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Archive for September, 2012

Hello Friends! It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted any new material to this blog and I am truly sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. So, as a way of an apology, I am including all of Chapter 6 here for your enjoyment. I wrote this piece at the end of the summer and I hope you’ll like it.

Cheers!

Jack Morgan

6

 We arrived in Miami last night. I was super excited when we finally reached Palm Beach County. As we drove further along I-95, we saw more and more city lights coming from the sprawling communities, which made up the major metropolitan area. We were ecstatic because not only did we feel like we reached modern civilization again, but we were also feeling nostalgic because this was our home environment, so it triggered memories for the two of us. Jacksonville is a large city, a great city, but it is nothing compared to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach combined. Together, they made a Goliath of South Florida. From the time you reach Jupiter, you see a larger highway and lights as far as the eye can see.

 Driving into Broward County got me more excited because I remembered all the times I went bar hopping along Las Olas Boulevard and clubbing in the Downtown party district with my friends. But the excitement I felt was imploding inside of me when I saw the skyscrapers of Downtown Miami. Observing the city skyline was like being in New York City; the buildings were all lit up and spread over miles. I imagined all the people dressed up and going to the clubs. It was almost 1 o’clock in the morning. In Jacksonville, the bars would be getting ready to close in an hour. At 2 a.m., everyone leaves the bars and either find a friend’s house to meet at so they can continue to party until the wee hours of the morning, you go to a diner for breakfast, or you go home – that’s it. Punto! But not here in Miami, people, or la gente – as we say – are just starting to come out from their pre-flight parties. We used to have drinks at my friend’s place in South Beach, near the Julia Tuttle Bridge, facing the city. We’d hang out at Purdy Lounge for a bit, then go back to his place to open a bottle of wine or something. Many times we’d split a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and Red Bull energy drinks. Then we’d take a cab to Crobar on Washington Ave, where we usually threw down 4 bills for a VIP section. Nowadays, everyone’s talking about Brickell, and the last hot spot, I heard, was Doloris, But you can call me Lolita. Seriously?! Is that really a name for a club? I guess after that, anything goes! I’ve been there a few times. A little too crowded for my taste, but it’s a good place to dance salsa or sit and chat with your friends on the patio.

 I could envision people parking in the city garage next to Publix and walking over to Blue Martini in Mary Brickell Village. The waitresses and barmaids would be wearing black spandex pants and a blue bustier, and the chicks going there to hook up with a stud would be showing their cleavage, no doubt, to make themselves look sexier than their competition. Miami had more sexy women than any other place on Earth.

 When we got to my friend’s apartment in Kendall, the people in the area were celebrating the Miami Heat’s big victory over Oklahoma in the NBA Championships. I had totally forgotten about the game tonight. People were honking their horns, others were parading along Kendall drive, near Bahama Breeze, with banners that read ‘go Heat’ and other things of that nature; it was an all-out celebration of their team’s victory over Oklahoma. King James finally got his Championship ring! And so did Chris Bosh. And D. Wade got another well deserved ring.

 We finally arrived at my friend’s apartment and, after carrying in our luggage, settled in for the night. The next day I woke up about 8 and drove over to La Carreta near SW 117th Ave. I had been craving a Cuban breakfast, which was café con leche, bacon and eggs, and Cuban bread con mantequia. My mesera, or waitress in English, was super hot. She looked about 19 or 20, black hair, Hazel brown eyes, a nice ass, big breasts, and a skinny waist. She was flirting with me when she came to the table. Cubans had an unspoken code here in the United States. We could immediately tell what kind of family you came from in the old country. Whether you were rich, poor, educated, a farmer, a hard worker or a bum, the person’s mannerisms, dialect, and word choice said it all. The waitress was flirting with me at this point when she came back to the table to check on me. She said ‘mi amor’ which was pretty common in our culture, but it’s even more flirtatious when a girl gives you the eyes. You can tell she likes what she sees and is waiting for you to make an attempt to win her over.

 I played it cool though and thanked her for the delicious breakfast. I said if I was not married, I would go back there everyday for such great service that she provided. And then I ordered take-out for the others, I knew America would love a café con leche and a couple of croquettas. I also managed to bring back some fresh fruit that I purchased from a street vendor next to the restaurant. Since we planned on going to the beach today, I figured America would want to eat healthy this morning. Maybe she wouldn’t eat the croquettas after all; she was always watching her figure. Which makes two of us, come to think of it.

