Tag Archives: Nude Beach

Life: Some Practice Sessions

*

You inherit a chunk of money. You fritter it away because you feel you don’t deserve it and its association with death makes you sad. You find yourself relating to Minnie Driver in Good Will Hunting when she dramatically breaks down and says something to the effect of, “You think I wouldn’t give all of this up to have my father back??” Except instead of being at Harvard studying organic chemistry, you’re in Miami drinking margaritas at a tiki bar.

*

You entertain the idea that you’re either bipolar II or an empath. You can’t decide which one is worse. Either way, you should probably get yourself some mood crystals.

*

You take a short break from enforcing a new policy around the condo. The new policy stipulates that you are invisible and your boyfriend is invisible, but it says nothing about palm trees, and there is a palm tree on fire in the parking lot. When you tap on the glass of the hurricane door, your boyfriend joins you on the balcony and together you watch the palm tree burn to the ground. The fire seems energizing, unlike everything else in your world of late. Perhaps the tree sensed that you were emotionally depleted so it spontaneously combusted as a personal favor. It knew that those few smoky moments of peace might diffuse the negative charge in your general atmosphere. Or perhaps an island arsonist is at large in Miami. He wears a Hawaiian shirt and goes from beach to beach burning down palm trees and lifeguard stands. He rides a Vespa scooter in his flip flops. He drinks from flaming coconuts because he likes the taste of toasted milk. Could the island arsonist be your boyfriend? You wouldn’t know because your boyfriend is invisible today, per the new policy, and he’s vanished again behind the hurricane door.

*

You FaceTime with your nephew and right away he requests that you sing him a song about trucks. Before you hang up he tells you—after prompts from someone off-camera—that he loves you. Twice he falls over during the phone call and you have to talk to the floor for a while. You wonder why all human conversations can’t be like this.

*

You don’t know how to live. You constantly pursue the question of how you’re supposed to live. It may be that you have too much time on your hands. Or should you continue to give the question your full attention even if that seems to preclude gainful employment?

*

This next one is about paddleboarding. You’re out paddleboarding with your boyfriend. You didn’t rent the waterproof speakers that were offered with the paddleboards for fear of scaring away the fish. But now that your boyfriend has paddleboarded you for at least a mile down a murky, Evergladian canal where you must lie flat on your stomach to pass safely under the thickets of mangrove trees spanning the water and you haven’t seen humans or sunlight for two hours and you might as well be in Apocalypse Now, you sort of wish you had some music to ward off the alligators. Eventually you start humming a song to yourself.

*

You spy on professional beach people. An old man walks down the boardwalk wearing a t-shirt that reads “Baller for Life.” A young man leans over the railing of his hotel balcony and tells a pretty woman below that she dropped something. When she anxiously turns to inspect the bricks behind her, he clarifies what she’s dropped: his jaw. A man in board shorts who might be homeless spends a full 30 minutes lathering himself in soap under a public beach shower. Salty children wait in line for him to finish bathing.

*

You’re starting to fear that there are too many books in the world. It’s impossible to make room for them all, and their numbers are beginning to annoy you. You wish you liked James Patterson novels because then you’d just read those exclusively. The fact that you assume most books are pointless anyway makes you wonder why you wrote one. Why write a book when you’re still learning how to live? Maybe you’ve become a nihilist or a philistine during your extended beach vacation. Maybe you’ve given up on art altogether. Maybe you’d rather learn how to sail a boat.

