Monday, March 31, 2008

Miami Mondays, or Things That Are Different About Miami: Vol. 2 Danger!

(Editor’s note: A wise man once said that branding is everything. He also had no family, no friends, no one to love or hold him, and twice he bought expensive exotic birds to keep as pets, but both times they died of starvation because he was too busy branding things to feed them. So maybe it’s not everything, but I think it counts for something – hence the ridiculous post title. Basically, I want to make “Miami Mondays” posts that are all about the differences between New York and Miami. I hope this abrupt switcheroo doesn’t confuse anyone, and if it does I’m sorry . . . that my blog matters so much to you.)

So, in case you haven’t heard, Miami is a bit dangerous. And I don’t just mean your run-of the-mill, shot in the face, ripped-from-the-headlines straight to “Law & Order” kind of dangerous. I lived in Brooklyn for Christ’s sake. I navigated the line at Terrace Bagels on Sunday mornings. (One time they ran out of lox spread and I had to use a broken Snapple Peach Iced Tea bottle to cut my way through the angry mob.)

Miami is a different kind of dangerous. It’s not just hazardous at times. Instead, it carries an air of danger at all times, as though the city itself has a general disregard (even a distaste) for safety. Just the other day, while watching a woman make an illegal 3-point turn in the middle of a busy intersection with a cop waiting patiently right behind her, Brooke commented, “I want to get a gun. Just so I can see what you have to do to get in trouble here.”

And it’s not just the motorists, although most of the time they drive as though they are blind, and if only they could break 120mph, some miracle of science would allow them to see again. It’s nature, too. The other morning, while I was groggily taking Puppy for his morning walk, a huge frond fell from a palm tree and landed about ten feet from my head. I know what you’re thinking: Dan was afraid of getting hit by a leaf! Oh, maybe it would mess up his hair, or some dirt might brush off onto his nice polo shirt! Guess again. We’re talking about a branch as long as me (body height, not penis) falling from a distance of at least 100 feet (Note: I’m bad with distances). Judging by the loud thump this thing made when it hit the ground, I would guess that the amount of damage this frond could have inflicted ranges anywhere from “a lot” to “dead.”

Then, while walking Puppy the other day, I notice that he has ran ahead and is playing with (OK, kind of humping) a large round object in the sidewalk. It turns out to be a coconut. Am I the only one who didn’t think that coconuts were real? I mean, of course they’re real, but I thought they hailed strictly from deserted islands where non-white people shimmied up the trees using only their indigenous instincts and chopped them down with homemade machetes; not that they grew on residential Florida streets an then came crashing to the ground like a Three Stooges skit. And (once again using my acute judging skills) judging by the way Puppy was putting a fair amount of his weight right on that sucker and it was just rolling around like nothing at all, I would guess that if one of those fell out of a tree and hit you on the head, the amount of damage it could inflict ranges anywhere from “get a metal plate in your skull” to “dead.”

So not only do you have to be careful when you’re driving, but you have to be careful when you’re walking, too. And sometimes, even when you’re just standing, like I was the other night on the roof of the newly opened Gansevoort hotel. Everyone was drinking in beds (a practice that I thought was peculiar to me on rainy Sunday afternoons, but is apparently all the rage here), when suddenly there was a huge explosion. Being so accustomed to Miami living, I simply assumed it was a meth lab accident or 5,000 people all forgot to shut off the oven that night. But no, it was fireworks.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised (who doesn’t love fireworks?) right up until they noticed where the fireworks were coming from – the beach. And not like way out near the water, but like right across the dune, 50 feet away from a residential apartment building (again, not so good with distances). The point being that if I had lived in that building and perhaps I had been in Nam, and I looked out my window, I would have grabbed the nearest can of shoe polish, camouflaged my face and armed myself.


Then, just because firing fireworks at a building isn’t quite dangerous enough, they decided maybe it would be better to shoot the fireworks off the building.


(I should also note that earlier in the night the fire department was called to manage the immense crowd of people trying to get in to the party. So just in case there was an emergency, all the local firemen would be manning the velvet ropes out front. I know that sounds like I’m ridiculing them because of the lack of safety involved, but really it was quite a funny sight – hence I have no problem with it.)

This was about the point where I started to get scared, wondering if maybe they were also planning on shooting fireworks from the roof we were on, you know for a real thrill. No such luck. Things got boring after that, and I’m pretty sure I only saw like one stabbing the entire night. If only there were some decent bagels involved.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Puppy Is Confused; Happy To Be Here

I’m not going to go so far as to call Puppy a smart dog, although he did once poop in the bathtub, so I guess he has his own brand of wit.

