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It was another part of my life, another far distant 'port of call'. It's back there when I first decided to head down this road I'm seemingly still on, out here making the time to go see what wonders abound.

I can admit that when I first hit the trail, I was nothing more that just another 'gringo' on a two-week vacation to Mexico. I wanted to get out for good but I was drowning in a twenty-five year old sea of credit card debt. Most of it had spent foolishly, buying things like silk shirts and Polo jeans that I still never wear. Some of the stuff still resides there packed away in a storage unit in America costing me twenty-five dollars per month.
When I first took the road south of the US border and into Mexico, I was a way under financed 'caballero' full of high hopes and big dreams. I was running from the past in a way, running just as hard from the future I guess too.

So Mexico seemed like the obvious choice, in part for it's relative closeness. It turned out for me to be a place where I and my bag of emotions could run free. And together we ran south down the Yucatan Peninsula at a fevered pitch.

Too many tacos and way too many ice-cold cervezas later I looked up and realized I was in the town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I eventually crossed that land border from Mexico and found Belize. Since then I've crossed over the Belizean borderline from all directions, more times that I can remember.

But I'll always remember that first time, checking through the Belizean side of the Mexico-Belize border, about a half hour by car south of Chetumal. I'll remember that day as embarrassing as it is to admit, for losing my wristwatch in the less than formal country check-in process. The watch simply came unhitched and fell off my arm to the ground.

By sundown that same day, quite frankly I was forgetting all about time. Instead I was high on feeling good about the sheer freedom at my disposal. It's amazing now looking back so many miles later and still remembering just how excited I was about being in Belize, life was indeed less complicated.

I can really appreciate now just how tight of an operating budget I was running on when I first set this course I'm still on, a ten year plan in the making.

Since the taxes have now all been paid and the dollars have been accounted for, I can tell you that the first time when I made it as far south as the fishing village of Placencia in southern Belize, in order to offset the cost for a cold one, I bartended drinks across the bar for an ailing Canadian.

That's right, a Canadian. Now I have to say that I've agreed with the lawyers to call him Antonio. I have also toned down my distain at times for some Canadians, because of the potential repercussions the next time 'the Austrian tour guide' tries to cross that border.

That said, Antonio the Canadian was outwardly arrogant. But sadly when I ran across him, regardless of all the arrogance, well he was a Canadian in need.

As I found him that day, Antonio was all laid up in a Guatemalan made hammock with a glass of One Barrel rum sporting a way infected glass cut on his left foot at a place called 'the Pickled Parrot Bar and Grill'. His girlfriend who most say endured Antonio's insults and abuses, was 'on paper' the Pickled Parrot's co-owner.

She herself was a Canadian, but a likable Canadian, as many of the species of western Canadians can be. Her name was Miss Wendy and she was an endearing barrel of a woman with puffy, rosy cheeks.

Miss Wendy managed the bar and the restaurant as well as two cabañas that she and Antonio rented out to non-packaged tourist. She and Antonio had just recently opened up, so Miss Wendy also cooked all the food for the restaurant.

So there I was this particular day tending the bar at 'the Pickled Parrot' when a friend of Miss Wendy's came in from California. He was a self-proclaimed travel magazine editor of a publication I need not mention by name. I remember when the editor and his party walked under the thatched champa, I realized I recognized them all. For the editor and his entourage had been on the same snorkeling trip I had taken earlier in the week.

During that snorkeling trip, I had boldly hounded the editor hoping that he would see my vision of my 'Talkabout the World' tour. I had this foolish idea that he would easily sign me to a multi-year adventure travel column, publishing my material and photographs, all of which sight unseen.

I must say he was very encouraging on the snorkeling trip as well as the afternoon when I served them all rum punches and cool Belikins, slinging it all across the bar at 'the Parrot'.

Disappointedly, years later as I continued to travel the world at large, I spoke to 'the editor' via email as well as direct on the telephone several times after an expedition down to the Corn Islands of Nicaragua. Because 'the editor' had always promised to publish anything I could send him on the small Nicaragua two island archipelago, I eventually sent him photos for his review. Strangely, I never heard from him ever again.

For the peace and tranquility to pull a second book together, I thought I would return to the village of Placencia. The first afternoon in town I stopped by the Pickled Parrot to see what had transpired since my last visit.

Immediately I noticed there was a new thatch roof, no doubt due to the ravages of Hurricane Iris's rampage.

Over a Belikin I learned from the new bartender from Vancouver, BC, that Antonio was long ago bought out by Miss Wendy and had now moved on. Some say he settled over on Ambergris Caye while others say, "Who cares as long as he's gone".

Underneath the new thatched 'champa', nursing a hangover from two days back and sitting there in her usual high top bar chair, well I found Miss Wendy. She was sporting a tan and despite the non stop 'rum and coke Belikin beer backs' which pull her through the day, well she appeared all lean. The rosy red cheeks were still there, so was the wide smile. At first glance, Miss Wendy seemed to have dropped at least one hundred and fifty pounds.

Despite loosing all the weigh, I think it's safe to say that Miss Wendy is still the real 'pickled parrot'. Miss Wendy still carries her rosy cheeks and big smile and shows often her warm heart.

And although Miss Wendy was between boyfriends when I last saw her, having just kicked her third husband out in as many years for being 'no good', well business at 'the Pickled Parrot Bar, Grill and Cabañas' was pretty good.

Miss Wendy admits her rum consumption remains rather constant. Miss Wendy also says she plans to do some traveling. For Miss Wendy is said to have met this Belizean guy named Stallion, and together they've decided to take the two cabañas at the Pickled Parrot, long-term.

Before my last visit to Placencia and Miss Wendy's Pickled Parrot, I asked if she had ever heard from her friend again, the LA travel editor again. Miss Wendy says she heard that his magazine seems to have itself escaped from the newsstands, having quit publishing now for a little over a year. According to Miss Wendy, she heard 'the editor' missed his mark, simply didn't pay enough attention to his ten year plan.

Excerpt from "Tales from on the Surface ...And The Road Goes On"
by Julian Monroe Fisher

Tales from on the Surface

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