So today I got done doing what I had to do fairly early and come over to swim in my parents' pink pool. Yes I said pink pool. My mother wanted to be unique. She envisioned it to be like swimming inside a conch shell, so now instead of having a regular old blue pool like everyone else, our family has a pink pool. With the water in it, it looks kind of lavenderish.
When I walk in the door I see none other than...get ready...THE HEAD HOOKER!!! The one who had her Jag almost towed at the kosher sushi place. I was only a little bit surprised because chances are if you are a lunatic in this town you will at some point end up at Casa dei Sogni telling my mother your entire life story. It's one of the inevitibilities of local insanity. Rich, poor, gay, straight, white, black or asian - if you are strange you will end up at this house. There is a wacko magnet mosaiced into the floor in the foyer.
The Head Hooker's name is Velva Haux. She lives in a gigantic house on the water in my parents' new neighborhood Basura Del Este (more on this later too). She made lots of money when she divorced her husband some years back and is now apparently running an escort service. So see, my initial judgment was accurate after all. They were hookers. Velva's new husband is the guido Tony who told her not to park in the no parking zone. She informed me that he doesn't like people he doesn't know and that he has decided that he already knows enough people, so he pretty much doesn't like anyone.
Velva Haux met my parents when they were all out walking dogs on the cobbled streets of Basura del Este, and of course they hit it off. Today Velva was visiting because she had to give my mom the business card of her cabinet guy. Instead she accidentally gave my mom the business card of her escort service, but neither realized it until Velva left.
Afterwards my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
"I have no idea. How can I know what I want for Christmas when we haven't even gotten through Rosh Hashanah yet? Jeez." I said.
Things are getting interesting around here.
See, the thing that's making our poor people ridiculous is that they are observing the rich people and trying unsuccessfully to emulate an idea of wealth. The rich people have not been good role models for the poor people at all, so you just get this dreadful mix of bad fashion, even worse decision making and all out horrendous behavior most of the time and it's all set to an annoying soundtrack of reggaeton. That basically sums up life in South Florida.
I live halfway between Heaven and the 'Hood. On one side I have glitz and glam, mega mansions that look like Italian wedding cakes and Ferraris zipping all over the place. Women who look like Barbie and Skipper step out of plastic surgery clinics and onto two million dollar yachts. Everyone sits in cafes and carries huge, expensive purses. A few blocks away (quite literally) we have one of the worst slums in all of South Florida where no one knows his daddy, everyone knows at least one person who's locked up (for something he didn't do naturally) and where 27 people all live in their grandma's house and since it's so crowded they all stand out in the street even when cars are coming. Kids are always getting shot, the police regularly run people over because they won't get out of the street, and dog fighting is a popular pastime.
I live in the metaphorical and physical middle of all this. I get to see both sides every day, and I have, in fact, lived both sides of it as well and both sides are equally insane. All I'm asking for is a nice happy medium of moderation and good sense. Is that too much to ask? Umm. Yes. I should probably go live in Minnesota or something because there is no moderation in South Florida.
So in the past week I have observed two of the most ghetto-assed things that I have ever seen in my entire life and I would hereby like to award them the Wide Lawns Ghetto Superstar Award for 2007. I realize that 2007 is not over yet, but I'm positive that I won't see anything else to rival either of these things.
The other night while driving home I saw an old Buick Regal totally pimped out to look like a Crown Royal bag. It was all purple with gold trim, purple and gold rims and purple upholstery with gold cord, exactly like a Crown Royal bag. If you need a visual go HERE. I do not, for the life of me, understand why someone would want to rig up an old ass Buick Regal, which I guarantee you belonged to his Grandma (the same one he lives with, with 26 other people). You have never seen the like of this car in your entire life. But that's not all. Not only was the car made to look like the bag my grandfather's whiskey came in, it was also jacked up to the height of an SUV, convertible, and equipped with speakers which nearly blew out my right ear drum as I drove past.
I wanted to take a picture, but the guy driving this monstrosity looked like he wouldn't hesitate to pop a cap in my ass should he notice me photographing his fine ride. I decided my life just wasn't worth it. You'll just have t tr to imagine what it looked like. I hope I see it again.
Now you just know that this fool spent all of his dog fight money on his car's conversion from Buick Regal to Crown Royal bag. I would bet my apartment on the fact that he has several children and is up to no good on a regular basis. I wonder if he's like the god of the ghetto in that thing. I bet the ladies all want a ride in that high up purple car, but I hope they all suck their teeth and call him a fool instead.
The Ghetto-Superstar Award 2007 Number two goes to the Chonga girls at my second favorite nail place.
I hate getting my nails done and will avoid it at all costs, but then my hands start looking like I work in the sugarcane fields all day and I break down and go. I get manicures at one of two places depending on where I am and my level of guilt.
The first nail place is called Nails by Asian Movie Stars. That isn't the exact real name for obvious reasons, but it is damned close. The real name is just as bad. I like the Vietnamese girls at this place. One of them has gone blonde. They don't do the best job, but I feel like they are all the indentured servants of the man who owns the place so I feel like I need to go there to give them the business. They're very sweet. There are four Asian Movie Stars - Gwyneth, Reese, Halle and Oprah. They are all really really into American tabloid culture. REALLY into it. They talk about movie stars like they know them which is why they named themselves after them.
One day I asked them why their changed their names. They said that in America everbody can be a movie star. Also no one could pronounce their names correctly and their names were too confusing. Gwyneth was finishing my french manicure so I asked her what her real name was.
I asked what Reese's name was.
"What about Halle?"
"So let me guess...Oprah's name is Tran too?"
They all had fits of laughter.
"NO!! You so silly! Oprah name is Phuoc."
They thought I was so funny thinking they all had the same name.
I love the Asian Movie Stars, but sometimes I go to Chonga ManiPedi instead. They actually do a better job, but it's a farther ride. Chonga ManiPedi is really, really, really ghetto, but the girls are extremely sweet and the manicures last longer than those by the Asian Movie Stars.
A couple weeks ago I was at Chonga ManiPedi suffering through a french manicure when one of the other technicians came and sat by me.
"Girl, I gots to show jew someteen, yo." she said.
Her name is Jacinta. She has a gold name plate necklace as well as gold hoop earrings displaying twice over that Jacinta is indeed her name in case you weren't positive based on the necklace alone. Jacinta is one of the best nail techs around. She's a nail artist - an innovator in acrylic. Nobody can airbrush like Jacinta.
"I got a new technique, but it's like ILLEGAL yo, so don't be tellin' nobody."
I assured her it was fine. I mean, what could be illegal about nails?
Jacinta has pioneered a new design for those very long, squared off acrylic fake nails adored by Ghetto Superstars everywhere. First she glues on the nail tip. Then she takes a dollar bill and cuts it up, careful to preserve the dollar signs, pyramid etc. in tact. Then she superglues the pieces of the dollar onto the nail and coats it with clear gel and buffs it so it looks like the nails are money under glass.
"I put the dollar sign on the middle so when jew flip somebody off you flippeen them off with money, yo!!"
All the other girls nodded in approval.
"Girl, jew gonna be a millionaire." my nail girl said to her.
Everyone was very impressed.
Now, to make the money nails really special, she superglues tiny rhinestones inside the eye of the pyramid and inside of George Washington's eyes. Then on the pinkies, she affixes a dangling gold charm in the shape of a dollar sign.
You have never seen something in worse taste in your life as the money nails, though I do credit her creativity and applaud her originality. Apparently I am the only person who feels the money nails are tacky because Jacinta now has people lining up for them. Last I heard she wanted to make a website for them but chickened out because she was afraid she would get in trouble with the goverment. I guess you aren't supposed to cut up money or something.
So if you really want to be stylin' in that Crown Royal Regal, please visit Jacinta and get some money on your nail tips.
I got this email this morning from one of my really good friends in high school who I hadn't heard from in forever. She moved, I moved. It was one of those things. We didn't keep up. But her letter was so, well, just so, that I had to share it with you all.
"yeah, i will never. ever. forget your family. your monkey. your crazy aunt that left her vibrator in the couch cushions for us to find. your mom and dad that kept picture frames with the photos that came from the store inside them still. shooting poppers across the white tile floors, leaving track marks that i doubt we cleaned up. "
The things people remember me for...
It's further proof that I just don't make this shit up.
I've been to the kosher sushi place twice in one week because it is just the most interesting, strangest mix of people I've ever seen gather in one place.
First you've got the Orthodox Jews who go there because there are so few restaurants where they can actually eat because of all their dietary restrictions. Then you have hookers, gold diggers, concubines and the Rich Old Men and Gym Guidos who love them. This group also frequents the kosher sushi place because anorexics and the men who want to fuck them live on sashimi.
I've often said that if you want to get rich quick in South Florida all you have to do is open a sushi restaurant. The Jewish people will flock there because fish is kosher and they've all gotten sick of gefilte and herring in sour cream by now and find themselves wanting something a little more glamorous and interesting. Then the anorexics and strippers and all varieties of rich people will practically form lines out the door because everyone wants to be skinny and sashimi has like three calories. Also, I think that the raw fish is nice and slippery so if you're bulimic, it's very easy to puke back up.
