The HIGHS & lows of Balcony Living in 3 Parts (Part 3, Chapter 2 – aka: The End)


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… 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.

Dog: 1
Diners: 0

Don’t forget to tip your server!

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?”

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.


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.”


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.

Summer of ’77 – Star Wars vs. The Rescuers

The year was 1977 and I was 8 years old when Star Wars was released.  Star Wars fans are unrivaled in their knowledge & passion only by Disney fans and those are the ones, perhaps only with the exception of me, that will recall that the Disney movie “The Rescuers” was in theaters at the same time during that disco era summer.

My parents packed me & my two sisters into our station wagon and headed to the theater with a plan of my mother taking me & my siblings to “The Rescuers” while my father went (Han) solo to “Star Wars”.  I was SO excited to see “The Rescuers” as I loved mice and going to the theater was a rare & special treat for us so you can imagine my dismay when we pulled up in front of the dual screen theater to discover a line that appeared to go on for MILES.  No, not for Star Wars but for MY movie, “The Rescuers”!  Star Wars had only been out for one month at that point and was still gaining steam, exposure and hype not available to the masses the way it is today in a pre-internet era.  It was quickly determined that the showing we were there for was already sold out and the line was for the *next* screening, resulting in the ultimate and dastardly decision for us to all go to Star Wars instead.  THE HORROR!  Truly, I’d been robbed!

Now…..imagine if you first saw Star Wars knowing absolutely *nothing* about it and not only did you NOT want to see it, you were MAD that you “had to”.  And so was my introduction to the uncontestably magical world where, instead of buffalo, wookiez & droids roam.

As with everyone, I had never seen anything like it and I was completely blown away.  It consumed thoughts and conversations and, at my age at the time, playtime and debates over who was cuter, Luke or Han Solo.  For the record, I’ve always been a Han Solo girl, apparently drawn to bad boys since I was old enough to like boys at all.  But I digress.  It was due to both my personal, and the public’s, obsession with Star Wars that my artistic self met my tiny entrepreneur self and I began cranking out hand drawings of Star Wars characters, R2-D2 being my specialty.  Once I had compiled an impressive portfolio I began going door to door in my neighborhood selling my masterpieces to those lucky enough to have the opportunity and wherewithal to make such a sound investment.  The market for eight year old pencil drawings of Star Wars characters was HOT!  Okay, well, shocking as it may seem, that wasn’t exactly the case but I do recall selling at least two, maybe three, of my drawings, obviously to kind hearted, encouraging souls who were probably also family friends.

Decades later I ran into Han Solo (aka: Harrison Ford) on South Beach, Miami.  Like, LITERALLY, ran into him – we roughly bumped shoulders walking down the sidewalk as we passed.  O….M….G!  That’s another story for another day but, I’ll tell you what, he was still one handsome devil!  While I can’t promise you’ll meet Han Solo or that you’ll make riches selling handmade art if you are a die-hard fan you can still travel to a galaxy not so far, far away and relive your own Star Wars memories.  Perhaps pass the lightsaber and introduce it all to a new generation, though may I recommend renting “The Rescuers” for them too.  😉

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.