Up a Creek

Super Mario’s Island Life Behind the Kings Plaza Mall

"Guys bring their boats, blast their radios," says Ray. "They fall asleep in chairs, wake up with the morning dew on them." Seamen lead a sedentary life. Many never leave the basin. "It's so relaxing being on the water," says Ray. "It's like looking at a fish tank." A lot of Ray's fireman friends have boats. Are they drawn to the water because it is a life-saving element? "I don't know. What do you want me to be, on the couch? But one day there were 2 million in boats here. Everybody comes for Mario. But too many guys, we need more women. Kelly's really great. She brings pieces of London broil. She's a bartender, body to kill for."

Kelly, 30, who just moved from California and wants to be a court stenographer, met Mario at Bill's, where he sometimes drops by on the bicycle that he keeps on shore. At Bill's, a little brown bar from 1930 with a paper turkey in the window, you can get a Manhattan at 10 in the morning. Kelly thinks Mario's island is "a riot, a trip. I get seasick so I can't go out in deep water. But there, the water's calm."

"Everybody loves Mario," Jimmy Lobster says. "You go down, you bullshit about your life. He tells you what's going on. He don't look like much but he's a very smart man. I come from Staten Island just to hang out with Mario. Everybody brings him stuff—clothes, food."

From left: Ray, Mario, Dom, and Jimmy the Painter
photo: Michael Kamber
From left: Ray, Mario, Dom, and Jimmy the Painter

"He wouldn't hurt a fly," Ray says.

"There's something about him," Kelly says. "People just go to him. They just cling to him."

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