George's on Sunset (1549 Sunset Dr., South Miami; 305-284-9989) is kind of like a Buddhist temple. That is, if such a holy place were populated by club-hopping, Ecstasy-scarfing kindergartners with a penchant for pommes frites and 19th-century French history.
George's, you see, is a month-old, eternally packed offshoot of successful French bistro George's in the Grove. Its wackadoodle décor consists of schoolhouse chalkboards scribbled with colorful drink and food specials, disco balls, and numerous Buddha busts. The phrase "If you don't bring your lady to George's, someone else will" is scribbled in swirling purple neon on a far back wall.
If that's not enough to arch your brow, check out "George's Gazette," which comes on every table. It's an ersatz newsletter with Photoshopped images of the owner, Georges-Eric Farge, chilling with Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama. And each customer is given a departing gift of a postcard with a picture of Farge dressed as Napoleon (and I'm not talking about the one with numchucks and computer-hacking skills).
George's on Sunset
"I think Georges's mom missed an opportunity in naming her child," says Steve, a clean-shaven 31-year-old reeking of Armani Code and sitting at the black central bar. "I mean, he obviously thinks he's some kind of a god... Maybe she should've named him Zeus."
Then Kenisha, Steve's lanky, blond 29-year-old girlfriend, barges into the conversation. "If I were to describe the personality of every George in the world based solely on the way this place looks," she says, dressed in a tight denim minidress while surveying the room, "I'd say that all Georges go through a serious identity crisis at some point in their lives."
And she knows a thing or two about reinventing one's character. "As I kid, I hated my name. A lot of it had to do with how weird it sounded." She wrinkles her freckled nose. "Ken-EESH-uh," she says with an air of disdain. "What were my parents smoking?
"But, honestly, a small part of me didn't like it just because I could never find any souvenirs with my name on it," she says, blushing. "So when I started fourth grade at a new school, I decided that I'd go by my middle name instead, Nicole."
Kenisha, or rather, Nicole's hypothesis was that with a brand-new name, she'd be a completely different person.
"At my old school, I was a loser. And I thought with a new name, that would all magically change. Ends up, as Nicole, I was a crazy loser, because I never really responded to my new name. I kept on forgetting I had changed it. My breaking point was when my only friend came back from Disney World with a Mickey Mouse hat for me that read, 'Nicole'. Instead of saying, 'Thank you', I just cried."
Suddenly, all the lights go out, and 50 Cent's "In da Club" blasts through the sound system. An abundance of tiny fluorescent-green dots glaze the dark dining room. Then, without uttering a single word, a parade of servers toting a cake adorned with Fourth of July sparklers trots up to a table and plops down the embarrassing birthday treat.
As Kenisha and Steve marvel at this oddity, I take the opportunity to head outside, where a group of six customers, who all appear to be in their 20s, smokes cigarettes in the glow of artificial magenta lighting. I ask for the strangest names they've encountered.
"Dick Van Dyke."
Then there are "that Thai girl in middle school named Upperkorn" and a neighbor with the last name Lipschitz ("I used to ask him: 'If your lips shit, what does your ass do?'"). Also in the mix are two teachers — Ms. Biggenhoe and Mr. Fuckingham — who sound like they could've made a lovely couple.
Ana, a curvy 25-year-old Cubana whose pearl stud earrings contrast beautifully against her darkly tanned skin, claims to have known a Chlamydia. "Her parents had just moved her from another country, I think, and she said that they saw the word on a pamphlet in the doctor's office and thought it sounded pretty."
I head back to the bar, where I spot a handsome 27-year-old sporting a cleft chin and a clean white button-down. I ask him his moniker.
"What do you think my name is?"
Wanting, for the first time in my life, syphilis to spew from my mouth, I bite my tongue and utter, "Mordecai?"
"It's actually Tony Hawk."
"No, but when I was a kid out skateboarding with my friends, I'd always tell the cops my name was Tony Hawk whenever they'd harass us for trespassing."
So, seriously, what's your name?
"John," he says with smirk.
I throw him an eye-shank full of silent sass.
"OK, OK, it's Jacob." And as I begin to write his name in my reporter's notebook, he ends with "Jingleheimer Schmidt."
Annoyed, I scratch out his name. But it ends up that Mordecai Tony John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt has a history of indulging in this brand of mind-fuck.
"One day, this old lady called my cell by mistake, asking for Betty. And instead of just saying, 'Sorry, you got the wrong number,' I decided to mess with her a bit. 'Hey, is this Thelma?!' I asked her, really excited.
"'No, this is Irma,' she said.
"'No, no, I know this is Thelma,' I said to her. 'Why you messing with me, Thelma?' She kept on insisting that she was Irma, and I kept on insisting that she was Thelma, until she got so fed up she hung up on me."
You'd think that'd be it. But no.
"So I called her back, telling her: 'You know it's rude to hang up on people, Thelma!' And she agreed but reminded me, very sweetly, for the hundredth time that she was Irma. This went on for about a week, me calling her, asking for Thelma, her saying there was no Thelma there, me insisting that she was Thelma, until one day she got so frustrated that she yelled, 'I'm not Thelma! I'm Irma! You can't make me something that I'm not!'
"It was just so adorable, and funny, that I stopped."
Then Mordecai Tony John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt asks my name.
"What do you think?"
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SHOW ME HOW
"Bertha," he says. "Bertha Beulah McGooglestein IV."
I roll my eyes. "You can't make me something that I'm not."
"OK, seriously," he says with his signature snaky smile. "You look like a Karen."