Thursday, October 1, 2015

City of Sunlight

Early note: When I talk about Miami here, I actually mean the greater Miami-Dade County area. Because I know technically Miami Beach is a separate city than Miami. And that, for example, Hialeah is a separate city than Doral or Coral Gables. But fuck it all, man, Miami as an area never made much sense to me.

Now Playing: The Cure - The Last Day of Summer

Happy October! Let's start it off the only way it should be--by talking about Death. And hatred? Dislike? Annoyance at a place? You'll have to tell me.

Part of the reason I'm writing this is to show off a new plushie I bought this weekend. It's so cute!

Or. . .or so I think. He's my doll's new buddy and resident Halloween man.

My friends are of the opinion he's, uh, creepy. All staring into your soul, a little too Moe-eyes. I'm of the opinion that they're wrong.

Although speaking of Ren and Silvia. . . .

Around two weeks ago, I hung out with them for the better part of a Saturday morning. Library trip, quick breakfast, quick coffee break and lots of talking, lunch, and then randomly hanging out in Ren's car to watch videos her drone captured as she flew it around. (It crashed into a bush, a car, a couple of walls, and her neighbor's backyard. It was adorable. And the footage was actually in really good quality. I'm guessing the difficulty of controlling it is part of the fun).

While we were at a restaurant, the table parallel to us had three other friends having lunch. One of the guys there was dressed entirely in grey and was talking to the guy across from him. The sleeves of his hoodie were rolled up to his elbows (probably because it was surprisingly hot in the restaurant) and when he leaned forward on the table, I could see the inside of his right forearm.

On it, he had a horizontal tattoo of a skyline. It wasn't as simple as an outline but not an overtly complicated, blurry mess of buildings either. It was at a balance of simplicity and detail. I liked it so much I pointed it out to Ren.

The guy heard me. Him and his friends kept awkwardly glancing at our table afterwards, but even despite that, I managed to get a few more glances at the tattoo. (Hopefully not enough to be creepy. Like, twice, I swear).

I really liked it and kept thinking it'd be cool to have one. But to have a skyline tattoo, you'd probably want it to be meaningful, right? Maybe represent your favorite city?

While talking about it with Ren, I said a tattoo of Miami's skyline probably wouldn't be much because it wouldn't be as recognizable. She disagreed, mentioning a couple of buildings off the top of her head, but we were also talking about other cities (specifically Chicago and Seattle--for a separate reason), and those would most definitely have a recognizable skyline thanks to their famous signature buildings. Outside of the U.S. you could do the other obvious, beautiful cities--London, Paris, Berlin. I remember thinking I would probably prefer a Seattle or Chicago skyline tattoo over a Miami one, yet Miami's my hometown, my city. And I wouldn't pick it.

photograph from Matador Network.
People who know me or who read this silly blog might be able to tell something specific about me: I don't quite like Miami. I've mentioned that at times before but I've never been able to explain why.

I made a friend in my last year of high school named Dario who, despite being around my same age (I was only four  months older than him), was a Junior rather than a Senior. When we became friends, it was already the midway point of the year, and a lot of his friends were graduating seniors, me included.

I started out filling a ton of college applications. Completing them was one thing, starting them up (particularly the essays) was another. And I was pretty proficient at that. I was still undecided about what I wanted to do--I just knew that if I had to go to college, then I'd get out of Miami. Back then, I think I thought once I got out, I would never come back again. (Lolsurprise. Ugh).

Dario and I used to talk a lot about university. I'd finished applying to UF, FSU and UC-Irvine, but I kept thinking about other colleges. Not because of how great or highly ranked or whatever they might be, but because of the cities. Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, anything of the sort.

That time between deadlines and the start of applications was a time I allowed myself to dream. I knew I didn't want to go to university in Miami, that however long or short my time away from home would be, I still needed it to happen. I need to be away for a year or two, to know how I handled being alone, how I handle my own room and my own schedule and my own choices.

