Yup! That Just Happened

One thing about southeast Florida, it’s never boring!  Predictable only in its unpredictability, I’d say “I’ve seen it all” but when one’s encounters include a lingerie wearing male regularly jogging in place on the same corner, a pick-up truck carrying a male & female skeleton on a Harley in the back (not at Halloween, mind you – this is Florida!), a jogger running daily holding a cocktail tray (including drinks) with attached colorful streamers flapping in his wake, and a sunrise beach stroll that provided a good morning “Santeria Surprise” in the form of three dead chickens carefully lined up in front of the tide, well, it’s why it’s the first place I’ve ever lived that I didn’t want to leave.  You see, the reason I always moved from other places was because I got bored.  ‘Nuf said.  23 years now as a Floridian tucked into the waistband of my shorts and counting.

There’s a reason why there’s a show on the I.D. (Investigative Discovery) Channel called “Truth is Weirder Than Florida”.  Were someone to ask me to draw a picture of S.E. Florida I’d use a busted up, brightly colored, paper peeled, crayon.  If Florida were a writing utensil….THAT.  Palm trees, playful geckos, wild parrots, and ocean breeze thrown in for free.

The most memorable and cooperatively timed example of the beloved & borderline alternate universe that I call home was shared with a long term, dear friend and her husband visiting from out of town.  Though neither are “bar people” they are creatively dedicated photographers and videographers always on the lookout for new & interesting subject matter.  With this in mind, I told them to trust the process as we piled into my car for the short drive to the longest operating and most notorious bar on the Fort Lauderdale beachfront, the Elbo Room.  Always rowdy, loud, and abuzz with mischievous, positive energy, that day was no exception.  As we headed into the fray on a sunshine laden day I assured them that:

1.  We wouldn’t have to stay long.
2.  They wouldn’t be sorry they came.
3.  They would have photo/video worthy material.

I, and the Elbo Room, did not disappoint.

Keeping in mind that the Elbo Room is never a bore, that day proved to be extra cooperative regarding my assurances.  Minutes into our lucky claim on an outdoor table by the stairs, a group of what is best described and understood as “Bros” initiated their own, self-appointed, judging panel directed towards randomly selected pedestrians as they walked, strutted, stumbled, or drove by, much to the delight of the tipsy and ample patrons sharing the establishment.  How “The Bros” got their large “scorecards” will forever remain a mystery though there is a drugstore a few blocks down where poster board, scissors, and  markers can be easily acquired by one who is so inclined.  Fortunately for all involved, it was playful fun as they were not cruel or unkind, average scorecards held up in unison running 6’s, 7’s, & 8’s.  An occasional 9 and a singular, unanimous, 10 were met by the bar with vocal enthusiasm.

As our unsuspecting out of towners looked at us with wide eyed amusement, surprised laughter, and confirmation of my promised delivery we were all to find this was just the appetizer.  The main course, the “Piece de resistance”, was to be revealed shortly. Having brought them to this spot for their cameras to capture the “Picture worth a thousand words”, even their cameras were struck speechless as we all watched “real life” that spoke not a thousand but a million words, all silently yelled in delightfully demented triumph. Keep in mind that this is now maybe 20 minutes, tops, into our arrival.

Yup.  It’s the middle of the afternoon.
Yup.  It’s the most major intersection on the beach.
Yup.  That’s a stunning, statuesque girl on the corner in front of the Elbo Room and, really, who *doesn’t* wear high heels with their bikini at the beach?

The sliver of sarong wrapped around the waist of the long haired, doe like, sexpot was somewhat mystifying considering her additional (and minor) wardrobe selections.  Whether it served as a carefully selected accessory or a whisper of modesty one thing was certain:

It’s not everywhere that you randomly encounter a tall, high heeled, bikini & sarong wearin’, genetically blessed female on the beach.  Well, okay, in S.E. Florida you do but not one walking a baby goat on a leash.

Did I say “Yup”?  That happened.

**bleaaaat**
goat

U.F.O.’s, WTF?

area51
“U.F.O.’s, and aliens, and alternate universes, oh my!”

The first time I explored “Alien Territory”, both literally as a region of the U.S. I’d not previously been to and figuratively as the area of North America best known for  U.F.O. intrigue, a’la Roswell and Area 51, my senses and “alien radar” were abuzz!  Though I’m skeptical regarding abductions I don’t rule them out completely and I’m just happy to say I can’t speak from personal experience (and I’d like to keep it that way).  End of the day, I’m a believer, and have even made the mecca to the U.F.O. museum in Roswell, New Mexico from S.E. Florida twice, a destination only reached through purposeful intent due to its remote location.

