dry land sailor

write me a little
poem
a day or two after I die
that’s all I ask,
just type it up
on some borrowed
copy paper from
the back room at
Ryan’s Irish Pub.

Type it on that
Olivetti typewriter
that I keep
oiled and ready
on the back porch.


no need for
something flowery
make it a little
gritty,
think:
the Missouri River
at flood stage
and

Just
think:
Rock Island, Illinois
think:
Brockway trucks

think:
St. Paul, Minnesota and Kansas City

Or don’t make anything
of it,
just keep it inside of you
and call
the El Cortez Casino
where you know I would go
when the chips are down

when the spirit is free
and

say to them…
be on the lookout for a
roulette hound

a dry land sailor

a hundred dollar millionaire

the dogs are all you can bet

with any success

“you damned dry land gambler”

you told me that lots of times
so why not
bet heavy on the long-shot dog
I’ll look for you at
the Palm Beach Kennel Club

 

Morning star

get up at half past five

take a shower

don’t smoke before breakfast

walk down to the water

watch Venus set

wait for sunrise,

remember Venus

…she’s been there for so very long

write it down…

she’ll be back …you might not

it’s your 22, 356th ride

it’s the day before the big

job interview,

so you’d better

drink a coffee on the porch

with the hound

write a poem if you

have one in you

play Chopin

and

remember it all as best you can

it is moving past you…

in tiny pieces

like lightning bugs that

flash in summer heat

… don’t drive too fast

don’t drink too much

don’t ask for trouble

check your BP at that

machine at the market

don’t text message anyone

just keep to yourself…

…but

drive out to the casino

before the end of the day

and drop 20 bucks

into a slot machine

and hope for the best

sweet sanity

…remember Sanity,
she was a cheap date

you left her on the
dining room table
at your aunt Loraine’s place
in Grand Rapids in ‘73,
(the summer you turned 19…)

…you abandoned her like a
bad tuna fish sandwich
wrapped in waxed paper,
at a bus depot in Moline
two years after that…

… you gave her away
to that girl with the wayward smile
when you had 57 bucks of
credit left
on your visa card…

…you welcomed her home
in ‘83 and again in ‘84 but then
you decided that there weren’t enough
wasps circling the moon…
…not enough flies landing on
the butter dish…
…not enough hounds barking…
…not enough moths playing the violin…

…you threw Sweet Sanity in the face
of that micromanager
that you worked for on The Street
in 1985 – Mr Plaid with the
tinted glasses…

…you prepared for meetings
…you called in the gamblers
dismissed the whores

you called the guys in the West Coast Office

when all bets were off…

…you lost at the slots
you drank at the bar
you bought the house
in Mt. Pocono…

…you traded the shotgun
for three cords of wood…

…you drank cheap vodka
in a smoky glass
and you sat in
poets’ bars…
…you stood up for
a cause that
won’t exist for
another
one hundred years

Sanity, don’t bet on her
she’s a dangerous ex-wife
she runs from you
then
she ruins you,
but you only know for sure
that she’s
left town for good
when you sit
upright in bed at
3am when the
dogs howl and
the wind is evil
and north has become
south and
the moon is in bed

AND

sunrise isn’t for
at least 3 and a half more
hours

last day

reel them in fast
before they sink
don’t let the
bobber go under
too long before
you yank the line
don’t tell them
that you have
that job nailed
in K.C. and don’t
let them know
that you quit
six weeks ago
don’t let them know
that the last time
you called Corporate
was last july
don’t talk to the
guy in the elevator
who says he delivers
the best pastrami on rye
don’t make eye contact
with the girl named
Natalie at the desk
who says she
has your keys to
your locker at the bus station
don’t walk downtown
without buying a
lottery ticket
OR
without placing a bet
on a fast dog
at the Sioux City track
just
don’t bet on any
of it working out

Notes on Bimini

(In August, my wife MJ and I travelled to the island of Bimini, Bahamas. I made a few notes regarding our visit. I transcribe them here much the way I noted them originally.)

