As much as I love to hate on Miami, there’s no doubt that it’s home. Whether I’m gone for a couple of months or a couple of years, whenever I come back, I remember all the little things that make it home.
Home feels like a cafe con leche and tostada in the morning. It’s the guy selling bottles of water and plantains at a major intersection. It’s a slice at Casola’s after a night out. It’s brunch at Yardbird. And it’s getting cut off of bottomless mimosas, and sleeping all of Sunday afternoon because you brunched too hard. It’s a frita and Materva from El Rey de las Fritas. It’s the food truck meet up in Wynwood. It’s El Palacio de los Jugos in Hialeah. It’s driving all the way to Homestead to get cinnamon buns from Knaus Berry Farm.
Home is the Cuban grandmother waiting for the bus in Little Havana with her walking cane and a bag of groceries. It’s all the guys that whistle at me from their car when I’m walking down the street. It’s the sharply dressed business men and women of Coral Gables who take two-hour “business” lunches. It’s the professionals of Brickell out at Happy Hour before hitting the gym. It is the bewildered, disheveled guy limping down Lincoln Road on a hot day.
Home feels like blind rage after a guy driving 60 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood cuts you off. It is the inconvenience of having to take a long detour on the highway because Miami is always under construction. It’s the rude sales girl that doesn’t want to look up from her phone to ring up my beer. It’s long lines for clubs you don’t even really want to go to. It’s RSVPing to get in free at some pop-up vodka party in the Design District.
Home is the pillowy sand of Miami Beach. It’s the clear warm water that makes me want to cry from joy to be stepping into again. It’s the family of 25 that’s camping out next to me listening to terrible reggaeton music. It’s the oppressive heat, and the respite of walking by an open doorway blasting the AC on high. It’s the feeling of salt in my hair after being in the ocean. It’s my car full of sand.
Home is speeding on I95 on the way to a show. It’s the exasperation of being gridlocked on US1 in the middle of the day. It’s paying $15 for parking and then kicking yourself for not taking an Uber. It’s the way the bay looks from the MacArthur. It’s getting into a fender bender with an uninsured driver who is going to pretend to be injured. It’s singing at the top of my lungs to the radio to make the commute bearable. It’s every asshole that parks in two spots in a packed garage. It’s thousands of bicyclists descending on Wood Tavern after Critical Mass.
Home is endless rows of high-rises full of expensive and empty condos. It’s Wynwood Walls. It’s every legendary defunct concert venue and bar, because business owners can’t afford rent any more than we can. It’s midnight movies at Coral Gables Art Cinema. It’s how PAMM Third Thursdays doesn’t have the same ring to it as Jam at the MAM. It’s the half-demolished ArtCenter South Florida building, that was vacated only to become its own sad exhibition of Miami’s cultural and financial decay. It’s Churchill’s and Purdy Lounge, which will somehow survive even after this entire city sinks into the Atlantic.
Home is the pharmacist your family knows that can get you prescriptions for whatever you want. It’s the guy you went to high school with that made a career out of selling weed. It’s the only gay guy who is allowed to do your hair. It’s the street musicians that bang on buckets and trash cans outside the Triple A after a Heat game. It’s our mediocre sports teams and the fans that suddenly have 4 Marlins flags on their car when they’re in the playoffs; the same flags they’ve had in the closet since 2003.
But mostly, home is my dog’s ecstatically happy reaction when he hasn’t seen me in a few months. It’s getting together with friends to have potluck Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the summer. It’s my mom calling me to ask me if I’m going over and what I want to eat. It’s getting together to color and complain about life. It’s getting wine drunk and staying up on a Thursday just to laugh for hours with the people you love. That’s the best part of Miami, and the only one I never take for granted.
It’s ridiculous and sometimes downright infuriating, but this cesspool of a city is my home. And there’s no place like home.