On an extended road-trip through the southwestern United States, my friend & I knew we had officially entered X-Files domain when we passed an electrical box on a busy street corner that was currently doubling as a canvas for an amateurish but passionate painting of a large alien head and U.F.O. that dominated a background of night sky.  Accompanying this imagery were the brush-stroked and thought provoking words, “Do you believe?”.  This random but clear welcome to “Alienville” demanded a brief filming & photo op that we obliged by pulling over in the bustling intersection, unashamed & unapologetic, giggling, tourists.

Many miles to go to that days destination, the sunlight slowly disappeared until it winked goodbye on the western horizon.  With its departure there was no civilization present as far as the eye could see to offer even the faintest glow to cut the pitch black, desert, darkness as we navigated our rental car onward.  Traveling the dark and barren landscape, vehicles passed us and visa-versa only at noticeably extended intervals.  Fortunately, as good friends do, we had no trouble amusing ourselves as the hours and the miles ticked by, aliens naturally being a discussed and revisited topic of conversation along the way.  Until……suddenly……

”WHAT WAS THAT?”, I yelled out in alarm and excitement, leaning over her to get a better look out her driver’s side window.  “What?  WHAT?”, she loudly responded, uncertain whether to be alarmed or intrigued.

Me:  (Stammering and exclaiming) “I SWEAR, I just saw a light going across the sky and it just DISAPPEARED!”

Her (again):  “Where?  WHERE?”

Me:  “It was right out your window……”

(nervous giggles while she drove and I continued gazing intently)

Me:  “THERE IT IS AGAIN but IN A DIFFERENT PART OF THE SKY!”

Her:  “Where?  WHERE?  Oh my god! Where?”  (obviously working with limited dialogue under the circumstances)

Me:  “I swear, I’m not kidding you! I just saw it again but in a different part of the sky!”

No other cars in sight, it was just us, the desert, and the aliens.

I rapidly began fumbling in the darkness of our car for the video camera we had brought along to film our journey for future Memory Lane viewing.  This *obviously* deserved inclusion as part of our vacation experience and, more importantly, documentation for official, scientific review!  Despite my amateur filming skills and our mutually distracting squeals of excitement, disbelief, and shock, I managed to get the video camera out and the lens into focus.  I directed the camera towards, and recorded, out the front of the windshield into the void of the empty sky as we waited for our next Visitor From Beyond to make their presence known….and we were not disappointed!  This time BOTH of us saw it – “Oh my god!  Oh my god!  Oh my god!”

Her:  “I saw it!  I saw it!  Ohmygod!”

Me:  “I told you!  Ohmygod!  Pull over!  PULL OVER!”

(Insert ear piercing, extended, exclamations, merged together in a non-sensical, audio train-wreck.)

Then…..silence.

Too entranced to pull over, to do anything other than gaze with hypnotized wonder into the ebony infinity above, we saw yet another, this time clearly a different light that was much closer though which disappeared just as quickly as its companions.  Then, just a moment later, it played its role in this extraterrestrial game of “Simon Says” as it too reappeared.  A little bit longer and….AGAIN!  Same thing, different place in vast sky.  They…were…EVERYWHERE!  We were absolutely beside ourselves and it truly was one of the most exciting and intriguing moments of my life until…….

Her:  “Oh my god.  They’re PLANES!”

Me:  “Noooooo.”

Her:  “Yes!  Look!  You can barely see them because it’s so dark but there are clouds in the sky!  Every time we see a light it’s a plane and when it disappears it is going behind a cloud and then comes out the other side!”

Me:  (Gazing intently, the car loud with silence)

****There it is AGAIN!****

…..and now I see the damn cloud around it’s lights.

(Insert sound of deflating balloon *here*)

And so the road trip, us, and life moved on with one new item, a helluva’ entertaining vacation video segment, and one remaining item:

I still believe!

mork

The Love Burn (Part 1 – Alice in Wonderland)

love burn sceneI first became aware of the visually, mentally, & emotionally awesome psychedelic circus known as Burning Man from a friend in the late 90’s. My younger sister actually went shortly after I first heard about it but the internet was new and information was scarce in my east coast locale while she resided within reasonable driving distance from California at the time and ran with a creative crowd privvy to connections in the event’s earlier days.  Ever since that initial, dual, & coinciding enlightenment of its existence I’d been deeply intrigued but it seemed a huge commitment to go to the B.F.E. desert in Nevada for a week, especially with no personal kindred spirits up to the shared adventure.

