South Beach, Miami…What WAS Miami?

South Beach, Miami…What WAS Miami?

February, March & April.

What was Miami…

Miami was a strange fire, and I–I was a lonesome loathsome ponderous child, swimming in the ocean at night so that no one could hear me singing out to sea.

It was a strange heat & sitting around talking to an A-wall Veteran of the War in Iraq & the Gulf War while the Air Conditioner chugged & we sweated all day in our bunker.

“…And I’ll tell yah…When you’ve…When you are ordered to kill, you follow through. I followed through, execution at point blank range…With a…With a handgun.
You’ll never get that blood off you. It’s on your hands, it’s on your face…It’s in the mirror…” he said.
“I bet,” I choked.
This man like a sick dog afraid of thunder on vacation, only ever leaving his room at night, at four AM, because then there’d be nobody watching.

Miami was bouts of extreme pomp & feeling.

Drove down from snowy Ontario, thirty hours through Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg…

And then when it came time to leave, I said I was staying. Sixty-dollars in my pocket.
I told my friends I love them. They responded by humping my leg like dogs.
Always bizarre. I stood in the parking garage a while after they left me.

What am I doing here?

After three months, I ALMOST stopped asking.

I didn’t even know South Beach was a man-made island for a while. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you it was in Florida, before we got there.

Miami was me giving blood for $15 just for bus money, and making it last until I knew the value of $15, again.

It was me in a bus, missing my stop at 5 AM with a nosebleed & the other Crazies on the bus calling me a coke-head. On my way home…To a beach with a torn blanket.

And there a Shrill Wind wrapped over the sand & other sleeping bodies hidden in the sand & dunes & I fell asleep when the sun came up, because it was finally warm enough for my teeth to stop chattering.

And then the police on four-wheelers pulled up asking me why? Why would you sleep here?

“Because the view is spectacular…”

Is there problems at home in Ontario?

“No—none at all…My family’s fine.”

And the Hobos were great. I was one of them. And we talked.
To that man. In that instant. On that beach.
And then parting.

The night we were homeless lunatics. The night we drank on the street & tried to sell heroine that we didn’t have to rich people in fur coats and tuxedos.
And then a hooker made off with one of our credit cards.
And then we drove…drunk…Canadians on a mad crusade to the Miami Police Headquarters in a failed attempt to get the card back…

“From a?” asked the officer.
“From a…A hooker,” he said. “Arrested from in front of Wallgreens? You know? Half an hour ago?”
“Ah yeh, the noise complaint,” said the officer in his big bullet-proof enclosed desk.

Yeh, the noise was us…

Wandering around a public park making sure I was alone, falling asleep on the grassy shores, waking up to see a sign, a warning…

“Beware of Alligators.”

Working telemarketing & eating their donuts. Working as a dishwasher & getting ‘let go’. What a strange predicament, what a strange group of people.

“I just scored a job video editing in south beach,” I said.
“Is that what you like to do?” said Cynthia the Server.
“Yeh, why not,” I said. “I’d like to make my own movies, better.”
“Ohhhh—I finally get it…You’re an artist!” she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “I feel SO sorry for you!”
(Well I feel so sorry for you!)

Later on she began to cry. Because I didn’t like her. She thought I hated Americans. She thought that all of Canada hated America, passionately but in the privacy of our log cabins.
“I don’t, I really don’t,” I said. “But I can see why some people might…”

What was Miami?

Jogging up the coastline, then back down to the end of South Beach, standing there by the fenced-off peer where too many people took jumps on low-tide and fucked themselves up, standing there as a cruise ship goes by, leaving Biscayne Bay.
The clear sky, the moon, and an endless row of small portal windows, yellow with in door light like a toppled skyscraper, sailing out to sea on its side.

Its cry was so mournful.
I was so alone.

Miami was the most beautiful girls I never made a move on.
The slim German babysitter, playing on a beach jungle gym in the middle of the night, she was waiting for you…And so you stood around.
Those two girls from New York State, not too bright but certainly ballsy, and so fucking fine…Slamming on the room doors at midnight screaming “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
I lusted after their freedom. But their freedom was phony.
They weren’t allowed to spend the night with anyone said their traveling companion, Josh the Advertising Exec / ‘Cock Blocker Professional’.

