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Café News Reviews
"We loved 'Café News' when John first presented it years ago at the marina in Isla Mujeres, Mexico; it gave something to look forward too each morning; it spiced up our life. John has a special sense of humor."
Dick & Kathy de Grasse
"I was fortunate enough to be a cruiser in Isla Mujeres when John first did Rick's Café on the Isla Mujeres cruisers net. It became a staple of the daily production. It was looked forward to by virtually everyone in the anchorage. There was always a play on words that never failed to amuse. It was usually humorous, occasionally cutting but never disappointing. I've enjoyed reliving the stories.
After reading 'Cafe News' I am reminded just how glorious it was to be living on a small sail boat in 2004. I long for the sights, sounds, warmth, camaraderie, and the daily cruisers Net punctuated by "Cafe News from Rick's Cafe". John never failed to entertain. The Palapa of Knowledge will never be replaced. The hurricane took everything but our memories, photos, and John's words.
I remember the moment Nereis pulled into the harbor in Isla Mujeres not knowing that my life had just changed forever.
Café News eBook
by John Buchanan
A whimsical tale of a special time in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Join John and his friends as they create a humorous, witty, magical place called Rick's Café.
It began in January of 2004 on Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, five miles or so east of Cancun off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The island is about six miles long and in places only a few hundred yards wide running almost north to south. I had been there for several weeks in a small boater’s enclave called Marina Paraiso living aboard my twenty-nine foot sloop NEREIS, which was moored mere inches from shore tied to pilings made of variously shaped tree trunks.
NEREIS IN ISLA MUJERES
The beach was edged with powdery coral sand harboring many small trees including mangroves and coconut palms its uneven terrain full of holes up to three inches in diameter inhabited by crabs, iguanas and other unforeseen beasts. Geckos ran rampant over all this and were welcomed on board for their ant-eating prowess. There were numerous flat rocks used as fill and as foundation for my small dock providing refuge for even more exotic crawly things of tropical nature. Many iguanas lived in small crevices in the rocks and in burrows under a cement walk leading up to the road that led to a small village to the north. Two other docks several hundred-feet long ran to the west where about fifty boats were tied to pilings.
This is a relaxed place inhabited by boaters of the world, a nexus for travelers moving about the Caribbean or between the Americas, South, Central and North. You tend to run into familiar people or boats in neighborhoods like this. Many are introduced via radio before you see them in person. Some radio people are never met but you still know them in a way, at least by their radio personas. Most are easy to live with, many are likable, some become friends and a very special few become almost like family. It’s that kind of club. There are no requirements for joining but the dues are extraordinary, not necessarily in monetary terms but in effort and occasionally periods of sheer terror.
For two or three nights lying in the quarter birth I heard rustlings in lockers and on shelves finding confetti-like pieces of plastic strewn about. At first I thought it was a gecko that had made it below and marveled at its diet. “What kind of strange beast is eating my boat,” I thought.
In harbors like this there are often VHF radio nets on which boaters throughout the area keep in touch, share information and generally help one another. Occasionally there are segments in which individuals express themselves in various fashions, sometimes with humor, or not.
I asked the next morning on the net if anyone knew what kind of animal would leave such confetti-like remains and several people simultaneously cried, “RAT”, that dreaded word. A rat on board is one of the worst things, except perhaps a hole in the hull one can imagine. I was living with a rodent whose size and ferocity increased with each moment in my fantasy. “WHAT TO DO?” I thought. Those holes surrounding my dock could harbor rodents as well as crabs. I began to rethink the convenience of mooring within rat-jumping distance of shore.
Note the large hole in front of the mangrove’s branches which housed iguanas and perhaps other noxious beasts.
My morning routine was to walk to the village, buy an International Edition of the Miami Herald and visit one or two of the local markets, then return to complete the crossword puzzle. Prior to leaving I usually stopped at the Palapa of Knowledge, a small palm thatched structure over a bend in the north dock where seagoing philosophers met to solve world problems. As I approached on that fateful day of the rodent Rick waved a small package to get my attention. I thought it was a book as we had been trading copies of Carl Hiaasen’s paperbacks a Florida author we all enjoyed but it was a rat trap. Rick had a RAT TRAP! It was not the spring loaded death-machine we usually think of but a more humane plastic tray filled with sticky goo. An extremely thoughtful gesture and the contraption was available for only five dollars. I immediately put it in the locker where I last heard rustling sounds, the locus of the dreaded suspected RODENT ACTIVITY.
