Bitter roots and firewater

Downtown is a breathing beast, be it Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Key West. She’s deadly, but people will go even if they don’t like the options. The allure of alcohol-induced interaction always wins.

Simply walking through Fort Lauderdale’s Himmarshee bar district is a train-wreck of the various stages one can expect of alcohol poisoning. Some people are still flailing around, others are being carried back to the car before they hurt themselves. Most of my downtown friends can hold their liquor (and have many years of practice,) but not all are so fortunate. I’ve had to shove drunken, pilled up men waving bags of cocaine, into a hearse in Little Haiti– long story– and stop serious brawls from escalating to arrests. Other times I’d just kick back and watch as they utterly screw themselves.

There was a time when I found myself crawling on the floor of a random guy’s apartment as my friend had sex with him on a bed, much to my distress. I was about eighteen, and made a note to myself: NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. From that moment, I never had so much to drink in one sitting, or even one week. It was simple to me. Is it a problem? Yes. Should I do this? No. Of course, shortly after that incident I had the aid of my extremely sober then-boyfriend, so it was simple enough. I spent my 21st birthday sans any alcohol or otherwise. It didn’t hurt me, and I didn’t feel like I lost something vital.

After that floor crawl, I began sticking to the company of coffee heads and tobacconists. Quite a few of the people there led sober lives and avoided bars. It spawned my love for coffee houses, and kept with my life plan of avoiding all drugs. I’ve still never tried, or attempted to try, any drug more potent than a cute little weed that grows in the dirt. I’d like to keep it that way.

So this led me to my affinity for recovering addicts. Between self-imposed avoidance and hanging out where they prefer, I’ve met quite a few, and the differences between nights with them and nights downtown are rather grim at times. Recently, I was introduced to a local kava bar in Fort Lauderdale that has a strong base of NA folks. I’ve met some fascinating people there, just like I would at a coffee joint. Unlike downtown– where most of the interactions require a drunkspeak interpretation– there’s no alcohol to create a false sense of community and bravado. It’s just there. Walk into a bar you’ve never entered before downtown, and see how warmly you’re greeted. Walk into this kava bar, and everyone is happy to introduce themselves.

It’s an amusing kind of environment to the point of a recent example, while I was sitting outside smoking with other kava people. A slightly older, obviously party-friendly woman yelled down the hall at us asking if it was a bar. Without a word, we all looked at each other and grinned. One guy tried to explain there was no alcohol, but another told her to head in  and see. She ended up leaving with a smile and a desire to come back for the open mic night with friends. It’s seemingly easier to convince someone to back out of drinking for the night than it is to convince them to leave there to drink.

Personally, I can’t even drink kava. My kidneys won’t have it, but I find myself more than content to just sit with a tea or water. The people make it worth that for me.

So now, when I stomp around downtown (be it to see a friend’s show, or just because) I have even more appreciation for the stark contrast in attitudes. I may not know the full extent of the pain of addiction, but hearing a friend easily say “Yeah, I was a junkie. I screwed up, and I was an idiot,” gives me a little more faith in people’s ability to be brutally honest and strong for their own sake. I’ve never been able to look down on someone for their dependencies, as I’ve almost fallen victim to it myself before I found a doctor that didn’t want to cure everything with Vicodin.

While the amusement of the bars still holds for me, and I will never pass up a chance to watch stupid people do stupid things, I’m also very glad that I have places to run to when it’s too much. My “junkie” friends are some of the most talented and wonderful people I know, and I wouldn’t trade that for a thing. Some people tell me not to trust a former user. For me, this makes it far less likely to trust the person saying so than anything else.


When it rains… well, it gets wet, obviously. Jeeze.

It’s been raining. Heavily. Here’s a picture of some awful weather. 

I finally managed to escape the house to get to my personal favorite spying location near home. When I arrived, nothing seemed too off. Everyone was busily typing away on their computers, or randomly blabbing on a cell phone. One girl looked drunk, but this is Florida, so it’s to be expected at 2p.m. 

It’s about the time I noticed drunkypoo that something strange happened. 
People started getting nasty. A couple broke into an enormous fight at the table nearest mine, complete with the obligatory “you’re not the man I started dating!” and “my mother warned me about girls like you!” kinds of insults thrown around like bad, bad step-children when daddy drinks.

