May 18, 2012

MIAMI BEACH—I thought it a good time to visit, no Spring Break debauchery nor fashionista pretense. So I signed up yet again for the judo championships, trained very hard, and flew down with four buddies hoping to stay in a family hotel near the water, a bit like Bogie stopping at a place in the film Key Largo and running into a bitter old crime czar named Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). In that wonderful golden oldie, Claire Trevor won an Academy Award playing Rocco’s alcoholic mistress, portraying the hooker as a sympathetic victim.

But there are no hotels like the one in Key Largo left anywhere in Florida, no Claire Trevors and certainly no Bogies. Sure, there are plenty of Johnny Roccos around, but they’re Cuban, they’re very fat, very loud, and much too vulgar even for Miami off-season. The judo tournament was being held at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, as far removed from what I was hoping for as Humphrey Bogart was from Michael Jackson. Staying at the Doral means you never hear a telephone operator’s voice, only recordings, and the only time I had some individual attention was when I went for a walk on the golf course and was intercepted by a very polite heavy in a buggy who informed me that walking on the course was for golfers only. In other words, one can be staying and paying at the Doral, but one cannot be walking on the course unless one pays extra. Par for the course—pun intended.

“Refusing to mix with hoi polloi, I stuck to my own kind and got some lousy looks as a result.”

So my friend and fellow judoka Mark Brennan, an NYU professor, did the next best thing. He and I visited the fat spa, where some very eager flunkies were very eager to help us lose weight. “That won’t be necessary,” Mark informed them, “everyone’s made weight already. I’m here for my sister…I wonder if you can help her?” He went on to explain how his sister is extremely overweight and that he always needs to buy two seats on the airplane for her and also needs to have a child occupying the third seat as she tends to spill over even with the two places. “She weighs close to 700 pounds,” he told them, looking grave and concerned. It did the trick. People popped out from everywhere offering their services and assuring us that they could turn the pachyderm into a Twiggy in no time. (Mark has no sister, but that’s neither here nor there.)

“Who will arrange for the forklift and the truck to bring her down here?” Mark asked. That threw them. Those boys could guarantee weight loss, but no one was about to commit to the extra expense and bother of a forklift to pick her up, nor the two-ton truck to bring her down. While Mark was trying to negotiate the forklift for his imaginary sister, our team member Brian Pereira was skipping rope in one of those plastic suits that induce sweat. He did it for an hour in the extreme heat, losing six pounds of water and making the weight by half a pound. “Six pounds in one hour—can you do better?” Mark went on hounding the poor people at the weight-loss center until we dragged him off to the fights.


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