Jason's Bar

Jason's Bar

A Story by Bryant James

A tale of the Caribbean, Friendship, and Pianos.


Jason’s Bar…

Bad Decisions and Good Direction.


                 This was not just to be another irresponsible escapade like most other trips I have taken with my friends. This was to be different, final, the grand finale. This year, I am twenty-two, and the stretch between great times with old friends is growing longer and longer. This is especially true for two of my oldest friends, Andy and Chubs. The three of us had talked about taking a cruise through the Caribbean since our freshman year of high school, and since we were all growing older and taking different directions in life, the time was now.

                I have known Andy and Chubs since kindergarten, and while I have made many great friends in life, these two were family. Even as close as we all are, you can’t help the separate paths life takes you sometimes. Nonetheless, we were cruising down to Jamaica for a week and leaving all of the pressures of life behind. We were going to make memories that we could not forget, no matter where life took us.

                I was in charge of booking the cruise tickets, and as three guys in their early twenties, of course we wanted to book the singles cruise. I got a travel agent, discussed the options, and booked three tickets to paradise leaving at the end of April. This began the three-month waiting period where we were texting the lyrics to Margaritaville to each other and joking about passing out in the sand on a daily basis. It could not come soon enough.

                I could not sleep the night before the trip. I doubt any of us could. All I could think about was sand, sun, and a ridiculously large drink with a brightly colored umbrella. Of course we slept late the following day, waking up with just enough time to make it to the port of Galveston. They were already disconnecting the terminals by the time we stepped on the boat, but we made it. We were walking around a few hours later, still under the impression that we were on the “single to mingle” cruise, when someone passed by and muttered something about “newlyweds and almost deads”. At this point I started to recognize that we were by far the youngest people on the boat, and you could imagine the looks we were getting from these newlywed husbands. You would have thought I was trying to turn their quiet honeymoon into Spring Break on Bourbon Street.

                As much as I wanted to convince myself that it was early in the day and everyone our age was probably napping or getting settled into their suites, I knew better. A swarming pack of old ladies raced by on walkers. I left my friends in the casino and made my way to the main desk to figure out exactly what we had gotten ourselves into.

                About twenty minutes later, I found myself walking back to break the news to Andy and Chubs that in all the pre-cruise excitement I forgot to specify “singles only cruise”, and we were stuck on the “honeymoon” cruise. They took the news far better than I did, insisting that it didn’t even matter; we were here for a week out with the guys. Chubs then muttered something about a week-long cougar hunt and then stumbled back off to the poker table; he always was the optimistic one.

                We spent that first night hanging out in the casino and getting familiar with the ship. I wasn’t surprised to when I discovered bingo was held daily in the auditorium. When we found out there was a night club on the ship, our spirits rose a little bit, but that all changed when we found the club. There were four old guys dancing to the Ghostbusters theme song, and that was enough to scare us away. Across from the night club was a little room called the Blues Bar. It had a circular bar with a piano and stage in the center. There was no one in the room except this long-haired man cleaning the piano. He informed us that the bar was closed, but there would be another show the following night. Since we saw nothing else on the ship that grabbed our attention, we headed back to our suite and decided we would check out the Blues Bar after dinner the following day.

                It was no shock when we arrived we were the youngest people in the room, but it was a great comfort to hear that he was playing a Radiohead song. This would explain the lost look on everyone’s face. It was then I noticed that the long-haired man was the pianist, and he was damn good. Just when we were about to take a seat in the back, the pianist shined a flashlight on us and welcomed “Camp Carnival” to the bar. He then proceeded to make an announcement, which he would every hour or so, “Hello everybody, welcome to Jason’s Bar. I’m Jason, and this is my bar. I will be playing songs, cracking jokes, and flirting with your wives all night. And the newest addition, it looks like the youngest kids on the boat got away from their parents and decided to join us.”

                This announcement was always similar, never the same. You could tell right away that Jason was not your “normal” act for a piano bar. He was loud, obnoxious, and hilarious. He would scream songs, change words, and was fueling himself with tequila shots. He was as much of a comedian and he was a performer, and he was a great performer. His tip jar sat in the center of the piano like a basketball goal, and for every throw I took, there was a joke waiting about stealing money from out of my mom’s purse.

                The one thing that may have saved us in this bar was that, for a blues bar, Jason had a wide array of classic to 90’s alternative songs, and we knew the lyrics to every one of them. It wasn’t long before the old couples sitting around the circular bar were waving at us to sit with them, and of course, we went. We sat down, ordered drinks, and joined in on the chorus of “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Older couples sitting around the bar were shocked to realize that not only were we enjoying these classic rock songs, but we knew every word. After every other song or so, Jason would stop and shout out, “WHO’S BAR?” Everyone always responded to this the same way, loud as ever, “JASON’S BAR.” Often he would shout this in the middle of songs; you didn’t have to be there long to know whose bar you were in. He also loved his flashlight he would keep by his side for spotlighting people he was trying to embarrass. It would always finds its way back to us though, “Can we get some high chairs up at the bar please?”