Now if you want to get rich really quickly - just place your sushi restaurant next to a strip club. You'll be a millionaire. Strippers eat nothing but sushi.
I think a lot of this sushi craze has to do not just with its lack of calories, but with a perceived sort of exoticism. Sushi is from Asia. You eat it with sticks. It contains all sorts of things not common to the traditional American diet of macaroni and Velveeta. It's pretty, and in the past it was considered very daring and almost avant garde to consume raw fish when most people were more used to having their fish breaded and deep fried in little sticks. This isn't so much the case now - at least not here where we have sushi bars on every other corner, but it used to be.
Also, sushi is sexy. You can't deny that there is something sexy about slipping the satiny, salty, pinkish slices of fish flesh between your lips. Eating sushi is like eating pussy.
But enough on the semiotics of sushi.
Last night some friends and I were at the kosher sushi place and it started to get really crowded. We represented the only table of just regular people. Everyone else was orthodox, which made us feel a little awkward. All the women had their head coverings and ankle length dresses and we swore the guy with the talis got seated ahead of us. I'm telling you. They have a rule in there - You're wearing a talis? Go to the head of the line!!
We were enjoying our meal and so were the hundred orthodox jews, 80% of whom were gigantically pregnant women who weren't even eating sushi but more or less just hanging out pregnantly and talking about pregnant things with each other. All of a sudden a group of hookers walks in.
Now you'd think this would cause a massive spectacle. The music would stop. Conversations would cease. Three women would go into premature labor and Chassidic men, shielding their eyes would rush to shoo the hookers away, but no. This is South Florida. No one did anything except me and my friends who just could not process the contrast before us.
The three hookers came with a six foot five, juiced beyond all reason, heavily tattooed Guido who looked like at some point he wanted to break into professional wrestling, but couldn't quite make it so instead he just hangs at the gym all day pushing illegal steroids. He was wearing white jeans, cowboy boots and a red Ed Hardy tee shirt, which seems to be the current rage in tacky tee shirts right now. Is it me or should men just not wear things with studs and rhinestones? I really think bedazzled tee shirts should be left to the realm of Greek grandmothers who paint the statues of Athena around their pools in life-like flesh tones.
The Big Guido didn't speak, but he did make sure to look at his sun dial sized, gold Rolex every three seconds. Maybe he was making sure it was still there. Maybe he was trying to figure out if it was really real or not.
The three hookers, who were not actual street walking hookers, but instead just dressed and acted like them, were close to 40 years old and were strangely stuck in the 80s. I find that often people get themselves stuck in the era that represents their hey days, and for these women the 80s, with all the cocaine, IROCs, freestyle music and Z. Cavariccis must have been wonderful. I'm sure the whole group regrets the downfall of acid washed denim. All of the hookers wore teeny, stretchy black mini dresses which I'm sure they kept from 1987 when Azzedine Alaia ruled the runways and permed girls everywhere coveted the little black dresses sported by Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista.
The Head Hooker commenced telling everyone who would listen that in 1985 she was a Playboy Playmate and she had the pictures on her hot pink phone to prove it. Her two minions nodded and chewed gum. All of them wore red kabbalah strings. Everyone ordered mass amounts of sashimi. My friend commented astutely that it looked like Head Hooker mistook brownie mix for pressed powder when applying her makeup. The other two had simply subsituted kitchen grout for foundation.
A few minutes later one of the Orthodox men made an announcement.
"Anyone CHH-as a Jaguar? Someone is towink a Jaguar!"
All three hookers flew up and went outside in hysterics. Several Orthodox Jews followed. I don't know why.
"I told them dumb bitches not to fuckin' park there." said the Big Guido to his yellow-tail.
I took this as my cue to go outside and get involved because this seemed exciting. The hookers' Jag was getting towed from out in front of the kosher sushi place. How could I not go watch? I love things that aren't my business and have nothing to do with me.
The hooker who used to be a Playmate started having a fit. She called the tow truck man terrible names. He called her worse ones back. She said she'd move the car. He said it was too late and if she wanted him to release her car she had to give him a hundred bucks. She stormed back inside to get the Guido who said he told her not to park there and she should have listened.
"Tony you fuckin' dumb piece of shit!!" she yelled and stomped back inside nearly twisting her ankle in its five inch lucite heel.
She went outside and argued with the tow truck man more.
Then. Then...The Rabbi came outside and he wasn't playing.
The Rabbi wanted the tow truck man to leave his customers alone. The Rabbi was not pleased one bit. The tow truck man was not swayed at all. They argued. The hookers screamed and swore. The Rabbi said that the Tow Truck Man was a nasty person. The Tow Truck Man wanted cash.
The tow truck man would not budge. The hookers tried to bargain. The Rabbi became increasingly more and more angry.
"If you do not release this car right now and leave these women alone you will be very sorry!!" said the Rabbi.
"Oh yeah?" said the Tow Truck Man, "I bet I will."
The Tow Truck Man laughed.
Suddenly, the street lights flickered and veins of jagged lightning ripped the black sky followed by deafening booms and cracks of thunder. We all jumped out of our skin, but no one was as scared as the Tow Truck Man, who turned pale and began to sweat. He looked around nervously and the sky roared once more.
The Tow Truck Man, apparently believing himself to now be the object of the wrath of God, unhooked the Jaguar and drove away without another word. The hookers moved their car and everyone went back inside to eat raw fish.
Back inside I noted that only in South Florida could one see a Rabbi tell off a tow truck driver on behalf of three hookers. How's that for diversity?
I got a great picture of the boss man peacock that runs my neighborhood. We have a flock of rogue, wild peacocks that run around this area terrorizing cats and raising hell wherever they go with all their hollering. Peacocks are definitely the Rich White People of the bird world. They're ostentatious, pushy and make an ungodly amount of noise. They also go wherever they please with no regard to anyone else. Many mornings I've found them sitting on top of my car and they seem very offended when I shoo them away. But overall, I love living in a place with peacocks and I don't mind all their noise. It makes me feel like I live on the grounds of the Taj Mahal or something and after several years in this place, I still get excited when I see their iridescent teal and electric blue plumage. I also love how in Spanish the word for peacock is Pavo Real. It translates literally to Royal Turkey, which, for some reason, I find very funny.
Teen Tours are a big deal around here and I can absolutely see the appeal, although when I was that age I wouldn’t have even been able to conceive of such a thing. A group of teenagers from all over the country, traveling the world, and their parents footing the massive bill, for 6 weeks?? It’s outrageous. They go all over the world from Bali to Dubai, staying in opulent hotels and eating at the finest restaurants. They shop in exclusive, international boutiques and their parents pay for all of it!! And the parents aren’t there! Sure, they have guides and chaperones, but I know teenagers and I can guarantee you that there is a lot of debauchery going on.
Parents, I'm sure, imagine wholesome excursions to historic sights, with quiet teens scribbling notes in leather journals and snapping digital pictures of their friends in front of 3000 year old Buddhas in Cambodia. I think a more accurate picture would be groups of teens lolling half naked on the carpeted floors of Bangkok opium dens, getting foot massages from exotic, transvestite prostitutes.
This scenario is about as far from my reality as a teenager as you could have gotten. Hitching a ride on an intergalactic satellite would have been more likely than my parents paying for or allowing me to go on a Teen Tour. Mainly, this was because we were poor and hadn't heard of, and couldn’t afford, such nonsense. It definitely wouldn't have been because my parents desperately wanted me around the house all summer complaining about how bored I was and how I needed rides to my friends’ houses. No. My parents got rid of me in their own way. They sent me to my Aunt Kiki's house every summer and when my sister was old enough to walk and speak in complete sentences, they sent her with me, as my charge, until school started again. It wasn’t that they didn’t completely adore us; it's that the two of us were a pain in the ass when we weren't in school, and my parents couldn’t drag us to work with them everyday. At that time, their work involved trying to sell tractor trailers of discarded, flawed or over-produced goods that no one wanted. Sometimes these goods included things like watermelons and potatoes. Other times they were surplus army uniforms. A lot of times my mother ended up selling things on the street to get rid of them, so you can see where a 14 year old and 6 year old could get in the way of all that. We had no interest in peddling, and so, we went to Aunt Kiki's, because she was on welfare and never had any plans of getting a job.
My Aunt Kiki is my mom's younger sister. She is only 12 years older than me. People often roll their eyes when Aunt Kiki's name randomly pops up in a conversation. She's slightly more normal now, than she was back then, but not much. When I was a young teen, Aunt Kiki was in her mid-20s, although I thought she was quite old and experienced. She lived even further out in the middle of nowhere than we did, and it took us 3 1/2 hours to drive to her house from ours. Aunt Kiki's house was a small, extremely old farmhouse. It was in a state of disrepair from both Aunt Kiki's constant poverty and her profound apathy (likely the reason for the poverty as well).Perhaps it wasn't apathy exactly. I don't know what it was, but Aunt Kiki just has never really cared a great deal about the things people care about - things like cutting the yard, or doing laundry, or de-fleaing your pets. She would let dishes sit in the sink for weeks, until someone else came over and washed them for her. My mother was famous for coming in and cleaning up Aunt Kiki's house, although there were several times when it was too much even for her, and then she would advise Aunt Kiki to move and start all over again, which she eventually did.
