Yes, "Tropical Dan's" is a real restaurant located in Cocoa Beach although the real name is completely different, after this weekend I don't need anymore hassles. Finally, excuse the typos but I'm just too damn tired. If I get motivated I may correct them at work tonight.
Strictly speaking, from my point of view I was in my element and enjoying myself immensely sipping a cold margarita while sitting on the patio deck of an ocean front restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Florida at the end of a long drive and a vacation about to begin. Neither Dragonwife nor my son, Darth Spoilboy, could say the same with the former restlessly sitting in silence and the latter at least momentarily placated by his Nintendo Gameboy. The issue not only causing Dragonwife’s restlessness but a few other people sitting around us some discomfort was a local lady enjoying herself far too much.
We had arrived that afternoon in the Cocoa Beach area as insurance to avoid any possible chance of missing our cruise ship that would leave the next morning for a weeklong trip around the eastern Caribbean. It was late September of 2001 and Dragonwife was having a hard time figuring out what she wanted for dinner as we drove into town. We were surprised to find many of the local restaurant’s closed for the season and she was ambivalent at best about the ubiquitous national chains that we frequented far too much back home. Spoilboy being six years-old at the time preferred the Burger Clown and his chicken nuggets but while I would have been okay with the boring national chain restaurants, I steadfastly refused stopping at any of the national burger joints.
For a couple of hours we drove around Cocoa Beach looking for a local eatery that would somehow appeal to Dragonwife but not have a wait time longer than fifteen minutes. Since we were not the only offseason tourists looking for dinner by a long shot any place we stopped had a wait of at least thirty to forty-five minutes. The funny thing about her not wanting to wait was that if you counted the time we spent driving around looking for another open restaurant that somehow interested her we could have been seated and served at least a couple of times.
Spoilboy was a little easier to satisfy being that if forced he would give up his nuggets for macaroni and cheese that just about every restaurant has on the kid’s menu. Which was fine but I could not help but think that the only thing separating the box version of macaroni and cheese made at home and the restaurant version was the addition by the chef of a small sprig of parsley and charging six dollars for a cup full of the stuff making the scam a marvel of capitalism.
The answer to our searching was spotting a sign for “Tropical Dan’s Restaurant” advertising fresh caught seafood, steaks, salads, and a healthy kid’s menu. Dragonwife being on a fresh and healthy eating kick along with a supposedly healthy kids menu pleased her immensely, that was until we pulled into the parking lot. Tropical Dan’s Restaurant was definitely a locally owned eating establishment that even to my eyes had reached its peak about the same time Neil, Buzz, and Michael lifted off for the moon from nearby Cape Canaveral.
The building itself was extremely weathered and faded by the Florida sun and whatever storms must have pushed ashore since the days of Apollo. Mounted on the outside wall next the entrance facing the parking lot was an old stuffed life-sized marlin whose lifeless glass eye almost seemed to be saying if you didn’t like the joint we could kiss its fishy ass. Surrounding the marlin were several other smaller sport fish seemingly caught in a very old net that was literally falling apart. What sold me on the place as we left the car was the miniature surfboard hanging over the front door being rode by a large parrot in tropical shorts and wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
It looked slightly sleazy, dirty, and about to fall apart and I loved the place without setting one foot inside. Of course, Dragonwife suddenly developed a taste for some chicken entrée at one of the national chains but since I had the keys to the locked car and with some old guy carrying on a conversation with a nearby trash can she followed Spoilboy and me inside.
Inside it was dark and cool with absolutely no waiting except I must admit the hostess was a little rude spending several minutes talking on the phone while we stood in front of her. What mollified any anger I might have had was seeing the snap shots on the wall of her with several astronauts including a few I recognized like Sally Ride, Stormy Musgrave, and I swear a recent one with John Glenn.
“Good evening, how many for dinner tonight?” The hostess coolly asked after finally hanging up the phone. I will never be accused of an over abundance of charm but after a few questions from me about the pictures of her with the astronauts we were no longer simple lowlife tourists out to talk trash about their restaurant but respected customers. Thankfully Dragonwife didn’t blurt anything out to change that assumption but I knew she was thinking it.
“Since it’s such a nice evening can I recommend the patio deck next the beach? It’s just a little stuffy in here this evening,” She said escorting us through the dining area.
Taking our seats outside the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore Dragonwife began to unwind and relax because of the surroundings and was pleasantly surprised by the items on the menu that at least on paper agreed with her exacting palate. Too bad it didn’t last for very long.
