Banyan Bay is a marina located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It has been my home for the last eight years. However, it’s time to move on to another port of call. But before doing so, I thought I’d tell you all a little about the place and the people who inhabit said marina … and my interactions with them.
My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. I’ve lived on a boat of one kind or another going on forty-three years now. I’ve owned and lived on sailboats, houseboats, house barges, and motor yachts of all sizes. I’m currently living on a motor boat with no motor. But that’s alright. I’m not really into boating per se. It bores the hell outta me to cruise around just for the sake of being out on the water. I like to sail, but let’s not overdo it.
Anyway, I like living on a boat because it affords me a certain amount of freedom. I don’t have to put up with uptight neighbors like I would if I lived in a house or an apartment building. I’m a little crazy, and my neighbors in a suburban setting—I think—would be calling the cops on me at least once a week. But boat people, I mean people who live on boats, tend to be as crazy as I am … if not a little more so. Hence, there is very little calling of the police.
Before moving into Banyan Bay, I lived in a nearby marina rent free, for sixteen years. It was a good deal. They allowed no other live-a-boards but me. The place went through three owners and they all kept me around. I don’t know why. Perhaps they just wanted a warm body there at night in the hopes that thieves would be held at bay. And mostly they were, but we were hit a few times.
I eventually got thrown out because I’d had a little too much to drink one day and told the latest owner to go fuck himself. Of course, he told me get out. I asked him if I could stay for a month until I found some place else to dock my boat. He said, “Sure.” At the end of the month, I asked for another thirty day extension and he said, “Okay. But this is your last month. You really gotta go.”
At the end of the second month, I asked him if he would give me a tow to my new marina, seeing as how my boat had no engine. He must have really wanted to get rid of me because he had two of his employees tow my boat to its present location, Banyan Bay.
Okay. Now that you know all about me, I’ll tell you about some of the people I’ve met since I’ve been here.
When I first arrived, there were ten people living on their boats. That number has now soared to over sixty. I won’t introduce you to everyone because I don’t know everyone. And some of the people you’ll be meeting are no longer here, but while they were, they made an impression on me.
Angelique was the first person I met after I moved over to Banyan Bay. She lived with her boyfriend, Randall. They had this custom that, at the end of the day as the sun was setting and turning the western sky a kind of scarlet-orange-pink color, they would set up chairs under a large banyan tree and break out the beers. Anyone who wanted to stop by could help themselves. It was a mini party every night. Well, this one evening, Angelique went behind a bush to relieve herself—if you know what I mean. But there was only one problem. Although from our vantage point we couldn’t see her, the people on the street had a bird’s eye view.
So there she is, squatting down; her smooth white butt reflecting the pale light of the setting sun. And guess who comes barreling down the street? The owner of the marina. That’s who! He saw her and the next day she was evicted. Too bad … she and Randall were very generous with their beer.
I had been introduced to Don and Ed by Angelique before she was so unceremoniously ejected from our little enclave. Don is a saint. Don does not live on a boat at the marina. His boat is on a trailer; he just stores it here. But he comes every Saturday with a cooler of beer and passes them out like there was no tomorrow. Everyone wishes he would come around more often. Not because of the beer, but because he’s such a nice guy.
I’ll give you just two examples of what I’m talking about. One time, the faucet on my galley sink died. It leaked continuously and there was no way to fix it. I called the boat manufacturer and searched online for a replacement—all to no avail. Then one Saturday, Don showed up with a faucet he had bought and he installed it for me. The second example: My neighbor, Bart, needed an oven and couldn’t really afford to buy one. Guess what? Don bought him one. Don’s always doing stuff like that.
Then there’s Ed. We call him Old Man Ed because at the time there was another Ed living here in the marina. Him we called Crazy Ed. That way, we could tell the two of them apart when speaking about them. The first Ed was old. He was seventy-eight at the time. He’s now eighty-five. The other Ed was crazy. But he had a good excuse. He did some heavy shit in Vietnam and he was never right after that. Crazy Ed left us a few years ago and we haven’t seen him since.
