Miami and The Sea of Misfortune
The exuding nature of my experiment in journalism is cause here for a heavy anachronism in my thinking and writing process on my trip. This collage of memories from the dark light of a desk come to me as a vivid dream, pulled from my brain from needle-nose pliers. Last year, my first visit to Miami, and nothing but the highway between me and the skyline, and jotting down graphic notes at fast speeds going southbound, roundabout and back to picking up the debris from the clash of old and new world values.
Across the radios and airport TVs that swill Jerry Sandusky had been arrested on dozens of charges for statutory rape, Joe Paterno’s sweet old nurture couldn’t save him from keeping his job and legacy, glass was broken and cars flipped over in the street during riots at College Station, and most gravely, stern remarks that Occupy was failing. The media and publishing business stresses to write nothing that accounts for a damageable reputation, but if the ink dries up and the papers don’t spin then those ethics seemed to get ditched. Last thing I wanted on a list of accomplishments was to get involved in the argument, pick a side and join the party, and I’m not so much for idol worship when it comes to pesky political matters. Somehow the bottom had fallen out, all between reels of the college youth’s angst and confusion from what was really going on. Happy Valley turned to the cameras as the center of a world gone wrong, a cruel scenario playing out, and a real separation from the powers that be of another and older generation. 24 hour news made some cruel allusions to the other youth on Wall Street, with the highlights from the Penn State fallout seeming to epitomize the failure for a cause of real purpose in belief in comparison to just wasted energy and action. So they made it clear and said who was really in control here, and of their futures, old men and women dressed in business suits having secret meetings and carrying out the orders for police officers with smoke bombs and rubber bullets. All they represented to the suits and uniforms were just a few flipped cars and pitched tents, ready to be extinguished and lifted off the street in handcuffs and placed in the presence of a jailer. Then it would all be over.
The long awaited battering ram had come about, a causeway for a movement for the 21st century, sure to be involved in a real dogfight with shareholders, venture capitalists, fortune 500 execs, and somehow able to look through and spot the corrupt disguised in their Saks Fifth Avenue getup, holding their sacks of money, which is more than a fair share to what they owe to other people. What started out to be a sure promise to difference was going down as defective economic plug. The only grounds they seemed to be making was having UC Davis students pepper sprayed by a police officer on the evening news, which was a cost of sacrifice with reasons lost on me. Where was the agenda? Everything had been differed to clippings of little unrelated, unorganized scuffles of people in rags verbally assaulting businessmen on Wall Street, viewing that they’re part of the problem, the pistons in the machine so to speak. A colleague of mine had gone to the Norfolk Occupy movement after being cordially invited, he played some songs on his guitar, put up a tent and went asleep after some circle group discussions. He was jostled from sleep as someone unzipped their way in and gripped his six-string acoustic lying at his side. The young man was prepared to take off with my colleague’s belonging until he realized he couldn’t steal from someone whose eyes were wide awake and upon him.
All of that being said seems though the lethargic replication of wrong PR for those nasty connivers out there, faking the argument and just joining to sit atop of something, being no better than a dirty cop bouncing a billy club over someone’s head and arguing whose sidewalk it really is. And that’s the sense of the argument, they revolve around each other and you can see the similarities in both of them. Meanwhile there’s a lot more people with a lot more problems out there, thousands of “you’s” and “I’s” with a thousand thoughts and many of them wanting those movement spoilers to shut up.
Not to misinterpret the intentions, become presumptuous and lump them all together in an expose’ of beliefs, I’m sure there’s some members who wouldn’t mind helping an old woman cross the street. Despite the literature handouts and shouting to stop taxing our a—- off, there is no single platform. There are ideas though.
