The Diaries: A trifling 40 dollars, El Mosquito
Both of us are eager to leave Fernandina, though we may have missed on the goodies (including Amelia Island, where the crème of the cream of aristocratic families have built state-sized houses. Also where, as I learn through readers, the majority of the country’s pizza boxes are produced. (Coincidence?)
We stop by in Daytona beach – it’s good Friday. Check out race track for a shot. Decide to see the beach, resort hotels, younger people here. Wind lashes the seagulls at a standstill.
Am a bit concerned that we’re going to run into heavy traffic as we go to Orlando. None of that happens though. Work on my ‘job’ in the car. Get to downtown Orlando in the evening, which is pretty, but not before driving through its grimier streets. Bums, destitutes lined up under bridges.
The weather’s pleasantly warm, downtown Orlando alive. A bar street has been cordoned off for the night. We head there after a Mexican restaurant and a hearty cocktail (what was it called) composed of a margarita-like beverage and upside down coronita.
Also was first ‘travel day’ – we cooked some beans and greens at Daytona, enjoying some sun. After the festivities in Orlando, we unrolled the sleeping bags by a barge-platform near the downtown pond. Fell sound asleep.
I like it.
Wake up in the morning a bit heavy-headed – forgot to bring my pillow and sandals provide little in terms of cushioning. Joggers along the bank but we leave in-conspicuously.
Take some pictures of the Amway Center, then a short stop by the Disneyworld complex for some uninteresting but quite essential pictures.
Then drive into the heat on the Florida Turnpike – a pretty albeit tolled road, and a bit unnecessary considering we fly to Miami in one go.
Made it to Miami! We won’t be going all the way down to the Keys, so this is about as far South of the USA as it gets.
Drive straight to the hotel on Miami Beach, for a free stay – a welcome bonus conferred through an old ‘work debt’. The Holiday Inn is a few paces away from the ultra-chic Fontainebleau (haters of skin display should abstain, whether day or night).
Passed out in the lobby from exhaustion, as we were waiting for the room to become available. When it finally did, we both crashed in the coolness of the white sheets: my first head-felt rest since we left, now about two weeks ago. Awake from the nap clear-headed and get to work.
At 10pm we head out, end up with a monstrous Philly cheeseteak from the nearby deli, an unappetizing 2 pounds of shredded meat tucked in a sub.
Also get a bottle of SoCo – shots of which both of us had pleasantly indulged in the previous night in Orlando. Are a bit disappointed with the purchase though, as we meander around the pool and buzzing bar of the Fontainebleau hotel.
Easter Day. Munch on remnants of the disgusting cheesesteak in the morning, work. Drive around South Beach amidst horrendous traffic – we’ve already been taken aback by the local parking policies: meters run all the way till 3am.
Snap some pictures in front of the Nikki Beach, a well-known club where Redrik and I entertain little hope of being received. Porsche, GT, a Ferrari… a Lambo. And even then, I suspect it’s still too early for the Big Guns.
Redrik gives in to a Burger King. Still trying to stick to the no-fast-food vow. We park and wander off to the beach, the sun sets behind us. Drum circles here and there, but the beach is emptying out as dusk settles in. As we stroll back to the road, we happenstance into the festive atmosphere of the Nikki Beach – quite open to the public, to our dismay (as seen in the video). We are jaw-awed by the multiple acts of booty-shaking, drunkenness and other displays of social depravity.
We rapidly decide to secure our 20$ bracelets, which will grant us access into the club tonight (before the competitive lines of beautifully masked people assemble in front of zealous bouncers.)
As I walk around snapping pictures, a group of high-spirited partiers approaches me.
“Are you a professional photographer?”
By the looks of the camera, fisheye lens, and the way I’m holding the gear, one could sure believe so.
(In the past, I’ve been asked the same question, with the same intent, on quite a few occasions, but have never wiled my way into such gigs, for typically snobbish reasons).
Well, if there’s a place we all go to burn, I guess it’s Miami, South Beach, at the Nikki.
“Yes, I am.”
“Could you take some pictures of us?”
“Of course.” I crouch half-way and the camera clicks.
“I think you’re playing us.”
Luckily the first shot turns just right: the gimmick of the fisheye gets their eyes rolling. I try to act cool and clubby, get a few poses.
“You want cash?” asks a man slightly older than the others, his shades darker than the night. And before I can even answer (my eyes must have twitched with the pusillanimous fire of greed). “Of course you do.”
The Man tucks two folded bills in my hand, and a business card. The scene has lasted one or two minutes. The guy has no idea who I am, or if I’ll fulfill my promise. And Andrew Jackson’s four eyes sneer with(out) contempt.
Suddenly the hunger of the parking meters is put into perspective by the lavishness of some of their taxpayers.
Redrik got wiped out by the Soco rather early, I joined soon after. Sleep in the car, drunk. Wake up muddled and still slightly inebriated, eager to get away from the scene.
As we roll up the beachfront, the convertible emits a buzzing, high-pitched sound: the car is dubbed there and then, amidst our hung-over laughter, “El Mosquito.”
We head to the beach, seeking further rest. I have a short swim but rapidly feel faint, and remember I haven’t eaten yesterday – but drink I did.
Later, drive in to North Miami, have some Peruvian food, then check out downtown. Some shops and activity. Feels restful and more peaceful in a weird way.
To little Havana. Walk around and snap some pictures. We have dinner in a small local restaurant, where English isn’t an option.
Drive back to South Beach, walk around in search for a lively and ‘real’ bar. Not much to be sighted.
Beautiful sleep on the beach, perched on the deck of a lifeguard’s tower.
In the morning, amidst waves, there’s light fires the sky.
Get some coffee, both Redrik and I want out. Walk around South Beach one last time to get some pictures while he finishes to read the Hunger Games.
Meet a self-proclaimed philanthropic trillionaire, who’s really peddling marijuana, complete with smashed-up CD player in hand, flurry of gold-ish chains, a digital chronometer and other bling items dangling from his neck, wrists and shoulders.
Out, good drive. Stop by quickly at the Kennedy Space Center near Cap Canaveral to snap some pics and footage.
Make it to Crescent beach near St. Augustine, where Redrik’s ma has chosen to spend a few days off. Back to some comfort, for now (sleeping indoors on the floor and two sleeping bags counts as comfort at this point). There’s a cozy balcony and a windy, not too crowded beach outside. The waves roll restlessly, soothingly, five or six rows deep.
Last days have been restful, which is not to say they have been spent lazily. Catching up on work, eating more regularly. Sleep on the tile floor atop two sleeping bags, it’s good enough, the more so compared to previous nights.
Still rising early to hack work together, sitting on the balcony, trying to get up to speed on the multitude of content and stories we’ve been through, before we begin the northwestern leg, cross-country. It’s a big one. A whole new world out there.