Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rainy Club Day

A rainy summer afternoon on Stock Island was no crimp to our afternoon plans last weekend.The day was gray and overcast and squalls of wind and rain blew through intermittently but my wife had set her heart on spending the afternoon swimming and a little rain was no deterrent.That is perhaps one of the great fortunes of living at low latitudes, that rain need not be a reason to sit, Charley Brown-like at the window watching the droplets crash the party. The rain from the sky was cold but the water in the pool was quite warm. There was no thunder, no lightning so we swam ignoring the rain. My wife is nothing if not determined. Cheyenne was at home snoozing away her afternoon no doubt (or playing poker with a group of her friends from around the neighborhood) and we were free for a few hours to be humans being not humans doing.Normally a fourteen month membership at this place costs $1500, a single month $125, but my wife nailed 14 months for $400 through the US1 Radio auction. "They'll be the only Democrats in the place," a friend remarked darkly to his wife but I think he exaggerates. I am not a clubby type but my wife loves the idea of being able to meet her friends there, which I find amusing. The ratio of Democrat government employee to plutocrat may be changing...However for some people a little rain is enough to keep them home so while my wife and I were alone for the swim when we went up to the restaurant for happy hour the place was equally quiet.The Yacht Club is part of a chain of marinas between Tampa Bay and Key West for people with boats who also want a place to meet, possibly use a gym, swim in a pool or rent a waterfront apartment. It's very much, in my opinion pre-2008 when everyone was fueled by credit and economic expansion was the watchword.
Some people live in the inner basin on their boats, which could well become an option for us if Wells Fargo doesn't agree to a loan modification, and the surroundings are nicely laid out. However the financial underpinnings of this enterprise aren't at all clear to me so I wonder where this place is headed if the economy isn't on the bright and cheery upswing everyone wants to believe in. I suppose it would be naive to imagine there aren't enough plutocrats left sunning themselves in Florida to support a place such as this. Plutocrats and government workers. The restaurant produces good food at a reasonable price, they have happy hour with inexpensive drinks and the views from the upstairs bar restaurant and terrace are quite pleasant. My wife hopes the unheated pool will stay warm enough on sunny winter afternoons to make it possible to swim during the cold season when our boat comes out of the water. Between November and April visitors are the only people around here who swim in the ocean without a wet suit. A two dollar Red Stripe sipped while overlooking the water is pleasant enough but the draw of a dry sauna and a swimming pool makes the beer the payoff for some strenuous afternoon lounging...supposedly. There was a no tipping rule supplanted by a 20 percent surcharge. That's changing. No children on weekends is another rule- it sounds like the owner is curmudgeon like me. I hope that rule doesn't change. There had been plans to render all of Stock Island in the palm fronded crisply redeveloped vein such as you see here but a reprieve came in the form of an economic collapse "no one could foresee." The consequences for Stock Island have been interesting.A one hundred million dollar buy up of land around Safe Harbor has landed in bankruptcy and the paper was reporting recently that a second ice house has opened to return the island one more step closer to it's former role as a commercial fishing hub. Before that Stock Island housed the cattle (the "stock") that fed Key West next door. One can only imagine the Gulf Oil Spill, currently sunk out of sight, may help shrimpers and the like down here.I wonder in a gloomy way what the future will bring to Stock Island, formerly at risk of losing it's trailer parks and low income housing and light industry to the unstoppable wave of development that was sweeping up vast tracts of the island.
This used to be the old Peninsular Marine, a dusty marina and haul out facility for boats. There was a fiberglass shop and a sail loft and the limestone was tinged blue with scraped off bottom paint. The very air tasted sour like a penny on the tongue with all the clouds of metallic paint tainting the atmosphere. Some people lived on their boats permanently out of the water. Slip rent was something around $12 a foot when they closed, and there was a long list to get a place in one of the great bargain marinas. My wife still remembers with horror the smeared and malfunctioning toilets at Peninsular when we hauled our boat out and spent a couple of weeks living on Miki G in the middle of the facility. She is a tough woman but that particular memory, hauling toilet paper across the yard, still makes her shudder. I never stop seeing the ghosts of the old marina when I look out at the spiffy new Yacht Club. I should be filled with nostalgia I suppose but a two dollar Red Stripe goes a long way to curing me of such retrograde notions. It is however to my eternal regret I did not take more pictures of Peninsular Marina in it's heyday. It was an encampment of working stiffs, of the nearly homeless, of decent folks and not so decent, angry and cheerful like any community. That I can drift from one type of accommodation to another is a source of wonder to me.Rain blows through in a hurry usually around here and Kathy will show up for happy hour appetizers and the sun will come out and life marches on. Peninsular is gone Long Live the Yacht Club. A toast to progress! My wife is partial to smoked fish dip.
If I am to be decadent in this decadent place I want ham croquettes to accompany my second Red Stripe. Among the empty slips there are people going boating or going home. I suspect this place will fill gradually, but for now it is a quiet, relatively undiscovered corner that the gentry have overlooked.
We talked about this and that. Kathy recently returned from three weeks with her sister in Venice, California, spoke nostalgically of the lack of humidity and mosquitoes on the Left Coast. I remember fog and cold and damp. You don't see these kinds of waters off the coast of Long Beach, 85 degrees, puddled by rain and totally swell-free.A funny place for me to wash up on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I should whip out my wife's iPhone and talk at length ignoring her sitting right there in front of me. Perhaps I should buy a visor to wear around my hair so I could look like a stockbroker on holiday. Perhaps I should just shut up and sip my beer.Next happy hour I may try a two dollar Guinness, just to make sure it tastes the same as a regular hour bottle. I know my wife will be dragging me back here before long. Woe is me.