We are sitting in the lobby of a hotel about half a block down from Auntie's condo. My brothers and I had spent the night here as our 89 year old multi-millionaire step-uncle had had Lasik surgery the day before. My brother is convinced that we should get a free continental breakfast because none of us could figure out how to make the shower work. I am convinced that he is a loser. The front desk attendant agrees with me when my brother's answer to, "Why didn't you call the desk?" is to try and stare her down, evidently mistaking ocular focus for reason. After a few minutes of watching Americans (they only come in two categories: obese and The Hills wannabes), my aunt picks us up, chides us for not ordering room service last night and drives us the 25 feet to her condominium, where we are greeted by her 16 year old dog. Point of interest: while the notion of my pre-civil war step-uncle having to read with glasses is abhorrent, they will not invest in cataract surgery for my aunt's now blind westie terrier whose eyes resemble those of Jordie LeForge. The thing limps around the house, halting only to piddle on the marble or when forcibly stopped by a wall it just walked into. Underneath it's wiry, matted fur this dog must look like Rihanna after over-salting Chris Brown's collard greens. Auntie fixes me a double cappuccino while my brother runs around on the 1,000 metre long distance track my aunt calls a balcony. I revel in the fact that I am not at work and take a moment to ponder whether Black Magic would simply bounce right back up if pushed off the 19th story balcony.
Having just finished breakfast of fruit, yogurt, Grape Nuts and crushed diamonds, we descend to South Beach to meet up with my parents and grandmother for lunch at the poetically named Burger & Beer Joint. I'm gonna be divisive for a moment and state for the record that I do not like restaurants with their menu and edifice type in the name. So lazy. You gotta leave a little mystery there, put in a little effort, otherwise it's just too easy, like giving an amputee a scooter. Not on my watch. You think anyone would have given two shits had Terry Fox decided to scoot across Canada? I don't think so, buddy. Waffle House? Nuh-uh. Pizza Hut? Try again. Sugar Shack? Fuck you. Notable exception: Cheesecake Factory. Why? Cause they make motherfucking cheesecake. Truth.
We all have different kinds of burgers, except my aunt and grandmother, who share a chopped salad. My grandmother is diabetic and my aunt is a manic obsessive, so the former is monitored at every single meal like a prisoner. And like a prisoner, she tries to escape. Often. Since her stroke, my grandmother has regained most of her dialoguic capabilities, but chooses not to exercise them, preferring instead to let everyone else gab on while she bumrushes the breadbasket. This in turn causes my aunt to descend into hysterics, constructing elaborate fences and forts out of flatware, water glasses and condiment receptacles to prevent her mother from achieving Precious-esque sugar levels (Softy, that was just for you). This plan usually works unless there is some sort of dressing or spread in the barricade, which my grandmother will scoop up with spoon or finger. She's not picky. On this particular occasion, my own mother makes the rookie mistake of letting grandmother pour her own salad dressing. Half of it goes into the chopped salad while the remainder is poured directly into her mouth. Think Pooh with a honey pot. And dentures. My father, conversely, limits himself to only some of the cheddar cheese dip that accompanies his behemoth onion rings. This is largely because the majority winds up on the checkered nautical sail he calls a shirt (fun fact: it comes with air vents), but let us not quibble over details. As for myself, I enjoy the brie, prosciutto and sweet onion marmalade burger (real name: The Mustang Sally. Yeah, I butch.) and then down one of the two pitchers of beer ordered for the table. Desperate times...
Upon arrival in Miami, I discovered that all the bitchin' au courant ensembles I had packed myself had actually just been a dream I'd had and that I had pretty much packed one change of clothes for the entire weekend. Granted, this change of clothes included a blue velvet dinner jacket, but still. My life is rough, y'all. As such, the middle brother, who Auntie has taken to simply calling 'Pichu', is unable to borrow any clothing from me, as previously promised when we first saw him at the airport.
Illustrious D: Holy fucking shit! You're here!
Thunder-Stealing Bro: Yep.
ID: You can totally borrow my pants this weekend!
ID: *Downie-esque smile*
T-SB: Only problem is that we're not 14 year old girls and you're not America Ferrera.
ID: *crestfallen face*
T-SB: *smug-ass smirk*
Auntie takes us to the Gap to buy clothing for Pichu. The youngest brother, who I used to call Pudge because his stomach was distended like that of a World Vision sponsoree, pulls me aside and says that he really wants to get to know our aunt for who she is and not what she buys us and that we should abstain from letting her get us anything. "For totes," I say and I mean it. At the time. Once at the Gap, Auntie and I turn into Stacy & Clinton and dress Pichu up in sweatshop-produced Americana for the next hour until he winds up looking kind of like a clueless technology millionaire instead of the clueless engineer twenty-onaire that he is. The google guys WISH they had a Hungarian housewife and pansexual Jewy gimp dressing them! Also helping us is the store manager who looks like Nicolette Sheridan beaten with a meat cleaver. Not pretty folks. (Wow, so much domestic violence references today. Pat on back.) As a reward for being so altruistic with my sartorial gifts, I allow Auntie to buy me the only remotely interesting looking thing in the store. What? No judgey! I even refrain from getting the straw fedora-esque hat that makes me look all Hemingwayz. Mother tries to put a newsboy cap on my head. I punch her in the neck. Never. Touch. My. Hair. It's like those fucked up floating seeds in Avatar; look at it the wrong way and it'll disappear. Pudge pouts over the failings of his non-materialist plan until he discovers the table marked "Fucking Boring Straight Guy Apparel" and concedes, buying two t-shirts and some cargo shorts. Comrade fail.
Joe's Stone Crabs, a bastion of the Miami Beach scene. This is a huge muthafukin' restaurant with waiters in tuxedos and diners in lobster bibs. Classy times. They do not take reservations, but my aunt knows a gal who knows a guy so we avoid the two hour wait (for serious) and glide in after the maitre D' is slipped a twenty. And maybe a ball tickle. This is South Beach, after all. The step-uncle orders a couple of bottles of Cabernet for the table, but I abstain, citing my allergy to grapes during a new moon and order a Ketel One martini with a lemon twist. The waiter comes back with an olive-garnished offering, but it is cold so I take and chose to do the mature thing and spit the pits down his cummerbund rather than send it back. Ketel One is also my new favourite because it tastes like water and is amazing with oysters.
I recall the last time I was here and we saw Andre Agassi with family one table over. I ponder who I will see tonight and momentarily fantasize about seeing Chelsea Handler. The thought alone gives me diarrhea. Celebrity does not phase me at all with some very notable exceptions, including Tori Amos, Madonna and Dakota Fanning. That is one snotty beeotch. Chelsea Handler also falls into this category, so I quickly stop thinking about meeting her and imagine instead sending her a packet of my aunt's standard cocktail napkins. Then I think about how she probably receives about ten of these a days from like-minded 'mos and my poor self-esteem returns once again. I look around the table and see my father doctoring his wine with the flop sweat that has appeared on his massive, eye brow-free forehead and is slowly dripping into his glass. My aunt is constructing a Jericho-esque structure around the breadbasket. My grandmother is slyly applying an entire pat of butter to her dinner fork. My mother continuous looks over at me and smiles a huge, so-glad-we're-all-here-together-and-by-'we'-I-mean-me-and-this-here-wine smile. I smile back, mostly because I appreciate how special it really is that we're all together as a family, but at least in small part to the welt that is beginning to show on her neck. Such pretty colours.
NEXT TIME: Auntie micro-manages brunch; Grandmother owns me at rummy; Daddy's dinner comes in a duck decoy.