Who knows what makes a dog smart anyway. Was Lassie smart? Or just a busybody? I mean sure, those dogs in “Homeward Bound” were pretty philosophical, but that’s easy when you have a dubbed voiceover.* The way I see it though, there’s only two ways a dog can prove its intelligence: To learn how to get me a beer from the fridge, and to perform feats of adorableness when attractive women are around. Because that shows that a dog has sifted through life’s purpose and meaning and determined that there is nothing but solitude and inevitable death, and all that matters is alcohol and women. It shows intuition.

Puppy? He pooped in the bathtub.

But one thing I will credit him for is his uncanny chillness. This dog has moved from Los Angeles to Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to Manhattan, back to Brooklyn, and now to Miami – and every time his attitude is basically the same: Whatever. Maybe it’s because he has no idea we’re in a different place, except that the trees look a little different here, and he goes for a lot of rides in the car. But even when, through the most improbable of circumstances, we ran into our old neighbor from Brooklyn on the street here in Miami, Puppy just jumped up on her leg, said hello, and then pooped on the curb like it was any old Tuesday afternoon.

The one that that seems to have rattled him, though, is the fact that Brooke and I are home all the time now. Maybe he never really liked the fact that he was alone for eight hours a day, five days a week, but like the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for. Suddenly, he can’t sleep for five minutes straight without someone brazenly WALKING TO THE KITCHEN and rousing him from his deep slumber, at which point he looks up slowly from his bed and glares towards the offender with a look like an old man on a park bench might give a bunch of teenagers skateboarding by. (I swear I once hard him say, “Ahem.”)

It’s gotten to the point where he’s started acting weird. Maybe it’s lack of sleep, maybe it’s simply the weight of his uncontrollably changing life, maybe it’s dealing with (channeling Daniel Day Lewis) these people. Whatever it is, Puppy is acting like a retard.

For example: Normally, Puppy is very good at fetch. Along with sleeping, it’s one of his strengths. But lately, it’s like playing fetch with an Alzheimer’s patient. Halfway through he stops and gets all distracted. Then he’s like, “Hey, my toy!” and picks it up and keeps right on playing. Observe.

(Also, way to bring the toy back TO THE CAMERA.)

But this video . . . this is the disturbing one. This sequence of actions goes on any number of times over the course of a day. Observe (and read the following narration while viewing).

“Well, that’s a nice wall. Has that always been there? It looks new. Nice and sturdy, too . . . Anywho, let’s see what’s going on at the rug. Why don’t I roll over on my back for a second? It always feels so good when I rub it on the carpet. Oh yeah, get the face right in there. Wait, what was I doing? Oh yeah, my face . . . uh oh . . . I think I’m stuck. I might be stuck. This could be trouble. How will I get to my food!? OK, not stuck. That was close. Hey! My crotch! Boy, I’m glad no one can see me. I could lick my crotch ALL DAY. What was that?! I heard something! Did my toy just say my name? I need to investigate. Nope, not the toy. Maybe the food dish? Hey, look, it’s my toy! I wonder if that wall’s still over there . . . When did Dan get here?”

Despite all that, I’m not worried. Puppy is a go-with-the-flow kind of dog. In fact, just last night he up and pooped in the fireplace. I have a feeling he’s going to settle in fine here.

* And just in case you were looking for the most disturbing video on the internet, I found it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

With Great Responsibility Comes Great Sacrifice

You’ll all be happy to know that I’m finally getting the hang of living in Miami. This morning, Brooke and I woke up and went to a yoga class. Then we came home, showered and went back out to work remotely from a café sporting free wi-fi. So we sat outside, ate breakfast and didn’t drink any cocktails at all. (Hi, current employers!)

I have to say, the more we get used to this style of life, the less I miss New York. There will always be things about Miami that simply can’t compare to home, but the pros and the cons are all balancing out nicely at this point, with the beach five blocks away tipping the scales at the end of the day.

Except for one thing. One dreadful regret that has hollowed my soul to its very core. I even tried to write a poem about it, but couldn’t find anything to rhyme with “curly death of all my dreams enveloped in rusty cement.”

