Saturday night a group of old-timers congregated on the street in front of Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholas to celebrate the establishment’s diamonds’ jubilee!
It was a perfect, clear night, and I trotted down Main Street by myself, leaving the Art Fair behind. I could hear steel pan music from two blocks away. Apparently, Charlie Brouns III was throwing a real party, with music and catering, not just cocktails.
I checked in with the host, dressed in a white linen suit – just like Travolta’s only with a white shirt – he looked like a million dollar, in fact like the Prime Minister of San Nicholas.
He was busily welcoming guests and announcing his intention to introduce them to a new video clip with Nico Connor. He was pensive and reflective on the occasion of the bar’s seventy fifth anniversary. Gus the perennial bartender had just died a few days ago, having lived a full life, says Charlie III, adding, I’m just fifty, and I am doing my best to live to that age.
How’s business, I asked. Good, good, he said, we’re doing OK, but naturally, he continued, you want to see the whole neighborhood prosper because if you are a gem in a pile of shit, nobody cares about you! I’d rather be a gem in a precious necklace, sharing the attention with other equally expensive jewels.
I also stopped by Montsy, looking lovely in a little black dress. The anniversary is always difficult, she said, we miss Charlie Jr. so much, he was really involved with the movers and shakers of this island and we miss his personality, he was into everything, politics, sports, philosophy. Me and my brother we do our best to stay on top of things, Charlie III is an artist and involved with that community, and I am always at work. She was just stating facts, with a small nostalgic smile.
I looked inside the bar, it was as cluttered as always, I did not notice Charlie’s retirement fund, a thick ball of paper money notes from across the world, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. The bar had just commissioned of relief sculpture of Charlie Jr., and artist Maritza Erasmus delivered! In the relief he wears an eternal broad grin, just like in real life, and Charlie III reports it will be installed over the bar’s door soon.
I had the privilege to listen to Charlie Bourns Jr., around the Millennium, when one of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a new souvenir, a bottle of local rum, paired with a booklet of Charlie’s stories. I was asked to collaborate and as a result I heard many of Charlie’s entertaining anecdotes first hand. He was an exceptional story teller, with 100% recall, dates, names, places, he had it all filed in his head, or perhaps he made it up at the spur of the moment, but anyhow it sounded genuine and accurate and fantastic!
What the guidebooks say: Charlie’s Bar, a trip to the southern end of the island surely must include a stop here for some tasty garlic shrimp. Once a hangout for sailors and refinery workers, the bar has evolved into a museum of sorts, with scuba divers hanging their underwater discoveries on the walls next to a great volume of other knickknacks!