Monday, 17 August 2009

Nervous first performance

Rather than launch in with comment or criticism, I think it is probably a good idea to introduce myself and the ideas behind this blog.
After much thought I have finally been persuaded to put fingers to keyboard and write my thoughts down. Since my daughter has been doing most of the persuading I imagine that she has had her fill of my stories and hypothesises over this long summer holiday. She has, I hasten to say, been stuck in an office with me whilst doing some work experience and this lengthy period has been eye-opening for both of us.

Memories tend to revolve around food, and dreaming of warm sunny days and warm sunny beaches reminds me of a pork sandwich. I am dredging back through more than 20 years of memories to a warm spring day on Miami beach. Every moment spent in the USA as a teenage traveller was filled with alien smells, sounds and experiences. It still astounds me that 2 lands with one common language can be so different. Later travels made me think of Australia as a bridge between the 2 countries with its' spacious landscapes and laid-back attitudes reflecting a similar vision to the small American towns I passed through in the 80s.
We arrived in Miami beach at 5am on a Tuesday morning in late winter. I had in my pocket the name of one guy in Miami, no address or phone number, just a name, but a lead for some casual work which we would need within a few days. A friendly American traveller who had been staying in a hostel on Venice Beach had given us the name, having recently made the reverse journey that we were shortly to undertake. It seemed highly improbable that we could do anything with this name, but the scrap of paper was worth it's weight in gold to us at the stage - it was, after all, our only contact.
Knowing no-one else but my travelling companion and having no ideas of what to do, we parked the drive-away Ford Escort (we lucked out - don't do it!) one block back from the beach, and shaking out our crumpled limbs, we smelt the air. Coffee, mmm, coffee. On the opposite corner there was a cafe, open but quiet. Although the coffee smelled great, I was desperate to dip my toes in the ocean. We had driven across the southern states in just 4 days from Los Angeles and the urge to see the Atlantic from 'the other side of the pond' was quite over-whelming.
We walked towards the sun rise and the beach. It was just like Miami Vice - indeed, we were there, on set (almost!) and a few blocks from that iconic police station watching the waves break on the steep sandy beach. It was beautiful, hypnotic but felt even more dream-like than L.A had done. The sea was cold but it felt great to be here. At that moment, I could suddenly feel every hour of the long drive across country and I felt exhausted lying on the beach in the weak morning sun.
We wandered back to the car and across to the now busy cafe. One lonely person sat at the counter but the booths were busy with locals drinking strong thick and sweet cuban coffee. There was a rotisserie grill outside with fat dripping & sizzling on the elements as whole chickens were lazily grilling like the early morning pensioners in the sun. On closer inspection, the chickens on the grill alternated with roasting pork joints and the rich fatty perfume cut through the coffee smells emanating from the hard working machine inside.
We fell into seats at the counter and ordered orange juice and long coffees - the local brew looked a little too strong at first. No matter, as we were served our first, and second cuban coffees. Feeling much stronger, i asked about the pork and what they did with it.
"Not ready" came the reply, "chickens at 10.30 but pork not ready till 11".
We gazed longily at the pillows of long soft bread and mentally set our watches to come back at 11. Ordering coffee number 3 I became aware of the guy next to us at the counter. He had been joined by someone else and seemed to be discussing rosters or schedules of some type. Curious, I tried to evesdrop but not too subtly as he soon glanced over his shoulder to see me peering over his to see what he was reading. Caught! I blushed and we laughed, an awkward pause followed so I apologised and introduced myself, about to launch into a outburst about who we were and what we were doing. Catching me before i started my first syllable, he turned around and reached out his hand "Paolo" he said by way of introduction. We shook hands and exchanged names, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the scrap of paper, "Paolo who?" I asked whilst reading the carefully written name on the paper - they matched! How could that happen?
Less than 3 hours later we had somewhere to stay in the hostel down the street, a job to start the next day and could relax for a while. The beds felt comfortable and cool, sleep quickly over took us, by the time we awoke and wandered back to the cafe, the grills were empty and the pork all gone.
"Tomorrow" said the guy behind the counter,"11am - and don't be late, it sells out quick."

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