The yellow sun outside is a bittersweet star of blistering scorching intensity. It polishes Miami Beach to a shiny ethereal and otherworldly glow, condensing its cosmic rays and ultraviolet spectrum into a highlight marker of epic intensity. It underscores South Beach’s already vibrant facets. Every brick, mortar, or drywall brims with that postcard technicolor insanity Miami is so fond of pushing around to other states like dime store dope. The high-water mark of plastic perfection; the whole plump and flourish twigging, with a constant quake of strange tremors. Your soul, some alarm in your most inner being, interprets the neon splendor as a strange eldritch occurrence. The spiny tentacles of some pink rainbow octopi brush against a vestigial part of yourself. An underlying, latent raw piece that longs for the inherent majesty of nature. In this town, everything is the Hollywood version of itself, the cookie cut facsimile; faux palm trees in the middle of the arctic tundra, penguins and seals scratching their backs with counterfeit bark.
I’ve been staying in Miami for over a week now, down by South Beach, surrounded by the hordes of the ever glassy eyed. Everywhere, the vacant stare of tourist, with their mouths agape, stunned into a stupor. They share the bewildered movements of those that seem to have stepped off a mother-ship from some distant twilight dimension, where the laws of physics are but a passing fad. Their jerky meanderings, spiraling double speech, questionable hygienics, are an ingrained part of the coastal decor. Above all, the specimen that is most common: the savvy entrepreneur. The one that smells blood in the water whenever the gullible outsider skates by; Stygian orb eyes sizing everyone up into dollar figures.
Strangely, this is part of SOBE’s grigri, its slight of hand, alluring enchantment. It’s Chamber Of Commerce Disney flash, someway or another dragging you into a nostalgic funk for your Fisher-Price/Mattel glory days. South Beach morphed into a theme park of what it once was. It’s strange, even amorphous, but this is part of South Beach’s appeal; like Vegas, it only pretends to be a walk on the wild side. It’s counterculture packaged for the white picket fence community.
Nonetheless, I find myself seeking a measure of clarity on those tequila-drenched whitecaps. I’m swimming up from the bottom of the azure ocean. A part of me feels comfort from the weedy depths; being lulled into a peaceful, final, sleep. Still, a behavioral overdrive eggs me on. My arms churn up the waves, kick at the surf, heels sprint from the corrals. An instinct yells for me to push; to go towards the surface, to seek the blessed taste of oxygen.
In South Beach, that oxygen, that elixir of life, is nothing short but the pursuit of something organic, pure, unrefined; of something real and unblemished. That fragment of truth that is untouched by spray paint or a surgeon’s scalpel or anything that morphs the workings of God.
A sigh, a yearning, escapes in chorus from all who have lived here for more than a passing turn of the clock. Each exclamation is a beacon in the stormy nights for that, perhaps unattainable, talisman.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the door goes and does its salon bit; a running gag, in most bars. A clarion call goes out from a winged host of angels. A flash bomb falls over the spectral shadows.
“The pigs!” A rowdy biker screams.
“SWAT!” Half the patrons dash for cover.
“It’s not mine, I’m just holding it for a friend!” three or four say in unison, followed by backbeat of half a dozen flushing toilets. Rats and sewer slime look forward to a Jamaican luau.
The glow dissipates, and what remains is even more blinding than the fuse of potassium nitrate and army grade magnesium.
She’s long, exotic, beauty distilled; a Bond girl made real. There’s something in her swagger that tells you she’s not from around here. The general consensus points to Heaven, but on second glance even that joint seems like a dive bar for this walking specimen of alluring grace. Bang! She takes her first long stride. I dare to scan around and see a couple of hipsters rolling back their tongues. She’s dressed in simple rags, but on her body, even a trash bag looks like French couture. She’s made up to the nines and I’m fairly certain she didn’t even try.
