O.k. fast. already feel better. Out of Miami and in fort Lauderdale right now. At the airport. Waiting for the plane. Bought a one way ticket to nyc. tonight I will spend my first night in my new apt in New York.
Before I forget, I was in the airport tonight and I passed by this room called ‘the meditation room.’ I recognized the room itself. A few years back it used to be called ‘the airport chapel.’ Wow. We’ve come a long way, for better or worse. Things are different now. I decided to head on in and see what it was all about. gone are any signs of ‘churchness.’ Instead its just this room with some chairs and a glass sculpture on the wall in front. the glass sculpture has a bunch of planes on it. I guess we’re all supposed to be praying to airplanes now. who knows. no religious symbols at all. the chapel is no longer the chapel. It’s no longer a Christian or a Jewish place of worship, but rather just a quiet room. And then over to my left I notice on the wall the air conditioning thermostat and underneath typed in a big bold 24 point font the words “EAST.” So that must be for the Muslims or the Jewish people. times have changed.
The liberal in me felt good about the changes to modernity. But the kid in me who grew up as an American Christian felt a little weird about it. America doesn’t necessarily belong to the Christians anymore. At least not on the surface. [the elaborate Reagan funeral certainly showed that in our hearts we are still deeply a Christian country.] Better of course. After all. America never did belong to the Christians. For thousands of years it belonged to the Americans, an entire race of people we pretty much wiped from the face of the great land we now call home. we Christians have only been here for a few hundred years. and now what? I guess we have to start making room for everyone. Honestly without all the religious symbols the room didn’t feel too spiritual or religious or even meditative. Just seemed like a quiet room. Maybe that’s what we’re headed for.
This reminds me of something I have been meaning to write about for the last few weeks but just haven’t had the time. on the road last month I happened to read this book called ‘Miami’ by joan dideon. A famous read.
I am so tired from moving all day today that I’m just going to fly through this and get down the ideas. I learned that Miami has always been a sort of rest haven for exiled Cubans and ousted dictators and guerrillas. For over seventy years now Miami has been the kind of boot camp for rebels looking for money resources or a rest spot on their way in or out of Cuba or any number of other Caribbean or South American countries. That’s just the way its always been. At the same time it has always been the home away from home for northeastern and Midwestern older folk. Mostly Jewish people. a retiree town.
O.k. starting in the fifties Cubans really started pouring in after Castro’s guerillas took over the country from the current, one of many, dictator of the time, batista. Some Cubans were happy with the new authority and some people were very unhappy. the unhappy ones fled to Miami.
[as a relatively serious cigar fan, I at first was very confused how there seemed to be “two” cigar branches for all the famous cigar companies. There were the Dominican companies and then there were the Cuban companies but they all had the same name. what I eventually l learned was that when Castro and crew moved in, they immediately took over all the companies in the entire country, as communists are known to do, including the cigar companies. So the families that owned the companies grabbed a few of their beloved tobacco plants, hands full of seeds, and packed some suitcases and bolted out of their home country. they soon re-started their ages-old family businesses in other countries, mostly the Dominican republic. So what we have is all these fake tobacco companies in Cuba using the names of real tobacco companies who are now relocated in other countries. So for many of the most famous names, such as hoyo de Monterey or Romeo y julieta, there are two totally separate companies going at the same time.
I know a lot of guys who swear by Cuban cigars, but for me once I found out what happened I just decided that it was pretty low and disrespectful to smoke Cuban cigars since they stole all these families’ factories and all and just kept using their name without their consent. Its total communism and definitely not free enterprise. Goes against everything we believe in over here. and of course, as any avid cigar connoisseur will tell you, they’re making them better in the Dominican republic and Honduras and Ecuador and Mexico now anyway.]
But I digress. So you have this American city with all these Cubans moving in. at the same time you also have tons of Haitians and Jamaicans moving in from their own discontent, and you still have all these older American people moving down from the great American north to get away from the cold.
This is how Beaver and I ended up down here. We weren’t born here, but our grandparents being just some of the millions of older northeastern folk who moved down to escape the cold, retired here, as many do. Our parents being young and foolish followed them, and of course we didn’t have much choice where we lived being just kids at the time. so here we were. more on that later.
