I’ll never forget the delight DOD (dear old Dad) used to take in grilling out on the balcony of his condo in South Florida. You see, it was against the rules, and at the time DOD didn’t think much of rules and enjoyed a good steak. Putting one over on the old fogeys that lived upstairs added to the adventure. Then, of course, he became an old fogey, joined the owners’ association and things changed-no more steak.
One day, following our summer cruise to the Bahamas, I was reminded of this, and now I am beginning to wonder whether I, too, have “matured. There was a time, not all that long ago, when I was capable of being loud and-to those with less passion for music-obnoxious. You see, I suffered from what musicians refer to in the trade as “alcohol ear”. In my case guitars and liquor simply don’t blend well and tend to result in “performances”. Since my fans insist that my ability with the instrument can only be appreciated with a bottle in hand, who’s to argue? As for my schtick, I like to sing loud country songs about Momma, pickup trucks and dogs.
I’ve always carried a guitar aboard Anhinga. While it is hidden next to her arms locker, unlike my shotgun and pistol it is not secured with a lock-an oversight that has fueled more than one noisy night.
By far my worst performance occurred in Islamorada a dozen or so years ago, when Anhinga and our flats skiff resided there. We had just cause for celebration, as we had recently returned from a fishing trip that we relive in hushed reverence to this day. We had taken the flats skiff 30 miles into the backcountry to a spot I have sworn not to reveal. In two hours we released more than 60 redfish, 30 snook and several tarpon-all without lifting the push-pole. All we brought back to the dock was our story and a broken fly rod. However, by sunset we had a flock of believers behind Anhinga, and it wasn’t long before the time seemed right for a country song.
By the time I played the last encore, “There’s a Tear in My Beer”, by the immortal Hank Williams, the supply of that beverage aboard Anhinga was stale and I was short of fresh material. We decided to improvise and headed to the bar shore-side where we enjoyed the stylings of a local ensemble that featured a Latin beat. It wasn’t long before we had adopted the band as kindred spirits, and when the bar closed we adjourned to Anhinga’s cockpit with the band and a large conga drum in tow. It was not until rather late the next morning that I realized how many of our neighbors who had thoughtfully turned in early had reluctantly shared in our adventure. One of the old fogeys had left a candid photograph of the goings-on the night before and a handwritten note threatening to share the lurid details with my editor. Fortunately, my editor at the time suffered alcohol ear as well and was a severe Hank Williams fan.
These goings-on seemed quite distant when a boat load of refugees from civilization parked next to us this summer in the out-islands. The crew unloaded what must have been at least three aisles of a Wal-Mart supercenter, consuming the small piece of real estate behind our boats. To accommodate the frozen-food section, they had brought the remains of a decaying top-loading freezer. It was accompanied by a grease-soaked gas barbecue that should have been fitted with a “no smoking sign”. While they had no guitars aboard they had something much worse: satellite radio. They employed this technology in a far more irritating fashion than I could have ever managed with six strings. They tuned in to the disco channel and wandered off to the bar with the damn thing blasting. In their absence a grumbling collection of old fogeys gathered nearby and just as the scene was about to become ugly, I found myself their spokesman. When one of my musically challenged neighbors returned for a pack of cigarettes, I suggested that she turn off the music if she were not listening to it. “I could change the station if you’d like”, offered the young lady, as if we were cultural castaways in need of her vessel’s sound system. “Thanks, I said, “I’m quite capable of entertaining myself should the need arise”.
For a while I gave some thought to setting down my ice cold Kalik and dragging out my old guitar, but I could not remember if I had bothered to bring my song book along. You see, the truth is that I can’t remember the words to the songs anymore-and humming is so well unprofessional. In fact, sometime ago not only did I assemble my life’s work of other folks’ favorites into a song book, but I created one with extra-large print. Laugh if you must, but at least I figured out that while dark glasses on stage are fine, magnifiers are not! In addition, my backup (my 19-year-old son Jake) has joined another somewhat more progressive ensemble at college.