Hmm. I’ve been here…what…eight months now, and in that time Lalo has never asked to take me out to dinner. I knew something was up – just didn’t know what. I suggested Graham’s, which is a bar/restaurant/resort just “up the road” from us in the cay chain that rings Guanaja. Close enough to walk or swim home if I had to. And I mean that literally – at low tide you could actually walk down the reef.
Here’s where I need to digress. We had this guy working for us, Jose-Luis. A good kid. Always smiling, always willing to do whatever was asked of him. The kind you look at and go, “Gee, I wish I had twenty or thirty more just like him.” A likeable, youthful guy, I assumed he was in his early twenties. Uh-uh. Turns out he was twenty-nine when I first met him. He’s since turned 30. Naturally there is the wife and three kids at home, one a newborn.
The typically dour Jose-Luis, hauling sandbags as we built a jetty in our marina
The catch was that Jose-Luis is a “rocker,” Guanaja slang for coke-head. Realize, crack cocaine is one of the most powerfully addictive drugs out there. Right up on a par with crystal-meth, evidently. Not impossible to kick, but maybe so here in this place. The odds are just against it. Even if you went to rehab and got over the addiction, if you came back and hung around with the same guys in the same places, you’d be back doing it in no time at all. For some of these guys, their only hope at this point is prayer.
People who get addicted to crack do things that they would never do under normal circumstances. And they do it without even blinking or feeling the slightest bit of remorse. For Jose-Luis, getting that next hit was more important than anything else in the world.
His real problem was that his addiction and other certain related behavior came to be noticed by the Boss. The Boss who has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Which meant Jose-Luis was out. Just like that, gone. (In defense of the Boss, there were many other issues that resulted in the termination, not just the fact that Jose-Luis was on crack. But it did play large.)
Hey, the guy created his own problems; sucks to be him. The usual phone calls were made from various people asking for his job back. No dice. “Fired For Cause.”
Which brings us to last night…
Lalo and I were enjoying a nice evening. (It’s always a nice evening when someone else is paying for the food and booze.) After a few lubricating Rum and Cokes, he got down to business. I knew he would eventually, but it was sooner rather than later.
“Bob, what are we going to do about that little shit?”
I knew who he was talking about. “Lalo, the guy got himself into this. It’s his own fault. Let him fix his own mess.”
“Bob, listen to me, son,” Lalo continued in his paternal, almost-stern way. (He is younger than me by a good bit, yet he often lectures me like a child.) “He landlord is going to put him out on the street! He got a wife and three kids! We can NOT let that happen," he said adamantly, adding, "I already gave his wife 2,000 lempira.”
It must be said here that next to the Boss, Lalo is the most generous guy in all of Guanaja. He would give you the shirt off his back and his sneakers too if you needed them. He is a truly great human being who absolutely does not know how to say no to people. He never has any money because he gives it all away.
I shook my head and shrugged. “It’s not our problem, man. You can’t save them all. People have to learn to be responsible. He’ll manage.”
Lalo gets this look on his face and a tone in his voice when he wants something and isn’t going to take “no” for an answer. He ordered up another round and let the subject drop. We were joined by Robert, the captain of the Lady Carminda, a cargo boat that runs regularly between Guanaja and La Ceiba. Robert is a super guy who helps us out immensely. He and Lalo have been lifelong friends. You can just tell that they’d do anything for each other.
A couple of Rum and Cokes later (okay, by that time I’d lost count and to prove it I have a god-awful headache this morning as I write this), Lalo broached the subject again.
“Bob, we got to do something for that little shit.”
I sighed, sensing that I was fighting a losing battle. He’s like a dog with a bone! “Lalo, look. The only way Jose-Luis is going to survive is if he can get out of here…get away from this place and get off the crack.”
“He needs a job on a boat,” Lalo suggested.
“Can’t we find him one?” I asked.
“I can do that,” Robert chimed in. Until that point, he hadn’t been involved in this discussion, but it was clear that he was already up to speed on the subject.
Long story-short, Lalo convinced me to go with him, Robert and Jose-Luis to a place called the West Peak Inn this morning. The plan is to have a no-compromises, come-to-Jesus talk with Jose-Luis. We’ll keep him and his family from being kicked out on the street, but this is not a free pass.
It’s touching, the way these two generous-to-a-fault guys go to such lengths to help people out. I mean, they themselves have so little, yet they give so much. I don’t know if our little talk with the guy is going to do any good, but I suppose it’s worth a shot. I just see that it's going to cost me money. More money. And I suppose there’ll be a Part II to this story sooner or later. I just hope it’s good news rather than bad. We'll see.
Coincidentally…why does this happen…as I’m writing this post I’ve got the satellite radio (XM Café) on low in the background. Sure enough, they play “All Of My Friends,” a wonderful song about friendship (duh) by a rather obscure artist named Goat. The CD came out last year. It’s the weirdest blend of genres and styles you could ever imagine. Why Goat isn't a more popular artist I'll never know. But I’ve loved that song ('cuz you know I have the best friends in the world) – even have it on the iPod. Odd that XM picked that exact time to play it. You’ve just got to love life’s continuing element of chance.