At 10:25 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, Matt, a tall bartender with a dark, short-cropped beard, walks perfunctorily toward the dock in front of the Downtowner Saloon (408 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale), unhooking his belt and opening his fly. A crowd of ten locals -- Night Court included -- who are pissing their lives away at this riverside institution gets up and follows. We unbutton our pants, then stand at attention with an aura of innocence as the tourist-laden Jungle Queen chugs through the Andrews Avenue drawbridge.
We smile and wave, saluting the wedding cake on water in a manner apparently befitting Fort Lauderdale's beautiful vistas. It seems a pleasant, heartwarming convergence of patrons from two bastions of local culture -- a tour boat that has plied the New River for 60 years and a bar located in a 75-year-old former fish-packing house on the south bank.
But then, after we've sucked them in and made them believe in our good will, we stick it to 'em.
Dropping trou and wagging our hammies in the wind, we show the shrieking boatload what this rough-around-the-edges, bare-ass boating town is all about. Damn fucking skippity.
Never mind that the whipping wind is chapping our clenching heinies. The south mouth has spoken. Ow! From one Lauderdale institution to another: Kiss our ass. And we mean that in the Terrence and Phillipian spirit of cut-down camaraderie.
Boater behavior is full of such well-intended insults, which stem from the fact that waterborne buddies are generally a bunch of jolly assholes who regard one another with drunken smirks. And why not, when the sun is out and sea spray is splashing and you've got a cooler full? Life is too damn good to take seriously.
Such was the philosophy of the drunken crew of seven I ran into post-lunar eclipse in front of the Downtowner. Billy, a short, heavy-set bald man donning a condom hat, was celebrating his emergence into the distinguished class of senior citizen. A younger friend with dark hair was videotaping everything he did.
I asked the cameraman how he felt when the wind hit his ass.
"Very, very good," he said. "I'm ready to do it again."
I turned to Billy.
In a drunken slur, he unraveled his yarn: "Hell, I'm gonna tell you right now. In 1979, I was down here and took all my shit off. I didn't only moon it. I even showed my pee-pee. And you know what? My pee-pee was so much bigger then than it is now. Shit, I got the award in South Florida for the biggest pee-pee when I was 27 years old. I moved down here, and I made love to a woman who was 79."
One of the women in his party said, "She's still smiling."
"So, what birthday is this?" I asked Billy.
The cameraman said, "He's going on 16."
Billy held up what by all appearances was his tenth beer and said, "Let's drink to an official geezer!"
"All right," everyone said and threw back.
Billy looked at my tape recorder and asked, "Are you a porn star?"
A little startled, I replied, "I'm not a porn star."
He continued, "All the women that do CNN look like porn stars. They're all porn stars on CNN, baby."
The waiter popped over and said, "You guys need any more drinks?"
And the bald old man pointed to the beige monster, the eight-story Broward County Main Jail -- the Downtowner is notorious for being in its shadow -- and said, "Yeah, right - we need to go to jail over there."
Inspired by the tape recorder, another of Billy's friends asked the birthday boy, "Where are your titles? I should read your titles if someone's recording."
"Titles?" I inquired.
Black-bearded Victor replied, "The last decade ago, when Dances with Wolves came out, this one over here," he gestured toward Billy, "became very enthusiastic, and his Indian name became 'Chief Two Bear Bending Over.' Another friend became 'Dances with Lawnmowers' when he dribbled the lawnmower that wouldn't start up and down the driveway. The night he and I got thrown out of the Green Turtle Cay Yacht Club in the Bahamas, I became 'Chief Two Forks Facing Aft,' and ended up paying the bar tab five days later on another island."
Victor continued, "These are Billy's titles."
The four women at the table made a trumpet sound, "Doo doo doo doo," as Victor announced number one.
Referring to some secret history, he announced, "Johnson Boy."
Victor continued, "Alchemist. Debaucherist. Redneck."
Everyone laughed and chugged beer.
"Alias, 'Soaring Eagle with Snow on Beak. '"
"Huh? What's that mean?" I asked.
Victor said, "You don't want to know," then continued, "'Sailor with Bar Tab in Every Port. '" The merry drunks really got going over this one.
I pressed the issue, "So, what's with the snow on your beak? Why you got snow on your beak, Soaring Eagle?"
Victor said it slowly to make the meaning obvious: "Snow on Beak!"
Then Billy came out with a tall tale: "Last week on the ship, I disguised myself as a hooker, and I smuggled 1,400 kilos of cocaine into Miami. What do you think of that?"
It dawned on me, "I get it. I should have known that. I've never done that, though, so..."
"Not yet," the condom-capped oldster replied.
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Victor added, "But don't ever do it unless it's the best."
Oldster cut in, "You don't know anything about the best. They got the best over there across the street in the jail."
The smirking bartender, Matt, was framed by the window, and I headed over to ask him about mooning Queen. "It's been going on for ten years," he replied, "but we got sued about three years ago by a woman on the boat, so we stopped for a long time."
Now, the laid-back bar is baring 'em again, every Wednesday night, like the pacemaker that's keeping the fast-fading, fuck-all ethos of this city alive.