Thursday, January 22, 2004

Red machine blog.

When my business was done -- interviews conducted, sessions attended, and business-flavored small talk made -- it was time to make use of my free time. I had an afternoon and the next morning before returning to the frozen North.

In a situation like that the thing to do is focus. I'd never been to greater Miami, or any closer to it than Orlando, but I'd studied the area fairly closely back in 1995 as an employee of the Map Group, which makes fold-out tourist maps. It was during my short stint with that company, in fact, that I acquired an interest in some domestic destinations that had never resonated with me before. Among these was Miami.

(The Map Group is still in business, operating as Compass Maps in Bath, England. If you ever see a Map Group PopOut map of Chicago, that's essentially my work, with various updates since 1995 to reflect changes in the city. I drew the map by hand, and one of the artists in England copied it into publishable format using a PowerMac. I also made contributions to the New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas maps.)

So I had to pick one place among the many intriguing places in Miami and environs. I chose Miami Beach.

The more interesting way to get there probably would have been a road called Florida A1A, a two-lane that runs right down the coast. I decided that could wait for the next morning, and I headed down from Boca on the fast road -- the relatively fast road, considering heavy traffic -- I-95. I can't pretend it's an especially interesting road, but it got me to Miami Beach, with a turnoff on the Julia Tuttle Causeway, in time for lunch.

My vehicle for the trip was a novelty for me, too. At the Enterprise rental car outpost near the Ft. Lauderdale airport, the cheap car that I had reserved, a Neon I think, wasn't ready for me when I showed up. So the solicitous staff offered me an '03 Mitsubishi Endeavor, no extra charge. I couldn't pass that up: my chance to drive something I would never buy, an evil SUV. Better yet, it was metallic red, though I knew that meant I would have to be more careful than usual to obey speed limits.

The Endeavor isn't the largest of SUVs, however, and seemed to handle reasonably well. I didn't do any kind of driving that would test an SUV's propensity to roll over, and since I drive a Sienna at home, this red machine I'd rented didn’t seem all that expansive.

It had a fine sound system. I headed down I-95 and sampled South Florida radio. Not as distinctive as I'd like, radio never is, since it's been famously standardized by unimaginative media companies. Picked up the usual English-language genre radio, plus Spanish stations that I'll bet are every bit as standardized as the English. But not far out of Boca I picked up a station that I couldn't quite place.

It sounded like a talk show. A couple of men were talking, anyway, but it wasn't English and it wasn't Spanish. But what was it? It sounded like... French. But not entirely. French, in South Florida? Then it hit me. It had to be Haitian Creole. But I can't be completely sure, since the only Haitian Creole I know is tonton macoute.



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