Those colored girls and that crazy Mexican Apache man who smoked Peyote every time he returned to his community in Kalima Kalima, fed me every night for days with this amazing Mexican cooking.

That gorgeous exotic dancer, colored girl with three kids & a husband & a really nice ring who still wanted you in her car so she could introduce you to some music, she said.
The song ended. I was slapping my knees. I looked at her but her gaze burned.
“Wow that was really, really good, what was it called, again?”
You looked clueless. Or tactful. Or too reserved to know what’s best for you. Or inhibited. Caged animal. Mouthless hunger. Kill me, now…
“I guess I’m just going to bed,” I said.
“Well we’re leaving tomorrow morning,” she said.
“It was really great to meet the two of you.”

Doing a line with Dustin under a purple neon sign in a parking garage. I felt like I belonged.

The two Paris boys & the Cuban man in the bottom bunk, Oscar, who didn’t know a word of English, watching his blue-and-white portable TV, hitting it when the reception was off, swearing in Spanish…

I hung my art on the walls, along with a giant Coconut Penis I fashioned.
“The CocoNut,” said the Paris boys.
“Mon Pere est dans les papitre avec une cornichaun,” I shouted.
I wonder where they are now?
A few of them were headed to New Orleans to maybe meet up with Hurricane Katrina & die…

And I painted the hostel walls. All the way down & up the main hallway with all its multi-colored doors and cockroaches. I was trying to force confidence upon myself, with a brush in my hand.

Then there was this guy named Mow who walked around in flip-flops, was a bit like an albino gnome with balding, curly hair & this amazingly casual way about him. A Jewish short-story writer from New York who showed me a boring story about the Jewish Experience in New York city.

It was a strange death. A wild life. A war waged on inhibition.
Cold beaches cold ocean trying to cry & forget about everyone who never knew me, because I couldn’t show them.

It was my own experience & you only know what I tell you. It was me & my baggage, trying to poor my heart out & believe in life & forget about video & computers & your useless college education. Having heard enough of freedom, it was me trying to find it. But I stumbled towards security. I had a bunk bed. I had a day job. (On a computer, editing video.)
I started out with sixty dollars.

Waking up on a grassy dune, climbing over the fence you aren’t allowed to cross, the beach was full, the sun was shining, the cruise ships were drifting by…And so I went to this hotel where they let me do my laundry, and while I waited I swam in the pool & laid in the sun & felt so much like myself…
And the day went by just like that.

And I lay there in some park and some dirty kitten came out of the woods. The woods full of iguanas & geckos on the lamp posts.
And the kitten came to me without any caution, and started purring and lay down and started tossing the corner of my blanket, playfully.
And it slept there, and I slept there, and in the morning it was gone into the noisy woods full of tropical birdcalls & humidity.

And I felt ill.

Never so alone as in Miami. Never so badly had I wanted to feel, but felt just numb.
& then Grandma Florence died.
& then I flew to Toronto, watched South Beach go, met my sister, flew to Scotland, went to the funeral with family — some whom I hadn’t seen in twelve years, or never.
& I felt so together, again.

At the open casket.
Seventy years of being married to the same person.

“It wasn’t long enough,” Grandpa saying again & again “Oh my lady, my lady…It just isn’t true…It just isn’t true…It just isn’t true…It just isn’t true…My lady…It couldn’t be…It couldn’t be…”

In that small stone chapel in Jedburgh the cemetery hadn’t any fence just a partial stone wall that moss clung to.

I told my boss I’d be back — but for what? For the money he was always promising me I’d be making? And for three months I went home to a bunk bed, shared room with four others and the old Spanish man…Had to steal food from the Hostel kitchen at night, why?

I left tape hanging off the walls. My paint brush in the long hall of The South Beach Hostel. One last five-foot mural and I’d have been finished the entire stretch.

But that’s about the least of what I’ve left behind, unfinished.


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