Just over 10 years ago (cripes), I went to Miami for the first time. Much of it went over my head. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. My knowledge of Latin food went no further than tacos and tortillas. I ended up – and I promise this really wasn’t my choice – eating in TGI Fridays. It was the first and last time, but oh the shame.
Recently, I had the chance to make amends. I went back to Miami and thoroughly enjoyed picking up on all its complex layers. Everything made more sense. I queued with the Venezuelans for the best arepas on North Beach; I noted an Argentine choripan that had slipped – without any translation – onto the menu in a Borders-style bookshop; I spoke about the Haitian elections with the former mayor of Port au Prince (Here he is on My Space. Check out his tunes).
This is my Miami Fusion piece from last Saturday’s Guardian. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room for everything.
It doesn’t mention the bizarre coincident of realising I had mutual friends with the Argentine waitress at the Red Light diner and her taking me to a brilliant dive bar off Ocean Drive. It doesn’t mention the even more bizarre dinner with a Cuban cocaine cowboy (I was hoping to get a quote, but he was drunk I couldn’t understand a word he said, in English or in Spanish). It doesn’t mention watching the cacophony in the streets of Little Buenos Aires after Argentina beat Mexico World Cup matches, or the old lady from Havana who managed to move the conversation seamlessly from Castro to the ‘plot to kill Lady Di’ in one short bus ride, or the eccentric character called Bamboo Barry I met by a pool overlooking Scarface’s house.
It did mention the exuberant Bangladeshi, who came to the US with a broken heart, won the Green Card lottery and took over a Puerto Rican corner store, but, poor bloke, he ended up on the cutting room floor.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such an eventful few days by myself or met such an array of characters. The changes going on in the city itself were fascinating too, especially the nightlife springing up away from the usual strip. I’d love to get to know it better, however, I’m not sure I could ever top my last visit.
In the meantime, I’m pretty sure I could get another feature out of this trip. I just have to work out how to pitch such an odd chain of experiences.