*

He calls you shortly after he leaves the condo. He needs a hair elastic for his ponytail. Says he’ll drive around the building and idle below the fifth-story balcony if you could please throw one down to him. You stand on the balcony and wait for his car to appear. Because of the wind, you decide in advance that the best way to deliver the hair elastic to him accurately will be to shoot it like a rubber band. Then you remember the games you used to play, when you’d look up from your computer and he’d be pointing a hair elastic at you, ready to fire, and you’d squeal and cover your face with your hands, and then he’d do it again, and you could never return comfortably to your work because you could still sense his weapon aiming at your nose. Maybe it wasn’t so much a game as a torment, but it was still something lively that you did together. While you remember this you look down at the sun-bleached parking lot and try to decide whether you’d aim for clear pavement or for the roof of a car if you were to throw yourself off the balcony. Of course you choose pavement because who are you to dent a stranger’s vehicle? His car finally arrives and he gets out and looks up at you impatiently. You almost don’t shoot your missile because you’re afraid he’s going to interpret that as another act of hostility, but you also don’t want the wind to carry the elastic into a bush or onto a lower balcony and be lost forever, so you launch it towards him anyway. And there’s no playfulness in its trajectory. And your heart aches from the contrast. Then you and he exchange small, somber waves from a great distance and you go back inside, where you can take your hands off your face for the first time since the morning’s troubles began.

*

You sit on the beach watching two men in wetsuits try to out-parasail each other. It’s a windy day and their parasails whip around the sky in unpredictable currents, sometimes launching the men several feet above the water. A helicopter approaches from the north. It flies low, dangerously close to the parasails. If the wind changes direction even slightly, the helicopter will get tangled up in the parasail lines. The lines and the colorful swaths of canvas will then spin around the propellers until the men are sucked up into the machinery and the whole craft goes down in flames on a nearby dune. For the rest of your time on the beach, you cannot get this image out of your head. You thought the beach was supposed to be relaxing.

*

You place a rubber dolphin under the sheet on your boyfriend’s side of the bed for April Fool’s Day. That night he jumps into bed without looking under the sheet and he lands directly on the dolphin. It squeaks wildly into your boyfriend’s butt. It is hilarious. In your wildest dreams you never imagined that your prank would be so successful.

*

When reckoning with the needs of other people, is it normal to forget that you are also a person? Other things that you could be: a squeaky toy, a burning palm tree, a baby sea lion.

*

You’ve been stealing your boyfriend’s medications. But he’s stolen yours in the past, so you call it even.

*

You practice putting out positive energy rather than taking in negative energy. The first person you practice on is a naked woman on the beach. She seems oblivious to your energy emissions because she’s already been burned by the sun today. Plus she’s busy playing volleyball. The second person you practice on is a little girl on the boardwalk who smiles back at you with sheer delight, then runs straight to a water fountain as if you’ve just made her incredibly thirsty. The third person you practice on is a cat.

*

Your boyfriend goes jet skiing with his buddy. You stay home to write and do laundry. You used to wish you had exciting hobbies, but now you understand that for some people, doing nothing is an exciting hobby. It can also be a full-time job.

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.

I’m sorry I’m not sorry I now live in Miami

I’ve temporarily relocated to Miami, and I want to write about all the ways in which this place is paradise, but meanwhile my friends and family members are actively catching hypothermia in climates north of here, so I can’t describe paradise without sounding like I’m gloating, but on the other hand I kind of want to gloat because I can see green ocean and palm trees from the balcony of my condo, and because it’s 80 degrees and at any moment I could go swimming with the local dolphins, and I don’t think you should resent me for my change in fortune because it’s entirely possible that I froze to death a few weeks ago in Brooklyn and am now enjoying a sunny afterlife in a place masquerading as Miami, and most people would rather be cold and alive than warm and dead, so if it makes you feel any better we can all operate under the assumption that I’m deceased, or that these palm trees are fake, or that soon this entire metropolis will be underwater, and then everyone in South Florida will have to relocate to the island of Kokomo, which I found out recently doesn’t exist.

A few of Miami’s key (get it?!) elements:

1) Donald Trump

Once upon a time Manhattan real estate mogul Donald Trump gazed across a pristine white beach where Floridian children were playing with sea turtles and listening to the hallowed voice of the ocean through an abundance of conch shells. “I would like to erect forty thousand condos here,” Trump pronounced, “and their foundations will be strong with the crushed bones of blissful children. And I will also sell sea turtles in vending machines down by the seashore.” Two decades later Trump’s dreams have been realized. When M and I drive up or down A1A, Vanilla Ice’s beachfront avenue, the view goes like this: Trump condo, ocean, Trump condo, ocean, Trump condo, Trump condo, Trump condo, ocean, Tony Roma’s. Every evening M and I stand on our balcony and watch hundreds of ominous black vultures circle the rooftops of Trump’s extensive skyline. We think Trump commands these birds like a storybook witch. He hovers on his penthouse balcony with arms raised to the sky, calling to his pretties. But I’m sure the lobbies of his condos are quite nice. I know at least one of them has a waterfall.

