Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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I Don’t Want To Go Outside

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I don’t want to go outside. It’s too hot, ten minutes is the max before sweat starts pouring down my back and I feel faint. But it’s not that, the heat is superficial compared to the chaos around me. Our small suburban neighborhood, one of the few left on the beach that is still of mid-century proportions – small lots, small houses, parents pushing baby prams, pulling dogs, unsupervised toddlers riding bikes down the middle of the street, self-appointed seniors in safety vests waving at cars on short-cuts to slow down.

But they are all inside too. Post Irma. Post evacuation.

The only ones out are the county cleanup crews and Jewish families on their way to temple, walking to the other side of Surfside, across from Saks at Bal Harbour Shops. It’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah. They’re all dressed up in their best togs and move with determination, as if nothing can stop them. Nothing has changed. As if they are not picking a path through brown mounds of devastated nature that have been dragged out of each and every yard, into the street to be collected by whom? To be taken where? Is there enough to make us a new planet? I wonder. I fantasize.

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Inside, at my computer, I wage war with my landlord and his Baby Huey property manager. They say that disasters bring out the best in people, adversity brings them together. Not so with our landlord, all the way in Hawaii, acting like we’re annoying guests who overstayed their welcome and now have the audacity to ask for things like boarding up the house — why should he protect our possessions? How about trying to protect your 2.5 million property? I ask, but since the house did not blow away, this seems like a rhetorical question to him. Hindsight, as always, being the argument of the obtuse.

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I drained the pool. I sucked the hose like I was stealing gasoline, and funneled the green, slimy water into the lake behind the house. This worked until the level of the pool was lower than that of the high-tide bay. Science I thought, wishing it were a scam and I could blame the Chinese. The remaining water sits about a foot deep, a putrid breeding ground for mosquitos. When I ask what the owner wants to do about this and the 60ft tall palm tree that is top heavy with coconuts and leaning dangerously over the fence, Baby Huey writes me e-mails the likes of Trump Tweets:

“… don’t create extra work and problems [for us].”

 Seriously?!

The girls, back at school, after the Irma-Cat5-coming-right-at-you and YOU WILL DIE news flashes, the closures, evacuations, cancelled flights, power outages, are asked by their teachers “did you have a nice vacation?” I guess some of them follow their students on social media and our escape to Milford looked too idyllic by the Miami-Dade criteria of hurricane evacuation anguish.

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Oh Miami. It’s not even October and you’ve already worn me out. I count the days to June, when I can leave and not come back. Never live through another hurricane. Never again be told that I’m a bummer when I bring up climate change during a dinner party while water floods the streets below us.

Never again feel like a stranger, a misfit in a place that is alien to me in its upside-down culture of Whatever. Where gravitas and context and consequence are the lexicon of Debbie Downer and her tribe of party poopers. Where everything I try to do feels like grasping at a hologram as people shake their heads and say: “What did you expect? This is Miami! Why don’t you just let it go. Life’s a beach, just have fun.”

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But the sand on the beach burns the soles of my feet. The ocean water is strangely warm and filled with hurricane debris and plastic – bags, cups, straws, lighters, bottles – and surfers are coming down with nasty infections. Two more hurricanes passed by Miami Beach, a few hundred miles out in the Atlantic. Barbuda, Dominica, St.Maarten/Martin, Tortola, St.John, Vieques, Puerto Rica, Cuba, the Keys and Houston lie destroyed. People are homeless. Cultures gone…

I don’t want to go outside.

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Repurposed in Miami

Last year was a transitional year.

I realize now that, for me, last year was still transitional. From  reading my blog you’d probably  already figured this out, but I was oblivious.

I thought the previous year had been transitional and that I was out of transition and in destination. But, just because I’d moved to Miami didn’t mean that I had arrived. I know what you’re thinking, moving to a new city is always a transition, and that is exactly what I would answer, if anyone asked.

But I’d already been in a real full-blown transition since early 2008. And it felt like being stuck. Like I couldn’t go back, and couldn’t move forward. I no longer knew who I was nor who I wanted to be. My identity had always been so wrapped up in what I created and I didn’t want to go back to designing “more stuff “. My last gig had been with Pantone as the Creative Director of every licensed product that carried its logo and name. Plates, stationery, shoes, a home collection, clothes, bags, you name it. A lot of stuff… So I helped Alastair with the design of Spaced Out and started  collecting waste beach plastic. I worked it,  made jewelry from it and educated myself in the causes and effects of plastic pollution. I did a website called Its a Man made World.

And I wrote. I wrote an entire novel about a woman in transition. A woman like me, who from one moment to the next realizes that her perfectly crafted life has fallen apart, and that nothing will ever be what she thought again.

I did both in a bubble. Not a pretty, floating-on-air Californian bubble, but more like a soundproof one-way-mirror bubble, feeling unheard and unseen. Lost even.

Moving to Miami had everything to do with breaking out of whatever it was that I was in. Husband knew it, like he was aware that a change would do me, and us, good.

And it did, almost right away. (SO, for anyone who feels stuck: Move! A different city, a different country, a different job, a new house, a whole new slice of of life to explore).

But then I thought Miami Beach was just playtime, and that’s hard for me because I was brought up with a huge sense of purpose and responsibility, and here I was having lunch on the beach!

Some days it felt like I was doing the same as I did before, writing and recycling beach plastic, only in better weather, in DJ Tiesto’s bachelor pad, away from the knick-knacks of my old life… and maybe I still wasn’t getting anywhere…

The only difference I felt was a sense of patience and maybe this comes with age. Maybe  the ambition endorphins turn into patience endorphins, and for the first time ever I enjoyed the process of what I was doing, instead of being anxious about getting to the pay-off: money, attention, a good review…

I added some beach plastic clothes and called the collection Plastic is Forever. I got a small order for scarves from Base at the Delano, which lead to picking, cutting and drilling the beach plastic and finding the local women who would sew it on silk georgette for me. I enjoyed meeting them, Lucia and her mother, at Normandy on Saturday mornings and buying organic vegetables and flowers at the market afterwards.

I enjoyed doing the Barbi does Miami blog, not only did writing about being here help me redefine who I was , but I also connected to my readers for the first time. I made friends with people I’ll never meet. This, for me, is the joy of writing. Not the sitting alone at a desk for hours on end, losing all sense of time, like passing through CS Lewis’ closet, entire days disappearing into what feels like an hour. I don’t like that aspect of writing. But I love the dialog. The ability to create a connection, a shared experience, a feeling that we’re never alone in what we go through and how it makes us feel…

But this year is different. I’m working manual labor in Miami. I have to produce 900 tee shirts for Barneys New York, using organic blanks from Loomstate. And 900 tees is about 35,000 pieces of  beach plastic, and about 50,000 drilled holes! Its a group of women beaders who need 50 kits every week between now and end january, and I’ll have to provide those. I’ll be working hard and I love it.

In fact. I think that…

I’m a bit like my beach plastic.

All that plastic I collect had purpose in a previous life, be it a bottle top, a crate, toothbrush, hair clip, spoon, detergent container, cup, plate, comb,  or any one of a million other things. Then it was useless. Discarded. It tossed around for a bit. Sand, sea, sun, salt even coral. Then it started to look good again. And now this patina-ed beach plastic has a whole new life as fabulous adornment on Barneys tees that’ll sell to green fashionistas for one hundred and thirty five dollars.

So.

I too feel repurposed and it feels good…

and there will be black and white...