Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Maybe it was Fay's mind-warping approach, but something fishy was going on at the Palm Grill

"Are you lip synching?" I demanded, my breath probably smelling like a hellacious blend of booze and Gobstopper.

He laughed heartily. "No. I used to work in the audio industry. You pick up some tricks along the way." Like singing "Honeysuckle Rose" when your lips are going Peter-Piper-picked-a-peck-of-pickled-peppers?

"What's your name?" I asked.

"People call me Larry," he said, smiling. "Americans aren't good at pronouncing ethnic names."

"Try me."

"OmnahrShaKari," he said. "That's my real name."

I echoed him in stilted syllables, and then told him my last name so we could briefly celebrate our multisyllabic monikers. It's a small world after all, if an OmnahrShaKari and a Nieuwesteeg can get along.

"I'm not Jamaican. I'm from Boston, but I like the island sound," he said. "I spent three seasons playing every club in Key West. What do you do?"

I informed him that I am a professional drinker who occasionally is allowed to write.

"Are you gonna be telling the news on TV one day?" he asked. "Please, not Fox News."

"Not one for bloodthirsty conservatism?" I asked.

"I check into Fox News every so often, just to see what they're up to," he said, slitting a suspicious glance at no one in particular. "Bill O'Reilly? Man, that guy needs to get laid."

The Escape: I found a hawkish, drunken dude with a buzz-cut sidling up to my friend Tom. Tom had been busy making awkward conversation about the Olympics, and the guy — a burly military man named James — had been trying to move in.

He poured Tom's unfinished drink into his own glass.

"Careful," said Tom.

"I would never spill on you," he said, doing something with his eyelashes that dangerously resembled batting. Even three martinis couldn't slice through the non-consensual awkwardness that was now penetrating the room.

"It's my last night in Fort Lauderdale," explained James, clearly one of those sad souls who'd been spending his military career not asking or telling. James seemed to have my straight friend in mind for a parting gift. His hand suddenly disappeared under the bar.

"Don't do that," said Tom sharply. James gave him a quizzical look. Where was my Mace spray when we needed it?

"Time to go," announced Mike, leaping out of his chair with all the finesse of the leader of an elephant stampede.

"I'm not done with my daiquiri," I complained.

"Chug," he hissed unsympathetically. This dude was ready to tear into some man ass, and Mike felt it his responsibility to either prevent that ass from being Tom's or to save Tom's conscience from living for the rest of his life with the memory of having stomped some heroic military ass into the Palm Grill floor.

James slowly got up and prepared to leave. Unrepentantly. He walked past Tom, brushing my friend's side in a caress of unrequited love. Military bravado, no doubt.

The bartender sensed our discontent and brought us plastic cups filled with frozen drinks to take for the road. I myself left the bar pretty damned happy — maybe because of the bonus drink in my hand or maybe because I met cool people, drank twice my weight in sugar-sweet booze, and listened to some (live, maybe) catchy island tunes at a bar with a great view. Yeah, Tom was more shaken up than a Bond martini, but in my eyes, the night was a success. Tropical Storm Fay? Bring it on, I thought, as I walked out into the night. If we can handle horny army guys and get the goods on lip-synch suspects, I'd like to see a little bit of wind and rain faze us.

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