This is what happened:

About one week after Brooke and I decided we were moving to Miami, a strange envelope showed up in our mailbox. It was addressed simply, almost cryptically – like this is how a serial killer might send you a note made out of magazine cuttings letting you know that you were next on his list.

Address censored for current tenants’ privacy. You can’t be too careful, especially around Easter.

At the time, I failed to look at the return address. I was too excited to see what was inside. (I’ve never been targeted by a madman before. Despite the obvious downside of death, dismemberment etc., it does seem kind of thrilling to be “chosen” for something.)

I opened up the envelope and pulled out a letter. I began reading it. “Dear Sir or Madam . . .” Two sentences in, I dropped the letter on the floor. It was like in the movies where a wife gets a letter from her husband in the future that she is going to die of cancer in three years unless she finds a treasure buried deep off a reef in the South Pacific, and she simply can’t believe it, and the letter flutters in slow motion to the floor, along with a delicate glass of tea, maybe, and some ominous classical music swells in the background. Except there was no music and I can’t drink tea because it constipates me.

But the horror – that was the same. I grabbed the envelope off the counter, flipped it over and looked at the return address.

from address

I’d been chosen, alright. But not by deranged killer. Rather, by the Nielsen Family.

Zoomed in for extra horror!

Now, a little info about me so no one is caught unaware: I’ve had many dreams in life. Not many of them have come true. (Specifically the ones involving man-made flying machines or conversing with animals.) But the one I had always held out hope for was that someday I would be chosen to be a Nielsen Family. That what I watched on TV would matter. Sure, I may not have well-formed opinions on things like politics and science and which way the wind blows, but goddamnit I know TV! I had a choice to make: Either go to Miami with Brooke and Puppy and chase a new dream, one born of life’s simple pleasures, of love and that awesome smell dogs get when they wake up after a nap; or stay in Brooklyn and take advantage of what may perhaps be my one chance to make a meaningful contribution to society.

A few weeks later, Lili Anna Diaz from Nielsen showed up at my door with a bouquet of flowers to welcome me into the family. It was like being accepted into the mafia, or the Knights of Columbus – there is no “if” you want to be a part of it, it is simply assumed that you will be honored join. In what turned into an extremely awkward exchange, she handed me the flowers before I could explain that I was moving to Miami; I had chosen my fate and it was south of the Mason-Dixon. So, no I wouldn’t be a Nielsen Family. Not today.

She seemed confused, dejected, like I was turning down a chance to cure cancer or a job offer from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Figuring it would be weird to give back the flowers, I thanked her for her time and shut the door.

The flowers died a week later, along with my dream. At least now I can finish my poem.

I chose Miami. RIP “Arrested Development.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things That Are Different About Miami: Vol. 1
Cuban Coffee

I’m a native New Yorker. I mean, born and bred. I’ve never lived outside its borders for an extended period of time. In fact, the longest I’ve ever spent away from home was a month at hockey camp in New Hampshire, which isn’t even a real state. Seriously, you dive across the border and it turns out you’re in Vermont. So I am earnest when I say that this is my first real foray into absorbing something different, and I’m excited about it. It’s like when the colonists came over from Europe and helped out the Native Americans with food and blankets. Food and blankets! What could go wrong?!

Needless to say, I’m eager to grow accustomed to Miami living. But after only two weeks here, I am sure of one thing: Some breasts grow to be HUGE.

OK, two things: It’s different here. Really different. From the weather (70 degrees feels cold) to the driving (which I haven’t done since high school) to the bizarre insistence of women to practically flaunt their vaginas in public, as though that’s something I want to see before I’ve had my morning coffee.

And that’s what this new section of the blog will be for: to create a user’s manual for anyone coming from New York to Miami. And if you’re not a New Yorker moving to Miami, it can also be used as a convenient coaster if you print it out on a piece of paper and fold it twice into a rectangle.

So, the first big difference? Cuban coffee.

Brooke and I discovered this on our second day here. We had heard rumors of its greatness, but didn’t know what it was. A different coffee bean? A different brewing style? I mean, Starbucks didn’t have it, so how cool could it be, right? Little did we know what we were in for.

We woke up early that day and Brooke ran out to get us some morning coffee. She ended up at this Cuban shack around the corner from our hotel. Brooke, being a true lover (read: addict) of coffee, came back with a glint in her eye.

Brooke: (handing me cup) “I don’t know what this is.”
Me: “What?”
Brooke: (talking fast) “I don’t know. I saw sugar. And some milk. And a shot of something. It was amazing. I’m confused.”
Me: “Slow down, are you OK?”