                I remember asking Jason to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” on that first night. And I also remember his response exactly, “Camp Carnival this is not Wayne’s World, but I tell you what. I’m here all week, if you come in every night I’ll play 30 seconds each night. By the end of the week, you will have heard the whole song.”

                All the older couples at the bar loved the “Camp Carnival Kids”. Not only were we the center of Jason’s jokes, but we could take them. We even got great pleasure out of joking back with him. He had a long pony tail and was sipping a tequila shot, how could you not shoot a joke back at him. We became very familiar with this crowd, and it was much of the same group all week. This was our spot, I thought to myself, this was where it was at.

                The second and third nights were much of the same. It was still just good old’ Jason singing great songs and personally picking on everyone in the room. The only difference in the next three days was that instead of hanging out on the deck of the ship all day, we were visiting a different country each day. Our spirits were very high on those nights. Always the same though, just a drunken hippie singing all my favorite songs and flirting with all the old rich guy’s wives. By this point, besides all the wonderful random music, there were a handful of songs that were expected to be played every night. Among them were songs such as: Pianoman, Brown Eyed Girl, Creep, Night Moves, Family Tradition, Margaritaville … This list goes on and on. Everyone sang when he would perform these songs and to this day, when I hear any of those songs I think of Jason’s Bar.

                It was at one of those points, during one of those songs that the underlying theme here became obvious. I looked at Chubs and Andy and thought about all the crazy, irresponsible things we had done growing up, then I looked around the room. This wasn’t irresponsible at all; we were floating in the middle of the Caribbean, enjoying drinks, having great conversations with successful people from around the world, and singing songs that were written before we were born. We had grown up. We were no longer care free kids living for the late nights. We had a world of responsibility to return to, and different roads to take when we got there.

                The next night was our last night on the boat. We spent the last day in the sun on the top deck, and I hit the water slide a few times. I had another twenty-four hours till I had to go back to all of that responsibility, so why not? We had our last dose of fresh seafood and talked about going to the Blues Bar, Jason’s Bar, one last time.

                So after we finished eating we took the familiar route to the back of the ship. When we got to the bar it was nearly empty, and the piano was still covered. The recognizable faces we had been with all week then told us the news, Jason had been fired. He was to get off the boat with all of the passengers the next day and was not allowed to perform that night. Everyone looked lost, staring at each other with blank looks on their faces. They said he was fired for his unprofessional behavior, which I could understand, but that was all part of his character. I mean, this was “Jason’s Bar”, or it was.

                So we made our way to the casino to think things over. We were all very disappointed that our last night in that great atmosphere had been taken from us. It was then I realized that Jason’s Bar was not actually a physical place, and that it was an environment I could never again surround myself with. Even if I could make it back to that bar on that particular boat, all the great people that made up this milieu would be far spread throughout the world. It was a very unique place in time. We decided that the casino was not the same, got a few drinks, and walked back to the Blues Bar. Jason or no Jason, we were at least going to have a final drink sitting around that piano.

                We sat back at the familiar circular bar, and a few of the regulars joined us. We started talking about our favorite “Jason Jokes”, and more and more of the crowd seemed to start showing up. Before we knew it, the majority of us were sitting there staring at the piano laughing about the past week. Then from out in the hall, I heard it, “WHO’S BAR?” Jason walked through the door with a tequila shot in each hand and a ridiculous smile on his face. He announced that since everyone was here, he would at least play until security came kicked him off of the piano, and “Camp Carnival I’m going to start off with Bohemian Rhapsody.”

                We finally got the last night in Jason’s Bar that we all wanted. Not only did I get the entire Bohemian Rhapsody, but we did about 45 minutes worth of the favorite songs from the past week before security showed up to ask Jason to step down from the piano. He hung around for a little while, and we all talked about how unexpected but great all of our nights here were. Jason thanked everyone, saying that we were one of the best crowds he ever had. Then he walked to the door, turned around, and shouted one last time, “WHO’S BAR?” We all looked at him, waved goodbye to the Piano man, and shouted louder than ever,  “JASON’S BAR”.

Bryant James

Baton Rouge


© 2011 Bryant James

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Added on March 7, 2011
Last Updated on March 7, 2011


Bryant James
Bryant James

Baton Rouge, LA

Undergraduate Student. Late Bloomer. Journalism. Life. Expression. more..