Monthly Archives: March 2015

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Beach Justice

All the other beach authorities have a vessel or a crib that distinguishes them from the spring-breakers. You’ve got the guys in helicopters, searching the high seas for man-eating sharks or whatever. You’ve got the guys on ATVs, patrolling the dunes for illicit picnic activity. You’ve got the lifeguards in their stands, keeping an eye out for pretty people who might need resuscitating. But I, Ben Cube, originally from the land of New Jersey, do my law enforcement on foot. When someone is in danger, I don’t need to arrive on a glimmering white jet ski or leap out of a pastel cabana on stilts. I don’t even need the sanction of the South Florida government. I just need my swimming trunks and my impeccable sense of right and wrong. Yes, you’re correct. Mine is the face of vigilante beach justice.

On a typical day I wake up before dawn so I can reach the pier while the local rednecks still think they can fish with impunity. Many of these fishermen know me, having been on the receiving end of my justice in the past, and they pack up their gear and their coolers as soon as they see me coming. It takes all my self-restraint not to frogmarch them back down the boardwalk. But there’s always at least one oblivious tourist, or some doofus kid partaking in his first fishing lesson with Daddy, who needs to be taught the rules. “It’s right there on the sign,” I say as I approach these latter miscreants at the end of the pier. “No fishing. Read it and weep.”

The father stops reeling in whatever endangered sea creature he was reeling in. “Are you a game warden?” he says.

“If you don’t throw those squid back into the ocean by the count of five,” I respond, “I’ll be forced to make a citizen’s arrest. Do you really want your son to see that?” Nine times out of ten, they don’t.

Once the pier is purged of its lawbreakers, I extract my Sharper Image binoculars from their all-weather case and train them on the horizon. If I see too many people in a catamaran, or not enough lifeboats on a cruise ship, I don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements. Though as far as I can tell, the Coast Guard just sits on its collective ass 24 hours a day.

Next order of business is the nude beach. The nude beach attracts your standard law-abiding soul who just wants to sun his or her privates, but unfortunately it also attracts the scum of the earth. If you wonder where all of Florida’s creeps and perverts congregate during daylight hours, it’s here, where boobs and wangs can be tossed about freely in open air. If I see a young female spring-breaker, lounging on a towel, shyly baring her breasts to the sky, you can bet that right behind her will be sitting a fully-clothed troll filming her incognito with a camera hidden in his duffle bag, as if he’s a degenerate James Bond or some shit. This does not fly with me. Babe or no babe, this young woman does not deserve to have her boobs live-streamed to the internet.

So what do I do? I plop myself between woman and pervert, effectively obstructing the camera’s view. Sometimes I leisurely remove my swim trunks in the duffle bag’s line of sight so the pervert will be treated to artsy footage of my jiggling testicles. The pervert usually leaves quickly with his contraband, and after that my only duty is to inform the young woman of the valorous steps I’ve just taken to thwart her career in amateur porn. When I reach for a business card in my pocket so she knows that she can call me anytime if she ever sees anything suspicious, even if it’s in the middle of the night, I often forget that I’m still naked, and my hand skips comically over my thigh and collides with my sweatiest area. But such is life on the nude beach!

Next I break for lunch in the shade beneath the lifeguard stand.

In the afternoon most outlaws tend to be sun-stricken and lethargic, so I try to round up some beach cats for Animal Control. While securing one of these stray varmints in a sand dune last weekend, my hand got scratched up pretty bad, but I’m watching the wound closely. Plus I have faith in the ocean to sterilize 99 percent of infections, even rabies.

After the cat round-up comes my least favorite part of the day, but every hour can’t be a heroic hour when it comes to justice. You would not believe the amount of garbage these Spring Break hooligans generate during their week-long revels on the beach. I’m talking Silo cups, plastic bottles, water-logged underthings, cans of Bud Light, broken sunglasses, abandoned kiddie pools, candy wrappers, and once even a papasan chair. It takes an entire industrial trash bag to clean it up every afternoon, and that’s only for a two-mile stretch of beach. You’d think these kids were raised by animals. Still, I appreciate their youthful spunk. I was also a boy once. Though I don’t recall ever disposing of used condoms in the sand. Speaking of which, what kind of woman gives it up on a family beach? If I ever catch any of these litterbug hedonists in the act, trying to hide their hanky-panky under sun umbrellas or thinking that I can’t see them blatantly humping each other in the surf, I won’t stop until they’re registered as sex offenders. The occasional glass bottle? Fine. A loud radio every now and then? Fine. Sex on the beach? Not on my watch.

At the end of the day there’s always some human flotsam who thinks it’s a good idea to empty her bag of Cheetos into a quiet arrangement of seagulls and warmly invite hell to rain down upon us. This is intolerable beach etiquette. In what world is it okay to feed human snacks to nuisance birds so that everyone within a five-umbrella radius must flee like extras in a horror movie to avoid being pooped on? Or worse? No no no. This old woman has earned herself the full heat of my errant frisbee.

