Friday, June 03, 2005

The Miami Musings!

Stepping out of the Miami International Airport on a heavy Friday evening, this was my Memorial Day Weekend 2005. I was waiting for the dawn of Friday, May the 27 2005 like no other day. Months of work had taken its toll on the spirit of this inviterate young man :-)!!( so to say..). Waiting for me at the airport was my college buddy whom I had last seen 4 years ago hoping that she would recognise me enough to pick me up. I soon find myself in a well lit, spankingly clean apartment gorging on great home made pao bhaji, gossipping about the world and watching Swades. Wow wasnt that the dream start!!

Day 1 :- Frisky Alligators and the PDiddy Show

Miami has a different feel to it. For one the air is heavier and the sun hotter as compared to Bay area where I descended from. And hei, where are the ubiquitous desis?? I was hard pressed to find them here having used to seeing a bunch of them in Silicon Valley. The buildings have a different feel to it, with huge rows of them painted in yellow, orange and other seemingly 'Mexican' shades. And English aint that common here as every other person seem more comfortable saying 'Hola' to each other than a 'Hi'. Exploring Miami, we were off driving to experience the quintessential South Floridan ecoscape - the Everglades; a vast swath of marshes teeming with crocs, aligators, turtles and a whole bunch of species, I am not aware of. We were soon propelling at more than 30 miles/hour, on outrageously loud 'air boats' with our ears stuffed hoping to get a glimpse of the gators. After poring at the waters for more than an hour, the air boats were filled with occasional shrieks of happiness from tourists sighting a gator/turtle. Surprised as why some one would get so happy at seeing one of these reptiles, we next took what was termed as an 'Alligator Show'. I was not too sure at the end of the show whose show it was!!!

We had this lady who got herself into an enclosure, feeding a bunch of gators and describing the animal's prowess including its ability at biting the hands and legs off of a careless onlooker. If that was not enough she took out a 'baby gator' for tourists like us to feel, for a small charge of $3.Certain that I would not fall for that, I was goaded into the trap of holding these scaly ugly looking creatures. Never a man to shirk from a challenge, I went about doing the decidedly easy
thing of holding this gator in my hand for a picture. What ensued later was as my friend termed it a truly 'Kodak' moment. The silent, sobre looking gator, which till then was preening and sometimes even pissing at the camera suddenly seemed to think that it had found its 'kill' for the day. In one swoop it started moving its head towards it tail where it smelt a pair of awkward hands touching it.May be the gator thought my touch was less caressing than the ones before it, but that swift motion got me for a brief moment jumping out of its way leading to everybody out there having a laugh of their lives. For a brief moment I had taken the spotlight away from the gators in their native land and became a part of the Floridan folklore!!! I am sure my friends had now one more tale to recount and regale others for life.

Afer an eventful morning, the evening was decidely more Miami :-) a.k.a more of the hot spots and night clubs that Miami was famous for. Miami has a truly brilliant harbor drive and some of the most picteresque sea fronts u can see, dotted with private beaches and expensive villas. we got to hit the scenic Bay front, which certainly has a more romantic air to it.Filled with well dressed couples shaking their legs, teeming restaurants, salty air, cosy was hard not to feel great in such a locale. I believe no Miami trip is complete without the visit to South Beach, the party district of Miami and that was where he headed next. Reaching there we found ourselves to be the only desis in a sea of African Americans. We had no idea as to what was going on as the entire place was choc a bloc with a crowd that seemed more in a hurry and much less ready for a Memorial Day night out like us. It turned out later that PDiddy and Co had planned a massive party, out there without informing any of us!! Markedly, the crowd was hip-hop and the bars were overflowing and obscenely expensive.We also had this uniquely odd feeling of simultaneously being "overdressed and underdressed" for somebody at South Beach, jampacked with hip hop crazy fans. A lil dissapointed for having missed the real South Beach scene the junta turned back.Since we already had a few people yawning, we wound down an eventful day after a trip to the upmarket and trendy Coconut Grove. Left in the day's description are trips to Dennys,tropical food restaurants, gelato ice cream shops, road stunts, jam packed freeways and mandatory chai, naashtha and the constant chit chat :-)!!!

Day 2 - Duvall Street and the Beer - Cruise

After an expectedly late morning wake up, we were off to one of Miami's most famous 'neighborhoods' Key West. A 150 mile drive from Miami, the US-1 highway turns out into a beautiful 2 lane road flanked by seas on both sides. It seems like a must do drive for every die - hard romantic. The short 150 mile drive took us nearly 6 hours since everybody in US seemed to be driving towards the Keys that day, leading to packed roadways..We had a great time sitting inside the car killing the 6 hours of driving time, hearing music, fending off threats to drop me off at the Keys leaving me to swim to Cuba and talking about the world. By the time we reached the Keys it was late in the evening and the only 'attraction' left was a glass bottomed boat ride to view the reefs. Since the boat was to leave in another 5 minutes we had this feel of athletes on a 100 metre dash as we raced our car towards the harbor. As luck would have it we raced in the wrong direction :-)(thanks to some unique navigation) and we just reached in time to hear the boat had left us.

Never the ones to lose heart we next trekked to the heart of the Keys, Duvall Street. Its simply an awesome street, full of life, music, fun, food and beautiful people. Having missed the glass bottomed boat we decided on what seemed the next best thing, a Sunset Cruise. The cruise had all the trappings of romance laden evening for couples young and old, live music, free
beer and the chance to watch the sun go down on one of the most beautiful coasts in continental US.But what they had not accounted was for a group of desis to turn the party upside down.Filled with free beer, I let lose a torrent of desi moves on the unsuspecting tourists turning that romantic cruise into a desi party. Soon the cruise was full of people dancing their hearts off as the waves gently rocked the boat and the cruise owner was unsure as to what struck them ! Giving me company in this uniquely desi beer night out was my 'beer buddy' who
seemed to grow younger with every glass of beer. I was just on a complete high as photographs later proved, i had found friends in everybody whom I met on the cruise.It was one lovely evening and soon we found ourselves caught in every camera and camcorder on the cruise. I thus found myself as a part of Floridian folklore for the second successive day!. The night was complete with pizzas, mandatory shopping, photos at the southernmost point in US, and a trudge back to our cars.The drive back to Miami was markedly shorter, yet full of fun recounting the tales of the last 2 days.

Day 3- All good things come to an end

We did not sleep that nite as I had an early morning flight to catch. I had this very odd feeling come over me. It was worse than the thought of having to confront office and my manager the next day. During this short 2 day trip, I had a whale of time, was a part of so much fun and met some amazing people many of whom I had met for the first time in my life. It felt like home and it all seemed like one big family jamboree and it seemed to end too soon for my comfort :-(.. Guess if I had stayed a little longer my hosts would have kicked me out anyway!!! :-) This day was just about catching the flight back to SFO,
getting some sleep on-board, starving, and reminiscing about all the great things..At the end of the trip, i made up my mind... "Miami here I come again " :-) :-) :-)..(my hosts beware!!!)


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