In front of a group of my classmates, he replied, "Fort Lauderdale always makes me think of a girl walking down the beach on crutches with a piece of glass in her foot."
And so, it's warming up in Liquordale and thus inevitable that our 65-year-old beachfront, spring break icon, the Elbo Room (241 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), would be packed with baked skin undulating in booze-compromised coordination.
Historically, the city has been the spring break mecca -- and the Elbo its Black Stone -- starting in the 1950s, when it was captured in Where the Boys Are, and continuing through the vomit-filled, hotel-room-trashing 1980s. Our whitewashed metropolis was nationally infamous until Mayor Bob Cox reportedly went on Good Morning America in 1987 and told college students they were no longer welcome here.
These days, Lauderdale again pulls in an annual flow of breakers by the tens of thousands. Yes, we've classed up the beachfront and created a downtown that will break their budgets if not bore them with its resemblance to any landlocked metropolis, but the sun still scorches an expansive spread of sand that slopes into warm blue-green waters, so what can you do?
On one recent Sunday afternoon, I was downing a frosty Rum Runner at the Elbo Room while listening to Run-D.M.C.'s beat "Peter Piper" drop from the jukebox on the second-story balcony. The sands across the street were lined towel to towel. Traffic was snaking past the corner of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard.
There on the sidewalk was a fresh, green dollar bill.
Ooh, one American dollar. Among other things, it's worth four Blow Pops, a vending machine meal, or a drink tip -- depending, of course, on whether you're a 5-year-old, broke as a spoke, or partying on the balcony above it all. That's not to mention the picture of the myth-wrapped, cherry-choppin', splinter-gummed patriarch or the frightening Freemason symbol staring at you. A dollar means a lot of things to a lot of people.
But let's not overanalyze.
In the upstairs bar, athletic-looking women were sitting on men's laps like bikinied appendages attached at the waist and tongue, and T-shirted, baseball-capped men were standing in circles having mock fights and taking an occasional swat at one another's asses.
The bulk of the crowd was gathered on the balcony, and it was almost exclusively men. Every few minutes, 40 or so people started yelling and laughing like happy babies. Suspecting the obvious, that women down on the street were awakening infantile instincts by flashing their boobs, I got up to confirm.
Not so. As I approached the group, I heard shouts of "Smell your finger!" Then, the buzz died down.
This sandy, tanned crowd had figured out how to remind us that we are still the same losers they had picked on in high school and hosed from the Greek system in college. They're still better-looking than we are, and they've still got more money than we do, but more important, they're still masters of the art of rubbing our noses in it. They're the Pablo fricking Picassos of making the self-conscious majority of the population feel like total douchebags.
It took me five minutes to reach the balcony because one of the young Adonises -- who actually looked more like a drunk Pirates of the Caribbean caricature -- was sitting on the bar top, blood pouring freely from his knee as he kicked another frat boy in the ass. Every time the kicker's foot made contact, he yelled, "Jackass, jackass."
Only such charm could merit the delay.
When I finally reached the railing, I stood in the sweaty, quieted crowd, waiting to see what all the fuss was about.
Down on the sidewalk, a preppy couple with a single child was walking past the bar. When they got to the corner, the little boy slowed down behind his oblivious parents and reached toward the dollar bill. The crowd started shouting "No, no," and the parents looked up at the balcony in confusion, then hastily back down at their child. They grabbed him before he could reach the buck and whisked him across the street to the beach.
A round of "phews" ensued.
Two minutes later, more people walked past, and the anticipation again mounted. The crux of the joke, I found out from the 40-year-old man standing next to me near the railing at the corner of the bar, was that the buck was pasted to the sidewalk by a lump of shit.
Dog shit, I hope?
"Yeah, dog shit," the stubbly cheeked, grizzled, man said as the sea breeze fluttered the armpit hair hanging out of his tank top, "but is it that much better than human shit? People think dogs' mouths are so clean, but they go around licking their asses all day. I don't get it."
Whatever. I looked away, not wanting to engage in small talk for the trillionth time in my life.
A young, dark-haired beachgoer walked toward the street corner in flip-flops, shorts, and a tank top.
For an omniscient moment, the Elbo Roomers' attention was psychotically fixed on the young man setting his cooler down next to the greenback. They were mutely laughing at the workings of the victim's mind. You could almost feel the spark of luck he felt as he spied the unit of currency on the sidewalk.
He reached down, picked it up to the tune of 40 laughs and howls, and quickly flung it away. His petty greed was exposed: The crowd went nuts. The dog-talking man I was standing next to leaned over the railing at the corner of the bar and yelled "Finger-lickin' good" as the young man scurried down Las Olas Boulevard and out of sight.
"Oh my God!" everyone was yelling between fits of laughter as they poured beer down their necks.
Then it started again. Lucky for us assholes, the bill had landed shit-side down.
Another set of parents walked by with a little, adolescent girl in tow. She was a priss; you could tell by the letters on the back of her shorts that spelled out Princess and the way she held high her head of brown, curly hair. Her flip-flop rested on the bill while they waited for the green light to cross to the beach. A sunburnt, blue-eyed man in his early 30s was standing near me on the other side of a tall, tan, skinny woman with sunglasses, saying, "Look down, you little bitch. Come on, you little bitch -- pick it up."
The girl didn't notice it, and the dollar remained in its spot.
Which was just so perfect, because a couple of minutes later, a heavyset woman with short hair, wearing jeans and a cheap T-shirt, bent over and picked it up. The crowd was cackling and drawing deep, dramatic breaths. She looked up right away with this totally oblivious grin, like she'd pulled a fast one on us. The bill was so firmly clutched in her paw that she didn't seem to notice its brown back side.
"Smell your finger!" men yelled, making sure she knew that we had pulled one over on her.
It was just too good. Nobody could believe it. She was out of sight and probably covered in shit.
The humiliating scene having climaxed, the crowd turned back to punching one another's arms, making out, drinking beer, and absorbing UV rays into their perfect, freckled little noses -- just where you said they'd be when you consoled yourself the last time they humiliated you, ten years ago.
The sun may have set on this low-balling prank, but expect the source of all life's fires to pour light on more jerk-off antics as the season unfolds.