Archive for January, 2007

My Favorite Things in West End, Roatan Island

Favorite Hotel: Has to be the Seagrape Plantation Resort where I stayed. Cabin on the water with a hammock, air conditioning and a mini-frig, for only $55 a day. A family-owned place where everybody is so nice and will do anything for you. The dive shop, only steps away from your room and at a reasonable price if you get a package, or even if you don’t. Best of all, they have a generator that keeps everything running, even the air conditioners, when the island experiences one of their frequent power shortages.

Cannibal Cafe: My favorite eating place. Great Mexican food at reasonable prices. I love the steak tacos, but the burritos and quesidallas are also wonderful. Not to mention banana smoothies and mixed-drinks, as well as the same price for beer that the Sundowner charges in happy hour, 25 Lemperas.

Best Bar: Everybody’s favorite gathering place is the Sundowner, run very ably by Aaron. You can meet everybody you need to here, from the guys running the hotels and other bars and restaurants to the divemasters and the other tourists. Happy hour everyday from 4 to 7, decent bar food, mixed drinks of all kinds, fire on the beach at night. They close promptly at 10 everynight (or earlier) to give the other bars a chance.

Best Breakfast: Hotel Casa Calico, a B&B that also seems like a good place to stay and serves breakfast to visitors. For 3 to 5 bucks they have excellent coffee and a choice of different egg dishes, fruit, cereal and bagels.

Best Special Occasion Restaurant: Probably the Argentinian Steak House. Not for everyday eating, but I went there twice and enjoyed the atmosphere and food. They even kept serving when the power was out, since they had a grill and plenty of candles to pass around. I enjoyed the Tenderloin brochettes for $16 more than I liked the Filet Mignon for $23. Didn’t have a chance to try to fish or pork, but the sausages were tasty, too.

A few disses:

I tried to give the Hot Chili Restaurant a chance. The first night I ate there I had delicious Fish ala Veracruziana, with a tangy sauce, it was well worth the $12 and as far as I can tell the only spicy dish on the menu. But my next 2 experiences were none too good. The fish tacos, nothing special, the Conch soup was cold and not that tasty. The last day I had the Hot Chiliburger, which you would think was a chiliburger, right? No, it is actually the burger served at the Hot Chili restaurant. Not only was it not a very remarkable burger for the outrageous price of $8, but it wasn’t even cooked. When I told them it wasn’t cooked the guy cracked a joke about how it would make a man out of me to eat it raw. And where do they get off charging $2 a beer when everybody else around them charges only $1 to $1.50? Also, why is it called the Hot Chili restaurant when they have absolutely no spicy dishes on the menu? I’m not going back.

Eagle Rays: Used to be a good restaurant in a beautiful spot on the end of the dock. Now? Nobody goes there for the lackluster food and expensive drinks.

Paradise Computers, where I am now. Outrageously expensive at 4 lemperas a minute (72 cents), but the only choice in town that I can see. Here’s a tip: I had a 5 hour card with some time left on it. If only I had known they had a place at the airport I could have used my remaining time while waiting for my plane. Instead I had already given away my card.

Walking Tour of West End Part 1

Walking Tour of West End, Part 2

Roatan Island

ROATAN ISLAND, Honduras. Roatan Island is the largest of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. It is part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, the first being Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The islands are part of the reef, meaning basically that you can step off the beach and be on the reef. Naturally scuba diving is big here. I would estimate that every other shop in the town I am staying at, West End, is a dive shop.

West End is a trip. The town consists of a strip that runs along the beach for about half a mile, water on one side and small businesses on the other. It is a potholed dirt road. Life here pretty much consists of diving, sleeping, drinking and eating. The town is where most of the tourists hang out doing those activities. I thought it would get quite boring after 2 weeks, but to be honest I don’t really want to leave.
Lots of others have decided the same thing and have opened restaurants, bars, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and of course dive shops, so that they can live here.

This island was settled by the British and was part of British Honduras. That means the local people speak English. Of course the language of Honduras is Spanish, but they are the latest settlers so English prevails. Honduras puts up with this because of the tourism.