 Speaking of watching figures, I knew I was going to have a hard time not looking at these chicks on the beach. They always wore g-strings and tanned topless. It’s great to have filet mignon at home, but every now and then a man wants to try a juicy, marinated churrasco with a delicious chimichurri sauce. And South Beach was just as I imagined, topless girls were everywhere laying upside-down, downside-up, and shining with coppertone tanning oil dripping down their hot bodies onto the towels. I was lucky to be wearing tinted sunglasses so that my wife couldn’t see where my eyes where checking out these babes. Man, they were smoking hot! Caliente!

 After we left the beach, America wanted something cold to drink, so we hit up the Clevelander for a frozen daiquiri. This bar was internationally known as a must-see in Miami Beach. So, of course, it was packed with tourists. We got our drinks and found a seat near the pool for a while. We were afraid to lose our seats if we both got up, so we took turns going to the restrooms. After a few rounds, we decided to give up our seats to an older German couple who looked like they’d been walking around all day. Then we strolled over to our car. It was time to go home and take a much needed shower to clear off all this sand in between our toes and everywhere else, especially places “where the sun don’t shine,” if you know what I mean. That night we had made plans to go out to dinner with my father-in-law, Steven, and my parents.

 My brother was supposed to meet us at the restaurant with his girlfriend too. I wasn’t sure how she looked because I hadn’t met her yet, but knowing him, she’d be a skinny Cuban girl with a curvy body. That was one of the things we had in common. America wanted to go to Bongos in downtown Miami so we could enjoy the skyline and get to dance Salsa, they changed the venue from dining to dancing at 10 o’clock every night. My parents advised us they couldn’t make it at the last minute. Apparently my Mom’s Aunt was very ill and she needed to watch over her at the hospital. My father agreed to drive her there because my mother doesn’t like driving in the dark.

 Bongos was a very popular restaurant in Orlando and this location was no exception. They made Cuban food that was more than just delicious. From the moment you walked in, your senses ignited from the aromas of Caribbean spices. If you never had roasted pork with mojo criollo, you were missing out, Papa! The smell of garlic, bay leaves, green peppers and onions, sautéed in olive oil, mixing with black beans and white rice permeated the air, seducing your stomach. I could already taste the fried golden-brown platanos and yucca con mojo. If you don’t know what heaven is like, come to Miami and eat this food.

 After we were seated, the waiter, an older man of about 50 something, slicked back black hair, wearing a pair of black slacks, a white long-sleeve Cubavera shirt, and a red bandana wrapped around his neck like a tie, asked if we would like something from the bar to start with. He had his assistant bring us a basket of toasted Cuban bread, pre-sliced and dripping with melted butter, which disappeared in seconds. We were going to make sure to ask for two baskets for the next round. The restaurant was busy tonight, so the atmosphere was energetic and invigorating. I could sense that Steven and America were happy. I ordered a bottle of Grey Goose for everyone at the table and asked for both orange and cranberry juice mixers.

 Steven asked for a traditional Mojito, he said he hadn’t had one in a while and was craving it all evening. The DJ was playing salsa music in the background and there were several couples vigorously dancing to the tune. Lebron was there making a special appearance to celebrate his success. He and his entourage had a large VIP section blocked off with extra security and Gloria Estefan was there making a special appearance with the group. She sent over a bottle of Blue Label to our table. My parents had supported her and the Miami Sound Machine when they were first starting out. Too bad my parents weren’t there to enjoy it.

 “So, Leo, how is your supermarket doing in Jacksonville? Is the business coming along well?,” asked Steven.

 “Oh, it’s doing very well, sir. We are already showing nice profits, amazingly enough. We thought we would be operating in the red into our second year while ramping up our marketing campaign, getting the word out and so. But word of mouth has really caught on through social media in the community. With facebook and twitter, plus our Hispanic radio ads, we’ve already developed a good residual customer base and surpassed earnings to recapture our start-up costs, as well as exceed the daily cost of doing business.”

 “That’s very good news, Leo. I’m happy for you and glad to hear it. And America, how’s the teaching business?,” inquired Steven.

 “Well, you know, it’s the same routine as it was here with the exception of my students’ actually using ‘yes, ma’am’ when they responded to me.”

 “That’s better than the lack of manners which is too pervasive in our public schools down here. Manners such as those are considered an antiquity in Miami, as is the case in most urban school districts. The relinquished yoke of censorship, coupled with the ubiquitous movement of academia to handle adolescents with kid gloves, has fostered a systematic challenge for teachers to operate in. It may seem to you that such behavior is a new phenomenon. Sadly, though, teachers have been experiencing similar changes in manners since the mid-twentieth century. The modernist movement lead to the creation of new individuals, detached from social values, isolated from their fellow man.

