Cranky in Paradise

One little girl is T-I-R-E-D, and she needs to be 86ed

"Have a few beers and you never know where you'll go with it." That was the advice I received from a radio DJ when I called in to ask if there were a better Sunday-evening option to entertain my Canadian guest than reggae at the Banana Boat. So Brant and I took the bait. Dubiously. As we ordered our first beers at the Boynton Beach waterfront bar, we found ourselves awash in the glow of many strands of Christmas lights along a yellow striped awning.

The place definitely had a party feel (think: wedding or bar mitzvah rather than kegger) thanks to the three-piece band with the programmed drumbeats and the many families making the most of it. The island-inspired music moved many to dance on the wood-planked floor. At the bustling bar, some patrons were ordering two drinks at a time to minimize their wait.

As far as party spots go, it wouldn't be my ideal, but it was a people-watching paradise — from the aging guy in an open leather vest, showing off a scroll of weathered tattoos rolling down his chest and belly, to the prim housewife in a tidy bob and Bermuda shorts with her tightly managed children. And, of course, there were all the beach bums and bunnies as well as the boaters who'd docked there, from rosy to roasted. Many had evidently spent the day on the water, and the degrees of their sunburns seemed directly proportional to their levels of inebriation.

"It's a strange crowd," I said, my nostrils prickling at the mingled scents of black muck and cologne in the Intracoastal's gentle breeze.

"There are many generations," Brant sagely observed.

Exactamundo, interjected a woman in a black Hard Rock cap. "It's one of the few places you can get hit on by an 80-year-old," she said.

"Woohoo! Spring break!" squealed the young blond in the red bikini from across the bar.

And what better way to celebrate than a same-sex friction dance? The spring breaker began to grind her crotch on a middle-aged woman, who just laughed as another glassy-eyed blond pulled the dancer away in a tipsy wrestle. The two girls were definitely a pair, probably sisters. They flanked another attractive woman, with similar but matured features, who was flirting with a gentleman on her left while the girls celebrated their youthful beauty by pickling themselves.

Between them and Brant and me, another young group (green enough to be carded, anyway) had just arrived and was getting its drink on. I figured them for spring breakers too.

Not so, said a petite brunet with a Baby Phat foil logo across her chest. "They're here from France," she said.

"Pa-ree," added her tall, lithe friend before turning to her compatriots and spouting en français, which — thanks to my meager public school French — I understood enough to glean that she was discussing her French pronunciation of the capital city.

When I returned to the bar, the actual language barrier came in the form of a Bahamian beer label.

"How do you pronounce this?" Brant asked, handing me a Kalik, which was boldly advertised on a huge poster on the wall. "I asked the bartender, and he didn't know."

"Kah-LEEK?" I offered, then asked the new newcomers next to me for help.

"KAY-lick," the taller woman offered with a smile.

"Colic?" her fairer friend, who seemed otherwise bored, tried.

If I'd stuck with the Corona, the pronunciation challenge wouldn't have introduced us to Paige and Amy, New Jersey vacationers. They'd been told this was the place to be by "two separate and independent sources and an elder uncle in his 60s."

The ever-cheery Paige added: "My grandmother told me they were playing 'Ragu' music."

Overhearing my questions, a model-gorgeous brunet interrupted, boasting as if she owned the place: "This place is the bomb! It's got a good crowd, a chill atmosphere, it's on the water...," she said, punctuating her points with her hand by zigging on one point, zagging on the next. "I used to work here," she added, almost too proud.

"A lot of people drinking here used to work here... that's like the second one," Paige said. "Usually you don't see that. When I'm not working at a place, I leave."

Then again, her line of work probably didn't have banana-print miniskirt uniforms, tropical drinks, and a budget reggae band.

In the time it took me to guzzle the icy brew with the confusing name, I'd solved the beer pronunciation problem by switching to a Bahama Mama. As moonlight splashed across the black scrub and fractured in the little waves on the water, I took the first sip of my rum drink and spontaneously began to move to the island beat. I passed the drink to Brant. He was similarly inspired.

"Are those real or fake?" I wondered as a tall woman with double D's straining at her "Old Key Lime House" tank top stepped from a motorboat. Brant studied her.

"Go feel 'em... take one for the team in the name of research," I encouraged him.

But Brant's hamburger had arrived, and the only meat he was interested in was already in his hands. So I decided to let him eat in peace while I chatted with the newcomers.

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