20150804_195858

Looking west toward U.S. mainland from the beach, North Bimini.

The island of Bimini is 53 miles east of Miami, Florida. It’s a wonderful island, about 7 miles long and 700 feet wide. It’s different than many other islands. There is no Senior Frog’s on Bimini. No timeshares. No Club-Med. No one is selling t-shirts on the beach. There is a gambling casino on Bimini now, so I suppose cultural ‘improvements’ are soon to follow, but I hope not.

About 2000 Biminites live on the islands of North and South Bimini, with the airport being on South Bimini. The tiny communities of Alice Town and Bailey Town are located on North Bimini. If you arrive by air, as we did, you’ll need to take the ferry across the channel that separates the two islands to get into town. The photo below was taken crossing from South Bimini to North Bimini.

ferry1

On the ferry crossing the channel between North & South Bimini.

Many notable people have passed through Bimini over the years, for various reasons. Some of their reasons for traveling to Bimini were honorable, and others not so much:

  • Ponce de Leon went to Bimini in the 1500’s to look for the Fountain of Youth.
  • Jimmy Buffett went to Bimini to write a song.
  • 1988 presidential hopeful Gary Hart went to Bimini to hide an extra-marital affair.
  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Bimini to write a speech.
  • Al Capone went to Bimini to negotiate with liquor dealers.
  • Lucille Ball went to Bimini to escape Hollywood.
  • Hemingway went to Bimini to write a book.
  • Countless seekers have travelled to Bimini to search for the Lost Continent of Atlantis.

Last month we went to Bimini, for no other reason than to see what’s there and to soak up some sun and maybe a little literary lore left over from the burned out ruin of the Compleat Angler, Hemingway’s old haunt.

Our 17 minute flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini International was delayed for 4 hours. Such delays are more the norm than the exception. You take delays in stride when you go to Bimini. Leave your watch at home.

Never go to Bimini when you are in a hurry. You can’t make things happen there. Don’t go to Bimini if you want to rent jet skis. You cannot parasail. Fishing and diving are very much allowed. Don’t go to Bimini if you want nightlife, or craft beers. If you want to boat, BYOB. Gas sometimes runs short in Bimini. If you drink alcohol, drink Kalik beer and nothing else.

Customs is a breeze on Bimini. We were through in about 15 minutes. There was one agent stamping passports when we rolled up to the BIM International Terminal on the daily flight from Ft. Lauderdale with about 25 other passengers, and before we knew it we were all packed into a van, and jostling down the road to the ferry terminal.

20150803_215101

Me at the International Arrivals terminal, BIM.

It’s a pleasant ride across the channel to North Bimini. Budget about 4 bucks per person for the ride. For 2 dollars more the ferry man will take you on past the ferry terminal to the dock at the Sea Crest hotel which is where we stayed. I reviewed the Sea Crest on Trip Advisor. My review is here.

We arrived late afternoon and the party was on. Reggae music from the park opposite the hotel pounded long into the night. It was the first Monday in August, which is Emancipation Day in the Bahamas. This is the day that commemorates the emancipation of the slaves in the British Colonies in 1834. On Bimini it’s a big deal and cause for great celebration.

*

Next day, after a pancake breakfast at Captain Bobs across the street from the Sea Crest, we walked half a block north to view the remains of the Compleat Angler. The Compleat Angler, was undoubtedly the most famous of all structures on Bimini, and perhaps the most internationally famous structure in the Bahamas. This 12 room hotel on Kings Highway in Alice Town was home to Hemingway for three summers back in the ‘30’s. He wrote most of “To Have and To Have Not” on Bimini, when he was not busy fishing, playing ring-toss and drinking vodka martinis (reportedly his drink of choice while staying at the Compleat Angler). His Pulitzer Prize winning novella, “The Old Man and the Sea”, although written years later, was inspired by his days on Bimini. His posthumous novel, “Islands in the Stream” was Bimini inspired as well.

