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Schwartzy

“A perfect caricature of a burnt-out college professor”

SlimC had instructed the cast of his fanciful new reality-TV show project, Kiss Me on Kalea, to fly out to Tahiti, take the ferry for the short hop over to Moorea, and meet up for dinner at Cook’s Bay Resort restaurant the night before the departure, which would be at sunrise the following morning. The crew of Kalea, along with SlimC, would join the cast at dinner for all to get to know each other a bit before heading out to sea for seven days.

 

Captain Bob, Lua, and I had been given brief profiles of the cast members ahead of time to give us some sense of the species of characters we’d be dealing with during our voyage to Rarotonga together. Judging from their biographies, they surely had differing motivations for signing on to the show. Knowing something about their personal histories might help when dealing with any conflicts between them, should they arise. And if no issues arose, well by golly we should work at a-risin’ them ourselves to deliver the drama and help boost the show’s ratings. No one wants to see people getting along swimmingly (no man-overboard reference intended) on a boat for too long on a reality-TV show. After all, respectful behavior, polite conversation, and smooth sailing does not good drama make.

 

We got cleaned up after two days of sweaty, messy boat work and a short shakedown cruise. The boat test was uneventful other than the load-stressing that the new crossbeam lashings took, causing them to stretch a bit. This is not uncommon with any virgin-rope binding. The stretching was just enough, though, to trigger the most unsettling sensation that the boat was kinda coming apart underneath us. The lashings required significant re-tightening — and pronto. Other than that — and demonstrating to Lua how two mature, professional, middle-aged men could quickly devolve into babbling bonobos when isolated at sea, far from watchful eyes of respectable dirt-dwelling adult members of human society — there were no serious flaws revealed.

 

After showers and my re-acquaintance with the novel feel of laundered clothing, we strolled over together to the restaurant to await the arrival of the half-dozen cast members. When Bob politely reminded Lua that the restaurant required footwear, she just smiled and responded,

 

“Oh, it’s alright Mister Bob, they know me there.”

 

As we walked into the dining room, I observed SlimC taking up a position next to an older gentleman seated at the bar. The balding, disheveled, grey-haired fellow was wearing a wrinkled wool tie and a tattered, coffee-stained corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches on the sleeves — a perfect caricature of a burnt-out college professor. He seemed engrossed in the lyrics of the bluesy Keb' Mo' song, A Better Man, being performed island-style by a too-loud trio on a too-small wooden stage in a too-near corner of the bar:

Sittin' here in my problem, what am I gonna do now
Am I gonna make it, someway, somehow

Maybe I'm not supposed to know

Maybe I'm supposed to cry

And if nobody ever knows the way I feel

That's alright, that's okay
 

Make my world a better place
Keep that smile on my face
Teach myself how to understand
Make myself a better man

 

Climbin' out the window, climbin' up the wall
Is anybody gonna save me, or are they gonna let me fall

Well, I don't really wanna know

I'll just hold on the best I can
And if I fall down I'm gonna get back up

It'll be alright, it'll be okay

 

Make my world a better place

Keep that smile on my face

Teach myself how to understand

Make myself a better man

 

SlimC didn't think twice about disrupting the semi-conscious barfly's nirvanic absorption in the music to boast about his success as a reality-TV show producer; and getting very little reaction from the scraggly sot, asked him what his name was.

 

“Schwartz … M. Schwartz … Michelangelo Schwartz.”

 

“Yeah, right. Do you even know what reality TV is Schwartzy?”

 

“Sure do.”

 

“Do you ever watch any of the shows?”

 

“Sometimes.”

 

SlimC didn’t much care for his overly frugal conversation style and his apparent lack of interest, but he persisted.

 

“Which one’s best.”

 

He was hoping one of his more popular gems would be named.

 

“Last one.”

 

“Oh, you must mean the most recent one, the one just released last season — Petulant Paramours of Palm Beach County?”

 

SlimC was hoping for some clarification and perhaps to coax more than two words from the boorish boozer.

 

“No sir. My favorite one will be the last one that is ever made; and the sooner it happens, the better!

 

The man then turned away and staggered out of the bar, proving himself capable of using as many words as necessary to deliver a zinger like that to a cocky Hollywood producer.

 

SlimC, being the thick-skinned, reptilian, ratings-whore that he had become, shrugged off the comment and turned toward us just as we approached to meet him. Unfazed by the bar patron’s low regard for his chosen craft of dubious repute, he greeted us heartily with handshakes and we exchanged the usual formalities.

 

Bob introduced Chef Lua to SlimC. Then we took our places at the table to wait for the cast of love-seeking, 40-something second-chancers to arrive. All I could think of during those foreboding moments was the disturbing quote from existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: ‘Hell is other people.’

 

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