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.

NYC – A Tale in 3’s (Part 3)

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The final chapter of this story (see previous blogs for Parts 1 & 2), nicely wrapped up in an unsurprising bow of hot mess, hilarity, and unapologetic ownership.

PART 3
It is SO time to go to bed.  Actually, looong past time if you’re a stickler for details.  Pretty sure at this point we’re looking more like grimacing, Disney villains lurching down the sidewalk with skittering cockroaches and rats vs. pulling off Snow White twirling down the street with blue birds & cute woodland creatures.

Somehow, we hit the pot of gold at the end of the Big Apple rainbow as our tanks sputtered on empty, an ALL NIGHT DELI!!!!  Screw Batman – the owners of that 24-hour dining establishment were our super-heroes that night!  Guessing it was around 5:00 a.m. at that point.  Does that mean it’s late night grub or breakfast?  Who cares. *NOM*NOM*NOM*

Inhale, swallow, pay check, exit establishment.  We are SO damn close to our hotel but OH, I have to pee SO bad!!!!!  I know you’re thinking the same thing my friend did (and said), “Why didn’t you go when we were at the restaurant?”.  Well, I DON’T KNOW but it felt like I drank a lake and then had to hold it in for a day while listening to a shower running non-stop.  Like, this has got to happen NOW!

Literally – this is not stretched truth for effect – we were ONE hotel away from ours when I knew I wasn’t going to make it any further if I didn’t go RIGHT THEN.  We did a turbo boost (more aptly described as a “wobbly beeline”) through the side door of the chi-chi hotel next to ours and up to the concierge (aka: Late Night Hotel Lord, aka: LNHL) with obvious urgency, pleading my case and desperate request for bathroom access…..and he was having NONE of it.  He was straight out of a Hollywood NYC parody, the cliched, stuffy, “looking-down-his-nose” doorman.  Despite his disdain and attempted dismissal we urgently relayed that we were staying, literally, *next door* but I had to pee *so badly* that I was not going to make it.

LNHL:
“You’re staying next door?”

Us:
“Yes!”

LNHL:
With complete dryness and statement of fact, “No you’re not.”

O…M…G!!!  Did that just happen??  Did he REALLY just say that??  Why, yes.  Yes, he did!  I’m sure much to his surprise and horror that response was met with spontaneous, unapologetic, and uncontrollable laughter, most definitely NOT helping my desperate need for a bathroom!  I finally managed to stop just enough to say to my friend (in front of LNHL), “Well do you know where we’re staying because I’m confused!” at which point the empty lobby again echoed with our drunken & inappropriate late night guffaws.

To be diplomatic, I’ll summarize from his perspective:
1.  On a luxury hotel strip in the city but we were only there because we got a last minute, insanely discounted rate at our next door location. I’m sure he could smell it on us but, hey, hate the game, not the playa’!
2.  I was wearing a t-shirt with a blinking, shape shifting star and blue jeans in an Armani & Chanel world.
3.  My friend & I were both inappropriately and unapologetically giddy, drunk, desperate, and amused with anything & everything (including our current situation) though it seemed our amusement was not contagious.

Now here is my perspective:
1.  I have to PEE!!! NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2.  Choose wisely…..just sayin’.

Thankfully one of us (don’t recall whom) thought to pull out our key with our hotel name on it.  His shock – and disdain – at this irrefutable and unexpected proof granted his unwilling but “then appropriate” concession to let me use the lobby restroom.

Don’t worry fella’, I didn’t pee on the seat and I washed my hands when I left…but that’s because it was the hotel bathroom, not yours.

As they say at the end of concerts, “THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT!”

NYC – A Tale in 3’s (Part 2)

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There are secret doors and secret passwords to secret places in New York. When the streets have rolled up for the night understand that – on some streets, anyway – this is an illusion. You’ve just got to speak the language, meet the right people, and, most importantly, wear the right thing. At least in this case.

For the sake of being diplomatic I’ll give myself 99% credit for the success of our NYC Nocturnal Adventure. One percent respectfully goes to my amazing, non-flower eating friend (refer to NYC Part One) for putting us in the time and place for the ultimate journey to begin. “Café Wha’”, it was, an underground jazz club, “underground” meant both literally and figuratively. A favorite stop of hers, we enjoyed the music and authentic New York City ambiance and crowd. I don’t recall if we got there late or if time just went by that quickly but it’s a coin toss and, ultimately, irrelevant. The fact is, as we were innocently (I swear) soaring on adrenaline and intrigue the cue too soon arrived for the curtain drop & “last call”. Suddenly “Café Wha” became “Café Wah-wahhhhh” (insert tuba cry here). You’ve heard the term, “Go gently into the night”? Okay, good. ‘Cause we hadn’t.

