When selecting a place for Sunday afternoon cocktails, Hubby and I toss around a few options, deciding if we feel like being around Sarasota’s hoity-toity or hunkering with the fairer folk of the blue and mid-white collar persuasion. The latter usually is my choice, quiet darker places with a good juke box and affordable drinks but sometimes we opt for view. And since Sarasota has relinquished all but one open coastal bar to the condo and fancy hotel-dwellers, we are captive to it like the rest of the northern lemmings and their groomed and bow-tied poodles.
When I first moved to Sarasota in 1991, O’Leary’s was MY place. On the bayfront, with seagull-poop-painted picnic tables, the deck was a hub for boat-dwellers whose sometimes less than sea-worthy lodgings were moored for free off O’Leary’s sandy little shore. The boat people would row up in paint-chipped dinghies, often with a panting dog as a bow ornament. Plastic cups of draft were two bucks and these regulars would stop for a chat if they recognized you. The coconut palms swayed and salt wafted in on the breeze and a singular musician strummed Jimmy Buffet tunes or light rock and roll. Paradise. REALLY.
The place has changed since then, as you’ll soon see.
This past Sunday afternoon, with the temperature at a breezy 79 degrees, Hubby and I agreed mutually that O’Leary’s outdoor deck would be a nice spot to gaze through the frame of coconut palms at the shimmering Sarasota Bay.
Hubby staked out a picnic table and I went up to the tiki bar to buy our drinks. Now, I’m short and the bar is elevated on wooded decking, so I’m giving the bartenders the benefit of the doubt to say they simply did not see me. I circled the bar a few times, trying to find a natural spot between elbows to get some attention. No luck. Finally someone vacated a single stool, I called over the railing to Hubby, I sat, Hubby stood behind me and the bartender took our order.
El Pacifico draft in hand, I swiveled my back to the bar and looked over the bay toward Selby Gardens. No boats between here and there. As if reading my mind, Hubby said, “There used to be a lot of boats out there.”
“It’s an official mooring field now. Cost money to anchor your boat. That’s how the city ‘cleaned up the rif-raf.’”
“Hm.” Both of us mutual in our loss of what once was here. Now we sat amongst yuppies, if you still call them that, muscled jock-types, overly made-up cougars on the prowl, an old man smoking a cigar which was making me sneeze and the most disrupting of our-tiki bar Sunday afternoon calm: three woman with penetrating Brooklyn –– or Jersey I can’t be sure –– accents; yapping very loudly on one side of me while under the tiki cover over there a tone-deaf musician whined out Beatles tunes.
I restrained from covering my ears. I mean, can’t they keep their voices down? This isn’t New York, seagulls are trying to sleep! The women laughed and cackled and rounded their vowels. How badly I wanted to yell, “Hey, can you shutup ova thea, wee-a not on a fuckin’ subway, wee-a in paradise!” Or what used to be paradise anyway. Well, yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder about progress, I’m from MAUI for heaven’s sake, I saw my beloved island destroyed and I’ve seen Sarasota go down the tubes as well.
I said to Hubby, “Shouldn’t they be on the East coast?”
He shrugged, not having spent much time on the East Coast.
I explained: Usually, they slide down to Vero or Lauderdale from the northeast. It’s a whole lotta effort to come across the state to ruin my Sunday. And what about that musician? Three bucks for a plastic cup of draft you’d think they could hire a musician who can carry a tune. Hubby agreed.
The bill came forcibly because the bartender was closing out –– so she said –– and I learned the beer was FOUR bucks. But you can’t have just one drink at a bar so grudgingly I ordered another round. Besides, the Brooklyn gals sounded like they were wrapping it up, so maybe I would get some calm. Maybe the musician would take a break!
So things got a little quieter once the gals left for a shopping spree, I tuned out the out-of-tune musician and Hubby and I engaged in chit-chat.
But then, with the space to my left now vacated, tall people from the deck dashed up to order drinks and pay with plastic cards. Someone yelled between me and Hubby for three of something and the bartender complied. Suddenly I was a human sandwich, between slices of drink-desperate tourists waving plastic, drinks landing on either side of me as if shot from a cannon. I pulled a face and Hubby and I resumed conversation.
Suddenly an arm blinded my view of Hubby in mid sentence. Directly in my eye plain, like a hook pulling someone off stage, or a serpent jutting horizontally for an ostrich egg. Pale flesh in front of my face, blocking my view of . . . everything. At the end of the arm was a hand, holding a plastic card.
The arm-hook-serpent quickly retreated, thankfully for that arm because it probably would’ve been bit by this human, who takes time to be rude back to someone who deserves it for it’s not in MY nature to be so fucking rude. Hubby and I stared at each other and burst out in nervous laughter.
“Unbelievable,” Hubby said. “I thought she wanted me to smell her armpit.”
“I was going to bite her,” I said. I stretched both arms along the bar top. “I’m staking out my territory!”
In the time it took for Hubby and I to finish our second overpriced drinks, my five-two frame attempted to be a space hog at the bar. Fed up with rudeness, who knows what I would’ve done. I’m like a sleeping scorpion, I don’t whip out my tail at the first poke but eventually I’ll sting and with a beer-and-half in me, having been initially smited by the bartenders, my ears assaulted with discordant accents and bad singing, then The Arm, and about twenty dollars poorer, I was about ready to sting.
So we left. Next Sunday? I think we’ll play pool in the dark bar with the friendly locals.