Back to the Beach

I’m about to board a plane for the first time in 14 months and jet down to sunny Florida. Like drug-induced hallucinogenic paranoia, it’s a state I haven’t been in for 25 years, and one I have mixed feelings about revisiting. Working the Caribbean as a lowly musician aboard monstrous American cruise ships, the town of Fort Lauderdale was my home port for many months, and my first introduction to the USA outside of New York City. The real America, you might say. Once a week we’d land in port, excited to phone home and stock up on duty free booze; buses ferried us between the ship, the internet cafe, and the mammoth shopping mall along wide freeways lined with auto body shops and fast food outlets; after the lush green islands we’d just been ruining, it was all hideously ugly, and I couldn’t work out where anybody lived. Nobody walked anywhere, because it was virtually impossible, and the relentless sun reflected off concrete and windshields until your eyes melted. Most of my business this trip will take place in the Lauderdale/Palm Beach areas, so I’ll get to see how the place, and my perception, has changed; but I’m hoping to sneak down to Miami for a day and at least get myself a decent Cuban sandwich. I’ll report back.

Meanwhile, here in New York and New Jersey, we’re sitting at the bar again. What an unalloyed pleasure once again to lean back in a bar stool and survey the world, to listen to the conversations of your neighbours and join in or not, and to order another drink with just raised eyebrows and a nod. It’s like being allowed back at the grownups’ table. Last night I went to my local for a cheeseburger and a few beers and discussed the state of the world with our friendly barman; even watching basketball– a game I care nothing about– on the bar’s TV, was a joy. I’m enjoying it while I can. It looks like more Covid restrictions are being lifted in the coming days too, including capacity limits and curfews, and the subway’s back to 24 hours, so we’re all hoping more music will follow.
At a dive called Milady’s in SoHo many years ago, patrons seated along the bar– businessmen, workmen, artists– named as many classical composers starting with “B” as we could. After the usual suspects had been name checked– Bach, Beethoven, Brahms– there was a short silence, then from somewhere down the line, a slurred but triumphant “Boccherini!” 


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