May 24, 2020
I’m switching it up tonight, departing from Marco Francisco’s familiar song title for blog title formula. Peart’s passing in January hit him hard, and in a way, I think this blog series is his way of paying respects. I think it’s also helped calm his clamor of thought during a time we would’ve all considered unimaginable just a few short months ago. It’s a beautiful thing, really, what Marco has done with this series. Ironic, isn’t it? The Honduras blog kept while we’re not even in Honduras might be his best work yet.
I’d be remiss if I hadn’t taken time to reflect. The past few months, if nothing else, have allowed us all ample time with just our thoughts. I hope our team members from years past grace the sphere with their eyes again, even if just one more time, to maybe let their minds wander back through the years and savor the memories they created with us and our brothers and sisters in the land of Hell fire and honey suckle, bloodshed and bodily sacrifice, love and lust. The land we’ve come to know and love as a second home.
2020 was going to be our 10-year anniversary tour. Our very own Decade of Decadence, Honduran Carnage ’round town mashup in Pinajelo and the Quimistan valley. But instead we’re left with virtual symbiosis. Film, literature, other miscellaneous pastimes (wet dreams for Buttbeard), petitioning Lionsgate for Children of the Corn III on blu-ray, musings, imaginings and memories. A mild winter gave way to a cool spring. Here in the Appalachian foothills our snowstorms never come from the west. Storms track down the Ohio River Valley but the mountains stop them from crossing over. Well a few weeks ago a rain came at midnight. Que Maiden’s 2 Minutes to Midnight. One inch fell from the heavens, and guess where it tracked? Straight down the Ohio River Valley. Sometimes these truly feel like the last days. The end times.
The bees are dying. Locusts are swarming East Africa. Cyclones are slamming India and Bangladesh. Forget the black market, there’s a “red market” now… blood smuggling. Like Twain said… no fiction is stranger than reality. The dinosaur stood at the podium and addressed the other dinosaurs… “the picture is bleak, gentlemen…”
How about we que a happier song? “Memories” by Maroon 5. “The drinks bring back all the memories of everything we’ve been through…” (Ugh!)
I’m always surprised by the degree of detail Marco can recount when recalling stories from the past. For example, I’d forgotten about the young fellow peddling funnel cakes by Gloria’s. And the lemonade flavoring going in the water we flushed down to Hunter… I thought someone actually pissed in that pipe. And the depositions taken after the scorpion incident. I don’t remember Madison acting as a witness at all. Marco is the exception, because memories are rarely about the details. Recall what the memory maker said in Blade Runner… They all think it’s about the detail, but that’s not how memory works. We recall with our feelings. Anything real should be a mess.
We all move through life at a different pace. Some people drift through it effortlessly. Others navigate it like sasquatch tromping through mud. And so it’s natural that memories are made for different people in different ways. Life is a series of moments strung together in succession on a string – some bright, some dull. Some we’d rather forget, but memories don’t work that way. We take them with us.
I’m going to spend some time going through my mess of a memory… the ones I don’t want to forget.
Charlie Pace knew his fate days before his death. He knew he was going to drown in the Looking Glass, so he spent his final days looking back at his life and writing down what he described as his “greatest hits;” the moments in his life that rung louder than the others, shone brighter, and helped define who he was as a person. The moments that meant the most to him. Some memories are ghosts that haunt us forever, others are beacons that give us hope for the future. Like anything else, we take the good ones with the bad ones. Those of us who drift through life on wings, effortlessly, might have a string so profoundly and beautifully woven it would be difficult to point out the brightest threads. By comparison, some bands have discographies so strong that the attempt to compile a greatest hits album is an insult to the discography. Iron Maiden, for instance. Or I’m sure Marco would point to Rush. Other bands have highs and lows in their dark dungeons of pleasures, which I might find more relatable. Celtic Frost, for instance. It’s an interesting exercise, compiling greatest hits. For every To Mega Therion there’s a Cold Lake. For every Ain Elohim a “Petty Obsession.” Then there’s Monotheist, the kind of firework show we all dream about going out on.
Music has always been one of our group’s cornerstones. So in the spirit of keeping the continuity, here are some of the defining and most treasured moments I’ve shared with my Honduran comrades over the years. The closest I can come to a “greatest hits.”
I’m going to go through these the best I can, in the time that I have. Bear with me comrades while I try to keep the salt from my eyes.
10. The ’01 Corolla breaks down in front of Bojangles
Now, before you say, “but that wasn’t in Honduras!” yes, you are correct, but I’m counting it anyway because it was the calamity that kicked off our first Honduran venture and sent us scrambling like squirrels chasing nuts to get our **** together just to make it to the airport. Bear in mind that our only previous international mission was to Guatemala the year prior, and that venture was wrought with misfortune from start to finish, with the occasional calamity thrown in for good measure (Volcano Pacaya erupting on May 27th, Tropical storm Agatha chasing its coattails a few days later). That’s on top of the lesser misfortunes, like Muscle Tech’s toe fungus, Jim destroying the toilet in the roach motel, Chris’s bed bug issues, Dane AKA Frans being electrocuted in the shower, yours truly vomiting up a bloody mary in the streets of Antigua in oncoming traffic, etc. So really it’s a testament to our fortitude that we even considered a sophomore venture. But Uncle Sam came calling and we couldn’t tell him no. And before we even reached PTI we were sure we were destined for yet another ill-fated expedition when, at two ‘o clock in the morning on the way to the airport my car broke down rounding a U-turn off the Lewisville/Clemmons exit, causing complete engine and steering failure. Hans, Frans and I flagged down a cop. One cop turned into twenty cops in about five minutes. And with their help, along with Jefe, Mater and Muscle Tech, we pushed my car into the Bojangles parking lot and left it for AAA. Hans, Frans and I somehow crammed into Narnie’s mini along with the other five. And we rode to PTI Honduran style… eight gringos + luggage + a couple tubs of toothpaste in a minivan.