THE PALAPA OF KNOWLEDGE
That’s Venus above the crescent moon during a typical early-evening jam session. Rick is seated to the far right under the light, the author opposite as we temporarily solve issues of world import just like actual world leaders and probably with similar effectiveness. You’ve spent endless hours doing the same thing. Yes you have, you just don’t want to admit it. This historic structure was destroyed by hurricane Wilma in October of 2005 and has been replaced by a two-story edifice called The Tower of Babble, a name coined by Rick. Some ancient mariner thought of the original Palapa of Knowledge long before our time. Now only a small hand-painted sign remains of the original memory coveted by some philosopher/historian unknown but envied by all of us who opined there.
Around five PM as I was defrosting a steak with the beginnings of happy hour at hand I heard an unfamiliar sound. I thought it was a dinghy moving past to the shore and ignored it. The sounds continued and then became frenetic, banging, crunching, perhaps even a snarl or two. I approached the locker where the sounds emanated from with trepidation opening the sliding door slightly. The thumping increased and I saw a TAIL, A RAT TAIL! I slammed the door shut and rushed topside calling to the group at the Palapa of Knowledge. The tail in my mind now at least a foot long and with such a TAIL, what could the BODY look like or its razor-sharp-saliva-flecked-disease-covered TEETH! I truly didn’t know what to do. Rick called out, “Get a pair of channel locks.” He said other things but good judgment prevents me from revealing them here in this G-rated document. I donned my leather palmed sailing gloves and snatching up the pliers used to tighten the engine’s stuffing box fearfully approached the locker, the waiting rat now the size of a large dog frothing at the mouth in my frenzied imagination. When I opened the door the animal LURCHED forward and got two paws free.
IT WAS GOING TO GET AWAY
AND CHEW OFF MY FOOT!
I won’t describe what happened next but it was in my space and I did what I had to do. Upon its demise I held it aloft and cried out to the excited assembly celebrating at the Palapa of Knowledge that the next evening we would have ratatouille at Rick’s Café. It’s significant you realize I didn’t know how ratatouille was spelled or even what it was, so in my mind it was RATATTOOIE, a dish composed of very dead rat.
It’s a fun word to say. Try it emphasizing the last syllable. Come on try it. You know you want to. Don’t be embarrassed, there’s only the two of us here and I won’t tell it will bring up all sorts of spiting memories of your impetuous youth when nothing remotely eatable was out-of-bounds. Think back to those playground scenes when little Joey or Sammie attempted to impress his colleagues with a worm or perhaps a lady bug. You remember. Yes you do.
Picture a rustic outdoor café full of diners trying our version of ratatouille for the first time, simultaneously shouting RATATTOOIE and littering the floor with expectorated bits of this culinary masterpiece. Frankly I didn’t know ratatouille was a vegetable dish until some days later when one of the ladies of the fleet presented me with a bowl of the stuff which resulted in a profound.
Whoops! Anyone have a napkin? With a name like ratatouille it has to be bad. Am I right? Whoever coined that word had to have a sense of humor or was French, one or the other.
The next day thinking of these events I wrote the first of a series of advertisements for a fictional restaurant which served only road-kill. You must understand there isn’t a lot of entertainment, other than the commercial type, in a place like this and we have to manufacture our own.
All successful radio nets utilize a net controller or master of ceremonies, an anchorperson, who keeps order and advances the agenda. Protocol demands participants introduce themselves and wait to be recognized. At the opportune moment I said, “RICK’S CAFÉ, RICK’S CAFÉ.” The controller said, “Go Rick’s Café.” And so it began.