A barrister stumbles. The mechanics on walking run out of his ears and head off to Fantasy Fest in Key West. She takes two more steps, and all conversation cuts dry. Anyone with a Y chromosome trails the elegant vision. Growls echo, from deep within the guttural walls, of many a feminine throats. Imaginary slap and red cheeks resound across the pub. “Ouch!” a dozen shoulder devils exclaim while massaging the smart cuffs and whacks from their counterpart angels. With each slight, yet resounding tap of her soles, she steals everyone’s attention. Her perfect legs, and the sway from her -sell your soul- hips, bats your attention span into the Dark Ages. There’s a sense of envy palpable in this room. The green eye monster of legends mixes, with a feeling of longing, of wanton lust and awestruck astonishment. But, over all these sinful back and forths, one prevailing theme beats all others to a bloody goo. Standing tall, over the battered frames of those seven remiss reprobates, the majesty of intrinsic charm swings onto her palm like a vile caked Steel Rebar.
“Stay the hell down.”
Right from the get go, my optics shatter and I’m about to descend into a blubbering mass of primordial soup. I try to form words, yet all I manage to dredge up is a series of sounds akin to the rhythmic beeping your dashboard makes whenever some dullard forgets to buckle up his seat belt. “Oh dear God,” I think in some astral plane as I look down from above. “I’ve been turned into Beaker, from the Muppets! Heavenly Father, take me.”
She sits in front of me, asks for something, but my brain simply won’t react. I try to do my best to recover the last 35 years of my life. The last thing I hazily recall is sucking on my tiny thumb, wondering how that white porcelain throne, my mom constantly tries to sell me, functions. I ride the stream, latch on to one single remembrance, one emotion and pray it’s my way back to a semblance of my former self -not this mass of single cell organisms I’ve blinked into.
I have to speak, or feel the shame of losing the celebrated brown fillings my intestines seem to be having trouble with. I grab my liquid courage, which also passes for my breakfast, and down its pre-happy hour shot of alertness right to the spine.
“Luna, thanks for having me. Really, this is the Mcdaddy of favors… So freaking cool,” I manage to blurt out.
“Hi, you’re welcome and thank you. It’s my pleasure.”
Her name is Luna Voce. She’s what supermodels strive to be. She’s a Miss Universe. She’s a Miss Italy. She’s a Miss Earth. She’s a Miss everything. Not to mention she is 2012’s Top Model of The World winner.
You can almost imagine one of those Milan marching cover models inspecting themselves, detectives of their pristine reflection, coming to grips with the unvarnished reality. “Dammit,” says – insert favorite manikin’s name here – “look what I found. Dammit, twice,” knuckles clenched to the Heavens. “Now I’ll have to settle for Vogue. Mom was right, I’ll never wear a tiara.”
I focus back on Luna, she’s asked for a drink. I catch my voice and fetch my game face. I fumble a bit for it, but finally, after many nervous starts, grip my flimsy professional mask.
“We met while I was jogging across South Beach, Miami,” I go. “You were in the middle of a photo shoot, and your beauty, even at my speed was a punch to the guts. When I strolled up, and requested an interview, be honest, you thought I was a psycho or a stalker, right?”
“Haha, no, I was thinking: ‘wow, he sweats a lot!'” Luna says.“It already happened to me, that while I’m doing a photo shoot, people start chatting me up. At least this time, it was only the photographer and myself, so I wasn’t embarrassed. But sometimes there’s the whole crew of make-up artist, hairdresser, stylist, designer, photographer, assistant etc. and then it’s kind of embarrassing. One time, a tourist followed me everywhere, trying to get my number or proposing marriage like a mad man. All the while I was trying to concentrate on the camera, flee from the guy and be photogenic on roller skates without falling.”
I beat back the sweat of relief; the buffoon in me happily dispatched by my powerful sweat glands. “Bet the fact that I was wearing a Hulk Compression Shirt, with matching purple running shorts, didn’t help. Right?”
“Very sexy,” Luna laughs.
“Please, I beg you, don’t say that,” I hold fast to my chest. “For the briefest moment my heart skipped. There was this tunnel of white light and, I’m fairly certain, that I saw my Grandfather’s ghost. He was looking at me funny, slapping his face and saying: typical, you ninny.’ That ever happen to you?”
“You really are weird,” the sound of the chair screeching away is deafening.
