We pull the car onto US-1 out of the parking garage in Sunset Place and turn the music down, the bass from the subwoofer in the trunk dwindling to a low rumble. We’ve just left the theater and we’re heading to South Beach. This was the plan from the get go: pre-movie drinks, movie, then post-movie drinks at the Clevelander, maybe, or just grab a bottle of Captain from Fox’s and post-up in the car near the sand, checking out the women and generally making fun of other people checking out the women. Like they’ve never seen a Spanish chick before.
Rob’s driving, Joe’s in the back seat, and as we hit traffic near Grand Avenue, the music’s back up again, the trunk of Rob’s Ford Escape rattling.
Yes, this was the plan, couple of drinks and a movie before heading out for the night to test our eardrums and act like we don’t give a shit people are glaring at us.
The plan doesn’t dictate the mood though, and there’s a pleasant hum of energy in the car from the film we just saw. Sure, it’s partly because it was an action movie and we’re action movie aficionados; Transporter 2 with Jason Statham running across the screen for an hour and a half, kicking eight, nine, ten guy’s asses at a time. It was all ridiculous and overly choreographed and highly unbelievable and extremely fucking entertaining. Crazy shit. Wish we could fight like that, have hot ass chicks throwing themselves at us like that, live like that generally. Never mundane, always exciting.
None of this is exactly why we’re buzzing though. We’re buzzing partly because of the alcohol we already drank before the movie, but mostly because of the imagery, the set pieces, the extras, that (fake accent) Jamaican taxi driver and the camera angles showing the highways and the people and the ocean and the initials on the sides of the cop cars: MDPD.
Location, location, location.
Transporter 2 took place in Miami, our hometown, and we’re both proud as hell and anxious of the fact.
“That house, man,” Joe says. “That house they were living in. Shit was over on Star Island.” I turn the music down and look at him and he shakes his head. “Wonder how much it cost them to rent the shit?”
“They always do that,” Rob chimes in. “Make it look like everybody in Miami lives on South Beach.”
“Dude was a millionaire,” I say.
“Exactly,” he says. “Make it look like everybody’s millionaires down here.”
We’re all silent for a moment as Rob takes a detour, headed down Rickenbacker Causeway towards Key Biscayne. We don’t say anything, ask any questions, just turn the music back up and put the windows down, open the sunroof even though it’s nighttime. Heading this way wasn’t exactly part of the plan; then again, it’s become normal enough procedure week-in and out that it doesn’t feel out of place. Every once in a while Rob’ll get in the mood to sight-see, and we’ll go along with him, drive around and stare at the lights, pontificating and theorizing and generally starting a course of discussion that’ll likely last all night.
Passing over the causeway, Downtown Miami stares back at us, the lights reflecting so bright off the bay it’s like there’s a whole new species of fish down there, glowing and star-shaped. From here it looks almost like Vegas, or the way they portray Vegas in the movies. I don’t believe for a second it’s actually like that though. I know how deceitful lights can be, all that flash and glamour. Downtown Miami’s beautiful from here, across the water, picturesque and towering to the sky. The streets are hidden over here though, as are the homeless people and crackheads littering the blocks like old newspaper pages.
But from here, it’s easier to believe the city’s as beautiful as the rest of the country seems to think it is.
“You know people fight to come here?” I say. “They save up all year, all their paychecks just to pay for a vacation to come here.” I sigh. “And I can’t wait to get the hell out.”
“Don’t know what you talking about,” Joe says then sucks his teeth. “I ain’t going nowhere. I love Miami, man. Most beautiful fucking city in the world. All that money and pussy down here, man. Fuck you want to go somewhere else for?”
Rob stays quiet, and we keep driving, following the plan. And the plan is to keep driving until we get to Miami Seaquarium, then pop a u-turn and head back to I-95, then South Beach via MacArthur Causeway, the highway location of so many car chase and car race and just-plain-car-driving scenes in so many blockbuster movies, Bad Boys One and Two and 2 Fast 2 Furious and Out of Time and the recently viewed Transporter 2.
The plan is to drive down MacArthur past Palm Island and Hibiscus Island and Star Island where the list of residents includes or has included such celebrities as Shaquille O’Neal, Will Smith, Madonna, P. Diddy, Lenny Kravitz, Oprah, and many, many more.
The plan is to bypass all of this not by choice but out of necessity and head to South Beach where we can never tell whether or not the dude driving the Maserati or Lamborghini Diablo or SL-Class Benz owns the car or leases it or just rented the damn thing for the weekend to compete with the Big Dawgs.
The plan is to park at one of the coveted parking meters on Ocean Ave, where the sound of the ocean constantly cheers in the background and where, every once in a while, there’ll be a murmur that’ll travel through the crowd like pepper spray until it reaches us and we overhear a group walking by, one guy leaning over to another and saying something like “bruh, that Maybach over there, Jay-Z’s in the back, ‘bout to head to Mansion,” and you’ll look over and the massive car will be sitting there dark and ominous, surrounded by people waiting in line for some club and trying to act like they’re not staring, either because they’re jaded or because they don’t want the jaded people to make fun of them.
And none of this will really matter anyways, because for tonight the plan is simply to be painfully aware of all this, of what other people see when they look at Miami. And—at some point—either that realization or the alcohol will consume us for the night, to the point where we’ll repeat the same statements over and over again, all the reasons we use to convince ourselves none of it matters, that we don’t need all these things, that all we do need is our balls and our word and all these people are insecure for thinking anything else.
And in the end not even that will matter, because by time we get home tonight, back to our places down in Perrine and Cutler Ridge, our parent’s middle-class homes piled next to other people’s middle-class homes, by time we fall asleep and wake up tomorrow and clean our rooms and help our moms with the groceries and cut our lawns and go to work and make plans to head out again tomorrow night, by then we’ll have forgotten what it felt like to see the other side. By then Miami will have gone back to just being our hometown, and it’ll be easier to believe none of this shit exists.