Old Man Ed is still around. He doesn’t live in the marina, but he has two boats that he docks here. He comes by about four or five times a week. And like Don, he’s a good guy. He’ll buy roasted chickens and pass them out to the less affluent of us. He also buys clothes for some of the women. You gotta understand. We are not a high-end bunch (except for me). Just working folks trying to make ends meet.
The aforementioned Bart is now dead. He drank himself to death.
Then there’s Lloyd. He’s always meeting women online and falling in love. The relationships last about a year. When twelve months have gone by and I ask him where his latest love is, he says the same thing every time. “We split up. She’s bat-shit crazy, man.”
Nowadays when I see him hooking up with a new love, I know the love affair has an expiration date. I like Lloyd. He laughs at all my attempts at humor. He also got me the drunkest that I have ever been.
One day (before I became a rich and famous author), I went over to his boat to beg a little liquor off him. All he had was some old Neapolitan brandy. Not my usual drink … but hey … any port in a storm.
By chance, a friend of his, Jeff, was there (he also lives in the marina). He’s a boat captain. He captains mega yachts, one hundred and fifty feet and larger. He’s also a far right idiot. Don’t get me wrong. I love Jeff, but he’s nuts. I’m a far left loon. I’m so far left I make Obama look like Ronald Reagan.
Anyway, I got into a discussion with Jeff about politics. And I’m swilling down the brandy while trying to bring Jeff into the light. By the time I had finished the bottle, I gave up. The hell with it. Let his soul rot in hell for all I care.
I had never been so drunk in all my life. I left the boat (somehow) and got on my bicycle. I made it about ten feet and fell over. My head hit the asphalt. I didn’t know it and I couldn’t feel it, but blood was pouring from my wound as though I had been shot numerous times.
I turned over onto my back and looked up at a beautiful blue sky. There were puffy white clouds moving from left to right. It was so peaceful. I wanted to spend the rest of my life lying on that black, warm asphalt looking up at God’s wonderful creation. Then it was all taken away from me. Lloyd’s face appeared over me, blocking my view. “Are you all right?” he wanted to know.
“I’m fine,” I countered.
“You know your head is lying in a pool of blood.”
“That’s nice. You’re blocking my view of the sky.”
“Are you just going to lay there and bleed to death?”
“I can think of no finer place to do so.”
“You better get up. You’re lying in the middle of the road.”
With a heavy sigh, I allowed Lloyd to help me get to my feet. I got back on my bike and made it halfway back to my boat before my head again met asphalt. This time, I opened up a whole new wound. Blood sprayed all over the marina’s white work van. (The pool of blood was impressive. Of course, at the time that did not enter into my thinking. But the next day, I went over to see what everyone was talking about. And, wow! The blood was all dried up, but damn it. There sure was a hell of a lot of it.)
I made it almost back to my boat when I took another spill. This time my friend Juan’s girlfriend found me. She was horrified. She called 911 and soon the EMT guys were bandaging my head. They said they were going to take me to the hospital. I said, “No you’re not.”
I refused to go. They told me if I didn’t go into my boat and stay there, they would call the cops and have me arrested for my own good. I swore I’d be a good boy and go home. Which I did. But as soon as they left, I re-emerged and promptly fell down. Even as drunk as I was, I figured it was time to call it a day. And it was only three o’clock in the afternoon!
So anyway … it was all Lloyd’s fault. And that was the day I became a local legend in Banyan Bay Marina.
Now on to Lloyd’s sister, Beth. Lloyd had been in Fort Lauderdale for a while when I met him. But he was originally from Texas (hence, having Jeff—a right wing wacko—as a friend).
Beth was living in Texas and at loose ends. Lloyd called her and told her she should move to Fort Lauderdale. He said he had found her an old boat that didn’t run and needed a “little” work. So, Beth packed up her pickup truck and headed east. (Of course, she had a pickup truck; she’s from Texas.)
When I ran into her, she had just arrived. Her boat was still a work in progress, but Lloyd was busting his ass getting it livable as fast as he could. At the time, he had a full-time job, so he could only work on his off hours. (Now he’s a lazy son-of-a-bitch, living off the fat of the land.)
Beth is deaf so it was hard for her to make friends—that and the fact that there weren’t many people living here at the time. She and I became friends because of Lloyd. I would go over to her boat so she could show me the daily improvements that her brother was making.
