25 Jul

Finding My Bonefish Willy’s

The are places I will always associate with specific periods of time in my life. Places I will cherish, off the beaten path gems with a dash of dry-rot, buckled pavers and crooked art. Gems – albeit rough cut and set in slightly tarnished gold. Places with great views, great food and/or drink and grand visions but with slightly chipped paint, a touch of rust and the occasional broken toilet.  These locations attract some of the real life characters serving as inspiration for archtypes in from the Land of Misfit Toys – drunkards, artists, drunkards, blue collar, white collars and drunkards.  But most people are there because of what the place is as much as for what it isn’t. Not a chain restaurant, not a franchise, under done, humble.

The Indian River Lagoon from the deck of Bonefish Willy's.
The Indian River Lagoon from the deck of Bonefish Willy’s.

Bonefish Willy’s in Eau Gallie, Florida (near Melbourne) is one of those waterfront gems.  Situated on a bluff over the Indian River Lagoon with a massive deck, fantastic seafood (Grouper Bruschetta anyone?) and views like no other.  I was fortunate to work there for many years while living in Flori-duh.  It’s one of the few bars where Ernie – my now passed on Chihuahua – got drunk.  I’m not proud of it. But Ernie LOVED beer.  Just a teaspoon at a time, fairly harmless – and everyone was giving him teaspoons as he walked along the bartop from person to person, beer bottle to bottle. Poor little guy must’ve been “hurtin and shot” the next day.

Bonefish was great when it wasn’t my primary employment.  Relying on income from from tips as your “means”, not so great. When Bonefish was just a Friday or Saturday, it was fun, fun money, shift drinks and shift meals and a 50% discount any time else. From that deck I saw some of the most amazing sunsets, a sunset NASA shuttle launch, a nighttime NASA shuttle launch that lit up the lagoon like it was day. “Cold” nights after-hours, wrapped in blankets to fend off the 48 degree weather.  But one day I left for Colorado, others moved on, some to paths unknown. Others never leaving and passing before their time. Greg Rook and and Terry Holt – I miss you both for different reasons. Appleton’s Jamaican rum is one of the reasons, great stories is the other.

There are Bonefish Willy’s out there and I’ve run across a few – full of character and imperfections but perfect nonetheless.  I submit to you Exhibit B*. (Note: There was an exhibit A but I lost it.)
* Anthony is not a paid spokesperson for any of the places mentioned in this post. Not that he is opposed to being compensated.

Christiansted, St. Croix: Luncheria (do they still have $1 margs?). Lenny! A patio tucked in behind the typical walls of of downtown Christiansted. Cheap food, mahogany trees and monkey-no-climbs shading old coral blocked walls and coral cobblestones.  I worked there, gratefully for a time (and then not-so-gratefully when I was ready to move on), after a season of turtle-herding with the National Park Service.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Brasilito! The bar across from Hotel Brasilito, named???  Indoor chickens, bananas curing in the rafters and Cuba Libres (Tico style). Drinks were served in parts.  Fresh cut limes in a dish, a shot of rum, ice in an urn and a tumbler. Self service!  The frehsly popped bottle of coke served with the ingredients had more glass than any of the windows.  I kid you not. Those “open” windows looked out over Brasilito Bay on the Pacific Ocean.

Gunnison, Colorado: The Gunnison Brewery patio. A gem of a patio for the all-to-short summers of the Gunnison Valley.   Find an umbrella during the day after a ride, raft or hike and after dark plan on layers and getting close to a propane heater.  Good times and good friends.  Some friends drank shots of a bar tray.  Another story for another time.

Athens, Georgia:  The Lunch Paper. Great beers and freaky people.  The Paper is now long gone but it was a mainstay on weekends during the college days.  Followed occasionally by trips to the The Grill and followed almost always by Tombstone (the movie, not the pizza).

Kaneohe Bay, Oahu: Paradise Bay Resort.  Fancy-ish, gorgeous, the anti-Waikiki.  I serve as a deck-hand on the boat tours on Kaneohe Bay.  Sharing my version of semi-factual Hawaiian History and ecosystems and filling in the rest. Lush settings with a dinner view of the Kualoa Mountains and the Koolaus to die for and mai tais that might actually kill you.

Hidden gems…but with a poor cut and polish. Still trying to find my Bonefish(es?) here on Oahu and wherever I go. Where’s your Bonefish?

Anthony Poponi is a comic, improv artist, brain chemistry nerd and community-minded advocate and owner of Humore.us. He’s brings his love of connection and laughter to audiences as keynote, emcee, workshop host or moderator and his mission is to increase laughter and connectivity to combat the human health crises of isolation and disconnection.