I am staying at the Sea Grape Plantation Resort in a cabin on the water that rents for $50 a night. It has a hammock, air conditioning and a mini-frig, as well as 2 feral cats that have adopted me. The hotel has a dive shop, naturally, so I am able to roll out of bed, eat a little breakfast, and go diving. Life is good.

What a lousy name for an airport

DATELINE: ROATAN ISLAND, Honduras: I am writing a few dispatches from this sleepy little scuba divers’ paradise. There are weekly flights on Continental out of Houston. Houston International Airport is now known as George Bush International Airport. Who the hell’s idea was that? We are talking about the father Bush of course, you know that one-term failure President who refuses to tell his stupid son what a doofus he is, which would definitely redeem his reputation. He would rather let the country go down the tubes than speak honestly to his son.

Something that happens to me all the time when I travel happened again last night. I was in the bar talking to a very charming couple from Norway, Oscar and Christine. Finally Oscar said to me, “I hate to talk politics” but what the hell is going on with America and George Bush.” I said I know, I know, I hear it all the time and I sure can’t explain how we could make such a mistake not just once but twice, and I certainly hope this country has learned it’s lesson and won’t ever make such a mistake again.

Oscar went on to tell me how much Norwegians love the USA for saving them from the scourge of Hitler and how they can’t understand how we could make G.W. Bush the most powerful man in the world. They are deathly afraid of what he has done, starting a religious war and basically putting the world on the precipice. I totally agreed with him of course.

You know there still Americans who don’t get it. I see the blogs all the time from people who really believe that not only do we have to kill all the Moslems in the world, but also all the liberals, and basically the entire probably 90% of the world that they don’t agree with. I’m not going to give them the favor of linking, but if you go to the Dauo Report in Salon Magazine you can usually find these blogs. These hateful stupid people honestly believe that we are the problem still. Even after 6 years of their nutty fruitcake President doing his acts of destruction they continue to believe in their cause.

Enough of that and more about Roatan Island next time!

More Turmoil in the Book Business

Another major bankruptcy by a book wholesaler is sending panic throughout the book industry, and causing more problems for small independent publishers, who are already a dying breed.

One of the major distributors in small-press publishing has long been Publishers Group West. Their success indirectly contributed to the end of Book People, which was the major distributor of small-presses before PGW came along. They went bankrupt several years ago mostly because PGW proved much more adept at business than the idealistic collective that ran Book People.

It raised a few eyebrows, especially mine, when PGW was purchased by Advanced Marketing Services 2 years ago. ADS after all had nothing to do with small publishers; their specialty instead was merely selling books to Costco and Sam’s, both of whom severely discounted book prices. The fact that you can buy books at Costco and Sam’s for less than most bookstores themselves pay has long been a severe problem for independent bookstores. I have often wondered myself how AMS could make a living selling books at the extremely low margins they must have. Apparently they made it up in volume, or at least that was their marketing plan.

It all came crashing down right after Christmas when AMS declared bankruptcy, bringing PGW down with them.

Many of the small publishers are worried that they might not get paid for the books that PGW has. A lot of these publishers depended on PGW to sell all of their titles. Now they don’t even know if they can get their own inventory returned.

This is the latest in a series of bankruptcies of alternative wholesalers in the book business, part of the whole centralization of the book business. It also increases the importance of businesses like ours, Homestead Book Company, which is one of the few small independent distributors of books left in the world.

Truth is Inconvenient in Federal Way, WA

Seattle and the Puget Sound area is a bastion of high-tech and the people here tend to be highly-educated, but even we sometimes have trouble with the less-educated trying to restrict the teaching of science in schools.
Federal Way schools restrict Gore film
A parent objected to the showing of “An Inconvenient Truth” because, he says,
“Condoms don’t belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He’s not a schoolteacher.”

He goes on to complain Al Gore does not acknowledge the truth as he sees it, namely that the earth is only 14,000 years old and that God is going to burn it all up in the end anyway, whatever the hell that means.

Hopefully the educators who have been intimidated by this loser will change their minds about banning the film. The students in Federal Way deserve to be taught science, not superstitution.