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Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma Refugees - Running From The 'Cane

We made the decision to leave Key West early in the week. So many factors came into play: Our house is in a very low lying area and  our two dogs were the biggest factors. We left on Wednesday for the six hour drive to our friends Kate and Jerry Kunart in Melbourne, Florida. It took us nearly eleven hours to get there! This was the worst traffic I've ever been in! Most of it seemed to be going between 10 and 20 MPhil. On occasion it would pick up and go 60 for ten minutes,or so, but then back to 10 - 20 again.

Fortunately we left with a full tank of gas! Gas stations either had no gas, or they had enormous lines. When we got off of I 95 in Melbourne, we needed gas, though we had about 75 miles to go before empty.  As we turned off there were several gas statiomns,all of which had long lines. Then on the left there was a Mobil station with open pumps and available gas! Totally amazed, we pulled in and filled up!

We arrived at Kate and Jerry's and hung out for a spell, then went to bed. It was a long day on the road and sleep came easy.

We were off the next day fairly early and we're very grateful for Kate and Jerry's kind generosity!

At first the roads were normal. We scooted across the state to I 75. Before we knew it traffic was back to being the sludge it was the day before. This went on and on. We get a break and suddenly we'd be going 70 MPhil for fifteen minutes. Yay! It was over and moving normally! Then, for no reason at all it was back down to 10 MPhil again!

Finally, I got the idea to try Rt 41. Rt 41 was one of those highways that was used before the interstates existed. It wasn't too far away either, only a few miles west of us.. we took that option and I wished I'd thought of it earlier! Smooth sailing, save for one minor glitch which we bypassed.

By the the time we rolled into Georgia it was getting time to call it quits for the day. Not long after Valdosta, we could see that I75 was moving again, so we hopped on. Finding lodging was virtually impossible. Dani must have made rwenty calls, to no avail. After what seemed like eternity, I spotted a run down joint. We pulled in and they had a room,

To call this place a Shithole would be a complemvent. Apparently, it had been abandoned for quite some time. Someone bought it and had plans of restoring it. In the room we had, the carpets were discolored and rippled. The metal trim ring around the sink was rusted, as was the coat rack. We had a lot of fun texting pictures to our friends and commenting back and forth with all sorts of humorous comments which went on for some time. It succeeded in relieving the stress of the situation.

The bed however was large and clean. We slept well and left in the darkness of 6am. Driving up I75 the entrance and exit ramps were lined with cars. These were those not as fortunate as we were. Without finding available lodging these unfortunate people were left no other option, but to sleep in their cars.

The ride from the file bag hotel to our destination in Harrison, Tennessee the GPS told us would take five hours. Again, there were far more license plates from Florida, than there were from Georgia, and this followed suit right through Atlanta!

Above Atlanta the Florida tags dissipated and Georgia tags were prominent. We crossed into Tennessee and reached our destination at our friend Danny Lynn's home in Harrison, Tennessee at 3pm, four  hours later than the GPS estimated for that day's stretch.

The first stage of the exodus was complete for us.  It must be noted though, at this point Hurricane Irma had yet to hit our little Island home a thousand miles away.

The generosity of Danny Lynn and his girlfriend Leather Moss On Shields has been second to none. They've opened up their home to us and welcomed us with open arms. We are very, very fortunate!

To be continued in the next blog.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Playing With a Guitar Virtuoso.






At this writing, Bobby DeVito, a.k.a. Bobby D. has been playing as a Shanty Hound, for two weeks, filling in for Dani Hoy. He's here for one more week and as crazy as it sounds, as the schedule currently goes, he leaves back to Chicago the same day that Dani returns.

Bobby and I go back a bit. We had been a duo, The Offending Culprits, back around seven or eight years ago. We had a Blues Sunday afternoon at Captain Tony;s, which went quite well. He also played on eight of the tracks of the tracks n my album "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)". He fell in love and moved to the Chicago area three years ago with the intent of moving back in six months. He still lives in Chicago, albeit the desire to move back is strong. 

He does come to Key West at least once a year however and almost three years ago, he, Dani, and I wrote and recorded our holiday song “Happy Merry Christmas From Key West”. At that point, he became a Shanty Hound!