At the time, she didn’t have a computer and she asked if she could have access to mine on occasion; she wanted to check in with her Facebook friends and stuff like that. And being the wonderful person that I am, I said, “Sure.”
Actually, I’m not that wonderful. She had to use the computer on my boat. I wasn’t about to let it out of my sight. I needed it for my writing (still do as a matter of fact).
One time, Lloyd saw me escorting Beth onto my boat and I went up to him and said, “I’m not trying to make your sister. I’m just going to let her use my computer.”
He laughed and said, “I don’t care. She’s a big girl and can take care of herself.”
So much for brotherly concern.
The whole thing became moot the day she was sitting at the table, banging on the keys of my laptop, and a roach crawled out from somewhere. Beth jumped an inch off the bench and made a face. It turned out she doesn’t like roaches. Who knew? That was the last time she came onto my boat.
I’m happy to say that she is still here among us. And now she has her own computer.
Alicia was my next-door neighbor. She was a recovering alcoholic and went to meetings seven days a week. She was intense, but I liked her. At the time, Alicia was into Scientology and was doing some sort of study with the “church” that involved massage therapy. She was taking the course online, and one day, she asked me if I’d be kind enough to allow her to practice on me. And once again, being the wonderful person that I am, how could I refuse? I went over to her boat and she had everything set up. The bed was ready for me, candles were burning, and Alicia was charged up.
Hmm, maybe I’ll get lucky, thought I.
Well, I did get lucky, but not in the way I had imagined. The cockamamie massage worked. I felt great when I walked off her boat. A few weeks later, she had learned some new stuff and wanted to, again, use me as a guinea pig. No problem. A few days after that, she wanted to try some stuff on Danny, my dog. He seemed to like it as much as I did. Alicia later said that Danny was nice to let her give him a massage without biting her.
Alicia was somehow saved from the “church” and now lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she is going to school.
Before I go any further, I’d like to tell you about the Tiki Hut at Banyan Bay. A Tiki Hut, for those of you who don’t know, is a structure consisting of four open sides and a pitched roof covered with palm fronds. Our Tiki Hut sports a refrigerator, a microwave oven, and four grills—two gas and two charcoal … and one deep fryer.
I had to get that out of the way because a lot of what goes down in the marina takes place at the Tiki Hut.
When I first moved in, there were only three entities that made use of the Tiki Hut. One was a part-time employee of the marina. His name was Tommy. He would sit at the Tiki Hut all day long if he was not working (he also lived here). He was a little guy who wore a beard. He was also an ex-navy man. And he always had a beer within arm’s reach. In my discussions with him, I found him to be well-informed and very smart. Everyone else thought he was a loser, but I saw the light under his bushel. Tommy was a great guy. He was a drunk like the rest of us, but I think his soul was a little bit purer … less unsullied than the rest of ours … at least mine. Tommy is now out in Colorado, working on a legal marijuana farm or ranch or whatever they call it.
The other entities who hung out at the Tiki Hut were two stray cats: Momma Cat and Tommy (I think that cat was named after Tommy).
Now I’ve got to talk to you about Juan. He was something else. For some reason, the minute he moved his boat in here, we hit it off. I don’t know why. But it was like we had known each other all our lives.
There are so many stories I can tell you about Juan, but I’ll keep it short. He worked on boats. Mostly he painted boats. When he first moved here, he was working for a company, but he got fired or quit or something. Then he started his own business. Anyway, when he learned I had, in a previous incarnation, owned a business that did fiberglass, painting, and gel coat work on boats (this was before I became an internationally known, best-selling author and bon-vivant), he co-opted me to help him out in his new endeavor as an entrepreneur, working on boats.
At the time, I had one novel under my belt and was trying to secure the services of a literary agent. It was time consuming. I’d spend all day at the computer sending out what are called query letters to agents around the country, but mostly in New York City.
So, just to get out of the boat for a while as I waited for all them New York city slickers to wake up and see what a literary genius I am, I went out with Juan to work on some of his jobs. He never paid me. But he always kept me in beer while I worked and he’d buy me lunch. He thought he was getting away with something. However, I was doing what I wanted to do. To paraphrase Bob Seeger, He used me and I used him and neither of us cared.
