Saturday, November 1, 2008

Goodbye Captain Tony

He was 92 and they say he died peacefully in his sleep this afternoon after being treated for heart and lung problems. Captain Tony Tarracino was a past mayor of Key West, elected in 1989 and he served a two year term. He was known as the owner of Captain Tony's Bar on Greene Street, however he did sell the bar some time ago. He hitched to Key West in 1947 on the run he said, from gambling debts he owed to the New Jersey mob. He claimed he had worked as a gun runner for the Cuban revolution and he was famous for saying "All you need in life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains don't mean shit."
Captain Tony, from the defunct Key West Magazine

A new book about his life and exploits has just been published titled "Life Lessons of a Legend" though owing to his final illness Captain Tony was unable to appear at the book signing sessions at the oldest bar in Florida- sessions that spilled out into the street. He was a wildly popular figure in Key West.

The Happy Cult

It happened one day a few years ago that I was working in the shipping department at Fast Buck Freddie's and I'd just come in from the alley in the back of the store when one of my co-workers came up all in a lather and said; "Did you see Jimmy back there?" "Jimmy who?" said I, "Jimmy Buffett,of course, someone said he's out back." "No," said I, "but there was some bald dude back there." Which it turned out was the person I had exchanged pleasantries with while I was taking a break from humping stuff into the store. That's as much as I know about the mythical Jimmy Buffett, a singer who inspires a following, some people describe as cultish:Jimmy Buffett's public story is all American and it's tied tightly into Key West, where he washed up years ago with a guitar and a desire to sing and those modest beginnings turned into a worldwide following and fortune and all the trappings. Everyone wants a piece of him and now that the Parrotheads are in town you can overhear guides telling and retelling the myth all around town, his first drink here, his first song there and so forth:I am really vague about all this, but I believe it's called the meeting of the minds or some such and the acronym MOTM can be seen all around downtown this weekend:Buffett no longer lives in Key West but he has a music studio on the waterfront and he owns part of the building where Fast Buck's is located, so my meeting him in the back wasn't exactly an outrageous coincidence. That's the building wherein his restaurant is located:Margaritaville is where Buffett fans show up year round. Frankly if all cults were like the Parrotheads I'm thinking the world would be a better place. The music is easy to listen to, the theme of the gatherings as far as I can tell is a bunch of people hanging out drinking until they collapse whereupon they all go home and plan and scheme to do it all again. Mothers need not fear for their daughters when Parrotheads are in town and the police department doesn't call for back up either. Perhaps they should:The "nuns" who descended on Officer Fernandez brought out all his latent shyness as they crowded round and demanded their picture be taken with him."We're drinking to save your soul !" they cackled at him as they shoved bystanders aside to get their pictures taken. I could well believe it, the bit about his soul; it was barely one o'clock and they were tanked. These cultists are all about being cheerful and they exuded happiness as they stood around in the 500 block of Duval waiting for the music to start. The street had been blocked off since morning with a crew of workers feverishly assembling the band's platform: Early in the day there were the unmistakable signs of a Buffet gathering on the streets of Key West:And then Duval got blocked off, always a sign something's about to happen:And they wheeled out the food stands and the barbecue and the beer and the party began.
It seems you need never be too old to be a Parrothead:
Or too young:
Michael the Palm Weaver was doing a land sale business in his usual spot:
And the evidence was there on the street:
They don't call them Parrotheads for nothing:
There was one dude walking around looking sinister in a top hat. I don't know why but they do give a person a sinister air:
And pirates, who failed miserably in the sinister looking contest, appeared to have taken over La Concha, the hotel whose balcony overlooked the proceedings:And a final thought as winter closes in, from the bus of the band that played to the crowd:Which would be, of course, Key West.