Cervesa Hammock Smack Down

cervesa

Home to rickety rented golf carts, mystery concoctions at suspect establishments, and borderline concussions, welcome to Costa Maya, Mexico!  It’s just like the brochure!

A trio of peeps in full celebration mode, we set off on our cruise to Mexico together to ring in the milestone birthday of our attending guest of honor.  Through juggled frozen cocktails, new acquaintances, and spontaneous naps, the three of us managed to collectively hit the ground running in our various ports of call.  Costa Maya being the final one we were extra ready to explore and make it count.

We’d opted not to book any excursions in our various destinations as we chose to explore on our own and, well, because we were mostly broke.  Unscheduled and unescorted adventure offered both a smaller price tag and more flexibility while in each day’s destination, a mutually agreed upon win/win strategy.

With no game plan and a sense of adventure we moo’d our way off of the gangway in the passenger cattle herd, excited & eager for whatever the day chose to yield.  We made our way through the mandatory shopping area of that day’s port without too much distraction knowing we’d return on our way back to the ship for any last minute “must have” tchotchkes that we previously never knew we had to have.  Upon exiting the obligatory labyrinth of shops we were somewhat surprised to discover that we were, essentially, in the middle of nowhere.  Vast “nothingness” blanketed the landscape as far as the eye could see though there was a large and beckoning convoy of rickety golf carts lined up with enthusiastic local representatives giving the “hard sell” to all who happened to pass by.  Lucky for them, these now “fish out of water” were ready and eager for transport based on this barren location and this looked like just the ticket, especially since the 4 wheeled, rusty contraptions gave us complete navigation and freedom to the destination(s) of our choice.  After the requisite bartering we had keys in hand, me behind the wheel for first shift.  Peeling out at whatever pathetic top speed it would allow without falling apart, we guffawed and squealed in unison down the dusty and unknown road.

With a spontaneous photo stop along the way, the turquoise ocean and a large, brightly colored fish sculpture as our backdrop, we eventually encountered our first sign of additional life, a small, beachside, campground that was mostly occupied by low brow RV’s next to a tiki hut.  Intrigued as we were, we decided to keep going while filing it away as a potential pit stop upon our return.  There was more to explore!

Over the next 15 or so minutes we passed large swaths of “nothingness” that were briefly and sporadically interrupted by small pods of occupancy that served as a reality check due to their abject poverty.  We continued on until we, literally, came to the end of the road at a modest tourist “village” that was comprised of independent, rustic, low rise hotels, no name convenience stores, and a sketchy looking watering hole or two.  All of these establishments were clustered along more of the stunning, picturesque, beachfront where music could be heard beckoning over the sound of the waves hitting the shoreline beyond the buildings.  With no choice but to U-turn our eyes all fell upon the same neon beacon in the window, our limited gringa knowledge of Spanish unanimously comprehending the word “Cervesa”.

***Rattle, rattle, rattle – Rickety-rick-ricket***, we brought the cart to an abrupt halt on the side of the road (the only manner in which I think it was able to come to a stop) and hopped out.  Into the tiny street side store we went, yelling the magic word to the cashier as we entered, “CERVESA!”, likely the only word he heard daily from the cruise ship passengers that bothered to venture this far out.

Individually selected and blessedly cold bottles of beer in hand, we beelined around the corner and on to the beach where we were greeted with a delightfully casual & funky ambiance.  The music louder now yet not overpowering and in rhythm with the waves, there were a smattering of palapas and people.  Though immediately clear that this was primarily a “local’s joint”, exceptions being ex-pats vs. one day tourists, we were not made to feel unwelcome.  All of us instantly charmed, my own sights immediately fell upon an inviting hammock perfectly draped between two palm trees.  Never one to contain my enthusiasm, I indulged my intrigue with abandon as I let out a delighted cry of appreciation for this postcard perfect opportunity.  I ran to the hammock, fresh cervesa in hand, and plunged into the inviting, woven, rope, back first.