“Right, let’s continue. What are you up to in Miami? What fortuitous circumstances conspired for our paths to cross? Or did you simply take it upon yourself, just for kicks, to brighten South Beach’s already sunny face by drugging it with your intoxicating beauty?”
“I’ve lived in Miami Beach since February. I was working as a professional model in Milan, and the boss of Elite Model Management Miami, saw me in Italy and asked me to work in the USA.”
“You like working in Miami?”
“Yeah, everyone is kind, the weather is nice and models have an easy life here. This morning I was doing a shooting with…” Something in her clams up. It is a fast reaction, an atavistic need to lock up the vault. This girl knows her secrets, she guards them well.
“With who?” I ask, already knowing she’s gone into Navy Seal training. I’m half expecting Luna to give me a stony expression and bark out her rank, name and serial number. Instead, she winks and zips up her lips; mimic and all. That’s as far as I’ll get with her on that subject.
“Sorry, did you say something? You were talking? No s$&t… It’s just that my brain seems to short circuit whenever I stare anywhere near your vicinity.”
“Haha, you have to listen up.”
“Sorry for stumbling around like a drunken inbred fool… Common sense. Working on the premise of the solar eclipse, and not gawking directly at it. Does that happen to you often? Induce a state of paralysis and temporary blindness?”
“No… Maybe a Lunar eclipse?”
“And you do quips. Worse, you thought that up on a fly. Pretty, smart and sharp, what else?”
“Other secrets? Uhmm,” she says. “I was a nerd at school. Studied Natural Sciences, oh yeah, I wanted to become a police officer.”
“Police Officer? That’s a one-eighty. Now, Luna, I’m scanning over your resume and the first thing that springs up is that you can easily apply for the job of Donald Trump’s wife when he inevitably decides to trade in for a new model. With that piece of political satire on the plate, what are your pet-peeves and must-haves in an hombre? Or, if you swing the other way, then do tell. That way I can ask for a bigger advance out of The Guy Society.”
“Haha. Curiously, I met him at the Miss Universe contest, but he’s not my type; no, thank you. Normally I like guys with dark straight short hair, dark eyes and dark eyebrows. But, ultimately, I don’t really care about the way he looks. I notice more his smile, and his behavior and how he treats me. And, although a bit overused: if he makes me laugh and have fun. Also, he has to be a gentleman. I like it if he’s self-secure, intelligent, disciplined, strong, attentive, direct and makes decisions quickly, and if he’s protective, active and jealous.”
“I like to know he’s on the alert.”
“Are you the jealous type?”
“I also keep a sharp eye whether or not his eyes wander.”
“There are actually bastards who’s eyes wander near you? That’s probably a sign of the coming Apocalypse. Now, you’ve told me what you like, now what are your turn offs.”
“Macho posturing. What a guy should absolutely NOT do to impress me, is…” Luna starts ticking off fingers.
“One,” up goes an elegant piggy. “Show his muscles or move his ‘boob’-muscles while he’s talking to me.”
“Two,” the one that went to the bakery makes his appearance. “Send me pictures of his expensive cars, thinking that I care about his bank account.”
“Three, stare at me all the time while I’m eating.”
“O.K., that’s really out there. Were you eating a Toblerone Bar? That normally happens to me when a Toblerone comes into play. I simply space out.”
“No Toblerone… I just feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when I’m being analyzed, particularly while eating. Anyway, they should also never order one plate for me and him together, because HE has a tiny stomach. I don’t share. Never take it upon yourself to let me starve.”
“You’re missing a few hogs there,” I point straight at her outstretched palm.
“Oh, well, while we are at it. I also hate it when they talk about the celebs’ they know and places they go to. Spin out names and places, that have nothing to do with the current conversation we are having. Just to let me know how much of a big deal he is,” she looks up and begins a Shakespearean soliloquy. “Ahem… ‘I went with my friend, the son of the daughter of the brother of the queen of England, and with Madonna to the Billionaire Fair’; or a goody but a classic. ‘I always go to the beach in St. Tropez, and for lunch to Porto Cervo, and for dinner with my private jet to Dubai’ and blah blah blah.’ You can treat me like a princess, but don’t talk about money, cars, famous friends, luxury places when I’m not even your girlfriend. Because I really don’t like it to feel that some guy is trying to buy me. I’m not for sale.”
