By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
My name's Chris, last name Nelson. You wanna wear it?"
You had to give the guy credit for the creative pick-up line. Some of his other stellar hooks:
"You need another drink? I need another drink. I'm an alcoholic."
And who could forget the classic, "You ready to have all my children?"
I recently danced with the proud Jamaican, who resides in South Miami, on the upper level of Haulover's Solo on the Bay for a good fifteen minutes. That is until his hard-on grinding into my ass became too repulsive to ignore.
Wednesday nights at Solo on the Bay classy Caribbean-fusion restaurant by day, nitty-gritty nightclub by dark features a mix of reggae and R&B. These parties draw quite a few patrons of island descent, according to Michael Bennett, manager of both club and restaurant. But other theme nights bring in different groups. "On Thursday, for our R&B parties, we see a mostly black gay crowd. On Fridays we get a lot of Latino and white gays for our house and modern music night."
Sure enough, "Frigays on the Bay" are posted all over MySpace.com as some of the best gay parties in South Florida. On this Wednesday night, however, the vibe was definitely hetero, my blond hair and light skin drawing quite a few lingering looks.
Previously known as Salty's at Haulover Park, the building that hosts Solo has a reputation for abrupt endings. The last owner, Stefano Brandino, was convicted for drug money laundering in 1997, and as a result was forced to relinquish control of several properties to the feds, including the aforementioned Salty's, Stefano's and Sundays on the Bay in Key Biscayne, and Bellini's on Captiva Island.
The property was empty for two years before being converted into the restaurant and nightclub about fifteen months ago. The current owners? Strangely, Bennett, who is also Solo's chef, refused to divulge this information during our conversation outside the club.
The restaurant's gorgeous views of the Intracoastal Waterway could easily provide enough material to distract diners from any questions about their hosts. The deck behind the locale stretches expansively along the waterfront, offering 400 seats from which to watch the sun fold into itself over the water. Unfortunately, though, patrons of the nightclub aren't afforded this luxurious view. All of the outdoor areas are closed off once the music starts bumping.
Around 2:30 a.m., the sight and smell of burning blunts filled the room, and the DJ had selected a Sean Paul track for the reggae room. This was about the time I thought it necessary to flee the baby-making Jamaican, and I soon found myself in a well-lit area featuring a few tables at which a couple of guests were relaxing and chatting. I was about to make my way over to join them when a voice caught my attention.
"You need a little help with your dancing."
"Tell me more."
The thirtysomething, dressed in black and sporting a headful of cornrows, was caught off guard by my inquiry. He introduced himself as Damian Hudson of North Miami before proceeding. "Well, uh, I was just noticing you in there, and I just think you could use a little help is all. I need help too; we all need a little help."
"What exactly can I improve on?"
"Okay," he said, obviously scrambling. "First of all, pick up the pace. You want to get a little friendlier too." I held my tongue but was thinking if I'd gotten any friendlier on the dance floor, I would have probably been expecting a child by now. "And also, you could hang out with me."
Feeling the effects of four thimbles full of vodka and cranberry juice, I moved on and sat down next to a friendly-looking middle-age man by the name of Jack Phillip Marsman. Soon we were yucking up a storm, but then he took things one step too far.
A train conductor for Amtrak, Marsman told me it's common for trains to inadvertently plow through people standing on the tracks. Fair enough. It's what came next that won the prize for the biggest load of bullshit ever uttered. "This one time, we were rolling through Rhode Island when we saw this big, 55-gallon plastic oil drum on the track ahead. It was too late to stop, so we hit the thing at 75 miles per hour. It went flying 200 feet off the track," he said.
He continued to explain that he and his co-workers were able to fully stop the train a half-mile later. They called authorities and made their way back to the scene. "Turns out there was a girl in the barrel. Alive. She survived the impact," he said, his big brown eyes growing wide with excitement. "But that's not the crazy thing. The barrel had hit a man who was next to the tracks, and had killed him."
"That is weird," I said. "Why was the girl in an oil drum on the train tracks, though?"
He grinned from ear to ear, "Well, we had to move on, but I found out over the radio a few days later what had happened. The girl had been drugged and put in the barrel by her abusive boyfriend. He was trying to kill her."
Here comes the clincher.
"And wouldn't you know it, the guy that got hit was that same motherfucker who had put her on the tracks."
I shook his hand and headed for the door.
If nothing else, Solo on the Bay's creative clientele spun some entertaining tales that Wednesday night. I certainly wasn't swept off my feet, but at least I know now there's a safer alternative to hallucinogenic drugs.
At 3:30 that morning, though, I was more than happy to leave the club as I'd come in. Solo.