Firstly I'd just like to say to the folk that thought the place was a bit scary that it was anything but. We were always very friendly and welcoming. That famous southern hospitality.
As for when I was there.
I arrived in Isla in about 1988. I was 26 years old at the time. I came to be there in the first place after a chance meeting with a chap ( American in his 50's) whilst waiting in line for a payphone in Miami. He had a yacht with a broken mast in Isla and was visiting
Miami to get replacement parts.More of him later! I mentioned that I would love the opportunity to go sailing and gave him a contact number.
About 2/3 months later whilst I was getting a bit comatose in Sandy Springs South Carolina I got a phone call.
Days later I arrived in Cancun. Not having planned to travel to Mexico it was somewhat daunting. I'd never been anywhere outside of Europe before and had been happily bumming about in the States.
His boat was moored in the marina Paradiso. Smart. I'll never forget the feeling of walking along the small wooden jetty, eagerly anticipating my new home. What a bitter dissapointment I felt as we stopped at the smallest boat. 20 something footer. Dan, the sailor had left Southampton England in the late 70's with his wife on a round the world adventure. She'd jumped ship at some point. He got me scrubbing the deck, learning knots and a bit of navigation. I was definately made to feel like the cabin boy. The boat directly opposite was a stunning 65' double ended ketch, the Avalon. If it was a car it would have beed without wheels and up on blocks, but it was constructed of mahogany and teak and appeared every inch the funky pirate boat that I would have much preferred to be on. On board the Avalon was a lass from Manchester England. I soon made friends. When I succumbed to the novice mistake of baking my mayonnaisse body in the noon sun I was only too happy to let Lynne nurse me through a blistering bout of sunstroke. It was she who took me down to the Bad Bones cafe for a bit of r and r. It was late in the season and the place was pretty quiet. I was struck by the music playing. A particular favourite band The Meters from New Orleans. I mentioned that I was such a fan to the American behind the bar. He actually hated the music, it was his partner that was keen on it but he was back in Louisiana looking for a bass player for the band.Why he had it on I don't know, but then he did turn out to be a compulsive schizophrenic.Apparently agent orange was a contributory factor.
My sailing lessons resumed with a circumnavigation of the island. Captain Dan, would enjoy sailing au natural.Uhg! I'm not prudish but the size of the boat definately shrank when he took his shorts off!
On our second trip out he'd persuaded a couple of ladies to accompany us, and even though I was a young man out for adventure he just came across as rather sad and seedy. Well at least he kept his bloody shorts on.
By now I was getting into the Isla rythm, spending as much time on the Avalon as possible and hiding from Dan down at BB. My luck changed as bad weather delayed our departure to Miami. Then JR the absent partner from BB returned with his drummer, and no bass player!
Introductions were made and it turned out that he'd previously had a club in Covent Garden London, where I had gigged with an r'n'b band I'd been playing guitar with. We'd not met each other but I knew his Canadian partner.The Canadian chap had run off with all the money and left JR high and dry.
I shared alot of musical interest with these two chaps from Shreveport, I'd been playing as a guitarist for 10 years by then, coming from the heyday of punk rock in London. I wasn't that good, but had the attitude,enough of a musical ear, and considered myself a disciple of the music that emanated from the southern states.They needed a bass player. JR rustled up an old driftwood instrument and we had a brief jam.I was offered the gig. By divine coincidence Lynne and her captain on the Avalon were heading back to England and needed someone to feed the boat dog, Cassie, a chow in a most innapropriate fur coat. Oh and water the plants. RG the drummer and I could live on the boat and take care of things. They'd be gone for 6 weeks during which time alternative accomodation could be sorted out. We never saw them again.
So I, like Dans wife, left him. Yes he was pissed off but I was in Isla heaven. The terms of my employment were: 20,000 pesos a day, about $7. (Rarely paid).All my meals, cigarrettes and alchohol for free. On top of this I could treat the bar as if it were my own personnal gentlemans club. I could invite any young maidens that I met to 'my' bar, and all I had to do was show up for the gig at night.
We never rehearsed. JR's instructions were; the key of the song and to 'walk it' or 'shuffle'. "and we'll learn you where the one's at son".
So there I was. Living on a boat with no sails, full of drill holes where the Columbian authorities had probed for, and discovered, drugs.Playing blues and mardi gras tunes in a bar that was designed as a skull buried in the sand.Working for one of the most talented and generous people I'd ever met in JR. With a partner who was a racist redneck, dressed as General Lee all the time, and did his very best to disturb the peace.
It was JR who said to me "welcome to BB Graham, it's weirder than socks on a snake".
Hope your finding this interesting or amusing. That's episode 1 I guess.
Mas y mejor.