“Yeah, and this is a big one nowadays. Don’t send me your selfies. Especially those of you at the gym, flexing your muscles.”
“What’s your verdict on taking selfies during ComicCon while dressed as Walter White? I’m also known to stand in front of the mirror with a blaster and a Boba Fett helmet. Your thoughts?”
“That you might need professional help. P.S: I went to ComicCon this year, had a blast. It was so funny. Oh, by the way, I don’t know who Walter White is…”
“Hurray,” I think to myself. “A chink in the armor. She’s not perfect.”
“Luna,” I continue. “You’re the perfect blend of Dutch sensibility and Italian sleekness. A Utopian mixture. The outcome of a Ferrari crashing into Van Gogh painting. Superior horsepower, with the right tinctures of classical impressionist flare.”
“What?” Luna blinks as though I’m stoned blind. “Have you been drinking?” She stares at my drink. “Well, much?”
“Sorry, like I said I’m making no sense. Luna, when did you realize that you were too breathtakingly awesome for us puny mortals?”
“‘Well…One day, I was having breakfast, and I watched my spoon…and then I just KNEW IT! I watched my reflection in the spoon and I knew that I was just breathtakingly awesome!!!’ Oh sorry, that’s Zoolander.” She leans back and smiles. “I never thought I could be a model and when people told me I should be a model, I always told them they were crazy and they needed to get glasses. Then, one day, one of the best agencies called me from Milan, asking me to pack my stuff and move to Milan. I was very honored of course, and I said ‘yes’, but I was also in a kind of way disappointed, because I actually really liked my life the way it was. I was happy and suddenly I had to change and leave everything: my university, my room, my friends, the library, my dreams and be a totally different person.”
“What about beauty pageants? When did that kick in?”
“With beauty pageants I started much earlier than with modeling, but that wasn’t because I thought I was pretty, but because it is my dream – slash – passion. It really helped me out. Allowed my to conquer my shyness.”
“You’re kidding, you were shy?” I think back to my wallflower days and suddenly decide that I might have left my corner a bit too fast in comparison.
“Yes, very shy. Liked to stay indoors, didn’t like to walk outside or anything. Even send out my little sister to speak to strangers, cause I lacked the courage. I was very embarrassed of my height, compared to my other classmates; I felt like the clumsy giraffe. Tried to be as invisible as possible. Pageantry, and being in the limelight, helped me master those problems.”
“Now, you’ve won your fair share of trophies and prices and those nifty tiaras, what’s your secret? What’s your voodoo formula for racking in success after success?”
“Practice, like they say, makes perfect. Practice every aspect of what you want to acquire, as if you’re preparing for some grueling subject for school. A particularly nasty exam. To pass that hurdle, you need to get the best marks on each and every one of your studies. When you’re the best at each ‘subject’, no matter how trivial, then, that’s when you’ve won.”
“I failed at advance Play-Doh, in Kindergarten, got held back. Did my level best, only ended up eating the dough. There has to be something else. Some secret.”
“Strange that you put it that way,” Luna gives off a mischievous smile. “Have you ever read ‘The Secret’? Visualize yourself, actively, as what you desire to be… And the Universe or, at the very least, your subconscious helps you out. Act as if you’ve already bested the pageant. It always helps me out to think of myself as last year’s winner. I’m only there to be part of the jury. Going on stage only to greet the public and to crown the new winner…. Really takes the pressure off.”
“Give us a tip, some hidden bit of Gandalf-like wisdom you’ve discovered in all your travels and Viking conquests… Don’t be shy now.”
“Well, KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Always bring your passport, travel ticket, key, money, telephone and charger. Everything else, you can buy. That’s a lot of wisdom.”
“Aside from nature gifting you, and God breaking the mold, what other strange mutant power do you have? What other natural ability sets you apart from the rest?”
