A Tale of Cynicism: Joel & Sharon Review Lake Atitlan

Look into Lago Atitlan. It’s incredible. A vortex of love and healing. – Kila Davina

You gotta go to the Lake  – Everyone coming from the Lake

I’m going to the Lake – Everyone else

I am at the lake – Michael Henry &
Dylan Frew &
Sharon Manente

On the shores of Lake Atitlan

Greetings from Lake Atitlan! Surrounded by 3 volcanoes, in the Guatemala Highlands. Deepest lake in Central America!

The shores scattered with several different towns & villages, each sounding as unique at the next, all easily accessible by a short boat ride. I’ve just arrived yesterday to San Pedro, the backpackers hub of the lake. Analysis? Fuckin’ GAY!

Let me better introduce you to my friend Sharon. I first met her back at the D&D Brewery. Cute little blonde appearance, contrasted by an Italian-American-Detroitan tone, and a vulgar emanation that implied not to mess with her. She was also very unimpressed with everything.  It was hilarious. You see when the chach’s rolled into the Brewery, kind of killing the gang’s vibe, I gel’d with her via the wonderful art of making fun of people.  So we stayed in touch and agree’d to meet up, along with Dylan, at the lake. Porque no?

Here now with her facebook-message reviews, having just arrived to San Pedro a day before me… Sharon Manente:

Yeah it’s definitely the party town. Lots of weird hippies. I haven’t really made contact yet but I met a girl from California while I was in Guatemala City and she told me she “loved it” and “didn’t wanna leave” and told me to “get my hippie on”. Then she told me she was polygamous even tho I didn’t ask. I was like “congrats”. Fucking hippies, man.

Now my dear old travelling French-Canadian friend Michael Henry is currently residing in the much-more-mellow village of San Marcos, merely a 10 minute boat ride away. I’ve heard reviews it might be a little more my thing. But alas, Sharon had been there too:

San Marcos to me was way more unbearable. Straight patchouli wearing, dreaded up hippies speaking shitty Spanish and selling fly-infested “granola balls” next to their shitty, hand-made bracelets that they hired some native for 1Q an hour to make. No bueno, amigo.

Isn’t she a dear? I like to think I’m a little more embracing than she, but I don’t think I could stay here (San Pedro, at least) too long. It’s unique enough but the crowd that’s drawn here where’s a little more expensive clothing than I. Dylan’s having the time of his life. I’ve hardly seen him. Said he’s been going straight since St. Paddy’s day. And by straight I mean partying, not going straight.

San Marcos – the kind of place that just makes you want to flick your cigarette butt on the ground, and hope someone with dreads notices.

So the night I wrote this, for my birthday, Dylan was passed out, so Sharon and I sat on the curb outside “Sublime”, the be all and end all of club’s in San Pedro, practically like sitting outside Outlaws in Saskatoon, or Jax or some shit, making fun of most of those walking in and out. Drinking grocery store beers. It was good enough. Toward the end of the night we returned to my hostel, where I enjoyed watching Sharon try to pick a fight with some Germans. It almost came to fisticuffs, I have no idea what they would have done! She figures they were talking about her in German, and called them out on it. I sat back and watched the riot ensue. She’s not even staying here ha.

I’ve recognized my cynicism has come back, well especially in a place like this… Must have something to do with having to come home soon. The trip winding down. Don’t want to accept it, at the same time getting tired of the run-of-the-mill stuff that comes with travelling like this. It first showed up the day I left Punta Gorda…

Jolie Blue Walks Off Stage

Oscar the Bar Owner/Guitar player had been telling me about a gig he’d been going to up in Placencia. Two hours north of Punta Gorda. Placencia is a great place to let my cynicism shine. A cesspool of foreign owned business are rapidly taking over this  tiny peninsula town, with arguably the best beach in Belize. Placencia is the place I used to go when I wanted to get pissed off about something. Beach front lots for a few million (talking in terms that you can still buy $1000/acre in rural parts of the tiny nation) Just a cluster cuss of American douche bags.

One of said douche bag’s, owned the bar Oscar was going to play at… Well on my way north to Cayo anyhow, I popped in for a night to see Oscar play a show… something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do yet this time around. Also, there is that hostel, Anda Di Haws, run by an interesting enough American woman named Pandora. I have a little bit of a crush on her so it’s always nice to stop by. We usually have beers. She came to the show.

The venue was called Tutti Fruitti. An Ice Cream parlour that also served pizza for $7BZ a slice (fuck off). And served beer. The owner, from Michigan or something, had organized a jam night… Ok so it wasn’t really a gig, like I thought Oscar had said, then again his voice is that of a Rastafarian Ozzy Osbourne so my translation is rarely 100% accurate.

I found Oscar there, sitting in the back, watching the musicians on stage. Granted, they had a wide array of talent, even a stand up bass which was played by the owner. Only problem was the same fucking song they kept playing. Something that sounds like the “According To Jim” theme song, but every single time. Maybe in a different key after 8 minutes or so. I stood in the back, watching with Oscar, growing more bored by the minute. So I sat down in the only available spot. The lady next to me, an American, one of their’s wife, I dunno and she says to me “Aren’t they just great?”

“You think so? I thought they were kind of monotonous… boring” we met on even terms that they’re, so-so, and she asked about my travels. Afterwards I rebounded the question her way “Where are you from?”

“Oh, I’m from here.”

