It's Wednesday night at the Purdy Lounge (1811 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach) and the faces are decidedly young. The weathered recliners that pepper the rectangular room may even be older than the asses nestled in them.
Price, a local boy band composed of five stringy-haired guitarists and a drummer, stands on an improvised stage, sending a stream of pop rock over the predominantly stationary guests. The band looks like a hipper version of Hanson, and sounds like Elton John crossed with the Bare Naked Ladies as it plays original ballads like "Life Isn't Fair."
A lone heckler interjects an emphatic "Play something good!" at the end of every song. A skinny cameraman struggles to capture every precious moment of the performance.
And a bespectacled bartender named Josh pours me a heavy-handed vodka-and-soda and leans over. The 32-year-old wears a black Batman T-shirt he claims to have owned since the dawn of time. The ends of his unkempt brown hair skim his jaw and cast shadows on his face as he talks.
"I smoked pot here with Lennox Lewis, [former] heavyweight champion of the world," he says. "I didn't even know it was him until somebody told me. His arms were this big." He wraps his arms around an imaginary tree trunk. "Fun times at the öDirty Purdy.'"
Josh says he's been here a little more than a year and is familiar with the regulars. One of them, named Patrick, works as a butler on the Ocean Drive, a 70-foot 1974 classic Hatteras yacht owned and occasionally chartered by Jerry Powers, founder of Ocean Drive magazine. "When this guy Patrick, the butler from the Ocean Drive boat, came in the first couple times, we kicked him out again and again," he begins. "The guy never stops dancing, and he runs around going, 'Booooooh,' over and over, always in perfect pitch with the music."
He explains that after Patrick's first visit, the staff realized he was harmless and accepted him. "He's an artist," Josh says. "He does sketches of people in here with markers. He did a picture of me once, and it was really wild. I asked him, 'Do I look that crazy?' and he said, 'Yes, you do!'"
Josh offers a shot of Jameson on the house, and then we turn to hear January, a band of slightly older guys, which has taken the stage and is playing a song that sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls fell into an emo-bath.
At a pool table next to a couch, Jaron Gilinsky wields a stick and a relaxed grin. He is 26 years old; has an attractive, healthy countenance framed by short-cropped dark hair; and wears khaki pants and a polo shirt. He grew up in Miami, but he's not in town that often these days, he says.
When he's here, though, he always hits the Purdy. "It's by far my favorite bar in Miami," he says. "No cover, easy parking, no hassle at the door."
Jaron moved to Israel four years ago "out of faith, and also to pursue journalism," his college major, he says. "There are a lot of stories there." He writes for the Jerusalem Post and works on political documentaries that are produced in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
His goofy, scraggly-haired pool partner continuously tries to interject mindless outbursts, but Jaron pushes on with a discreetly dismissive smile. "I'm flying out to Germany tomorrow to interview neo-Nazis who are planning on joining up with Iranians and protesting Angola's arrival for a World Cup game in Leipzig," he says. The city's neo-Nazis have been sending out a call over the Internet for anti-Semites to unite there during the World Cup.
A quick Google search confirms Jaron's contributions to the documentary scene in Israel. Among his most-watched videos is a piece filmed in Gaza, in which reluctant Israeli soldiers were sent to evict settlers from their homes amid sustained protest. The young filmmaker has a large online following, and some news services have asked for permission to use his images.
In any case, back at the Dirty Purdy, Rosy, a cute cocktail waitress dressed in a short black skirt, takes a breather outside the front door. The young woman, whose floofy dark hair falls well below her shoulders, is reluctant to reveal her age. But after being beaten up a bit about it, she settles on 29. "I was born right here in Mount Sinai [hospital] and grew up in Little Haiti," she says. She has lived on the beach for five years and has bounced around from bar to bar during that time. Before arriving at the Purdy a year ago, she stopped at the Clevelander (1020 Ocean Dr.) and Buck 15 (707 Lincoln Ln.).
"I've been doing this a long time," she says. "It's good to get away from Ocean Drive. Once, when I was working at the Clevelander, the people at the bar rioted for no apparent reason."
Back in the bar, lava lamps are flowing from every shelf in every corner of the room. Rosy explains that "Dan the Man," one of the Purdy's owners, is a fan of the cheap retro design element.
I resume my perch on a bar stool across from the geek-chic drink-slinger in the Batman tee. Somehow the conversation turns to astrology, and when I reveal my status as a Leo, Josh says a close friend of his, also a Leo, died recently in a motorcycle accident.
"I'm getting a tattoo of a rocket ship in honor of Zack," he says. "We were both heavy into drugs for a while; I recovered by getting away, and he recovered by helping those who were still fucked up."
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Zack died on a road just outside Denver, Colorado.
"Right where he died, his family built a huge sculpture of Parliament Lights boxes and Evan Williams bourbon bottles."
It seems unbelievable, but he is stone-faced as he swears it to be true.
Around 2:00 a.m. the conversation dwindles. Dazed and Confused plays silently on the TV screen hovering overhead, and Pearl Jam's "Better Man" wafts out of the speakers as sweaty band members clear out the last of January's equipment.