Aunt Kiki didn’t cook and didn’t work. She had a large vegetable garden in the backyard but I could never figure out how it got there because she wasn’t the sort of person who would go out there and actually take the time to plot out and put together a garden. The garden was just there and she just let it take its natural course, so by the time I arrived at her house towards the end of June, the tomatoes had grown into the pole beans, which were all tangled up in the asparagus, which had turned into big bushy things resembling feathering Christmas trees. I don’t know how any of it survived, but it did. Birds and slugs feasted, and even Aunt Kiki's dog, which was an old red mess of a mutt, would drag its tired self into the weeds to pull a tomato off the vine to chew in the shade. It probably did this because she never remembered to feed it.
Aunt Kiki loved animals and always had several cats, dogs, chickens and rabbits. Any animal that showed up, she'd name and keep. Since she never took any of them to the vet, or even fed any of them, they all looked an absolute sight. Several were pregnant. All of them got into fights and were missing patches of fur, pieces of their ears and the occasional eyeball. The dogs had mange, the cats had fleas, the rabbits were fat as butterball turkeys because she let them roam free and eat from the overgrown vegetable garden as much as they wanted.You could say that Aunt Kiki's philosophy on life is to just let things be as they are and do whatever they do without any intervention from her. She applied this philosophy to her child rearing. Yes readers, Aunt Kiki had children. At that time she had 2 daughters, but now she has four. All of her kids are from different fathers. At any given time Aunt Kiki would have a husband, lover, baby daddy or just a good friend that she was taking up with. I think this is not because she was a trashy kind of woman, but rather that there was something so sweet, so strangely nurturing and motherly, so generous of heart and just so damn fun, about her, that people were drawn to her and wanted to love her. This is exactly why I spent all my summers with her.
Aunt Kiki's daughters were born hell raisers. She let them, like her garden, her home, and her pets, do whatever it is that it occurred to them to do at any time. They could be dirty, they could poop outside in the yard with the dogs, take a bath in the hose, run buck naked down the road and return to cover themselves in mud, if they so desired. They could eat dry cereal for dinner, cut their own hair and draw on the sides of the stove in permanent marker. Her daughters Alexis and Fallon ( Aunt Kiki was a Dynasty fan) were 8 and 9 years younger than me, making them my sister's age. When I arrived for the summers I took care of all 3 children and after desperate attempts to make them all act like civilized human beings, I eventually gave up, gave in, and started taking showers in the hose myself.
Since Aunt Kiki didn't work, clean, take care of her kids, pets or her garden, it is reasonable to wonder what exactly she DID do. She certainly slept a lot. She got up and ate ice cream, smoked weed, watched soap operas, talked on the phone to about 35 people a day, laid out in the sun, went to Hardees, drank 17 beers and went out with her friends to bars down at the beach every night. I babysat for her. I also cooked, cleaned her house, taught Fallon how to talk without a speech impediment, pulled ticks off her dogs and snails off her plants and kept the fragile chaos that was Aunt Kiki's household from coming irreparably undone, at least until Labor Day. The biggest thing I did for her was to do the grocery shopping while she sat in the car because she was too embarrassed to pay with food stamps.
In return for my services, Aunt Kiki drove me anywhere I asked without question. She took me to the beach whenever I asked. I could have asked her at 3 in the morning and she would have gotten up and started the car. She also stayed out of my life, never read my extensive collection of journals, and introduced me to the joy of a chocolate malted milkshake. You really have to appreciate a person who would do all that for you, especially as a teenager.
The problem was, we didn’t have any money. I mean none. My parents couldn’t afford to give me money to last the entire summer and Aunt Kiki had no source of income. We made a game out of trying to find money. We collected cans sometimes, but that was boring. Often, we just tried to get other people to GIVE us money, though this would involve hours of driving around between the trailers of Aunt Kiki's various paramours and hitting them up. We tried to plant some pot seeds in the garden, but they took too long to grow, so I resorted to selling paper bags of blackberries on the side of the road. There were blackberry brambles tangled up all over Aunt Kiki's property and I imagined these to be my personal, untapped goldmine. I must have picked 15,000 brown paper lunch bags of blackberries every summer. I would pile them up in a cardboard box and drag them to the corner of the street that led to the country club, not a big glitzy one like we have around here, but a smaller, hokier, red-necked version.
The reason for the strategic placement of my business endeavor, was that I was in love with a boy. The boy was wealthy and rode his ten speed past this corner two times every day on the way to and from his tennis lessons. I made sure I was always there at the right time so that I could see him zip past in his pink Izod shirt and green OP shorts. In some 14 year old delusion, I thought he would stop to purchase some blackberries and fall madly in love with me and we'd run off to azaleas and mint juleps ever after. I don’t have to tell you how this worked out, do I?
What might surprise you, dear readers, is that I did make money on my blackberry business. I’m not talking buy a car money, but money enough to go to the Dairy Queen and purchase a new journal when I needed one, which was often (can you see why?)
One day a mutual friend of mine and The Boy's tried to fix us up. She made him go on a date with me. I thought, this was going to be it. I even put on red lipstick and made myself a pair of cut off jean shorts because I had just seen Dirty Dancing.
The Boy picked me up in his car, because he was older and rich and actually had one. I was thrilled. We went to McDonalds because in this town there was nowhere else to go and since The Boy didn’t want to be on a date with me, he was not willing to drive out of Millpond. I was so nervous that I couldn't eat in front of him. Since I had never been on a date before, and since I wanted The Boy to like me, I paid for his Quarter Pounder, Fries, Sprite and Apple Pie, and HE LET ME. He let me pay for his dinner with my blackberry money while I sat there and didn’t eat anything, when he knew I was poor. He then proceeded to demean my entrepreneurial enterprise, noting how my fingers were stained permanently purple. The Boy took me home and went on and on during the whole ride about how he was in love with my friend, but by then my heart was already about as broken as it was going to get.
I told Aunt Kiki the whole story and she replied that The Boy was an asshole, like most boys are, and that he would have been a waste of my time. She then tossed me a Bartles & James pina colada wine cooler and we spent the night looking at stars, laughing on the back porch and trying to scare the kids.
And I know I wouldn't exchange these memories, food stamps and filth included, for a month of first class plane rides to overscheduled, post card destinations. There is no five star hotel that could have inspired the same independent creativity in my teenage spirit, than that overgrown garden, beside the paint-flaking farmhouse with its ragged cats and leaking roofs.
I became retarded when I was four and went to kindergarten. Before that I’d been called shy and a little slow, excessively scattered and dreamy, but the people who knew me figured I was just crazy like the rest of the family and I’d grow up, get pregnant at seventeen and go through three or four husbands while working at the fried chicken stand, just like they all did. The expectations weren’t high, so at three, when I learned to count to ten in the Spanish my grandmother remembered from high school, they decided I was a genius, which meant that instead of working at the fried chicken stand, maybe I could learn to type and work in office somewhere. You can imagine their surprise when it turned out I was retarded.
“She ain’t retarded.” said half of the family and two of my grandmother’s friends from the Home Decorating Club.
“I knew somethin’ weren’t right with that young’un.” Said the other half, shaking their heads.
But still, retarded? Three separate school teachers reassured my grandmother that I was indeed retarded. The test scores proved it and they had tested me themselves.
“This child’ll never live on her own. You’re gonna hafta figure somethin’ out for her when you’re gone.” They told Mommom Jewel. “She’ll never be able to hold any kind of a job. We’re sorry to tell you but she is mentally retarded.”
How could this possibly be? How could Jewel Holland’s granddaughter be a retard? She didn’t look like a retard. The child spoke well; better in fact that most of the adults in Millpond. She taught her own damn self to read at three years old because she said she wanted to write stories, so you tell me, how in the hell could a retarded child do that?
On my mother’s side we have some retarded cousins, but they’re distant. My great grandmother Aurelia, who liked to be called Ethel, and no, I still don’t know why, had a brother named Leonard who married a woman who was also named Ethel, which made Mama Ethel furious because she wanted to be the only person with that name and she didn’t want to ever be confused with her brother’s slattern wife. Leonard and his wife Ethel lived out in the middle of the swamp where they did nothing but drink corn liquor day and night and hunt bullfrogs, which they then skinned and ate. Every six months or so Leonard and Ethel would come into town and everyone would have to avert their eyes and pretend they didn’t know them because they were so utterly disgusting and vile in every possible way that no one wanted any association with such filth of the earth. Leonard and Ethel had four retarded sons, and if it hadn’t been for the four retarded sons they probably would never have left their swamp shack to sully the fair streets of Millpond, but about twice a year Leonard and Ethel would feel guilty and would cash one of the checks the state sent for the four retarded sons and instead of spending it on more liquor for themselves, they’d actually come into town to get their sons some ice cream at the Woolworth’s soda fountain. You never saw a place clear out so fast as when those six came through the front door. No one wanted to serve them or sit next to them. The retarded sons were loud, uncontrollable and occasionally violent. They drooled and peed their pants, but then again, so did Leonard and Ethel because they were so drunk. It was terrible.