CAFÉ NEWS, DAY ONE
I have been asked to be spokesperson for Rick’s Café. Rick has informed me that as we are close to the road kill supplier to the region he will be adding to the menu. Along with his world-famous RATATTOOIE he will be serving LIZARD SUSHI due to the abundance of slow moving iguanas adjacent to the formerly named BARBECUE PALAPA. It has now been renamed RICK’S CAFÉ AND UNISEX SCHOOL OF QUANTUM PHYSICS.
A MARINA PARAISO IGUANA
LIZARD SUSHI ON THE HOOF
Some of these iguanas were the size of poodles but without the puffy balls on their tails and were decidedly non-pet-like hissing and raising their hackles when approached too closely. One particularly large iguana’s burrow had its own zip code. Yes it did. I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that.
From my vantage point at Café Central I can see the world famous chef preparing today’s menu. For desert he will be serving MOUSSE, antlers always elegantly removed and for you truly distinguished diners they can be mounted over your personal barbecue pit for a small fee.
CAFÉ NEWS, DAY THREE
Once again, due to a lack of interest we have yet another commercial for Rick’s Café and Unisex School of Quantum Physics. Come eat and learn ALL of the Quark’s names, no need to waste time fulfill two urgent needs simultaneously.
There has been so much interest in these informative AND inspirational messages we have set up a web site. Come visit us at the cozy www.ratattooie.com (This is an actual website which you are welcome to visit, make comments, contribute, send recipes but please no actual samples.)
Due to unpopular demand we have instituted a new service at Café Central. YES it’s ADVICE TO THE UNINFORMED. Remember folks one size fits all at Rick’s Café AND Auto Body Shop, dine in elegance and remove a dent ALL at the same time.
FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE BARBECUE PALAPA
Another historic structure destroyed by the willful Wilma, but on moonlit nights a mist of memories rises from the rubble, visible to those lucky few with the special glasses. We got them at the box office upon entering and to my knowledge are no longer available. You had to be there at that special time I guess.
CAFÉ NEWS, DAY FIVE
Good morning members of the fleet this is The Revisionist Cartoonist here once again to enliven your day. We have expanded our menu at Rick’s Café as a result of our most recent swap meet. Rick has traded some of our outdated ratattooie for some cape buffalo recently arrived from CAPE TOWN. Unfortunately only the wings were eatable but Guru Rick, as his friends call him, tracked down a little known MINNESOTA recipe. We will now be offering BUFFALO WINGS. Can you BELIEVE IT! What is as rare as the wing of a four-legged beast?
He tells me the swap meet was in frenzy as fleet members fought over various scraps of meat, vying with one another to get the best cuts.
(My good ami Alain, who is now living in Paris with his lovely wife Sabina shyly showed me a small can at the next swap meet after hearing this commercial hoping for a good trade.)
“Wait, wait I have Spam!”
CAFÉ NEWS, ISSUE THIRTY-ONE
GOOD MORNING you who ARE FLEET, ONCE again this is TRC for CAFÉ NEWS bringing you updates of the fleet. Due to NUMEROUS ACCOLADES AND REQUESTS we are again AMUSING, TITILLATING AND IRRITATING YOU WHO ARE FLEET.
Old hands among us will remember we began with the capture of a RODENT, which led to the creation of RICK’S CAFÉ AND Unisex School of Quantum Physics. We are housed in that old gathering place formerly known as The Barbecue Palapa where only the finest ratattooie and lizard sushi are served. We have created numerous concomitant ENDEAVORS in our QUEST for excellence. (Both Endeavor and Quest are boats in the anchorage.) Among them are the Anchorman School of Broadcasting and of course our come as you are lobotomy center AND haberdashery. Come and enjoy the finest in dining excellence, get rid of those nasty emotions AND be fitted for a RICK’S CAFÉ loincloth, maxi and mini styles available ALL at the same time. Café News is also the premiere site for answering those pesky questions you require AND the Only venue for those embarrassing queries you can NOT ask elsewhere.