The situation got really crazy in Miami in the eighties when the floodgates opened and hundreds of thousands of Cubans, mostly those in prisons and insane asylums, came to Miami, and of course hundreds of thousands more continued to come just from their basic dissatisfaction with the general poverty level that everyone is forced to live in there. a box of cornflakes for instance could go for ten bucks because it is such a luxury item. This is shit that we can only imagine here in America.
So now we skip to the mid to late eighties and early nineties. By this point Miami had already become the land of “los exilos” the exiles. Not just from Cuba, but from lots of little South American and Caribbean countries. I have lived in the little town of Miami for a mere three years and off the top of my head I will list the South American countries from where I have met someone in recent memory in miami: just today our movers were from Jamaica, Colombia, and Cuba. Not an American in the bunch. Of course there is Venezuela. Millions of them now coming in droves because of the problems in their country. Chile of course. G2 lives there and works for us at TMG from a little satellite office. in fact our whole Transcendence web design team is almost all in South America. We have G2 heading the team from Chile, Paula in Buenas aires in Argentina, chica Ska in Mexico city, and of course mouse media in west Miami which is essentially now for all intents and purposes, northern Cuba.
My house keeper and one of dearest friends Rosanna is from Peru, as was la Princesa. Infinito is from Bolivia, and of course father Bloopy is from Guatemala. Vancouver is actually from Cuba but only looks like he is from Vancouver. We meet people from Honduras everyday of course, Nicaragua. This girl at TMG headquarters is from Nicaragua and makes me these delicious Nicaraguan lunches some days when she thinks I look too skinny. Uruguay, Paraguay, Dominican republic, Ecuador. All of them living here now. three years I didn’t even know where any of these countries were. I only knew about Brazil. And there are millions of Brazilians living in Miami now. the Spanish is intermingling with the Portuguese and English and is being nicknamed Spanglishese. At least by me and my friends. Cause its this strange mix of all three languages that is really cool and easy to understand if you speak those languages and know what’s going on.
There is also a slight euro element. Not much. Not as much as the South Americans want to believe. Although Opus and his friends are from Spain, which is cool, and word is that more euros are moving here. but you don’t feel it that much. A few Italians are here and there. few. You hear it. but not that much. And even fewer French. certainly not like New York yet. but there is that vibe. The South Americans are much more hip to Europe than America is. you can walk down the street in Miami beach and a week later see the exact same fashion in Madrid or Rome or Paris. Its just grungier in Miami. everything is. especially the service. God don’t get me or anyone else started on the service in Miami. it is by far the worst service in the entire civilized world. Hands down. Of course Miami being one of the most uncivilized places in the world, that is a rather unfair comparison.
The last few days because I knew I was leaving I just started to make habit of switching roles with the various service people at hotels and restaurants or where ever. I walk into my hotel lobby last night. and the greeting I receive as is the norm in Miami is just this blank silent stare. Just these two blank faces like they are zombies. Of course after three years I am used to it. I used to say something like, “hi, can you help me?” but lately I just tell them what to say. I walk in and say “Hi welcome to the Catalina hotel, can I help you?” and that really throws them. they just look at you like “what?” … and then all of a sudden they get what you just said and they either smile and laugh and ask ‘can I help you sir?’ or they just stare at you some more. a truly disagreeable place, unless of course you are trying to hide out or something such was the case with the men who hijacked the planes on September 11th. then Miami would probably suit you very well as it did them. because honestly no one gives a hit there about anything.
Now it would be easy to blame this on the people and where they came from. but because this is such a common thing in Miami. I mean, this is something that everyone in Miami talks about. even people that live there. especially people who live there. so it’s a hot topic. Why is the service so bad in Miami? or ‘why are people so rude in Miami?’ or ‘why are girls so bitchy in Miami?’ or ‘why are people so mean in Miami?’ I swear to God these are topics you’ll hear every few days being talked about there. and people ask me why I’m moving. Go figure. But spend any amount of time in Spain or in South America and you will quickly learn that these people are super super nice and friendly. So my friends and I have determined that you cannot blame it on the people being South American. But its more of a Miami thing in and of itself. Like, people are normal until they get to Miami, and then all of a sudden they just become these insolent uncaring zombie like morons who can’t even take your order at a restaurant or check you into a hotel. last night great example. I arrived at 11. I was done with checking in at 11:39. for real. It took this guy 40 minutes to check me in. you get used to it. or you move. Like I just did.