“My mutant powers?” Luna frowns thinking up her answer. “Uhmmm. Actually, I’m really normal but I speak 5 languages, and understand 7.”
“Your definition of normal differs from mine. I hardly speak English good.”
One more laugh, and a shrug of the shoulder. “Well, I’m also very creative and very good at fashion design, drawing and painting. I made some of the evening gowns I wore for the competitions myself. I didn’t have enough money to buy those expensive dresses, so I just MacGyvered them up. I like writing. I’m an autodidact; learned everything from books. I love horse riding, ballet, salsa dancing. The environment is an important issue for me, since I was young. At ten I wrote a couple of literary pieces on animals and nature; made up my own magazine. Surprisingly, two newspaper shops in town picked it up and sold my amateur magazine.”
“Here in The Guy Society we’ve collected our fair share of bombshells. We’ve stocked up a menagerie of power hungry tycoons, and, in our basement stores, we have a couple of gamma-radiated ne’er-do-wells we painfully, and at great expense, try to protect the public from. But, we’ve never had a Miss Universe, which is just a big kudos. So, Luna, go on and tells us some tantalizing tidbit or mind-boggling memory of your pageantry days… Please…”
“My favorite pageant was Miss International, because I stayed in the beautiful Venetian Hotel of Macao and the organization treats the girls like celebrities. We had the whole fantasy. Even the paparazzi. Every day they would stalk us. Busy little beavers following us on our sightseeing tours. The day after, there was always some pictures of us in the national newspaper. And it was a great experience to also go to Hong Kong and to Japan.”
“Any horror stories?”
“Miss Earth was pretty scary. One night, Miss Netherlands woke up from a nightmare, telling me she dreamt of a snake, and that it usually means that something bad is coming. Sort of a black crow; an auger of bad timings. We went to sleep again. The general idea: it was just a dream, pure and simple. After convincing each other that we were being silly. The nightmare didn’t mean a thing. That morning Miss Canada runs into our rooms, yelling at the top of her lungs: ‘Hurricaaaaane!! Pack up your bags IMMEDIATELY!’ Guinness World Record time, that’s how fast I stuffed everything into my suitcase. We had to escape from a terrible hurricane bearing down on our island. Most of the other girls had already left. And the boats were Titanic-scarce. My best friend, Miss Earth Netherlands, and 8 other girls were still on the island, not to mention your’s truly. We’re all stuck on this tiny bit of sea locked land, scared and praying for help. Miss Netherlands, was talking in Dutch to me, so the other girls wouldn’t understand: ‘Luna,’ she goes. ‘I’m sorry, but when the hurricane comes, I’m going to let those b*tches die. It’s us two. We’ll only save each other if the going gets rough. Understood?!” … Suddenly, a little wooden party boat, with naked women drawn on the sides of its hull, and without any life vests, appeared on the horizon. Hurray, we were saved and we lived happily ever after.”
“Didn’t have to resort to cannibalism, that’s always a plus. Pretty dicey adventure. You got another one?”
“Miss Universe… I went to train for the pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. I had a bodyguard and an assistant. Never left me out of their sight. They chaperoned me all around town. Back and forth from each of my lessons. Make-up, catwalk, hairdressing, gym, and shopping… All the way to the finals; constant shadows.”
“Luna, believe it or not, I know a couple of girls who actually read and crawl through this toxic claptrap of erstwhile journalism we call The Guy Society. How they do it, is beyond me. Some of them are struggling models, or hand-to-mouth actress, and some are just wishful dreamers who need that little push to pursue their fantasy. I’m handing over the mic’ and letting you address them, inspire them, or teach them. Give them a shout out, or whatever you want. The floor is yours.”
“Thanks… WILL… I think that’s important. It’s about how much you want something and how much you’re willing to work for it.”
“Come on,” I sit back. “Give us a bit more. We’re almost at the end. Go on, blow your top. Bring the house down.”