CAFÉ NEWS, ISSUE THIRTY-TWO
GOOD MORNING FLEET PEOPLE! This is the voice of Café News bringing you more delightful tidbits from RICK’S CAFÉ. We serve ratattooie, our famous lizard sushi on a stick, chocolate mousse made from REAL MOOSE Fed Exed LIVE from our Toronto suppliers AND CANNED COON for those who wish takeout. We apologize but vitriolic soup is on backorder and is presently unavailable, however for those needing it we always have food for thought on the back burner; you may order it rare or well-done depending on preference or need.
YES it’s RICK’S CAFÉ AND Weatherperson Academy where you can order whether or not. It’s YOUR choice at Rick’s Café. Strangely enough our fax today concerns weather. It reads: Dear Café News Guy, What is an isobar? (33) Signed, Awaiting in Isla.
Well Awaiting, while you’re getting us some more coffee Dick of Endeavor our local weather guru writes that the answer is really, really simple. He says that an isobar is a dimly lit place where Corona is ALWAYS served very, very cold. If the beer isn’t cold it’s obviously NOT an isobar.
Thank you Dick this is the voice of Café News wishing you AND yours. RICK’S CAFÉ where the ELITE MEET TO EAT.
CAFÉ NEWS, ISSUE THIRTY-THREE
Good Morning YOU who ARE fleet, this is the voice of Café News once again relieving that tedious after-net feeling. Since our business plan mandates we provide only the finest in road kill dining in the area; Charles, our head sushi chef is up at the crack of dawn hunting down the vast variety of lizards we offer at Rick’s Café. YES! IT’S RICK’S CAFÉ AND Boat Repair Facility where bottom painting is a specialty. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing if you wish this service. Dine on baked ratattooie and have your bottom painted BOTH at the same time, combining two vital tasks is what we do best at Rick’s Café.
Our guest this morning who will answer our lucky questioners question is none other than Dick of Endeavor our esteemed weatherperson who has hot weather fax every morning. Now Dick this question is especially appropriate for you, as we all know you’re a seasoned blue-water sailor.
The question states: Dear Navigator Guy, when sailing from point A to point B, do you always run the rhumb line? (34) Signed, Waiting for a window. (35) Well Waiting here is Dick’s written reply, which he’s told me took many, many hours of research to prepare. Actually the answer is obvious to anyone. Of course I run anywhere there’s rum. Doesn’t everyone?
YES! Of course as every sailor knows rum is of UTMOST importance. Thank you ladies and gentlemen this is TRC for Rick’s Café AND School of Architecture, where you can dine in elegance AND erect a building but ONLY if you have desire AND where the sounds of cawing indicate the presence of a murder. In other words whenever you hear caws there’s a murder nearby. This is a mystery folks; make it your QUEST to find the relationship.
The question this morning is one dealing with boat handling AND of course we have asked our good friend AND confidant John of Moon Raker SO salty he needs no extra seasoning to explain. The missive states: Dear Salty Dude, What do you do when you’re listing? (45) John is pondering folks; I can see he’s searching for JUST the right PANACEA for this most vexing problem common to us all. I have his written reply, which reads: First of all. Who you callin’ Dude? Seriously this is a complicated question, which deserves ONLY the most well thought our reply. WELL! I prefer a lined legal pad, blue lines are best AND I MUST have a black magic marker. Numbering or alphabetizing is optional. And if you are REALLY proficient at listing you need NOT number OR alphabetize.
Thank you John, we the fleet appreciate your expertise on this weighty issue, one on which serious listers could lean one way or another. It’s comforting to have the final authority on this, one of the most vexing issues that befall us in the twenty-first century.
And you first timers to our Fair Isle just in from the briny sea try our NEW Surf and Turf made ONLY with REAL ocean breakers AND authentic sod gathered on site by our highly evolved gardening staff.
Lidia our multitalented pastry chef has volunteered to choose the missive to be explained this morning. Due to technical difficulties ratattooie cake is on back order as Lidia continues healing. As you know this cake is made from scratch, sometimes a painful process so please have patience. Thank you my dear, please accept this complimentary portion of surf. Our turf is unavailable today due to a wildcat strike of sod-gatherers something to do with a 401 K Plan, we are attempting to find some scabs to replace them.
This is a small sample of the various offerings from CAFÉ NEWS. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief journey.