Within minutes of our being seated two more families joined us outside and almost at once three waitresses swarmed out to take the drink orders from each table. It was then that we learned that Tropical Dan’s Restaurant was less a local version of TGIFridays or Applebee’s but a slightly more risqué version of Hooters. Each of the waitresses now outside taking orders wore something that was more than a bikini bottom and less than actual shorts. All three of the waitresses wore matching t-shirts that had a pair of drunken parrots on the back, one having passed out on the floor and the other still clutching a mug of beer with a huge shit eating grin on its face. The fact that the t-shirts the waitresses were wearing were three sizes too small and in no way made it anywhere near their belly buttons was something happily noticed by every male sitting outside.
The lady customers on the other hand, including my wife, could be heard mumbling comments of shock and disgust. What their exact issues were I just don’t know since my attention was riveted elsewhere. Still though my family was already committed and we ordered our food with each person enjoying their own aspects of the surroundings as we waited.
The food turned out, even to Dragonwife, to be outstanding. She ordered the broiled salmon with steamed vegetables and I ordered something called Crab Cake Benedict with asparagus that to this day I would drive all the way back down to Coco Beach for just to turn back around and drive home again if I had the time and money.
The fun really started halfway through our meal when the tiki bar attached to the deck opened with the bartender starting a CD playing mild reggae and steel drum music. A cluster of locals came off the beach in various states of dress from golf casual to couples wearing respectable bathing suits surrounding the small bar. It was a good-natured crowd talking and having a few drinks and I believe everything would have stayed cool had one last addition to the group not arrived.
The crowd around the bar greeted the newcomer as “Janice” in a boisterous manner as she walked up the small set of steps from the beach and Dragonwife immediately chuckled at the sight of her.
“She has been rode hard and put up wet, “Dragonwife leaned over and said to me watching Janice join the bar crowd. “
While my wife was somewhat amused one of the ladies at a neighboring table looked shocked apparently having her moral balance upset by Janice's appearance. “She really shouldn’t be out in public dressed like that.” She said loud enough that those at the tiki bar might hear which they appeared to have not heard or more than likely just ignored.
Janice in truth was a sight and the best one word description of her would have been rough. She was blond but it was clear that wasn’t her natural color and that the sun had long since permanently frazzled the actual substance of her hair and despite any honest attempt to style, would never obey any effort at organization for long. Her skin was a dark brown much like old leather proclaiming years of living in the sun and her face held a matching set of elaborate wrinkles but despite it all, hints of an attractive, younger face were still discernable. What really got everyone’s attention was the swimsuit Janice was wearing. It was a midnight black thong bikini with a matching top that was just as small made from material that had to be ultra strong to contain what bodily parts it did cover. The “curious” thing was that the attributes the thong exposed below and the bikini top barely covered above were both far younger looking that the rest of her body and face would suggest.
The commotion she caused with her arrival soon settled down and the collection of tourists at the tables went back to their meals. Except that Janice soon became the life of the party and things only got wilder with her deciding to remove her bikini top.
Even Dragonwife started to get restless as Janice began to introduce herself to all the people on the patio deck paying special attention to the lady who spoke aloud about her choice of beachwear. I think Dragonwife was worried about how Spoilboy would react to Janice parading around but my son had been first preoccupied with his fried shrimp dinner then his Nintendo Gameboy we had thought to bring from the car as we came in.
Janice did finally stop at our table and spent a minute or two engaging in small talk. It was clear that Janice had crossed some line and the hostess was talking with two guys who soon came up and escorted her off the premises, but not before she noticed my son.
“Now who is this handsome young man?” She said stroking Spoilboy’s head and playing with his hair. That finally pulled my son away from his game and he looked up first at Janice, stared at her like he was confused, and then looked over at me.
“Look dad, tits!” He said sounding only slightly amazed at seeing such items not belonging to a family member for the first time. “Are they real?’ he asked a second later like they might be some figment of his imagination arriving far too early. The scowl I received from Dragonwife was a quick and silent reminder that she often disapproved of the speech I used around our son.
"No honey,” Janice said as the bouncers finally grabbed her by the elbows pulling her away, “they cost me a bundle.”
Far from being disturbed by Janice’s attention or her engineered assets Spoilboy was largely unimpressed and never mentioned the incident again.
All things considered it was quite a start to a very memorable trip.