Blink your eyes and click your heels and it’s 16 years later and the world of Burning Man was once again knocking on my door, this time the messenger in the form of a casual, groovy, friend heavily involved in the local art scene and community who shared with delight and encouragement a new but locally based regional event called “The Love Burn”. Luckily, fate was ready for me just a year after receiving this new information when I met both the appropriately & ironically named Angel at a shared friend’s pool party.  HERE was the “Angel” of Adventure I’d been waiting for, just having tucked in his wings for landing after his sixth, official Burning Man when a destiny magnet connected us.  Upon learning where he had just returned from, I excitedly told him about the “The Love Burn” and my massive interest that lacked a partner in crime, an event new enough that he was not yet aware of it despite his much broader circle of “Burners”.

After nearly two decades of intrigue, our introduction and mutual interest resulted in a long awaited, unforgettable, February weekend in 2017 where I found myself at a “Burning Man” event with Angel and two other adventurous souls he brought along, James & Laura (also first timers/aka: Burner Virgins).  Though this event was on a significantly smaller scale, we were all excited about the explosively artistic, weekend long adventure that beckoned  As a collective group we’d only shared a single, brief introduction prior to our commitment to set up & share camp at the state park where it was held.  We could not have been more different in appearance yet we were all incredibly like-minded regarding the ingredients vital to a great weekend: Shared excitement, low maintenance, a sense of humor & adventure, and an appreciation for camping. Let the games begin!!!

I knew that I was in for a unique and memorable experience but never in my deepest R.E.M. state could I have imagined how incredible it would truly be! Upon arrival and throughout the first day and night, freshly encountered attendees greeted us with heartfelt hugs vs. casual handshakes while previously acquainted “Burners” practiced the same but with an added, verbal, “Welcome home”. With very rare exception, outgoing strangers invited you in, or dropped in, throughout the shared maze of campsites for drinks, food, hugs, and random, handmade, gifts. Costumes were the order of the day and night with faux fur, LED or glow lights, crazy hats, colorful wigs, feather boas, and the like. Animal ears on heads, random & elaborate costumes, onesies, and tutus were the fabulous norm on both genders at every turn. These were my people! All of the things that I have always loved that are atypical surrounded and embraced as far as the eye could see, delightfully shared by kindred spirits. While I can’t say I felt 100% a part of the collective crowd on this Burner Virgin encounter, many of whom were obviously not first timers at such a rodeo, I can say that I felt 100% happy! I met people from as far away as Israel and as close as six blocks from where I live, all of them welcoming, as we shared this incredibly positive, powerful, creative, surrounding that danced, tickled, and embraced all of the senses simultaneously.

After the sun went down is when the real magic happened. Those that know me personally are well aware that colored lights call me like a moth to the flame and THEY….WERE…..EVERYWHERE!  EVERY kind of light you ever thought, hoped, or knew existed, playfully lighting the way to (and as a part of) art, art, and more art, as far as the eye could see amongst the outdoor setting of meandering paths, clusters of trees, and wide open beach. Giant Pac-Man ghosts playfully passed by at unannounced intervals in the dark, glowing brightly and larger than life, the products of exterior decoration on motorized vehicles manned by tickled conductors.  Colorful, LED lit, mushroom shaped buggies filled with beaming, costumed riders rolled by as we delighted in encounters with hodge-podge igloos and outdoor lounges that beckoned around every turn, their exotic carpets, pillows, and couches welcoming all who passed. Fire as natural art in motion was abundant, startling me with delight as soaring flames burst into the air from random & unexpected locations.

pac man

One of our collective favorite spots was an enormous, metal, geometric dome peppered with plasma globes located amongst a dense area of trees completely & beautifully bathed in thousands of pinpoint, “fairy”, twinkling, laser lights. It was magic! We made an unintentional habit of getting lost in the dark and going in circles but that only served to add to the mystery, hilarity, and intrigue of it all. The best and most accurate way to describe the experience is, as attendees, everyone there became a real life Alice (or Alex) in Wonderland.

At some point I became separated from my cohorts and found myself in another massive, open air, geometric structure, this one featuring jaw dropping, majestic, beautifully menacing flames of fire in constant motion overhead.  J.R.R. Tolkien would have been proud and I wouldn’t have been surprised at that point if a hobbit or Gollum ran by.  A d.j. kept the beat for the dancing of both the flames and the people below with reckless yet purposeful, unapologetic, abandon. People laughed and twirled in pairs, doing cartwheels in top hats, as others blissfully lived in the moment alone, embracing their singular nirvanas and dancing, as they say, “like nobody’s watching”. With wide eyed delight I watched, soaking it all in with fascination, until I suddenly made the conscious and easy choice to let go of my (albiet always minor) self-consciousness.  Putting my bag down, a’ la Billy Idol, I began dancing with myself in the beautiful, mesmerizing, incomparable, “Wonderland of Zero Fucks Given”. No one judging, only appreciating, sharing, and smiling in this unique place and space of full freedom of expression.
love burn fire

Modern day Xanadu, “Love Burn” be thy name!

