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