These are some ideas that clang together like bell chimes, echoing ideologies in quotations I’ve run my eyes over. One that came to mind was an expressed ideology involving how equality rests on how much schooling you have and the opportunity that comes from what you’re born into, your family background. “The myth of the self-made man, has to be profoundly hypocritical: it is the self-serving demonstration that a lie is the truth”, Che Guevara put it. I wouldn’t say equal opportunity and freedoms are necessarily found the same when you’re inheriting stocks on Wall Street or whether you’re inheriting food stamps. I use the Che quote because I think that’s very frightening to many American capitalists, even some of those protesting against them on the other side. I’m on dangerous grounds here, and it’s no argument for socialist standpoints or going with a deep opposition from a Marxist, it’s really just to see their faces and chuckle. Anyway, I liked Ernesto more when he rode a motorcycle.
Even in socialism capitalism has its way, particularly through assimilation of consumption and materialism to a certain extent of irresponsibility. Maybe we all started worrying about things when we adding ‘isms’ to our manners, and it went from “I’d like this. I value this. I’d like to have it. I want it, to….I need this. And this. Yes, all of it. If not all of it, most of it. Just so long as they don’t have more of it.” Though, don’t misquote me for saying, “The consumer has no soul because its wallet is an inanimate object.” Certainly not, I’ll have a good glass of sipping rum if I want it.
I’ve had several protestors try and preach to me as apostles and prodigal geniuses to their cause. When you’re backed into a corner it’s only a matter of time before you flash your jowls, like a group of savages ripping each other apart from the loins. Some talk and try to speak for others because they think that our social interactions and thinking processes are actually similar, as if you hired sociologists to test on a control group of lab rats. They wouldn’t know what I want, and don’t leave me to curate the world’s problems when they’ve got their own too. Some people want to take over the world, but for me, I can just have what’s mine, I don’t belong to a wolf pack.
Let’s not assume that one side is right, as it’s still all apart of a money centric argument. Whether it’s through social disobedience that deviants flex what they believe is some virtuous strong arm on human welfare as well as morality, or governments and the upper-class trying to protect what they have while there is less respect for another person’s income conditions. When it becomes people collectively speaking for masses and telling others the priority of what to do it’s ridiculous. Somehow I’ve always processed that information and been taken aback.
Along came this clockwork counterculture, answering to a calling as if it is biological determinism, contrived of something greater on the other side, trying to discover or reveal secret meanings that have always been there. But with their minds fixed on the prize and no higher devotion they’ve become misplaced in giving some validity in meaning. All those reminded by little or big gestures daily, constantly ripping you off, finding function in an invigorating fight to the death…but mislaying resilience for denial. It’s all very conspicuous to me. Bringing the fight to them by camping and occupying has similarities I could make in a hyperbole of a vagabond cantering outside a goldmine, and those little raccoon baby cries in the night for another piece of garbage. Do they all belong to the asylum, awaiting freedom from their oppressors? Or is it the point to make some noise and drastic devastation hoping that will do in the reform?
I wouldn’t look forward to the prospects of going to work for the gears of the economy either. As depressed as one might be I find it laughable how society and all of its moving parts work. Maybe it’s skeptical thinking because in so many hometowns they knock down entire forests to put up strip malls with tanning salons and fast food that look entirely the same block after block to appeal to some dominating culture. At the beach there’s plenty more of that and the involvement of military and tourism in the area, the kind of tourists from the north not of extreme wealth that need a weekend to divulge and throw up in hotel rooms.
I couldn’t focus the being of my times to a life of constant put downs. Some of the world’s biggest philanthropists hate people, but defy their own beliefs by helping others and seeing to it that there are other perspectives. It doesn’t hurt either that you’re helping someone else in the process, even if things are contemptible and you don’t feel as if anyone’s on a higher pedestal. And then there are the people with lack of reason for anything. I couldn’t call Dr. Bob a philanthropist or humanitarian simply, they don’t seem to fit because it all seems so natural to him. Really he’s more of a jack of all trades.
All this talk isn’t worth the waste of time. How did I wind up here with this disruptive harangue? Possibly because of the visceral contact high I get from approaching the degenerates fighting and throwing things at each other. I’d much rather be back in Miami, screeching around on the freeway, passing West Palm Beach drivers, laughing uncontrollably peeling the tires beneath the sun on the Florida coast, listening to Funky Kingston surging from the speakers like a loud conga drum. Which wasn’t too different from my first visit, only it was Nico driving a very fast automobile, prowling those white washed roads on Miami Beach.
