In the early eighties, I worked at Cougar Marine on famous Thunderboat Row, in North Miami Beach, Florida. Most of my close friends were still alive, and we usually met after work at the Rumrunner Bar to keep our cirrhosis up to speed. One evening, just after 5PM, I arrived to claim my seat in the midst of the cream of high (and I do mean high) performance boat builders. Jim Breuil, Jr., Jake Trotter, David Gillmore, Fred Seymour, Angelo Guerreri, Ron Holloway, Stan Brunner, Howard Weiler and several more. As soon as I sat down, Gillmore collared me, and said that the tall, pretty blond girl across the bar had been “hit on” by most of the guys in the bar, and that nobody had any luck at all. Me, “So what?” Gilly “We bet the guys at the end of the bar $130 that you could pick her up”. “Do I get some of the money?” “Yep, forty bucks”. “I’ll give it a shot”.
I moseyed over and sat down next to her, on her right side. This was a strategic move, allowing me to actually hear what she was saying, after 40 years of straight exhausts and rock and roll. I pondered my drink for a few minutes, and fired my opening volley. “I don’t want to bother you, but is your name Fisher, by any chance?” “No, it’s Smith.” A few moments of silence, while I pondered some more, (I am an excellent ponderer) she asked me why I had asked. I said that I had once loved a girl of that name. She asked about the past tense in my statement, and I told her this story.
“A few years ago, I was building and racing high performance powerboats here in North Miami Beach. I had just been accepted into the Gulf Marine Racing Hall of Fame, and was invited to a high society party at the Deering Estate to celebrate that fact. On the invitation, it said “DO NOT COME WITHOUT BEAUTIFUL MARIANNE FISHER”. Of course, I brought her. We lived together on a boat right out there on that dock, pointing to the marina. We drove separate cars to the shindig, as she worked downtown. In the course of the evening, she drank quite a lot of wine. I told her that I would drive her home. “No.” As the evening wore on, “No” became “Hell no!”, and finally, in a very loud voice “Screw you, Brownie, I am not leaving my goddamn BMW in this Cuban slum!” I was upset. I loved her so. I couldn’t let her drive and get hurt, or worse, so I offered to drive her home in her car. “Screw you. Nobody is driving my new car!” I then fell silent, pondering again, full throttle. After an appropriate pause, I said “You can guess what happened next”. “She had a wreck, and was killed?” “No, I shot her”. She was mine. She told me that her name was Samantha, and that I could call her Sam.
She moved around to my side of the bar, and met my pals. Gillmore invited us to a kinky restaurant down the boulevard called “Pasta Nosh”. It was owned by a couple of gay friends, and was a New Orleans class put-on, in the style of “As you like it”, or another of the ‘insult’ theme joints in NOLA. The Hostess was a foulmouthed 80 year old woman, who greeted us with “This was a nice place, until you m***************s showed up!” We were seated, with Gillmore and his beaver de jour, then me, then Sam, then the others. We were properly oiled up, and having fun during the soup portion of the meal, when Sam leaned over to Gilly and said “Gilly, I have figured out that you and Brownie are best friends, but I gotta tell you something. You are one obnoxious little m***************!” Gilly. “Obnoxious? Obnoxious? You wanna see obnoxious? Where upon, he smashed his face into a full bowl of hot pasta e fagioli soup, squirting it from wall to wall over the restaurant. When he raised his head, he had an olive in one eye, and something red in the other. “Now! That’s obnoxious!”
An inauspicious start to a relationship. It got worse. It turned out that Sam had a Colombian boyfriend, who put her up in a nice apartment and treated her well. He was seldom in town, and apparently did not forbid her from hanging with the local gentry. In addition, he had 24’ Cigarette boat in storage at Hi-Lift Marina, right at the end of the canal that fronted Cigarette, Cougar and Magnum Marines. Sam disclosed that she had permission to use the boat, but never did. She had no confidence in her boating ability. We were drinking and dining one evening when we were approached by a gaggle of young ladies who identified themselves to Sam as “Brownie’s Angels”. They then sang their theme song “I want to be Brownie’s Girl”, the last line of which is “What a rotten thankless bitch I’d be!” They joined us at the table for a riotous, fun evening. The conversation inevitably turned to boating, and many adventures were recounted, from the Keys to Bimini to Nassau to the Italian and French Rivieras. Sam asked the girls if they were competent boat handlers. “Hell yes!” “Brownie taught us”. We all graduated from YSBSOBD. Sam “What the hell is that?” “You will find out”.
The next weekend, we got the 24’ Cigarette from Hi-Lift and docked it in the slip next to my 46’ Chris Craft houseboat. The first order of business was docking maneuvers, a tough job with a single sterndrive. I cushioned the slip, trying not to give El Kabong another reason to shoot me. Sam tried and tried, but she was really uncoordinated. I wouldn’t let her quit. She was in tears part of the time, but she was finally ‘getting it’. When we got her to solo a couple of times, she was REALLY grateful, if you get my drift. Next, we worked on minor navigating. “Goddamit!! They are not storing these f**king channel markers out here. Stay on the proper side!” Nailed that. (No, the navigation.) We actually made a voyage all the way to Alabama Jack’s in the Keys. She did pretty well, except when forced to run a compass course. A couple of circuits of Miami Beach, and she was ready to graduate. I arranged a lunch with the other grads at Rumrunners, and we had a great time, with Sam taking all the girls for a brief ride, and docking like a pro. Then she had to learn the words to the song. After a couple of choruses, it was time to part. Sam gave me kiss and asked, what YSBSOBD really stood for. “The You stupid bitch school of boat driving!”