Of course you are… your pale complexion, $2 million dollar house, and Genuine Ray Ban’s (not Bic’s) just scream Belizean. Welcome to Placencia, jeeze.

TBT. Jacintoville, Belize

The boring ass band took a break shortly after, the Bar owner came to where I was once again standing with Oscar.

“This guy plays!” Oscar told the man, referring to me. “Get him up there!”

The Bar owner sized me up, “You got your guitar?”

Of course I did. “Well, plug in”

Ok this is perfect. Between these boring ass full-band Jam sessions of the same 3 chords for a good 10 minutes at a time, I might have a chance to sneak in there alone and actually play a real fucking song… In front of a pretty sizeable crowd no less.
I plugged in and played a few strings… “Your guitar sounds like shit” this textbook American-expat-businessman told me.

I stared at him… “You want me not to play?”
“No you can play, just make it sound better”

I tweaked some things, and made Caroline sound better, but I was already not enjoying myself. Then the owner got behind the drums… Ok he’s gonna play with me. Whatever. Then some other musicians came out of the woodworks. Oh great. Jolie Blue does not play well with others. I jumped into Redemption Song, even though the owner requested no reggae because he was tired of hearing it, despite all these fresh travellers in the crowd, likely not spending much time in the Caribbean and would probably like to hear some fucking Bob Marley.

The band joined in, and it was awful… fixated on their Jim Belushi 3 chord Blues Jam, my rendition of Redemption was over run with contradicting vibes, an up beat bluesy poppy energy coinciding with Bob’s low key words of freedom. I can’t explain it. It was awful. I looked to the back of the room at Oscar in a what do I do? kind of way. He was just smiling. He knew exactly how much i wasn’t enjoying it, but also seemed happy enough just to be there… away from the bar on Front Street for a night When the song ended I stepped off the Mic, turned to the band, and told them I’m not taking lead anymore. The mic was too quiet, they wouldn’t turn me up, and clearly they didn’t want to play what I wanted to play… I stepped back to Rhythm guitar, no one took the mic, and the same God Damned Jim Belushi blues tune started up again for another 8 minutes.

What am I doing? This isn’t a performance, this is a bunch of trained musicians stroking each other off while the audience sits patiently, yet unstimulated… Looking into the crowd, that was waiting for something to get excited over, I realized this might be the best time and place to whip out the crude, off-colour, yet so popular, Wheeler Walker Jr. tune eating pussy/kicking ass. The chach’s would hate it, someone would have bound to love it. It would have been a nice punch in the face to this hoighty toighty ex-pat Placencia community.

“Alright boys I got one” and I jump in with the first chord. This is where I should have grabbed the mic, told the band to shut the hell up because the audience deserves something better, demand them off stage and steal the show… but hindsight is always 20-20. I’ll remember for next time i’m ever caught up in an egotistical macho jerk off of a jam session.

Now this song of cunnilingus followed immediately by pulverization has a lot of stop/starts, and the lyrics are absolutely essential, So when the first line came around, and I already knew the band was not about to cater to the uniqueness of the song I straight up called it quits. I turned around and said “I can’t do this anymore, you guys are  horrible” and walked off. Arrogant sure, but what can I say, there was an aroma of arrogance in the room already.

I walked to the back of the bar and sat, disgruntled, with Oscar, who consoled me… We drank the rum I had stashed in my pocked (because $5 beer at the bar? forget it) and watched the jam band perform yet another wonderful rendition of the Jim Belushi band, 3 chord blues, before I took off for the night. And out of the region the very next day.

So there are good shows, there are bad shows. I’ve really taken a liking to, what i’ve dubbed, the Jolie Blue Central American Hostel Tour. Camp fires, Dollar beers, the fellow travellers joining in on the songs they know (Where Bob Marley comes in handy. I love the interaction, the involvement). Or the strange occasion when a local who has seldom seen a guitar demands a song on the spot, wherever it may be. On the road, waiting for a bus, whatever… Just not Jam nights, with Americans, in Placencia, ick.

Back To The Lake

It was a particularly muggy day, the day I finally went out and took pictures. Nice looking place tho.

So here I am now, Lake Atitlan. Watching another year roll over on me, having not made the 27 club like every child dreams… Though it was not for a Dog’s best effort on my Birthday’s eve. I was walking home to the hostel at the end of a night, and this dog was having the time of his life chasing down a motorcycle, passing me head on. When he realized he couldn’t grab hold of the bike, I guess I looked just as appealing, He jumped up on to my side and sunk his teeth into my ribs. I wailed, but carried on clutching the side of my body thinking “That’s a sign enough, this town just isn’t for me”. Sure is nice having Dylan and Sharon around though. We do generate an energy one can’t so-simply create with any given group of travellers.

I’m not sure what I’ll do next, Gotta start heading north. Sounds like Dylan’s heading north too. Back to hitchhiking! Luckily here at the hostel of which I’m staying, there’s a psychologist from Holland, I couldn’t help but unload to her all my plans to buy and drive a truck home, and how i’m running out of time and all that… I might as well have been on one of those couches with her holding a pen and paper but she told me to forget about these lists. These plans. Enjoy where you’re at, when you’re there, and if you’re not happy where you’re at, move on. The travellers code.

The truck can find me.

In other news, I finally managed to track down my beloved French-Canuck hippie bro, Michael Henry (left)… directionless, he found this other guy named Michael and is now training to manage his restaurant. -San Marcos.