—Hollywood, Florida, 2022
I’m writing a long walking poem while I can still walk
long distances. Barbra tells me her 60’s, the decade I’m in now,
was the best of her life, but at some point in her 70’s she started
to slow down. I place my key in the North Gate lock, wanting to be
like O’Hara or Pessoa. I’m wearing Hoka sneakers and Bomba socks
feeling an affinity with these poets and brand names
that all end in “a.” I first pass the Sage, the multimillion dollar condos
that replaced the Driftwood, an aquamarine 50’s hotel that I loved
though my neighbors called it a dump. My parents once slept
there. Tony Hoagland once slept there—so there.
My parents and Tony are now all dead now so there’s no way
for them to give a review. Yes, the rooms were a little musty
but each had sliding glass doors that opened to the ocean.
The Driftwood was low, only two floors, with a parking lot
that now is filled with a second Sage condominium.
Richard Blanco calls such remembering geographical history.
Hi, Gustavo! (He lives in my building.) I’ve been in Florida
for twenty-two years, long enough to see Wolfie’s Deli go
and in its place an overpriced restaurant called Epicure. I remember
driving from US1 to A1A via Hallandale Blvd. and the water tower
seemed so tall, so much ocean on either side. Now the water tower
is dwarfed by condos and hotels, the Hyde to its north
and Ocean One to its south. For now, I’m passing the Mariposa
with its azure railings. A handyman once told me it’s full
of Canadian mafiosos and that is why the windows are so small.
Next up, an empty lot, what used to be The Greenbriar
now torn down and waiting for a developer with deep pockets,
like the company who built the Sage. For so many months
I woke to wrecking balls and dust—goodbye Driftwood—
then rebar in the ground and concrete trucks. With The Greenbriar
gone, I can see straight to the Atlantic, kids on the beach
at soccer practice in their neon magenta and lime tees. The Foxglove
has a checkerboard pattern, cerulean and white, and a front yard
piled with rocks. I pass the Shoreview, the peach Manta Ray Inn
with its bright red sign, Enchanted Isle timeshares,
Tiffany (and its sign “no rentals”) painted the same color
as the gift bags of the famous jewelry store. Next up is Casa de Playa
with its spiral staircase to a rooftop pool, the first place
I ever saw a Tesla and its charging station, then tiny Harry Berry park
with its swings and slide and restrooms. I pass wooden fences
protecting sea grapes and dunes leading to the Summit
(two towers with a tennis court in the middle) and the public parking
lot behind it which is fairly empty this early Tuesday morning
in mid-July. There’s a Broward B-cycle rental station—
Hi young couple walking their dog!— then the white Andoric apartments
beyond which is the open sea to the east. The buildings
(except for lifeguard huts) all now on the west side
of the broadwalk. (It’s not called the boardwalk as there are no
wooden boards. The pedestrian walkway was built in 1924
from coral rock dredged from the intracoastal
and later covered over with asphalt which is how it was
when I first arrived. A decade or so ago, the city redesigned it again,
this time with pavers.) The lifeguards aren’t here yet—too early—
but at ten they’ll put out flags, the color of which will let you know
if it’s safe to swim, if there’s a riptide or jellyfish. There’s a bike lane
into which walking tourists might stumble by mistake
but a Schwinn’s bell will warn them to jump out of the way.
Next are two white single family houses with cement lawns,
and the yellow townhouses which turn over for sale every few years,
one of which was owned by a women with a pet chimp
she kept in diapers. The animal often lounged on the balcony.
I was afraid he would jump! Then another small white house,
this one with coral embellishing the front and the turquoise house
with a huge plastic shark with bloody teeth by the door. The flags
for the 4th have recently been taken down, but the owners
will decorate again at Christmas with an inflatable Santa
and at Easter with an inflatable Jesus who flails like a sky dancer
at a car dealership. Then the Mainsail condominium,
and an orange two-story condo (a “studio for rent” sign in the window),
a dingy bungalow with old fashioned shutters, then another
grassy vacant lot with a “for sale” sign. I pass two more
little white houses, one with a cornflower fence, then
an apartment building with a diamond pattern of two shades of peach.
