Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Hollywood Beach

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2011

We spent a day last weekend at Hollywood Beach in Florida. I thought I’d share my notes with you in case you visit the area and didn’t know about this corner of our world.


It was a perfect day in February, sunny and in the low 70s. We drove east on Sheridan Street past West Lake Park and turned right on Ocean Drive. A few blocks down from Hollywood North Beach Park, we turned left on Lee Street. Next time, we would probably look for a spot in the parking lot at the beach park, because it’s easy parking and they have a café and rest rooms. This time, we were lucky to find a parking spot along the curb on Lee Street. We paid via the automatic meter, two dollars an hour, then we put the receipt on our dashboard.

We proceeded to the brick-paved boardwalk and headed south past people eating breakfast at Florio’s Italian restaurant. On the next block, Ocean’s Eleven restaurant was crowded with patrons. They have their own parking lot for customers. A steel-band musician started playing there around ten o’clock. You could sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen. Plenty of other restaurants offer a variety of ethnic foods.


We strode at a brisk pace to our destination, the organic produce market. Here we bought bananas and English peas. White tents protected stalls displaying leafy greens, fresh herbs, several varieties of mushrooms and tomatoes, garlic and ginger, citrus fruits, avocados, and packets of nuts and seeds.


After eating bananas, we walked back toward the car. The return trip was breezier but it was a cooling breeze from the north with low humidity. The sun heated my exposed neck and arms. The water had a distinct demarcation line, aqua near the shore and navy blue where it turned deeper. Sunlight sparkled like millions of fireflies glittering on the water. Motor vessels plowed the waves while we saw silhouettes of numerous boats on the horizon. A row of gray and white birds watched from the shoreline.


Sounds we heard included seagulls cawing, doves “who-hoo’ing”, the jangle of bicycle bells, the engine of a beach tractor raking the sand, people chatter, snatches of conversations, a helicopter droning overhead.

People watching is a good sport on the beach. I saw a classy lady with layered blonde hair, a pink top, white capri pants, and a pink beaded choker. Her male companion had on a yellow polo shirt and navy shorts. Another guy looked like a pirate with his white beard, a bandanna on his head, a squint on his face, khaki pants that looked as though they came from a travel catalogue, and a backpack. One woman had the ugliest teeth I’d ever seen, with a noticeable overbite and rotten looking teeth. She looked okay otherwise and would be much more attractive if she consulted an orthodontist. Another woman wore a bikini top and a dark pencil skirt. She had a trim figure and straight blonde hair, but when you looked at her face, it had more wrinkles than a prune. This aged her beyond what she appeared from the neck down. We saw mothers pushing strollers, joggers wearing earbuds, bicyclists, roller skaters, young couples, middle-aged couples with matching paunches, and families riding pedaled contraptions.


Clothing ran the gamut with men wearing T-shirts, polo shirts, muscle shirts, or no shirts. For the most part, they wore shorts with sandals or sneakers. Women liked tank tops, short-sleeved tops, shorts, athletic wear, sundresses, and bikini tops. Some had ponytails swinging while others had coiffed, styled hair. Women favored big hoop earrings and necklaces. They wore flip flops or sneakers.

I heard snatches of dialogue:

Man: “She’s a good woman. She is.”

Kid: “Mommy, my feet!”

Man to group of friends: “You guys are bitching at me.”

Friend: “Actually, dude, you did the right thing.”

Woman on phone: “I gotta pick up the laundry and then I can sit by the pool.”

When people ask writers where they get their inspiration, I reply that ideas are all over. Consider the above. Some of those character descriptions might end up in one of my books. Or part of a conversation could be the impetus for a story. Ideas surround us. We only need to notice them and take notes.




9 Responses to “Hollywood Beach”

  1. I love this area! It’s like stepping back in time to when the Florida beaches had a unique character – before the highrises! Very relaxing and lots of interesting places to eat.

  2. lynnbyer said

    Wow, Nancy. This makes me want to head to the beach. One of these days…

  3. Miami has the highrises and resorts along the beach. Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood preserved their beaches for the public. Personally, I prefer the quieter setting.

  4. It’s funny how the further south you go on the beach the stranger the characters around you are.
    You never see anyone looking out of the ordinary in West Palm Beach. But, as you said there are still lots of things to write about. I live a half a block from where the manatees gather to get warm in the cold. They are going to open it up again to the public eventually and that is wonderful. They closed it after 911. I miss watching them in person.

  5. No one to look at out of the ordinary in West Palm Beach? That’s probably because all those rich folks get their defects fixed with plastic surgery!

  6. M. E. Kemp said

    Nancy, this is mean of you! Here we are with 5 foot snow drifts that have been there all winter and you taunt us with your photos!

  7. Hey, M.E., have you thought of a vacation in Florida?

  8. Janice Sklar said

    Nancy, you are so descriptive, it was like being there and seeing what you saw and hearing the sounds that you were hearing.
    You paint a beautiful picture!


  9. Thanks so much, Janice! This is how I research a setting for a contemporary novel, by noting the sensory details. It’s what brings the scene alive for readers.

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