Then my book sold and I became a big shot. I had fans from all over the world. One lady in Germany emailed me and asked where I lived. She also wanted a picture of my boat. (My author bio said that I lived on a boat.)
Now at the time, I was living on a real piece of shit boat (and still am). I didn’t want to send her a picture of my boat, so I took a picture of Juan’s and emailed it to her. That was a mistake.
A month or so later, she emailed me and said she and a friend, who also loved my book, were coming to Florida and wanted to look me up while they were here.
I’m kind of a private person, so I lied and told her I had to be in New York on business during the time she was going to be here. I thought I had dodged a bullet. Then one evening around sunset, Juan comes over to my boat and says, “There’s two ladies at my boat looking for you.”
They had gone on Google Earth and found out where I lived. And then, with the photo of Juan’s boat in hand, they came to the marina on a pilgrimage to see where the great Andrew Joyce lived.
I was cornered … or caught … or whatever. There was no way out short of suicide.
The short version is that, in spite of myself, I had a great time with the German ladies. And it was all because of Juan. I had stopped driving (voluntarily) a few months before, so Juan drove us around to restaurants and bars at night. He was a life saver. No matter how much free labor I gave him, I still have a warm spot in my heart for the son-of-a-bitch.
Juan had a co-worker from his days of painting boats. His name was Mike. One night, Juan showed up at the Tiki Hut, trailing Mike. A few of us were there, including Beth. Well, it was love at first sight between Mike and Beth. The next thing any of us knew, they were living together.
I think Mike has had more influence on my life than any other person I have ever known. And it’s funny. At first I didn’t like him all that much. But over time, I warmed to him. Once I got to like him, I started going over to their boat for evening cocktails and we would talk about this and that. On occasion, he would tell me he had cancer. I never believed him. He was healthy-looking and he worked every day. I thought he was just trying to elicit a little sympathy from me.
As all couples do, Mike and Beth had their ups and downs. But things finally came to a head and Mike moved out of the boat and into the shop where he worked. He was cool with it. He still had friends here in the marina and would come to visit almost every night. One of his best friends was Big Joe.
One day, shortly after he had moved out, Mike was hanging around and he casually informed us that he had just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and that he was on his way out.
Big Joe immediately, very forcefully, and in no uncertain terms, told Mike that he was moving out of the warehouse and onto his boat, which was kind of ironic because Joe’s boat was docked right next to Beth’s. Mike could have moved back onto Beth’s boat, but he was still pissed off at her.
Now, this is what I wanted to tell you about Mike. One day he wanted to go to the hospital and see what could be done for him. He had very little money and no health insurance. So, another Mike (we called him “Crabby Mike” because his business is selling stone crabs) and I loaded Mike into Crabby’s truck and whisked him off to the hospital.
We waited around while he was admitted and then went in to see him. It was a sad sight, seeing him in that hospital bed. Mike had always been a little guy. But he now looked shrunken in that massive bed. Or maybe it was that the bed just appeared to be massive against Mike’s slight and frail frame. We said our good-byes and told Mike we would come to visit him in a few days.
The next day, I saw Mike standing on the dock outside Big Joe’s boat. “What the hell are you doing here?” I wanted to know.
“The doctors told me they could extend my life by about two months, but I’d have to stay in the hospital. That sucked. The hospital sucked. I ain’t stayin’ there to gain a lousy two months.”
That was it. Mike had decided to die on his own terms. And boy, did he! A few days later, he told me he had cried throughout the previous night. That was his moment of doubt. But after that, he had an amazing attitude. He even joked about dying.
When I said Mike had a profound effect on my life, what I meant was that he showed me how to die with dignity … and without fear.
His family lived up in Jacksonville, about a five-hour drive to the north. They sent him a train ticket so that he could go up there and be near them. They had a hospice all picked out for him.
Now on to Big Joe. He was probably Mike’s best friend. One day, shortly after Mike left for Jacksonville, Joe told me he was going north to see him one last time. He wanted to know if I’d like to go along.
We set out before sunrise on a Sunday morning.
