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by E.P. Lee
Mar 25, 2021
AND the DOG BARKS Chapters #11 - 16
“AND THE DOG BARKS..."
CHAPTERS #11 - 16
As Antonio left, hunger set in and right next door to where we had been cocktailing was an Italian restaurant that both Ziggy and I were familiar with.
As we were seated at a prime front patio table one row off the mall traffic walking by, I noticed that my patio dining table-mates were chic South Beach hipsters, an older, middle-aged dude trying desperately to be hipper than he could ever be, and his waif thin, much younger, pretty, Asian, girlfriend. The Dude was dismissive of the lady’s presence, enamored of his cell phone, and constantly jumping up from the table, leaving the pretty lady, now with a bored, but amused, look on her face, all by her lonesome.
Ms. Left-Alone-Lady smiled at us somewhat quizzically when we were seated, as if to ask:
“How’d you beat the line?” …
… and then went back into her own world, at least until the food came. When the food arrived, her mildly amused, quizzical look became a direct stare, and as I enjoyed my appetizer of pasta with prosciutto, onions, fresh tomato, herbs, and cream, she couldn’t contain herself and asked me:
“Does he always eat like that?”
“He” was Ziggy.
You see I was eating one piece of pasta and sauce, and Ziggy was eating one piece of pasta and sauce. That was always our pattern some nights on vacation. If it was late and if I couldn’t get a plain piece of grilled chicken, or pork, or beef, to go with the dry kibble I kept in the suite, Ziggy and I shared dinner. We shared everything but my martini and my salad as Ziggy didn’t like lettuce, and alcohol (though he liked it), was a no-no for canines (and I didn’t want to share).
The Asian Lady was overly amused at Ziggy’s voracious appetite for human food, and my willingness to feed it, excitedly amused even. And as her gold chain bedecked, black leather (way too tight), pants clad swain, was away from the table (AGAIN), we introduced ourselves to each other and started to talk.
So we talked, and we talked. What did I do for a living? Why was I in Miami in November before Thanksgiving?
And each broad question led to more specific questions and by the time Mr. Studlyin Leather came back to the table to dine she and I were friendly acquaintances. She, Roxanne, knew all about why I was in South Beach in November before Thanksgiving, and I had learned what she and her boyfriend did for a living, they were in real estate.
It was all very superficial and very entertaining, but before dinner was over Roxanne got me to wax poetic about what I liked about the Florida lifestyle I had experienced on the West Coast, and the fantasy I was now experiencing on the East Coast, and what, just what kind of life I might like for myself if I came down for a longer, or permanent, stay.
And that question was asked directly twice, first:
“Would you want to live here permanently?”
And next as a blurt:
“In what, where, when?”
And to all those questions I had to stop and think, my thoughts weren’t formed yet.
Roxanne finished with:
“Call me if you ever get serious?”
That next day, Antonio conducted his tour.
Antonio was excited to show me what he knew, it was as if he was going to repay me for my efforts at helping him adjust to New York City way back when. And there’s a lot of similarity there, a lot. As when Antonio came to New York City it was a definite case of English as a second language, and for me in Miami, back in 2001, shit, even more so today, it’s still a case of English as a second language.
And that’s sad.
There are areas down here in South Florida, miles and miles of homes and shops, a whole city even (Hialeah), where English isn’t spoken. Go to the Dadeland Mall, and it’s HUGE, home to a Macy’s anchor store and many, many others, and speak English, and you won’t get waited on.
And that’s not just “sad”, that’s simply wrong.
This is America, English is the language of the land. Anyone in America should be able to speak whatever language they want to speak at home, with their friends, their family, their neighbors, and live every day at home as they like. They should forever be able to do that, this is America after all. But out in the mainstream world of American Society, the workaday, school, shopping, everyplace else world, they should assimilate.
Assimilate damn it!
The cultural norms of America should be obeyed in the everyplace-else world outside of your homestead, and the common language of the land spoken by all should be English; and all people should be respected, and served, equally, in public everywhere.
