This is an excerpt from our ezine Degeneration Excerpt, a
semi-weekly and semi-weakly ezine on Atlanta's music scene, random travel
tales, blasphemy and prophesy. If you want to subscribe to that broadcast
just contact us!
If you enjoy this tale you'll probably
love our lengthy tale from our trip to Italy in 1996:
They used to say get
to the airport two hours before your flight but if you did youd
sit for an hour and a half staring out the windows swearing to yourself
next time you wouldnt give yourself more than 20 minutes extra.
But now we arrive two hours early and we can barely get through all the
security hurdles in time. They were already boarding the plane when we
reached the gate.
This is how travel used to be when I was a kid, before curb-side e-ticket
express check-in transformed a slow and painful process in to something
quick and apparently too easy.
Our flight was shorter than the time it took to get to the gate.
|But its worth it
when you step off the plane in your sweater and jacket and wish youd
brought a pair of shorts in your carry-on 80 degrees and sunny.
First stop, Little Havana for lunch, ropa vieja and a Cuban sandwich,
very tasty. Then out for a walkabout in downtown Miami, one of the
countrys prettiest cities at the southern tip of one of the
countrys ugliest states, architecturally speaking.
Even the churches in Miami are a bit deco.
We hooked up with the rest
of the crew and had dinner and drinks at Tobacco Road, a raucous place
that serves up a fine T-bone steak, salad and baked potato for $10. Upstairs,
Dikki Du and the Zydeco Crew served up the bayou upbeat, imported strait
Degenerate RB was drafted into
playing washboard for a couple of numbers, and did a fine job.
My father had a full house
so we stayed up the road a bit at Hotel Monaco, one of those charming
old Florida motels with a pool in the courtyard, even though the beach
is literally out their back door.
The place was full of the people
that make Florida known as "Gods waiting room", the median age of
the patrons in the three digit range. But the German staff caters to an
international clientele and hardly a word of English could be heard in
the place French, German, Italian, Spanish a true melting
pot. But the same can be said of Miami as a whole. Between the tired and
huddled masses of local poor cruise the vacationing, smiling masses from
We lounged on the beach in the morning. Much of the flesh in North Miami
isnt the kind you want to see in a bikini - groups of old ladies
sunning their leathery skin, looking more like jerky laid out to dry,
an image reinforced by their constant smoking. They bake and complain about their
latest ailment in New Jersey accents. But with the perfect weather
warm enough to get in the water but not so hot that you have to
we dont complain.
Miami is a town of contrasts.
The aforementioned groups of cancer worshippers are passed by buffed German
men cruising for other men. The Ferrari dealership that shares a wall
with a crack house. The pleasantly warm outside air trying to invade the
freezer-like conditions of climate-controlled condo high rises on the
beach overshadowing the slums behind them. Its a spicy stew. If
you prefer oatmeal blandness Miami is not the town for you.
This is the high-rise next door to Hotel Monaco.
|We had dinner at Mike
Gordons, a water-front restaurant with a wonderful view. We arrived
in time for the early bird specials, the meals the local restaurants
serve from 4:30 6:30 catering to the older crowd. A decent
plate of scallop and shrimp pasta for me, a heaping bowl of broiled
scallops for my father, a very tasty grilled chicken breast for SW
(she has a weird phobia about water-born foods.)
Taste the burn...
I won't even try to explain.
Back to the hotel for
a nap and a change and were out on the town, South Beach traffic
jams is all Mercedes and SUVs, Porsche and no parking to be
found. Eventually we got a spot and headed into Club Deuce, one
of our faves because of the strange crowd it attracts sweet
transvestites from transsexual Transylvania mixed in with the fashionably
rich club-hopping crowd all snuggled up close together at the bar
for cheap, very stiff drinks.
We cruised down Washington Avenue where all the non-touristy clubs
are, as far as we could tell. A couple of years ago everyone found
out what a hot spot South Beach is and the tourists crowded out
all the beautiful people from the beach front clubs and bars so
now the action is a few blocks inland.
We ended up at a nameless faceless club that caters to the Caribbean
minorities of Miami. The ladies are waved in directly while my brother
and I get hung up behind the velvet rope, have to show ID and fork
over $10 each. Inside its bass-heavy music and overpriced
drinks, a small half-full dance floor and a near-empty VIP balcony
they wont let us into.
We danced a bit but neither the music nor the eye-candy was up to
our standards so we wandered on. Eventually we hit Playwrights,
An Irish Pub but the only thing Irish about it was the
beer selection and even that was more English than Irish. (Guinness
on tap does not an Irish pub make.) (Though it doesnt hurt
These guys reminded me of the nihilists from The Big Lebowski
A live band cranked out
covers of the greatest alternative hits of the 80s
and 90s, the stuff various radio retro lunch hours are made
of, done well but with no passion.
Still not much of the
eye candy crowd Miami is known for but we didnt have time
to hunt further, we had to be up at an unreasonable hour.
|Only a bit bleary, we
made our way south to Islamirada in the Keys to hop a boat for a three
hour tour, a three hour tour, and some deep sea fishing.
The aquamarine water, smooth in the warm, still air, the bright sun
sparkling, the diesel engine humming, a sun bleached deck hand explaining
what well be fishing for a Hemmingway moment.
Eventually we reached The Spot, a longitude and latitude known for
its bountiful catch. A handful of boats circled, baited lines
dragging behind them. Nothing much bit for a while so we shifted to
weighted lines and bottom fishing, pulling up a snapper and a few
other fish. But when the birds started hitting the water the captain
said it was time to trawl again, the tuna hour. We pulled in a dozen
or more small tuna, one big one and a mackerel.
My father got into a
tug-of-war with a dolphin over a catch. The dolphin would let it
go, then grab it again a few seconds later and run off with it,
like a dog with a chew toy. Eventually Flipper gave it up and the
fish was hauled in, badly chewed up, so we tossed it back.
|Back at the docks the
deck hand cleaned the fish while onlookers pestered us about our day.
We took the fresh filets to a restaurant up the road, Old Tavernier,
and told the chef to do whatever he thought best with our catch. A
while later they brought out a massive platter buried in fish, some
fried, some broiled, some blackened, a few sauces on the side, and
veggies, pasta, rice, potatoes, a feast!
|A long drive back to the
hotel, dead tired from a long day in the sun after a long night in
the clubs, resulting in an early bed.
Rested, we dropped JN and RB off at the beach and headed into the
Wolfsonian, a small museum in South Beach currently hosting the traveling
Aluminum exhibit. Lots of fun things from jewelry to jets,
as well as an odd permanent collection with a vaguely 30s and
Worlds Fair focus but with enough other random things thrown
in to make it feel like a flea market.
We cruised up the strip
to the holocaust memorial, a very moving design featuring a large
bronze hand surrounded by clamoring figures as the central piece.
But its the setting
that is the kicker a reflecting pool surrounds the island
with the hand sunken into it and you have to walk around, past holocaust
pictures and details engraved in reflective black granite, to a
tunnel that leads you down into the island.
Again the black granite
surrounds you and the bronze sculptures, forcing you to see the
horror no matter which direction you look.
As we exited, a hawk circled
over head and dove into the pool, flying off with one of the carp. It
shook the water off itself in mid-air and took its meal away.
Out of time, we headed
to the airport where long, slow lines through security gates guarded
by soldiers with automatic weapons echoed the memorial we just saw.
Fortunately our trip came to a happier end as the lights of Miami
twinkled below outside the airplane window.
"These people could put us out of
Photo Editor, Creative Loafing
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