Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Thelma and Louise Spring Break in South Beach

When I was in college, I suffered my first – and only – broken heart; but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Five years after we started dating, my high school sweetheart and I called it quits.
With both of us being young and immature, it was a roller coaster of a relationship and, it was not the first time that I had declared that we were over – we broke up often.  However, this time, I realized that we were done for good.

With Spring Break fast approaching, my mom wanted to try and cheer me up. She suggested spending a few weeks down in Miami, specifically in South Beach, to get a head start on our tan and soak up the sun.

As our trip approached, I started to get excited and spent a lot of time at the tanning salon.  Who knew it was so bad for you in the early 90s, but my dermatologist loves me for it today.

Since we were going for two weeks, the plan was to drive my pseudo-new Hyundai Excel from the Jersey Shore down to Florida over the course of two days. 
We loaded up my car with our suitcases, bathing suits, pillows, hats and GORP – a mixture of granola, raisins, carob chips, shredded coconut and nuts – it is my mom’s favorite road trip snack.  It was mine too until all the carob chips melted onto the seat of my car as we got closer to Florida. But I couldn’t even get mad because it was a sure sign that we weren’t in Kansas anymore and about to land in Oz.

After our 20 hour drive, with a one night stay not in the Emerald City but at a Knights Inn in one of the Carolinas, we found ourselves singing along with Basia as we crossed the Miami-Dade County line. 
Just like a mother-daughter Thelma and Louise (sans the Brad Pitt…damn!), we checked into the Colony Hotel, a 1930s-style boutique hotel located on Ocean Drive, in the Art Deco district.  This strip – lined with hotels and restaurants – was filled to the brim with beautiful people, tourists, and fashion models on shoots, people running, rollerblading, and biking.  This was before I had ever been to Los Angeles as an adult so I was not prepared for this scene…but I loved it.

My mom and I spent the next few days exploring Miami.  We sunbathed (with our tops on) on the white sandy beach; went rollerblading on the strand; drank strong Cuban coffee with the locals; spent time shopping on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue; we did nothing but relax and have a great time.
Our favorite spot was the Clevelander Hotel.  We had breakfast and lunch there most days; and a pre-dinner cocktail most evenings.  It was there that I ran into a friend of mine – Eric Nies -- whom I grew up with in New Jersey who had gained (a small amount of) fame staring on the first reality show, The Real World New York, on MTV.

He invited me out with a group of Jersey Boys that I knew from around town.  They took me to some raging night club and I danced the night away.

I loved the Miami club scene and, to me, it seemed like it was just an extension of the New York club scene just that everyone was down in Miami to ride out the cold winter.
I was getting hooked bad: I loved South Beach.

The next night, the Jersey Boys called me to join them at a house party at some mansion but my mom and I were about to begin phase II of our Spring Break.  We packed it in and headed further down the peninsula toward Key West, a series of Islands on the southernmost tip of Florida. 
On our first night, we checked into our hotel, which was located right on the beach.  Mom treated us to mani and pedis before we had dinner overlooking the water.

The next day, we traveled to the Key West historic district, Old Town.  It was a complete tourist trap, but fun none-the-less.  We walked along the pier and watched really bizarre street performers, had a drink at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on famous Duval Street; however, it was in Old Town that I had one of the best seafood dinners…ever… in my life.

But that was all there was to Key West.  Since I was on my “college” Spring Break, and I was addicted to the excitement of Miami, I begged my mom to cut our trip to the Keys short and return to South Beach.  She finally relented, but she wasn’t happy about it.
Now, as an adult, I totally get it.  But back then in my early 20s, I didn’t want anything to do with R&R. 

Upon returning to the Colony, I was stoked to be back in South Beach. 

We spent our last week on the beach, exploring Coral Gables, running, roller blading – just living the good life – and even finding a little Brad Pitt substitution in our Thelma and Louise trip.
While having drinks at our hotel the day before our departure home, my mom and I met a young man named Michael, who hailed from Sweden.  Since my mother and I are both of Swedish heritage, we found Michael interesting and spent the evening chatting with him.

I had to hit the loo and, when I returned to the table, my mom dropped the bomb that she had invited Michael to return to New Jersey with us.  He was just traveling through the states and had carte blanche.  Michael said he really wanted to see New York City, so my mom invited him to return with us. 

Most people go to Florida and return with a T-shirt but, not my mom and I, we came home with a Swedish boy as a souvenir.

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