I was dead set on leaving Miami for at least a short while and living on my own, but it was not as popular of a choice as pop culture would have you think. A great deal of people decided to remain in Miami for university for an array of reasons, and I remember that while Dario did have some ambition of going to great universities elsewhere, he wasn't wholly opposed to staying here. His family was part of the reason (his mom especially wanted him to stick around for a few more years), but so was one more thing. Our city. He liked it whereas I did not. He guessed that after I left, I'd miss it and come to appreciate it too.

And for a short while I did. But only because Tallahassee didn't exactly put up a great fight in comparison. I missed Miami more in theory than I did in actual practice. I also wasn't far away long enough to stuff my thoughts of it in some nostalgia folder and twist it up into something beautiful. I guess the buses are nicer than the ones in Tally, but to argue against that, the city's too big to go anywhere in less than an hour with public transportation and a lot of them are always late as all hell.

I can complain about the metrobus system and then I can admire the metromover shuttles without hesitation. I hate the summer and springs here, despise how the rain and the humidity turns the street into a sauna. But I like the winters here, the constant breeze and the fact that no one knows how to handle days below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but I love them because they mean cute hats and knee high socks and curly hair without frizz. I don't like the beach but I like the ocean.

Parts of Downtown Miami might have influenced my futuristic cities (the starting points of Ataraxia and Vanguard's Exodus), but I've never truly written about Miami. The reason is the obvious one: I don't like it enough to want to write about it. Chicago is all skyscrapers and crazy weather and I think of yellow lights and overhead trains, so I gave it to Millennium Girl. New York gets to be romantic, funny, silly, a staple of the modern era. Seattle and L.A. feel vaguely futuristic to me too though I know little about them. Las Vegas is the city of lost dreams and perversion so I guess if you want a metaphor for the failure of the American Dream, you grab Las Vegas and let it spit all over people.

But Miami? Why don't I like Miami?

I'm trying to come up with a theory. Mostly, it's the heat. But it's also the culture.

The thing about being an artist who's part of a marginalized group in America means that, positive or negative, there's certain expectations. Growing up, I knew there was one kind of Hispanic American writer and that Hispanic American writer wrote about the struggles of immigration, the clash of two cultures. They sprinkle Spanglish in their work and talk about old traditions of their motherland that survive in adoptedland. They explore what it means to be a "Hispanic American" and at some point they use the term "melting pot" to describe cities like Miami.

And a part of me probably rejects Miami because Miami is capital of Hispanic America. I didn't and don't want to be another tired old Latina author who writes about Doral and Hialeah and what it means to come to this country and what it means to have been born in another and how great my birth country's food is. Blah blah blah, boring boring boring.

So maybe there's some internalized. . .cultural. . .heritage. . .problem thingy magingy that I don't want to get into right now, but what it boils down to is: Miami feels ridiculous to me. There's something about the culture, the people, the way it looks. I know this's really harsh and mean, but it's my hometown and I feel that gives me a free pass to be a bitch about it. I'm not excluding myself from this. It's just that this is the way I would describe it.

Yeah. I would describe Miami as ridiculous.

Maybe I'm just a miserable person who's incapable of appreciating warm days and the bright sun, but that's kinda it. Miami is seriously ridiculous.

I gave Chicago to Millennium Girl because it feels urban. When you write urban fantasy, you pick an obvious city that's dark and mystical and dangerous.

But the Sunday after Skyline Tattoo Conversation, I picked up the nonexistent Death Awakens composition notebook and sent Death on a stroll through a part of Miami Beach I am quickly becoming familiar with. It's all sunshine and tourists and you can practically smell the beach. It's a giant outdoor mall because that's what Miami's good at--the malls. And I had her run into the boy who's starting to look for her--a boy with a Miami skyline tattoo on the inside of his forearm.

You don't think "a story of Death wandering amidst humanity" and follow that with "in Miami Beach." You probably think, I dunno, Manhattan. Or Detroit or something.

I don't know if personified!Death is staying in Miami Beach for long. I'm not even entirely sure why I brought her out there to begin with. But if she is staying or if she does do something there, then, well, I guess I finally wrote about my utterly ridiculous home.

P.S: Though I almost wish I could drag them to Berlin. Dunno why.


  1. Anonymous7:22 PM

    @_@ I hate the sprinkled with spanglish thing. Hate. Hate. Artsy spanglish. aasfjjkhj


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.