The power goes out. One story about flames and one story about fun. Skid Row Bar Utila, Honduras.
Story One: About the flames.
Quicker than online viral first account reports, I received news this past Sunday about a fire at Skid Row Bar in Utila. The news came from long time island resident Barbara – who years ago was a reporter in native Switzerland – and still uses these skills to this day on the small sleepy island. The news was there was a fire at the bar the evening before, sometime late night or maybe even just prior to dawn….and from what I gather it could have gone really really bad.
“The building is still there.” Says Barbara to me on the phone live from her deck overlooking the sea to the south, and the bar across the street to the north.
“Im not exactly sure what happened but I heard they had the bucket brigade….Ill make a call and find out.” And she was off to dig up some details.
In the mean time I messaged Ryan (the owner of the bar), and eventually that afternoon we spoke on the phone – him on his cell phone, me via skype- so I could get the scoop. Of note: to call a cell phone from Honduras to a cell phone in Canada the cost is around 5 cents a minute. For me to call a Honduras cell phone through Skype, the cost was 46.5 cents a minute – something is wrong here, and this made my call to Ryan a lot shorter than I had planned.
We got right to the point of my call. And so, to the story.
It starts off that Ryan had this particular Sunday to himself and was not at the bar (it was probably staffed by Visor Steve who is actually retired from working at the bar but canno’t actually stop working). Ryan didn’t need to tell me that on his day off he was at home sitting in the AC and watching TV (this is a given for him). The phone rings – Reggaeton plays – and then Ryan answers.
“Hello.” he dribbles lazily.
“Fire! Real fire now!”, the voice on the other end screams – and with that – hangs up the connection.
Without further details, Ryan flew out of the house, barefoot (not unusual on Utila, but maybe unusual if you were on your way to fight a fire burning down your economical lifeline). Now, moving fast down the road on his bike – head racing – wondering WTF was going on, what situation he was going to arrive upon. This must have looked funny as well since the only people who move fast on Utila are anyone under the age of 16 and on a scooter….that is it.
When he arrived there was some chaos and confusion but no flames to speak of, some smoke Im sure.
According to Ryan three particular people helped rescue the burning down of the bar “just in time” and with some interesting and somewhat unconventional measures. Gib took it upon himself to remove the butane tanks sitting directly around the burning inferno in the kitchen area. John went and acquired fifteen 5lb bags of flour to throw on whatever was in fact burning. Thank you Gib and John and Wharty – who has a store across the street and was on water detail as well. What I am learning now, is in this particular situation were three different fires occurring: electrical fire, regular fire, and grease fire…..throw in the possibility of compressed air explosion and this could have been quite the fireworks display not seen since the famous Laguna Beach resort cabin burning of Jan 2011 (see: faulty AC/electrical unit for that one as well). Apparently, the electrical company named UPCO had been turning the electricity on and off prior to the fire (they are famous for this), and this was the contributing factor……it started from crappy wiring, some surges, and all these other voltage issues that I wont even begin to pretend I understand or know anything about……but this is what started the entire ordeal.
With some quick actions from the neighbours who were probably worried more about the surrounding houses and local business than they were Skid Row – this disaster was averted just at the point where it could have gotten very very out of hand. Call 911? Emergency line of some sort? Well, there is a fire station with a fire truck on the island. But Ive never met a fireman nor seen the fire truck move an inch from its parking spot, in the three years I’d spent living there. I don’t think there is even such thing as a fire alarm or extinguisher in any house or business – not that Ive seen anyway although John the Baker, I bet hes got one….I mean he has the only 40ft ladder on the island so I am sure he has thought about fire precautions for his home as well. Lets just say, there is and was, only people looking out for people in the spirit of community and to generally “do the right thing”. This saved Skid Row from total destruction. The fact that the building is still intact and operating today is a testament to luck, action and ……..well, timing.
“We were really lucky.” Ryan admitted. “The only thing we really lost was a toaster, and some burned particle board……..actually, the kitchen was open and serving food a day later.” He proudly stated to me on the phone at the end of our conversation.
Two things are interesting about Ryans final comments. One, he says “we were lucky” although he is the only actual owner of Skid Row……it’s a great sense of place on Utila where people actually feel part in parcel with the community…..and likewise the people/public feel a sense of family and ownership in many aspects of the island. “We” are in this one together so to speak. And two, that the kitchen was serving food no problem, 24hrs later – stated proudly by Ryan (see: its not the hand youre dealt with its how you play your cards, no harm no foul sort of attitude – again very related to the attitude on Utila). And we thank God for that.
Story Two: About the Fun.
A couple months ago the power went out on Utila during a scheduled shut down (ie: someone on the street tells you that the power wont be on until 2pm………or something along these lines). With this extended time away from anything electrical, I headed down to Skid Row to hang out and shoot the breeze with others doing the same thing. I wrote the article below, the day after this particular afternoon. It’s a good one so I thought I would resurrect it for this post.
28 Jan 2012
Power out? People come!
Not an unusual event in the day to day life of living on Utila……the power going out. I was mentioning to someone that it actually saves us money when UPCO suddenly decides (by their choice or not) that the island is in need of a little less AC and Reggaeton. I was also told that we can just make that choice if we want to. No though, its better to be motivated by force and then turn around and take credit for the validity of such greenness.
None the less, and more to the point of this story is what exactly people do when the power does indeed cease to flow. We pretty much go on with life from what I can tell. Only those accustomed to either laziness (see:TV) or luxuriousness (see: Air Con) seem to complain……the others continue on. Food is cooked with gas, fridges stay closed a little more, and well, a little romantic candlelight at night is never a bad thing.
Another phenomena seems to occur as well……and I witnessed it yesterday. Pulling up at Skids for a frosty and some fat to chew on around 2pm, I was in fact not the only one with the same idea. It appears that when the power decides not to interact with us for a while, a logical choice for some of us is to head to the pub. And its not a bad idea at all. Different folks began pulling up and the balls on the pool table were cracking. The only sounds made available to us were those of chatter, banter, and the odd low level argument…….this and one guys cell phone which has one of those loud and annoying ring tones (of the lets pretend Im an old phone on a wall in your grandmas house sort of ring). I planned on a few with a few but it turned out to be an entire afternoon of fun, relaxation and unexpected comfort which always succeeds in drawing us in to what we later refer to as “that was a fun day”.
On queue Ryan breaks out a little game to pass the time – and what I now see as a submissive attempt to keep people engaged in their drink a little while longer (see: customer retention). It was a real easy concept of course, easy concepts are key for the wonderful clientele of the establishment. Pick a time when the power will come back on. Pick a time? Really? Is this what we do for fun in Utila? Well if yesterday was an example then the answer is yes.
After a few minutes 18 people had chosen their respective times and threw in 20Lemps in a winner take all sort of bet. As things progressed and the pool of times was being chipped away, the power did arise from its sleep. It wasn’t about the money or the bragging rights or some trophy (or heaven forbid a free shot of giffity), but just about the fun. No Wii fun here, proper good ole fashioned for no other reason fun. For those wondering, the time was 4:06pm.
Simplicity in its finest hour, fun in its freshest sense. At Skids (and with Ryan at the helm, yes I can give kudos when they are due), this is more of the norm than the exception to the rule. Think I might poke my head in there this afternoon to see what fun can be had without knowing whats coming.
A very special mention to a random tourist who first asked to have a seat at the bar and then asked to buy the five us sitting directly around him – a beer. That was nice. And to make it even more special he introduced himself as Steve……and then produced his dive card to show his full name as STEVE IRWIN. HA!