Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ghosts

I got to my hotel outside Miami pretty late. I'd been entrapped in "secure" areas for almost ten hours, so I decided to explore the quiet stretch of Route 1 outside my air-conditioned tomb. Large American cars whizzed by. There were no pedestrians in sight, just two separate hispanic guys biking down the sidewalk, apparently coming home from work. A few people waited for a downtown train at the elevated platform across the street.

Not fifty feet from the entrance of my hotel, I spotted this...


...an ancient-looking concrete street sign embedded in the dead grass at the corner, the letters eerily calling out to the ghosts of the city's past. Calling back, in my imagination, to the time when the city was largely caucasian and agricultural and the original carpetbaggers came south to meet their fortunes. Now Miami is a totally mixed hodgepodge of humans. The agriculture is gone. The Cubans that the city became famous for have been supplanted by waves of northern retirees, suits, asians, central americans, etc. And each wave has shaped and nudged the city into its present form.

If there is one thing that American cities do, they change. I enjoy trying to understand the changes, and I try half-assedly to honor the ghosts of the past. Some American ghosts are horrible, and some are inert. But every square mile of America is haunted by something. I suppose the same could be said about anywhere, but many Americans willfully ignore this country's past, in favor of nothing, or, worse, in favor of neverending bourgeois obsessions with overseas ghosts.

But ignorance is bliss. Still thinking about that concrete street sign, which could be one year old or one hundred years old, I stepped into the only nearby business open, a TGI Friday's. I had a beer and two delicious sliders. In that frat boy-laden atmosphere, the only ghosts conjured were those of girls I didn't like anymore. I went back to the hotel.

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