Published: March 8th 2012March 4th 2012
From the roof of the Congress
Get to South Beach around noon, and there are loud people stumbling, girls in bikinis, and about a third of the people are carrying a plastic cup with golden liquid. This looks like a recipe for a fantastic disaster.
Check in at the Congress isn't until four, so park the car and check out the beach. Windy as all hell, and clouds are dark but scattered. No sun bathers, only a few swimmers. Look at that water though, clear and green. Gotta try it out. Warmer than the air, maybe I should just float for a few hours. Nah, gotta check out the area and do some planning. Cheap cafe, great reviews. Cute waitress. Braces, uh-oh. Stop flirting with me, there is no way you are 18. Clubs everywhere, but there has to be a dive bar with some local scum around here somewhere. Lush, what a great name.
There is a mug shot background on the wall, beer bongs hanging up behind the bar, and the special shot is called "R [owner's name], go fuck yourself". The bartender, G, sets me up with a three dollar Newcastle. She has a pretty smile, but there's something dark in her
Any more pictures from this point in the trip would be evidence.
eyes. I tell her I'm coming from New York on my way to Oregon. She insists that I must be lost. She drove out to Miami less than six months ago from a place in Nevada so desolate they had to drive two hours to Reno for groceries. She left an ex there, and something tells me not to dig up that grave. The owner, R, is limping around, organizing furniture and messing with the jukebox. He did a road trip from Miami to Seattle and back about ten years ago. He has gout, but doesn't know how he got it. I tell him my uncle eats yogurt for that, something about the acid.
J walks in and sits at the bar, the only other patron, and obviously one of Lush's bar flies. He is a professional ticket scalper, and has been awake for two days after taking too many caffeine pills, and who knows what else. He's missing a bottom front tooth, and keeps his cigarette (you can actually smoke in Florida bars) jammed in the gap. When talking to a friend about some tickets, he threw out this gem "Jump on them like a two dollar hooker on coupon Friday"
After my second beer, G throws on a free jello shot. We share road trip stories, agree that local entertainment beats tourist stuff, and when I mention the tiny chameleon recently discovered, we contemplate whether or not smurfs are real, just well hidden. She tells me where to find cheap yet high quality soup, shots, and breakfast. Then she tells me about a fortune teller in New Orleans that has effectively predicted her future three times in the last ten years. She demands I go there, and call her as soon as I leave.
A random couple sits down at the bar, G goes to pour them a drink and chat, while J tries to sell me on dub step and techno. I will have none of this, no matter how hilarious his existence is. I pay and leave, but assure them I will be back later for fifty cent beer night, when they bring out the pong table.
Go check in, drop my stuff off, lay on a king size bed with pillows and comforter light as air. Contemplate not moving the rest of the day. Short nap, then go to find the soup. It lives up to the hype. Bean, bacon, and sausage, makes a nice layer over the early intake of booze. Soon the couple from Lush walk in and sit next to me.
She is from nobody-cares, Oklahoma, he is from Austin, Texas. She asks me a lot of questions. Like, a lot of effing questions. With a pause barely long enough for my one word answer, I figure she must have mastered circular breathing. They buy me a shot, which I chase with a full beer, maybe she will be more entertaining then. I focus on the delicate task of putting crackers in my soup while waiting for the buzz. I finish the soup, then start asking him about Austin, as it is one of my planned stops, and might shut her up. She answers for him. I give up. About to leave, she wants us to trade numbers so I can, like, totally call and get the insider info on Austin!
Heading back towards the beach, a whole four blocks, one guy trades me a shot of Skol vodka for a cigarette, and two other guys offer drugs from a street corner. Oh Miami. Walk up the beach a bit, enjoying the topless freedom exercised, and laughing as a stage from the previous night is being disassembled with much difficulty from the wind.
Next stop was the cheap shots bar. The place is split into five rooms, each with a different theme. Every room is dark with glowly rave light settings, music too loud for conversation, a bar, and doors to lessen the noise pollution. At this point the night turns into a Vegas story. Use your imagination.
The next day I wake up too late to catch the cheap breakfast that G recommended so I buy some grub at the farmers market and cook. Then just swim in the ocean, lay on the beach, lay in bed, have a couple drinks at the roof top bar, and generally be lazy.
On the way out, stop at a pupusa place in a Cuban ghetto, where nobody speaks English. Two small TV's sit next to each other, one with Latin music videos, the other showing soccer. The guy at the counter explains with motions and grunts that the quality of pupusa is directly proportional to stringiness of the cheese. These are some damn good pupusas. He takes sides of coleslaw, onion and tomato sauce into a mixture then scoops with torn pieces of pupusa and eats. I follow his lead. Excellent. We laugh at a video of a guy who falls for a mannequin, buys it at the store, pretends (or believes) she is real, and when he starts feeling her up at a party, his friends intervene.
Stopped in Apalachicola National Forest on my way back north. All the coastline national forests are flat, marshy, hot, bug infested, snake infested, and potentially alligator infested. You have to wear pants for the snakes if you don't know the terrain well enough, and the sweat just pours. Damn near sunk into quicksand at one point. Why would anyone ever want to play in a swamp?
With the benefit of hindsight, the lack of good nature spots since back in Strasburg with R and E has taken it's toll. While Miami was fun, I really half assed it. Not sure if I can give Atlanta the attention it deserves right now. Might just head straight to the Smokys and do a couple nights backcountry.