I was 23 years old in the summer of 2004, and between May - August, I made $34,000.00.
And I didn't work all of May, and I didn't work all of August.
Flashback - the summer between 1L and 2L year, I learned that I had "walked on" to Law Review. There were several at my school, but if you said you "walked on," it pretty much meant that you had "walked on" to the most exclusive one (all things being relative, I suppose). This meant that after everyone's grades were tallied out of my class, I was in the top 7%. Jigga-who? Me?
This also meant that I was almost certainly guaranteed a Summer Associate job with a big firm, which would pay me a gazillion dollars to work for them one summer, and then pay me a gazillion dollars to work there after I was through law school. And lo and behold, I got a Big Firm Job. Suffice it to say, I didn't end up working for the Big Firm after law school, but I think that's okay. I hear the Big Firm is in trouble, and almost everyone else I know has left the Big Firm. And I didn't have the right personality to be there. And it was one of the most budget Big Firms in Miami, despite having a kick-ass lobby. The one other Summer Associate and I had to share an office. What's THAT about?!
On the plus side, I had a fancy-sounding job, at a fancy-sounding firm, and I ate some very fancy lunches with some very boring old people. Towards the end of that summer, I actually remember whining, "Ugh. If I have to eat at the Capital Grille again, I'm going to die." And eating at the Capital Grille meant Appetizer, Entree and Dessert...
Oh, sweet idiocy of youth.
I wish I could go back to 23-year-old me and smack him, and tell him, "Live it up, jerkface. It ain't never gonna be like this again."
After all - it was 2004, and the Boom was just picking up steam. I remember watching the demolition of the Dupont Plaza Hotel from my cushy office, to make way for whatever went up in that strip on the Miami River...
Miami was crackling with energy, and the place was starting to hum. Downtown was still an essentially unlivable hellhole, but the Design District offered sweaty gallery walks fueled by bad red wine (and still-good cocaine), at Rocket Projects, and the other tiny, defunct galleries surrounding the Florida East Coast Railway Yards (that would subsequently become the Shops at Midtown Miami), and down South Miami Avenue towards Wynwood. The Beach was still cool and pretty gay, and not completely, unabashedly cheesy, and we hadn't had any hurricanes in a long time!
Everyone and their mother hadn't moved to Brickell, because most of residential Brickell was under construction (or unbuilt) and the whole city felt like September, 1929.
(Cue: black and white footage of a row of champagne corks popping one-by-one, fast-cutting to a row of scantily clad girls in silver-lame and finger-waves doing the Charleston in double-time).
There were rooftop parties on buildings about to be imploded to make way for the Museum Tower... and I feel like I survived on pass Veuve-Clicquot and hors d'oeuvres. Even at the time, I could see that the City was a speeding train, ignoring the "BRIDGE OUT" warnings, but whatevs. I wasn't going to stick around for the crash! I was 23 and RICH!
And I had an alcoholic boyfriend with other self-destructive tendencies that was in Public Relations and got us invited to parties. He had fancy friends with boats, and "party favors" in their bathrooms and penchants for long, boozy Sundays, and I had a ton of equally alcoholic law school friends who stayed in town for the summer.
I spent money like water... and even though I was letting money pour out of my hands, I wasn't spending it as fast as I was making it. I had no car payment, no rent payment (thanks, Mom n' Dad!) no insurance payment, no credit card debt...
In retrospect, I did put a good chunk towards my last year of tuition at law school, but I also got scholarships, so it wasn't a crushing amount. But much of the rest of it was spent... intangibly. Every penny that I didn't sip over ice, devour, or inhale, I'm driving, because I think the last of the money from those crazy boom-days ended up in a Mercedes that I bought in 2005 (which I will own outright in December...2010).
The summer is a blur of humidity and thunderstorms and creme brulee and water-view lunches at Smith & Wollensky (ew.) and Hey-Ya blaring from club-to-club as the Vodka Redbulls stacked up and the tip of my housekey turned green. The drugs were good, and the booze was expensive but worth it. It was the summer of hot-pink nightclub canister lighting and the solidification of the Stripper Pole as a bar fixture. We were all so young and good looking, and energetic, and fun, and there was so much money to be made, and spent, everywhere. I never wanted it to end - it wasn't Miami in the 70s... it was BETTER. And I knew it was ephemeral, but it never felt like it was going to end... so it just... wasn't.
Eventually the party slowed... and then stopped - that said, I don't know when the party really began - I have no idea which of the memories that all blend together date from 2002 or after... But at the end of the day, things changed, and I don't remember when roving groups of us stopped queuing up at velvet ropes (sometimes cutting the line depending on who we were with)... and I don't remember when, exactly, clubs became too loud for me, and not worth the hangover the next day. I don't remember the last time I left Club Space wearing sunglasses on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m., in a taxi destined for home from a night out, as other people left for Church.
It feels like a long time ago. It wasn't all that long ago... but a lot has changed since 2004...
I may have been tardy to the party... not having lived here in the late '90s, but I'm glad I didn't miss it altogether. Because money, combined with good friends, a dysfunctional-but-loving relationship, and a city that loves to drink... can buy happiness; I know -- I bought it.