Tuesday, March 25, 2008

South Beach: Requiem or Rhapsody?

Wild Urban Miami Beach Thing

"When the quest to fill your inner emptiness by appropriating something from outside becomes desperate, repetitive, or automatic you have what is called an addiction." -- Edmund J. Bourne, The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook

Addiction. That's brilliant. There's no better way to describe my relationship to this place. I was addicted to the idea of the beach, even though, two and half years ago, I started this blog in a process that was really the beginning of the end. I had some kind of unnatural attachment to the island and everything it represented -- a life of longing, a life of being single with no responsibilities, a life of flotsam and jetsam, minus the consequences. A life of cocktails, minus the hangovers. A life of tourism, a life of running away, traveling to and from my own life -- except that doesn't really work, because living life, you're not a tourist. A life with an "excuse" for sex, minus the real sex, the real intimacy, minus the body of the beloved, the reality of physical contact and the responsibility for another's heart ... well, I say this all with many grains of salt ... because I lived South Beach in my twenties and thirties, and lived it well. I was loved. And I did love. Loved well ...

However, I was shoring up in heavenly, gilt- and guilt-ridden sunrises -- my life was being dragged toward the undertow, with no one to swim in the riptide . . . at the end of the day. It's this time ... the end of the day time ... these liminal, transitional moments in our lives when we really appreciate who's around, right?

In my time living on Miami Beach, I have known many addictions. You may assume I'm referring to your run of the mill substance abuse -- drugs, alcohol -- but no, the substance is just a choice. What are you really addicted to? It's that and so much more. There's something about this place that creates addiction in a deeper, spiritual, existential sense, which is true of so many spaces we inhabit as individuals.

For me, the island, hanging on by a grain of sand to the vast ocean, has become a prison. This island of everyone else's vacation has become my invisible, walled-in cloister.

In my time living in this place, I have witnessed lives that were addicted to so many things ... women, addicted to low self-esteem, babies that have been born from this, children that were supposed to validate a shallow life; I've known men addicted to photographs, holding on to the illusory reality of image; I've known people so sullen who were addicted to body types instead of their hearts -- "I can't love you if you don't match up to this specific detail" -- people forever giving themselves a broken heart -- this is what really breaks my heart, actually, this ability we have to make shipwreck even in calm seas -- and yes, I've known people who didn't even know they had broken someone else's heart; I've invested in meaningful yet transient friendships that have been broken suddenly, like a twig snapping off a branch; I've known good businesses that have come and gone, like the bead and coffee shops on Lincoln Road before the gentrification tourism process (hey, it's what Carl Fisher wanted in the first place, so I'm not complaining); I've caught and slaughtered fish; I've known so many superficial details about this place, but damn it, I've also known deeper things -- deeper things running far lower, unfathomable in these shores ... and because of this, I don't regret a breath I've drawn as a citizen of Miami Beach.

But most importantly, I've seen this as blank canvas for egos to flourish and draw their own demise ... or rebirth. I could go on and on ... but what would be the point?

And this is why I can't decide if my leaving this particular geographic location is a requiem or a rhapsody. Because part of me wants to sing to this place; yeah, like Walt Whitman, I'm going to sing Song of Myself because I can, because I have the luxury and pleasure of writing poetry, prose and some such other words in this blessed island by the ocean.

And this place (which has nothing to do with the literal Miami Beach, geographically speaking) will always be inside me. You see, Manola is going to thrive, no matter where she goes -- "a little me, a little Miami Beach" -- isn't circumscribed by location. Sex and the Beach has always been a state of mind, not a place . . . the characters I have created have always been of this world and not limited to this island.

I've always argued that blogs must develop organically like life; this is what makes good writing -- sharing your experience, even if under a semi-fictional veil -- experience that is still grounded in authentic, lived life, life that is raw, unabashed, smelly, broken, half-assed, saintly yet questionable, a life that is not formulaic, but questioning, raising eyebrows always -- this life, this life on this island ... what is your life? Seriously. Your life, beyond your blog, beyond web 2.0, your life as it is, raw, plain and simple -- this is the organic fodder of good writing. And is not every man and woman -- at the end of the day -- an island?

I may be moving to the mainland, but I'll be here again. Just expect some new inflections, new voices, new locales ... the world is my oyster, want a sip?

I'm proud of my life, damn it. Join me in this plenitude, this abundance ... the ocean really is vast.


Sinfonian said...

If I could write half as well as you, I'd be happy. A tremendous essay, Manola ... I hope you are happy in your new location -- and your new destinations to come.

Gus Moore said...

Beautiful post, Manola.

wtanders said...

Very good post, it reminds me of the first couple of times I read you blog. There is stability in change, it is nature's way (seasons, day to night, etc.).

The Hen said...

Mamita! Maria! Manola! Beautiful and much, much joy whenever you lay your head...but you still have to go to the beach with me one day.

Sarah said...

Best of luck wherever you may go - can't wait to follow along...

James Burnett said...

Nicely done. I haven't been by for a while. But whenever I catch up on your posts, I'm always impressed w/the thoughtful nature of your writing. Good luck wherever you decide to call home next.