I’m loathe to use the word mystical, but that is what the trip was. It was a white day. The entire four-hundred-mile journey was shrouded in fog. A thick fog … and it only got thicker the closer we got to Jacksonville. That was weird. In Florida, fog never sticks around after sunrise. As we drove north, the sun was to our right. It was a white sphere hanging low in the sky. I could look directly at it without hurting my eyes.
Jacksonville was eerily quiet that day. The fog dampened all sound. It was as though the city knew why we were there and was showing its respect for the beautiful soul that was Michael.
I smuggled Mike’s favorite booze into the place and we all had a few drinks. Joe and I toasted Mike and said our good-byes. Then we left our friend to die a peaceful death. (We also stashed the bottle of booze in the bottom drawer of the cabinet next to his bed … for easy access.)
A few days later, I got a call from Mike. He had forgotten where I hid the bottle, he wanted a drink. I told him where to find it and spoke with him for a few minutes, filling him in on the latest marina gossip. That was the last time we spoke. He died a few weeks later … two days after his birthday.
I’ve got to give a short shout out to Johnny and John. Johnny owns the marina and John runs it. If I had any bitch with either of them, now would be the time to bring it up, seeing as how I’m outta here. But I don’t have a bitch. They have both treated me fairly and have been gentlemen in all our dealings. (Okay, Johnny … now that I said good things about you, how about that reduction in my last month’s rent?)
A few years ago at the marina Christmas party, I cornered them. They were trapped. They smiled and looked at me expectantly, waiting for what I had to say—what golden words would pour forth from my mouth. I didn’t keep them waiting long. “I got a bitch,” I said.
Their faces fell and their smiles faded. I could almost read their minds. Oh no. Not another asshole.
I waited a tick or two and then said, “Just kidding. I want to thank you for throwing this great party for us.”
The look of relief on their faces was priceless.
Ashley runs the office for Johnny and John. She runs things so well, those two guys come in just so people will think they work for a living. Actually they’re either at lunch or out fishing most of the time. But they have no worries, Ashley’s on the case.
Next, there’s Jeff. He’s the right wing wacko I spoke of previously. He’s okay. A couple of times when I was broke, I borrowed money from him. And both times when I went to repay him, he said he had forgotten all about it. How can you not love a guy like that?
John and Will were a married gay couple. They lived next to me for a while. John had read a few of my books and told me that he loved them. So of course, I loved him. Will was a great cook and many a night he would knock on my boat to share with me his latest culinary masterpiece. They’re in South Carolina now where gays are so openly welcomed. (Just kidding about the “openly welcomed” part.) I sure miss ’em.
Next we have Dave and Big. Dave was a guy and Big was a dog, a Rottweiler. One day we were hanging out, and my dog, Danny, got interested in Big. He was sniffing around and trying to play with Big. Big put up with it for a short while, but then turned on Danny and chomped down on his leg. Danny freaked out and screamed. I was trying to pull Big off when Crabby Mike came to the rescue by kicking Big in the stomach. Big let go of Danny and turned his attention to me. He again chomped down, but this time it was on my inner thigh. Two inches higher and I would be singing soprano in the church choir.
The only thing that pissed me off was that Dave sat there with a stupid grin on his face while all this was going on. He didn’t even try to intervene. I mean, if my dog was mauling a much smaller dog, you can bet your boots I’d be in there trying to break it up. So I yelled at Dave, saying something like, “You are a son-of-a-bitch, motherfucking asshole!”
The outcome was $800.00 in medical bills. I had gotten infected from the bite and I let it go too long. But we eventually beat it. By the way, it was $300.00 for me and $500.00 for Danny.
Dave and I eventually kissed and made up. A few months later, when he had to be out of town for two weeks, he asked me to look after Big. And I readily agreed. But I didn’t bring Danny with me when I took Big for his walks. Dave and Big now live on a boat in Alabama.
I have a good friend a few boats over by the name of Otacilio. He’s from Brazil. He works his ass off. I never see him during the week, but on the weekends he invites me over for breakfast. He’s introduced me to a lot of cool foods that they eat down there.
We have two Jays here. One lives in the marina and the other stops by every day on his way home from work. To keep them straight, we call the Jay who does not live here, Jay. The other one we call Rizzo, seeing as how that’s his last name.