Assimilate damn it!
People who chose America, people who made the conscious decision to live here, people who want to be here, people who want to attempt to build better lives for themselves, for their families, should assimilate to the cultural norms of the place where they’ve chosen to reside.
If they hunger for, and want to be in Havana, or San Juan, or Caracas, or Bogotá, then they should go back to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or Colombia. But if they want to be here, in America, assimilate, learn the language, and interface freely with the rest of the populace; but no, not the Cubans.
Not the Cubans, they don’t interface with any non-Cubanos if they can avoid it. And they don’t learn to speak English if they can avoid that too. The Cubanos ghettoize their lives and environments (think of the Dadeland Mall, and the city of Hialeah mentioned before). And the Cubanos thereby marginalize immediate opportunity for success in their adult lives, and they marginalize the future success of their children too. Current Cuban society perpetuates the norms, and customs previously lived in their abandoned homeland. And the children, their next generation, are being raised under those dictums, and outside of the norms, and common values, of American society.
They don’t assimilate!
So now, this day, Antonio was going to take me, and show me, and learn me, and protect me, from the “fantasy” I was currently engaged in, and from the ethnics he’d decided I didn’t want to associate with. And so off we went, and we toured first (as Antonio referred to it), The Shores, a much too homogenous Caucasian suburbia to me.
And then Antonio guided me to an ethnically mixed urban/suburban Bay Harbor Estates located in Miami city proper.
And in Bay Harbor Estates, wouldn’t you know it, on a narrow, tree-lined interior street, I saw a small, Art Deco Spanish Mediterranean style, two-story house, with a pool, for sale. Now I’m a sucker for Art Deco. And I’m a sucker for Spanish Mediterranean. And a pool, well…
I just have to have a house with a pool.
And so I whipped out my cell phone and I called a very surprised Roxanne.
The next day a very cool, self-possessed, and professional Roxanne picked me up in a black C-class Mercedes for another tour, only this time of houses, and not areas.
Off we went, with Roxanne speaking from the moment the car lurched forward. Roxanne started speaking to me forcefully just as I buckled my seat-belt. Roxanne instantly made her disdain for my initial Florida housing choice apparent.
And it wasn’t that I had made a bad choice per se.
It wasn’t that I had made a bad initial choice of house, or area, at all.
It was just that the house that I had chosen wasn’t on the water. And Roxanne knew from those fantasies I’d expressed that night over dinner, that my fantasy, my deep down desire, was for a quiet canal front home like the one my friends had in Charlotte Harbor, only in Miami.
And Roxanne had found one, in Bay Harbor Estates even.
And we were going to tour it.
On first view the waterfront house in Bay Harbor Estates was a nondescript Key-West style, two-story nothing. The house was an ugly pus-yellow colored, stucco structure. It was a 100% straight lined, ugly, unadorned, pus-yellow box, on a stilt-supported platform, surrounded by a chain link fence with an electric gate for entry. There was very little landscaping in the front yard. You could see faint glints of canal water through the stilts of the platform looking east from the street towards Biscayne Bay. Otherwise, there was no softness or detail to the structure at all, none.
And it went downhill from there.
The metal front door into the house was painted fire-engine-red. And that red door stuck out from the pus-yellow stucco exterior like coagulated blood around an almost amputated limb.
It was just nasty looking.
And once through that metal, fire-engine-red, front door, you entered an austere double height foyer with a humongous green verdigris chandelier perched overhead. Immediately in front of you was a large, angled, yellow wood, pine, stairway with brown/black rubber tread covered steps, leading up to the main floor. It was like the entry foyer to a low security reformatory; you wanted to leave immediately.
But could you?
Up those stairs we proceeded, but slowly, slowly.
Me first, Roxanne right behind me.