Because of Leonard and Ethel and their four retarded sons, Mommom Jewel blamed my retardation on my mother’s obviously inferior gene pool, but still, she wasn’t convinced. Then again, those teachers were awfully convinced and they had the test scores to prove it.
“Plus, she has no motor skills at all. She can’t tie her shoes and she can not skip! Who ever saw a child who couldn’t skip?” said one teacher.
“Yes, it’s true. We tested her for three solid days. Did you know that she can’t catch a ball? We tried and tried and all she did was sit there and cover her head and cry.”added Teacher Two.
“I tested her knowledge of opposites and asked her the opposite of black and that child told me it was blue.”said the first teacher.
“She keeps trying to tell us that she can read, and everyone knows that four year olds can’t read. She picked up a book and tried to act like she was reading.”said the third teacher.
Mommom Jewel argued that it was true. I could read. But the teachers told her I had just memorized books and retarded children memorized things all the time without understanding what they meant. It was very common.
They put me in The Resource Room and although I was four years old, I knew this was not a good place to be and that I did not belong there. Back then in the days before elaborate government Special Ed programs that are all full of pleasant sounding euphemisms and acronyms, all of the children who weren’t perfectly normal were deemed retards and thrown into The Resource Room, which all the kids in school of course called The Retard Room. I did not want to be in the Resource Room. It was not very resourceful and it smelled like spit and diapers.
The Resource Room, with its institutional mint green walls, was little more than a containment area until the children who were forced into it grew old enough to go to jail or mental hospitals. There were two teachers, nurses really, who babysat all the various forms of retarded kids, because, although they called them all the same thing, they were all different. Some children were autistic, too many I suspect had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and one girl had Spinal Bifida. The funny thing was the Spinal Bifida girl wasn’t even retarded. She was really smart! The disease affected her body not her mind.
My first day in the Resource Room, labeled a retard because I couldn’t skip, a Downs Syndrome girl named Vicky latched on to me and wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t understand her when she talked and she pulled my hair. I cried all day, but this was more proof that I was mentally incompetent.
My grandmother let me rot in The Resource Room for a week. I refused to eat and I cried constantly, begging her not to make me go to school where we learned nothing and instead sat on the floor all day. After the end of one week she intervened and for this I am eternally grateful.
Mommom Jewel put on her orange, faux leather jacket with it’s matching faux leather sash and marched down to that school to give every god damned person in there a piece of her mind. Her grand daughter was not a retard and by God if they called that child one, one more time they were gonna have hell to pay. Truly, at this point in the story I just wish I could record how my grandmother tells this story so you could hear her version of it. It involves lots of invocations of the Holy Trinity, as well as some pointing and yelling. By the time Jewel Holland was through with those teachers they were scared to death and promised to place my non-skipping little behind right back in the normal Kindergarten class.
“I will teach her to tie her shoes and I will teach her to skip and catch a ball. You concentrate on educating her.” Mommom Jewel told them.
By the time she got home I had taught myself to count to ten in Japanese.
I was not retarded. I was a child who was too smart for the people around her to recognize and I was different, because even back then I did what I wanted when I wanted. When they tested me, I simply did not feel like proving anything to a bunch of strangers. I was insulted and confused that they wanted to trot me around like a pony and throw balls at me like I was a performing seal, so I just refused to cooperate. Because of my noncompliance, I was a child left behind.
Imagine if I had not had a grandmother who was willing to whoop ass on behalf of the defenseless. What would my life have been like had I stayed trapped in the Resource Room without anyone to recognize the fact that I was not retarded? Maybe eventually I would have become retarded. I honestly shudder to think what my life could be like if that label had stuck.
This wasn’t the only time that school teachers failed me. It was the beginning of a pattern.
We all have different things that would make us feel rich. My theory is that this definition is formed similarly to a fetish when we are little. Childhood experiences of money and success, or lack thereof, create nearly indelible mental images of what it means to be rich, which we carry into adulthood. We all daydream. I spend hours decorating my beach house and muse endlessly about summers away. This came from my own childhood. When I was little, back in Millpond, I had a rich friend whose family owned a fertilizer business. They had a magnificent seaside, clapboard home, complete with a back porch overlooking the bay. Every year they would take me with them for a few weeks and these memories are so beautiful and idealized that now I feel that at some point I absolutely must recreate the summer beach house for myself. If I could have a beach house and go away for the summer, I would feel like I was as rich as freakin’ Warren Buffet and that I had achieved a huge degree of personal success.
The definition of wealth and success is highly subjective. My mother spent her childhood watching old movies and developed her own concept of wealth which includes champagne, fur, cigarettes and gigantic diamonds. My father, having lived in Florida for a long time, has spent years watching yachts cruise down the Intracoastal, and therefore, will feel wealthy when he has one that is comparable. But it’s different for everyone. For some people, simply having a full time job with health insurance and making rent every month would make them feel a sense of fabulous abundance.
A few years ago I had something happen to me which made me feel like the richest girl in the world and as a result of this experience, I must first make a confession to you.
I wear Prada.
Yes, it’s true. I have a pair of Prada shoes. They are now seven years old and I still wear them all the time. You might be saying to yourself "How the hell does she have a pair of haute couture shoes? Is she a hypocrite?"
Honestly, kind of.
Let's rewind to the summer of 2000.I was homeless, jobless, pointless, heartbroken and lost. I had no plan. An atomic bomb had gone off and destroyed every single thing that defined me as a human being, leaving me with no identity, standing in the incinerated ashes of my future plans trying to pull out a few charred bits to rebuild and finding them all unusable. You guys know the story by now, so I won’t rehash it for the nine thousandth time.
I spent my days crying and baking chocolate chip cookies at my parents house. At one point I considered throwing myself into the sea. I went to two pyschics who each told me I would never marry and never have children, so then I felt even worse. I baked more cookies and ate them with ice cream. Soon I was a size 6, and then a snug 8. Not only was I seriously depressed, I was also bored.
I needed a romance. I wasn’t having any luck so I took to the Internet. Guess who I Googled? Remember the rich boy who made me pay for his McDonalds? I found his email and wrote to him. He had a girlfriend, but we began a torrid email-ationship. I decided that Rich Boy was my dream man and that he had changed and turned into a wonderful person who was kind and sensitive and had great taste in music. He looked kinda like my ex and they had the same birthday. I convinced myself that Rich Boy, who lived in San Francisco now, was my soul mate and that we were getting married. The fact that he had a girlfriend did not stop me. He complained about her all the time anyway. He couldn’t possibly love her as much as he loved me anyway. I ignored Rich Boy's past history with me. I figured he was a dumb high school boy back then. Now he was a mature man with degrees and experience. He was a published writer for God’s sakes!!
In August of 2000 my dad had to go to San Francisco on business. See, it was fate. It was fate that me and Rich Boy were meant to be together. I was going to San Francisco too and when Rich Boy saw me he would realize I was his true love and then we would be together forever listening to really good music and wearing Brooks Brothers outfits while sipping gin cocktails at the country club. That would show my ex, wouldn’t it? I didn’t need him and his stupid, illegitimate baby. I was going to be with a real man. A classy man. Rich Boy was less enthused than I imagined he would be at the news that I was visiting San Francisco. Instead of inviting me to stay at his place, or making plans to whisk me away to wine country, he agreed to have dinner with me one night. I would be there a full week.
"One night is all I can manage." he said. "So sorry."
I figured I would make the one night count and that he would change his mind once he spent an enchanting evening with charming me.I needed to pack wisely for this trip because I had to make a good impression. My mother assisted, but sadly the one suitcase of clothes I was allowed to bring from my home in Atlanta wasn't sufficient at all. I also only had 2 pairs of shoes.One pair was flip flops. The other were a pair of 7 year old Clarks Mary Janes that were thick with scuffs. The soles were heavy, the toes were rounded. They looked like something a Puritan farm wife would have worn. They were broken in, out of style and ugly, but they were comfortable. They fit. They were familiar. The dirt and dust, the mud from my abandoned home was still encrusted in their weathered cracks. I could not part with these shoes.
"They are hideous. You can't wear them on a date with a boy." my mother and sister warned.I went to Nine West and bought a pair of pointed, black, strappy stiletto sandals on my nearly maxed out credit card. They were like encasing your feet in newly sharpened chef's knives. I tried to break them in before the trip to no avail. They were hard and unyielding. The stilettos did not want to be broken in. They remained stubborn and resistant. Still I packed them, and the Clarks Mary Janes too. I would wear those sight seeing or something.
