Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Barbi Feels Miami’s Dark Side…

me

Could it be that the much talked and anticipated (by some) Rapture is just one interpretation of a long predicted energy shift in our universe that brings chaos to our sense of safety?

Certainly the people that were sucked from their cars to the heavens, in Joplin last week, must have wondered if this was the end of the world.

It was the end of their world.

My ten-year-old twin’s sense of safety was rocked ten days ago when, for career week, a neurosurgeon was brought in by their Elementary school to give a presentation. I guess the school was glad to get a surgeon (an honorable career) after a series of career presentations by corporations like Burger King who use these weeks as an opportunity for marketing and recruiting.

I had done my own presentation, on how to be a fashion designer, earlier in the week. The one I did at Lynn University last March. Only for the Elementary students I spend hours removing all traces of sex from my PowerPoint. Kate Moss’ breasts and Marky’s pecks were replaced with more demure image like Claudia Schiffer in a cozy CK cardigan.

(I wasn’t going to give that righteous principal a reason to call me into her office…)

The neurosurgeon with (what should have been) a red flag name and title – Dr. Wolf from the Miami Knife Center – was less enlightened to the minds of fifth graders when he put together his PowerPoint.

He surprised them all, teachers and children.

Just imagine: One hundred and thirty ten-year-old boys and girls filing into the auditorium, laughing and joking, happy to be let out of their classroom, sitting together, seeking out friends, and then the theatre goes dark and Dr. Wolf starts his show.

The room goes quiet with the first image. It is a pencil stuck deep into an eye. The next image is a bloody brain spilling from a split skull – motor cycle accident, Dr. Wolf explains. It goes on. Dozens more gory bloody images follow, from gunshots to a toothbrush in an eye socket. (How did that get there Mom?)

Kids feel faint. Kids feel nauseous. Kids leave the auditorium escorted by adults to get air and water. To throw up in trash cans. Some kids cry. Most of them just hide their faces in their friend’s shoulders or behind their hands, make jokes and try to make each other laugh.

One of my daughters sat by herself, without friends to distract her.

When she got into my car, at the end of the day, she burst into tears. That night she would not brush her teeth (did she imagine her unruly toothbrush ending up  inside her skull?). She had bad dreams, threw up in the morning and for the next few day she would not eat, nauseous from the images that still played around her mind.

I had spend ten years carefully protecting her from this kind of stuff and within ten minutes Dr. Wolf had undone all that parenting.

You may think I exaggerate. Some parents certainly did not seem as bothered as I was. But many were equally upset and angry and complained.

A few days later one teacher apologized to her class and said:

“Raise your hands if you have been mentally scarred.”

The point that was neglected, I think, is that schools have to feel safe for kids. They need stability, nurturing even predictability to do well, and Dr. Wolf’s graphic X-rated ambush took with it some of their innocence and trust.

I told the other parents I would write a letter to Dr. Wolf explaining, politely, that his show was not age appropriate for fifth graders. That he should keep it for his med students who had made a career choice.

But.

When I read the tag line on his website about the Gamma Knife which he’d developed…

” The Gamma knife is more accurate, efficient and faster and works on more than just brain tumors”

I thought maybe not….

*

A few days later, as the emotions Dr. Wolf had stirred up subsided, I found myself downtown Miami. I had lunch with a friend at Little Lotus, shopped for fabric and jewelry supplies and was waiting to cross the street.

Spacing out.

Like one does.

When waiting for the pedestrian light to change.

Not feeling safe nor unsafe.

Just waiting.

Next I felt a searing pain go through my nose.

A bold skull hit me.

Hard and fast.

I saw stars.

I stumbled.

Shit! What the fuck? I thought, and, don’t pass out…

I looked at him. A short man, unshaven, homeless? He’d run into me, carrying a metal cane, a weapon?  and kept running as I stood – reeling.

Was I being mugged?

My bag was still on my shoulder.

My nose hurt. Was it bleeding? I felt the left inside nostril closing up.

Ice. I needed Ice.

I got it at a coffeeshop.

I drove home, ice pack pressed to my face, eyesight swimming.

I went to bed.

Rattled.

*

Two days later, the swelling had disappeared, I was at my desk, working.

Sirens, so common in Miami, stopped abruptly.

Right here it seemed.

I went onto my terrace and saw several police cars and an ambulance entering our gate.

Later that day I found out that a friend and neighbor had died suddenly, in his apartment, leaving behind his lovely young wife and six-year-old son. Iona used to baby-sit for them. His wife is my friend. I have not heard from her and can only imagine what she’s going through. I think of every moment we spent together, like the dinners, time by the pool and at their house in the Keys.

Isn’t that what we do when friends pass? We think of them, bring them closer than ever before so we can let them go…?

*

Yesterday.

I was working at my desk.

And there were sirens. Hundreds of them it seemed. Their noise came towards me as it does, but then they did not fade.

They seemed to stop.

Right here.

Again.

I looked from the window and saw fire engines and ambulances enter.

Oh fuck!

