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Island Treasure

You never know where you're going to meet your future spouse. Or pose for a drunken artist who quickly immortalizes you in crayon. Or if neither of those things happens, you could always just drink until you're shitfaced. And that's how it goes with the cast of random-ass characters at Treasure Trove.

Ambiance: It's just a block from the ocean, so crisp ocean air wafted into Treasure Trove through elephant-sized windows. People drinking at the tables outside leaned in through one of the windows to strike up a conversation with someone drinking on the inside. Despite its A1A-proximity, the place doesn't draw many tourists, who are drawn bug-zapper style to the nearby Elbo Room.

Groups of people had situated themselves around the half-dozen or so TVs, all intent upon some game. Because I am easily distracted from sports, I quickly noticed that fish are mounted on the walls around the bar. And as I was told by the bar's owner, Jeff, a guy who slightly resembles Seth Rogan, the large mounted grouper head is a fish actually caught by his grandmother, who must be one tough broad.

Bar: The wood-and-tile bar runs zig-zag through the room; potted flowers and a miniature ship adorn the end farthest from the door. Decorations on the walls include pirate flags, photos of ships, framed awards, and photo montages of bargoers. Behind the bar, a large cannon points out a window; its wooden stand is decorated by cheeky stickers with phrases like "Work-Free Smoke Place," "Don't Be a Dick," and "My Bartender Can Beat Up Your Therapist." Fleet-week posters hang on the ceiling, and speakers for guest musicians have been set up near the digital jukebox.

I grabbed a spot at the bar by my buddies, and we ordered some beers from Jimbo. The bartender had his dirty-blond hair pulled back in a wavy ponytail and put out his hand when I asked for a Bud Light, saying, "No way you're 21." I rolled my eyes and forked over my I.D.

Customers: I approached a middle-aged trio sitting outside. James had a beard and wore a ball cap and sat next to his wife, Deb, and friend, Erin. Deb and Erin were both well-dressed, pretty blonds. On the sidewalk near their feet, two dogs, each with a mop of smooth black fur, snoozed quietly.

I asked what brought them to Treasure Trove, and Erin explained that it was her birthday.

"Well, drinking is a good way to celebrate a birthday," I said. "Or anything, really."

"Are you even old enough to drink?" James asked as he lit a cigarette.

I sighed. "Are you going to card me?"

"Just checking," he shrugged.

I asked if they were regulars.

"Oh, I'm not," Erin said, then nodded toward Deb and James and added, "They are."

"Deb and I actually met here seven years ago," James said. "And we're married now. We've been married for five years." He looked proud about it too. Unfortunately, his pride vaporized as soon as Erin pointed out that he and Deb had been married for only two years.

"Guess it feels like longer," Erin smirked. Deb just rolled her eyes. She looked like she knew going into it that James was an "oops, I forgot our anniversary" kind of guy.

"You guys still come out here a lot?" I asked Deb and James, ignoring James' faux pas.

"I don't," Deb said with a look of steel. "But he does."

Hoping to avoid a marital explosion, I changed the subject. Since we were at Treasure Trove, I asked them to tell me their most prized possession. "What do you treasure," I said, "even more than a good bar with good booze?"

"My dogs," James said automatically.

"Dogs?" Erin said. "Why wouldn't you say your wife?"

"I know where I stand," Deb said. "Dogs are first; I'm second."

Erin contemplated her own answer. "The first time I went to Ireland, I bought a necklace. It's a Celtic knot, and it's just something very special to me."

"I think mine would be a bracelet that I got from my grandmother," Deb said finally. "It was my great-grandmother's."

Erin looked back at James. "C'mon, James, you can't say dogs. You don't have a special hat or something?"

"Nope," he said. "I'm gonna stick with dogs. That one." He pointed at the larger black dog.

"Why that one?" I asked. "What's wrong with this one?" The smaller one, sprawled beneath James' chair, didn't seem to realize he wasn't the favorite child.

"Well, I've had Holly a lot longer," James said. "We just got Briland."


"Pronounced like 'Harbor Island,' " James said. "That's where we had our honeymoon."

I found that so delightfully sweet that I squealed out a response that can probably best be transcribed as a series of E's."

Drunken drawing: I headed back to my spot at the corner of the bar by Tom and Mike, who were in a collective sports-induced trance. Before I had a minute to be bored, we were approached by a short, thin, well-worn man who was swaying in a way that might indicate he was under heavy chemical influence. He juggled white paper, a handful of broken crayons, and a plastic cup full of booze and offered to do a quick caricature of me and my two friends for $1. After introducing himself as Mickey Clean, he began sketching, with his splintered orange crayon, the contours of my face. Next he grabbed a yellow and gave me a hefty mane of blond hair.Man, this guy could kick all your kids' asses at coloring.

He asked my male companions where they had found me.

"She's our mail-order bride from Russia," Mike said.

"Are you really from Russia?" Mickey stopped scribbling.

"No," I snapped. I asked if this was his full-time job.

"No, this is how I make extra money to feed my eight cats," he said. "I also do paintings, and I have a house that my ex-wife — the Avon heiress — left me. I just gotta make some extra money." He had sketched out Mike's head, complete with New York Yankees ball cap, and was coloring in his thick beard with spots of black and orange.

"You're like a Viking or something," he remarked to Mike.

Somehow, Mickey managed to insult Mike's facial hair, skillfully sketch out striking likenesses using a shriveled crayon, and remain staggeringly intoxicated. Just then, Jimbo came back and threw a drawing back down in front of Mickey.

"You didn't color it," he said. "No color, no free drinks."

"Fine," Mickey snapped, taking the drawing back and drawing his drink closer to his body. As he finished our picture, he periodically added haphazard spots of color to the other one.

Mickey went over Tom's teeth five times with a white crayon — still not anywhere close to the glittering white of Tom's actual teeth. He then added palm trees in the background. Tom dropped three dollars on the table in front of Mickey.

"You know, I started the punk movement," Mickey said. "My band was Mickey and the Mezz. Look it up. Brett Milano also wrote a book about me.

"Yeah, I should have been famous. Instead, I gotta draw crayon portraits of people to pay the mortgage on the house my ex — the Avon heiress — left me."

"And feed your cats," I volunteered.

"Yeah, all eight of 'em," he said. "I take in strays and try and find homes for them, but if I can't... I'm stuck with them."

He put the final touches — bright spots of color in the background — on the picture and signed his name in cerulean, applying enough pressure to break the crayon in half.

"Keep this," he said. "I'll be famous one day."

After he walked off, the three of us stared at our printer-paper-sized masterpiece. Our likenesses had been successfully immortalized in Crayola. We stared at the drawing and watched Mickey stagger off, shaking and swaying. I thought it was about time for another drink — I hadn't discovered treasure of the gold sort at the Trove tonight, but good booze, good people, and good art are really all you need.

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Tara Nieuwesteeg

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