January 30, 2004

Miami Stories: Before We Begin...

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

Miami was too big to talk about in one short story. I began writing one for this issue and two weeks later, I have a half a novel. I went to Miami to seriously party hard with Phish, celebrate my found voice (after penning three novels in 2003) something I had been searching for, for seven long, desperate years, see old friends from Atlanta and Japan, and play as much poker as I could. There was no pressure on me at all to write two hours a day or to act a certain way. I had no sales quotas to meet and no mentally challenged bosses on power trips to fuck with me. I had no poker tournaments to win and played for sheer enjoyment, and I did not have dozens of sets of cynical eyes judging my every move. (When did your friends start acting like temperamental family members and your family members start acting like enemies?) Alas, I had no one to impress: no Hollywood agents to peddle my blood work to, no innocuous job interviewers to kiss up to, no sultry girls who begrudgingly fell under the lukewarm gaze of my affection to relentlessly court. I had no obligations. I had no dead weight or baggage to carry around. I was in Miami as free as I had ever been.

I promised myself that I would do only one thing the entire trip: be myself. I was and I can’t recall a time when I smiled more. An eerie blanket of calm settled over me and for the first time in years, I felt like I could run faster than ever. For years I had found myself stuck in a huge hole; about twenty feet deep, and the more I struggled to get out, the deeper below surface level I found myself. Miami was the rope or the ladder or the strength (insert your own metaphor) that pulled me out of that vile darkness and I picked myself up, smelled the ocean, stared at the beaming sun, and really began to enjoy the person I had been hiding for a long time. A revitalization of my spirit took over everything and everything felt so simple. I could breathe with two lungs instead of one. Wandering around without the bulky weight of three or four layers of clothes, bundled up in insulated mittens and old scarves and cheap wool hats was a blessing. I darted through the crowds in shorts and a t-shirt marveling at the fact it was the last days of December. Yes, there was too much going on internally and externally that I could not pen the highlights in just one story. At one point the other day and I looked at some of the notes I scribbled down in Miami. On the back of a Wendy’s napkin, I had written:

Miami, the city of lights, a city at night... Drugs, sex, and rock & roll...

Like I said, there was too much happening for one story. Instead of skipping out on many of the sordid details, I have decided to have a running column this year, much like my Subway Stories. You are now reading the beginning of a new series: Miami Stories.

Rest assured, the dirty juicy nuggets are going to be saved for the novel. But I will write about the major highlights. I will tell you all about my poker playing at two diverse and odd places. I played with Cuban exiles at the Miccosukee Casino in the middle of the Everglades with Jerry and Sarah. I even trucked up to Hollywood and played at the infamous Hollywood Greyhound Track. I lost more money putting money on the dogs than in the card room, but the characters I met were worth their own short story.

I will tell you about the Days Inn Downtown, that was taken over by hundreds of Phisheads from all over America. It resembled the party-like atmosphere of the coolest dorm on campus (except there was a pool!) and I wandered into random rooms making new friends and spreading the good word about my many web sites.

I will write up my accounts of wandering through Shakedown, the infamous vending area that pops up in the parking lots of every Phish show.

I will comment on the music! Phish played four concerts in the middle of my week of partying, one night included George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and the funkmaster himself brought down the house in one of the best Phish shows I have ever seen. Yeah, the boys are finally back and they are hitting the highest peak of Phishness that I had not seen in almost five years.

And of course, I’ll comment on the random riff raff that populate Miami, and I’ll tell you about the drug dealers I met, and I’ll weave a story about the cool Japhans who I hung out with through Zobo. Yes, there is plenty to write about but so little time and space to do that, and with everyone’s attention span as short as Britney Spear’s first marriage, I’ll have to bring the stories hard and fast and perhaps you’ll catch a whiff of the ocean, or feel the warm sun smiling on you, or hear some of the melodious sounds of funky Phish, and maybe you’ll start to understand why Miami was one of the greatest trips that I have ever taken.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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