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Beaufort: A small town that wants to know where Michael Jordan is RIGHT NOW
The Big Rock Fishing Tournament is underway out at the coast, and MJ is in it, and everybody is trying to see him in the wild.
Beaufort is great because it is small, and you can literally do everything you need to do there in a weekend. The tourism folks might disagree, but I know it in my heart to be true. The whole town is about 20 blocks long. You can see it all on one long bike ride. If you work at it, you could conceivably eat at every restaurant. Like, all of them. You can make time for literally everything. Beaufort is a bite-sized meal.
My wife and I arrived late Friday evening and rushed over to Clawson’s. It closes at 9, because this is a small town, and they don’t have to put up with your late night shenanigans. Our waiter, who was spacey in an endearing teenage way, was taking our beer order. I asked for something light.
“How ‘bout an IPA?” he said.
Okay. He suggested a hoppy beer brewed a few blocks away at Fishtowne Brewing, and to really close the deal he said that Michael Jordan had ordered THAT VERY BEER when he was here a year ago. In fact, MJ himself had sat right there, a few tables away. They put him upstairs, if you’re wondering.
Our waiter said he had a picture to prove it, but we didn’t ask him for it. I think, maybe, it’s because my wife and I had been gotten good by another young kid once before. Ten years ago, when we had more disposable income, we were on a carefree bicycle tour of Paris, and our young guide told us about his love affair with a beautiful young woman. Their romance had burned too hot, and after they’d parted ways, she’d gone on to be successful. In fact, that was her right there, he said, as he pointed to a very large perfume ad on the side of the Musee D’Orsay. He was right. She was beautiful. What a story! Paris!
It was also bullshit. The girl in the ad was Brigitte Bardot.
My wife and I sensed that the MJ story was also bullshit. After all, what would he be doing at a down-homey resaurant in Beaufort a year ago, during the height of the pandemic? We gobbled down dinner and finished our beers. The IPA was, actually, quite light.
It was then that we walked out into the night and overheard everyone talking about Michael Jordan.
First off, we’d wondered why there were so many enormous boats tied up right there on the waterfront downtown. Also, what was up with all of the boutiques being full? All of the men wore long sleeve tech shirts, wraparound sunglasses, and trucker hats, and all of the young girls were straight out of sorority TikTok. I’d sort of been under the impression the Beaufort was an older folks’ place, where you’d might retire if you had enough money for a house and a small yacht and some straw hats, but there was a suspious energy in the air. As in, we’d sort of stumbled into something.
What we’d stumbled into was the Big Rock Fishing Tournament.
In short, people bring their yachts and try to land blue marlin, the largest of which can weigh close to a thousand pounds. The nexus of the tournament itself is the next town over in Morehead City, which is a little bigger and a little more modest. If you have money, you end up in Beaufort.
Which is where Michael Jordan ended up this weekend.
Last year, he’d shown up with his 80-foot-long Viking yacht and landed a very large, 400+ pound blue marlin. Even so, he and his crew aboard the CATCH 23 (get it) only finished 9th.
Michael Jordan is, famously, a man who does not like to finish 9th. Of course he came back. On Tuesday, CATCH 23 was out on the high seas, and just before 3, in a moment of high drama, had hooked a blue marlin!
Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that MJ had not in fact landed a blue marlin.
On Monday, CATCH 23 did end up pulling in a 25 pound dolphinfish. Again, not a winner, but not bad.
If you have never heard of Big Rock, let me get you caught up. In 1957, commercial fishermen in the area mostly stayed within sight of shore, and nobody thought there were blue marlin out there off the coast. So, the locals decided to hold a contest to pay up if anyone could both find one and catch one. A year later, someone did. The tournament was born. The fish are here because they hang out in the gulf stream, which is far enough out that you can no longer see land. The people are here because of the fish. And the prize money. The total purse for this year’s Big Rock is a cool $4.7 million.
But anyway, we couldn’t find Michael Jordan. That’s probably because he wasn’t going to hang out in the places where we went.
We went over to Shackleford Banks to see the wild horses. No Jordan.
We had lunch at Black Sheep. No MJ.
We biked through the entire town in a half hour. Again, we did not see him.
I searched on Twitter. Nothing. These are not Twitter people.
I guess we could have gone over to Morehead City and waited for his boat to back in. But what’s the fun in that?
That night, after dinner, my wife and I walked up to Moonrakers, a new restaurant right on the waterfront with a rooftop bar. We wanted to go up. The host up front said it was closed because of weather. No, my wife said after we walked out. It’s closed because MJ is up there. I looked up, and the rooftop appeared to be vacant. But sure, I agreed with her. He’s definitely there. The ceiling is the roof. All of that.
Look, Beaufort is a lovely place. The food is fantastic. Backstreet Pub is a great late night spot because it’s the only late night spot. The aura is lovely and historic. There is plenty to do, but not too much.
Yet, we did not see Michael Jordan. And I took that personally.