Free Essay On Miami: A Different City
Every summer, my family would make same week-long trip to our old, friendly beach. The same town. The familiar busted up, splintered boardwalk. Elusively fun, never quite memorable. One year was special, however. That was when mom, dad and my sister –who was only seventeen and quite wild – headed for Miami. I was pretty excited. I was only twelve and Miami was only TV and movie stuff. Of course, as always, when fantasy meets reality, it was initially disappointing. Then came disappointment. That was North Beach, nice, but not as appealing as South Beach. Shabby and dirty during day, menacing at night, art deco architecture was not a delightful scene. The homeless were a curiosity in a largely boring and mundane day scene, beach bums. The city was a different place at night. Fluorescent lights were switched on and crescendos of throbbing techno and salsa music entertained ears and invited bodies into sleepless nights. Too young to appreciate Miami night life, I did not quite listen to city's inner soul.
My parents stayed in one room and my sister and I in another. The rooms were typical mid-range beach hotel chic: shiny furniture, breathtaking view and a perpetual smell of sunscreen lotion and a residual feeling of sand all over. Miami was not as glamorous as I expected. Her tropical reputation just proved eternal. The most humid place a living soul could ever experience, a tropical, clammy heat one might live up to in a South America siesta. I planned to spend most time in water, drowning my frustrated expectations and stifling heat in a oceans of refreshing daydreams. Dreams!
That summer became one of robbery, near-death.
Like it or not, being family's youngest soul, I was at everyone's mercy of whims. Seafood and shopping in South Beach! Obsessed by driving, not a beach sitter, my sister – who had a driver's license and was fond of stealthily stealing my parents' car at night and driving around our town –started her elaborate plans of stealing my parents' shiny new rental car, hitting town and exploring Miami after hours. I still cannot remember why I was in. That remains a deep mystery. (Probably people change in different cities.) Trouble was not my business. Two kids around a strange, creepy city at two a.m. A ransom. An international drug cartel. Ruthless murders. Car chasings. That would be our Miami Vice.
The rental car keys were a handy business. On vacation, my parents would lay flat under a scorching sun and, like baked lobsters, turn over all day. Too much seafood. Little drinking. By second night deep sleep was assured by eleven. The keys were picked by a soda excuse. The road ahead gleaming in my sister's eyes under a menacing moon.
The adrenaline rush was amusing as we sneaked out of hotel. Eerily comfortable, outside, midnight humid air was deceptively familiar, cozy and inviting. How further down our way Miami would be I wondered. No idea what was in store.
The car was brand new, smelled like fresh leather and was sporty. Squealing tires on way out of garage, my sister and I were rushing out. Too young to be admitted to anything open, nothing was particularly exciting except for car squealing. There was Collins Avenue. Not a name to forget. Collins seemed to run through Miami's heart. Few years later I would be playing Vice City. Collins Avenue! Then, memories poured in.
The different city side showed. The ambiance was interesting. Night air was alien, soul-refreshing and exotic. A morning person, I had only seen a glowing neon city on TV. In what seemed like surreal visions, I saw Cubans hanging out and drinking beer and espresso outside cafes, people in fancy shiny clothes standing in short lines outside of nightclubs, and lots of police and, well, prostitutes, loitering around, ready for business.
My sister and I stopped at a corner store and bought soda, chips and God knows what else. Then back to hotel. After all, my sister was not quite wild. Just driving? That was pretty boring!
Crime does not pay.
Feeling about our way back, we quietly got into our room and crept inside like nightly cockroaches, hoping our parents were still asleep next door. The hotel room was eerily silent and dark, and we thought we had pulled it off. There was a note:
'WELCOME BACK! NO DINNER TOMORROW NIGHT!'
That was dropped. Next night, all of us went to a fancy restaurant. My sister and I ate pistachios on beach. There was an odd way how my parents dropped my sister's deed. So, my parents, too, behave differently in a different city, I thought. Or was Miami just different?