“My research in exile studies has countless examples of displaced victims of the two world wars whom, as a whole, teach us that when you uproot people from their natural home environment, they become unstable. And as individuals, have metamorphosed, societally, first into the avant-garde, or to a lesser degree, the vanguards, an experimental and innovative group of individuals who pushed the boundaries of the norm, or the status-quo. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Wolf, written in the 1920s, and Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House, are both stories about the modern woman who surfaced in the Victorian Period, challenging the position of women in the modern world. No longer would they be deemed chattel, possessions of men. Then there was the second phase of evolution of the human psyche. If what I first described was termed by scholars to be the ‘modernist’ movement, then the next period of the 20th century can be, and is, by the Academy, termed as the post-modern movement. Works such as The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, in the 1940s, and Rebel Without A Cause, directed by Nicholas Ray, starring James Dean, were examples of the beginnings of the post-modern movement.”

Everyone sat in reverence as Stephen spoke. They were thinking about getting “buzzed” and hitting the dance floor, in the back of their minds, but continued to listen attentively.

 “The vanguards, or at least a percentage of them, discontent with the new status quo, advanced to surrealism, the most extreme form of modernism. Surrealists expressed a revolutionary way of thinking, using surprise, juxtapositions, and non-sequiter logic. A definitive example of this type of surrealism is in literature, such as the writing of The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. More disturbing to me was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a play that depicted mankind is living a barbaric and insignificant existence while waiting for God to intervene, inferring that there is no God and no point to our lives. Such is a nihilistic aspect of the human experience.” Steven paused for a minute.

 “From political to scientific discourse, the individual has been further distanced from the more conservative Kantian worldview to the existential worldview surfacing in post-World War Europe and America. In the mind of the realist of the 1890s, one postulated ‘this is the right thing to do,’ whereas, the individual in the first half of the 20th century pondered, ‘what is the right thing to do?’ Since the second half of the twentieth century, the individual in our post-modernist society expresses the sentiment, ‘the right thing to do is – whatever.’ In essence, whatever means to do what you want to do and who cares about what everyone else thinks.”

 “To complicate matters further, the more sophisticated artists of the early twentieth century, such as James Joyce and T.S. Eliot inhibited the accessibility to their creative works of literature by the mainstream culture through obscure writing reserved for interpretation and analysis by the elitists of the time. This polarized audiences into two camps: the mainstream, now known as the popular culture and the elite culture. It didn’t take long for capitalists to understand that marketing to the mainstream was a larger, more profitable market. They began packaging art for the pop culture and marketed the ideals of individualism and self-expression. The individual developed a new sense of identity through the purchase of logos.” Steven took a sip from his glass.  

 “Meanwhile, elitism was demonized, the mass culture no longer trusted social institutions, which were the bedrock for the prior generation, nor were they willing to serve or accept the institutions. Our social institutions demanded that we had to be good and responsible citizens, even to the point of death in the great world wars. Such thinking didn’t qualify as worthy of their lives to the modernists, and they were not interested in being victims of the ‘powers-that-be.’ This loss of traditional ideals, the influence of pop culture and the modern you, propelled the individual in society to self-indulgence. Icons became logos, and people bought logos, developed new identities and de-rooted themselves from the social institutions and community, subsequently leading to a retreat from religion as authority, from social mores, and onto individualism.”

 America inquired, “But how does all of that lead to the behavior of adolescents in public schools today, Daddy?”  She was admiring her father’s evaluative and comprehensive rhetoric.

 “Well, the twentieth century was a time of experimental radicalism, of free expression, such as the case of the 1960’s free love movement; it was a time of rejecting tradition and conservative ideals. The hype of individuality permeated through our American society by the end of the 60’s and the nuclear family gave way to the revolution of the post-modernists; the individual in society became more self-indulgent, causing isolationism to increase. Censorship eventually decreased, providing more access for pop culture to indulge in things that were once deemed taboo. What followed could be defined as the degradation of societal values and mores in American culture. Our social institutions were reframed after the Civil Rights movement, breaking down barriers for the disenfranchised, giving more liberties to individuals for equality and self-expression. Concurrently, there were philosophical challenges to pedagogical epistemology. The individual was free to examine the metaphysical dogmas of world religions, which led to a buffet-like approach to spirituality.”

