Fort Lauderdale's Jungle Queen: Once Upon a River
As I worked on the piece, I was struck by
what a gentleman owner Jerome Faber was when I interviewed him. He was readily accessible and took my call each time (which is actually pretty unusual for someone to pick up the phone on a first try.) He answered questions he was comfortable with and graciously deflected those he felt were none of my business. He spoke with pride about his work and was sincere in his affection for this city he calls home.
I was moved by the employees working the dinner. Ulysses, the bartender in the story, sang praises about how much he liked the job and pointed out half a dozen people who have worked for the company for more than a year. He wished aloud to me that he could lasso a job there for a friend who was out of work.
I met one woman who has worked for the Jungle Queen since 1998 and her son who's been serving food there for four years. What's it like to work for a business with a parent- since 2008, the year the economy tanked? The guy was downright grateful.
So many people were loyal to a restaurant as an employer: striking, since it's nortoriously tough to cull loyalty in the hospitality industry. More than one staffer said how much the job rescued him financially and offered a familial work environment.
And as far as the landscape of Lauderdale from the New River: When I took the ride on Labor Day weekend, the 9/11 anniversary was around the corner and loomed large in my mind. I had lived in New York at the time and have been hyper cognizant of its affects in my personal and professional life since.
I was reminded of it yet again while perusing the Doppler effect of how the tragedy and the nation's subsequent financial crisis obliterated some and missed others all the way down here. Behemoth skeletons of abandoned homes gaped open next to mansions that were bustling and alive. Sleek yachts mowed past neglected ones in boat jail. Many, many stories from the MC focused on the reign of yesteryear rather than tomorrow.
Despite the MC's stories, it was clear plenty of folks I saw on the trip have edited their expectations down to smaller houses, smaller boats, or simpler pleasures: much like people aboard The Jungle Queen, who harbored no grand pretense of what it had to offer and looked forward to the evening nonetheless.
Read my review on the experience here.
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