Then an empty restaurant painted gray which used to serve
amazing sushi, then so-so sushi, then bar food with a name change
to Alvin’s which did its best with twinkle lights and live music
but couldn’t survive the pandemic. Next the seahorse condo
with its ceramic mascot at the entrance. Hi elderly couple
in matching bucket hats! On the sand a row of hand weights
and a sign that reads “Free Fibonacci Workout.”
This reminds me of my friend Maureen who wrote a book of poetry
Fibonacci Batman. She and I often walked this very route
talking about poetry and our spouses and everything under the sun.
Maureen is retired, living in Denver now, and she has been
the constant in my life—like all my female friends actually.
I am thinking of myself as a flâneuse rather than a flâneur
even though I reject the term poetess. It’s harder for women
to walk in this world—to move at all, honestly, but I am lucky
to live in a place where other women walk too, where there is sunlight
and no dark allies. I remember Maureen and I springing for cabs
late at night when we lived in New York, leery of certain
neighborhoods. O,Hara, Pessoa, Hoka, Bomba, all ending
in that unstressed “a,” what used to be called—and may still
be called—in poetry metrics, a feminine ending. Here
I feel free and safe as I pass the Hollywood Beach Hotel
which everyone it seems thinks is haunted. One of the reasons
I chose this area to live was because this pink hotel
had a Regal’s Cinema on the ground floor. I was so excited
thinking I could want to the movies like I did in New York,
but by the time I moved in and unpacked, the theater had shut down.
The hotel had a Burger King that also didn’t make it.
(When does a Burger King ever fail?) In the lobby, a British woman
sold coffee from a cart. She made me her version
of a Dunkin Donut’s Coolaata without the sugar—coffee
and lots of milk and ice in a blender. My father and I would stop
to see her when he was still alive. He took his coffee black
but one day she talked him into a shot of vanilla syrup.
Back then the hotel had a watch repair kiosk and Chinese food
and pizza, but now that’s all gone and even the restrooms
are boarded up. I miss Josh’s Organic Farmer’s Market
which would pop up each Sunday outside, but after Irma in 2017
all of their crops flooded and then Josh never returned. All that’s left
in the pink hotel is the bicycle shop and the restaurant Grumpy Gary’s
which used to be O'Malley's. Next I pass Logan's Beach Bar,
where my sister and brother-in-law like to visit when they’re here.
One of the bartenders is banished from their hometown
in Massachusetts—some kind of sketchy crime of which he is proud.
Then Red Pelican Hookah Lounge and Hollywood Brewery,
Hollywood Paradise, and McGowan's Good Food Good Friends Good Times
with the thatched roof and mismatched furniture. Then the condo
with paint scalloped like frosting, where Tom told me his uncle
once lived until after a hurricane when he couldn’t get ride of the mold.
Then Bonnie and Read's Toucan Hideout with the pirate theme,
and Mamacita's Latin Bar And Grill where waitresses line up
to shimmy and sing to attract customers. I pass Sunshine Realty,
an ice cream shop with the three-foot plastic cone out front,
Why Not Seafood Pasta And Burgers, El Tayta Authentic Peruvian Cuisine,
Istanbul Restaurant Kabob And Vegetarian House—Hi walking man
who I’ve seen go from 400 to 180 pounds—and Cucina Italiana.
Then another condo Laurel House and Häagen-Dazs which has been here
as long as I have, but the regulars I knew are all gone—the Inuit lifeguard
with the long hair, the woman from France with the Volkswagen Jetta.
I don’t recognize any of the servers anymore. I pass the mermaid statue
with a tail made of mosaic tiles, then Ocean Alley Bar
with the Hollywood Beach webcam, then the four restaurants
that burned to the ground during the pandemic. Venice, the one most North,
is the first to come back, putting out tables and a white couch.
Hi bedazzled rollerblader! Then Ocean Blue Beach Accessories,
the Yogurt Café with smoothies, Souvenir Luggage, Poke Sushi.
It’s then I pass Margaritaville with their four overpriced restaurants
and giant flip flop sculpture in the lobby and the Splash Zone
with Flo Rida where you can boogieboard down some fake waves—
Hi Dustin and Chris on their bikes!—and the bandshell, its back to the sea.
Before Margaritaville popped up, there was an empty lot
and the bandshell hosted local Elvis impersonators or lackluster doowop.