When I got to San Francisco my first of many surprises to come was that it was freezing cold in the middle of summer. My sexy, slinky sundress was not going to work on a foggy, 50 degree evening. When I saw the steep hills I became a bit apprehensive about the stilettos as well. I ended up having to buy a big, grey wool sweater to keep myself warm. I also bought some tights because my legs were turning blue in the wet, clammy wind. The strappy sandals looked terrible with black, opaque tights. San Francisco was obviously not a city conducive to cute shoes.
As I prepared for my date with my soul mate, I pulled on the tights and buttoned the sweater with no thought other than the prevention of hypothermia.
My mother called me in my hotel room."Make sure to put on your lipstick and perfume before you leave." she told me, "And you had better not wear those ugly shoes."
Readers, I wore those ugly shoes. I thought the Boy would love me for me and not even see the shoes. I had to take a cab to his house and then he said we would walk to dinner. I couldn’t risk frost bitten, bloody toes in the stilettos. I reasoned that I would be better company if I were warm and comfortable.
When I finally saw my Dream Man I almost had a seizure from nerves. I wanted to impress him. He was so well dressed. He smelled good. He wasn’t all that cute in person anymore, but he still looked ok. It wasn’t about looks. He was my soul mate. I knew he didn’t care if I wore a grey cardigan, black tights and scuffed Clarks, because I was his soul mate too.
The Boy took me on a walk up a completely vertical hill. By the top I was ready to call 911. We went in to a crowded restaurant and had to leave because he knew someone. We ended up going to a dive Thai place in an alley. We were the only people there. They probably had squirrels and possums in cages in the back ready to be made into Panang Curry and Pad Squirrel. I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t eat. His Singha overflowed onto the table and my pad see ew was terrible, but I was paralyzed from anxiety and had long since lost my appetite. I tried to be graceful and dignified, but I had turned into the same 15 year old with blackberry stained fingers who couldn’t even nibble a fry at McDonalds as he feasted on apple pies.
Again, I paid the bill. This time it was $15.00. He didn’t even offer to leave the tip. He talked about his girlfriend and her discriminating tastes. She was an heiress; a socialite who was photographed often at charity events in various cities.
"She wears Prada shoes."
It was awkward later. I hoped I looked better under the wool cable knit, the black tights and barefoot. He went to the bathroom and called me a cab.
"The taxi will be here soon, so hurry up and get dressed."
He tossed me my shoes. I could slide them on without even unbuckling them. They didn’t hurt my feet.
He didn’t call me anymore that week, but emailed me when I got home."I hope you had a fantastic visit. It was lovely seeing you again." he wrote. He signed it "warmly, The Rich Boy."
I wish I had known then that the entire time I was in San Francisco I was only a few steps away from the man who was my real soul mate and who would, a few years later become my husband, but I didn’t and that isn’t the point of this story.
"You wore those shoes didn’t you??" my mother and sister demanded.
My father ratted me out since he had been there.My family staged an impromptu shoe intervention. Ceremoniously they paraded the shoes through the house and out the front door. They made a conga line, holding the cracked and faded Clarks high in the air. I chased them, in tears, begging for the shoes.
"Stop holding on to the past. These shoes are the past. You have to create a new life now, with new shoes and new loves." my mother explained.
My mother threw the first shoe into the Intracoastal canal. She flung it far into the middle of the water where it would sink and where I couldn’t fish it out. My sister hurled the second one. I watched it bob a little, fill with water and drown. I sat on the dock and cried.
"It’s ok. Change is hard, but sometimes the past and things connected with it get ugly and you have to chuck everything and start all over. Think of all the new shoes you can wear from here on out. Think of all the places you will walk in the new shoes and the fun you will have picking them out." my father told me.
"One day," I sniffled, "I will have a pair of Prada shoes."
Three months later it was my birthday. I was in bed and my parents banged loudly on my door, since I was still living with them. They burst joyfully in the room with a big Neiman Marcus bag.
"We bought you something! Its big so you just get one present." they said.
Inside the bag was a shoebox.
"You didn’t!!!" I practically shouted and they smiled.
It was a pair of brand new, straight from Italy Prada Mary Janes, and then I knew how it felt to be really, really rich.
This is clearly the most ridiculous invention ever. Obviously the inventor did not take explosive diarrhea into consideration because thoughts of naked men, fresh off the beach got him all hot and bothered. I mean, a lot of the time taking a poo takes longer than having sex, so I suspect that most often those doors that were supposed to fly open would reveal more mortified people reading the newspaper than they would two nekkid men locked in a coital embrace.
At first I thought there was nothing wrong with trying to make people get a damn room already. After an unfortunate incident which involved my barely teenaged sister tweezing wooden chaise lounge splinters out of my ass, and several hours with a q-tip removing sand from places I didn’t even know I had, I am officially 100% Anti-Sex on the Beach. I can’t even drink the cocktail anymore without a shudder, remembering how I screamed as she pulled out shards of pressure treated wood from my tender bottom. So naturally I was for any measure trying to stop other people from suffering as I had. As a public service announcement, I implore you to please lay a beach towel on the uncushioned wooden chaise lounges of the Shimmering Seahorse By the Sea Resort and Timeshare Community before you engage in your moment of unbridled passion.
I thought, people should not be using our beaches like a rent by the hour flophouse. Think of the poor sea turtles. No wonder nesting is down this year. Those poor loggerheads don’t want their hatchlings to see that.
But then the mayor went and ruined everything. He said all sorts of terrible and incredibly stupid and not even remotely witty things about gay people. I have no idea what this man was thinking, but perhaps, like the inventor of the public sex discouraging toilets, the mayor’s mind was clouded by latently arousing thoughts of oiled muscles and leopard Speedos and he got all defensive and paranoid and lost his mind and said ridiculous things. Who knows? Obviously this man has no future career in politics beyond being mayor because all politicians know that the main purpose of being in politics to begin with is just so you can shamelessly ass kiss and pander to people you are secretly thinking about how much you can’t stand as you smile and shake their hands. God, I should be in politics. I have several years experience in kissing the asses of people I wished dead. Perhaps the mayor could hire me as his advisor so I could prevent him from making any more mistakes.
Well, after the mayor went running his mouth about gay people like that I decided that as much as I hate having sex on the beach, that I should support gay mens’ right to screw wherever the hell they want as long as it makes the mayor mad, and also because the gay men on the beach provided me with excellent entertainment as they continually attempted to proposition my clueless father night after night. In spite of what the reporters say, all this rampant butt love isn’t happening all over every single beach in town. There is one beach designated for this activity and it is down the street from my parents’ house.
Let me explain how I know all of this.
Last year before Cousin moved away I used to hang out on the second floor terrace of my cousin’s building, The Portofino Sunshine Terrace, which used to be a motel and was built back in the 60s. It looked a little like Melrose Place if Melrose Place had been decorated by an old lady whose favorite color was royal blue and who thought it was ok to plant plastic flowers in dirt. Cousin and I used to sit on the royal blue bistro set on the second floor terrace with Sophia the coffee shop waitress and Big Gay Ted, who named himself that after realizing his uncanny likeness to Big Gay Al from South Park. Cousin, Sophia, Big Gay Ted and I spent hours up there drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes (not me) and talking about all the things our parents did to us as children that screwed us up for life. We had such a good time that none of us even minded the hundreds of bites we would get from the mosquitoes infesting the neglected, algae-slimed, former hot tub.
One night, Big Gay Ted jumped up and left suddenly, appearing to be in quite a hurry.
“Where are you going Big Gay Ted?” we all asked.
“To get a blowjob. I’ll be right back.” He replied as nonchalantly as if he was telling us that he was going to the bodega to get another pack of Virginia Slims.
“No, I have a whole bag of blowpops inside!” Cousin said.
“Not blow POP, blow JOB!”
It was kind of awkward for a second and then Big Gay Ted explained the whole secret of the Anonymous Gay Sex Beach. He made it sound like a buffet. You could just show up and take your pick of whomever you wished and then you could choose from a long menu of possible sex acts. It was fast, easy and most of the time it was free. Some of the guys tried to charge, but that would usually cause a fight to ensue. Someone would end up getting beat up and whoever won would take all the money of whoever lost. Occasionally, there’d be some teenage runaway, crack head types who’d try to rob you when they were done doing whatever you wanted them to do, so it was best to go to the Anonymous Gay Sex Beach without a wallet.
“Where is this beach?” I inquired.
Big Gay Ted told us where it was and oh my God, that was the beach by my parents’ house where I was not eaten by sharks. By day the beach was innocent and idyllic – the setting for small weddings and whatever the Indian people were going to do with their marigold leis. By night the beach became seedy and sordid. The beach was living a secret double life.
“How do you know who to approach?” Sophia asked.
“Code words.” Big Gay Ted continued, “You can either ask someone for the time or you ask to borrow a dollar.”
And suddenly it all made sense.