With Dani going on tour for three weeks and Bobby not busy in Chicago, everything fell into place. Having Bobby here now has added a completely different aspect to The Shanty Hounds, as one would expect, swapping a female voice that sings like an angel, for that of a virtuoso guitar player.

Having a virtuoso guitar player in Key West only adds to the wide variety of musicians here. Sure, there are other virtuoso guitarists in town, but having another, with a style unto himself, only adds to the variety!

When we started playing together again, it went well. However, playing five and six times a week, things have only gotten better and better. As Dani is away on tour, we called our string of gigs “The Shanty Hounds Sausage Fest Tour Of Key West” I've lost count of how many gigs we've done!



Last night we played Boondock's, up on Ramrod Key (27 miles north of Key West). As I have a few guitars to choose from, when Bobby arrived I first lent him my '96 Stratocaster, however, after a couple of gigs, he wanted an acoustic. So, he took my Ibanez and I used my Rainsong. That worked out well until the Fishman pre-amp in the Rainsong gave up the ghost. This isn't the first time for that guitar. This is it's forth pre-amp in five years. The atmosphere here in Key West, over 100 miles (160km) out to sea, has a lot of salty, humid air and it's murderous to anything corrosive, particularly electronics. We played one gig without the Rainsong at Rick's and for that, I pulled my 1975 Guild D25M, "Bell", out of retirement.



Grateful Guitar, here in Key West where I bought the guitar in 2012, did a quick and very good job in the repair. Thank you!!! When we got it back, we swapped guitars! I took the Ibanez and Bobby had the Rainsong. The gig at Boondocks was fabulous! John Sausser helped us out on drums. The combination of playing together for two weeks, swapping guitars, plus the large, open venue of Boondocks, not to forget John on drums, brought a lot of magic out! The Grateful Dead's “Eyes of the World” Bobby just tore it up in the solo! Bobby sings Steve Earl's Copperhead Road, and also Fleetwood Mac's Gold Dust Woman, both of which I get to play slide on. We're getting very good reception on both!

Back in 1996, I came up with an acoustic version of Gregg Allman's “Whippin Post”. A guy whom I was playing with at the time said: “You can't play Whippin' Post acoustically!”. I did anyway and he always scoffed. A year later Gregg Allman came out with an acoustic version of the song on his “Searching For Simplicity” album. I looked at my friend and smiled.

I brought the arrangement to The Shanty Hounds a few weeks ago. With Bobby, it's only accented everything and the reactions we've been getting have been truly magic!

Remember I mentioned that we played the Grateful Dead earlier? On Tuesday at our Rick's gig, there was a construction crew across the street using a jackhammer. I pulled out the 'Dead's “Easy Wind” which the first line is “I've been balling a shiny steel jackhammer, been chippin up rocks for the great highway...” The song goes on from there about jackhammering, drinking, a girlfriend who discourages drinking, a doctor who advises to give up jackhammering, and hoping for a new girlfriend who won't “hide my liquor try to serve me tea”.

No, it's not a song that you'd hear first and second graders singing in the Christmas Celebration glee club event at their grammar school. However we had a great jam on the song though, and not long after we started, the jackhammer stopped!

I'm REALLY looking forward to Dani's return next week. It's a double edged sword as Bobby is headed back to Chicago.

In a perfect world, Bobby would stay in Key West and join Dani and I in the Shanty Hounds!

You can catch Bobby and me, “The Shanty Hounds Sausage Fest Tour Of Key West”,  at:



Grunts Bar – August 24th – 8 – 11

Willie T's – August 25th 11 – 2

Two Friends – August 27th 12 – 3

Willie T's – August 28th 6 – 9


Rick's – August 29 Noon - 4

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bar Stories! A bit of adventure, a hint of mystery, some gray matter stimulation, laced with travel, and peppered with humor throughout! Take a unique trip with this Trop Rock musician through bars and the unique, odd, and funny goings on in them! Take a trip from Key West to London to Cape Cod, to Miami and more! So grab a libation and join the author on this wild ride! Seventeen 5-Star Ratings!