Slathering on a waterproof sunscreen, I got down to some serious swimming next day. Then hailed clouds and winds started to speed at will. The weather was fickle, probably like a restless city, first blue sky and intense sun and all of a sudden in an hour, crazy wind, clouds and growing, growling waves. As if wrestling an invisible power, I would surf waves in as far as I could, and sipped in ocean's enormous natural power. Riding waves was endless. That night, I still remember, sand and sunburn defined my day, even after a long, cool shower.
Next day, a tropical storm was moving. My family, I have to admit, is not a lucky one in vacations. Our family vacations are ones defined by rains and winds. My parents never really cared. They wandered around city next day, and my sister just holed up in our room, overlooking beach.
My sister was told she would be in charge of me, lunch and all. Being my sister, I ended up eating pistachios and drinking soda for lunch, and spent four hours bodysurfing in a gradually strengthening tropical storm. I was having fun. The waves were getting bigger, making each set a little more challenging. Lifeguards disappeared. The beach was giving way to waves and sand only. Great, more waves for me, I thought.
Tired of my body board, I safely stashed it on beach in front of the hotel. There was light rain. Nobody in sight. I figured nobody would steal it.
I was a practical twelve year old. I reasoned that, as long as I stayed within “safe area” ropes, I would be safe, despite a strengthening undertow that was gradually pulling me away.
Even though I felt confident and powerful, I was being tossed around like flotsam and jetsam, and ended up about a mile from hotel. Striving to swim to shore, I got caught in a really scary undertow that kept pulling be back out, in a kind of diagonal drag. More swimming, further out.
At some point I can never recall, I came to realize how people die in ocean. Here I am, a champion of trouble avoidance, ending up in a tropical storm, as my sister was watching MTV and my parents must be eating seafood, somewhere.
Seafood! I had to keep my calm and use whatever swimming skills I got to survive. I was a good swimmer. I was not going to die. That should just take much longer.
Time lapsed. I was swimming and swimming. Mirage? People? I wondered as I saw what seemed like lifeguards on an ATV, waving at me, I was close enough to shore. They did not bother to pick me up. When I finally washed up to shore, I was lectured about swimming without lifeguard supervision. They were a man and a woman, both in early twenties, and incredibly tan, with red hats, hooded sweatshirts and sunglasses. I was driven away and was left at least two miles from my hotel. I started walking.
I was hungry, probably more for shelter and life than for food. Then, pouring, and wind starting to blow sand on me. Tearing into my sunburned skin, harsh and prickly sand invaded my body. My skin was burning. Nobody was around but me. This was Miami?
Getting closer to hotel, I saw a figure standing on beach. The frantic motions. The muted shouts. The dread in each and every gesture. All spoke of somebody drowning, downed, lost.
Torrential downpour. I could barely see. I was just run-walking as fast as I could on sand. I was freezing cold, which was incredible, because only a couple of days earlier Miami was an inferno. (That is how different cities look to outsiders?) The figure started running towards me. Things passed by very quickly. That was evening. All I had eaten was a pistachio. I was dizzy, hypoglycemic and not thinking clearly.
The figure, appearing out of misty rains, was only my sister. She was sobbing, really crying like I had never seen before. I wondered if my parents had been murdered or died in a car crash.
She immediately started screaming obscenities. Apparently, she had eventually ventured down to beach to rescue me. A lonely board, a sign of lost brother, she thought, probably.
She strutted and fretted about her responsibilities and my irresponsibility. That, too, was dropped. That was Miami, a different city.
Every family vacation I was reminded of being irresponsible, of being reckless, of being well, different. That was something she never mentioned. That was something I recall whenever I go to beach and face an ocean. One needs to experience death – or probably re-birth – in a different place, a different city, in Miami, in order to know one is not himself everywhere. Today, I recall a glimmer, just one slight, was passing across my eyes as I held my surfboard, waiting alone to venture into a deep, wide ocean. Then, I was different.