The Halloran brothers, former city commisioner and old friend George and visiting brother Andrew paid us a visit yesterday, ostensibly to check to see if the Boca Chica Bar sign George had put on loan to the bar was still on display (it was) but we think it was just a chance to grab a beer (they did).
George looks rightfully proud and Andrew looks down right Heminwayesque as they stand under the sign George had spotted in a Havana, Cuba boatyard while he was having his boat hauled out there a dozen or so years ago. George managed to salvage the sign, which was being used at the time to keep a cuban boat mechanic’s head out of the dirt while he crawled around under some dry-docked vessel. George recognized the valuable piece of Key West memorobilia for what it was, proceeded to big-deal the guy out of it, and hand-delivered it to us at the Parrot where it hangs today. And for that George gets a beer on us whenever he walks in the door.
For those who don’t remember the Boca Chica Bar it was located right on US 1 in Stock Island that saw it’s hay-day in the seventies and eighties and was kind of like Stock Island’s own little Barbary Coast, rife with smugglers, hookers, cops-on- the-take,fisherman, gays, thieves, writers, musicians, the occasional slumming or over-dosed celebrity and pretty much everything in between. Unless you’ve spent some time in there or maybe even been woken up out front of the place in the bed of a pickup truck at 7 AM with the tropical sun blazing down on you it’s pretty hard to describe.
There is nothing in town today to compare it to. It was a cross section of a Key West that has all but vanished and could certainly never be recreated and put under one roof again (a scary proposition at best). The stage was wrapped in cyclone fencing like Bob’s Country Bunker in the Blues Brothers movie, the bartenders and the bouncers didn’t suffer fools gladly, and as the sign says, it was “Open 7 Days a Week, 24 Hours a Day” although the place didn’t really come into it’s own until 4 AM or later, when all bars in key west proper let out and all the not yet sated revelers poured over the Cow Key Channel bridge for a nightcap…or two. I believe Hunter S. Thompson made mention of it on occasion as the “soft underbelly of Key West”.
Anyway, thanks George, for thinking of us.
As a kind of sidebar to this it seems that my son Nick’s longtime girlfriend Renee’s family were the proprietors of The Boca Chica Bar and she, like Nick, grew up in the salty atmosphere of a Key West bar. If these two wonderful young folks ever decide to tie the knot it would signify the union of the two great slum bars in recent key west history, a union, I would venture, on the scale of one between the Borgias and the DeMedicis.