A helicopter appeared from nowhere and hovered overhead.

I went outside.

It was right over me. A news helicopter.

As I went back inside the girls came running down from their room.

“Mom, mom, there is a house on fire, right here in Aqua, we can see the smoke..”

We ran into the street, onto the quay along Indian Creek, and there at the end of Aqua island, in the water, was a sky high blaze, 30 feet flames lapping the air, black smoke billowing, and popping explosions came from the hull of the yacht.

Dozens of curious boats kept a cautious distance.

We walked down slowly as it seemed to be drifting into the tip of our island.

One police boat got close enough to throw a hook and slowly pulled the yacht away from our shore.

For the next forty minutes we watched the dousing of the fire as hoses pointed their spray from the gardens of the mansions on Pine Tree Drive.

We saw it all from our pool and found out  that the family on the boat, a mother, father and two kids had jumped into the water and were picked up by another boat,  leaving their burning vessel to drift down Indian Creek towards our pool area, gas and propane tanks exploding one at a time.

For local news footage of the fire click here

Then, last night, I went to a dinner party.

Alone, since husband is already back in PA.

I had not realized until I walked into Iran’s new apartment how weird and out of it I really felt.

I was completely discombobulated.

And completely unaware how these surreal events had affected me because I’d been with my kids throughout, trying to shield  and keep them safe.

I walked in and wanted to find an adult shoulder to fall and cry on.

But.

This was the glam Miami party crowd.

So fun. So rich. So beautiful.

I was an alien.

I was hardly able to speak.

Like string an interesting, funny, flirty sentence together.

The freaked-out tabby kitten in a room full of playful Persian sex kittens…

sexy Persian kitten...


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The Nature of Waste is here….

necklace made from orange crate found on Eleuthera Beach

My beach plastic friend and colleague Pam Longobardi, a Professor of Art at Georgia State University, has curated this  gorgeous, inspired and heartbreaking digital show featuring a body of work from  leading international artists  who use plastic pollution (mainly of the oceans) by  plastics like flip-flops, netting, rope, bottles, etc. in every color of the rainbow in their art. This digital stream was first exhibited at  The Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Hawai, and shows the nature of waste as seen with an eye for beauty and conceived with a gift of expression….


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Hell Hath No Fury Like Mothers Scorned # 1

evidence of unruly behaviour

OK

So.

Aqua, where we live in the Dutch DJ’s bachelor pad, is a community. As in gated. As in there are rules and regulations handed down by the board and enforced by “management and security”. These rules and regulations are of course to protect us, the owners and tenants.

(From each other?)

Now, husband and I spent about 19 years of our union sneering at these kinds of communities. We’d never live in one of those !

But.

Here we are!

We chose this pad when we cruised Miami Beach two years ago with Esther Percal, the super realtor, because Iona liked the furniture (Italian decorators do candy-land bachelor style ), husband and I liked the huge pool overlooking Indian Creek, and the twins liked the three TV’s, one on each floor except for ours, after their TV-less nine-year-long life.

the pool in Indian Creek

And.

Aqua seemed safe for the kids. They could play outside, ride bikes, scooters, boards, play ball, swim, play hide and seek, walk the dog, all without much parental supervision. Just like home in Milford where they ran in and out and played on their own ten acres.

Still.

When we moved into Aqua almost two years ago it had only a 40% occupancy and was way too designer-exclusive for its own good and our first year was spent alongside three Maserati and Lambourghini owning bachelor neighbors who returned from the Wall@ the W at 4am revving their $350.000 engines, while several (as many as fit in Maserati/Lambourghini) perfect female bodies clicked twice as many Louboutin heels  on the pavement, went inside only to reappear on the deck across from our bedroom where they would either discuss or have sex until I loaded the kids into the car to go to school.

Mom, what was that noise last night?

It woke me up!

I heard girls screaming!

The bachelors frowned upon us. We frowned upon them.

As in breeders versus non-breeders.

Until last summer when the leases were up and they moved on to the next playboy hotspot.

And we left for Milford. When we came back to Aqua new leases had been signed all around us.

The low occupancy rate brought the prices down and had attracted….

… families!

Big and noisy families!

The Maserati/Lambourghini house was taken by a spivvy-looking couple with two girls  the twin’s age.

The house across the alley, aka The  Israeli house for Young Army Bachelors (yes, they flew the Israeli flag and over the year several amputees spent time in the Jacuzzi one-upping each other with tales of battle and atrocity), was taken by another young family with more twins.

Two houses on the other side contained families with only rowdy boys.

Result: A lot of biking, scootering, ball playing, running, hiding and seeking and corresponding screaming and laughing and shouting.

TERRIBLE!

Those DANGEROUS-noisy-wild kids!

So.

Two days ago this was decreed from above:

No more kids in the streets.

No playing.

Play was dangerous.

A peace-disturbing threat to the status quo.

Not to mention a liability.

No more bikes, no more scooters, no more roller-skates.

No more riding bikes to the pool.

I saw a boy being reprimanded by the security guard for riding his skate board.