Unfortunately, the Angler burned to the ground in January of 2006. The fire claimed the life of owner Julian Brown who died in the blaze after leading a guest to safety. Today, the Compleat Angler is maintained by the Bahamian government as an historic site.

20150804_085400

All that remains of the Compleat Angler.

To really see Bimini you’ll need a golf cart. Budget about $60.00 for a half-day. That’s plenty of time to see the island. We rented one at the hotel and headed up Kings Highway to see what was happening at the “North End”. Check your brakes before you head out in your golf cart. Our brakes were nearly non-existent. Fortunately, there aren’t many hills on Bimini, but there are a few, and you are on the road with full sized automobiles and trucks. Don’t forget to drive on the left. Accidents happen on Bimini and recently a foreign construction worker was killed driving a golf cart on Kings Highway. Drive carefully.

At the North End, the cruise ship pier is complete and The Bimini SuperFast ferry from Miami now debarks passengers from the boat directly onto waiting shuttles. The trip from Miami to Bimini takes about 3 hours. There is, of course, gambling aboard.

We carefully weave our way along the new roadways that connect the new hotel and gift shops. There is construction going on. Lots of it. This place is being built by overseas developers with very deep pockets. Eventually we chug up a small hill and round a bend. I stand on the non-existent brakes and we careen into a parking space in front of the casino. It’s about 11 AM and the casino is nearly empty, but it’s ice cold inside and it’s a welcome relief from the heat outside.

20150805_092715

Kings Highway, Alice Town, Bimini.

It’s August 4th, my birthday. I’ve turned the same age as Hemingway when he died. In honor of Old Hem I drop a 20 into a slot machine. It gobbles it quickly and sits there waiting for more but I don’t give in. The bar is open so we order cold drinks. Briefly, I think a vodka martini might be an appropriate drink for the occasion, but remembering the brakeless golf cart waiting outside, I opt for a diet coke. We toast to my birthday, and Hemingway and Bimini and we leave. Traffic is light on the streets leading back to the highway, save for construction equipment. Condos are going up on Bimini. Big changes are coming here. Not all of them good.

We spend the afternoon at a deserted beach and when we are done with the sun we head up to Sherry’s Bar at the edge of the sand.

*

Sherry’s serves Kalik beer and fried lobster. That’s about all she serves but she serves it better than anyone, anywhere…that is a fact. It is the best fried lobster you’ll ever eat. Budget $20.00 per person for your fried lobster at Sherry’s — it’s worth every penny. As my wife said, “it is so good, you don’t want it to end”. Just don’t plan to go there on a Wednesday because Sherry’s is closed on Wednesday, along with a lot of other places on Bimini.

20150804_142046

My wife MJ at the world famous Sherry’s Beach Bar.

*

That evening we decide to visit South Bimini, so we take the ferry back across the channel. Transportation on South Bimini is very reasonable. Budget $00.00 for the free bus. It will take you directly to Mackey’s Sand Bar at the south end of the island. When you’re ready to leave, any of the restaurant staff will call the bus for you.

Free Bus

Free bus.

The outdoor bar looks out on some of the most pristine waters in the Caribbean. Squint carefully and you can make out the shoreline of Gun Cay, ten miles to the south. By the time we left Mackey’s to return to the ferry, the place was packed. It was Wednesday, and unlike other Bimini establishments, Mackey’s is open for business. Wednesday is Karaoke night at Mackey’s, and half of Bimini turns out to participate. Plan your visit to Mackey’s accordingly, depending upon your like, or dislike, for singing games.