The bandshell has great live music thanks to the hotel,
though I am loathed to thank Margaritaville for the traffic jams.
Now anyone can dance for free—there’s reggae, Latin, country,
and rock bands, my favorite of which is Havoc 305. There’s a light show
and a professional sound system. Guests of the hotel,
kids from over the causeway, the homeless, and I all dance,
taking selfies or videotaping the musical acts. This month Margaritaville,
along with using paper straws, is featuring fake coral reefs,
an art project to bring attention to our dying seas.
There is a house on Surf Road, parallel to the broadwalk,
made entirely out of coral. It was built in the 40’s when the ocean
was still healthy, when the architects didn’t give their design
a second thought. Hi jogger with braids! I wonder how much longer
Hollywood Beach will remain. A few years ago, huge waves came in
during the middle of the day, past the lifeguard huts, splashing
onto the broadwalk. Tourists and locals alike screamed
as though in a disaster movie, running from the encroaching surf
with their beach towels and coolers. Who will remember
all these buildings or the smell of suntan lotion and cologne,
French fries and cigars? I pass Rocco's Pizza, Subway,
Ben & Jerry's, Oasis By The Sea, Sahara Greek Restaurant, Nick's Bar
with the oversized Adirondack chair tourists climb into to take pictures
for Instagram. I pass the Diana’s Ocean Suites, the Broadwalk
Italian Restaurant, Certain Spray Coffee Shop with its own ATM,
Aqua Shop for bathing suits and sunhats, the Cuban Coffee Shop
under construction, Ocean Fashions Variety Store, the Ice Cream Shop
selling frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, Shirtery II,
and Florio's of Little Italy. Then Charnow Park with its workout stations,
picnic tables, splash pools for kids, where the Canadian brass band
plays in winter with a bucket for tips and the homeless sleep
in the shade of a pavilion and old men play handball
in the handball court—thwack thwack. I pass the little pink house
with rounded windows, then the Beach Front South Private Residences
(“no trespassing” reads the sign) with balconies equipped
with their own ceiling fans, the jade Bel-Aire efficiencies,
the condo La Playa where Angie's family once stayed,
The Sandpiper, The Neptune Hotel with the logo of a merman
wearing a crown, another one-family home with tiki bar
in the yard, a tangerine two-story apartment house
with blue tinted windows, a condo with brand new hurricane glass,
yellow townhouses called The Sea Winds. I pass Riptide Bar
and its sign for live music, another white house
with a white concrete swan on the front concrete lawn
and then my favorite little house with Mexican tiles
on the risers of the stairs that lead to the second floor. I pass
The Hollywood Sands Resort then the Marriott where Krystyna
(a snowbird who mostly lives in DC) and I have dinner when she is here
each February, then The Walkabouts Beach Resort which used to be pink
but was recently painted green, the squat little house
with the with the blue anchor accents, and brand new construction
that looks like it’ll be a mansion. I pass the tiny navy blue house
with a stone table in the yard, the tiny sapphire house
with white lanterns, the sprawling yellow Tide Vacation Apartments,
the sea green Downs Oceanfront Inn—Hi two elderly ladies
who use walking sticks!—the teal two-story private residence
and an empty parking lot before Oceans 13 Bar with its Blue Moon
umbrellas for shade, then a cornflower and black painted condo
without a name, the sprawling Grand Beach Club complex, the condo
with the shells on their grassy lawn. I’m on my way to the over-the-top
Positano with more multimillion dollar condos where the former mayor
got herself in a scandal after the zoning permits went through
and she (on her government salary) somehow got to live there
in a discounted unit. The Positano has a fenced-in jacuzzi
jutting up to the broadwalk, almost as a bubbly fuck you.
Hi, homeless women on the bench puffing a joint! This is where
I usually gulp my bottle of water and turn around. I’m writing
a long poem while I still have strong fingers and can see
my notebook pages. On my way home I find a vintage postcard
on the ground. It pictures Hollywood Beach—an aerial shot—
addressed to a Mrs. Davies of New York, the postmark date
smudged. No condos, not even the one I live in, built yet,
just all grass and sand and that one pink haunted hotel.
Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she teaches at Florida International University in Miami.