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

The Love Burn (Part 2 – Phillip the Flamingo)

phillip

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 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 1)

TMS-Statler&Waldorf-BalconyBoxSeriously, 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.

Trust.