Jay (the one who does not live here) is a great guy. He, along with Mike Rodriguez (who we’ll get to in a moment), takes care of all the cooking at the Tiki Hut. He also feeds the eighteen stray cats we got around here. It’s funny. When his car drives up, the cats come outta nowhere. I say they got “jaydar.” When he’s within a mile of the place, they start to get antsy.
Another thing I like about Jay is that he always makes sure I’m well fed. His sister, Kelly, is a phenomenal cook. There has been many a night that Jay has brought me a heaping plate of food prepared by Kelly. And she throws in a dessert every time!
Rizzo is a different kind of animal. He showed up here driving a bicycle that he had thrown an engine on, and not a pot to piss in. Now he owns six cars and three boats. And he’s done it all from monumental hustling. He is always doing something. Making this deal or that deal. Or collecting scrap to turn in for money. Or whatever he can do to hustle a buck.
And he too is a great guy. If you need anything, you just mention it to Rizzo and before you know it, you got it. He never charges anyone. I once asked him to keep an eye out for a basket for my bike. It took a few months, but he found one and then, unbeknownst to me, he mounted it onto my bike. It took him an hour because there were complications. The son-of-a-bitch is storing up good karma all over the place.
The only bad thing that I can say about him is that watching him work hurts my head. He never slows down. We were talking once and I said to him, as a joke, “I liked you when we first met, but then I got to know you.” He thought that was the funniest thing he had ever heard and repeats it all the time.
Might as well tell you about Alfie now. I’ve known him for about twenty-two years. We first met at the marina I was thrown out of. He used to work there. Now he’s kinda like the head ramrod at Banyan Bay. He keeps things moving. There are over three hundred boats here, counting the ones on trailers and on the storage racks. Alfie is the only employee who knows where every boat is and who owns it. The office would be lost without him.
Alfie is an ex-fisherman from Cape Cod. He has captained boats up there and here in South Florida. He’s of Portuguese extraction and he doesn’t seem to age. (The son-of-a-bitch!) He smoked and drank all his life. He even drank more than I currently do. And that’s saying something. Anyway, he stopped both vices cold turkey with no problems at all. He just walked away from that stuff and that was it. Probably the Portuguese blood flowing in his veins.
Nowadays his only vice is playing scratch offs. He keeps a running total of his wins and losses for the year and he comes out a grand or two ahead every year. A few weeks ago, he hit a $1,000.00 scratch off and then did the same the next day. Then the day after that, he hit two $400.00 tickets.
He’s also a sport. One time, I was behind him in line at the convenience store, buying a twelve pack of Heineken. When I got up to the cashier, I was informed that the gentleman who had just left had paid for my beer. Just this morning, he hit a $500.00 winner and tipped the guy that sold it to him $50.00. “I always give ten percent of my winnings to the person who sold me the ticket.” Talk about good karma.
James is a genius. He lives on a sailboat. He does something with plasma machines (whatever they are). And he’s always inventing stuff and making computer boards on his boat, which is amazing, seeing as how his boat is rather cramped.
James ended up here, living on a boat, because he got divorced. He used to make good money because he is such a genius. Companies flew him all over the place to invent things and fix their multi-million dollar machines when no one else could. But because he has to pay his ex-wife $3,000.00 a week in alimony, he’s lost the incentive to work. “It all goes to her anyway,” he says.
Nowadays, he sits on his boat and designs things I don’t even understand. He has a 3-D printer and prints out stuff and tries to explain them to me, but I don’t get it. James is way too smart for me.
The only other person here that lives on a sailboat is Steve, which is kind of funny because he is also a genius. But his genius lies with computers. He writes code and all that good stuff. He’s kind of weird. Before coming here, he lived “on the hook.” That means he lived anchored offshore. No running water, no electricity, and to do anything, he had to row into shore. Did I mention that he did fourteen years of that shit? However, he had set up solar panels to run his computer.
He and James are always out on the dock talking about genius shit. They’re the only ones who can understand what they’re saying. The rest of us (mostly me) just have a dumb look on our faces as they yak away.
Louie used to play bass for Ted Nugent and other bands. When I first moved in here, people up at the Tiki Hut would mention Louie in passing. Finally I had to ask, “Who the hell is Louie?”
“He lives here on a boat, but he doesn’t mingle that much.”