Now, this is a straight up fact. It has happened on more than one “’stranger in a strange land” vacation. Call it a “skill” or call it a “mischief radar”, it makes shit happen. If you want to go off the grid I can spot the stranger in a crowd with the knowhow and extract that information like Jason Bourne, but with a shared hug and laugh, before they have time to actually do the math.

Bar lights on, crowd shuffling out. We straggle. Like, seriously straggle, getting the “You gotta’ go” looks and direct verbal address. Tolerance and time from the ranch hands responsible for leading the herd out was running dangerously short.

Scan the long bar. Male bartender. Has that just right “I’m not an asshole and I’m not grumpy even though I’m ready to go” look as he was wiping down glasses. THIS was our Wonka Golden Ticket with a wink and a smile.

We scored an address from him but when our taxi pulled up to it in the dark the neighborhood was a ghost town with a capital G”, “capital T”. As in, “If you get out here you are taking a serious gamble with your life”. Logic would say this was ill-advised especially considering this was in the late 90’s so cellphones were not mass marketed yet and were still the size of a brick. Getting out of our yellow, 4-wheeled safety was a serious commitment to the cause. Strap on your fatigues and say a prayer, we’re doin’ this! Even the taxi driver expressed that he wasn’t sure getting out here was recommended but hopefully he didn’t worry too much. If he’s reading this, I assure you we had a BLAST!!

We stood on the dark, quiet sidewalk as we watched our ride’s taillights grow ever smaller, leaving us in our, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” territory. There was not a random pizza joint nor a 24 hour drugstore to run into should things go awry but adventures are rarely made that way. We approached the door with the magic street number the bartender had confidentially provided us with though there was no sign. No lights. No windows. Most importantly, there were no people.

*Knock, knock, knock*

And just like that, we’re at the Emerald City! Seriously, writing about it as I reminisce all of these years later, that is still what immediately comes to my mind from that moment. A small, eye level, mafia-gnome type “what’s the secret password” door opened in the darkness before us. Male eyeballs peered at us with suspicion and curiosity. Sensing this was a vital moment determining the future of our evening (morning?), I didn’t waste any time relaying the message and name the bartender told us to pass on.

And the door….opened!

And …..there’s NO ONE there.

What the hell. There’s a bartender, it’s after hours and we are officially rollin’ in “secret society” status. Okay, so we’re the only ones but whatever! It feels like a bucket list item we didn’t even know we had and we didn’t have to call it a night when our tanks we’re still full of youth, curiosity, and adrenaline. We each get a drink and begin chatting with the bartender who informed us it was so empty because we are early. A little clarification: By now it’s tick-tockin’ around 2:45a.m.

Fast forward 30 minutes and it is standing room only. In context only, we are now back in “Café WHAAAA?”. How did this happen? Where did these people all come from? Ahhhhhh – welcome to the world of down-low, “In The Biz”, NYC bars.

As I’m sure you have already gathered, my friend and I are neither one timid types and the conversation with the people that had filled the empty space was flowing. But this, my friends, is where it all ties up in a perfect bow. After talking to a small group of fellow females that appeared close to our age they identified themselves as regulars and expressed how unusual it was to see non-regulars so they were curious and inquiring as to how we found it and gained entry. The whole time we had been talking with them my friend and I were sidled up to the bar on our stools, talking over our shoulders to them due to the crowded, close quarters. I turned around to better relay to them over the decibels of the crowd and the *second* that I did they let out a collective cry and one of the girls pointed and yelled, “THAT’S how you got in here!!!!”

Never underestimate the power of a shirt that has an LED star on it that shines multi-colored lights in constant motion. While you tell yourself, “I’ve seen those, big deal”, remember that this was before cell phones. Straight up truth, the battery pack that provided this shirt its stellar quality was so big that I had to tuck it between my boobs where it was barely hidden and I am a double D. We’re talking multiple AA batteries not a watch battery or a USB charger so it wasn’t widely marketed or feasible attire for most people.

To this day I have a couple of people that still call me “Blinky Star” because of that shirt.

Moral of the story: Never underestimate the power of accessorizing.