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.

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

The HIGHS & lows of Balcony Living in 3 Parts (Part 1)

South-Beach-Miami-Florida-hotels-728x318South Beach, it’s neon & pastel heyday of the mid to late 90’s.  Day and night (though mostly night) the beautiful people and less genetically blessed tourists filled three main streets,  Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, & Washington Avenue. My apartment building was sandwiched in the middle of the three on Collins.  Leggy models pranced down the sidewalk in their Louboutins while gleaming Ferraries idled like  kittens with a mean streak as they waited for the light to turn green.  Who *wouldn’t* want a balcony to gaze on the parade of beauty and lights down below?

You do NOT want a balcony to gaze on the parade of beauty and lights down below.  Well, unless it is MUCH higher than the third floor, my building’s top floor.  With only three balcony apartments offered out of a total of 30 units scoring one was the brass ring on the accommodations carousel.  Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was fleeting as I quickly developed a deep and appreciative understanding for the saying, “Be careful what you wish for”.

South Beach is primarily known for three things.  We’ll call it the “Triple B Equation”.
1.  Beach
2.  Beauty
3.  Bars

Okay, technically item #3 should be “Nightclubs & lounges” but “Double B + N & L Equation” doesn’t have much literary melody to it.  Keep in mind that, also regarding item #3, the party was in full swing most nights of the week and saw itself through until the sunrise, sometimes longer.  Of course, large numbers of people means an equally large amount of traffic.  They had to get there somehow and many of them opted to “cruise the strip” for some of the best people watching available anywhere.  Surely it was the latter automobile occupants whom Nicki Minaj is singing about because they were “All about that bass, ‘bout that bass. No treble!”.  No treble but, I’ll tell you, they had a SHIT TON of decibel that provided the soundtrack for our dishes & tchotchkes to dance along.  Indoors and three stories up, my stuff on shelves would vibrate due to the take-no-prisoners volume & chorus of car stereos all through the night.  No extra charge!

Ah, the peace & tranquility of beach living.

Your Invitation – Space Limited! (Eye roll pun free of charge)

Are you a Tweeter?  https://twitter.com/PrOGinFTL
Not pissed off at Mark Zuckerburg?  https://www.facebook.com/PrOGinFTL/

A “Gay Concert”

TrueColors_EventPoster

I once received a memorable post-it note from a boss regarding a delicate situation, “Tact is for weenies” stamped on the pad.  Another quote relevant to this tale (a la’ Dragnet): “I just want the facts, ma’am.”  Sometimes silence is the best strategy as facts speak for themselves.

Rewind to 2008 and a concert tour that you may or may not recall, organized and headlined by the ever fabulous, eclectic, electric hue haired songbird otherwise known as Cyndi Lauper.  It was the “True Colors” tour, offering up a delectable feast for both the ears and the heart due to an amazing line up of artists and its accompanying cause regarding awareness & accomplishment towards gay rights and equality.

It is a curious yet undisputed, and often laughed about, fact amongst my friends that I have frequently been the disco nurse yielding a bedazzled stethoscope skilled at locating the heartbeat of entertainment options directed towards the gay community.  The reason that this stands out as unusual is that in my vast circle & community of gay friends I wear “The Cheese Stands Alone” title, a hetero adrift in a loving, rainbow colored sea.  And so it was at my discovery and suggestion that my best friend and I found ourselves at the True Colors concert.

As we pulled up to the stadium with a couple of other friends in tow, excitedly chattering as we exited the vehicle and made our way in, I made a random comment about it being “a gay concert”.

*****SCREEEEECCCHHHHHHH******  Hit the brakes!  I was in TROU-BLE (yes, all caps style)!

“A GAY concert?”, my best friend shouted back, abruptly coming to a halt mid-stride and glaring at me fiercely.  “What do you mean, a GAY concert?”.

Well…….  Ummm, wait. WHAT?  WHAT is happening?

All of the sudden my best friend, who was gay (only using past tense as he has since passed away, though I’m sure it doesn’t require a mathematics degree to reach that equation as relevant to his reaction.), was glaring at me with laser eyes shining bright with disapproval, indignation, and offense.

NEVER did we argue and certainly never did I mean or cause any offense in this or any other matters, regardless of nature.  As Michael Jackson told Paul McCartney (can you tell I’m a fan of quotes?), “I’m a lovah, not a fighter.”.

As I reeled myself in from the line of shock that had just been cast I began trying to explain the nature of the “True Colors” tour (of which he was completely unaware) but it was falling on purposefully deaf and defiant ears.  There was to be no explaining because there certainly was no listening as he hooked arms with our lesbian friend that was along and loudly said, “Come on, Barb – let’s go into the GAY CONCERT!” and began marching ahead of me, my new view of his back firmly in check.  As I continued to try to explain we entered the stadium together where we immediately encountered a small group of common friends.  Gay friends.  “Hi, hi!”, *hug* hug*.  “We’re so excited about the concert!  Great to see you – have fun!”, blah, blah, blah.