I’ll say he didn’t. At that time, I had been at the marina for about a year and I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of anyone called Louie. That was then, this is now. Louie and I have become good friends and sometimes, in the evenings, we’ll kick back and have a beer or two and shoot the shit. Louie’s a good sport. He’ll let me go on for hour after hour telling him what a genius writer I am. And he’s a good actor too. He actually makes me believe that he gives a damn. I like Louie.
Brian is a newcomer. He’s been here about three months and seems like a decent bloke. I say bloke because Brian has lived all over the world, the last place being England. Funny story, that.
A friend had asked him to house sit. “You can live rent free,” said, said friend.
“Sounds good,” said Brian.
There was only one problem. The house contained three hundred pounds of cocaine.
When the cops came, they didn’t want to hear that he was only house sitting for a friend. “If that’s true, give us the name of your friend,” the cops reasonably asked.
Long story short: Brian would not give up his friend and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He did three years in solitary before he was remanded to the United States to complete his sentence. I reckon you could say that Brian is a standup guy.
David and Peggy are friends of mine; they live on the other side of the marina. I don’t see them as often as I’d like to because they’re always busy doing silly things like working for a living. They’re from New York and I met them shortly after they arrived. They weren’t here a week before the whole family had jobs. By “whole family,” I mean them and their two children.
They invite me over for dinner once in a while. Peggy is a great cook and so is Dave. I was there last night, and Peggy outdid herself with a shepherd’s pie. She made it because of my Irish heritage and because it was a going-away dinner they threw for me. They are really nice people. I’d love to run off with Peggy, but David would beat the shit outta me if I did. He’s a big guy and I only fuck with him when I’ve been drinking.
Pete and Nilza live next to David and Peggy. They are also a married couple. Nilza is Puerto Rican and Pete is Alabamian. How those two hooked up, I’ll never know.
At Thanksgiving they invited me over. Not just me, but some other people from the marina. I’ve got to say right here and now, that was the best damn Thanksgiving dinner I have ever had. They had turkey, they had ham. They had eighteen or nineteen side dishes. They had three kinds of pie for dessert. When it was time for me to leave, Nilza made me a to-go plate. It was so heavy that I needed help getting it home. And to show you what a good heart she has (Pete not so much), when I asked her if I could take a plate for one of our fellow boat dwellers that was down on his luck (broke), she made me a plate for him that rivaled mine. I was a little jealous.
Just to show you how things work around here, Pete had a boat that he lived on. When he got another boat, he sold the old one to Bart. When Bart died, his next-of-kin didn’t want it and signed it over to the marina. They, in turn, gave it to Louie who at the time was living in a warehouse and taking cold showers from a hose. Louie, now that he is rich and affluent, bought a new, bigger boat and sold his old one to Captain Trash.
Captain Trash is called Captain Trash because he has a business that hauls trash. He leaves trailers on people’s property, they fill them at their leisure, and then he comes back and hauls them to the dump. He makes a pretty good living doing that. I like him because he is always buying me six packs of Heineken.
I’ve mentioned the Tiki Hut throughout this narrative. But the Tiki Hut would not be the Tiki Hut if not for the Rodrigues, Mike and Ximena (pronounced HE-MAN-NA for you neophytes).
Before Mike and Ximena moved in, we liked the Tiki Hut the way it was. We had a few crappy Christmas lights hanging around and we thought that was so cool. We had a refrigerator that did not work—only the freezer worked. And the grill situation was really sad.
Ximena took one look at our pitiful situation and said, “Whoa!”
The next thing we knew there were strings and strings of new lights hanging from the rafters. A new refrigerator magically appeared. There were new grills and deep fryers and the place was clean. Ximena had taken a pressure washer to it.
As all this was going on, I was a little put out. I had grown used to our crappy Tiki Hut. How dare this woman tinker with our Tiki Hut! I thought.
But now I’ve got to admit, I like our new Tiki Hut better. As I write these words, Ximena is out there staining wood at the Tiki Hut. No shit. God bless her.
Ximena does her thing and Mike does his thing. He is our master chef (along with the aforementioned Jay).