Friday, July 14, 2017

Getting By With A Lot Of Help From Our Friends! - The Shanty Hounds record a live album!

Getting By With A LOT of Help From Our Friends!


The Shanty Hounds Record A Live Album!




On July 13th, 2017 The Shanty Hounds descended on their two years “Home Gig” at Grunts and recorded a live album.

This was by no means an easy undertaking, yet so many made everything go smoothly!

This was an idea that Dani Hoy and I had kicked around a bit, however, make no mistake about it, Dani was the one who got the ball rolling. Thank you, Dani Hoy!!!

                                  Picture by Ralph DePalma

Dani started a Kickstarter campaign a few months back and, a week or so before the gig, the goal was reached! While Dani is to be commended for starting the Kickstarter, it was all those who contributed who made this possible. Thank you, Kickstarter contributors!!!! 

                            Photo by Ralph DePalma

Shortly before the Kickstarter was started, we talked to producer Ian Shaw. Ian is a world class producer who moved to Key West around five years ago. He bounces back and forth between Key West and his hometown, London, where he's produced every kind of record you can imagine over the last thirty-something years. I've been working with Ian for a while on my solo album, “Jump Into De FiYa!!!!”, plus, Dani recorded her vocals on her latest release “At The End Of A Long Road”, so going with Ian was a natural. We had to speak with Ian first to get a better idea of what we were looking at monetarily before we started the Kickstarter. Ian gave us an estimate and we were off to the races! Thank you, Ian!

(a minor note regarding Ian's experience: We started a song and were about four bars into it when Ian stops us and says "Dani, your B string is out of tune" Not "Something is out of tune" Or "Dani's guitar is out of tune" No, out of two guitars and a bass playing, along with a set of drums, Ian has picked out the individual string out of the entire cacophony of notes, singing, and bashing, just four bars into it. That's just flat out incredible. Totally amazing! I asked him about it later and he said "Oh, it just comes from doing it for so long, that's all")

                                            Ian Shaw - Picture by Chris Rehm

At Grunts for the last year, Bob Tucker has been joining us. For this recording, we brought drummer John Sausser in. John had played with us in our first year, so it was only fitting that he should be the drummer for the recording. John started playing with us every Thursday at Grunts, so we could get the feel of playing with each other. Again, Dani is the heroine, as she paid John out of her own pocket for these gigs!

                            Bob Tucker - Photo by Steve Craigo

                           John Sausser - Photo by Steve Craigo

Next, in stepped Marc Hollander! Mark is the Vice-President of the Southernmost Coconut Castaways, and he also works for Keyboard Specialties. My bar, The Cork and Stogie, has worked with Mark for years, and the Shanty Hounds also have worked with him as well. Marc kicked in and had these commemorative cups made specifically for the event! Thank you, Marc!

In a most endearing and touching gesture, our friends Susan and Mo Sacirbey actually postponed their trip to the northeast by a week, just so they could be at the recording gig! How cool is that? WOW! Thank You, Susan and Mo!

                                       Susan Sacirbey with CR

Gary Ek, of radio station 104.9 The X radio station here in Key West, offered to broadcast the gig live! After a bit of chatting, we called Danny Lynn of Tiki Man Radio up in Tennessee and he also took the feed! I spoke with Eric Babin of Radio Trop Rock, who was on the road but had a laptop go down the day before, which prevented him from carrying the show. “Aww crap!” Was his first reaction. Thank you, Gary, Thank you Danny, and also Thank You, Eric, as you were there in spirit!




Grunts took us on over two years ago. Grunts is a conch house built in 1890. It was purchased over thirty years ago by the current owner, who turned it into a bar. The owner once told me “I grew up here and I saw all of the local Key West bars dying off. I started this bar with the intent of keeping the local Key West bar tradition.” The owner, whom I will not state his name as he is a private man, has gone head over heels for us. He has done things that other owners or managers would never dream of doing. He knows what I'm talking about and that's all that matters. Thank you SO much Grunts Bar! We love you!!