Viva Honduras! Viva America!
9. Jennifer Call gives Stan the Man a wild time on the pila
The particular details of this bizarre episode elude me. Marco Francisco or Senor Mater may be in a better position to offer some insight into the confluence of events that incited this debauchery. The horses in the pasture had already smelled the roses. Love was in the air. And in the delirium of the day, and by that, I mean the suffocating heat from the hell oven of the Quimistan valley, along with some likely self-medication, lecherous maledictions and strange adjures were uttered over the side of the pila makeshift charity jacuzzi. Mater and Hans gave pause nearby, observing the transpiring events on their freshly constructed mook shrine. Stan the man bent over, reaching for the plug at the bottom… to drain it. He pulled the plug. And alas! A new plug went in! J Call with the win! The final touch in consecrating the holy pila juccuzi on the hallowed ground. We have oft visited the property in years following, celebrating the shrine’s apparent resistance to the desecration that has surely befallen it.
[Photographic evidence available upon request]
8. Mater’s 56th
Mater’s b-day always falls sometime during the trip, since we always book the last half of May. And his b-day celebrations have brought some of the more memorable moments the trips have had to offer… from moshing with the crazed children in La Montanita to punta dancing in the grand hall after gorging on wet cake (yummy yummy but heavy in the tummy). That’s right, Mater’s b-days have educated us in traditional Honduran folk dancing. What the universities would refer to as a “cultural” experience. Give us Clarence Clemons on sax and we would’ve been the next Youtube sensation. But the most memorable to me wasn’t even the puntas but the mariachi trio we summoned on the shores of Tela to sing Feliz cumpleanos to a red-faced Mater while the Jamaican girls braided mine and Que Pasa’s hair… Dirk chowed down. And son of Dirk tried not to get sun burnt. And our laughing faces radiated brighter than the beaming Honduran sun.
[Video available upon request]
7. Dirk bags the chicken choker
I’ve witnessed some real spectacles but this one just about does all the others one over. I’d rather voyage the seven seas with Buttbeard and first mate stinky and share Captain Buttbeard’s oatmeal than try and bag Rhinostomus Barbirostris in a ziploc. That reddish bearded rostrum is the most intimidating thing I’ve ever seen on an insect. The locals called it the “chicken choker” but further research reveals that it’s a crop killer, not a chicken killer (though I wouldn’t put it past this sinister looking weevil to thrust its gnarly appendage into the throat of a chicken and skewer the life from it). The locals swore it attacked their chickens. It also injects fungus into trees, blocking the resin canals that would normally wash out feeding insects, killing the trees it attacks doing so. Groups of dead trees are a focus for fires, so in this way the bearded weevil is indirectly responsible for forest fires. The insect of mass destruction. After consulting with some Nicaraguan friends familiar with the beetle, they call it the ‘Ron Ron’ and claim it urinates acid on their livestock that melts straight through the skin causing infection and death. So by all accounts, this beetle is the bringer of death to all matters of animal and plant life.
*sets down the beef jerky and picks up a ziploc* “Chicken choker hur hur Ima goin bag it!”
6 . Aaron gives his testimony
Our first year in the bush was very much a dipping our toes in the pond – type exercise, and rather than focus on one or two large scale projects, we found ourselves caught up in a mishmash of activities, oft headed up by Scotti Steven’s taskmaster counterpart from Aiken. I think this was largely due to not having our expert mooker and mason in tow, Marco, as the mooking didn’t begin in earnest until the Mayan death clock struck twelve the following year. On one day the Wilkesboro crew split up from the Aiken crew and Chris’s ‘rabid dogs’ had a sit down with some local teenage boys at the schoolhouse in La Montanita to discuss alcohol and substance abuse. All eight of the Wilkesboro party were present. We sat in a circle and rounded it, introducing ourselves one by one. Daniella translated to the teens the best he could. You can imagine the introductions they got… we introduced Muscle Tech son of Mater as the peddler, and we weren’t talking about funnel cakes. “Muscle Tech… supplements that work! Muscle Tech’s got you covered!” The biceps flexed. The pecs danced like Terry Crews high on Old Spice. A long round of applause.
But the laughs died down after some time went by, and Aaron ended up with the floor. Chris had asked him to prepare something if I recall. Or maybe the word flowed from him impromptu, I don’t know. But he reached into the pit of his stomach for the message he delivered, telling us about his own history with drugs and alcohol, and how they had kept him from knowing God and living the life God wanted him to live. He had to pause after every sentence so Daniela could translate, and it was kinda like that gave him more time to gather his thoughts, because every sentence he spoke was more powerful than the last. I was struggling with my faith then. Well, I guess I’ve always struggled with it some, I feel like we all do, but in 2011 I was jaded. But I felt something stirring in that room that day and I could feel lives being changed. It was one of ‘those moments’ for me.
Aaron was going to be on our 2020 venture, by the way, before everything fell apart. I hope it works out for him in the future. We all do. Wherever you are in these crazy times, I hope you’re doing okay bro.
To be continued…