News of Hurricane Irma has me flashing back to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and realizing the impact of it on my life. I was living on Miami Beach when it brutally hit and leveled Homestead and damaged thousands of homes and businesses in greater Miami. It was a mess. Where I lived, there was not too much damage done, but I did lose power for a week – in August. Ugh. I was in college at the time and had just started working at a fabulous high-end ice cream shop called The Frieze. It was just 6 blocks from my apartment and right at the corner of Ocean Drive and 5th Street. It was fun to be working right on the heart of all the growth and decadence that was South Beach back then. I served ice cream to Gianni Versace, Lenny Kravitz, Downtown Julie Brown and many other lesser known fabulous people. Everyone was fabulous then.
On November 1st 1992, in walked a man that changed my life forever. He came in to the store and said hello – had a great smile – and asked me for a “frappe”. A frappe is a milkshake. No one calls a milkshake a frappe unless they are from Massachusetts. I grew up there and had just been back for my brother’s wedding. I asked him if he was from MA, he laughed and we started talking. He told me that he had moved to Miami for all the work that was available now as a result of Hurricane Andrew. He had a friend that he moved in with and he got a job right away installing security systems. We spent about 20 minutes talking that day – it was a slow morning as all of Miami Beach had partied hard the night before for Halloween. We had an instant connection and instant chemistry – he was charismatic, funny, handsome, sweet. I felt so comfortable talking with him and wanted to know more.
We went on a date a week later, went to see a horrible movie and then went back to the beach to my favorite neighborhood bar, Promenade. We had some drinks, walked across the street to the water, made out on the beach and clicked in a way that I had never clicked with anyone. I was happy. Hell, I was ecstatic. The night before I met him, I had gone with a friend to a Halloween themed wedding, which seemed so nutty at the time. I caught the bouquet at that wedding and met him the next day – destined to be then, am I right?! Too have met this Irish Catholic boy from Boston here – it seemed crazy and so meant to be.
First dates do that to you. They make you think that anything and everything is possible and that the world is a perfect place. And I wanted that, I wanted it to be perfect and wanted it to be forever – right from the start. I allowed my need for connection, for touch, for a relationship, to cloud my judgement and I immediately put on blinders to all the red flags that started popping up over the next few weeks. Things that would have made any normal person say, “Adios!” Not me. I said, “Bring it!”
A hurricane and ice cream brought us together and that was really the essence of our life together – swirling bits of chaos, love, excitement, madness, happiness, sadness, exhilaration, disappointment and grief. The highs and the lows, the roses and the thorns. Our life together was not a straight line – it bobbed and weaved. All in all, it was a good life, a life that challenged me and that made me truly examine my soul. I learned how to love, how to be brave and strong, and how to maintain thru the chaos.
I’ll always be grateful to Hurricane Andrew – and ice cream – for bringing that man into my life. We spent the next 14 years together and despite all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Well, I might trade some of it…