I guess that most towns have a bar like Schooner’s where the locals go to sit around with one another and share their trials, victories, and the like. The only difference I figure is that our bar resembles an eclectic mix of the bars from Cheers and Cocktail (T.V. show and movie for those of you not into pop culture). As far as I know, it is the only place on the surrounding islands that has a nautical New England interior with a grass hut outdoor bar and pool on the beach.
Of course, none of us are sitting outside today due to the storm, so it is a just a little bit crowded and there are no seats to be had. It is your normal mix of characters. There’s Scott holding court with the mayor, Witt, and the owner of Schooner’s, Mike. There’s Don and Everett and Craig. Admiral is here with his accountant, Brian, looking at what appears to be the latest financials. Hey, even our priest is here sharing a bottle of wine with the golf pro from the country club. Everyone is engrossed in their conversation which provides me the opportunity to slide by into the back of the room without being noticed, at least for a minute anyway.
“Hello, Mister Joe,” says Joel. “Como esta? Mucho uve hoy, si?”
“Si, un cervaza, por favor,” I respond.
About this time, my neighbor who lives just down the street motions that I can have his stool along the wall railing which looks out the window to the ocean. Perfect, I can sit and watch the storm and my back will be facing everyone. “Gracias, Joel,” I say as he hands me a beer.
The waves are crashing onto the beach and the palms are bent to extreme by the wind. I don’t know why, but I love storms. The beauty of their strength, the collage of blues, grays, and whites, the ocean whipped in frenzy is an awesome sight. My wife thinks I’m crazy because each time a storm is predicted I get excited. Of course, ever since Callie I have felt a little less enthused and today is no exception.
Finally, I have found a little corner of refuge where I can gather my thoughts. Were it not for the symphonic noise of storm and conversation, this place would be peaceful. Yet, I can’t seem to calm my mind and I find myself listening in on the conversations around me.
Scott’s group is debating the pros and cons of the casino. Scott is pro-casino because it will help his business and the island could sure use a shot in the arm to get business going again. Witt, the mayor, is anti-casino. He feels that he has been duped by the negotiations and he is fearful that if the town gives into the casino that we will be headed down the slippery slope. Mike is somehow playing the role of mediator which is unique because he is normally the most opinionated when it comes to debate. He explains that he is still uncertain if he would be better off with more tourism and thus better economics for the island or worse off due to the competition that the resort proposes with its sixteen on-site bars. I wouldn’t call their conversation heated, but the alcohol induced volume does seem a bit loud.
Don, Everett, and Craig have joined the priest and the golf pro at their table and they are discussing Don’s latest fundraising effort that helps to support Everett’s group. Don is hosting a dinner reception at his house on the beach and he is charging $100 a person. He invited me, but I told him that I had a conflict with the date so as not to expose my real reason which is I don’t have a $100 much less a $100 to donate. My priest is quiet as Don explains his plan, but I can sense by his body language that he is apprehensive to commit his support. Maybe, contributions are down at the church which seems sensible due to all of the hardship. Or maybe, he is non-committal because it has been quite a while since Don has done a fundraiser for them. Or perhaps, he doubts the sincerity of Don’s offer since they haven’t seen him at church in a while. Who knows?
Everett is an interesting fellow that comes through the island from time to time on his way to Guatemala. I haven’t spent much time with him, but my understanding is that he is a missionary of sorts who has built a school to help educate orphans.
Craig is a retired powerbroker that moved to the island a couple of years ago from Washington, D.C. He has a great sense of humor and knows more people than seems humanly possible. I was having some difficulty a few months back getting my permits required for commercial fishing. There had been a mix up with my paperwork and the government was going to charge me the fees for three boats. I attempted to explain to them that I only had one boat now, but their response was go ahead and pay for the three and they would straighten it out later. There in laid the problem, which was, I barely had the money for one permit much less three.
I discussed this with Craig and he said something to the effect of, “Let me make a couple of calls.” Now I don’t know about you, but I was pretty skeptical considering that he was outside of his environment and most people who say they will look into it rarely follow through. Yet, he called someone in the State Department who contacted the island government who contacted me and apologized as well as offered to provide my permits for no charge this year due to the inconvenience.