Finally, as night descends, I remain seated on my towel until I’m sure everyone has vacated the beach in a timely manner, before they start thinking about singing songs around an illegal bonfire or drunkenly setting off fireworks as if they’re somewhere in Mexico. When the last of the nudists put on their cover-ups and the final spring-breakers hurl their Silo cups into the ocean, I can finally return to my bungalow knowing that I’ve preserved the sanctity of the beach for another day. If I could afford a white jet ski, this would be my moment to ride it into the sunset.

South Beach selfies

For the next few days, the girls must inundate their Facebook pages with staged bikini shots. They stand in glossy clusters up and down South Beach, documenting their spring break cleavage. You get the sense that the girls selected their vacation companions based purely on how physically complementary they’d look in photos. Every thirty seconds, someone exercises veto power over a group image and the bikini shoot begins again. These young women are modeling spring break, rather than living it. They’re starring in a swimwear catalog available exclusively on their social media accounts. And Poseidon pity the boyfriend who’s conscripted to take photos of his lady as she rolls around suggestively in the surf, thong pointed to the sky like an arrow. In the distance, a dolphin splashes merrily in the Atlantic, but he doesn’t make it into the picture.

The newlyweds wander hand in hand through the historic lagoon gardens of Vizcaya. A selfie stick precedes them like a carrot promising relived experience later on. The cell phone on the stick’s extremity shoots amateur film of the man kissing his new wife on her sunburned cheek, then the man sweeps the camera around to include some unknown future viewer in the tour. Here is the picnic pavilion that resembles a sailing ship. Here is brackish water being pumped into a fountain made from limestone and coral. In the background, other tourists wander obliviously through the honeymoon video. Once they’re in, there’s no way out.

Florida Republicans keep snapping pictures of Miami. To foreign investors they text photos of Bahama-white sand, DJ Paris Hilton dressed as Barbie, and private yachts the size of naval destroyers cruising Biscayne Bay. Then the Brazilians send cash for new luxury condos they’ll never inhabit. No one takes pictures of the seawater flooding the streets at high tide. No one takes pictures of the storm surges that swamp ritzy nightclubs on the barrier island. The recent flood of real estate development is the only way to save the city from the actual flood. “There’s no such thing as climate change,” say Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, as they frantically delete Miami’s selfies from her phone.

Fuck yeah Everglades

How to observe the birthday of someone dead

Sleep late. Ponder your dreams. Feel queazy then remember you ate a jar of Nutella the night before. Get up when you’d rather stay in bed. Stare out the window. Watch the palm fronds whip around the parking lot. Text your mom. Mentally high-five Obama for his Selma speech. Grow morbid. Understand that your inborn disposition is far from presidential. Think about the birds. Wonder how the birds are doing. What do they do when it’s windy like this? What do I do when it’s windy like this? What do I do when my person is dead? Take a run along the ocean. Feel lucky to have an ocean. Feel lucky that he had an ocean. Smell the ocean. Smell it until your eyes burn. Try not to be depressed. Think of him casting his line into the surf. Think of him catching a big saltwater fish. Think of us eating it tonight at the party. Think of all the cake! Remember that there is no party. Consider having a party anyway because no one should be deprived of cake, especially since you’ve just determined cake to be a portal to the afterlife. Acknowledge the self-serving nature of this determination. Watch a beach cat devour a dune mouse. Note the cat’s resemblance to your childhood cat and the mouse’s to your childhood mouse, minus the blood. Come back to reality, which is death, which is what we’re all capable of bearing, according to our president. Cling to the reality of birds and fish, cats and mice, because human reality is a battering ram. Convince yourself that the man walking by is wearing flesh-colored underpants and isn’t just trying to show you his penis. Realize that you’ve strayed onto the nude beach. Admit that you’re the kind of person who’d probably wander around crying in a field of land mines as well. Forget the words to his birthday song because it’s been five years since you’ve heard it. Forget the words to everything. Just watch the seagull bobbing on the ocean like a flame you can’t blow out.

 

 

 

Interview with celebrity diarist Albert Knox

Interviewer: We’re here today with Albert Knox, the famed diarist who made his living documenting the day-to-day lives of high-profile celebrity clients. Hundreds of people, from pop stars to presidents, can rest easy knowing that their mundane emotional moments were preserved for posterity by Mr. Knox and his ubiquitous spiral notebook. On the eve of his retirement, Mr. Knox was kind enough to grant The Diary Journal an exclusive interview reflecting on his career accomplishments, his plans for the future, and his own dear diary. Mr. Knox, thank you for joining us.

AK: It’s a pleasure to be here.

I: Let’s begin with some softballs. Can you describe a typical day with one of your long-term clients, say Katy Perry?

AK: Katy hired me to write her personal diary for her California Dreams Tour [2011-12]. She told me that she’d kept a diary as a child, then got too busy to maintain it, so she was thrilled to be able to delegate the job. On a typical day I’d start by writing down her dreams and what they might signify, then we’d eventually move into thoughts and feelings on musical performances, meals, social interactions, and outfits.

I: Did you ever have trouble gaining access to the talent?

