Thursday, May 11, 2017

An Occasional Memory of Some of CIYC’s Characters



An Occasional Memory of Some of CIYC’s Characters

Geno owned a bar in a pretty rough part of San Jose.  This fact pretty much sets up his story and why he is perhaps one of CIYC’s most memorable characters. When it comes to his story, where do you start…

Geno and his wife Shirley joined the club in the 1990's. Shortly after joining they, like so many others before, sold their human-scale boat of 30’ or so and bought a relative monster.  At the time it was one of the largest boats in our fleet.  Having a very large boat in the club made Geno, whose ego was likely formed in a bar of his making in a not great part of town, feel pretty good.  He would talk it up, show it off and generally burnish his image as a big boat guy. Did I mention that he smoked huge cigars?  Is the picture becoming clear?

Geno would also occasionally show off the downside to owning a big boat.  One time, heading downstream through the Antioch Bridge he found himself just outside the channel with that thing.  He was in the lead, I was following as was the rest of our fleet and we all saw his boat jerk upward a good 5 feet as he hit the edge of the dredged channel and power on up and nearly over, only to realize his predicament and manage to slide the beast back into the channel with a big splash.  I don’t know if there was any damage done but when we got to our destination, Geno wasn’t talking anything up.  Instead, there was complete silence, something not common among men who tended bar for a lifetime.

Another time a bunch of us were rafted up on the back side of Decker Island, with Hwy 160 in easy view just behind us. At some point in the night the tide went out, affecting only Geno’s deeper draft  boat.  He arose to witness his boat listing big time to starboard and aft.  He was way up on the bank.  This wouldn’t be a problem, he told us all, because when the tide came back in the boat would be back in the water where it belonged—no harm, no foul. 

About this time someone said they smelled diesel fuel.  Sure enough, Geno’s boat was leaking fuel all over the place.  It turned out that he had recently filled his tanks, apparently to the tippy top.  Fuel was pouring out of the two starboard tank vents. Geno didn’t say much to the group of us hanging around.  Instead, he just went over and stuffed a rag in the lowest vent like nothing happened; making for what we all thought would be a really good fuse.  Of course, our anchorage smelled bad like a refinery but nobody said anything because Geno owned a rough bar, if you get the drift.

Back to the cigar bit--Geno was one the only person in the club who liked really stinky cigars—in his case, chain smoked. His cigars were so stinky that his best friend, Vince,  who he regularly visited aboard, installed a custom, homemade metal cigar holder just outside his boat's boarding door.  It is not remembered whether Geno ever used it.  He may have just got himself a new best friend. 

Sometime in the late 90's the club’s Board decided to make our clubhouse a smoke-free environment.  Our female Commodore at the time, a thoughtful nurse recognizing that it is not easy for people to simply quit smoking, told the assembled General Meeting that a tent-like contraption would be set up on the clubhouse side deck and smokers could go out there and do their thing.  Well, Geno’s bar was decidedly not a smoke-free establishment as the law at the time required. He wasn’t the type to let a mere law change his lifestyle. Well, when this matter of smokers having to go outside and into a crappy tent in the rain came up, Geno got into a big argument with the nurse’s husband, a Past Commodore.  they yelled at each other about smoking, in general, about laws in bars, about what constitutes good health—you name it, it was a fully developed argument right in front of the entire membership. He may also have told this guy where he could stick the nurse’s smoker’s tent. They were sitting next to each other and soon Geno jumped into this guy’s face. Others of us got things under control pretty quickly and no punches were thrown, but it was pretty clear that we would never find Geno huddled under that tarp smoking his fancy cigars. He stewed about this predicament for years until he and Shirley moved into retirement to Arizona—fouling that air.

As far as anybody remembers, Geno’s bar never became a “smoke free” zone.  But it did become known for another feature, a huge Super Bowl betting gig each year.  It wasn’t as though he hadn’t tried the betting thing out.  Earlier he had tried to form a pool among bar patrons, offering his smaller, human-scale boat as a “drawing prize.”  At one point his Super Bowl pool was endowed to the tune of a $50,000 pot.  This, of course, was large enough to draw the attention of the authorities who shut him down for some gambling infringement.  The whole thing made the papers but Geno never said much.  He just kept smoking those cigars and talking up his big boat. 

Still, and to put all of this in a better light it, would be correct to say that Geno loved Caliente Island Yacht Club.  Once when the Treasury got a little low just before a big bill was due, maybe for insurance, and at the General Membership meeting when the matter came up, Geno pulled a wad of Franklins out of his pocket and put that the money up to pay the bill, without a word.  In the end, that was the real Geno, a stand up guy and a true Caliente Character.