“The women and the booze!” shouted 24-year-old Caleb Helmer when I asked him what he likes about Dcoy Ducks—the staple bar of Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, Fla. It was Friday night, sometime around 12; and like most weekend nights at “Dcoys,” this one was loud with live music and drinking and the bar was full of young women and surfers, as well as various other types of a certain temperament. It is a good temperament that allows for just about anything but doesn’t like to be hassled—a novice mistake, which can lead to quick spurts of violence that are swiftly pushed out the door by bar staff. They do a good job: the bartenders move fast and the doorman can effectively twist an arm when he needs to. Though I personally have never run into any trouble at Ducks, and I’ve been going there for 8 years—I suppose some people just aren’t very sociable.
Either way, late Friday evening I was skateboarding with my Siberian husky when an old friend—who we’ll call “Teddy”—texted me and suggested I meet him on the island for drinks and guitar playing. It seemed like a good idea. I tied the dog to a nearby fence post, skated back to my car, and drove out to the beach.
[ . . . ]
No, that isn’t true—I took the dog home. And despite every intention of making haste, I didn’t get to Ted’s until 10:45, and by then it was almost time for Ducks—and so we know that sometimes the right way is the long way. Wild Root was playing, and the night felt as though it would be a good one.
There is a unique excitement one feels when traveling to a destination that serves as the setting for many good memories. If nostalgia is absent, the experience can be quite thrilling—and this is the way I feel every time I head for Dcoys: the blood rushes fast when I get in my car; by the time I hit the causeway the Stoke is huge, going sixty with the windows down over the bridge pulsing with love and lust and violence and streaking up Gulf Drive. It explodes around the 53rd St. curve and a large strongman parks my car and carries me to the front door and lights my cigarette. The strongman opens the door and holds it for me to walk through, and when I do, the black and white movie gets a shot of Technicolor and I take a drag. The Rolling Stones are always playing when this happens, and it’s always one of the good songs.
Teddy and I ordered beers and opened tabs and sat down at a table in the back. I think Wild Root was just getting started. I was acquainted with most of the people in the bar. Friends visited us and sat down with smiles for brief conversations about anything—all shouting and laughing and table-slapping, bumming smokes. It was good to listen to them, and to shout and to laugh; I would’ve given the entire pack if they’d asked, and maybe I did......I took out my notebook and began taking notes:
11: 20 p.m.
-Bar is full, but it is not packed. (Open space but no open seats)
-Wild Root is playing
-Old fat hippies dancing on the dance floor, having a good time.
-Lots of young people along the bar, and in the back where the video games are—by the bathrooms.
-Beer is not expensive here.
-Wild Root is playing “The Wall” by Pink Floyd; people are into it.
-Guy with cane comes up the aisle between the barstools and the tables—Name?—he is cool, fed you steak NYE 2011, Bootleg PLAYED [at Dcoys]
-Lots of High-5’s and “What’s up, Bro?” [handshake, -slap, fist, etc.] “What up?”
-Wild Root: “You guys wanna hear an original song?”
11: 30 p.m.
-Pretty girls are dancing
-Two young men who look to be in their middle-twenties enthusiastically discuss marijuana legalization: i.e., the bill’s odds of passing in November, positive possibilities and options that legalization could bring, etc.
11: 34 p.m.
-A good collection of people on the dance floor dancing, some waving their hands in classic Hip-Hop fashion.
-Some people are here indifferently, and they look like tourists—indifferent to what’s going on in the bar
11: 39 p.m.
-Lots of pretty girls everywhere
-You don’t go to Dcoy Ducks for no reason—not if you grew up here, anyway. The place hasn’t changed and I doubt it ever will. And I don’t want it to—asking a bar to change is like asking a man to change, or a dog to stay: there will always be hard feelings in the end.
-[In the middle discussing some pertinent topic] A friend of mine says: “We have these stereotypical beach people here, all the time, for real.”
11: 48 p.m.
-The bar is packed.
-Wild Root is playing “Badfish” by Sublime.
-Jason Schneider, drummer for the now defunct reggae/punk act, Half Dub, leans into me and jokes “What’s this song called?”—because many local bands have played this song over the years, including his.
-I ask Schneider what he likes about Dcoys; he answers, “Well, to steal Tommy [Rudek]’s quote: ‘The thing about Sh*t-coys is you always get Duck-Faced!’”
—We both laugh at this and decide I should print the quote.
-Friends everywhere and friends of friends.
-Pretty blonde girl in blue polka dot dress dancing by the bar, her boyfriend slaps her butt and she swats his hand looking perturbed—they laugh and kiss and she dances
-Storytelling boys huddle around The Storyteller—he makes his point and attention turns to the next boy.
-“Dcoy Ducks is a good place to be on Friday night.”—Jason Schneider, 25 years old
-Boy spills beer on storytelling boy—the bottle hits table with heavy thud and all eyes fall on it; time stops, and then “OHHHHHH....Mother%^&@$#!”
-Man stretches his body over corner of the bar to shout something at a young woman; he is smiling, she is not
11: 58 p.m.
-Caleb Helmer: “When a good band plays, this place goes off.”
-picture-taking iPhone people
-The band is taking a break.
-Brad [the bartender] is hilarious and a true romantic.
-There is an old man wearing a dark brown wicker fedora, looming at the back corner of the bar looking like a cop or a John, either way probably wondering, "Which of these young hussies is a prostitute?"
The last entry in my pocket-notebook reads “1:46 a.m.—” but nothing else. No words, only the time. And this is not surprising: Time moves fast when you let it, and leniency was in the air that night.
Nonetheless, it eventually became clear that if I didn’t get out now, the night would go too far and tomorrow might never come. But maybe I didn’t want it to. I was also low on cigarettes; if tomorrow came I would need cigarettes, and not an $8 pack from the bar.
The band was still playing and the girls were still pretty. No matter what, I knew my dog would have to be let out—smoking and playing fetch in the 2 a.m. backyard was a pleasant prospect. I decided to leave. With big wide silver dollar eyes, I looked at Teddy, put my hands on his shoulders and declared my departure. Teddy said he wasn’t ready to leave. I knew he would be fine. I stabbed my cigarette into an ashtray and the strongman carried me home.
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