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Hi buckaroos!  Had enough of "the Good Life" for a few minutes? Want
to ESCAPE the happy, well-planned, boring life that everyone has
scheduled for you today? Want to remember what YOU had in mind for
YOUR life? Well, youve came the the right place! Settle back, and
indulge yourself in a nice, heart-warming story from "down there", on
the beach, in the Little Latitudes. Its always warm and welcoming
here. Theres NEVER a deadline or a meeting to attend.  Theres just
you, some special friend or friends of yours, and ME, ol Bill,
spinning you a yarn - a tall tale of the tropics, around the old beach
fire.

The Chairs

 

_“I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat …”_

 

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, my wife, Cissy, and I had a
booming high-end women’s apparel business. New York, mostly. That
is a high pressure industry! She was the designer. I helped with the
business.

 

We lived in Coconut Grove, Florida, on Mary Street. It was
beautiful.

 

One day, Cissy went to the post office and never came back. I was
devastated.

 

I finished off the orders as best I could, with the help of Jack
“August”, a “retiree” from New Jersey. He lived next door. He
had been in the “waste management” business, up in ‘Jersey.

 

I met Gardenia Halligan. She was a pretty, vivacious, red-headed
lawyer from up in Hollywood, Florida. She won all her cases.

 

Gardenia is the woman who walks into Sam Spade’ black and white
office, with a little, white 1930’s hat on. She’s wearing a
well-tailored, navy blue woman’s suit, with a big, white navy collar
and large, round, white buttons down the front, She has on white
gloves, and is clutching a beaded white purse. She, shyly, sits down.

 

Bogart asks, “What’s the problem, doll face? You look kinda
nervous.” She says, “Gosh (She always said ‘gosh’.), Mr.
Spade, I think my husbands’ gone missing.”

 

Gardenia Halligan had four dependable characteristics:

a.) She had red hair, REAL red hair! No jury in South Florida had
ever seen such red hair before.

b.) She had a voice that only Minnie Mouse could imitate –
“Gosh, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does THAT look like the
face of a murderer to you?” (Never mind the fact that he had been
convicted of murder twice before.)

c.) She was a TOTAL alcoholic. (“An Irish lawyer stagers into a bar
…”)

d.) She was good at getting pregnant!

 

I moved down to Key West. (“It’s the best.”) I got a place way
down in Bahamian Town, past Hemingway’s house. (He wrote most of
his better works in that house.)

 

One night, Halligan showed up, and, basically, moved in.

 

We spent a lot of time on the beaches, riding bikes, and hanging out
on the pier, watching the sunset. We spent a lot of time in the
closest bar up Duval Streetfrom me, The Green Parrot Lounge, “The
Final Step Down”. Their motto was, “See the Lower Keys on your
hands and knees.”

 

But, mostly, we hung out in Captain Tony’s”.

 

 

 

Captain Tony’s Bar was a dive, a REAL dive. It was an old, wooden,
conch bar. There was all kinds of shit hangin’ from the ceiling -
lots of underwear, bras, life savers, moose heads – stuff like that.
It was dark – REAL dark. It was old – PLENTY old! It is one of the
oldest bars in the U.S. It was nasty. REAL nasty. It was easy to miss.
It made a good hide out. Mostly, it attracted a motley crew –
bikers, drunk, lost tourists, head-bangers, fishermen, druggies -
folks like that. Not an intellectual crowd.

 

But, it had class. REAL class.

It’s where Hemingway had past his days (not that stupid Sloppy
Joe’s place, across the way).

 

And, most of all, it had Capta’n Tony. (Yes, Virginia, there
really was a Captain Tony.). He was a lanky, gnarly-lookin’ old
fisherman, who had opened a bar in upper Key West.

 

He was a legend, a real, walkin’, talkin’, breatin’, spitin’,
drinkin’, fornicatin’ legend. His motto was, “All you need in
this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains dont mean
a shit.”

 

He was the Godfather of the Conch Republic. Well, a little more
than that. As the Conchs (native Florida Keys people) say, “All
conchs look alike, and we all look just like Capt’n Tony.”

 

He wasn’t a bad sort - a classic bar tender on
a Caribbean island. A good listener, with a wit and wisdom to boot.
He was usually in a good mood. He was, I’d guess, about 200 years
old. He loved mangoes. Sucked ‘em dry. Then, threw the seeds out in
the street.

 

Gardenia and I liked Capta’n Tony. He liked us.

 

But, I think, mostly, he liked us because of Carol Nixon.

 

Carol Nixon was also a legend in South Florida and the Keys.
“Nixon’s the one.”

 

Now, Gardy (Gardenia) wasn’t, at all, a bad lookin’ lady,
herself. But, her best friend, Carol Nixon, was EVERY man’s pick as
the best lookin’, most unbelievably sensual woman in all of South
Florida. Gardenia hated Carol for that!

 

Carol Nixon was an aging (30 something) hippie. She never wore many
clothes. Hated undergarments, and LOVED sex. She’d pick up guys like
a rag picker picks up rubbish.

 

She was tall and tan, with long, black hair that always had a few
extra things livin’ in it. She kept a joint glued to the corner of
her luscious, laughing, red mouth. She, basically, oozed sex.

 

Capta’n Tony was madly in lust with Carol Nixon (Wasn’t hard to
be.). He’d always ask when she was comin’ down next, whenever we
were in the bar.

 

We looked forward to our daily conversations with Capt’n Tony. We
liked the dark, dingy atmosphere of the bar, in the middle of a hot,
sultry day. But, mostly (And, I think Gardy was more guilty of this
than me.), we craved the chairs!

 

In Florida, there’s a long standing tradition of painting the name
of a person who frequents your bar, on the back of the chair that he
of she always chooses. The very old places still preserve this noble
tradition.

 

The chairs in Capt’n Tony’s were beyond belief! They were just
ordinary high, wooden bar chairs from a bygone era. But, they had seen
some history!

 

What did you have to do to merit having your name on a chair in
Captain Tony’s Bar? Well, you had to:

a.)  Be a friend of Captain Tony. He had to like you. He had to
know you – the real you. And, Captain Tony had a way of lookin’
right through you. He didn’t like no bullshit.

b.)   You had to, pretty much, frequent the bar. You couldn’t be
just some Key West bar hopper, who stopped by occasionally. And, you
had to be a real person, with something to talk about, when you came
in. You had to believe in things, whether Capt’n Tony agreed with
you or not.

c.)  You had to be drinker, a drunkard, perhaps - someone who
consumed serious amount of alcohol (Gardenia had me beat there too!).

d.)  And, here’s the hard one – you had to be famous. Not just
well known, but as famous as Captain Tony, himself. That was not easy.

 

A tough test. But, there they were, always, the chairs, staring at
us, making us ... uneasy, somehow.



                                                                                     
continued>

 

 Most all the pictures and posting are from yours truly,

Bill Bohannon.

This ones from Bantayan Island, The Philippines.

Copyright 2011 talesofthetropics.com. All rights reserved.

500 Burgos Street
Makati, Manila 1209
ph: 00639084876259

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In database since 2011-06-08 and last updated on 2012-11-12
 
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