Natalie Konysheva, is first and foremost, a dear friend. Long after we became friends with her and her husband Alan Pairmount, I noticed that she took phenomenal photographs on Facebook. When I inquired with her about it, she told me that she had been a professional photographer up in New York City, where she also went to school for photography. After that, Natalie took the picture for the cover of my book “Bar Stories” at The Cork and Stogie! Additionally, she and I are working on a book together, “The Absolute Best Bars in the Florida Keys”. Natalie stopped by and took a lot of photographs at the gig for us. Thank you, Natalie!

                                           Natalie and Alan

Then, there was everyone who showed up! Man! The place was busting at the seams! I won't name those who stopped by, only because I will inevitably forget some and, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Some came from as far away as Texas, others sailed in from the Bahamas. One regular couple whom we love dearly was in Iceland, but the husband sent his sister and her husband to the gig, as they were staying at their house here in Key West! Then, there was our local core of friends! These folks are authors, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers, fellow musicians, office workers, retirees, nurses, jewelers, office workers, hotel workers, photographers, art salesmen, the list goes on and on. They show up all over town where we play and support out the wazoo! I think every one of these folks showed up at the recording gig! Just wait until you hear them all singing along on the chorus of “Yippee Cayo Hueso”!!! Truly amazing!!! 





Ralph DePalma, the famous music photographer of musicians, as well as the author of the series of books on Keys musicians, The Soul of Key West,  was kind enough to swing by and take pictures! He posted on Facebook and I borrowed a couple for this blog! Thank you for everything, Ralph!!!

To all of our friends, Thank you!!!

As for the recording, it went very well! Our plan was to use original songs by Dani and myself. There were a couple of exceptions. we'll see what happens after we listen to what we have.

There were so many highs to last evening, it's impossible to pinpoint one that stood out above the others. Our great friend Steve Craigo, an individual who goes about Key West every day in search of hearing great music, told me today “I think last night was the best music I've heard since I moved here.” Wow. I'm floored.


Like I said:

We Get By With A LOT Of Help From Our Friends!!!

I will keep you all posted on both progress and the release.

Also, we will be having a contest for naming the album!




Again, I can't say it enough.... Thank you very much!!!!!!!







Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Panama Hat and one of the Greatest Retail Stores before Corporate Destroyed It.

The Panama Hat. I've worn Panama Hats for over thirty years. Here's a fun background of mine on how I was introduced to them. I hope you might enjoy!




Today, when one thinks of Banana Republic, one has an image of a sterile, boring, store, which fits into the cookie-cutter format that all clothing stores seem to fit into. They are all about as exciting as soggy cardboard.

Banana Republic wasn't always that way, however. Back in 1979, two journalists, Mel and Patricia Ziegler, a married couple, left their jobs and started Banana Republic . The etymology of the term Banana Republic goes back to O Henry's use of it in his book "The Admiral". Loosely defined, Banana Republic is defined as a third-world country, most likely in Latin America, although for the store, it could be any worldwide ports of call, or exotic, less refined destination. For what they were doing, it was the perfect fit. They promoted a lifestyle of adventure, exploration, and even literature. 

Banana Republic was a very, very different sort of company back then. Their approach was way off the beaten path of conventional clothing stores. To begin with, their title was “Banana Republic Travel and Safari Clothing inc.” They had their own, very unique nitch, carrying products that no one else did. Where else could you find a bush vest, for instance? Or a ventilated shirt? A Bahia Dress? A Ladies Jumpsuit? Plus, they also had quite an original way of presenting their products.

Their stores were likewise. They had a WWII era Jeep mounted on a rock base, coming through the front window! Real palm trees were throughout the store. A vintage bi-plane would be hanging from the ceiling, as well. Kind of saying “We're a lot different than the norm!” And they indeed were! Here was a clothing store which also had a bookstore, focused in the direction of travel and safari. Who would think of going shopping for clothes and leaving with a Zane Gray book? This store was not for the ignorant.





Let's look at their catalog, for an example. All the other stores would have large 8x10 glossy catalogs, lined with models wearing their products. That wasn't Banana Republic's style, however. Banana Republics' catalog was a 4” X 6” catalog on a course paper. There were no models, but rather artistic images of both the product, as well as drawings of people wearing their product.







