Florida: Hell’s waiting room?

I nearly studied Screenwriting in Miami – having lived in Durban, KwaZulu for four years and remained homesick for it all my life, I romanticized the sticky air, the warm sea, the art deco buildings. I imagined myself drinking large cocktails and doing Cuban dances while a deeply-tanned man licked sea salt off my neck as the sun set, and holidaying Hollywood stars (mostly Michael C Hall) roller-skated past on the promenade.

Doesn't it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

Doesn’t it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

I’ve always wondered how life would have turned out if I had gone there instead of to nearly-LA. And recently I found out when I visited a friend who’s there, attempting to pay back his crazy-ass student loans with a job he landed.

As the plane touched down… GU-GUNK… the muggy half-light seemed full of promise. Or was it foreboding? Didn’t look like much, but my friend picked me up and I comforted myself that Miami Beach would be totally different.

The Motel was a slightly decayed art deco building only a block from the beach. Of course the booking site never mentioned that they were doing street work right outside it… or that the mattress was so old that you wound up rolling into the middle during the night – I guess the elasticity does get eroded by years of semen stains. But maybe they could replace it every eight years? Every 20 years? And with it, the almost plastic comforter.

What I realised quite soon was that mattress, smattress. What kind of moron comes to Miami to sleep? Miami is all about the party. The hotel offers a drink special of $20 for all you can drink, as long as you only drink Bud lite. That’s $20 per hour. Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of this dodgy bargain as I am going through a dry patch. A swim in the sea was the highlight of my day. But it doesn’t touch Durban’s South Beach for beauty or brains, or waves. Limp about summarizes it.

I went swimming. It was okay, lonely but okay. For some reason everybody there prefers to look at the sea and pose near it.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren't camera shy.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren’t camera shy.

Seeking food, we went exploring. Pizza. Pizza Pizza. Some chicken.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called "Duck" something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called “Duck” something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

And Cuban Food. Which for some reason costs three times as much in Miami, Florida, as it does in Orange, CA. Running from the main drag, we ate outside at David Cafe (bill, for so-so entrees and a soda, hit $45 once the compulsory tip was added). While we ate, a drug dealer and his bashed up helper did business from the garden patch, for some reason bothering to pretend they were looking for their keys and continually finding them and losing them again. A homeless man who seemed to be their buddy sang for us for a while, and said it would take a dollar to make him go away.  Whatever. I was enjoying the entertainment – you can’t be fussy in Miami.

I tried my best to enjoy it. Usually I can amuse myself anywhere. We went to an art museum. It was nice. Small. But nice. Nice enough.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just... I don't know. A bad wave.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just… I don’t know. A bad wave.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami - consumer culture dressed up as something more.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami – consumer culture dressed up as something more.

I realised that Miami reminded me not of Durban, but of Sambave, a tiny seaside hell hole in Madagascar my ex and I got stuck in once when a political crisis caused the government to close all the airports for a few days. Overcast. Lots of prostitutes. A faint air of desperation.

Maybe Miami wasn’t for me? Next stop, the Recovery Capital of America, Delray Beach, where there’s an AA/NA/CA meeting every hour in about ten locations simultaneously, and everybody is either using drugs, trying to stop, or making money out of health care benefits.

Surprise surprise, Delray Beach was even more depressing than Miami, and unwalkable to boot – there really aren’t any motels in Delray so I was stuck on a highway near Boca.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They're my favourite thing in Florida.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They’re my favourite thing in Florida.

This is the promise, I guess.

This is the promise, I guess.

I walked to the beach from my hotel on the highway. On the way I crossed a river and saw people fishing and some birds.

florida-birds

jeanbarker_bocabeach

Boca Beach… looks okay. Once you’re in the water it’s awesome.

Here is why they rarely swim. I call them cowards - the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Here is why they rarely swim. There are meant to be bluebottles and jellyfish and sea lice – terrifying in theory.  I call them cowards – the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Yes a few bluebottles but that’s called nature, idiots. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

I couldn’t help thinking how much more interesting the least interesting suburb in Joburg, or Belville, Cape Town was than this place. Then I discovered that everybody there knows someone from South Africa. And they’re very concerned about our crime rate.

Look where the orange is from.
 Look where the orange is from.

Turns out Florida is a prime destination for White South Africans who left after Apartheid ended. It’s also where Americans go for cheap labor (yes, you guessed it, mostly black or at least whatever they don’t consider to be their people) and where you’re allowed to shoot someone for knocking on your door while being black.

A lot of wealthy, seniors retire to Florida – it’s a prime place to die. I ask, why bother? Just skip the line and go directly to hell.

florida-birds-leave

3.30pm. It’s not raining but the birds know it’s time to leave.

It’s a weird thing to say, but being in Florida reminded me of how I felt as a kid in South Africa when it was still apartheid. Except without the youthful endorphins. I will never be back if I can help it.

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6 Responses to “Florida: Hell’s waiting room?”

  1. simonwillow Says:

    Oh bugger. We live next door to Florida now and I was so looking forward to a visit :/

  2. Toni Says:

    Quietly starts scraping the “Florida or Bust” sticker off the escape rowing boat….. A good read, 🙂

  3. onemusiccity Says:

    That picture of “The Promise” looks awesome. DOn’t suppose you got a name or email?
    😀

  4. Vagina Dentata Says:

    “……Delray Beach, where there’s an AA/NA/CA meeting every hour in about ten locations simultaneously, and everybody is either using drugs, trying to stop, or making money out of health care benefits…….”

    “…..Yes a few bluebottles but that’s called nature, idiots. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only……”

    Lord T’underin’ Jaysus, b’y, you are magnificent when you are being sarcastic. You are being sarcastic, right?

    “……Except without the youthful endorphins…….”

    You had endorphins as a youth? Spoilt little rich kid! I spent the halcyon days of my youth fighting dogs and pigs for scraps at the local refuse tip south west of Mandalay with only dopamine and serotonin coursing through my veins.

    Although Mr. Michael C. Hall might prove a pleasant diversion – for a fortnight or two, I reckon Mr. Simon Baker would be best for the long-haul. And thank you for not disparaging vaginas – I’m rather fond of mine.
    Your wordsmithy is much appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Pete Says:

    I am sorry you are so miserable. I guess you know the whole of Florida now since you went to those locations??

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