This city I live in is so surreal, sometimes. Come along on my Friday night adventure.
We went barhopping with friends in Coconut Grove. The evening started out with typically torrential Miami summer showers, so we drove through the blinding rain, parked, and made our way with umbrellas over to Mr. Moe’s, a bar with a log cabin theme, complete with a giant stuffed bear (the bar is also infamous from this shameful moment in pilot history.)
When the rain stopped, we strolled across the street to Waldo’s, a British pub that was practically empty. They have those adorable bench swings, so we sat and had some more drinks. Across the street, there’s a fancy new building that looks like it belongs in New Orleans. It’s super tall – three stories high — and towers over the one-level buildings around it. Lots of Ferraris and Benzes are pulling up to valet, with well-dressed people streaming in the door. On the rooftop level, we can see fabulous types swanning about with cocktails and cigarettes. After a while of sipping drinks at the unpopular place across the street, curiosity got the best of us. We had to check this place out, and after my husband removed his baseball cap, we were allowed in.
The sign reads Christabelle’s Quarter, the decor reads “we spent millions on this gaudy spectacle.” Glowing aquariums, dazzling chandeliers, illuminated stained glass windows, ornate fretwork and metal fences sculpted to look like forests, complete with spike-beaked metal birds. Crazy.
Downstairs, it’s a restaurant. On the second floor, there’s a ginormous bar, a live Dixieland-style jazz band, and more tables with people eating. Music is booming from the third floor, so we head up the marble stairs to the upstairs level. As soon as we enter, I lock eyes with an instantly recognizable celebrity. He’s surrounded by hot women, and chummy, laughing men who are smoking cigars. Someone hands him a drink. He’s being noticed and feted and celebrated. The Juice was in the house.
This isn’t my first OJ sighting — we actually live not too far away from him, in a very popular suburb of the city. A really good friend of ours once was standing in line at the CVS on the corner of our main street, when he felt someone reading his teeshirt. He turned around, and it was OJ. I know other people who have actually met him. But this was my closest sighting for sure. Once he came to the University of Miami library when I was a student there, and I saw him stroll across campus. Another time I saw him strolling through Cocowalk, holding hands with a willowy blonde. Every time I see him, there’s a similar buzz in the room — OJ is here. Oh my God, it’s OJ Simpson, look. Holy s&*%, it’s the Juice.
Here, at Christabelle’s Quarter, he seemed comfortable with the buzz. He was smiling, laughing, drinking, and being treated like a celebrity. I pointed him out to my husband and we made our way over to the bar where our friends were. Pointed out OJ to them, and they went over to have sightings of their own. We made bad glove and Kato Kaelin jokes on the outdoor balcony for a while until I was ready to leave.
I thought about OJ all weekend, what his life must be like now. How does he spend his days? Who are the women that date him, now? (As my friend Andrea pointed out – do you bring OJ home to meet your parents? Your dad might have a heart attack. I think OJ’s most likely a down-low boyfriend. Your nosy friends would probably give you a real hard time about that relationship). Twelve years after he was acquitted of murder, OJ Simpson is out there, living his life like many famous people do: swigging cocktails at fancy new nightspots, being stared at and whispered about. But the stares often come in the form of wide-eyed shock, the whispers are jeering remembrances of allegations past. I wonder if that bothers him, or if he’s managed to somehow, put it all to rest in his mind.