On Thursday it was time to go home. The ferry picked us up at the marina for the return to the airport on South Bimini. Our flight was scheduled for 10 AM and when we saw the twin engine turboprop land we thought we were home free. Minutes later a gate agent came into the cramped waiting room to announce that the plane that was to take us back to Florida had blown a tire upon landing. He said that they would have to have a tire, and a mechanic to install it, flown out from Ft. Lauderdale. The wait time – a few hours. Again, leave your watch at home when you travel here.

There are no amenities at BIM. Nothing. Not even a soft drink machine. Airport authorities suggested that in view of the long delay, we should go to the restaurant at nearby Sand’s Resort. Along with a dozen or so other stranded travelers we packed into a shuttle for the short ride over to the Sands.

Plane going nowhere soon

This plane is not going anywhere soon.

You get to know people when you’re stranded with them, and we made a few new friends. One new friend is a firefighter from Chicago who comes to Bimini every year to fish. He was worried about his cooler of fish that had been loaded onto our crippled plane. He’d intended to be back in Chicago before the ice melted. Now things weren’t looking so good. I asked about the fishing and he said it was great, but the marina ran out of gas for the boats. Gas delivery to Bimini was delayed.

We ate, drank coffee and talked for a while and when the waitress brought our check, I handed her my credit card. Minutes later she came back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The credit card machines are not working today. Do you have cash?” I did, but barely. Bring cash when you travel to Bimini.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, little was happening with our broken down plane. Soon after another delay was announced, a charter flight landed with new tires and a mechanic. We all watched him work, and when he was finished, he came into the terminal to great applause. “Thank you for saving us,” gushed one lady as if we’d been drowning in shark infested waters.

By 4PM we were preparing to board our plane for the return 17 minute flight to the mainland. We were still waiting to board, when a Challenger 605 jet dropped out of the sky. Not many jets land on Bimini. This is prop land. But this plane was different. It was the Casino plane, and it taxied up the terminal and deplaned 30 or so passengers onto the tarmac. High-rollers headed for the Casino. I watch them trudge toward the customs house, dragging their rolling luggage behind them, sweating profusely in the hot Bahamian sun.20150805_085821

A new day is dawning on little Bimini.

(Note: Hurricane Joaquin brushed past Bimini last week, as an incredibly powerful Category 4 storm, wreaking havoc throughout the southeastern Bahamas. Bimini was spared a direct hit from this storm, but other islands were not as fortunate. San Salvador, Cat Island, Rum Cay and Crooked Island were among the islands described as “obliterated”. In addition to the devastation on land, the 40-50 foot waves and 130 mile per hour winds produced by this hurricane caused an 800 foot container ship to go down in 15,000 feet of water with a crew of 33  near the Crooked Islands. No survivors have been located as I write this. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friends in the islands as they recover from this disaster.)

Honoring National Punctuation Day – September 24th

“My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Today is National Punctuation Day. Banks and schools remain open.

In honor of the holiday, I went searching for a couple of relevant quotes to honor the day. I didn’t have the one above readily at hand, but I knew what I wanted to say, and as luck would have it, The Old Man already said it, and he said it much better than I could have.

I predict the blogosphere will be rife today with predictions forecasting the end of civilization due to the demise of sentence structure and proper punctuation. The collapse of secondary education, texting teenagers, tweeting celebrities, email, all of social media, and a host of other causes will all be pointed to as primary suspects in the brutal slaying of punctuation. Frankly, I doubt that things are that dire.

Hand held devices, and text messaging in particular, seem to be at the root of most of the finger shaking and hand wringing among English purists. The fear seems to be that as we become accustomed to using text message shorthand, abbreviations, and pop-culture acronyms in our daily lives, we will carry this slovenly behavior into more formal writing until sentences begin with lower case letters and end sans periods. We’ll forget about the Oxford comma. ‘L8r’ and ‘2day’ will start showing up in legal briefs and on prescription bottle labels. The apostrophe will take its place upon the literary scrapheap and only a few ivory tower professors will understand the significance of the semi-colon in compound sentence structure.