Once at the top of the stairs, I moved away from the upper landing area and then I slowly turned to face forward into the main living room/family room combination. I was appalled by what I saw. At first look the interior was decrepit and filthy. I instantly noted that the bathroom glimpsed from afar would have to be gutted, that walls would have to come down, that exterior doors, and windows, would have to be replaced. I sensed that major renovations were required just for the place to be habitable. And all of this information goes through my conscious mind fast, and from a mere “glimpse”, as I’m slowly turning around in place to get familiar with the space.
All of this information was processed from only a passing “glimpse!”
But, as my broad, slow turning, overview “glimpse” continued, as I turned to face fully forward, there, directly in front of me, through the sliding glass doors to the terrace some 27’ away, “there”~
There in the distance…
… the view.
First I saw the bright Florida sunlight, and the bright blue, cloudless, Florida sky, then the glistening canal water below, and next the tall palm trees swaying slowly in the breeze, and finally, far across a wide canal, far, far across at that, an old, white, 60’ wooden yacht was bobbing slowly up and down at its mooring. A classic, OLD, beautiful, white yacht was moored directly across the canal from the house; an old white yacht calmly, serenely, bobbing up and down on the water.
From my lips jumped out the words:
“Oh shit, this is perfect!”
“Oh shit this is perfect…”
… was over $125,000 more than I could afford. And “perfect” or not, I wasn’t going that far overboard on a fantasy. And soon Roxanne grabbed my arm, and next two more houses did we tour, and finally, finally, when back in the black C-class Mercedes Roxanne spoke:
Remember your priorities, remember your values…
… remember your fantasies!
And remember that what you think you want today you might outgrow very, very quickly!”
And so my real estate tour ended in disappointment.
Reality, what a concept.
And two days later per my invitation, Gal arrived in Florida for a short weekend stay, and we reconciled as I’d planned, again.
As planned, and on schedule, “reconciled” Gal left Sunday evening to return to NYC for work the next day, Monday.
That same Monday morning, Roxanne called me.
Surprised me Roxanne’s call did.
Why was Roxanne calling?
Roxanne was calling because this was November 2001, just some ten weeks after 9/11 and the disaster that befell the World Trade Center. The party that was Miami Beach had never waffled as that crisis up north went down, and that “Party” was going handily along now, but the business that was Miami/Miami Beach Real Estate had crashed along with those fallen Twin Towers, and nothing was selling in Miami Beach/Miami still.
Nothing was even showing.
And Roxanne was doing no business of late, and since my business was possible.
In conversation with Roxanne in the car after our tour, Roxanne had gotten me to admit that the Bay Harbor Estates Waterfront Mansion was the best of the properties seen that day, and that if I pushed myself I could raise $20,000 more for a down payment. That meant I could tolerate a higher top price sales point, which meant that my $80,000 could realize a property of $420,000. And I admitted then that I could max out at 420K. But that was still $75,000 less than the current asking price, and the current asking price had just been cut from $525,000, and so whom were we kidding?
So why was Roxanne calling?
Roxanne was calling because the waterfront house that needed $250,000 in renovations just to be livable, would be mine for $424,000, that’s why.
I didn’t even breathe, I just said:
And that’s how I bought There.
And so, sooooo, so much happened There.
So, sooooo much…
There is where I met Mitch, just three months after I moved in. There is where I put all my savings as I thought I would live in that house until I died. There is where the brain tumors that I had since birth overwhelmed me, and I did almost die. And There is where I returned after brain surgery had made me a cripple, and There is where I learned how to walk a second time, two years did that process take, two years.
Two fucking years of being no place but There.
Two fucking years…
And There was where Gal brought Ziggy to me every weekend for 18 months so that I could be with the dog and not be all alone. Every week Gal came with the dog. Without fail that visit took place, every week. And There was where Mitch brought a living skeleton back to life with care, affection, sex, and love. And There was where Mitch died 28 months after I returned home. And There was where my “Little Man” Ziggy died seven weeks after Mitch.
And finally, finally, finally, There was where Freud came in to my life two weeks after Ziggy died.
And after all of that, There was where I had to leave to get the necessary equity that my now disabled self, and Freud, need to live on, Here.