AP: Sarasota, Florida – My good friend, Rebecca, didn’t invite me down to visit but I mistakedly booked a ticket and rental car through price-line before asking if it was a good time. It was a good time for me, certainly, as March sub-zeroed in on Vermont and turned the Northeast into a multi-state skating rink. Rebecca, the social scene photographer for Sarasota Magazine, is over extended. This is society high season in the monied cities of Florida, and the bedecked matrons, faces stretched tight as trampolines, bodies bronzed to enhance their tennis whites and sequined silks, expect their photographs published before they have a final heart attack. I convinced Rebecca to allow me entrance to her guest cottage in exchange for cleaning her bathroom and giving her a couple of yoga lessons.
We went out last night, celebrating her birthday in style, at a Thai Sports Bar in a strip mall across the street from Dillard’s Department Store, where we invested in a new Guerlain face bronzer that sprays the make-up from an aerosol can. A must have. The owner, an ex-ballet dancer from Bangkok, served the sports bar fare with peanut sauce, which he sprayed on the hamburgers and salads from another aerosol can. Rebecca had photographed his recent wedding to a woman that his Thai mother nicknamed “Barbie” and there was Barbie’s photo on the wall, riding a motorcycle in a bikini. I asked the owner if he missed dancing and he said that he had replaced dancing with motorcycle racing. “They are much same.” he said. “Free and fast. Moving. Leaping.”
The bar was dark, but in the corner, on a couch, an older man sat and watched a younger man play a game of pool. We said hello to the man and he got up off the couch and started walking towards the bar. Out of the shadows. A nice, very old man in a blue cashmere sweater, dabbled with age spots and vein inflammations but sporting a well-preserved roman nose that suggested that he was, long ago, a real knock-out. He put his hand on my thigh. We drank a glass of saki served in a paper cup, toasting Rebecca’s birthday. The man said he hadn’t a birthday in ten years, but the last he remembered, he was 86. Impressive. An 86 year old hand on my thigh.
Another couple of saki’s and there was mention of ocean front real estate and the complications of property management. His son had taken over for him to help him out. “I’m sure he has.” I said, looking over at the mangy bum at the pool table.
“He lives right on the property for me, the six acres of ocean front, so he can keep an eye on everything.” the old man bragged. “That way, I can live here in town, in a condo and walk everywhere.” The mangy son came over to the bar to check us out.
“I hear you’re helping your father out with his property” I said.
“Yeah.” he mouthed.
“I just told your father how nice it was of you. You living there, on the beach, keeping an eye on things for him.”
“Yeah.” the son said.
“Yeah” I said. “Nice. Real nice of you….”
The son twisted his alcohol and sun ravaged face into a half-sneer; one eyelid, in perpetual half mast, clamped shut. His other eye zoomed in on my thigh and his father’s hand, which was now kneading at it, digging into it, as though it were play dough.
“Gotta protect the man.” he said. “From, you know, gold diggers.”