Believe me things aren’t that bad. There is something about entering words into a 3×6 inch electronic device that just isn’t natural. It brings out the outlaw in all of us. Give me a way to say something faster and I’ll do it (I don’t need to work for a living – hand over the cash drawer – get me out of here).

I think that most people know the rudimentary rules of punctuation, but they choose when and where to apply them. And that’s their choice. It’s about freedom. And I like that. And don’t think for a minute that it’s only texting kids and high-school dropouts who are taking liberties with the English language and the hallowed citadel of punctuation.

Perhaps no other contemporary writer has taken more literary license with punctuation than Cormac McCarthy, my number two favorite writer directly behind Old Hem. McCarthy’s books are nearly devoid of punctuation. In his words “I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” Noticeably missing in McCarthy’s work are quotation marks. When asked about this, McCarthy said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, that he prefers not to “block the page up with weird little marks. If you write properly, you shouldn’t have to punctuate.”

The Pulitzer Prize winning McCarthy has perhaps earned the right to bring his croquet mallet to the putting green.

For a more colorful take on punctuation, I like this from Edward Abbey (probably written to an editor) regarding his 1975 classic novel of environmental anarchy, “The Monkey Wrench Gang”:

“…I would prefer a minimum of goddamn commas, hyphens, apostrophes, quotation marks and fucking (most obscene of all punctuation marks) semi-colons. I’ve had to waste hours erasing that storm of flyshit on the typescript.”

So take that kids…just don’t try it in school.

I will close with a final quote that somehow seems appropriate.

“If I wouldn’t have spent so much time shooting spit wads at my English teacher, I’d know how to punctuate. Good thing I normally write poetry.” – Stanley Vincent Paskavich – author of Stantasyland

The Axe man

the Axe man flies business class
from the West coast
and he takes his humble place
in the little room off the kitchen
at 8AM on Monday morning

He wears a paisley tie
right out of nineteen seventy five

but he carries himself with
grace through the
morning coffee clatter

…all eyes are on the
guy from
the Bay Area
nobody speaks to him
nobody asks how his
wife enjoys life in
Burlingame or if he
has two kids
or three
or if he drives a Volvo
or a Land Cruiser

…nobody gives
a solitary crap about
UCLA…

…you don’t care that much
about the Axe man because
of the numbers game
and you know it’s
just a game
for the ball-busting
number crunchers

…the Axe man takes it all
in stride – he has figures
on his side
temperamental figures
ephemeral figures
workable figures
undeniable facts

you want to ask the
Axe man if he takes his
work home with him
if his wife ever tosses
a dinner plate in his
direction, or if
he has a sister
incarcerated somewhere

of if he has a brother
who drank too much

most of all,
you want to ask him
why he hasn’t bought
a new necktie
in this century
but you don’t

…you have
to pack.

The dilemma

life is habit,
most of it…

some bad
some good
it’s
like that girl
Louisa that you
hung with
when you were
right out of
high school
and filled
with habit-forming bravado

when you were

dreaming about,
flying airplanes
and moving to
Honduras.
And you spent
hours discussing
your future plans
with her over
Grain Belt beer…

She was habit.
When she left
town
saying that she
had no time
for Honduras
and was scared
as shit of flying,
you continued
with
the next
habit…
…the Chesterfields
and chilled white wine…

those two saw you through
mid-town and on
into the outer-boroughs
until you found yourself
clinging to a capsized
dingy one night
in the center of the Hudson River

life is habit,
most of it
some bad
some good

you spend a lot of life
at the Publix
in the produce aisle
inspecting romaine lettuce and
limes,
you spend a lot of life
at the convenience store
weekday mornings
at 5:45AM
pouring black coffee into
a scalding
paper cup…

habits all,

and now
you’re pissed off that your
middle finger is
burned and can’t be used
for at least a week
and you think that you will be
doing this

every day… from now
until
the next century
and you can’t imagine
it any other way
…that is habit

