A Night Out with Bubbe in Boca
One thing I learned at the Boca Resto Club is that there are few things more uncomfortable than watching men and women upwards of 65 swivel their hips, shimmy, and engage in what I can only call dirty dancing — or flat out floor-fucking. Amidst a sea of leopard-print purses, Tommy Bahama camp shirts, and freshly painted red nails cradling vodka martinis, I sat next to my grandmother and father, clutching my JUUL vape pen and praying that I never age.
Of all my years visiting Grandma Hattie at her senior community in Delray, we’ve never ventured to Boca. The Florida nights of my adolescence were spent people-watching on Ocean Avenue in Miami with my sisters or donning heels with camp and college friends to take pictures on my digital camera at various Lindsay Lohan-frequented clubs.
Now, at age 27, with an increasingly refined palette and tamer nightlife expectations, I had no issue surveying the scene at the senior nightlife hot spot. Every opportunity to exist mindfully in a dysfunctional family outing has become prime opportunity for material. Plus, I wanted to please Hattie. It’s painful in the numbest of ways to watch your favorite family members labor through the melancholy of senescence.
So after spending too much of my day anticipating a dopamine-inducing text from a particular male human, I now focused on my grandmother, Hattie. Ninety-two years old and happy-as-a-clam with a sports bar chicken parmesan and zero alcoholic beverages, she leads a close comparison to Lucille Ball. Handing out tootsie rolls and lazing on lawn chairs gabbing at her bungalow colony, she befriended the parents of Nicholas years ago, who now sings in a band called Nicky and the Paradons. The “band,” if you want to call four men who warble along to hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s in matching red sports coats and black undershirts, brand themselves as “street corner harmonizers.” They are local celebrities who run the Boca nightlife circuit with an act that is akin to karaoke for a mixture of leather jacket-wearing baby boomers and their parents.
I knew I had to see it for myself.
The live music scene in Boca brings out a slice of Semitic life that I’ve never seen before: aspiring capos who’ve all had a bar mitzvah and their female counterparts. There are also those who are less Jew-mobster and more “Deadhead,” in addition to straight up local revelers. But the band members and patrons who lionize Tony Soprano, they were the ones who really caught my eye. I imagine, as young kids playing on the street in Brooklyn, they fantasized about possessing the biggest baseball bat on the block and some day bedding as many women as Frank Sinatra — the quintessence of New York masculinity. A totally fair childhood aspiration, albeit one that has unfortunately persisted over time.
Overwhelmed by new stimuli, I headed straight to the bar for a Hendricks and club soda with two limes to take it all in. There, I began my night of meeting multiple men named Tony. This is not a drill. Tony the First wore a black button up with gold speckled Fred Flintstone-like spots and ordered two whiskey sours to bring back to his table that was serendipitously seated next to my table of 12. His date, who I learned he had been engaged to for 25 years, was a tiny blonde woman in her early 70s, wearing the tightest black spandex American Apparel-esque pleather dress I’ve ever seen outside of college bars.
Soon I made eye contact with another man named Tony the Second, who has actually had small roles in shows like The Sopranos and Board Walk Empire and once threatened to break my dad’s neck for driving a tick above speed limit at a community we rented in when I was a kid. He sat swirling his red wine in a gold pinky ring as Nicky came over and kissed his hand. Okay, he didn’t actually kiss his hand, but let’s just say the TV credits had definitely gone to this man’s head.
A notification had still not arrived to confirm that the person I thought I was interested in was interested in me, so I continued to half-way immerse myself in this experience and learned something else. It’s impossible to say no to a Carmela Soprano-Fran Dresher-hybrid peddling makeup. “I haven’t proven it yet but I’ve been studying it since college. Left handed people prefer vanilla ice cream,” said a really nice platinum-haired lady sitting at my table. Somewhere in between gagging on my inedible hamburger and waiting for a good song to take my grandmother up to dance, I ended up buying a lip-stain from her. It was something like a Kylie Jenner gloss stick and she was something like a bubbly Avon saleswoman. Let’s just say I didn’t hate it.
I looked up to see Tony the First and the tiny blonde dancing groin-to-groin (and also cheek to cheek) to “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos. One of my favorite songs, this jolted me with mixed emotions. Here were two senior citizens simply trying to keep the romance alive. Why did that cause the muscles in my face to contort like I just ate something expired (or another hamburger from the Boca Resto Club)? Was I being ageist?
After recuperating from my first bout of nausea, I began to settle into a more tender place — one where swaying elder people dressed as cast members of Grease were not so much discomforting as pure. Something in their parallel rhythms, their youthful excitement of bodily enmeshment, became almost wholesome in the throes of my digital dating escapades.
Do people my age ever slow dance anywhere besides the occasional wedding? Have we become too awkward a society to engage in public acts of vulnerability now that we exist more-so in the alternate universe of our phones? I was struck by a pining for traditionalism, even if that longing was sort of complicated by vistas of pleather. Instead of root beer floats and drive-in movies, my generation is Netflixing and wondering whether a direct message on Instagram is a legitimate form of communication. I don’t wish to live through the social vicissitudes of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but our modern age is one dampened by civic consequences that can feel half-baked, nebulous, and at times, devoid of effort.
Sitting in the club finishing off my drink, I tried to stop myself from feeling like a stereotypical millennial for expecting a text I would like receive the next morning. I tried not to think of my Grandma Hattie and how many more years of these visits I’ll have. Instead, I focused on one burning question: if, after 25 years, tonight would be the night that Tony’s fiancé finally gives him an ultimatum.