On the flight home from my visit to Miami, I watched Juno and cried the entire way through it. This incident serves as the ideal encapsulation of my week in Paradise.
My parents picked me up at 6:30. After eleven hours, a layover in Denver spent mostly at the terminal's 'French' bistro (hello, bagel-esque croissants), and no in-flight entertainment, we arrived in Miami. After renting a car and driving to Miami Beach, we drove up to a 40's Spanish-era bungalow where we were greeted by my teary-eyed, 88 year old Hungarian grandmother and the Cuban nurse that monitors her raging diabetes and stroke recovery. I breathed a sigh of anxiety.
Then arrived my aunt, who at 39 *cough*earlysixties*cough* is one of these unimaginably wealthy Miami housewives with condos overlooking the ocean and more prescription pills than a Walgreen's. The Hungarian Dream embodied, she is the love of my life. We all flitted away to Joe Allen's, a South Beach landmark where rich Jewish clientele are served my tanned homo servers. Ours, while not especially attractive, did me a huge disservice in ID'ing me (the Louis was over the river and through the woods at Grandma's house) and refusing to serve me any of my beloved Stoli, as well as completely making my night by bestowing upon me the knowledge that in the right light (ie near darkness), I still look until 21.
After a restful night (thank you, Lorazepam), the four of us, as well as my aunt's octogenarian Westie, set out for Lincoln Road, a pedestrian street in South Beach with lots of chi-chi boutiques and eateries. This marked the occasion of the first of many chopped salads on this trip and also the first of many references to the salad-chopper my grandmother used to chop my father's weed in his younger days. Their house of my father's youth was also a painfully honest one, where drugs, if not approved of, were at least out in the open. I firmly believe that this was the contributing factor in his not becoming an addict and thereby providing me with a much more boring life.
That night we went to The Palm. Just the name alone screams "No one under 60 ever comes here." To properly illuminate my aunt's (or rather, her husband's) social circle, you know how in the old-time restaurants they have painted caricatures of the rich and famous on the wall? Yeah, they're up there. It is one of those restaurants where the waiters still have those really high-buttoned smocks and martinis are large and boozy. So boozy, in fact, that I shamefully nursed one through the entire dinner and was still a bit drunk at 2am when the first inklings of a hangover appeared.
Still bloated on booze and money, the next morning I set out for Aunty's crib, a 19th story condo with marble floors, balcony on two sides on which I could run track meet and a bathroom bigger than my apartment. Nothing heals like time except for affluence. We set out for Bal Harbor, an outdoor mall that looks like the first 100 pages of GQ or Vogue. It's so exclusive that at the restaurants even the waiters are white. Mind you, this doesn't stop the clientele from looking like they were going to the Piggly-Wiggly; this is Miami, after all, where golf shorts are dinner attire. Over a lunch of tuna carpaccio (me) and air (her), Aunty announces that she is going to buy me an Hermès belt. For those that think that Armani is the tops, allow me to illuminate: before there was Versace, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, even Louis Vuitton...there was Hermès. Ol' school luxe, dogz. Think of it as the difference between Placido Domingo and Andrea Boccelli.
I can't even bring myself to walk into Harry Rosen Polo Park, so to enter through the gilded (not really, but stfu) gates of Hermès was a spiritual experience. An adorable clerk helped me go through various buckles (gold, silver, polished, brushed, lined) and straps (various combinations of black, brown, orange, blue and the most ethereal crimson). I love any sort of debate whereupon pros and cons are weighed, but when it is as something so absurdly extravagant as an Hermès belt, I am truly in Heaven. 'Cept my aunt didn't realize the true cost of this religious awakening. Upon learning of the price tag (roughly the GNP of Spain), she informed the salesman that we'd think about it and be back. She then tried to foist on me garish equivalents from Gucci and Prada, either so bland I might as well be perusing Sears or so steeped in motorcycle culture that my beard grew three centimetres on the spot. No, I was smitten and no 100 year old upstart fashion house would fill the void. And so I worked. I mean, w-o-r-k-e-d. I spent the next hour and a half as the doting nephew, sweetly smiling 'No, thank you' s at Neiman's, helping her pick out lipstick at Saks ('Jungle Infusion') and waxing poetic about the proud 170+ year tradition of my beloved H belt. Finally, over iced lattes, she says, "You're so brave. You have all these awful circumstances and yet you never complain [ed. ha!]. I'm just so proud of you."
He was wrapping the belt (reversible black and orange with a brushed gold buckle) ten minutes later.