you’re an old
wrangler herding
cows
you’re
an old surfer
looking for a
50 foot wave
you’re an old
farmer waiting
for a summer rain
you’re an old poet
listening to
the dogs snore
under the table
as Chopin plays
on the stereo
as you
stare at a
page on your
yellowing legal pad
waiting for
a scene
so you can
give it life

it’s habit
SO

you
think that you will
be doing this until
the day
that you die

and

you probably will
because
there’s no
way
out

the Florida panther

there is a panther lurking
around the shed behind
my house
I saw him last night
his

hungry…killer eyes
glowing in the
Everglades night
like twin lightning fires

in the sawgrass

I hadn’t spotted one since
’08, but there he was
a big, two hundred pound male

…a panther lurking,
waiting for his chance
to move with utmost
grace toward unsuspecting prey
he wants to
…take his name off of the
Endangered Species list
…so he can say to hell with
the environmentalists
and the tinhorn developers
and their lapdog politicians…
AND
when they are gone
& their carcasses picked to the bone
he’ll call everyone he knows
in North Jersey
and in Brooklyn and in Staten Island
and in Philadelphia
and in Grosse Pointe
and he’ll even call
his cousin Rachel,
that poor lost soul who
hangs her palm frond hat in
Panama City and he’ll
announce that
Panther Valley South is alive
and well — and open for business
and he’ll
charge them just two and a half a grand
on their Visa card
for the down payment
SO
don’t dismiss the experience
lightly
…don’t wait for the 18-hole course
to open sometime in the
spring (someday)
…well maybe, wait for it
but don’t plan for it…

you thought that fucking panther
was endangered
didn’t you…
but he lives

JUST

don’t bother to look for him
among the gators
and the snakes –
get out your binos and look for him just before sunset
that’s when he feeds

…look fast and you’ll spot him,
coming out of the grey, twilight mist,
steaking up I75 North, then
pausing momentarily
at the Alligator Alley
toll plaza, before pointing
his leased BMW west
into the
setting sun
toward
Naples

The 4th of July

a couple of years ago
I spotted the 4th of July sitting
on the beach
talking to Memorial Day
both of them,
about fifty yards south
of the Pompano pier
The 4th looking worse for the
light of day
his feet propped up on a cooler
packed with Ice House beer

looking bleary at ten am…

he’d had a long night
and
… I’m thinking he’s looking
a little thick in the thighs
long in the tooth
the years are taking
a toll

…but Memorial D., after all these decades
…he’s still
trim as a race track dog
he’s
sipping an orange soda

…he’s sober as a hanging judge
sober as a Baptist deacon on Sunday morning

Have you been to The Wall lately?
Memorial D. asks The 4th,
4th shakes his head and says he ought to get there
Sometime before end of summer
but he says he’s been busy
with the
Big Holiday
he reminds Memorial D. – there are
ribs and chicken wings
to slather on the grill
and he says that he has
a couple of
surplus
M-80s to toss into his neighbor’s pool
later on — after the sun goes down
“they’re simulated artillery you know
those M-80s
so it’s almost a Military Maneuver
you gotta love pyrotechnics”
The 4th coughs,
lights a smoke

How about you? he asks Memorial D.
You get to The Wall much these days?

I’m all over that place, says Memorial D.
I’ve read every name…I know them all

Every one?

Yeah, every one.
I know them all in Aisne-Marne too

and in Meuse-Argonne

and Ardennes, Belgium

and in Oise-Aisne

and in Manila

and in Gettysburg

and Mexico City

and dozens of others

The 4th pauses
shifts in his beach chair
squints into the late morning sun
(…he has a glass eye
and sometimes it turns inward
and
it wobbles in its
socket when he’s had a few – left to right
right to left)

…you get around don’t you? he says
to Memorial D.

Memorial D. answers slowly
Cautiously
because
it’s the 4th of July