1. The last time I was in Miami was 2003, when one of my enterprising traveling companions wrangled us fancy hotel rooms by pretending to be the management of a famous band. Half a dozen years! I cannot believe how long that sounds.
2. The airplane from Orlando to Miami was the ricketiest vehicle I've ever been on. It made the Mesaba flights from Minneapolis to Bemidji seem like luxury jets. The flight attendant was the co-pilot, a tall and brusque man with stern eyebrows, a heavy accent, and not a wasted word. "PLEASE BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELTS," he shouted down the aisle. "WE ARE GOING." Then he went into the cockpit and closed the loose sliding door as much as he could. It didn't close all the way.
My seat, the glamorous-sounding 1F, in fact had no window. To my right and in front of me were nothing walls of grimy beige plastic. To my left, the closed door with its metal staircase folded against it. The sensation was that of traveling in a large carton, perhaps one stashed in the back of a covered wagon.
An hour in I realized I had to close my New Yorker and my eyes and try to imagine myself anywhere else. I have only thrown up once on a flight, ever. It was a tiny bush plane, in Churchill, Manitoba; the pilot at one point turned the plane perpendicular to the ground, and when he righted it, I lost my lunch. But this flight came close. When we landed, the co-pilot burst out of the cockpit--"OKAY, WE'RE HERE," he hollered with a mighty clap--and I tottered down the steps to the tarmac to wait for the baggage handlers to roll my suitcase from the cargo cubby to where I stood about twenty feet away. They had to duck under the wing.
3. Miami temperatures in the mid-70s. The air is downy and warm. I could cry at the sheer gentleness of it.
4. At the Turkish restaurant, my dish was called "I'm Crazy About Tomato!", or, as the waiter called it for short, "Crazy Tomato."
5. Miami men wear fitted button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up just one cuff-length, untucked over narrow yet loose jeans, and flip-flops or loafers. The women wear tiny dresses and shorts and impossibly high heels, but their walks betray them, tottering on the shoes, holding a boyfriend's hand for support, or hunching and crossing their arms across their chests as they duck around the slow walkers. I have not seen so much cleavage since the Renaissance Faire of 2002.
6. The beach at night was vast and pale and empty, the ocean vast and dark and empty. I admire the ocean but it will always make me feel uneasy in some way--I don't like not being able to see the other side. And it has that intense smell. It smells like life and like death. But I was very, very happy to see it.
I keep picturing a map and myself as a tiny fleck on that map, down at the fingertip of the U.S. In my mind's eye the map is a biological one, not political, no roads or city dots, just green. I'm reading Karen Russell's book St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and the stories are about the super-weirdness of Florida and especially its dark swamps and critters. That interests me much more than Beyonce's mansion. Manatees over celebritees.