2) colossal fishing boats

Every weekend a fleet of colossal fishing boats emerges from Biscayne Bay and takes to the Atlantic. These boats are usually stark white and about 20 stories high. Some of them have colorful, curly slides on their decks, which must be the chutes down which the fishermen send their catch at the end of the day. The fish spiral down into the boats’  chlorinated aquariums where they can be kept alive until they go to market. A massive crew of sailors and deep sea anglers—mostly hailing from Chicago, mostly wearing flip flops, mostly drunk and bloated—keep the boats on course in the Caribbean’s prime fishing grounds. These working fleets might strike you as old-fashioned, but many people in Florida still depend on traditional fishing boats for their livelihoods, and to feed their families, so they continue to take to the sea blaring ancient maritime Disney music.

3) nudie beach

To be frank, the primary reason I chose to rent our particular condo is because it’s directly across the street from the biggest public nudie beach in America. This means that if I veer left when walking toward the ocean, I encounter white lifeguard stands and the bathing-suited denizens of Trump’s condos, but if I veer right, I encounter pink lifeguard stands that herald all the pink, untoned flesh to come. I’m not talking about topless sunbathing either, which is a rampant and delightful custom in South Florida. I am talking about naked penises that look as if they were shrunk by evil shamans and I’m talking about jelly rolls that could have been liposuctioned from a herd of manatees. I love it all so much.

4) weird birds

M and I are determined to become ornithologists while we’re here, but only if we can juggle the binoculars and our wine glasses at the same time. This place is full of weird birds that chose to migrate south for the winter just like us. If we’re not being captivated by Trump’s avian minions, we’re watching pelicans fart in trees at the marina, or speculating about what makes the giant flocks of starlings vacate the telephone wires all at once. My favorite bird by far, however, is the one that lives in the parking lot of the shopping center where we ate Cuban sandwiches yesterday. Food was scarce because we weren’t sharing, so the bird snatched up a packet of Splenda and proceeded to jump from one car hood to another pecking wildly at the sugar, playing keep-away with the rest of the birds, and generally enjoying a decadent lunch. I never knew that birds liked artificial sweetener, but now I will be sure to bring some Equal when I go to feed the ducks.

5) tennis

I insisted on bringing our tennis rackets to Florida because I want to improve my hand-eye coordination. My mom gets beamed by every ball I throw at her and I really don’t want to end up like that. This morning M and I went to the condo’s tennis courts for the first time. We were feeling cocky because last spring we played a few matches at the only court in Brooklyn that didn’t shake us down for expensive permits and tennis decrees from the mayor and such. The court belonged to the Marcy Projects and its net was a chain link fence. Much like Jay-Z honed his rapping skills and street smarts at the same housing project, M and I both assumed that we had improved our tennis game by playing in the ‘hood. But we were not prepared for the vigorous competition of Florida retirees. Ten minutes after we arrived at the court this morning, two elderly men challenged us to a doubles match. It was a brutal defeat. I hadn’t known you were supposed to hit the ball hard, or straight across the net, or within the white lines. I’d thought tennis was a game played with gentle lobs and a lot of flirtatious teasing, but suddenly a gray-haired Austrian man was shouting “Forty-love!” and whacking balls toward my floppy sunhat. The Marcy Projects tennis court had not been the elite training ground I’d thought it to be. Those facilities will probably not host the U.S. Open anytime soon. Though if they do the security costs will be minimal because the neighborhood already boasts a strong police presence.

And now, while you manage your long underwear situation up north, I must excuse myself to go perve on the nudists. Adios, amigos.