Sunday, May 22, 2011

Topper's


Those of you who read this blog regularly know full well how much I believe in the power of the Universe and how, if you listen closely, it can guide you and lead you to the most interesting people and places.

Take the other day, for example, we had just left the grocery store with our friends Andy and Sharon (m/v Finally Fun) when it started to POUR. We needed cover - and fast. There was a restaurant/bar across the street that we were just about to run for when a smaller, more nondescript bar down the road, about 100 yards behind us caught my eye.

“Lets got to that one!” I suggested, “It looks cool”.

We made a run for it as the downpour continued. Already soaked, I decided to wash off all the dirt and sand my flip-flops had kicked up the back of my legs in the run-off from the roof. As I scrubbed the back of my legs I heard a bellowing laugh, “You want some soap?” I looked up and a tan man with shocking blue eyes and a huge smile was holding court at the bar. I smiled back and continued cleaning off my legs.



Our soggy foursome pulled up to the bar to order some lunch. It didn’t take too long to meet the laughing man at the bar - his name was Topper and this was his place. We were lucky it was low season, apparently during high season there’s an hour wait outside the door every night. We never would’ve met him. But today was our lucky day.

Topper is not your usual restauranteur. This man is different. We got to talking to him and learned that he has a home and family in Chicago and, being from Boston, has an affinity for old ball parks (Scott and I used to live right next to one of them, Wrigley Field in Chicago). We liked him immediately. Apparently the feeling was mutual because before we knew it - he was plying us with shots of his delicious home-made "rhum". Apple spice, white-chocolate raspberry, mojito, banana and even mocha mama...rum so good you don’t even need a mixer.

As we sipped his rum he wove his stories around us. Tales of rounds of golf with George Bush Sr., the celebrity clientele he entertains; the time when he shared jokes with Sean Connery, how he gave Bruce Willis a hard time for wearing his hat backwards...Topper graduated Boston College a year early, made his first million by 21, and came to St. Maarten in 1959 and fell in love with it. We heard about hurricane Luis and how it wiped out his investment properties, how afterwards he led a rescue effort and helped rebuild the community, how he is a major patron and purveyor of the arts in St. Maarten and how much he gives back to this community and these islands. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

But what makes this man great isn’t how successful he is - it is his attitude about life.

“I don’t even see failure” he said, stern faced (which is rare, because this man is always smiling!), “If King Kong comes - call me. I’ll figure out a way to get him down. All you need is knowledge - with knowledge you can do anything. Fear is useless”.


I was captivated by this man - he was speaking my language!

"I love my life” he continued, “I am the luckiest guy in the world - I love what I do. I love my kids, I love my wife. I love coming to work.” He shook his head and shrugged flashing his signature toothy grin, “I am thankful every single day”.

But” he added, “I haven’t been all lucky. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. I have had a lot of bad luck too...” He told us how one of his sons, a Yale educated PhD passed from cancer not six months after getting his first job.

You know what though?” he finished, “What is a life if you don’t have any struggles? If you have it easy your whole life all you are in the end is a baloney sandwich” he shook his head in disgust and then finished off with a burst of new vigor, “You gotta put a little hot sauce or mayonnaise on that sandwich and the only way to do that is to go through some shit!”

And just like that, he let out a booming laugh like the one he did when we entered three hours prior (thanks to that fateful sudden downpour). You can’t keep a good man down.

Hot sauce and mayonnaise, indeed.

If you ever find yourself in St. Maarten (the Dutch side) pop on in to Topper’s and tell him we sent you. You might even find my picture on the wall! If it’s high season he’ll probably be busy as all heck - but if you are lucky and catch him on an off night - kick back with a shot of one of his rhums and listen to him. He’s got the right idea, for sure.

Love,

Brittany & Scott

2 comments:

capt454 said...

WOW , JUST WOW!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

What a great guy with a great story! I bet he is happy living in paradise, but sounds like he worked hard to get there. His rhums sound pretty good too ... hope to meet him (and his rum) someday.

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