Minutes later I saw his mother wagging her finger at same security guard.

Minutes after that I was in cohoots with the mother.

We agreed on the message that we heard:

Kids were best not seen and not heard. Kids were best indoors in front of the TV.

Soon after my new neighbor called me.

Had I heard?

And then followed a groundswell fueled by e-mail and Facebook.

Libya, Egypt, Syria had nothing on us.

Us.

The Mothers of Aqua.

The Happy Hooligans of Aqua in action

Did you follow the story on CNN?

About the clandestine meetings in Aqua’s back alleys, where we usually fight over parking spots for our SUV’s but are now united in our indignation against the board. Did they tell you about the demonstration outside the gym? Our manifesto with demands? The Chinese rocket launcher that’s on backorder?

rocket launchers can be fun...

While we were drawing up our demands we threw in some other stuff for good measure, like no more cutting of the mangoes, we have a right to eat the mangoes in our grove, and open up the lap pool (which has been closed for several years because tiles supposedly pop off the overhead building and oh-the-liability), and how about some fines for those dog owners who don’t scoop their poop! Huh? Why don’t you go after them instead of our kids you board/management/security bullies?

There!

A neighbor drew it up and sent it out.

A scary e-mail. A we-take-no-hostages-without-killing-them e-mail. A get-the-fuck-real about who you’re dealing with e-mail.

Get your priorities straight!

They caved.

Kinda.

They compromised. Yes to bikes and scooters on the sidewalks, no to bikes and scooters in the streets and alleys. Yes to opening the lap pool (soon), but no mention of the mangoes and the entitled non-scooping dog owners.

The spivvy neighbors are moving. To a house on the beach further north. A child-friendly place they say.

We’re staying.

Another year.

Soon we will be back for the summer at our non-gated, no security guarded home in Milford.

Alongside neighbors that shoot at children.

But that’s another story which one day I may be brave enough to share and will be called  Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Scorned # 2…..

summer home


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In my Situation Room

I’m in my situation room dealing with the terrorism of my kid’s boredom.

I have to. The year is almost over.

Yes it is!

I know its May and not December

But fuck January. January is  meaningless. The year starts when school starts and the year ends when school ends and then there are two months, say 2011-B, that feel like 12 months, unless you send your kids to camp at 3 x $6,000 = $18,000, (since we are free-lance and  lucky to get paid anything for what we do this is not an option) and are known as Summer.

Summer is supposed to be fun. For kids. And mine know it.

Our Damlander Molen in Bergen, Holland

I used to like summer. When I was a kid. My mother set us loose at our summer place (it happened to be a windmill) and I don’t remember any dull moments. Maybe I was just oblivious to the pressure on my Mom to keep summer fun or else … the weapon that my boredom would be the systematic breakdown of her summer equilibrium…

This year I am in a state of preparedness.

  1. Iona. Iona is all set. Iona is pragmatic.

Iona approached 2011-B and what I was going to do about it with the precision of a Navy Seal. She made a list that aimed high with an expensive art camp in Florence at the top. “My friend Andrew is going – so why can’t I?”, to lesser film camps in NYC.  When I proposed a groovy NYC documentary camp I found out, how could I be so dumb, that she doesn’t even like documentaries. But her tactic worked, when I reached the point of being cool with time in NYC  she proposed an internship.

” I HAVE to be in NYC , Mom, or I’ll go crazy with….BOREDOM…”

OK, OK.

So Iona will be spending six weeks with two of my  best girl-friends. Doing things I could never get her to do for me.

First she’ll do a three week internship in NYC , as the gofer for an event venue that does everything from weddings (she will be working weekends – crushing another potential boredom trap) to photo shoots. Next will be three weeks in our local coffee shop  to make some spending money.

Once these two plans were hatched she wrote another list. Of dates. With one week at either end marked as “Vacation – sleep, read, shop and hang out with friends.”

2. The twins are not pragmatic. They are contrarian.

eating candy with the elusive best friend

They say NO to everything. As in:

“No, that is not fun, summer is supposed to be fun, and that (tennis, dance, swimming, horse or photo camp) is BORING.”

The only willingness they show are for day trips that involve me (they don’t get that I have my own definition of boredom) to places like Hershey Park and the Pocono water/family-fun parks. And don’t I know that they love cheerleading? (NO, I did not know!) They insist all they really need is their only and elusive Milford friend who moved away a year ago and may (or not) be there some of the time which forebodes the perfect set-up for waiting, fighting and disappointment. And of course they love their local art teacher. Art with Valerie is the only yes they offer. But I know them – a few hours of art wont keep ennui at bay.

So I succumbed and found a cheerleading camp. Whoopee, but it’s only four days long which leaves 52 days to plan.

Then I thought fuck-it.  I’m taking charge.

And I booked them into every activity the town offers, from a weeklong diving class (a bit kitsch, like cheerleading), to nature photography camp, to tennis every other day throughout July.

I’m not even telling them. But every time the word BORED slips from their lips I will say:

“I have a great idea…”

the boring peaceful porch