“O.K, it’s your article.” She swallows and melts into a superhero pose. “Never use an excuse. Excuses are just ways to avoid getting into the action and trying something new, already nursing the fear of failing. It’s a form of laziness, and I know because I used to have excuses myself all the time. That was my Kryptonite. Excuses are quite possibly hidden truths, something your inner self is telling you. Still, you should never let them dominate you. They’re just speed bumps to cross. It’s better to sit down, think things through and write a plan, preferably, with good solutions and beat them back. Sometimes people say to me, ‘If I was tall like you I would have done this and that.’ I lost the main role in a Pitbull video, because they said I was too tall! Nowadays you can be anything, and your height has nothing to do with it. Just look at Tom Cruise. Actresses, fashion bloggers, singers, beauty queens or Instagram models; the world really is your oyster. You don’t need to be tall for those jobs. All you really need is dedication… And patience.”
“Still, I imagine it helped, being born with your genes.”
“It helped. Every little bit counts. But, the important lesson is, ‘Don’t compare yourself to others, only with the progress you’ve made.’ Be proud of how much better you have become, from the point you set out from, and always strive for more, look ahead, never to your sides. Never forget this truth, because, especially in showbiz, there comes a point, in your career, that you start concentrating on your ‘rivals’ and your life slowly transforms into a competition with them. Don’t fall into that quicksand. Be happy for others, and focus on your own life and progress.”
“That’s a nice utopia, but not everyone can realize it. There’s always someone better, someone faster, hungrier, leaner.”
“‘F*ck it, I’m not less’. I don’t like to use swear words, or to be mean, but sometimes admiring too much, makes you feel inferior. Tears you down. And that phrase, ‘F*ck it, I’m not less’, is powerful ju-ju. Just don’t say it out loud. Word of warning.”
I mark that down, and instantly flash on whether or not my editor will let me use it. It’s a great headline, and more, when you consider the spigot from where it came. “Luna, anything else? I see you sort of trembling. You’ve really opened up, but I feel as if there’s something on the tip of your tongue.”
“Yeah,” she takes a sip. “Be wary on who you trust. Managers, who say ‘trust me’ or go on a tirade, spouting things like: ‘I’ll let you do this and that and this, because I know him and her, and we’re best friends, don’t worry, trust me’. It’s those that you have to be mindful of.”
“So, Luna, you basically have the world, or at the very least every testosterone-heavy biped, hanging by your proverbial ovaries – slaves to your siren wail – what’s next for you?”
“For now, I’ll just continue modeling, and tomorrow I have a bridal photo shoot in Houston. November will be pretty busy and in January I have a couple fashion shows. I’m also looking for a manager in the USA. Plus, I’m busy participating in various events on Climate Change. And, as always there’s the odd personal projects always lurking in the background.”
“Thank you, Luna, for your time. This last skid, I stole from the Actor’s Studio. I modified it and tweaked it so they don’t sue. Rapid fire questions, one answer. You ready?”
“Fire,” she pulls back her thumbs, sticks out her finger and pistol shoots me. “Bang, Bang.” Winking all the while.
“Here we go… Favorite movie?”
“Robert De Niro.”
“A guilty pleasure?”
“Food. In general.”
“Favorite place in the world?”
“Secret. Otherwise, it will be invaded.”
“All right, let’s see…Your hated archenemy?”
“Something that really grinds you?”
“People asking me if I only eat salads or when friends invite me and my father for lunch and they cook all the best food in the world, and without asking me anything they turn to me and say: ‘Luna, for you, we have this yummy salad’.”
“And, finally, favorite swear word?”
“Ships?” I ask, a bit perplexed.
“A Dutch posh way to swear by not really swearing: like ‘shit’, mixed with the word ‘chips’.”
“Oh, like frack on Battlestar Galactica,” a cricket once more takes up his symphony. “Well, thanks, Luna, that’s all. Hope you had as much fun as I’ve had. Now, could you please leave the building. I need to open my eyes again, and my radar sense is kind of wonky right now.”
“Ahaha, ok, bye,” she gets up and like Elvis leaves the building. Moments later I witness (before entering once more into the miasma of memory) Luna turning. She cocks her head backwards and blows me a kiss. “That’s not for you, you dolt. That’s for the readers.”
“Typical,” mt Grandfather says once more. “Great big ninny.” He says past the blinding circle of light.
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