Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fish, Beer, and Sunshine

They asked me where I wanted to go; any place my heart desired. When I answered “Berth 55” they looked at me like they thought I had officially entered the age of ‘a mind going weak’.

Berth 55 is the place where tired men coming off of their shift on the docks go for a cold beer and a meal. It is where the fishermen catch their boats to deep water. It is where you eat outside on picnic tables under lattice roofs. It is where you can smell the tide, watch the movement of boats, listen to the tall tales of fisherman, and eat the most wonderful fish in the city. It’s a bit ramshackle, a bit too boisterous, and a bit international, but it is where I wanted to spend my birthday.

On the one hand they were pleased that they didn’t have to dress in their best, it is hot here. On the other hand they were taken back that I would choose the ’Berth’ when I was given the choice of ’any place’. But it was MY birthday and MY choice.

We waited until late afternoon hoping the day would cool off a bit, but the heat was still intense enough to insure that most people had on as little clothing as possible. Babies faces were pink, young mothers looked exhausted, and the fishermen stood with their rods and reels intense with the need to be out on the ocean. But there was a breeze that lightly tickled the skin and the smell of grilled fish that wafted through the air putting a smile on most of the heated faces.

They have added something new at the Berth: A disc jockey and his magic music machines. At first the music seemed too loud and obtrusive. I feared that communication was going to be difficult. But sometimes communication IS the music. The disc jockey had a bubbly personality that spilled out over the crowd. He sang a string of Blues tunes that seemed to fit perfectly with the heat, odors, and boats disappearing over the horizon.

My son and the teenagers stood in line to order our food while John and I slowly made our way to one of the tables under the lattice roof. I had on my straw hat and John had on his favorite Red Sox’s cap. Except for my wheels and his shuffling foot we fit into the mix perfectly. At the Berth no one particularly cares if you are a bit different.

My son came to the table with a tray heaped with Red Snapper, Shrimp, Crab, Swordfish, and Scallops. As I ate I did what I enjoy the most. I people watched. There was a little group of three men that were obviously enjoying themselves. They were quite, but the laughter on their faces was infectious. A family group of sun bleached blondes, that seemed to be three generations, were relishing their food and one another. A young boy, about 10 or so, was so taken with the music that he got up and attentively approached the music master. He whispered a word or two and then began to quietly dance, lost in his own private world. He reminded me of my son at that age. A Japanese man and wife and their teenage son were obviously taken with the dancing boy. Between bites they would turn around and smile as they watched him throw his arms and legs to the music. A large Mexican family that took up a full table all by themselves test tasted everything everybody had ordered, speaking in Spanish and laughing in a language that we all understood. And there was a woman that looked exactly like one of the women that my son had dated. I had really liked her. And the biker that looked like he could be dangerous, but was walking around smiling and speaking to everyone.

I had just taken a bite of the Red Snapper when the disc jockey approached our table and asked me to sing along with him. I covered my mouth and shook my head trying to laugh and chew at the same time. I would rather eat fish then sing and he quickly understood that. The three men that had been dining alone approached our table. Obviously one of the men had had too much beer with his fish and he needed some help walking. He gently laid his hand on my shoulder and used me as a stabilizer. I was at the perfect height for a man that needed a bit of help. When I looked at him he offered a sweet smile and a little bow. His friends caught him before the bow got too close to the floor, and everyone applauded and laughed. Life was being lived and enjoyed at the Berth.

And when our meal was finished and we were preparing to leave my son turned to me and said, “This was a great idea! We have had so much fun and the food was great!”

I have eaten many meals in top rated restaurants. They may have the ambience, the white linen cloths, the uniformed waiters, and the strolling violins, but none of them have ever had the wonderful flow of happy people that we became a part of Saturday afternoon. The ocean, fresh fish, a beer, and sunshine filled smiles! Life couldn't have gotten much better.

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