If there's anything that I don't like giving, it's validation to other writers. This is because most of them are trendy hipsters who refer to their craft as "narrative nonfiction," reference obscure journalism in normal conversation, and never invite me to their short story club meetings.
The journalists who comprise the rest of the New Times staff have long been extolling the virtues of the Bubble, a "concept facility" (or a place for drinks, music, and artistic freedom) that opened a year ago. Although sick of their constant exultant jabber, I stubbornly refused to check it out myself simply on principle. It was only through a kidnapping that I wound up there on a recent Saturday night to witness the spectacle firsthand.
Dear New Times staff, I'm sorry. You were right.
The Bubble, 810 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. 954-562-3804; click here.
When I first arrived at the Bubble — a giant, pink-and-white maze-like warehouse full of art, music, and youthful sexiness set in the narrow-street and chainlink-fence part of downtown Fort Lauderdale — I was greeted by a good-looking, clean-cut fellow named Andy, who informed me that I had just missed singer/songwriter (and sometime New Times freelancer) Travis Newbill. "Yeah, he was dancing around in this... weird, gay Elvis-type outfit," Andy filled me in as he drank beer from a styrofoam cup. "And he had a guy in a priest hat dancing around on stage and a girl in a nun costume."
Huh? I'd have to look for this fellow. But first things first:
"Where's the beer?"
"Oh, we already went through the first keg," Andy said. "They're in the process of getting a second. They're on such a tight budget that they only get a second keg once they've gotten enough cover charges to pay for it!"
"Smart," I said, tapping my empty cup impatiently. I surveyed the scene. The Bubble's outdoor area was modest, featuring a small bar area atop a cement slab; a covered, elevated stage; and a bunch of overturned milk crates in gravelly dirt.
A jittery guitarist in a black fedora assumed the stage and inspired a handful of kids to start skanking. I had no interest in that business, so I moseyed inside, leaving Andy standing with my friends.
Inside, I found an explosion of creativity. The multiroomed complex is replete with some of the coolest — and creepiest — art in town. There are red couches, secret rooms, a condom stapled to the wall (really), and a giant wire hand suspended over the indoor stage. I perused digitally rendered depictions of humans with pigs' snouts. A handful of Lisa Parrott's creepy/cute anime-like cartoons graced the walls, and beside those were interesting collages made from cutouts of naked women, with pictures of flowers pasted over their unmentionables. A personal favorite: a pink etching of a man with a beer and these words: "I'm not fat; it's a roof over my wiener dog."
One intriguing group of paintings featured cartoon hippie birds with peace signs for eyes. They were simple etchings with cute messages like "I'd rather be riding my bike."
"They look like the Tootsie pop owl," said Jeff, a spiky-haired gent carrying Pixy Stix behind his ears. "It's totally '70s and awesome." He then handed me a small lollipop and wordlessly walked away. I slipped it in my purse and went to admire a beautifully macabre painting of a skull.
When I heard rumblings about a new keg's arrival, I moseyed back outside.
"Did you see that painting of Elvis Costello?" asked Andy. "I asked the artist how much she wanted for it — $2,500."
The painting was memorable — especially because below it was a piece of paper with text describing the artist's ambition to either be on MTV's Real World or to become "the friendly kind" of crack dealer.
Andy continued, "But she pointed out that, at a downtown gallery in Miami, you'd be paying more than double that."
"True enough, but still not in my budget," I said.
Outside, the Bubble's owners — tight, sexy Yvonne, and wild-haired, amiable Garo — darted every which way. The pair of local promoters originally opened the Bubble to provide creative space for Fort Lauderdale's indie artists. They conceived the space as a venue to showcase and market artists' work and bring creative people together. The space — which is open for concerts, art shows, and movie nights, among other cool events — has become pretty damned successful.
So successful, in fact, that I had to fight through all of the artistry to get to the front of the beer line. Trav, of gay-Elvis-outfit fame, was behind the bar in a purple outfit that had a huge U-shaped dip in the front, "made his ass look great" (according to one girl I overheard), and sparkled under the glow of the suspended Christmas lights. He filled my plastic cup genteelly.
The guy next to Trav was slender and good-looking and wearing a bright-orange midriff T that showed off his small but lovely rack. A sheet of paper taped to the front of his shirt read (roughly): "No, I'm not gay. I'm wearing this because I promised. They're A-cups, but they're firm and pert."
I sipped my beer and jabbered with my friends Beard and Bullock and SoFla's handsome famous do-gooder Aaron Jackson (known for opening orphanages in Haiti, founding the nonprofit Planting Peace, and being featured as one of CNN's Heroes), who was wearing a T-shirt with the periodic table of elements and telling us about how bureaucratic bullshit is making it difficult for him to get the surgery necessary to save a cancer-afflicted Haitian child's life. (See BrowardPalmBeach.com for updates on Aaron's attempts to save the kid, Esthelhomme Peterson.)
Then, as the conversation approached lighter tones — apparently Aaron was quite the ladykiller before he became busy helping those in need — I ran into the bottom of my red plastic cup, upon which I'd hastily scrawled my name with a black Sharpie.
"I'm out too," said Aaron, as together we made our way to the bar. It was suspiciously uncrowded, and my nightmare was soon confirmed.
"We just ran out of booze," said Garo, who was cleaning up behind the bar. "Beer, liquor, all of it."
I slammed my empty red cup down. Aaron hovered for a moment beside me.
"This can't be," I said dramatically. Aaron skittered off, not wishing to further witness my alcoholism.
Garo looked apologetic.
"You're telling me you have nothing?" I moaned. "I am not anywhere near drunk enough."
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Garo looked uncomfortable.
"OK, OK, guard it with your life," Garo hastily drew open the fridge door behind the bar and put a Newcastle in my hands. (I told ya, he's a nice guy.) "That's the last one!" he called after my retreating form.
Clutching the bottle tightly, I ran back to my friends and gave Aaron half the Newcastle.
Despite my distrust for writers' opinions, I had to admit, the Bubble is a piece of art in itself. Memo to Garo, though: Next time, order a few more kegs.