With no car in Miami my choices are to walk, or to bum rides from friends I haven’t met. I’ve already earned a reputation as the only non-methhead walking the streets—at my opening there were four people who said “oh, you’re that guy who was walking!”
Once I arrived at the 71st St. beach, a five-mile walk from my house, I rented a lounge chair from the kiosk for five dollars, unwrapped a watermelon blow-pop and melted into reading. A muscle-gay set up his umbrella and chair next to me.
HIM TO ME: “Hey, what you reading?”
ME TO HIM: “Cookie Mueller.”
HIM: “Cookie Monster?”
ME: “Cookie Muel-ler—an underground writer—you wouldn’t know her.”
HIM: “Oh. What’s she writing about?”
ME: “Right now she’s at a nude beach. Do you know where the gay nude beach is here?”
HIM: “Yeah, its a ways up—I was there a couple of days ago. Only reason I’m not there now is now ’cause I have to meet a friend for drinks at my hotel in an hour.”
ME: “Would you drive me up there and just drop me off?—I don’t have a car.”
HIM: “What’s in it for me?”
ME: “You can put suntan lotion on my butt—that might be kinda fun. It’s too humiliating trying to lotion yourself naked on a beach. I tried, looked like an idiot and still got a little cooked in the middle of my back—the red mark of being alone on vacation.”
HIM: “Ok, why not.”
We hop into his rental car and drive up 15 or 20 minutes. He is visiting from North Florida for Memorial Day. We walk along the arcade of trees obscuring the nude part of beach from the road, all the way to the far end where the gays gather. Once we arrive I lay out my towel, undress, and hand him a bottle of Coppertone UltraGuard SPF 30. Laying on my stomach he smears my shoulders, lower back, butt, down my legs —”please don’t forget my feet, they burn too”—then feet.
He takes off his bathing suit.
I take out my copy of “Garden of Ashes”.
HIM: “Hey, what are you doing?”
ME: “I’m reading Cookie Mueller…don’t you have to go meet your friend at the hotel?”
HIM: “yeah, you’re right—you want my number?”
ME: “Sure—I mean, I’ll need a ride back from the beach.”
We exchange numbers and I return to reading. The scene is just as Cookie describes it:
“On beach blankets bare butts were broiling in the sun like luscious ham hocks,”
and mine is now one of ’em.
Compared to the svelte latin boys I look every bit a Rubens’ painting glowing in the green surf.
Cookie’s nude beach story was about her tattoos. I think of Genesis talking about when tattooing was illegal—something hard to imagine now, especially in Miami. Here they are a mainstream accessory, mostly generic and seemingly meaningless.
A day earlier, a sweet bear couple brought me to this beach for the first time—three grown men wedged into a red two-seat Miata. While talking on the sand an older man, probably in his late sixties, stood up not far away, showing the blur of an old tattoo. It was a rose on his sagging right butt cheek, the stem horizontally planted in his anus like one of my favorite details from Bosch. The contours of the faded rose were crude and thick, as if it were solid or made of meat—the architecture of roses are very complex.
Compared to the other tattoos on the beach this one was so funky, specific and symbolic in a silly way—just the way tattoos should be. I’m sure Cookie would have loved it.