Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dead Woman Walking: No Day at the Beach

As you were swilling green beer on Thursday evening, I was with several friends watching Kenny Chesney perform at the Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. In a side note, Coral Sky is one of those venues that has been renamed more than once to reflect the various entities that paid big bucks to have their names slapped on its sign. Today its official moniker is Cruzan Amphitheater; but to me and tens of thousands of other folks, it will always be Coral Sky.

The concert, as always, was outstanding. If you have never seen Chesney in concert, it is one of the better live shows out there. It's Jimmy Buffet meets Alan Jackson. This was my sixth or seventh time seeing him live; I have never walked away feeling like I didn't get my money's worth and then some.

So what does this have to do with my trip to the beach in Delray yesterday? Pretty much everything.

Many South Florida dwellers take its beaches for granted. They are just something to look at when motoring along A1A, but little more. Others practically live on the sand. For 15 or 20 years I trekked to the beach once or twice a week. I would go to the same area Saturdays and Sundays week after week. I developed a social circle of fellow travelers who I would see there regularly. In my final five or six years living in Florida, I can count my ventures to the beach on one hand. I was over it.

So what compelled me and a couple of other friends to head to Delray's beach on Friday?

When Chesney performs at Coral Sky, he doesn't stay in West Palm Beach, but at the Marriott Hotel on
Atlantic Avenue and A1A in Delray Beach. A half a block south is Boston's on the Beach, one of his favorite haunts when in town. Our plan was to lunch at Boston's on Friday in hopes of a "sighting" before he pushed off for his Saturday night show in Tampa. I like to think of myself as a dedicated fan as opposed to stalker.

As long as we were going to the beach, we reasoned, we might as well spend some time on the beach. We arrived with our chairs, towels and cooler brimming with beer around . The beach was teeming with walkers, joggers, tanners and spring breakers. It was packed.

In 1979, or some other innocuous date decades ago, some old bag from New York was popped in the head with a beach ball. In the finest "the world owes me a living" spirit, she sued the city. No one has been allowed to toss a beach ball, football, volleyball, Frisbee, Nerf ball, ping pong ball or any other spherical object on the beach since. It is verboten! Locals are familiar with Delray's "you can come to the beach, but don't have fun" ordinance; first-time out of towners are ambushed by it.

March is "high" season in South Florida, so beach virgins are numerous. You can spot them in a minute. They are the ones tossing around a dreaded ball of some stripe. They are also the ones tossing bits of food to the sea gulls, but that's a rant for another day.

We were sitting almost directly between two lifeguard huts perched about 200 yards back from the surf. The closer of the two was about a 300-yard slog through the sand to reach the water's edge directly in front of us. On her second journey from the closer hut to a couple of miscreants tossing a ball, the hefty female guard caught my eye. No Bay Watch babe, she probably tips the scales at a conservative 180 pounds. In other words, the exercise wouldn't be wasted on her.

Years ago, spotting people tossing around a Frisbee, a guard would have stepped out of her hut and blown her whistle until she caught the attention of the felons and signaled them to stop. Only if she couldn't get their attention or if they failed to accurately interpret her signals, would she then make the walk down to deliver the bad news face to face.

Either Delray has changed its policy -- the city does have a noise ordinance after all -- or this particular life guard left her trusty whistle in her other swim suit because every time someone would begin tossing around a ball, she would make the four- or five-minute walk to explain their sins and point out the designated "fun" zone a half mile up the beach.

No sooner would she make the long walk back to her station than another two or three people would appear in front of us flipping around a ball. We started wagering on how long it would take her to notice them and come out of her hut to repeat her walk back down the beach. This went on for the 90 minutes we sat there. She would just get settled back into her hut and more ball tossers would appear. We could almost hear her deep sigh as she heaved her bulk out of her chair, draped the orange float over her shoulder that she is required to carry with her whenever she leaves her hut, and started down the steps. She walked with all the vigor of the condemned on their last walk to the electric chair.

By her sixth or seventh trip, we were laughing hysterically. Leaving our chairs and towels on the beach, we headed to Boston's for lunch. Alas, there was no Kenny sighting.

Returning to the beach and eager to renew the entertainment, we mentioned to the two 10-year olds with us that they had yet to use the volleyball they brought with them. They immediately began hitting it around. Within five seconds, the guard appeared on the steps of her hut and headed our way. We dutifully hid our beer from sight as she approached. Beer is also forbidden on Delray's beach, but as long as your aren't stumbling around with your knickers around your ankles, yelling and waving a can of Bud over your head, they pretty much leave you alone.

Wink, wink; nudge, nudge; know what I mean, know what I mean…

We discussed the possibility that encouraging the girls to hit around the ball, knowing it was not allowed, smacked of bad parenting; but it wasn't as though they would have to spend the night in the slammer. And really, we didn't tell them to play, but simply pointed out that they hadn't played with the ball as yet. We sprinted through that loophole. They received the standard lecture and directions to the play zone up the beach; we received some high entertainment.

We almost didn't mind not getting a close-up-and-personal view of Kenny.

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