My son and daughter and I went on our first Florida day-trip adventure yesterday. We got in the car with some vague Mapquest directions, Starbucks and a camera and drove to Miami Beach.
Despite my best non-efforts, it was surprisingly a non-adventure. Unlike our other day trips shortly after we move and I get the bright idea to go exploring, I didn’t get lost, I was able to remember where I parked the car (well, not really, but I was able to find it using my good memory and the lack of a second mojito at lunch) and none of us got mugged, pick-pocketed or accosted by the homeless.
Our previous day-trip adventures have been far more exciting. I’ve been accused of not even trying to get home safely. But that’s not true. I just think it makes for better stories when you get in the car without directions on a near empty gas tank, or stop to buy the used greeting cards from the bum lady in the subway, or get on a ferry when you’re not sure where it’s going.
During one of our trips into New York, I was walking through Chinatown with my daughter and her friend Kailee shortly after one of the big knockoff crackdowns when all the fake purses were whisked off the street. Long story short, the three of us ended up following a little tattooed Asian guy through a false wall, down some stairs, through an underground shopping mecca and through another false wall into a room full of purses.
“You, what??!!” my friend Nicola said when we returned to Jersey, safely, I might add, and with four Kate Spade and Coach bags stuffed into our pants.
“Remind me to never let you take my kid into the city,” she said.
It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was in full control of the situation, except for the few minutes I stopped to snap a picture of what looked like a drug deal going on in a corner of the Chinatown underground.
And anyway, what’s the point of going to Chinatown if you can’t catch a glimpse of the seedy underbelly?
If I’ve learned anything from moving all over the country, it’s that there are underbellies everywhere. Some seedier than others, but none of them completely seedless.
I had high hopes for Miami Beach. I told the kids that South Beach is what South Street in Philadelphia wants to be when it grows up. Their eyes lit up. South Street was our favorite place to go when we lived outside Philadelphia. The tallest, most brightly colored mohawks we’ve ever seen. Lots of transgenderous shenanigans. People with tattoos and piercings in places you can’t imagine. Earlobes stretched out down to the shoulder. African lip discs in white guys with freckles. We saw one guy with a row of metal studs stuck into the back of his neck, much like we used to pierce Barbie’s ears - by just pushing an earring into her skin. My son had a friend whose biggest fear was having to drive down South Street. We used to buy a cheesesteak and sit on the sidewalk and watch the people go by. It was people-watching on steroids.
So we had high hopes for South Beach. I watched Miami Vice. I saw The Birdcage. As it turns out, SoBe on a Monday afternoon is just slightly more risque than Boardman, Ohio, on a Friday night. We didn’t see anyone famous (although I thought I saw Bernie Mac, but I’m not saying it was actually him. I can’t afford to ruin my reputation or no one will believe the other famous people I really did see). There were no freaks, and frankly I’ve seen more gay people in downtown Lexington.
So we walked along Ocean Drive, looked at some cool art deco hotels, posed for pix in front of the Versace mansion, had lunch, drank some Cuban coffee, walked down to the beach, bought some souvenirs, easily found our car and drove home without a single wrong turn.
Would it have been too much to ask for one transvestite to offer to sell us something?