I decided that I’d leave them to it and head inside for a quick bathroom break, but was met by another couple arguing at the counter, and yet another woman banging on the bathroom door for her slow (no, literally– she has Downs) child to exit. I had a flashback to the mentally distressed child that once came into the Starbucks I worked for who fingerpainted with his own feces on the bathroom wall, and rapidly gave up my thoughts of stepping foot in there. 

Outside! No, no. Outside is now populated by violently arguing college students. One lady sits among us, rapid-fire talking into a cell phone about how many apartments she has in what states. One of the students snaps, telling her to “take her rich ass back to one of them, we’re trying to get shit DONE.” 

By now I am assuming I’m hallucinating some collapse of society, that a raging virus is taking over their minds, and not everyone can be this utterly pissed off for no reason. It’s about the time that a man mumbles to his friend as they pass… “Fuck Monday.”
Right. The working man’s burden. That must be it.

But no. These people are not at work. Is the collective hatred for Monday so very strong that it invades the minds and lives of those without 9-5 jobs? Is there PCP in the coffee?
I have no idea, honestly– but it’s fucking funny to watch.

So for now, I’m going to sit back and collect their mutual annoyances for later stories. 
I feel pretty good, myself.

When the rape van approaches…

Sometimes, the creeps you find are burned into memory like a bad bout of food poisoning. You’ll never forget the face or their mannerisms, and once they show up again– BAM!– reminders of their previous disturbing behavior comes flooding back.

Close to ten years ago, I was graced with the presence of a very distressing man at a Starbucks. I was still in my “HOLY CRAP PEOPLE NO! TOO DAMN SHY!” mode, so talking to anyone was enough to make me panic. I spent most of my time writing or drawing pictures after making sure to remove any extraneous chairs from my table. This didn’t deter everyone, sadly. One such fellow (we’ll call him Steve, since I don’t remember his name) decided that he must know me, and what I was writing. Every day.

Thus far, all I knew of this guy went as follows: He was in his 50s. He wore see-through mesh shirts and tweaked his nipples when he spoke to you. He owned and basically lived in a huge white van with no windows, and he never wanted anyone to see in the back. One Halloween, he was kicked out for wearing shorts so tiny all of his manly bits decided to flop out at the kids coming in. It wasn’t until later that I figured he probably intended that.

So, after he kept peering at my writing, he eventually decided I had to see his screenplay. Now, this was a Starbucks– it’s not like he was the only guy writing one there. He was, however, one of the first to ask me to edit it. After he gave me a long description of this and offered to pay me, I said I’d look at it. Holy shit. Vagina. Rape. Vagina. Also, vagina.
It was all about a serial killer that got off by tying women down and eating them, while they were alive, from the genitals up. It went on like this from page to page, in horrible spelling and confusion interludes that involved a puppy or some crap. I didn’t know what to make of this… thing. To top it off, his actions made me wonder if this was less screenplay and more autobiography.

It was around this time that he started trying to date a fifteen year old that worked at the now-defunct Wild Oats store. He wrote her long, rambling love letters and spoke of marrying her. The mother of this girl worked there as well, and somehow didn’t make him go away BEFORE the stalking began. It was well before this point that I couldn’t really handle him anymore, and told him I would be unable to assist with this manifesto of rape. He seemed utterly bewildered as to why, but accepted it. That was until I started working for the Starbucks down the road.

He found me there one day, and seemingly never left. On and on he spoke of his screenplay and how it “would be seriously helpful if you could assist me in this most important matter.”
That sounded awful.
So due to circumstances I can’t possibly recall, the police showed up one day. Nobody knew if it was because of his love for the young girl, his actions or his special writings– but he was hauled away on the spot after a search of his van. It was an odd moment all around.

So today I came to the other shop. I wander inside, as usual, and what do I see before me but good old nipple man, alone in a corner and creeping people out. There was an odd sense of wonder and nervousness in me at that moment, seeing this deviant so near me. I carefully and quietly skulked past him, hoping he wouldn’t notice. If he did, he never said anything, which was fine by me. I came back out to regale my companions with the story of how I met such a fascinating creature, when he magically removed himself from his seat and slid out the door to his van before I could notice.

At this point he simply looks like a slightly broken old man gazing at porno in a coffee shop. Nothing new there, they do it all the time. This one is special, though. This one is insane.

So remember, kids… sometimes that weird old guy that wants to talk to you about your feet actually hopes you’re fifteen and willing to be a snack in the back of a van on Alligator Alley.
It always amazes me what some people really are underneath it all, and that no matter how long they hide, SOMEONE remembers what they’ve done.