Additionally, there were stories in each catalog, written by authors, which depicted the travel and safari lifestyle. Some were dramatic, yet others humorous. Interviews as well. 



Their catalog, stem-to-stern, was the thing that dreams were made of. Within the context of that catalog, a combination of the essay based stories on travel exploration and safaris, interview,s and in the end, the products, all combined to be the essence of what dreams were made of. It was 360 degrees. They painted the picture of the lifestyle and made it very easily attainable for their clientele to put themselves squarely into that fantasy/reality. Banana Republic made those dreams come true.




Certainly not the approach taken by the big conglomerates. As a matter of fact, this approach was the antithesis of everything corporate.

They had grown to a couple of stores in California when they received an offer from the parent firm of The Gap, to buy them out. The owners would still be in control of the stores, but corporate overseers had the ability to offer expansion. It was a great offer at the time. Before long, the stores with Jeeps barreling over rocks in the front of the stores were coast-to-coast.

Living on the east coast, this was how I became familiar with them. One of the first things I bought from them was a Panama Hat. I've had Panama Hats ever since. When I first saw it available, I had to have one. It was me.



Not only did I get a Panama Hat, but I also got the fascinating history behind them, from Banana Republic!

The Panama Pat, to start with, is actually not from Panama at all. Panama hats are actually from Ecuador! The type of straw they are made from is called Toquilla (say: toh KEY ya) and is unique to Ecuador.

The story goes, back when Americans were building the Panama Canal, they were issued the hats as protection from the sun. The workers immediately realized that the hats were quite stylish and set them to San Francisco in order to make some additional money. They were a big success! The stores in San Francisco, having received the hats from Panama, called them Panama Hats and the name stuck!

Banana Republic continued and stayed true to form until 1988 when the Stock Market nose dived. The parent company decided on boring, corporate bullshit approach that everyone else was doing. Gone were the Jeeps driving through the windows, travel and safari clothing, the incredible catalog, as well as the founders, Mel and Patricia Ziegler. Before that, they had excitement, pizzazz, and a totally assume “WOW!” factor, rivaled by no one. Regretfully today, Banana Republic can't hold a candle to its own roots. Itcan best be described now as a “Sleeping Pill”.

I miss the old Banana Republic. Not only did they sell me an absolutely beautiful hat, they also took the time to tell me what I was buying. They painted a picture via the story behind it. In their catalog, they taught me about the hat and it's history. They also explained the style of Panama Hat that I purchased. The Panama Hat that I bought from them is what's known as a “Fino”, or, The Finest. I see people today buying Panama Hats which are lesser variations. They'll lack the flowing grace of the Fino. The lesser hats will have imperfections in the weave, often leaving bumps where they don't belong or a brim that just doesn't flow. The contour of the vertical portions of the hat, combined with the graceful flow of the brim makes a perfect Fino.



A Fino today runs around $100, give or take $15. The first couple I bought from Banana Republic, however, after the corporate bullshit hit the fan, they didn't carry them anymore. I've gone elsewhere since. You can find them easily online. My current one, which is due for replacement, I purchased from a haberdashery here in Key West, about three years ago. I've been wearing Panama Hats for thirty-two years.

                                                                A Perfect Fino

With the Fino Panama Hat, don't turn the brim up vertically on the sides at all. The Fino will have a natural wave to it. It's possible you may want to accentuate that wave, but be certain it remains subtle, easy flowing wave. The front of the brim should be slightly bent down. The Fino is style and grace. Think of it's flow to be akin of that of a Bentley, or a Ferrari.

Enjoy!





Never let your dreams die!

Thank you for reading my Blog!


Thanks again for reading my blog!

If you'd like to support my efforts, please look into my music, as well as my book "Bar Stories"!

I thank you in advance!



CD Baby



Amazon (song “Island Blue”)



Also, please check out my book “Bar Stories”. It's a fun book about various bar situations I've seen, witnessed, or participated in over the decades. If you're looking for a depressing book, you're in the wrong place!

This book is FUN! Additionally, purchasing this book also is helping me write the three other books I am currently working on: “The Absolute Best Bars in the Florida Keys”, “Living On A Tropical Island” (also known at this point as “Island Living”), and “Time Traveler”. Bar Stories is only: 

$4.99!!!











Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Plan Your Key West Trip!

  


A)

I have a saying about people who travel to the Keys and Key West “ The smart ones leave on Monday, and the really smart ones leave on Tuesdays, and late on Tuesdays at that! Leaving on Sunday, well, let's just say that's not the way to go. If someone leaves on Saturday, they need psychiatric care.

Let's look at the Tuesday departure. A lot of people will come here for one of the many events that are held over the year. Perhaps they are here for The Songwriter's Festival, MOTM, Hemingway Days, The Lobster Fest, Art Festivals, you name it. What do they all have in common? They all end on Sunday. With the events which are more spread out, take the Songwriter's Festival, or MOTM, where there are multiple happenings, they have visitors scampering about town running from place to place. They will see this event at 1 pm, another at 2 pm, yet another at 3:30, another at 5 pm, another at 7 pm, meet their friends for dinner at 8, someplace else at 9. They actually under the delusion that this is a vacation. The fact is, they are busting their ass twenty times more than they do the other fifty-one weeks of the year!

Most people leave on Sunday. What happens is that they go home completely exhausted! Yes, they saw all kinds of things, people, and events which truly enriched their lives. However, what they didn't do on their vacation, is relax. Instead, they ran themselves through the ringer.

Leaving late Tuesday afternoon, or evening makes so much more sense. If you leave Wednesday it's even better. Give yourself some time to decompress. Relax a little. Take some time for a stroll at night and smell the jasmine. Sit on the veranda of The Cork and Stogie and have a libation, watching the world go by, as the trade winds breeze through your hair. Sit in the garden at Hemingway's house and read one of his books that you can pick up at the small store there. Perhaps a day at Fort Zachery Taylor enjoying the fort itself, or the beach. Perhaps a Conch Train ride will fit your style? It's loaded with historical information!

There are loads of choices of things to do where you can just relax, and take it all in.

Remember: Rushing around is a mainland mentality. When in the Keys, do as the locals do.


B)

I'm seeing more and more people arriving here twice a year. They will come initially for an event, as mentioned above, but they will return for a second trip, solely for the relaxation aspect. They're back to smell the aforementioned Jasmine if you will. They don't have to be anyplace at any time. Additionally, right now in the summer, rates are at their lowest. Someone was telling me they were paying $139 a night. Other rooms were less and others more. However, it makes so much sense on so many levels ranging from the chill out factor to the economic factor.



C)

One of the interesting things that happen here is when visitors arrive into town, they will rush up to us, wide-eyed with exuberant and excited looks on their faces, arms outstretched, hollering like mad people “YES!!! WE'RE IN KEY WEST! LETS PARTY!!!!”

This, of course, is one of the things that one signs up for when they move here. All of us were like that when we came as visitors, to begin with. However, living here in a day to day life is different than visiting for a week. While it is different than visiting, I will say that I don't want to live any place else in the world! I used to work with a very intelligent and insightful guy named Andy Colby. Andy would say sometimes “This town will chew you up and spit you out if you're not careful”. Andy was right too. I lost track of those who left the islands with serious alcohol conditions.

Sometimes those visiting will have the go here, go there, go here, go there agenda. They need to relax! HA HA!

As for us, we generally pace ourselves. We live here. We have professions we need to perform at.

                                         Caribbean Club, Key Largo
D)

On rare occasions, people will ask us “Where do you go for vacations? After all, you live in a vacation destination”. I always laugh when someone says “Key West is so laid back”. Yeah, go to the two hundred block of Duval at midnight. That's Hell on wheels, out of control at 200MPH. That's not laid back.

What we do is head to the other end of the Conch Republic. That's laid back! Some asshole from the lower Keys started a rant saying that the upper Keys, Key Largo to Marathon, was just an extension of Miami/Dade. What a load of complete bullshit, and that's the nicest way I can put it. Key Largo, Islamorada (say Isle more ah dah), Layton... have the exact same amount of keys magic as the lower Keys. I spent thirty years hanging out there, as well as playing there and it's truly magnificent. There are loads of great places to stay. Ours is Sunset Cove, in Key Largo!