Flash forward to 3:00. Brooke and I come to after a nap by the pool. I sit up and groggily rub my eyes, not quite sure where I am. There are two overturned Styrofoam coffee cups between my and Brooke. I stumble into the hotel room, and what I see is the remnants of a war. I can’t quite remember what happened over the past few hours, but if this scene is any indication, then at least three of the following incidents occurred: a pillow fight, a fashion show, gymnastics, a game of kickball, some sort of brawl, and a large chicken feast.

Brooke stumbles in behind me, confused. “What happened in here?”

Me: “I’m not sure.”
Brooke: “Is there any more coffee?”
Me: “I don’t think so.”
Brooke: “But I need it. I need the coffee, Dan.”
Me: “Brooke, let it go. The coffee’s no good for you.”
Brooke: “You don’t understand. Just one sip, that’s all. Just to get me through the day.”
Me: (shaking her now) “Goddamnit Brooke I said no! I’m not gonna let you get sucked into this lifestyle. Yes, the coffee was delicious, but that’s not who we are. We can’t handle the Cuban coffee! Accept it!”
Brooke: “I miss it so much.”
Me: “I know. I know . . .”

Basically I’ve come to find out that the deliciousness that is Cuban coffee (or café con leche in this case) is a turbo-charged latte made up of steamed milk, loads of sugar and shots of Cuban coffee, which has more than twice the caffeine of normal coffee. It’s a concoction we haven’t dared jump back into for fear that friends and relatives may never hear from us again as we are sucked into a spiral of sweet, caffeinated doom.

So let’s categorize this under “Good/Bad Difference.” It was good while it lasted, though since then we have bought a coffee maker and brew our own, pedestrian coffee: For we always know that our next fix, the foamy brink of hyperactivity, is right around the corner.

Monday, March 17, 2008

You Think That’s Funny, You Should Have Seen When I Put Aftershave On The Computer

This morning I shot up in bed, like that scene in “Home Alone” when the mother realizes she went on vacation without her son and bolts up and screams “Kevin!” Only I sat up and screamed “[redacted]!”

Whoops – kind of forgot I had a blog. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been lounging on the beach and stuffing my face with Cuban sandwiches, but that’s hardly the case. (It turns out you can’t fit a whole Cuban sandwich in your mouth. Go figure.)

It also turns out that moving 1,300 miles isn’t as easy as I thought. I’d seen people in the movies do it all the time, where suddenly they’re in a big new house and everything is all set up and the husband is dressed in a v-neck sweater and casual slacks and reaching into the last open cardboard box, pulling out a pristinely paper-wrapped vase, placing it on a dusted console table, and then the wife comes out from the kitchen with freshly cut tulips from the garden and places them in the vase. Then they pour a glass of wine from an already opened bottle and sit down on the couch with an exhausted gesture making some sort of lightly-humored proclamation like, “Well that wasn’t easy!” (I watch weird movies.)

Well let me tell you how that scene really goes:

So many boxes you can’t even imagine. Lining the walls. There is a walkway from the front door to the bathroom: Your options are pee or leave. Furniture can’t be used – it is only in the way, preventing you from doing the one thing you want to do most, which is sleep. But there are no sheets on the bed; the sheets are packed in a box that is underneath three boxes of books, and hygiene just doesn’t seem that important. You’re dressed in a variation of the same two outfits you’ve been wearing for the past three days. It stinks, but so does your situation, you reason. That console table? It doesn’t exist. You have two coffee tables and three night stands, but no fucking console table. You never even knew what a console table was until you needed one, and now your life seems less full, less happy, less hopeful because you have no place to put your keys, which are constantly lost, paring your options down to one: the bathroom. The last box is really the tenth, but it may as well be the first, because no conceivable progress is being made. Progress is a word for politicians and historians, and neither of them care that this tenth box is covered in some sort of liquid that spilled in a moving truck somewhere around Maryland. That vase? Broken – which is fine because you haven’t had time to eat, let alone arrange some fucking gardenias. There’s currently a mattress in your kitchen, so wine is a luxury item that your current standard of living can’t support nor even fathom. At least you have beer. And that’s what life has come down to: At least you have beer. You think to yourself, “This is all I need. This beer. It is a delicious symbol of optimism for a better tomorrow.” Then you realize your bottle opener is taped up somewhere in a cardboard coffin. You cry, and as your girlfriend walks in the room with a beer bottle broken off at the neck, blood dripping down her hands and traces of glass still stuck in her lips, she looks at you with an alarming amount of crazy in her eye, takes a swig and says, “Well that wasn’t easy!”

