Sep 14, 2006

ROATAN, Honduras:
Tim and Vlastya – also grounded from diving – kindly tour me around Roatan. We wander along the grungy West End, a strip of dive shops and humble cantinas. Then, for contrast, we drive to West Bay, where nouveau McMansions present empty windows to sea: souless as a model's gaze.

Echoes of JRR Tolkien ambush me. Remember when the wide-eyed hobbits encounter Aragorn, but decide to trust this grungy enigmatic character because "a servant of the enemy would look fairer and feel fouler"?

Welcome to Lighthouse Estates. Pretty exterior. Plutonium core of hideousness...

Roatan – freeze-framed mid-boom – has a lot of phantom subdivisions: ornate gates and signage, plots marked "sold" and three embittered construction workers picking the carcass of a half-finished clubhouse.

Unfortunately, this one survived. We hates it forever, my precious, and leave, quick as we can – which is to say, not quickly enough.

I've burned through my notebook, so we stop for another at a small grocery, the type that proclaims "erase the hate" under its name. Clearly, the proprietor has been to the Lighthouse Estates recently...

The only feasible notebook has a gape-mouthed mountain-biking chick on the cover. A supporting image, cut into a sporty rhomboid, shows another cyclist poised on his pedals. His t-shirt billows. His plumber's crack glows, unsullied by the sun.

"It's perfect," I sigh. Tim and Vlastya humor me. Swift learners both, my new friends have grown adept at this.

I also buy honey and hot sauce – and receive change for one U$ dollar.

Tim blasts the car along the floodwater-streambeds that pass for backroads. When he retires – prematurely is the plan – this British consultant wants to open a school for pilots. His flair for flight is plain.

From the backseat of their rental, I gape at scarlet palm nuts girdling a trunk, a vine-covered satellite dish and a fencepost sprouting anew, yearning back towards the jungle.

Vendors hawk blinged steering wheels on the verge. The island has one main road, which traces its spine.

Who needs automotive flash in a land of rutted dirt?

Or maybe that's when you need it most...

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