 “To answer your question, dear, these changes in our society have caused a binary shift; students are now right, even when they are wrong; and when students are wrong, they are taught that, in some way, they are still right. Such student empowerment diminishes the teacher’s ability to effectively teach. Moreover, this hinders the teacher’s ability to teach morality to one’s students because of the fear of coercion, since morality is now subjective to the individual and not ubiquitous throughout society. And because the post-modern student is not held morally accountable for their actions, they oftentimes choose behaviors that are not conducive to their learning, such as listening to their ipod in class, texting their friends, or socializing on facebook, twitter, and so forth,” continued Steven.”

 I was getting bored of this intellectual talk. I needed to dance or my mind was going to explode on the table. But I didn’t want to take America away from her father, so I asked Sammy’s girlfriend to dance. “Lexie, queres bailar?”

 “Okay,” she said, as she scooted out of the booth. She stood up on a pair of long golden-tanned legs, wearing black, diamond-strewn stilettos, and met up with a little black dress that accentuated Lexie’s sexy, curvy figure. She was petite, with skinny arms and legs, a slim waist and tight stomach, but she had a nicely figured bubble butt and a pair of boobs that reminded me of a Barbie doll. They were most likely breast implants, which are common in Miami, and I personally prefer implants over natural breasts larger than a size C because they are more firm. Either way, I’m sure my brother, Sammy, is happy to be sleeping with Lexie. She has a beautiful face that reminds me of Kim Kardashian because of her long, black hair, high cheekbones, Persian eyes, slim eyebrows and long lashes, and sultry medium-sized lips that were seductively open, accentuating her heavy breathing during our body’s close proximity while dancing to a Bachata song, following the rhythm’s intuitive instructions. While we were dancing to our third set, a current hit by a Miami artist, Pitbull, which was preceded by a popular song by Celia Cruz, we were interrupted by Sammy and America who had come on the dance floor to join us. I danced with my wife while Sammy eagerly jumped onto sexy Lexie.

 It wasn’t long before Steven began assessing his situation, he was sitting alone in a night club while everyone else was either dancing, having wine, or dining with their significant others. Was it acceptable for him to want to call Susan in this moment, he pondered. What about the visions of Mercedes? It had been some time since his last vision of her, causing him to reflect on their authenticity. Was his mind playing tricks on him, or did he have a supernatural encounter? If it was real, then why hasn’t it happened again since?

 Maybe his visions were finally over with and it was okay for him to get on with his life. He thought about calling Susan, but he wasn’t sure how she would respond to him after he was M.I.A. for so long. However, considering the quality of their previous dates, Steven inferred that she would be receptive of his call. She might be apprehensive to go on a date with him, but was likely to concede. Steven retrieved his cell phone from his front pocket and scrolled through his contacts until he came to Susan’s name. He selected the green text message button and proceeded to type her a note.

 Hi, Susan. Sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long. Was feeling guilty of being attracted to you. Felt like I was being unfaithful to Mercedes. Anyway, I’m close to your place… @ Bongos w/ America & co. Love to have your company if avail…

 Steven reviewed his text message, then hit the send key. He set the phone down on the table near the half-empty mojito he’d been working on, the mint leaves were now near the bottom of the cocktail glass. A few minutes later, Susan responded.

 “Give me thirty minutes.” Mission accomplished, he thought. But am I making the right choice? What would America think? Guess I’ll know soon enough.

 Steven sat there admiring the dancers on the floor. He wanted to be young again, like them. He wanted to dance like them. But he was older now, his body could not move the way those young guys could move theirs, even though he had kept himself in reasonably good shape. The entourage returned to the table to rest and refuel on the bottle of vodka. A cocktail waitress came over with a couple of appetizers that Steven had ordered for everyone to share. After the group finished eating, while stacking the plates for their server, the doorman escorted Susan toward their direction.

 My wife looks happy to see her father having a good time with Susan. She was always worried about him being alone here in Miami. When we were in Jacksonville she told me that she hoped his relationship with Susan would develop into something long-term. She didn’t want her father living alone. By 3 o’clock I was feeling seriously exhausted from too much sun at the beach, too many drinks at the bar, and too much sweating on the dance floor. And the music was so loud that I heard a continuous ringing in my ears. I wondered how on Earth could the bartenders and waitresses deal with this loud music every night. I told America that it was time to go and we said bye to Sammy, Lexie, Susan and Steven. Then we headed to my parent’s house in Westchester for the night, which was much closer than my friend’s place in Kendall. One more day in Miami, then we’d be heading back to Jax so I could check on the supermarket.

 After everyone left Steven was able to unwind with Susan. He felt tense being around her and his daughter at the same time, even though America encouraged it. He could not stop thinking about his wife.

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