Just a few steps further and I get bum rushed from the side.  More hugs & “hiya’s” and exchanged enthusiasm regarding the shared evening laid before us.  “I just want the facts, ma’am.”.  Also gay.

As we took our place in the cattle line to grab cocktails & beer he continued to throw committed but diminishing shade and disgruntled “moos” in my direction. Next thing you know there’s a *tap*tap* on my shoulder.  Turn around and, Hellooooooo, gay friends!  Standing in line together, we awaited our turn to drink from the trough as the lasers blissfully continued to dim.

Our drink mission accomplished and in hand, we set off to locate our seats and embrace a great night of live music and camaraderie, though not before passing another cluster of friends on the way who yelled out and waved.

Oh my, you ARE quick.  GAY!
Gay, gay, gay, gay, GAY!

And so my friend completed his evolution from cow to sheep(ish) as he looked at me and said, “Okay, I guess you’re right.  This is a gay concert.”, to which I gave no reply, just a wink and a shared laugh, grateful for the gradual & refreshing rain that put out the fire of fury.  It’s omething we laughed about for all the years together that followed and that I still do on my own.  Hopefully it made you too.  🙂

“Tact is for weenies.”

n1367756729_30101817_7876

Photo Credit (True Colors poster):
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904

Lived To Tell, Part 2 (The Granddaddy Hole)

Girl-Riding-Bike-Over-Grand-Canyon--93300

Easin’ on down the road (cue Diana Ross), next stop – The GRAND Canyon!  Also referred to upon our arrival as “The Granddaddy Hole” and “The Hole to End All Holes”.  Though our preferred names for this world re-known attraction may not be as widely known I’m certain that they are equally documented terms for this impressive, unique, and potentially dangerous destination.  That said, in this “Bennifer” and “Brangelina” world perhaps “G-Can” is better suited now. Call it what you will, the weather greeted us with double dose of beauty and calm, clear skies as we eased into our parking spot to embrace & appreciate our introduction to this natural wonder.

When we first arrived we were appropriately awestruck.  Numerous, defined sunbeams provided special lighting appropriate to such a spectacular stage.  If ever you wish to feel humbled regarding your individual existence you need only go to the Grand Canyon.  One cannot stand before it and not gain new and appreciative understanding of how vast & spectacular our world truly is.

We arrived just an hour or so before sunset.  Perfect, actually, as our research had emphasized that this Grand Canyon Goodnight Kiss was a spectacle not to be missed.  Mother Nature, however, was ready to test our commitment.

Fast forward about 30 minutes with darkening skies and scattering tourists.

Nope.  We’re not going anywhere.  You can’t scare us, Mother Nature!  Well, maybe a little bit…but we’re still not leaving!

As long as there was some sun to be seen, by God, we were going to see it set!  That determination fully in check, we did logically opt to wait in the car as the drizzle converted to rain and the rain converted to a wind-whipped downpour.  Fortunately, we’d had the foresight to have ponchos handy for our Wild West adventure so it was just a matter of biding our time until the spectacle deemed worthy of donning our unfashionable but functional rain gear.  As we passed the time in the dry confines of our rental car we listened to the local, a.m., information station for the state park.  As Mother Nature seemed to be embracing and exhibiting ever escalating PMS (Potentially Massive Storm with accompanying behavior suitable to the more commonly know definition of this acronym) there was little comfort to be had by listening to our radio station of choice.  Tales and warnings of Tourist’s Last Stands taken place over the past 24 hours were seriously conveyed, caution & warning emphasized.  Particular reports of note included the visitor who chose to disregard the restricted areas, subsequently resuting in a memorable departure from this earth via a long fall into the canyon, and another party who had a tree fall on their tent the night before.  FYI – the fact that we were tent camping for the first time on our trip that night and that the wind had picked up to kite shredding levels was not lost on us.  (Note to selves:  If our assigned tent site is near a giant tree we are sleeping in the car.)  Still we listened to the voices and the rain, mixing together into our mental cauldron of concern, dismay, intrigue, and defiance.

Should we leave?  YES!
Were we going to leave?  NO!
We were at The Granddaddy Hole and our mamas didn’t raise no wimps (though I’m fairly certain that they would not have sanctioned this choice).

Okay, here it is – the time is NOW! Sunset has taken the stage, the headline performer.  Suiting up in what is best described as blue, human tents with armholes, we burst open the car doors with determination and headed once again to the unobstructed and thinly railed lookout point, this time in gale force winds and blinding rain, plenty of elbow room now available on the previously crowded lookout as everyone with common sense had left.

So you know when there’s a massive hurricane hitting somewhere and the “low reporter on the totem pole” is standing out in death defying winds & rain (hopefully with hazard pay) to let us know how crappy & dangerous the weather there truly is (serving as a human exclamation point)?  Yep – like that.  But we saw the sunset, dammit, and it was STUNNING!

Mother Nature may have had PMS but so did we.  Our PMS stood for Pre-determined Mission Success.  We’ll never forget it….

AND we LIVED TO TELL!