“Are we doing this now?” Rachel Bowman asked, while slinging sunset cocktails and conch ceviche three deep at Kracken Up, the upstairs bar at Keys Fisheries. Her 20 questions started with a “nope, totally get it, call me when you get off work.”
Known around town for her lionfish eradication advocacy (click here for that article) she is also a server, bartender, errand girl, maid, chauffeur, boat captain, tournament organizer, donation wrangler, and the list keeps going.
Hailing from the same town as Michael Jordan — Wilmington, North Carolina — she said went to a benefit concert after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and ran into three ex-boyfriends that night. “On the drive home, I decided that life was too short to stay somewhere just because you’re comfortable,” she said. “My father spent time in the ’70s and ’80s fishing out of Holiday Isle, and I had grown up hearing stories about the Keys, so I threw everything I owned in my Honda, and drove south.”
Her claim to fame: I am in a large number of “Dawson’s Creek” episodes. (We especially liked spotting her in the Halloween one…)
Her lionfishing started in 2013, while running a boat for Adolphus Busch IV. “He dives exclusively for lionfish, and after watching him get out of the water with these exotic looking fish, I decided to give it a try,” she said. “I don’t know of anyone else in the Keys who was harvesting lionfish like he was, and Adolphus is one of the most conservation-minded people I know. My life would be a lot less interesting if it weren’t for the opportunities he’s presented me with.”
So, tell us more, Rach.
Nicknames? Red. Red-headed Rachel. I swear to God I had a busser who referred to me as “Rachizzle-my-nizzle.” (And Crazy Larry swears my name is Rebecca.)
How many times have you been poked (by a lionfish…)? 3,728,421 and ½ times. But, not once since I got a ZooKeeper. I have a couple of seriously fat-hand pictures.
Sell me the most popular thing at Kraken Up… Those stone crab claws sell themselves! They have the shortest commute of any seafood in town. I swear they crawl across the parking lot by themselves, they’re so fresh.
You stayed in Marathon for Hurricane Irma. What was the craziest thing that happened? The house next door is on fire, we’re standing in the Marathon Fire Department garage, and we are the only people there. Do we steal a fire truck? (Borrow it, really.) Is that illegal? Will we get in trouble? We didn’t do it, which I regret. Who knows when I’ll get that chance again.
You were quite a hero to many in the aftermath… All of these people working at Aquarium Encounters are completely ignoring their own homes and property, and they’re just so focused on keeping these animals alive. (And also those at Dolphin Research Center and Bette from the Turtle Hospital, who was not only operating without power or water, but was also taking in new injured turtles.) I can’t fix a generator, but I can feed people and wash clothes in my bathtub. Sweating your ass off is a little easier if your underwear is clean.
One thing you wish you had after the hurricane? One of those washboard things they sell at Cracker Barrel.
Dream meal: you are sitting at a diner counter eating, who walks in and sits next to you? My father. To hear his voice, to ask his advice, to hear his laugh … Stop reading this, and call your dad and tell him how much you love and appreciate him.
Favorite Keysy thing to do (other than lionfishing)? Working four jobs to be able to afford to live here. It doesn’t get any more Keysy than that.
Which TV or movie character is your alter ego? I want to be Carrie from “Sex in the City,” but I’m 100 percent Miranda.
What would your superpower be? If I can’t have the ability to breathe underwater, then I’d like the ability to shoot cooked spaghetti out of my fingertips. (Editor’s Note: We think coffee just came out our nose.)
Favorite place in the Keys, not on the water? The Marathon library. Read these: “The Travels of Jamie McPheeters,” “The Stand,” “ Lonesome Dove,” “The Longest Day,” and “The Winds of War.”
If you could take one item on a deserted island? Sexy Boyfriend, for sure. He watches all of those survival shows, and he’d be terribly useful.
The boat is sinking, you grab … Chase Grimes. He’d make sure I’d get to shore safely (because his parents and StepMotherMargie would be really mad if he didn’t), and we’d probably laugh a lot and have kind of a good time.
Favorite guilty pleasure? ABC’s&123’s with meatballs. If I don’t have at least 10 cans in the house, I’m not comfortable.
If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you do/buy? A house, in Marathon, with lots of rooms for my hardworking friends, so they could stay in the Keys.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to? Idaho. There’s no humidity there, and my hair looks almost normal.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A Solid Gold dancer and a Ghostbuster.
Finish these sentences…
Mr. Jameson, my gigantic Maine coon, would describe me as … the only person in the world that he loves; he tolerates you, Dr. Dunn. TOLERATES. It’s me that he loves.
Sexy Boyfriend would describe me as … never home.
Marathon is like … family. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I have to say this town wrapped it arms around me, and squeezed me tight. I’m so lucky to live in the midst of such incredible people.
I live by the motto … I got this.