I always recommend staying a day or two in the upper Keys when heading to Key West! 

E) Whatever you do and wherever you go, be sure to get out on the water. Sunset cruises are the perfect answer. Inexpensive and not too time-consuming. Plus, they have open bars on them as well.





For the best 10 bars in the Florida Keys, check this blog from a few years ago!

http://keywestmusic.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-absolute-ten-best-bars-in-keys.html


Thursday, June 1, 2017

What Makes a Great Bar? The New Latitude 18, St. Thomas USVI






What makes a great bar, a great bar? Without a doubt, the people in the bar, patrons, and employees are what make up the crux of a great bar. However, it is the owner, proprietor, publican, whatever one likes to label the individual who holds title to the business. It is they who sets the standard by which said patrons and employees gravitate to. In this case, Rick Holmberg set the atmosphere of The New Latitude18 and made it a great bar.







Last year, April 2016, I was on a music cruise with Dani. Our first stop was at St. Thomas, USVI. Our good friend Jeff Lange, who lives on St. Thomas, had set up an afternoon for the group of musicians that we were with on the cruise, to play at The New Latitude 18. Naturally, we were looking forward to it!



We were due into port at 8 am, however at 4 am I started having issues with my heart. I've had issues for twenty years, so I'm kind of used to them in a way. On the flip side, we're not talking about a hangnail. When your heart is having issues, you drop everything, before it drops you.

I checked into the ship's infirmary and they stabilized my situation, however, they insisted I be sent to the hospital on St. Thomas when we arrived in port. I told Dani to go to the event at The New Latitude 18 and I'd call and join her when I was released.

Bottom line, I wasn't released. I had to see a cardiologist who wouldn't be there for two more days. I told Dani to go back on the ship and I'd come back via the airlines. She wouldn't have any of that. So what's next?

Well, the owner of the bar, Rick Holmberg, got wind of the predicament, I believe from our friend Jeff Lange. Rick invited Dani to use the band room, which was an RV, at no cost. Not only that, he chauffeured her back and forth to the hospital a few times a day, about a five or six-mile drive.

Understand, Rick had only met Dani a few hours before and here he was offering her a place to stay, at no cost, in addition to driving her back and forth to see me.

If anyone looks up the word “Compassion” they'll find Rick's image next to the word.

I met the cardiologist on Thursday, had a procedure done and was released on Friday. That's when I met Rick. As you might surmise, he came to pick me up with Dani.

When we arrived at The New Latitude 18, I immediately was in love with the bar. Very relaxed, on the water, nothing false about it at all. My type of bar.



I got on with Rick from the get go. I felt we were cut from the same cloth. We had a great conversation when he drove me to the pharmacy. He told me some of his past struggles and loss and I told him some of my own. Talk about fortitude, here is a bar owner that no longer drinks, yet he's surrounded by it every day.

That evening he asked Dani and I if we'd like to pay at The New Latitude 18 on Saturday night? He didn't have anyone scheduled. Of course, we would!




Again, here's a man who when the chips were down for us, not only put two complete strangers up for free, but also gave us a paying gig!

Here are two Facebook videos of our gig at Latitude 18






So, what makes a great bar? This is what makes a great bar. People like Rick Holmberg. The individual at the top sets the standard by which everything else falls into place. The patrons and the staff were all just marvelous. I recall talking to a staff member about our situation and how Rick came to our rescue. They smiled, shook their head and said “That sounds like Rick”. Everyone we bumped into all had fabulous things to say about Rick.





Today I learned that Rick is moving on to new adventures. I don't know what they may be? I've seen him traveling a lot in the last year on Facebook, literally all over the world. In a selfish way, I'm sorry he's moving on. Dani and I often talked about heading back to The New Latitude 18 and hanging out with him again. However, life changes for us in many ways. Rick is off on a new adventure and I am very happy and excited for him. It also may be good that he's off on a new adventure. The world needs more exposure to folks like Rick. However, I do hope in his travels, our paths cross again.

Rick Holmberg is one damn good human being.

Bon Voyage my friend!