I sit awkwardly on the edge of a large plastic pot with a five foot crooked palm tree perturbing from it. My posture can not look comfortable or very lady like, but the funny tree provides some much needed shade after a day on the beach that turned my stomach and chest lobster red. The palm tree is on the center pier at Miami Beach Marina next to an impressive looking stainless steel prep table with inlaid cutting boards. It’s Saturday afternoon and the sun and humidity are blazing, but a slight breeze from the water offers some relief and makes my hot arms bubble with goosebumps. It’s the second day of the the Miami Beach Billfish tournament and the Winter Music festival has brought a spectrum of freaks, geeks, and ravers to Miami for the weekend. The dock holds a mixed crowd of sports fishermen in logoed long-sleeved T-shirts and visors, pre-teens in too small bikinis, wondering hipsters from multiple eras, platform heeled leggy women, and the standard salty marina cast of characters that are far from standard in their own right. I sit sipping from a can of beer and watch Dre, a friend and chef, work a few pieces of fresh caught calamari into thin rings with a very sharp knife. As quickly as they appear the squid slip into a stainless steel bowl stashed within a red cooler full of ice sitting at my feet. Dre stirs the bowl of ceviche already chocked full of shrimp, lime juice, onions, and a mess of herbs and secrets. He has been cooking for five hours and shrimped for another three the last night to harvest the meal. The lid slams closed and spoon in hand he waves and mumbles, “one more hour one more hour don’t touch!” To appease our appetites and my fellow vaulters roaming around Dre’s seemingly legendary cook top he sets a tupperware container of orange creamy dip with dozens of whole peeled shrimp on the dock box across the way. This gesture is no doubt partially to taunt some of the spectators away from the cook space and into the sun. It works on me. I sit right next to the dip and spoon a heap onto a cracker. It is delightfully heavy and the freshness of the small shrimp caught a few peirs away as they “ran“ the night before burst in your mouth. I take another and then retreat back to the shade thankful, happy to be among friends and food, and excited for more to appear.
Meanwhile Dre joggs 30 yards down the dock to a hot plate set up on another dock box with a bubbling pot of alfrado sauce. He adds cheese and milk sets it to simmer and hikes back to the prep table. I’m chatting with Bob, the captain of the yacht two slips down the dock. His blonde hair is shaved short and his face is only slightly pink. Through out the afternoon passers bye cut into the circle of conversation to make cracks about New Jersey, Bobs home and heritage which he is very willing to defend. The dock feels like it is a day being played over again. It is obvious that this community knows each other very well and everyone has their roll in this boys world. The same stories and jokes roll off tongs as if rehearsed. This ore of casual relaxation, approaching summer, and Saturday settle over all of us. There are no more fish to be caught, boats to be cleaned, or dilemmas to dance with. I don’t say much, I smile a lot, and make a few cracks about the ravers infiltrating the beach. The whole thing makes me miss Little Harbour and being a part of a revolving cast of characters and quirky community.
The main corse is on it’s way. Dre is laying out paper plates on the work top and then shuffling down the dock with a big pot of pasta. Next comes the sauce, chopped mushrooms, and whole pan sauté prawns. It all goes onto the plate plus some parsley on top. A plate is handed off to me. It is rich, good, and flavorful. After seeing the man at work I’m not surprised he can put it all together on the dock. Dre is smiling and his latin hospitality is in full force, “you’ve got to eat something man.” After a few more beers we dig into the ceviche and I’m reminded how much I love lime and fish. The night and my sunburn ware on me until I say my good byes and leave early. I’m happy to be given a little window into this world. This is only one of the many moments over the last month that slowly shift my opinion of Miami. Most of it isn’t even my own doing. I’ve resisted digging beneath the ugly exterior for a long time, but new friends are getting me out and opening my eyes. For that I’m thankful.
Miami Beach, FL