Miami, Florida – October 2015
Miami or Dallas? They offered the two cheapest flights into the US from Peru. I’d never been to Texas. I had been to Florida several times. But Florida had The Fest music festival coming the next weekend. Florida won.
I arrived at 5:00 AM. I was pretty worried about getting around the city so early in the morning, but a two-hour date with the Department of Homeland Security cleared that right up. After catching a shuttle across the city and dropping my bag at the hostel, I was on South Beach by 8:00.
I spent the rest of the morning on the beach, with a brief break to grab orange juice and a croissant from a corner market. I don’t think anyone could be sad or worried while ankle-deep in warm ocean. Near the beach, sure. But with the breeze in your hair and the tide rushing over your feet? Impossible.
The beach was crowded, a mix of lapsed college students from the US and vacationers from across the world. Nearly everyone was between 20 and 40 years old, with most speaking second languages. I enjoyed my typical game of eavesdropping on what others said about me in Spanish and Portuguese as I passed by. It was usually positive and always entertaining.
I spent the afternoon walking around the city of South Beach. There were some Miamisms, such as the Talk English Center and a mobile HIV testing lab, but the area was largely populated by corner stores, pharmacies, and stores selling the same 10 shirts as the other 25 stores in the area.
A depressing trend was the antagonization of the homelessness. I guess that they aren’t great for business and aren’t the side of Miami that city council wants to advertise… but they’re still humans.
I continued around South Beach until nightfall, admiring the temples, museums, and gardens, but truthfully everything gets lost in the high-rise hotels and condos.
I returned to the hostel before the evening to see where everyone was headed.
Mostly to bars.
I instead went to a shopping center two miles away to look for new shoes (New Balance, why must you have so many models that every store has your shoes yet no one carries the ones I want?) and a phone card. After two hours, I returned to the beach with US phone number and no shoes. The lead up to the beach was depressing. I had thought that showing up during the week would help me avoid the 20-somethings who flock to Miami for cheap sex and overpriced alcohol, but I was wrong. The area surrounding the beach was full of skyscrapers, loud music, and drunks. But the beach was paradise. Standing in the water at night all you can hear is the ocean breeze. Searching the blackness for where the ocean stops and the sky starts, you could be forgiven for thinking the sea never ends and you could swim to heaven if given enough time.
I turned in early that night. Nothing in the city could top what I had just seen.
I spent the next morning on the beach again, this time with Hobbes at my side. Free advice: Sew a Hobbes doll, dress like Calvin, and ask beautiful people to take your picture. You can thank me later.
In the afternoon I went to see Wynwood Walls. Wynwood Walls was a warehouse district that had been transformed by street artists. Or so the website says. In reality, it was a beautiful place, but Goldman Properties’ sponsorship brought with it $13.00 smoothies, lots of rules, and submission standards that kept out amateurs and locals.
The area around Wynwood Walls (called Outside the Walls) featured locals and amateurs and was naturally much more creative and fun.
The Black Lives Matter mural was by far the best thing I saw in Miami.
The Star Wars mural was fun as well.
It was a short walk from there to the Miami Design District. It was worth the 10 minutes of walking, but I may have been disappointed had I come from the beach only to see the design district.
I capped off the afternoon with a brief trip into Little Havana. It was fun speaking Spanish, though ultimately I was just another tourist to sell cigars and Cuban sandwiches to. I was warned by anyone and everyone not to stay there at night, so I caught an uber out once the sun went down and the other whites disappeared. If I return to Miami, exploring Little Havana is the top priority.
I spent an hour in the hostel, talking with my roommates. Meeting people from around the world and trading stories is probably the best part of travelling. I shared a room with an amateur boxer from Sweden, two Italians, a Brasilian, and a man who spoke in grunts and nods. The boxer had been in Miami for a month and was half Japanese, though her tattoos and muscles had everybody guessing that she was Brasilian or Polynesian. Her stories were my favorites, usually revolving around drug dealers and aspiring rappers who took her to parties, boats, and stripclubs to try to replicate what they see in music videos. I was skeptical at first, but she didn’t include any outrageous details or humblebrags that liars tend to use and was never begging for approval.
I got to bed early again, due to jetlag, not enjoying the Jersey Shore nightclubs, and wanting to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic on my last morning.
I was soon on a bus to Tampa Bay to make new friends and attend the PreFest music festival, but that is another story and shall be told another time.