It’s been nearly ten years since I packed up my car and drove west. I come back every year and the ghosts of my past call to me. They remind me that a hero’s journey according to Joseph Campbell is not complete until the hero returns to his home and shares the knowledge gained during his adventures. But then again, I have not done anything truly heroic yet.
I grew up on an island six miles from Miami. In the eighties a common sticker on the back bumper of Volvos was “Key Biscayne Paradise Found”. Something about that might have influenced my character into its picky state.
Of all the places I’ve ever been, which include but are not limited to Paris, Managua, and a men’s bathroom outside Barstow, Miami is unique. Maybe everyone feels that way about their point of origin. That place where there is no corner which does not house a memory.
But I like to think there’s something different to my story, so let’s agree there’s something weird about Miami. This small pond disguised as a big city. Maybe, it’s the eclectic mixture of people. The Cuban and Haitian refugees. The old Jews housed in retirement gulags. The Columbian schlubs with sweaters tied around their necks and insanely hot wives. The drunk redneck boaters who wear bracelets that say WWJD (What Would JimmyBuffet Do?).
The only tie binding them is their penchant for hedonism and their propensity to get in a fight. Is it the humidity or the mosquitos that cause all the fisticuffs and refusals to let a driver with their turn signal on into your lane? Nowhere else in the world have I heard of a people who are so laid back one moment and then ready to strangle someone the next.
When I was younger and I heard Anthony Kiedis sing so bittersweetly about Los Angeles in Under the Bridge I figured Miami would get a similar song one day. But we are a city without troubadours. It’s up to tourists like Will Smith and the guys who sing “I’m In Miami Bitch”. All they see is the stripper sunbathing topless, not noticing the man o’war with its poisonous purple tentacles washing up to the shore next to her.