(Universe hits fast forward button)

**ZIP**

**FLIP**

**BAM!**

Though I (clearly) love hammocks suffice it to say that one did NOT love me as, upon contact, it IMMEDIATELY spun into a full, rocket launch, 360 spin before spitting me out like a swig of bad milk onto the sand below.  The HARD sand below.  Like, have you ever hit the ground – or had a friend hit the ground – with an audible *thunk*?  If you have yourself then you know that when you hit the ground hard enough for your connecting body part to make a noise (in this case, my HEAD) it takes a moment to recover and realize what happened.  If you’ve been on the spectator’s end of such an encounter then you know that the natural, human response of good friends goes like this:

Step One:  Spontaneous, sincere, huge concern

Which, upon determining friend in question is not hurt enough to call an ambulance, proceed to…

Step Two:  Hysterical and prolonged laughter

It should be noted that there were two, older, Mexican women that were sitting in chairs at the edge of the hammock that joined heartily in on my friend’s laughter.  To this day I’m convinced that was not the first time they’d encountered such a situation and that they are still there, dedicating their free time to waiting for more tourists like me.  Hell, they may have even rigged the thing…and props to them if they did.  Gotta’ create your own fun when you live in a one-horse town!

All that said, despite a 360 spin with a “full steam ahead”, involuntary dismount and a borderline concussion, I did not spill ONE DAMN DROP of that cervesa!  Rock star point in pocket, thank you, don’t try this at home.

Without the beer in hand I’d have no choice but to give this a score of Hammock: 1, Me: 0.  Under the circumstances though I firmly stand that it cannot be debated as anything less than a solid tie.

“SALUD!”

hammock(Immediate aftermath – still smiling.  Viva Mexico!)

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 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

Once Upon A New Year’s Eve

My First Apartment
The year was 1995 and with not too distant visions of Miami Vice episodes playing in my head, and the nightclubs and neon of a big city calling to my then naïve but desperately intrigued 20-something self, I packed up everything without knowing a soul and moved to Miami.  At my father’s insistence, he manned the wheel on the slow move from Virginia, navigating my modest worldly possessions down I-95 until we pulled in to a gas station in the early evening of that New Year’s Eve, my first official stop in my new neighborhood. Much to my father’s alarm, the parking lot had a noticeable number of suspicious, motely looking characters congregating in the shadows of the brightly lit gas station logo, conveniently located mere blocks from my new abode. As I reached to open my door my dad’s arm shot out and blocked my exit. With a look of grave concern reserved only for fathers of female offspring he said, “I don’t know if this was such a good idea.”, clearly not implying our choice of gas stations but rather my decision to move to South Beach.  With understanding but difficult restraint, I remained in the clunky moving truck that had been my prison for the past three days (did I mention my Dad drove *slowly*?). After a quick fill up he silently drove the few blocks to my new apartment, located on a main strip of this art deco wonderland above a sushi restaurant. While he was no doubt making an interpersonal wager as to whether he would first be picking me up to move back to Virginia or filing a missing person report I enthusiastically jumped out. I WAS HERE!

After unloading into my tiny, studio apartment with a scenic view of the back alley I was ready to hit the ground running. It was NEW YEAR’S EVE and time to celebrate! Of course, he was as enthusiastic about this as he was about the questionable characters that we shared the gas station parking lot with but this time it fell on deaf ears. A presto-change-o and a hug with a promise to be safe and I practically took the door off the hinges as I ran out to explore my new stomping grounds.

My first stop was the landmark 11th Street Diner, an enticing (and still loved) concoction of aluminum, art murals, signed celebrity photos, a 24 hour menu, and cheap booze. From there it was a whirlwind night spent bathing in pumping bass and showering in a spray of colorful lights.

The next day was a blur of hangover induced slumber on the couch amongst a forest of moving boxes. Foggy, brief interactions with my father occurred throughout the day as he navigated and inspected his daughter’s new territory, occasionally returning with observations & tidbits. After mostly relaying his findings with skepticism and caution he BURST into the apartment with as much enthusiasm as I had burst out of it the previous night. With an unforgettable combination of excitement and joy on his face it was quickly apparent that South Beach had, at least in one regard, just gained a new fan as he exclaimed, “I JUST SAW THREE TOPLESS WOMEN ON THE BEACH!”.

Hey, whatever it takes.

For first timers visiting South Beach (Note: Only visitor’s call it “SoBe” so avoid that for “cool points” when speaking with locals) do be sure to pay a visit to the 11th Street Diner for a casual, fun, unique & tasty experience.  If you’re young be prepared to disco nap – the night time party doesn’t truly get started until around midnight.  If your clubbing days are behind you then bring your spanx and grab a seat in the Florida sunshine on Ocean Drive.  Order a delicious, refreshing, minty mojito, perfected at Mango’s,  long served there before it became “a thing” due to both the drink and the establishment’s Cuban roots.  The people watching from there is as good as the view from the beach and is equally, if not more, beautiful.