"First Stories" story # 1

Miami, Florida, USA          March 31, 2000

Like many of you, but much more so, I'm devastated to be returning to classes after a week of doing only what I wanted to. During spring break, I saw two baseball games, toured SeaWorld, clubbed four nights, ate out several times, visited two beaches, logged over 500 miles, and spent five nights away from home. Luckily, I spent under $130 (which is especially lucky, because that's all I had). I went on spring break alone, because my budget was tight and it's tough hitching a ride when you're with someone.
     I spent my first night in Orlando and the second in Cocoa Beach, where I visited Coconuts Jazz Bar. An awesome band played "Stand By Me" with howling guitar solos and vocals so intense they sounded painful. A drunk group from Michigan invited me to dance with them, which was cool because there was no shame in us all looking like morons. After the bar and a club, I slept on the beach - no sleeping bag or blanket, just my clothes. I enjoyed the loud waves, the ocean breeze, and the starry sky. "This is great!" I said, "I should do this every night!" Two hours later, my freezing body shook itself awake, and I didn't warm up until I'd finished a Super Slam from Denny's.
     I headed back to Orlando. A Yugoslavian guy, Zim, and his American wife picked me up along the way. Zim kept saying, "You don't have a gun, do you? I know you Americans are crazy, with your violence and fast food and stuff...you're SURE you don't have a gun in that bag, right?" His thin, short hair and sunken eyes reminded me of Beetlejuice - so it especially cracked me up when he kept turning his head around 180 degrees to talk to me as he drove. They were going to start Yugoslavia's first international airline, but they lived in Switzerland, where they said hitchhiking is no problem.
     I visited SeaWorld for free, by convincing the gate-keeper I was a travel writer. I love that place. I saw big pill-bugs that live 400 feet deep in the lonely ocean, comedic seals that could scream and slide on their belly on command, and frowning, lazy fish with red scales so crusty it looked like a bad paint job.
     I never had any desire to go to Miami until a Mexican lady I was riding with on the fourth day told me: "The small East Coast towns are no place to party! If you want a good time, you have to go to Miami."
     Twenty minutes later, I caught a ride with a bearded 40-year old Cuban trucker - headed all the way to Miami!
     The three-hour conversation I had with Alberto was one of the most confused times I've had in my entire life. He was barely able to speak english, yet he would go into these long stories that he ended with hoarse, evil scientist-like laughter. I always missed the joke, but I did my best to laugh along with him. By the time he dropped me off, the only two things I understood from Alberto were, "My wife has a 25-year old boyfriend" and "When I go to Cuba, forty girls will want to f**k me, ha-HA!-ha-ha-ha-ha."
     South Beach, Miami, was a pretty place with romantic, white, Italian-style buildings. There were three long streets of clubs and restaurants, full of dressed-up girls of which a good percent (about 25) were gorgeous. Being alone, it became easier (I need all the help I can get) to meet the beautiful girls. And with my flawless pick-up line, "So, are you a tourist or a Miammoth?" I was ready to go!
     I danced meringue and salsa with a 30-year old of Dominican origin with deep dimples on her round face and a smile so sweet I would've sworn every time I saw it that she was 17. I got friendly with a pale, tiny-mouthed girl whose brown pupils lied deep within her eyeballs - as harmless as a kitten, any man would've done anything to see her happy. I asked a topless Swedish model to play "Catch That Balloon" (an aquatic racing game for six-year olds)...her bouncy sunbleached hair, pouty face, bean bag-like breasts, and thin muscleless stomach - everything about her was so soft and pillowy I just wanted to hug her like a small child wants to hug a teddy bear (but in a much different way entirely). I would've asked the model out if I wasn't such a scared, little pansy.
     So, I put on my big-nosed mask and snorkelling. A rock wall at the southern end of the beach offered good marine life to accompany the clear, light blue waters of all of Miami. I saw a bleach-white stingray, huge-eyed, red-and-black spotted pufferfish, a periwinkle fish with a yellow maze on his side, and fish with zebra stripes and a yellow perimeter.
     Returning to the beach, I met Tracey. She had a good body, nipple rings, and a boyfriend. But, she offered to make me dinner, so my mingling with the Miami beauties had REALLY paid off now. Over chicken caesar salad, she explained South Beach. She said 90 % of the guys in South Beach are bi-sexual, 100 % of the girls are, everyone smokes pot, and most people do harder drugs. I recalled how the Swede had told me she went out six nights a week, barely ever ate, barely ever slept, and did ecstasy for fun and cocaine to stay awake for photo shoots. What a crazy place next to my hometown, where marijuana was the only drug around and homosexuality wasn't even mentioned?
     My mission for that night was to get into the CroBar. At this club, a big ball of people pushed and shoved at the door, all hoping to be one of the bouncers' next random selections to enter. I got in after being made to change shoes (from my sandals to a friends' clothes-toed loafers which were 4 sizes too small) and to wait an hour. The world's largest speaker system had been flown in to pound techno beats through the floor and walls. And the girls, whoo! I swear that half of them were absolutely RAVISHING. I even think Nathalie Portman and Rachel Hunter were there.
     I started dancing, and a thin blonde with high cheek-bones and a serious look to her joined beside me. After some dancing, I asked her name. "Evelyn, from Iceland." After saying that, I'm sure she had to avoid my jaw while dancing. Only 1 in 20,000 people in the world are Icelandic, and that's where I hope to work this summer. I'd even studied the language. I said in her ear, "Thu hefur fallega augu!" which I hoped to mean, "You have pretty eyes." But, judging by her reaction, it must've meant something totally different, and probably offensive, because she wouldn't dance, talk, or look at me after that.
     After the club closed, my vacation had ended. I caught the bus outside to the edge of town. Three hours and two rides after that, I was in my final car of the hitchhiking excusion.
     Dave was the driver, and he was going well-past Eckerd College - to his home in Los Angeles. He had an orange tan, a tattoo of a snake on his arm, and thick black hair. He was the recording agent for DJ Quick and the up-and-coming Sheree Amore, and he'd been in Miami for the music week. In the Miami airport that morning, he'd gotten scared of the cloud-cover in Dallas. He abandoned his flight and rented a car, opting to take the less-scary way home. I learned a lot about Los Angeles from him. He had the laidback attitude, where nothing bothered him: not a long traffic jam by Sarasota, not an hour-long cell phone problem, not even a three-day car ride.
     Speaking of rides, the 25th or so I'd received in the last week dropped me at the Taco Bell on 34th Street. I'd survived the hitchhiking, with money to spare from my tight budget, had a good time, and discovered more about the world than I usually get from a month of school. Back to classes, woohoo...

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