AK: I was always competing with photographers and film crews for access [Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour was the basis for the documentary Part of Me], but as a diarist I usually developed a more intimate relationship with my clients than most full-time staff members. For example, Katy liked seeing pretty pictures of herself, but by the time we reached Japan she was even more addicted to reading about her complex emotions, as captured in my longhand prose. Only I could offer her that. They say a photo tells a story, but I told actual stories about Katy’s mental trajectories as she coped with the ups and downs of everyday life on the road.

I: Did the talent ever object to the way you depicted them in diary entries?

AK: If I couldn’t wrangle a client’s vanity, pettiness, insecurity, cruelty, rage, and selfishness into an endearing diary entry, then I wasn’t doing my job. I would not be where I am today if I couldn’t turn a celebrity tantrum into a profound existential crisis through my gift for language. I remember Justin Bieber throwing a fit on the tail end of his Believe Tour because he found out there was no coconut water within a 100-mile radius and his hydration depended on the unique chemical properties of the coconut. I sat in that armchair in Iceland with my spiral notebook in my lap as Bieber hurled whiskey bottles at his hotel wall, and I wrote, “I feel sometimes as if I’m living in a desert of my own design. It might seem from the outside that I don’t understand the vapidity and ephemerality of my fame, but I thirst for genuine human contact, a relationship to God that isn’t beset by panoramic ego challenges, and the liquid warmth of a nut.”

I: When I think of Justin Bieber, I think of those words, and they are precisely why I own eleven of his albums.

AK: The power of the diary can’t be underestimated.

I: As our readers know, your ample skills were put to the test by more than Caucasian pop singers. Political figureheads came to you as well when they needed someone to articulate their hopes and dreams in a diplomatic and easily digestible format. Let’s talk about the former President of the United States.

AK: He was committed to our collaboration more than any client I’ve ever had.

I: Why do you think that is?

AK: He thought about his family more than most world leaders, and many of his geopolitical and military decisions came from a place of anxiety about how his father might judge him. So that conflicted pattern of wanting to please a parent, wanting to rebel against a parent’s expectations, wanting to exceed a parent’s accomplishments, etc., was particularly conducive to the diary medium, for obvious reasons. And tear stains always lend authenticity to the page.

I: Whose tears were they, if you don’t mind my asking?

AK: Sometimes his. Sometimes mine. It was a long eight years.

I: Did you ever feel limited as to what territory you could cover in a client’s diary?

AK: The parameters were usually dictated by the client, but my expertise and literary finesse got me through most doors. When I first started working for John Travolta, for example, he was skeptical about my work. I think I was originally his publicist’s hired gun, meant to squelch some scandal or another. But once John saw what I could do, he began dragging me into the bathroom with him. He told me I was a fecal alchemist. I spent hours in there, sitting on the edge of the crystal bathtub, just jotting down notes. He still calls me sometimes when he’s shitting.

I: Do you keep your own diary?

AK: I did for a while, but when I was working I realized that I was just writing a diary about writing other peoples’ diaries, and then their diaries became about what it was like to be in my diary, and it became this weird sort of ouroboros literature, so in my meager free time I just focused on my poetry.

I: You’re a poet, too?

AK: Like diary entries, poems aesthetically temper experience so you don’t despise everything.

I: Do you despise everything?

AK: Let’s not talk of hate. I’m in love with elevating life to the uppermost reaches of linguistic activity. Does a photographer try to reproduce exactly what he sees, or does he try to filter the image through his particular aperture, and in so doing make the world seem like a more beautiful place? Do the right words make people more likable and humanity less bland and disgusting? Be honest with yourself: would you rather be purple or periwinkle?

I: A few final questions. Would you ever write a novel?

AK: Fuck no. I have to draw the line somewhere.

I: Are Jay-Z and Beyonce really headed for divorce?

AK: They’re considering a personal unpeopling, but their erotic energy will forever be united on a cellular level.

I: Were you ever starstruck on the job?

AK: If anything, my celebrity clients were starstruck by themselves. They were often moved to tears by the impact of their own words. As transmitted through my hand, of course.

I: Do you think your position will soon become obsolete because of video diaries and Vine and the like, or will the famous continue to need professional emotional translators?

AK: The inner world is in less demand every day. I don’t think anyone would care to read Kim Kardashian’s diary when he could see a photo of her bare bottom instead. But I continue to hope that other people like me exist in the world. People of great depth who yearn to know what Kim dreams about, and what she desires in her heart of hearts, and where her deepest doubts reside. People who value psychological substance over superficiality. But between you and me, the older I get and the fewer diary entries I write, the more I just want to see Kim’s ass and leave it at that. You could bounce a pencil off that ass.

Sea cow

I am a manatee. I excel at being a manatee. I am a manatee in a man’s world. I swim amidst the yachts at the marina. Sometimes I feel compelled to poop on them. My thoughts are all tremendous. It’s a wonder this ocean can hold them. My tail is worth its weight in pearls. The dock pilings lean orgasmic when I make ripples, swimming by. If you are a boat propeller, you have another thing coming. That thing is my dong. In the end, everything will sink, but I will still be on top. There are fish, and there are sea cows. It’s an unhappy fate if your lesser heart can’t grasp the distinction.