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A South Florida Story

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A South Florida Story

I fucking hated my time in Miami.  Still can't stand the goddamn city.  I know there are people who love South Beach and its clubs, how Miami always makes some annual stupid Ten Best Places to Party (Woo-hoo!) or Hottest Spring Break Destination list.  You can have the place.  I spent three miserable years in that sweat-soaked armpit stain, with that fucking thumping reggaeton music pumping in every store you go into, surrounded by dopey girls with their augmented body parts, counting the days until I could get out.

Not that I didn't make some terrific friends along the way.  And receive a stellar graduate education (!), which was paid for (and then some).  It's just when you lose a wife and almost die in a city, your memories of that place tend to be tainted.

I don't know.  I guess it just wasn't my kind of scene.  I hadn't talked to an old buddy, Jason Carlson, for a long time.  Jay and I had known each other in San Francisco, were good friends, and then I started getting further and further out there, and we lost touch.  After I straightened out, got my undergrad degree and went to study writing at FIU in Miami, I got ahold of Jay.  When I told him where I was, he started to remininse about the time I met him and the rest of the Boys of Belvedere at Lake Havasu, wearing my pea green, thrift shore coat, fedora, and pasty white skin (

"I just can't picture that guy in Miami," Jay said.

And he was right.  To (mis)quote the great Raymond Chandler, I belonged in Miami "like a pearl onion belongs on a banana split."

Maybe it was all that fucking sunshine.  I have a certain morose persona I try to cultivate.  It is goddamn tough to be morose when every day is sunny and in the upper '80s, a hot tropical breeze blowing the big palm fronds, and goddamn coconuts falling on your head.  (Actually, had coconuts ever truly fallen on my head, maybe it would've aided my morose cause.  But the closest I ever came to [natural] cranial damage was the big lark nesting in a palm tree at my condo on the beach, which dive bombed your face to protect her eggs every time you walked across the parking lot.  Used to scare the shit out of me [Jimmy too, when he came to visit].)

This would've been bad enough, but making my time in Miami even worse was all that quintessential Miami poetry.

I posted last week how much I hate (most) poetry and (most) poets (, because they read their poetry like this.

And before all my poet buddies have their heads explode with aneurysms, I know Sylvia Plath is a great poet with her place firmly etched (and rightly so) in the American pantheon (of greats).  But don't tell me you don't cringe listening to her read her own work.  She sounds like she's trying out for 3rd understudy in a Pumpkin Valley High spring production.

In Miami, I attended many poetry readings.  And there were a few reoccurring...themes.  It seems there is some unspoken mandate in Miami that 99% of all poems read within county limits have to contain at least one reference to your grandmother. Only here, with the pervasive Cuban influence, it is abuela.  Usually the abuela is cooking something that is Spanish-sounding, stinks, and also goes in italics.  Something like, "And on Sundays, mi abuela would cook boliche / its pungent aroma wafting from the kitchen..."  Or some crap like that.  And every poem also has to mention either "bouganvilla" or "monkeygrass" or "mangroves." And everyone knows Miami is a land populated by very tiny dogs.  Don't ask me. Them's the rules.

So when I was leaving Miami, I wanted to write a poem commemorating my miserable time there, incorporating these regional distinctions.  This poem was recently published by Tigertail ( in its latest issue, which features flash and noir, and is guest edited by my former thesis advisor, the indefatigable Lynne Barrett.  I received my free contributor's copy in the mail today.  You don't get a free contributor's copy.  You can buy a copy at the link provided above.  And you should, because for as much as I hate poetry in general, this issue contains work from my friends, with whom I studied, and who made my time there at least bearable.  And it's noir-tinged, which is always cool. 

My poem isn't online.  So I'll reprint it here for you (but you should still shell out the lousy $3 for your own copy.  Y'know, to frame or something).  It's pretty fucking short (and I'll retain my original delineation, which was altered by Lynne to better fit the issue's theme).  Hope you like it.

                                          A South Florida Story

                                          I bludgeoned your abuela 
                                          beneath the bouganvilla,
                                          then dumped her body in the mangroves
                                          and walked my tiny dog.

Screw you, Miami.

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At September 27, 2011 at 7:59 AM , Blogger DSobczak said...

I couldn't help but laugh. You may not know this, but my wife is 50% Cuban. Her mom left Cuba just before Castro took over. So, my wife has many family members in and around Miami. I couldn't tell you anything about South Beach because every time I have gone to Miami, I might has well have been in Havana.

I do have a sense of humor about the place though. The first time I went was for a funeral and while we were at the funeral home, people placed fliers under our hotel room door.

I still have it somewhere. It was for a pizza joint near the hotel. In big bold letters across the top. It said, "WE SPEAK ENGLISH"

All I could do was laugh.

Ok so it really has nothing to do with your post but I never tire of telling that story.

At September 27, 2011 at 8:00 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Yeah, I was trying to get around saying that explicitly. But I guess it comes through, eh?

At September 27, 2011 at 8:18 AM , Blogger DSobczak said...

Sorry I guess I shouldn't have went there.

It is actually pretty funny because I feel sorry for my mother in law when we visit.

My wife speaks a bit of spanish and aside from profanity, I don't know much.

She gets so confused when talking to her family, because then she has to translate back to us what was being said. By the end of the trip she is speaking in Spanish to me.

It reminds me of when more of my Grandparents siblings were still alive. We'd go to Buffalo and they'd be screaming in Polish about everything.


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