Written by Jonathan Aryeh Wayne, May 8, 2019
Sometime in the afternoon on a brisk, cool day in Delray Beach, Florida, I found myself trapped along Atlantic Avenue, unable to cross the street because of a massive St. Patricks Day parade. The sea of people stretched for miles in either direction and included fire engines, military vehicles, marching bands, and floats with all types of green decorations. I noticed some small dogs wearing green hats and cutout glasses in one particular float, and as I snapped some photographs with my smartphone, I quickly realized that the dog owners’ facial expressions somewhat matched the dogs themselves. One particular older lady was holding a lapdog in her arms, while another had its tongue sticking out as it sat in confusion in front of a small portable fan in a baby stroller adorned with green feathers and fringe. Not long after, I decided to continue taking photos of dogs at this parade, as opposed to human beings. I discovered one clueless dog wearing a Boston Celtics jersey around his black furry torso, and another discombobulated dog with a green pinstriped tie around his neck. Just a little distance away I discovered a blind guitarist sitting on a street bench smiling from ear to ear as a live jazz band performed on a float right behind him. His left hand clutched a cigarette while his acoustic guitar sat in front of him with a sign that read: “Welcome to the Music: Delray’s Blind Guitarist Lantz”.
Part of me wanted to go back to rest at my Airbnb rental I was staying at, and part of me wanted to stay here and soak in the local culture. Yet, the booming sirens of the fire engines in the procession compelled me to find a quieter place to wait out the rest of this extravagant display of patriotism and drunken bystanders. I quickly found refuge in a new age healing shop, complete with crystal sound bowls, essential oils, aromatherapy candles, books on meditation, and Buddhist statues. The outrageous parade outside had become a low drone in the background as I sat down in the back of the store on a cozy armchair while playing an assortment of Tibetan singing bowls. At least forty five minutes must have passed before I realized that I was in my 6th or 7th day on my trip to Florida hiding in a New Age spiritual shop playing Tibetan singing bowls during a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
This was of course far more tolerable than what I went through a few days earlier down in Hollywood Beach, Florida. One evening I decided to step out of my oceanside inn and try the local cuisine, so I walked a few blocks down towards a seafood restaurant called “Jimbo’s Sand Bar” on the Stranahan River. The river was connected to a tidal estuary, otherwise known as a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. The Atlantic Ocean was no farther than 300 yards from this restaurant, so I figured the catch of the day must be pretty fresh. As I walked in through the front door, the hostess directed me to one of the small tables on the back wooden patio with a good view of the Dania Beach Draw Bridge, otherwise known as a bascule bridge, that continuously balances a span, or “leaf”, throughout its upward swing to provide clearance for boat traffic. A few minutes went by and I casually stared out into the water as a small fishing boat sailed by. I noticed the service was sluggish on this Thursday evening, on my last night in Hollywood Beach. I finally hailed the waiter down to put in my order for crabcakes and grouper fish tacos. I walked towards the outdoor bar and noticed a large private party to my left, and then alarmingly heard frustrated customers asking about the wait time. A couple of Caucasian men sitting next to the table in front of me decided to cancel their appetizer because the kitchen had screeched to a halt. After about 40 minutes, I once again walked around towards the bar, pretending to enjoy myself which I clearly wasn’t. Finally, at about the 1 hour mark, I asked the waiter if any of my food was ever put in, and he apologized and came up with an answer that I didn’t want to hear. On top of that, a party of 27 people were at the restaurant, and apparently the kitchen forgot about everyone else. I guess one can say this was a first world society inconvenience.
Hungry and frustrated, I got up from my chair, after the manager charged me for the large bottle of expensive Spanish mineral water, and walked a mile to the next closest restaurant in the area, another seafood joint, this time on a pier on the ocean. As I walked up the long ramp with my bottle of water, I knew this might have been yet another mistake, as I encountered loud, barbaric, drunken men yelling outside by the bar. I said hi to the friendly hostess, explained what I had just gone through at the other restaurant, and she directed me to a table outside on the oceanfront deck. Several men were swearing and yelling at some ridiculous football game on TV not far away from my table. After 20 minutes of waiting for a waitress, I got up from my chair and went inside, until I realized that was just as bad, with more drunken customers. I walked back outside again, hoping the drunken men yelling had stopped, and I found temporary relief at the outside bar before the men came back, glared at me, and I shifted to another chair closer to the entrance. I was pissed off beyond belief at this point, and started to have a minor panic attack, wondering if I’d ever eat food tonight at all. The bartender finally took my order and I took another sip of my water. When the mediocre lobster fritters and the tasteless, unseasoned mahi-mahi sandwich finally were plopped down in front of me by the careless bartender, I found myself getting overcharged for my meal. I slapped 2 bucks down for a tip, though I probably shouldn’t have even done that, stormed out, spit on the deck, and walked down the pier ramp. I swigged my Spanish sparkling water I had brought with me from the first restaurant and walked 2 miles back to my hotel room.
My night wasn’t done however, as I needed some sort of relief to vent my earlier frustrations. I grabbed one of the free bicycles from the hotel and took a nighttime ride down the boardwalk into the center of Hollywood Beach. I stopped at a Haagen Dazs ice cream shop, bought a kiddie cup of cookies n’ cream, and biked a short distance to a street bench along the boardwalk. The ice cream was dripping onto my hands and shorts but I didn’t care. Yet, it wasn’t enough for me, so I ended up biking to the end of the line, to the outskirts of Hollywood beach until I saw no path, much less a boardwalk any longer. At the end of my journey was a homeless man lying on the ground sleeping. I finally turned around when I could bike no further, and after 10 miles on this tiny bike, I no longer felt the lower half of my body, numbed by the stupidity of this beach culture, and my mind’s reckless endangerment for adventure and transcendence. I sometimes wonder why I put myself through such distress and torment, but in the end, it does make for an eventful story.