and fun!  WB was certainly the vibe I was looking for.  Spacious resorts, beach front access by those resorts, and the only throngs of people were on the beach during cruise ship hours.  The resorts were quiet, and the best part was at night - dark beaches; the moon and stars were the nearly the only lights.  It was amazing.

WB really only has beach restaurants that are part of the various resorts, so that the only 'real' nightlife is up in WE (once again I am on nightlife avoidance currently).  WB still has great places; my favorite was Thirsty Turtle and Pizzarama, both part of the Banarama property.  The pizza was amazing - East and I split a medium and it filled us for $14 US.  Great taste.  The sunsets viewed from the place were pretty amazing as well...made better by the 6 pack of Barena we went through all too easily.

There are many other little burgs on this magical island of Roatan.  Though I spent some time in all the major ones - I really can't say I got a good feel for them.  Certainly WE and WB were the two tourist and expat hubs, but plenty of other stuff to venture too.
meat, dinner, food porn
Steak special at The Landings
One of my best meals was at the Landings, part of the Beach House up in WE - a lovely spot that is the only place right on the Beach, everything else is across the street.  I had the steak special; a delicious ribeye perfectly cooked and lightly sauced with a horseradish spread.  The steak is SO much better in Honduras.  A huge stack of Al dente sauteed veg and a chunky mashed potato that had a caramelized and lightly crisped stack of onions on top.

We really didn't spend much time in any of the other areas of Roatan, least not a basis that lends to anything exciting to say.  Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of awesome little places, but we were in and out and on with our lives in most of them.  So...I guess I need to go back and do more 'research' on them right?!

The biggest, most easily noticeable difference in the people was a pride for their country, and a real ownership for their part in it.  I did see once instance of a person littering, but other than that - they all cleaned!  I lost count on how many people were out front sweep the streets and sidewalks in front of their businesses.  If you can believe it - I saw NO ONE peeing on anything?!  Well, I did see myself pee in the bathroom but that's not really the point people. Recycling is common on Roatan.  These bins were common, and even more common were plan big metal bins.  They were designed to be filled with plastic trash - and a guy just comes around and collects it.  Wish we did a bit more of that here.

Most interesting time of the trip - ask's his story to tell and involves a beautiful Stealth Ninja Penis Wrangler

A few more pics...

My office view from Paradise Oceanic