Mike is a professional. Every goddamn thing he cooks comes out done to perfection. Well … there is one area where I have a beef (pun intended) with him. He does not know how to cook hamburgers. He doesn’t burn the hell out of ’em like he should. They must be well-done. Everyone knows that.
Every time there are hamburgers on the grill, I have to go toe-to-toe with Mike. Like two fighters in the ring, we circle each other. I’m looking to land a figurative punch and Mike is trying to defend himself from my heathen (in his mind) onslaught. Sometimes, I’ll be awarded a TKO and get a hamburger with no pink in it. At other times, I must retire to my corner in defeat—eating around the pink and giving what is left to the cats.
I’ve mentioned Crabby Mike before. He’s a real character. There are a lot of stories I could relate about Mike, but I’ve got a special one I think you’ll like. He tells this story all the time and, in some perverse way, he seems rather proud of it.
Mike had this “friend.” She would come over on occasion and they’d have sex and that was it. No love involved. She had something Mike wanted and he had something she wanted—weed.
Well, as the legend goes, one sleepy, dark night, the “friend” came to visit. She brought a bottle of rum and herself as presents for Mike. He poured a healthy portion of rum into his glass. She was only drinking water that night. Mike rolled a few joints and sat back, sipping his rum with a big smile on his face. He was going to get laid.
But things didn’t quite work out for Mike on that sleepy, dark night. He started getting sleepy and his vision was turning dark. The next thing he knew, it was morning and the goddamn birds were chirping right outside his boat. He had a massive hangover. His head was pounding. He wished those damn birds would just shut the fuck up. He looked over to see if his lady love was still there, but she had gone.
He got out of bed, thinking a swig of rum might make the headache less headachy. But funny thing, the bottle was gone. Then he started looking around. His cell phone was missing, along with his wallet containing $300.00 in cash and his credit cards. By then Mike was fully awake and his headache was forgotten. He rushed to his stash place. It was empty. The $1,000.00 he had made the previous day from selling crabs was gone. Damn!
Now here’s the weird stuff. She also took the glasses they had been drinking out of, a fancy cigarette lighter, all his weed, and … the garbage. Mike swears she took the garbage because of trace amounts of DNA lying in that plastic bag that might have identified her. And she took the glasses because of fingerprints, and the same for the bottle.
He doesn’t seem to understand that all she had to do was wipe down the glasses. She took those items because she wanted them. The rum was probably drugged, so that’s why she took the bottle. And as for DNA, no one is going to run a DNA test for a simple robbery. Rape and murder, yes. But not for robbery. Why she took the garbage is anyone’s guess. I can’t come up with a credible hypothesis.
Here’s the kicker. A year later, the thief shows up where Mike is selling his crabs. She buys a bag and Mike doesn’t recognize her until she’s about to walk away. “You piece of shit! How dare you show up here? Blah, blah, blah.”
“I’m different now, Mike. I’m clean … blah, blah, blah.”
“Get out of here and don’t ever come back!”
Everyone at the marina thinks Mike has learned his lesson. But I know better.
I’ve saved the best for last: Captain Ellis. Ellis hails from New England … Gloucester in particular. He was famous for his fishing acumen. If you’ve ever seen that show, Wicked Tuna, you’ll get a feel for what Ellis did, but he did it so much better than those guys.
When he was fourteen, he went out and landed a 750-pound bluefin tuna, using only a hand line. A few years later, his charter boat, the Cape Ann, was the most sought after boat for going out and capturing the bluefin. He set a record that hasn’t been beaten to this day. He has been written up in Sports Illustrated and, at the height of his career, he closed down shop and moved to Fort Lauderdale where he set new records, but this time in a different profession. Let me just say this: The guy’s life has been so over the top and interesting that I’m writing a book about him. I’ve got seven chapters done so far.
That’s it. Those are the people of Banyan Bay. I’ve left out all the embarrassing stuff. That will be in a second volume that I’ll sell to certain individuals (and you know who you are) so it won’t be published for broad consumption.
Two things come to mind as I wrap up this piece. One, I sure got fed a lot! And second, how the hell do I know so much about everybody? I try to keep to myself, but I must be doing something wrong.
As I start out on my new adventure, I am damn glad that I have gotten to know all the people mentioned above. They sure have enriched my life.