 

The HIGHS & lows of Balcony Living in 3 Parts (Part 3, Chapter 2 – aka: The End)

whiteshepherdsf4

Chapter Two:  Tony

More accurately, Tony’s dog, but background is necessary.

Tony was the affable maintenance guy for the apartment complex, a fellow balcony dweller located one floor below Tom & I (see Chapter One).  Tony was also a “fish out of water” South Beach transplant which meant that we were friends.  A Jersey ex-pat, he was all pick-up truck & mullet hold out with a huge smile and no apologies.  A helluva’ nice guy.  I became friends with him and his girlfriend and was charmed & tickled when they adopted their gorgeous, white, stunning, German Shepard.

It’s important to mention here that our apartment building was above a very popular sushi restaurant, the original “Sushi Rock Café”.  Tony’s unit/balcony was just one floor above the outdoor dining area whereas Tom & I’s were two levels up.  That said, this particular (and final) tale of balcony life is short but oh so worthy of inclusion!

As we often did, Tom and I were comfortably sitting and chatting on our 3rd floor adjacent balconies when our conversation was suddenly interrupted by a LOUD commotion from below.  A fast and furious frenzy of loud exclamations were accompanied by the clashing and crashing of glassware & silverware, quickly followed by a shouting match that somehow included Tony one floor below.

DOH!  WHAT is going ON?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Of course, Tom & I leapt to attention in rapid synchronicity of full on “nosy neighbor” mode, peering together over our perch from above and oh…..it was so much better than anything we could have imagined!  You see, Tony’s poster boy Shepard, fully embracing and reflecting his Jersey Daddy’s attitude regarding his South Beach surroundings, had given in to the fact that he just simply had to GO.  But, truly, how could Tony be mad? His regal, furry companion didn’t go to the bathroom in the apartment. He didn’t even pee on the balcony. No, he was a good boy!  Instead he peed right over the railing….and right on to the diners below.

Dog: 1
Diners: 0

Don’t forget to tip your server!

The HIGHS & lows of Balcony Living in 3 Parts (Part 2)

did-you-go-out-last-night-maybe-24962913So now that we’ve determined in Part 1 that balcony living wasn’t all that I thought it was cracked up to be it did, no doubt, offer various forms of unique & free entertainment.  This double headed coin toss promised interesting experiences regardless of the way it landed though in very different ways.

The Shiny Side
On Thursday nights this South Beach balcony life provided a unique and sweetly missed amenity in the form of a true sunset serenade.  Less than a block down from my apartment, amongst the diehard, old school, art deco, hotels was a lobby based jazz club that reliably kicked off their early weekend happy hours with a lone saxophonist playing on their pastel colored patio.  Arriving home after a long day of work, my Thursday night ritual included quickly and blissfully exchanging my cramped, corporate heels for flip flops and taking an appreciative front row seat in my private balcony section for the “Sax & Sunset” duet.  Beautiful and calming, it provided an instant attitude adjustment after a rough day, and an instant attitude reinforcement when already having a good one.

The Tarnished Side
Another included form of exclusive entertainment one could take advantage of from my crow’s nest, though not nearly as wholesome or mainstream, was a front row seat to a production we’ll call “The Peep Show Below”.  You would be surprised at the things that people do in their cars late at night when they think no one can see.  Let’s emphasis the word “think” and if you happen to be one of those people then may I suggest that you scan around to see if there are balconies in the vicinity for confirmation that your private acts are, in actuality, private.  It should come as no surprise that an area known for its nightlife is bound to attract a fair number of folks who like to live on the edge, some of them playing a role in “Scarface”, some in “Debbie Does Dallas”.  Let’s just say that looking down from my perch above was not always “family friendly” as occasionally a slow rolling (or idling) car would be providing me a real life version of one of these movies and – pop yer popcorn – occasionally both at the same time.  Double feature, FTW!  Crockett & Tubbs job would have been so much easier if they’d just rented an apartment at my complex.

Said it once, I’ll say it again,
“Ah, the peace & tranquility of beach living.”

mv

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