We thought my dad was starting to lose it. Every night he had been taking the dogs on long walks up and down the beach. It was his new fitness routine because he figured walking in sand burned more calories. He also said it helped him relax out there under the stars, listening to the surf, but he was shocked at how many people were also walking on the beach at eleven ‘o’ clock at night.
“I didn’t think I’d see anyone out there! He exclaimed. “But I must have seen fifty other people. Mostly men. Hmm. Yeah. Actually it was all men.”
He chalked this up to the fact that women liked to exercise on machines indoors rather than in the rugged outdoors like manly men.
“I saw one guy out there in leather pants. Can you imagine that? In this heat, he’s out there walking on the beach in leather pants. He’s tough. He’s sweating out the weight. You know, that’s a good idea. I’m going to wear my leather pants next time I walk the dogs.”
So the next night my dad wore his leather pants to walk his Miniature Pinscher and Yorkshire Terrier on the Anonymous Gay Sex Beach that he thought was the Manly Man Late Night Work Out Beach.
“I love this place!! People are so friendly here. You wouldn’t believe how many people talk to me over there!” he said, stuck in his sweat-drenched leather pants.
I guess at this point I need to digress and also explain why my dad had a pair of leather pants so readily available because you just wouldn’t expect that most Dads would have leather pants. I have a cool Dad. He wears ironic tee shirts and sneakers that look like bowling shoes. He dresses like a 20 year old hipster from Brooklyn most of the time, and I’m quite proud of the fact that my Dad doesn’t pull his elastic pants up to his nipples and tuck in a Hawaiian print golf shirt. But periodically my mother, who has very different taste, decides to impose her taste upon him.
One day back in 2000 my mother experienced an unfortunate psychotic break and decided to buy every member of our family a pair of leather pants. Being that she loves me the most, I got two pairs. One pair was black leather and the other was purple suede. My dad got a black pair. And now, finally, he found a use for them as beachfront exercise gear. He said they were working wonders. He had already sweated away five pounds and received several compliments.
My dad really looked forward to walking the dogs in his leather pants. He had made several new friends. Sometimes huge, burly men would walk along with him and give him weight training advice.
“I just don’t understand why everyone keeps asking me what time it is.” He said. “I never used to wear my watch before but now I’ll have to remember it. About ten or eleven guys came up to me and wanted to know the time. I thought maybe something was going on at a certain time that they all had to be at. One of the guys even had a watch on already. It was the strangest thing.”
So my Dad started wearing a watch with his leather pants while walking the dogs at the beach at eleven ‘o’ clock at night just so he could be the good friendly citizen. Whenever random strangers also wearing leather, repressed Baptists or Catholic priests came up to him wanting to know the time he could cheerfully glance at this watch and tell them.
“Honey, do you have any ones in your purse.” He asked my mom.
“What the hell do you want ones for? Are you going to strip club or something?”
“No, last night a couple people asked me if they could borrow a dollar and I didn’t have any cash on me. I want to be prepared in case somebody asks me tonight.”
“Why would someone ask you tonight?”
“I have no idea. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened.”
“Why would someone need a dollar on the beach late at night?”
“I told you, I have no idea. Maybe for the bus.”
“The bus doesn’t run that late. No one needs a dollar on the beach at night. I’m not giving you my ones.”
Then my Dad asked me for some ones and I gave him a few. He was very happy. The next day he got a stack from the bank so he could now be ready whenever approached. He could tell everyone the correct time and hand out dollars to complete strangers.
When I finally broke the bad news – that all these men did not want to be my dad’s exercise buddies – he was crestfallen. He had enjoyed the companionship. He felt cheap and used. Then I explained to him that lots of men found him attractive and he felt a little bit better about things. At least they thought he was hot.
But still I was troubled about the Anonymous Gay Sex Beach, and since this was before the mayor forgot he was a politician, I still thought having sex with strangers on the beach could not lead to good things. It made me very sad that Big Gay Ted would engage in such activity.
You see, I have two main problems with Anonymous Gay Sex On The Beach and neither of them have anything to do with homosexuality. I already told you that I hate having sex on the beach. My other problem is with the anonymity. It’s just very sad to have sex with people you do not nor ever intend to know. It’s also dangerous because you can get attacked or get diseases. At the very least you will feel sad and empty and dirty. To me these things are common sense. The more I thought about it the sadder I got.
So when the mayor first said he wanted to abolish the practice of strangers doin’ it on our beaches, I thought it sounded like a good plan, but it turned out the mayor and I had different ideas about the how and why this should be done. I imagined myself running all over the beach encouraging couples to go get a cup of coffee first, to take it a little slower, to make small talk, find out where they went to seminary, or what their dad did for a living. You know, pretty much have a date first, even if it’s only one. Then GO HOME to have sex or go get a room in one of the plethora of fleabag motels we have around here.
But then the mayor got on my nerves and offended tons of people so now I propose that the gay men do whatever the hell they want wherever the hell they want, but first I’d like them to go to Denny’s and share a nice, late night Moons Over My Hammy first. It would make me feel a little better about things.
Some time ago, I told you all about the frightening trend of gigantic purses which were swallowing the tiny, frail, eating disorder victims who coveted them dearly. These purses are an alarming problem here in South Florida and I have a feeling that the epidemic has spread to Southern California and New York as well. The purses are so big that the teeny weeny women who love them, can barely carry them. They are so enormous that they do not fit in the teeny weeny women's rich boyfriend's Lamborghinis. They must be stored in the trunk. I've heard rumors that many a sugar daddy has had to buy his concubine a Range Rover just so she has room for her pocketbook. Like I said, this is a terrible problem.
Finally, I have caught one of these massive bags on film. I was strolling down Cash Avenue (one of our finest shopping areas) when I saw this young lady struggling to heave her enormous purse into an exclusive boutique. She was quite excited when I approached her and offered to post her picture all over the Internet.
"Oh my God, I totally feel like Nicole Richie. This is like, amazing. AMAZING!! You seriously want a picture of me?? Wow. Yes!! It's totally OK." she replied and instantly started striking poses.
This may well be one of the biggest purses I have ever seen. I asked her if I could hold it for a second and she gladly obliged. I nearly dislocated my shoulder.
"What do you have in here??" I asked.
"Umm, you know. Nothing. Like my license and a Mac lip glass."
I peeked inside. She didn't even have a wallet. She had a couple hundreds floating around loose, a slender light tampon, the lip glass and a stick of bubblemint Orbit. That is it. It was mostly empty space, just like her head. Of course she could have fit several concrete blocks, the past five months worth of OK Magazine, three days worth of clothing complete with separate pairs of platform wedges, ALL of her makeup, a rat terrier, and probably herself. Then she'd have to hire someone to carry it for her, but I guess that would be within reason, right? You could totally get some illegal to carry your purse around while you shopped. You could just pick them up at the work line in the morning. It would be way better than working in the sugar cane fields or building houses in the hot sun. Jeez. Those people should be so lucky to get to carry some rich white girl's purse around all day.
And there you all go. Another peek into my world.
Should you all wish one of these monstrosities for yourself, the young lady in orange told me the purse was called "The Jasmine" and was from Coach. It is somewhere around $1,000.00 so it's a major bargain, and the only reason she was carrying this one was because she had been at the beach all morning and was just running out to get something to wear to dinner that night. In her words, it was her "schleppy" bag. I wonder what her evening bag looks like.
Except, I am not, nor have I ever been anything remotely close to Pakistani. I don’t even recall ever having known a single soul from Pakistan. Apparently though, at least to the guy who owned the second closest gas station, I looked Pakistani.
People have always tried to guess what I “am.” Strangers come up to me regularly with accusations of Italian, Cuban, Syrian, Belgian, Brazilian and all sorts of other random, moderately brown nationalities. I’m not any of them, unless of course that whole story about Mario Lanza being my real grandfather is true, which would make me one quarter Italian. Actually, I’m pretty much a French heavy blend of white trash with rumors of Cherokee thrown into the mix for added interest. I don’t think I look particularly ethnic at all, though it’s true that I could probably pass for a lot of different nationalities, except maybe Ghanaian or Nigerian. I also don’t think anyone would ever mistake me for Cantonese either, but then again, I didn’t think I looked Pakistani. The guy who owned the second closest gas station disagreed.
I went to the second closest gas station because the first closest gas station involved an elaborate U-turn, green arrows and a one way street. It was a pain in the ass to get to from my direction and it didn’t have a little quickie mart. The second closest gas station was way nicer and had a tiny little shop. It wasn’t one of those mega-mart kind of gas stations though. It didn’t have twenty pumps and a store where you could buy a year’s supply of chemical laden junk food. It had but one pump and a shop the size of a walk in closet where a few items were displayed on wooden shelves and the attendant sat behind a glass window watching a small black and white TV. This sounds like your basic, low end gas station, but there was nothing low end or basic about the second closest gas station. It was an extraordinary place that I fatefully found because of my aversion to U-turns and one way streets.