Instead it’s these thoughts and writings in a pinch of air from the Freeport coast, sounding more like the liner notes on Sandinista!. I’m sitting down on the balcony trying to have all these ideas dribble down to the paper, playing it out before they disappear so ever identical to a crystal ball fantasy, a mirage from a chandelier. A cape of sea mist fittingly hovers over the morning, and as Conrad would again place it in this reflective occurrence, “the sky was pearly grey. It was one of those overcast days so rare in the tropics, in which memories crowd upon one, memories of other shores, of other faces.”
There was a half annunciated declaration of arrival on the small Grand Bahama Island, where Freeport rests. Interruption impaled my silent thought; a wrecking ball sending shockwaves on a strain of emotions. All of these outspoken ideas make me predisposed to any subtleties, such as the knocking at my door. Diego’s eyes cringed, “I broke the camera. It was here in my hand and it fell to the floor”, and more of the profane, aghast with explicit language. Dark clouds circulated above saturated with rain, like a fastened overcoat hanging over the morning. This is the malicious kind of weather that proves laboring to the queasy passengers wearing those seasick patches, trying to keep inner symmetry while walking, until falling to an adverse chemical reaction in the body. And like them, my environment has polarized against me.
I left my private place and joined Dr. Bob for breakfast, hosted by a smorgasbord of foods laid out as if for a bunch of animals to feast from an ironclad trough, snorting and bending over in an awestruck scene spare of commonalities. There is no settlement on food, and there hardly ever seems to be a last piece of bacon. Injecting insulin at the breakfast table, we got into how exactly it was that the doctor got his degree at the Medical College of Virginia. “Well I applied to several schools, MCV being the first I heard back from, which was important in dodging the Vietnam draft.” Either that or wait around as his name gets called up and a government controls its people, and then become the next enemy under fire.
The trees were bending over backwards while parting the ship, with a sinking rain permeating our clothes. The staff wanted passengers to stand for a photo op together with decorated crew members; I was praying to God that it wasn’t another scheme to harass the locals by dressing them up in a parrot costume while visitors wave and smile back at the sideshow for the lens, dreaming of their Christmas cards, all the while an unbeknownst human condition foiled from the minds of many.
I was sobering up and standing idle, overhearing vendors in dialects with words with different end tones, clarifying a realization that English is spoken because it is the dominant language of conquering people and wretches with disease, archaic from over 400 years ago. From Lucayans to Africans to ship yards and tourist traps for the mighty dollar, from some conception of history as rigid as a savage manifest destiny or the divine right of kings, I was figuring what exactly my role was in all of this since surrendering and finding myself here, reiterating on an ugly past still alive in nightmares. In any case of passing and being someone staring out to through the window of history the only compensation is buying a $15 t-shirt. These are different people, different times.
The fast little shuttles pulled up to take us away, our driver was eyeing Diego and I, uncertain to mistake us for pickpockets or medical assistants for the doctor as he fills out his bucket list, traveling the world, until he loses slack in stride and function and terminally departs from contusions and full body dystrophy. Dr. Bob grabbed a hold of my arm and lifted himself up with his cane, our driver stopped caring about it all, slamming the door behind him in a cumbersome manner.
We sucked up the road, rolling over stop signs, some loud man was yapping with his woman (wife, fiancé, girlfriend, I’m uncertain of), until conversation spread to the front seat, where telephone numbers were exchanged, persons of interests were rising in topic and Dr. Bob gave his traditional and capricious beside manner and insight on medical doctors in the greater Miami area. “That’s where they built the Black Pearl, it’s actually a lot smaller than it looked in the movies.” It was the anomaly that was building up outside that was of interest to me. For a getaway, Freeport seemed as if it was the lethal reminder of the third world left in the dark, a long place from home, and shambling prayers that tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough. Its economy stands as Burger Kings and other fast food restaurant joints, frequent with abandoned buildings, gutted shadow boxes not able to suture problems and endure natural law enacted from the perennial hang ups of a recessional era.
