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.
“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.)
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!”
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!
The packing list was wide open for my first “Burner” event, minor in necessities, major in creative possibilities. Suffice it to say that I didn’t pack lightly. Among the many, random items I loaded into my pick-up truck (aka: Godzilla) for the weekend was my giant, inflatable, flamingo named “Phillip”. While Phillip’s natural habitat is the ocean or a pool he seemed to clearly demand a presence at our campsite, serving as a welcome & comfortable lounging alternative to the collection of collapsible beach chairs.
On our second and final night at The Love Burn I was the first one back to our campsite and I spontaneously decided to sleep on Phillip, forgoing our considerably more confining tent for inflatable, pink flamingo, freedom on such a beautiful night. Under the star filled sky, Phillip & I rested together at the edge of the territory my adventure seeking posse had claimed as our own. Comfy and liberated in the fresh air and breeze, I bathed & reveled in the glow of the constellations and bright moon as I reclined contentedly on his pink PVC. Slowly I drifted off to sleep with a perma-grin, the delicate, long, strings of white feathers that decorated our campsite canopy dancing gently in the wind as quirky, happy folks passed by in ever decreasing numbers, bedtime beckoning even the most dedicated.
At some point after I drifted off Angel (refer to Part 1) arrived back to the campsite and laid down next to me on Phillip. Angel was there that weekend with his boyfriend so I received his arrival onto Phillip’s pink flamingo shaped bedding with platonic, comfortable, welcoming warmth. With heavy eyelids I lifted my arm as he snuggled into its nook, telling him that my “boobie” made for a great pillow, to which he responded with gratitude as he burrowed in.
We slept for hours as I alternated between my arm being wrapped securely around him and holding his head in the palm of my hand.
After a sufficient, comfortable, cozy night of snuggled sleep, we slowly and simultaneously awoke for the day, all peace & contentment until he turned around….and it wasn’t Angel! Like, not just “not Angel”, this was a complete stranger! As I tried to collect my thoughts and reacclimate myself to my weekend surroundings I exclaimed, “Who are you?” to which, mirroring my own surprise and confusion, he said “How did I get here?”. With that, my posse that was tucked into the tent came alive in mutual, unapologetic laughter, collectively serving up a breakfast burrito of unbridled amusement wrapped in a canvas tortilla.
For those that are curious, the guy’s name was Eddie.
GOOD MORNING from The Love Burn! It’s time to go home.
The first of random guest appearances on this blog.
From his mouth to your ears: Cecil Speaks!
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.
Don’t forget to tip your server!
Seriously, what could be next? So far we have live brass, illicit drugs, stunning sunsets, thumping bass, & wanton sexual encounters. Like, seriously, how much more can balcony life provide? Oh, more, I assure you! And so we find ourselves at “Part 3”.
This final chapter is an ode to the “F You’ of South Beach living. While beautiful folks jetted in from beautiful places there were still those representing a dedicated (as opposed to the more commonly seasonal) residency. While the velvet ropes and “guest list” checks at the majority of establishments judged us we were busy doing the same, feeling superior in our ability to indulge in pizza, beer, and comfort from above minus a $30 cover charge for equal – if not better – entertainment. Oh, and don’t forget we get to have pizza & beer! A model’s life is not one I envy. Kate Moss once said, “Nothing tastes better than skinny.”. WRONG! Gurl, you haven’t had a slice from Bona Italian Restaurant in Wilton Manors. I may envy your paycheck but I KNOW you envy my pepperoni! *nom*nom*nom*
Moving to South Beach was a large culture shock despite the fact that I moved there from just a few states away and was just what I wanted. I found the overwhelming melting pot of nationalities fascinating and incredibly intriguing. On any given day, a few blocks stroll in my neighborhood meant encountering an average of five different dialects spoken by those sharing the sunny sidewalks. What I did not anticipate was the unexpected and unfortunate degree of pretention prevalent & practiced within this Pastel Paradise. As an ex-pat from “The South”, unapologetically representing real people and real life, I gravitated towards the residential anomalies that shared this shockingly rare similar philosophy & outlook. With that, we find ourselves at Part 3, though involving two chapters.
Chapter One: TOM
Tom and I met and established a quick and easy friendship when I moved into the balcony apartment next to his, the same one previously referenced in Parts 1 & 2 and that serves as the stage for this final tale. Together we shared and lorded over our erroneously coveted and shared perch, our balconies divided only by a whisper of metal division. Privacy was not an option when it came to the pursuit of outdoor zen time due to our coinciding schedules regarding geographically elevated enjoyment. Fortunately for both of us, we shared a friendly, welcoming, and conversational attitude that found us quickly graduating from frequent, unintentional encounters in our shared space to intentionally coordinated outdoor, collective, chill time spent swapping tales, discussions, and laughter.
We shared a kindred spirit and “buck the system’ attitude towards South Beach living. Rather than bend over backwards trying to blend into a world of “champagne & caviar” we defiantly waved our pretzels in one hand and beers in another. I will never forget the day that we’d both had it up to *HERE* with the South Beach pretention & “pretty people” and both dressed up in loosely construed costumes – me in “cowgirl” attire, him in “Jimmy Buffet” mode, big straw hat and all. We grabbed some sidewalk chalk that I had and graffitied the sidewalks of Ocean Drive until the pavement got boring so we drew on one another’s faces for a canvas change of pace. Whiskers, moustaches, etc., etc., and then meandered into one of the outdoor hotel bars where…shockingly!….we couldn’t get served! We waited & waited, giggling non-stop and ever harder as the bartenders continuously passed us by until I looked at Tom and said, “Gee, do you think they think we’re not cool enough?”. Skip to us cackling all the way out and you’ve got a solid concept of our shared attitude with no apologies and that I’d do all over again! (Kardashians, take note – put down the selfie phone mode and pick up some sidewalk chalk. You’re missing out!)
But I digress. After uncounted days & nights spent in our shared outdoor space, Tom came up with a way to entertain himself from the balcony one evening, a friend of his riding shotgun. Lucky for me, I happened to be present and a witness to the harmless, gleeful, additional middle finger he gave to South Beach one night.
I can’t remember the day of the week or even how late into the day it was, all I remember is walking onto my balcony to find Tom & his friend leaning over the railing on the opposite side of our dog gate height divide, both doubled over with stifled guffaws. To set the scenario that added to my confusion, Tom was holding a fishing pole over the side of our third floor plateau. Though it took a moment, I digested (with glee) that Tom was dangling a transparent fishing line baited with a five dollar bill for the sidewalk salmon. As I settled in to the Mischief Section, time and again he would lower the line until it laid gently on the concrete within enticing focus of those in transit below. And then….wait…..
Like a lion to its prey with bets hedged, here comes the next pretty buck and/or gazelle and, let me tell ya’, “See a penny, pick it up” ain’t got NOTHIN’ on a five dollar bill, ESPECIALLY one that “magically” whisks away when “oh so casually” reached for.
“Was it the wind (even though there isn’t any)?”
“Should I try again?”
“WHAT IS HAPPENING??”
I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination but, trust me, if you are ever bored and happen to have a balcony, a fishing pole, and a five dollar bill handy, I promise you that “bored” will no longer be a part of your evening.