There was no magic in South Florida, I complained. Florida felt barren compared to the narrow, pot holed streets of Atlanta which were shaded by fifteen story oaks and magnolias – trees I imagined had survived Sherman’s burning. Houses in Florida were low, tasteless architectural atrocities erected in the 60s when things like seahorse bird baths, concrete dolphins and a yard made out of gravel instead of actual grass were the height of class. The new houses, gaudy faux Mediterraneans, were just as bad, and I don’t even have to get started on the people in South Florida. Everyone was nouveau riche or trying to be. The women were gold diggers. The men were con artists. I hadn’t met a soul who wasn’t shallow, materialistic or just stupid, and dammit all to hell, there was just no magic.
You couldn’t escape the magic in Atlanta. It dripped from the cape jasmine in Druid Hills, fizzed like Coca Cola in Inman Park and sparkled it’s way through Virginia Highlands. I supposed that in Florida the magic, if ever it had existed in the first place, had eroded like a beach in a Hurricane – another fatality of over development and Northern influx. But readers, I was wrong. There is plenty of magic left in Florida and plenty of magic where you are too, but magic is fickle. It likes to be found. Who on earth would ever have thought that the very first magic I found when I moved to Florida would be hiding at the second closest gas station? Not me.
Something was wrong with the credit card machine at the lone pump, which forced me to suffer the dreadful inconvenience of actually having to go inside and interact with a real human being. At this point in my life, I wasn’t too keen on real human beings. You couldn’t trust them. They were all fucked up, annoying liars. All of them. The whole entire world. There wasn’t a decent person left, especially not in South Florida, where the silt and sediment of society sunk and settled here at the bottom with no place else to go. We’re surrounded on all sides by water. It’s easy to get stuck on a peninsula so all these idiots end up here and have no way out and nowhere left to go.
I was so put out that I actually had to go inside to pay. The following week, the credit card machine STILL wasn’t fixed. What was wrong with these damned people? Why couldn’t they get their one, lone pump fixed? The week after that the guy recognized me and accused me of being Pakistani. God only knows what he said to me. It involved more winking and finger shaking.
Dammit. The Pakistani owner of the second closest gas station was sexually harassing me and I knew he was because every time I filled up my car as I was on my way to work at the Bubblegum Kittikat. He only saw me when I was dressed up with my hair curled and too much eyeshadow. I decided to get gas during the day when I looked normal. Same thing happened.
“I am NOT Pakistani!!” I argued for like the 300th time.
The owner of the second closest gas station laughed.
“You need chocolate. Yes, you are very much needing of chocolate.” He said. “I see you every week and I say to myself – she is very much needing of chocolate.”
And then he gave me chocolate. GAVE IT TO ME. For free.
Now one thing that can stop me in my tracks and get me to pay attention to anything, is chocolate. Usually the mere mention of chocolate will suffice. I don’t even need to eat it. I love chocolate so much that I’m even happy to just talk about it. I am also guaranteed to forgive almost any offense and love anyone who declares me “very much needing of chocolate.” If you give me chocolate for free I will definitely be your best friend.
Forget all that trite crap you hear about chocolate making you feel like you’re in love. It doesn’t have that effect on me at all. It just tastes good. When I eat chocolate I don’t feel like I’m in love, unless of course you mean in love with the chocolate. I’m not a chocoholic. I think that’s a stupid name. It makes me imagine a person out of control, in some sort of cookie-monster-esque feeding frenzy with brown smears all over her face. This is not me. I don’t just indiscriminately consume mass quantities of chocolate just because it’s chocolate. There are certain kinds I won’t even eat at all. I like the good stuff. I’d rather pass on the Nestle and hold out for the 70% cacao bittersweet and I extend this philosophy to many other areas of my life. Wait for the good stuff. Don’t settle for the cheap shit just because it’s there and it’s easy. As with hot cocoa (and coffee), there is no gratification in instant.
Normally my cynical self would have sworn up and down that the owner of the second closest gas station was trying to poison me with roofie-laced candy so that he could take me out back and have his way with an unconscious and stupefied me. He wasn’t. The owner of the second closest gas station was a nice man.
He came out from where he was watching PBS (there was a pledge drive) on his little black and white TV and stood surveying his wares displayed on the simple wooden shelves. I bet he built those shelves himself. For the first time I looked at the shelves too.
I expected to see some Skittles, Almond Joys maybe, a box of Nerds, some Trident and Altoids but instead I see a display of the most high quality chocolate in the world. We’re not talking Hershey Bars here. I mean Valhrona, Swiss, Belgian, French, Scharffenberger, brands I’ve never heard of, orange infused, bittersweet, Mexican chocolate scented with cinnamon and smoky chilis, and it is all in a gas station, people. A gas station!! What had to be the finest display of international chocolates outside of some foofy place in New York’s SoHo, sat right here in front of my face in the most unassuming of all gas stations, less than two miles from my parents’ house.
The Pakistani man scratched his chin. He furrowed his brow and said things to himself in Urdu that he thought I could understand because of my secret Pakistani-ism. He picked up a box of sesame truffles and sniffed them. Then he passed his hand over a bar of bittersweet Valhrona. Finally he decided that the chocolate I was very much needing was Mexican.
“Spicy.” He said. “Eat this. Almond, cinnamon. You are needing of spicy. Yes.”
He broke off a jagged bit of the Mexican chocolate for me. First it tasted like cinnamon. Then it melted and I felt the ground almonds. Next it tasted like chilis, smoke - all things black and mysterious and wonderful.
“I love this!!” I said, and immediately considered booking the next Mexicana flight out so I could trek to the mountains to live in San Miguel de Allende where I would spend the rest of my life eating this chocolate and painting self portraits of myself with a moustache and unplucked eyebrows. Sometimes I still think this would be the perfect life. Except for the moustache.
“You see! This very good for you. You eat little chocolate every day. You be very happy. But not a lot chocolate every day or you get too fat and never find a husband.”
This is actually excellent advice, which I follow fairly well. Eat a little piece of fine chocolate every day but not too much or you’ll get fat. Chocolate is good for you. All sorts of studies prove it, with antioxidants and whatnot, but I’m not just talking about that. It’s good for your spirit to stop what you’re doing - be it running incessant errands, getting gas, standing in some never ending line with a bunch of idiots at the DMV, or sitting at your desk at your boring assed job in some grey cubicle under piles of paperwork – to do nothing for a small moment except treat yourself to something exceptional. Then sit there and really savor it. Eat it little bits at a time. You’ll have to because good chocolate is strong in the same way as espresso and red wines. If you do this, I promise you will feel like all is right in the world again. And if you don’t like chocolate, which I think is a measure of insanity, then find some other wonderful, rare, fine thing that you love as much as I love chocolate and treat yourself to that.
I began to look forward to getting gas. I loved stepping into a secret, unexpected world in what looked like your average shitty quickie mart. I tried all kinds of chocolate. There was always something different. The owner was always excited to share his new finds with me. One day I asked him how this all came about, because honestly, I didn’t even think he would be allowed to sell these fancy chocolates in a gas station. I figured the snooty chocolatiers would only want their creations sold in gourmet shops and I was right. The owner of the second closest gas station was buying his chocolate retail, just like any other customer, and reselling it for the same price. He did this simply because he loved good chocolate more than anything else in the entire world and he wanted to share it with people he felt were “very much needing of chocolate.” Like me.
“Not about making money.” He explained. “More about making happy.”
The owner of the second closest gas station and I did not share a common nationality, culture or religion. We shared a common language, which was definitely not Urdu or whatever they speak in Pakistan. We shared a love of magic and mischief and very good things. We were kindred spirits- semi-sweet, smooth and occasionally spicy.
*** Unfortunately, a couple years after this story the chocolate gas station was sold and it became pretty much like every other gas station, though I will attempt to drive by where it used to be and get a picture of how it looks now. Now I buy my fine chocolate at the fancy grocery store or in neat shops that I find when I'm on vacation.
Also, I'd like to share with you some fellow chocolate lovers. Go visit them and give them some love. Chocolate Bytes and Chocolate Obsession are my two favorite chocolate bloggers.
And I almost forgot to mention The Chocolate Traveler! I keep a tin in my purse. It's one of the most perfect inventions ever.
So, you all may have noticed that I've been trying to post more of my own photographs lately. I thought you might like to see where I live and see some of the same things I see every day. I like blogs with pictures, so I thought you might too. Do you? Should I keep taking them?
One thing you will not get is a picture of me. One of my biggest pet peeves is those blogs where girls who think they are prettier than they actually are post all sorts of pictures of themselves doing things they think are cute all over their blogs so then a bunch of total strangers can blow smoke up their asses and tell them how hot they are. I also hate the - look at these artsy pictures I took because my life is so incredibly much more glamorous than yours - kinda blogs. You know who I'm talking about. There are a few of them.
Plus, most of the people who have met me in real life all express some sort of shock over how I look in real life anyway. So you project whatever image you want on my writing and picture me looking however you need me to look and don't worry about it. One day when I get famous you can all see me then and bullshit me about how hot I am and how incredibly glamorous my life is. Ok?
