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The last Silver Bullet 

What 12 years of sobriety does to a guy

I got a call from Desperate Dan the other day. Hadn't heard from him for a dozen years. Dan is living in Atlanta now and had noticed my rants erupting from CL's pages.

There was distress in the voice on the other end of the phone line -- more than the normal dismay I recalled from Dan, who had earned the "Desperate" moniker because of his uncanny skill in driving away women. When I ask perfunctorily how Dan's life was going, he softly said, "Not great."

Time Warp: Here's my life circa late 1980s. Picture the bronzed rays of the sun breaking over the staccato chain of islands called the Florida Keys. A sailboat, its canvas neatly trimmed for an upwind tack, slips through water that has the azure hue of tarnished copper. There I am, one hand on the wheel, one hand around the waist of the babe du jour, one hand holding a Corona.

You can see I had a problem.

And it wasn't just an insufficient number of limbs to address the tasks at hand, so to speak. The one thing I never relinquished my hold on was the beer, and I'd juggle the other priorities as best I could.

I was living on a sailboat in Miami's Coconut Grove in those days, thrashing my way through another divorce. Life, what I could remember of it from one day to the next, was a real party, 24/7 in current parlance. True, I did work for a newspaper, but that was mostly for recreation -- being thoroughly debauched was the real full-time job.

On an October weekend each year, one of Miami's bigger, wilder orgies takes place. It's called the Columbus Day Regatta, and while about 700 yachts do race, the main event is always an overnight, waterborne exercise in drinking and nudity aboard 3,000 or so boats anchored off a little island north of Key Largo. I had, on occasion, met Ted Turner during regatta festivities -- so you can surmise the high level of imbibing that transpired.

Desperate Dan was one of my racing crew. He denies it, but I'm sure it was Dan who got us all in trouble.

I found out I was out of luck Monday morning. Awakening, I noted through the portholes that we were safely tied to a dock. That elicited waves of gratitude from me since I had little recollection -- well, actually, no memory whatsoever -- of the sail back to Miami.

But I was bothered. The little bit of the dock I could see through the small port didn't look right. Sticking my head out of a hatch, I made a startling discovery. I was not at my marina. I was not in Miami.

Egad, I realized, I was not even in the United States.

No, indeed. What I saw around me was the Big Game Club in Bimini, an island that while only 35 miles or so from Miami is in the Bahamas, which while not much of a nation is nonetheless bona fide foreign soil.

In general, I was vaguely aware that it wasn't a good thing to wake up in another country and not recall getting there.

So, I shook my crew awake and started asking how the hell we got to Bimini. My voice was frantic. I was a boss editor at the newspaper I worked for, but even boss editors have boss editors, and mine had become noticeably irritated by my free-spirited life. Peering through a hangover at my watch, I realized I was already a half-hour late for an editors' meeting taking place one nation to the west of my current longitude.

One crew member -- her name was Susan -- told the tale. On the way back to Miami, someone (she wouldn't say who, but everyone looked at Dan) said it would be a helluva fun thing to go to Bimini. I, so I was told, responded with great enthusiasm in the affirmative, set the boat's heading for 109 degrees, and off we went to the Bahamas.

It must have seemed a good idea at the time.

"You did real well in the storm last night," Susan commented. "Real big waves. Lots of wind."

I tried to focus on that. "What storm?" I finally said.

Another crewman added, "And, wow, you got us into Bimini at night." No one, or at least no sane person, sails into Bimini's unmarked channels at night -- in a storm.

"You're kidding," I said.

Space Warp: A few weeks later, back at that newspaper where my boss editor was unamused at my latest eccentric adventure, I began working on a story. It was a good story, an investigation about a scummy developer. I had figured out how he had conned a bunch of people. A few months later, the guy would get indicted and eventually spend a little time in a federally operated tennis resort. Journalistically speaking, I guess I could claim his scalp for my belt.

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