Lucaya town and its bonanza of markets, its hotel casinos, beaches and bars is the living proof of the dead wishes of a ghost town. Freeport is waiting for the great American tourist revival. With a single step inside slot machine alley the floors are empty with men and women in bowties at a vacant stand still, where the house loses if no one plays the game. I could be certain of it that at the given time of a weekday that the three of us had more money in our pockets than the casino had in the vault from the day’s earnings, though I wouldn’t gamble with them on such low stakes of dull facts. The sidewalks murmur footsteps outside, where outdoor restaurants are forced to close for lunchtime because not enough people are fooled into booking vacations. The chairs are stacked on the tables and the lights are all off in avocation of the keep up with a port-wide standard to save on the electricity bill. Some Englishman is boarded up in his room with the shades pulled, drinking Scotch in a midlife crisis, re-evaluating all the awful mistakes he’s made and how he wound up here, beachcombing while hung over, sitting at bonfires at nighttime next to the water, but falling behind in making any real connection with anyone else who made the same terrible decision in coming to this stranded island.
By 12 noon we trotted across the street away from that bastard mood, adamant in having a drink, perhaps a cataclysm for change or at least some kind of feeling. We split shots of white rum for a dollar, loading up and talking to our bartender, tipping generously as Diego lit up a Cuban cigar and exhaled. “Where’s the funky stuff, where you selling that around here?”. “I know nothing bout that funky stuff, you better watch your health!” she said back to the doctor, stepping back behind the counter to bring more shots and Kalik beer and assess the legitimacy of her expectations for daytime drinkers of a peculiar variety who seem to have nothing to lose.
When the hourglass is empty, my head the spinning top has to dish on the dearth of humanity on this little parasite island of the United States. There’s something freakish in nature that I can only explain from these weathered shacks that discerns the deficit of a populace and parallels an expectation of placement conditioned from the first world. When a country such as America dries up because the high class can’t make ends meet from grand money grants of tourism to the Bahamas then it underlines the contingent problem in the first place. When the big sponsor of the system is failing then the ache is felt in all nooks and crannies, and there’s nothing that many can say or do to change a thing, and especially when you throw in to the mix of things the initial displacement of a country of people, all working within the confines of schemes.
When approached while browsing the aligned venues it’s either a woman with dreads and rows of teeth, gesturing you to buy something but sweetly endearing names, “honey”, “baby”, and “sugar”, even while walking away, empty handed. There are men with blistered hands carving wooden canes and clubs, women knitting hats with shaking fingers, and corns shaped like gallbladders on their toes. I wonder if I have seen their malnourished children on television, on one of those advertisements, but then they got their footage, packed up their camera equipment in the van and took off. There’s always another country with underprivileged people, but with the tax benefits and shooting locations Freeport could be the place.
But then there was a second glance, and the woman smiling at me, selling the sex dolls, hot sauce and jams. Diego picked one of the sauces up and bought it. Everything isn’t so helpless, but it’s like being torn in two between some condescending hand demeaning another by handing down and allocating our dollar. It’s all playing to the beat of a culture, but even so, it’s something to nothing for the people of Freeport town, but undermining the possibilities of another culture of its own that doesn’t depend on the scraps of rations from its big brother.
We’re all built with disappointments, but you’ve got to kill the downers in your life…those who say that’s just being realistic say that because they have no other perception of how life is, it’s just shooting first and no questions later. Somewhere, someone smiles and asks that pessimist, “is your life not worth living?”, taking a fly swatter to those who pry and pity.
And so that’s a lesson in economics, as the pending alarm clock rings off and it’s time to go. We hop the bus and leave from town, with the doctor, Diego, and I with everyone else completely in silence. I’m resting my head on the window, my aviators shading that gloom from above playing the transparency of pictures from thoughts in my mind, the wind picking through strips of my hair, and yet another driver swinging us about on a carousel of roads, hanging on because there is no speed limit.