So that’s Miami now. word has spread throughout the southern hemisphere that you can come to this great country, enjoy all the economic and social benefits and not ever learn to speak English if you don’t want to and everyone you meet is going to be from somewhere in South America or the Caribbean or at least be of Hispanic origin. There are almost no rules or laws to speak of. You can do whatever you want to most of the time. its just a big party. I swear to God its like one big party for them. For a Latino it must be a fucking paradise; for an American, it’s very interesting but not a lot of fun. the cultures are so different than the rest of America that you end up just feeling homesick all the time. your heart longs to get back to America. Which is exactly what I intended when I decided to move a few years ago. It just took me a while because I love the boys in my band and I knew we had a few more great albums in us. so I stayed for that. but eventually it got to the point where I felt like if I didn’t get myself into some real culture and class and style that I was going to actually go mad. like really go crazy and do something crazy. I just couldn’t take it another day. I have never encountered a town in America so completely devoid of class or culture or manners. and I say that as someone who likes Miami. just doesn’t want to live there anymore.
Now of course I’m not the only one. Along with this radical change in culture back in the eighties, came a phenomenon soon known as ‘white flight’ in the national and local media where all the Americans left by the hundreds of thousands every year. still today it is happening; Forbes magazine estimates that last year one hundred and ten thousand white Americans left Miami and that two hundred and eighty thousand South Americans entered Miami to live. so for the few English speaking white Americans that live there, it is a pretty daunting and confusing place. kind of like the twilight zone.
You have an entire city that is located in America, but that is not very American anymore. Not even a little bit. Its really kind of cool and interesting. Especially once you decide you’re leaving it to move back to America I will add. Haha.
What occurred to me today as Bas was driving me to the airport and asking me how I felt seeing everything for the last time was that we are now ‘the exiles,’ los exilos. We Americans are the people now leaving our homeland for greener pastures and a brighter future. But we are leaving a city in America to head back to America. Pretty weird really. But our reality.
For me, growing up in and around various cities in Florida, I never felt at home. never. I always felt out of place no matter where I lived in that state. People always assumed upon first meeting me that I came from the northeast or maybe California. And my family did actually come from the northeast, three sides, except that pesky father’s father side that we don’t know much about yet. For a few years I attended college in Atlanta and that was great, and then a short time in New York. And there was the first time that I ever felt truly at home in America. on my first cab ride driving into New York city from the airport. I looked all around and felt ‘wow, so this is it. here I am. I’m home.’ don’t know why, but that’s just how I felt. Felt it in my soul. Of course years later, after voraciously researching my ancestry and family tree, I was able to see the ships records of all the different family members of mine in the early part of this century that came here from different parts of Europe and they all came first to Ellis Island in nyc and settled there for a time. so New York is home in spirit at the very least. Its in my blood. Its where we all started here in America.
So here I am again. for the record. for my children and grandchildren. I am again, like my family before me, an immigrant coming to America, settling first in New York city. but this time from Miami. I have a feeling that I will quickly move to Brooklyn, just a hunch, due to space. and then once I settle down with a wife and kids maybe end up in mass or Connecticut for a while to still be close to the city but get back to house living. Because apartment living isn’t that cool compared to a nice big house of your own. and then I will be off to California to escape the cold weather. of course this is all conjecture but I just have a feeling about it. I cannot see myself honestly bearing the cold weather for that many years really. But for the record kids of the future, here I am. Your dad of the past, before you were born, has just moved to New York on his own so you wouldn’t have to be born or raised in Florida. Good for you. I hope we’re all happy and that your mom is still hot and sexy and smart whoever she is. I’ll let you know as soon as I meet her. I will write about it. That’s for sure.