Luckily, that’s only the prologue. Flash forward two weeks and the tide of mess has subsided. My face is sun-kissed from a day at the beach and I’m sitting at my new West Elm desk working. Doing a job, from my apartment, with Puppy in a bed at the foot of my desk. Basically, we’ve managed to go from this:

to this:

Meaning: The fun begins shortly.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Please Note: I Have Sand In My Chest Hair And I Love It

You know how calendar years have their highs and lows? How after President’s Day there’s this barren wasteland of weeks melding one into the next, not a bank holiday in sight until Memorial Day? And everyone just kind of goes about their business, calming down, spring cleaning, saving money, just kind of . . .

OK, I can’t do this. I’m being interrupted by this obnoxious banging in the hotel room adjacent to mine. And let’s just say that the banging isn’t coming from a hammer, if you know what I mean. It’s coming from a cock and vagina. Basically, he seems very into it; she seems encouraging. Lots of “Yeah baby” and “Oh yeah” and full on grunting. Not the controlled moans that most people use, or the oohing and ahhing of pleasure – but discernible grunts. Like he’s really putting some effort into it. It’s kind of sweet (Beach! Vacation! Anal! Aww…), but at the same time kind of sad. Because while clearly she is proud of his go-get-‘em attitude, if I read her moans between the lines correctly, let’s just say she’s with him more for the fact that he can afford this outrageously luxurious hotel than she is for his work ethic.

None of which really matters because the fact remains that it just stopped and it only lasted about 16 minutes and 49 seconds, based on my unscientific calculations. And everyone knows that the only thing that matters when eavesdropping on other people having sex is if they go longer than you do. And I’m no marathon runner, but I used to bike a good amount. And given good conditions and some even terrain I could pedal for a reasonably long while. It’s not so much that I would get winded – just that, you know, my butt would start to hurt or it would be getting dark. Because at the time I was working construction in the Hamptons and traffic was brutal on the way home, so it got dark early by the time I made it onto the road. Anyway, this metaphor jumped the rails somewhere around “butt,” so let’s just say that I harbor no lingering resentment for room 110 and their afternoon delight.

They did, however, ruin my train of thought. What I was going to say, ironically, was that everything just gets kind of boring. On the flip side, there’s the last six weeks of the year, jam packed with Thanksgiving, and family, and shopping, and Christmas, and parties, and presents, and getting fat and drunk on nostalgia and the good scotch, and then maybe throwing up on a street corner on New Years’ Eve because the hope fostered by brand new resolutions can’t overcome the self-loathing of 15 years of unfulfilled expectations, and champagne makes you feel fancy, like that job you promised to quit four years ago doesn’t matter so much and maybe that girlfriend you meant to dump back in June isn’t so bad after all?

Point being, since Brooke and I first decided that we were moving to Miami a little over a month ago, it’s been like those last six weeks of the year, but like times 1000. So much has happened – and we’ll get to all that in due time, most likely in “Lost”-style flashbacks – but right now, here’s all that matters: I’m an uncle. And normally I am the first person to claim that all newborns look the same, but if you ask me, Ronan here’s got some good features going for him, some real personality in his face, kind of like a young Paul Newman.

Excuse the bags under his eyes – he’s tired from his long trip down the birth canal.

The fact that all our worldly possessions are on a truck, which was delayed halfway between New York and Miami by some sinister snow storm? We’ll deal with that when the time comes. (Which will hopefully be Wednesday, because these Gap shorts I had to buy are going to be reeeal funky by then.) In the meantime, I will happily sit here basking in the adulty feeling of having a nephew – new job, new apartment, new city, newly intimate relationship with my temporary neighbors, all be damned.

And for the record, Brooke loves me for my work ethic. I could never afford our current digs. Brooke’s company generously put us up here until our furniture is freed from the foothills of North Carolina. Puppy, it turns out, has a real taste for luxury.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane Piloted By Puppy


In the past week I have:

a. Had my last day of work at a job I was at for 6 years
b. Gotten a brand new job
c. Become an uncle
d. Experienced a stress-induced psychotic break, highlighted by uncontrollable fits of rage, followed usually by quiet weeping
e. All of the above.

Stay tuned to find out all the answers!