In the meantime, do you still want me to take random pictures as I roam about?
South Florida doesn't have the traditional seasons like everywhere else in the world. You know Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We have Rainy Season, Hurricane Season, Turtle Season, Tourist Season and Social Season (which is strictly for Rich White People), and we also have a half-assed Christmas Season in which we put twinkle lights on pink flamingos and palm trees and parade our Santa's around in Tommy Bahama shirts and swim trunks. Currently we are nearing the peak of both Turtle Season and Hurricane Season. Some people call this Off Season. That means hotels are cheap because it's 107 degrees outside (literally) and because at any given moment we could be blown off the map by a storm.
At this time of year all over the beach you'll see these turtle nests all staked out with yellow tape as if small, square, brutal murders had occurred randomly all up and down the shore. It looks like a multitude of crime scenes. Thankfully it's just turtle breeding ground. South Florida is one of only two places in the whole entire world where Loggerhead turtles go to lay their eggs and we South Floridians are extremely proud of this distinction. The other place is in the Persian Gulf I think and I can guarantee you, those people over there are not nearly as proud of being a turtle nesting ground as we are.
Note the sign. It says all sorts of legal sounding things. It has to. It's trying to be very scary. Why, you ask. Why do you people go to such lengths to cordon off turtle nests like that and why do you want to scare people? Because there is always some jackass who will come along and mess with things he isn't supposed to mess with.
The turtles are endangered, so we humans, who are supposed to be blessed with superior intelligence, have the responsibility of making sure the baby turtles make it out of their shells safely without some morons digging them up and playing paddle ball with their eggs. There are hundreds of people who volunteer their time in the middle of the night, to watch for nesting turtles. Then, when the turtles leave they put up the stakes and tape. A few months later they come back and wait for the babies to hatch and then they guide them to the water, keeping birds and jackasses away from them.
Whenever you see a warning sign - be it the tag that says not to use the hairdryer in the bathtub, or the piece of paper that says not to iron your clothes while wearing them - it means that some utter fool has done that very thing, which is why they had to make a sign. This is the case with the turtle nests too. Usually it's someone who wants a pet sea turtle, but who lacks an ocean to keep it in, so the turtle dies within hours. More often, and more disturbing, it's poachers. I hate stupidity more than anything, but more than just average dumbassedness, I hate the kind of stupidity that's selfish and deviant enough to think that parts of endangered animals will actually keep your dick hard for hours on end and cause women to swoon over your permanent erections by the hundreds.
This is the kind of stupid, primitive and disgusting nonsense that really irritates me. Can you actually believe that people think that eating sea turtle eggs are Viagra's equivalent? I mean, why not just get some Viagra? We all get a hundred spams a day offering black market Viagra. You don't even have to go to the doctor. Why not take a pill instead of eating turtle eggs? Animals have to go extinct so some idiot from some country can get it up for six hours? Hey - note to turtle egg poachers: No woman wants to be fucked for six hours straight anyway.
But because this kind of stupidity exists, we have to have scary signs all over the turtle nests and thank God we have some major penalties if you're caught. They don't play around when it comes to sea turtles. You could seriously, probably kill a homeless person and get less time in prison than if you jacked around with a turtle nest.
Translated from legalese into actual English that sign says something to the effect of that if you dig up, mess with or look at this turtle nest the wrong way that the wrath of God will rain upon you. Lightning will streak down from heaven and the sand below your feet will give way and consume you and there will be a special circle of Hell dedicated to horrible individuals like yourself who have dared mess with the sacred turtle nest and you will spend all eternity stuck in a shell, breathing salt water as the propellers of boats hack away at your back.
So for all of the rotten assholes we have down here with their white collar crime and shameless whoring, we also have people kind enough to look out for defenseless animals and to get laws passed protecting them. I think I can live in a place like that.
Update: I got some more information on the sea turtle nesting. The two biggest nesting areas are here and Oman, and they do protect them and take care of them there too. For some very good and interesting information on sea turtles you can go HERE.
I haven't drawn you all a picture in ages and I haven't made enough fun of Rich White People in South Florida who have no taste whatsoever, in even longer. Frankly, I have some catching up to do. I can only be all self-helpy for so long before I start to have wicked thoughts. This is because there are two mes - a good me and an evil me and they are constantly engaged in a struggle for dominance. This all came about because I was raised partially by religious fanatics and partially by criminals, and one day I will devote a post to how I am not bi-polar, but surprisingly balanced because of it. Today is not that day. Today is the day that I make fun of expensive shoes.
All summer long, everywhere I look I see Rich White Women daintily stepping out of Ferraris, Bentleys and convertible Mercedes' (S class only please) in tiny little ballet flats with crinkly backs and gigantic metal medallions on the toes. They seem to come in all colors and all textures. Some are even made out of real animal hair that is inexplicably dyed to look like the hair of other animals instead of the animal from which it actually came.
Everyone is wearing these shoes. For a while I couldn't figure out what they were. I wanted to know. Mainly I wanted to know because I wondered how this particular shoe managed to transcend the many sub-classifications of Rich White Women. Surely you didn't think all Rich White Women were the same, because they aren't. There are the old, bridge playing WASP ladies in Chanel suits and pearls. There are the 19 year old, tanorexic concubines and there are the 30-40 year old botoxed, fake-titted, tummy tucked mothers who drive Range Rovers. There are also the 60-70 year olds who do everything in their power to emulate the 19 year old concubines. Additionally we have the young WASP set who wear Lily Pulitzer and belong to the Junior League. Normally, these women do not wear the same shoes, so you can imagine my surprise upon seeing them all wearing these curious flats. I had to know what the shoe was.
Finally I overheard one, dear young lady discussing her shoes with another dear young lady who was not wearing the shoes and the mystery was solved. The are the Tory Burch Revas. Apparently these shoes are so sought after and so trendy at the moment that the snotty women in the dear young lady's pilates class would not even speak to her until she showed up in a pair. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be her friend. And all because of crinkly backed flats emblazoned with a 15 pound discus on each toe. I wish someone could explain to me how this works because I am perplexed, but then again, I'm really not.
When I was in middle school there was always a new shoe or a new sneaker that everyone HAD TO HAVE and God forbid that you did not have the right kind of shoe or the most current brand of sneaker, you were labeled as pariah forever. I never had the right kind of shoe. I remember wondering back then even, who decided which shoe it would be? I mean was there some empress of popular girls who arbitrarily chose a new shoe when too many people wore the old shoe? How did it all work? I never did figure it out. Back then I remember longing for a pair of K-Swiss. Then it was Tretorns. Then everyone started wearing these shoes they called Hikers and my mom called Earth Shoes. I thought this all disappeared around high school when I started wearing Converse high tops and army boots and decided that the popular people could be damned because my parents would never buy me the shoe du jour anyway.
Apparently, this has not disappeared at all and many women spend their entire lives stuck in a perpetual middle school state of mind. These women are so insecure and so frenzied to follow that they would probably wear a Chewbacca costume if someone told them that the Chewbacca suit was thousands of dollars, extremely rare and that everyone in Paris was wearing them. In a few weeks the streets of New York, Miami and LA would be crowded with shaggy brown Wookies carrying Louis Vuitton purses and wearing Tory Burch Revas. And we all know how hot a Chewbacca suit would be in Miami, but that wouldn't stop them for a second. Suddenly the sightings of the skunk ape would increase, but they would all be false alarms - nothing but some Rich White Ladies crossing Alligator Alley to go shop in Naples for the weekend. Eventually, poor women would start wearing knock-off gorilla suits and the trend would lose its luster, replaced by the next big fad - tall, pointy witch hats or something equally as ridiculous.
Tory Burch must be having quite a laugh. I can just picture her at some swank dinner party in some New York loft after having had a few too many glasses of wine, laughing with some of her very stylish, cutting edge friends who inherited loads of cash from their old money parents.
"Tory, darling. You really should do a flat. My feet have been hurting in these pointy toed Manolos." her friend would say.
"Ughh. Manolos are so over. So Sex & The City. So '99. The checkout girls in Banana Republic are even wearing them now." another would add.
"Brilliant Idea!" announces Tory, "I wonder how a flat would look with a cd stuck on top of it!"
"A certificate of deposit?"
"No darling, a compact disc. Now that we don't use them anymore, surely we must find a use for them. There must be oodles of cds laying around. I'll put them on shoes! And, furthermore - I will make the backs of the flats look exactly like crimped pie crust!"
"Pie crust? Tory you're a genius. A genius I tell you!"
Then they would all erupt in peals of laughter and go on to make millions.
Above I have gone all split screen on you - depicting first a typical South Florida woman (and they all look pretty much exactly like her) wearing her Tory Burches with her Bermuda Shorts and her "Trapeze" (I mean MATERNITY) top and carrying an enormous purse. On the other side, you have a close up of the shoe with it's medallion and pie crust back.
Should you too wish to purchase a pair of these shoes, I'm sure Ms. Burch would appreciate your business. Go HERE for the perfect shoe to match your Chewbacca suit.
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