We were berthed in a smallish marina, along the south edge of the concrete break-wall, just east of an old, 1920’s vintage
yacht that had been turned into a restaurant and bar. The concrete break-wall was quite wide and was only long enough to
accommodate the two ships… it must have been 250’-300’ feet long. Across from us, on the other side of the break-wall,
were houseboats. These were homes, not vessels… they were not motorized. If they needed to be moved, a tug had to be
called in. There were perhaps a half dozen or so, mostly two-story homes on small barges. All the self-propelled boats
were in slips along three or four docks north of the break-wall.
The houseboats were owned by a most remarkable cast of characters. The one most easterly was the home of a plastic
surgeon, Dr. Sachs, who lived there with his Cuban houseboy, Osmar Castro Vega – known simply as Castro. Rumor had it
that the doctor, originally from California, was hiding out in order to dodge some hefty alimony payments to his ex-wife.
Rumor also had it that he was using his houseboy to hide assets and whereabouts. West of his home was the houseboat of
a couple of commercial airline pilots. They were obviously only sporadically home, but they were renowned for the parties
(and stewardesses that dallied there with them) that they threw when they were in town. The next houseboat was
occupied by a man and wife psychologist couple who spent 95% of their conversations on sex. We had walked into a
sitcom, populated by stereotypes. I had never met such characters.
The marina caregiver was a gnarled, walnut-tanned man named Gene. Not sure if he ever had been married – I think he
had been a sailor once upon a time. He lived in the marina, had a deep knowledge of fishing, and spent his days cleaning
the pool, tending to repairs and keeping the docks clean. The only other people with whom any of us had any consistent
relationship was a man that lived on a boat two docks down – Matthew Percival Whitall III. He was a practicing alcoholic –
a severe alcoholic. The only time in my life I have ever witnessed delirium tremens. He was from Massachusetts and had
worked as some sort of engineer in the Chesapeake Bay area. When he turned thirty-five he became a trust fund baby, at
which point he promptly quit his job and became a drunken bum. I remember taking him somewhere once to pick up a
fund distribution. His wife, Dottie, was a pretentious member of a lower socio-economic cohort. I think she had been a
waitress or barmaid at some establishment that the good Mr. Whitall had frequented. I believe by the time we arrived at
the marina the two had divorced, but they had a complicated and continuing relationship. Yet another sitcom stereotype. I
remember thinking that in Michigan you asked what a person did for a living. I found out in the escapist-prone Miami
Beach, the appropriate question was not what a person did… it was, did a person do anything?
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