I have been to Miami many times, but this is the first time I have ever been to the beach there. My friend from Buenos Aires, her husband and their son were staying at a condo in Sunny Isles, and I decided to stop over for two days on the way to New York to visit them.
After yet another smooth hassle free Montevideo-Miami flight, the Supershuttle ride that took me to the sunny side of MIA was an experience in itself. I rode alone with an awdully chatty Jamaican-looking Muslim man with a turban. He was wearing long sleeves and a jacket in the unbearably hot Miami morning. Our conversation started off with him explaining how Muslims had to cover their body because evil was “in the air.” He went on to describe praying practices, how he had six children from different women, most of which he hadn´t seen in over 20 years, how America wanted oil, but wanted to get it for free, and that was why they invaded Middle East countries, and finally how animals were much wiser than human, in that some of them just lay their eggs and left, instead of “overprotecting” their children.
What I learnt from the most likely profusely sweating Supershuttle driver was that for every person´s choice of lifestyle, they will always find a way to create a philosphy that will befit it; when in fact, it should be the other way around. Here was this man who hadn´t done much for his children or tried to create a relationship with them, and he had found a philosphy that would tell him that he was a good man, that he was right and the rest of the world was wrong.
After hearing about women coming on to him, how his former wife´s boss had given her a 40,000 dollar car, because he wanted to sleep with her; how she had to have her hair done every week and buy new fashions, which was too expensive and he didn´t care much for; I arrived in Sunny Isles.
The condo where my friend was staying looked exactly like TV´s serial killer cop “DEXTER,” which is actually set in Miami. The feeling of being in Dexter-land was augmented by the headline I read on a local magazine my friend had lying around: “Bigger guns, no permits needed, Page 10.” Ijust couldn´t believe my eyes: I was in a place where the fact that people could buy weapons, and “big guns” at that, without a permit was seen as an advantage.
But, thank God, this was not only Dexter-land, it was also Sargent Pepper-land. My friend´s son Blanco has been obsessed with the movie Yellow Submarine since he was a baby. As I only see him once or twice a year, I always go retro on him, inviting him to play games he used to play with me a year ago. In this case, I went back to calling him “Pepper,” which he loves, and making up crazy stories about the Beatles, the submarine, Sgt. Pepper and an asortment of strange sea creatures, to lull him to sleep.
So, we walked out to the beach and sure enough there was Pepper with his submarine showing up now and then, he also waved at us from helicopters and flew by our windows riding on a purple elephant. Though at 3 Blanco has become a huge fan of Bob Marley, he hasn´t forgotten Pepper, and it was the sweetest thing in the world to see him put his arm around me while I was telling him Pepper stories.
All in all, I loved the Miami beach condo lifestyle. The beach was like Waikiki without Iz, minus the waves and the white sands, with some artificially planted low palm tress added for effect.
The Miami Cubans are a race of their own. They are loud and cheerful and they sound quite Cuban with a few English expressions here and there; they feel American, but Cuban-ness is something that is hard to loose because it is so strong, and some of it seems to survive after generations.
I have mixed feelings about the so-called “gusanos.” Here is this breed of people that virtually washed up on the shores of Miami, either trying to escape the communist regime or simply going after Western capitalism´s promise of a glamorous and comfortable life. It is very strange and ironic in a way that the people guarding the borders of the US at Miami airport, Latin America´s main gateway to the country, are largely of Cuban origin. Then, it always strikes me to notice just how many people in Miami and LA are Spanish speakers or of Latino origin. Sometimes, I will walk into a coffee shop and I will have to switch from English into Spanish to communicate with the bar servers. All I can think of after seeing all of this, is that the US having a Latino president would be fairly representative of the country´s demographics.
I didn´t go out in Miami. My friend, Blanco´s father, had a gig with a band in South Beach on the last night I was there, but I had an airport pickup at 4:15 AM, and I hadn´t slept more than 4 or 5 hours in over a week, so, I decided to pass. I did enjoy nights of drinking wine and eating Mediterranean hors d´oeuvres on the veranda and discussing everything from Uruguayan politics to films, music and life and love philosphies on the veranda, on those cool Miami nights.
Once more, I confirmed that I am in no mood to do touristy things anywhere, and that for me home is where true friends are. I cherished my morning beach walk, my time with Blanco and his parents and the quiet look of the sea at night. I survived the sleep-deprived seasons by means of strong espresso doses taken at the coffee shop across the street from the apartment, and at 4 AM this Sunday, I was ready for my flight to New York. I am writing this on the plane, full of expectation about seeing the city again and showing my film to a real audience for the first time ever. More friends await me in Manhattan and later in LA, so I know I´ll be alright; I´ll have a home.