Best Part of a Trip to Miami

Miami storyThis meme had me laughing not just because of the obvious reasons, but because of something that really happened to me.

One of my late father’s drinking buddies was in Miami while I was living in Clearwater, Florida, and called to say hello – and gave me directions to come see him. He wasn’t a person I considered particularly close, and my father and he did not see eye to eye on something that had caused a rift, but he was one of the formative influences growing up. When I lost the willingness to fight when cornered by authority, he encouraged me to keep fighting – to ‘never let them have it easy even if they win.’. I think that’s pretty good advice, though younger generations don’t seem to have been taught this.

Anyway, I drove down – but when I hit South Miami, I somehow ended up with a flat. It was dark, there were Ladies of the Night nearby, and all I wanted to do was change my tire and get going – because this did not seem like the neighborhood to be caught in after dark by anyone. If I could tell that it was hookerville, so could anyone else. A latin-looking guy in South Miami with out of city plates driving a pickup?

“No bueno, officer, I can ‘splain!”

I started changing the tire in the dark, feeling my way around the Dakota’s rear end where no one practical had put a light for such occasions – and the streetlights were about as dim as they could be without being out. It’s taking me a while.

I hear footsteps. High heels sharpened on concrete, commonly called stilettos I think. A soft voice calls quietly over my sweaty, and likely dirty, shoulder, “Hey baby”, her foot drags, “you need a little help?”

“No ma’am, I’m fine, just trying to fix this tire.”
“That’s what I mean.”

That’s not what I thought she meant. Before I know it, she’s squatting behind me, holding a flashlight that she’d had tucked away somewhere – a big maglight, likely for self defense (or maybe it was an undercover cop). Before you know it, I have hookers hanging around the pickup, talking about this and that while I work feverishly on this tire. I think they enjoyed my discomfort, or found it pleasant.

Afterward, I offered a bit of cash for the help with that flashlight – it was turned down. “It’s a shame to come to Miami and not have a good experience. Can I do anything else?”

“Umm. Nope, thanks.”
“Safe trip!”
“Have a great night”, I ended up quizzically, wondering what that would be.

I drove off, a sigh of relief finally escaping me as I shifted into 2nd gear.

That was the highlight of the entire trip to Miami, since this particular guy just wanted to get money, disguised as a business venture that had more sale than keel. So I went to Miami, and the sex workers were better than the people I grew up looking up to.

Untitled Introspection.

It seems a lifetime ago when, having gained radio privileges in boot camp, a young Seaman Recruit stood looking down aisles of perfectly lined up aisles of bunks when Pink Floyd’s, “Welcome to the Machine” started playing on the radio. It was one of those moments when everything came into focus, where the mirror and the self have no boundaries. There are moments like this throughout our lives, but there’s a reason I picked this one.

While I’ve not been publishing everything online, puzzling over the various narratives that have impacted me and whether they were worth keeping or discarding. In discarding things, I found myself floating, trapped sometimes not by narratives but by a lack of narrative to guide me through wherever I was transitioning to, if even I was transitioning at all. Trapped

When you start peeling away the narratives, you start peeling away the destinations those narratives provided. In the simplest form, narratives get us from point A to point B. It’s more complex with interactions of many things, but at their core, that’s what narratives do – they give us a way to get somewhere, even if that somewhere isn’t really where we want to go, or the end result is to be someone who we don’t want to be.

We’re born into them, we build other narratives on top of them, and even what we can imagine later on because we’ve been guided by narratives. This is not a bad thing – but it can be. When there is a sense of being trapped, there’s something that’s wrong. For me, I don’t know that there wasn’t anything wrong. I found that to push beyond the boundaries, I needed to find where they were and why they were there in the first place. It takes time, honesty with one’s self, and lots of time because we’re almost never honest with ourselves.

Frank ZappaBut when things do go wrong, we do need to look at that. When we factor in other people who have other narratives, as has happened with globalization combined with the social media explosion, tempers flare, cracks begin to show, and we pretty much have the world as it is today – an unapologetic mess of battles of narratives, flaring here, simmering there, and ice elsewhere.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Frank Zappa, he has a great quote where he talks about decorating a piece of time, in the context of a guitar solo – but it’s something we all do with our lives. There are the beaten paths of life that society presses upon us, and then there are the parts of life where we find ourselves making paths. Some people stick to the beaten path more than others. Speaking for myself, the beaten paths rarely fit – if ever.

Decorate as we wishIf there’s a book on it, it’s either a beaten path or may become one. It lacks originality, that shiny luster, after a while – either it succeeds or fails as a narrative based on the number of people who subscribe to the narrative. Tolkien made Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves cool, and all that followed – as original as some of it may have seemed – was from a beaten path. What Tolkien did was borrow from other things to make something original, compelling, and even a message of hope in camaraderie. And this is one of the reasons, aside from the personal, that I started unraveling my narratives.

Somewhere along the way I sort of got lost, which I expect is par for the course. A lot has happened in my life, and I expect yours, and if you have the luxury of time to unravel everything it can be uncomfortable since these narratives have been the things pressing you in this direction and that to take you to where you think you’re supposed to go.
This seemed all very new to me – maybe it was the lack of humanities in my formal education when I was younger. In secondary school, the options were ‘sciences’ or ‘modern studies’, and the science path chose me more than I chose it, and the English Literature fell by the wayside. The nuances of humanity, which we all need to know better, are best described in our art – not our science.

Did I ‘find myself’? Nope, I think that ‘finding yourself’ stuff is bullshit. But I got to see more past myself as I figured out what was behind myself – and I found a point where I needed help, so I started seeing a psychologist and it has helped me find things I didn’t see before. The right questions can help us see things anew, the right observations can give us insight and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enlisting a professional to help with that.
With a bit more confidence in knowing my own biases and understanding why I trod my paths.

And merging with the rest of the world in moments.

Decorating A Piece of Time

Frank ZappaSticking this here because I may be referring to it multiple times, and the full quote is a bit wordy.

In an interview in 1984, Frank Zappa responded to a question in a way that fits all of this very well:

“Well, I’m specialized. What I do on a guitar has very little to do with what other people do on a guitar. Most of the other guitar solos that you hear performed on stage have been practiced over and over and over again. they go out there and they play the same one every night and it’s really, just, spotless.

My theory is this – I have a basic mechanical knowledge of the operation of the instrument and I got an imagination. and when the time comes up in the song to play a solo, it’s me against the laws of nature. I don’t know what I’m going to play, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I know roughly how long I have to do it, and it’s a game where you have a piece of time and you get to decorate it and, depending on how intuitive the rhythm section is that’s backing you up, you can do things that are literally impossible to imagine – sitting here – but you can see them performed before your very eyes in a live performance situation…”

We are all just decorating time. Some do the same things over and over – some don’t.