She has green eyes and blonde hair. There are curves that would lead you around the bend and off a cliff, happily. There is a coltish twitch to her walk. In her teens she rode and trained horses. She has won many equestrian medals. Every so often we’d see her in her riding outfit patting her riding crop against her thigh. There’d be a collective swoon.
Her name is Ivy, and she is bartending in No Sé. She is 20 or so. While working the bar she playfully flirts with some, longingly with others. It is unconscious, or second nature, or nature itself screaming: WANT ME, LOOK AT ME, TAKE ME. Flirting and gentle seduction just seem to bounce off her like flashes of iridescence.
She breezes by, tossing her hair as she passes through the kitchen toward the Tequila Bar. Heads turn.
Standing at the Tequila Bar is Bo, my octogenarian bartender. At 81, he is quite dapper in his beret and button-down sweater. He is ruefully smoking. He is always smoking; inhaling long and hard, like smoke is life itself. He is an old-world gentleman and rogue, with a sharp wit and blue eyes that twinkle behind his thick glasses.
His real name is Starling Sullivant Wilcox, III. But his life long moniker is Bo, and that is how we know him. He is scion to the family that founded Columbus, Ohio in 1812.
In the late 1940’s he lived in a gentleman’s hotel in New York, drank martinis, and went to dance halls with starlets and socialites. He worked on Wall Street with the likes of Alan Greenspan, who later became the US Treasury Secretary and John Mitchell, who was later indicted and convicted in the Watergate scandal. He referred to the former as a drudge, and the latter as a thief.
In the 1960s he ran for senator on a liberal ticket and lost. His wealthy family disinherited him for his political views-he didn’t care. He kept drinking martinis.
Later he became an art dealer. He had lived a privileged life, “mint on the pillow” as he would say.
When his wife of more than 40 years died his heart broke. He sold off all his art, gave away most of his money, packed a small leather suitcase, and decided to hobo it around the world. He threw himself in harms way, traveling to Bosnia, Lebanon, Tangiers.
“I wanted to see how the other half lived,” he told me one day. “My goal is to run out of money and breath at the same time. Damn thing is I keep living.”
I had met Bo in 1999 at an outside bar in Placencia, Belize. I was intrigued because he seemed so out of place in this world of backpackers and drifters. I introduced myself and bought him beers. We talked. “You’re the first goddamn person I’ve really talked to since my wife died,” he said. Two days later we were traveling through Honduras together, riding the first bus we saw and getting off in whatever town looked like adventure. A year later we hitched across Cuba. And 3 years after that I persuaded him to come to Antigua and run my tequila bar. “Why the hell would you want an old man like me around?” he said. “Think about it,” I said, “It’s a standing offer.” One day he showed up on my doorstep, the one small suitcase in his hand. “I’m here,” he said, “when do I start working?” He spent his final nine months with us.
One thought on “Horses and Cigarettes”
Rexer, I remember all of your stories about Bo. What a nice surprise, on this dull and rainy Saturday morning in London…to read about him. Tell him that if he comes back as a weimaraner in his next life, I would be happy to train him. Love you, Trisha