Saturday, November 13, 2004


There is a certain quaintness to the boating lifestyle that has always attracted me. I don't know, something about being transient yet solvent. There's plenty of people on the streets who are down and out... who don't exactly have a permanent address... but those folks are people without any assets, and as a consequence are without any leverage in a world where money is power. But boat people... well, they're different. Ramblers with some cash. Wanderers who have at least a little bit of a say in what happens, at least in their own lives.

At least, that's the myth. But one thing's for sure... the suckers keep moving. None of us want to be an easy target I suppose.

Last night I once again came to the conclusion that if I sit in the bar at Otters long enough that everyone that I have ever met in my life will eventually wander in and ask for a cold one. Then act pleased to see me sitting there while the Redhead holds court. I believe that Hemingway once said that about Paris, and it may have been true in the 20s, but now days nobody goes to Paris. But I do believe that just about everybody goes to Florida, and particularly the middle part of Florida where Mickey lives. As do I. On a boat.

My old friend John has wandered back into Otters from the river after beng missing for about five years. John lives on a nice 40 foot trawler and is affectionately known as Hippy John because he has longish hair and a beard that makes him look a little like a Catholic Jesus. You know the kind I mean... not a Jesus from the Levant like he probably looked in real life, but a Jesus like he was drawn in the Catholic Children's Bible that you tiredly thumbed through while in church who looked for all the world like Ted Nugent... only without the doobie stains on his fingertips that comes from holding pencil joints.

When I first met John he owned a small fuel oil company and he was constantly preparing for the winter season when he would drive his tanker truck around coolish Central Florida doling out fuel oil to elderly women who still had the old style house heaters in their basement. Most homes these days have central heat and air and are warmed by electricity and don't have oil burning heaters, but lots of the older homes do. Thus John had a niche. Plus he's the kind of "nice young man" that elderly women just go gaga over. Why... he's such a NICE young man!

Anyhow, John fell in love about five years ago and took his brittle looking young bride traveling with him to the Bahamas and elsewhere. I remember her as one of those women who never seems to sweat. She was a ferocious gal who was afraid that her captured boyfriend might change his mind if she allowed anyone within speaking distance of her prize. She hated me. I gave them a 6 pack of liquor (Mextaxa, Vermouth, Boodles, Crown Royal, Chevas, Bushmill) for a wedding present. A consumable gift for a disposable marriage. Needless to say, the woman hated and feared me. And I wasn't alone on that dock. Now he's back sans wife but with a different attitude about women than he used to have. I'm not sure he's the same nice young man he used to be. He's still a good guy, but I doubt if he'll remarry any time soon. Once burned, twice shy... if you follow me.

Wasn't it Hemingway who once said that the only thing a young man needs to learn is how to not get married? Come to think of it, I learned that lesson about the same time of life that John. Both of us are still looking for company, but neither of us are looking for a tax deduction. A couple of old guys looking for the sweet spot.

He's been down to Cuba on his trawler since I saw him last. I was there a decade ago. We talked about the new rules that make it tougher to get permission to go to evil Commie Cuba. He has the same opinion that I do, that things will probably be normalized once the old man Castro does an Arafat and leaves this mortal coil. Once that happens then our pin head government will probably allow the Cubans to rejoin the community of nations. In the meanwhile, the Cuban people will continue to be punished for loving an old timey Commie. No one ever mentions Castro's brother Raul who runs the secret police of the Cuban government... That guy really is a murdering bad guy and is probably the real fist in the Cuban velvet glove of benevolent socialism. Castro's Ashcroft, if you will.

What ever. All either of us know for sure is that we are probably not gonna be able to go get any of the really good Cohibas any time soon. Shame too. What it actually does is make guys like John and I into scofflaws and neither of us particularly want to do anything illegal. Neither of us want to smuggle dope or refugees or Colombian emeralds or any crap like that. Both of us know that all you really have to do is clear for the Bahamas and get a 30 day visa to "cruise without destination" in the Islands and then just go on to Havana. The Cubans don't care. The Bahamians don't care. Only the US Customs gooners give a damn. They want to punish Cuba for not groveling like the rest of the world and Castro was just the guy to make the Kennedys eat the little shitballs on his hairy ass back in the 60s and thumbed his nose at the US. Horrors. Of course, these days the politicians are so afraid of the Cuban/American vote in south Florida that they would starve their own grandmothers rather than have anyone think that they are "soft of Communism". Sigh. All they're really doing is hurting the little people in Cuba and that means all the old relatives of the people who escaped Castro back in the days when his brother Raul was flexing his Fascisto muscle and making sure that the Cuban revolution was "pure". More loonies.

But John and I both know that the Cuban women are the most beautiful creatures in this hemisphere and they will laugh that low and sensual laugh that comes from way down there somewheres and then hitch their skirts up and hop sidesaddle onto the back seat of the little Bulgarian mopeds that the Cubans rent to the American tourists in downtown Havana and laugh and throw their hair back and hold on tight and carefully write down your US address and phone number so that they can "pen pal" you to death because you might be their ticket to the golden promised land to the north. And take you home to their parents house and introduce you to their twelve older brothers who will slap you on the back then want to talk about imported car parts and their mothers will want you to give them rides on your rented scooter to the big church in downtown Havana and feed you fried plantains in the morning sunlight while the children, all cousins and all in secret non-governmental Catholic school just like their mamas used to... swirl around your feet in the doorways of old Havana while Edesio Alejandro songs pour out of the painted stairwells into the city streets.

And John agrees that Castro can't die soon enough for either of us. I think that both of us have unfinished business on the Island. Besides... the Bahamas channel hasn't been really fished since Hemingway actually lived there. Just think... a chance at an old Black Marlin just like the ones that the Old Man himself once hunted. Mmmmm. Just think.