An extract from ‘Next Exit Magic Kingdom’
Miami Beach, Monday 10th – I didn’t want to go clubbing. After the 500 mile drive from the Panhandle I planned a quiet night: a pepperoni pizza, a swim in a motel pool, a movie on HBO. But it didn’t work out that way.
‘I’m sorry?’ I say.
I am trying to buy gas on Collins Avenue when the freckled redhead in a strapless number bounces up wearing a brand new pair of scarlet fuck-me pumps.
‘You’re Niles from Frasier,’ she says.
‘I’m Rory from Yetminster.’
‘I love South Beach,’ she cries, swinging across the forecourt. She isn’t a day older than twenty. Confident, candid, bedazzled. ‘You meet all the stars here.’
I couldn’t look less like a star: clip-on dark glasses, rumpled clothes, pina colada yoghurt spilt down my t-shirt.
‘We saw Gloria Estefan yesterday,’ she tells me. ‘And we’ve heard that Stallone’s in town. Hey, Mitch, it’s Niles.’
‘No shit,’ says Mitch. Her boyfriend has mastered the black art of Miami petrol pumps. I am yet to learn that they are switched on only after surrendering a credit card. He reaches out to shake my hand. ‘Man, we love your show. But you look thinner on TV.’
‘You just hanging out?’ the girl asks.
‘I’ve just arrived.’
‘You caught up with Sylvester yet?’
I pulled off the Dolphin Expressway and suddenly everyone was chilling out, catching rays or speaking Spanish. Latino matrons walk under parasols. Blade Runner cops ride in-line skates. Buff boys burnish themselves to a perfect sheen. Young blacks sport baggies low on their hips, exposing Calvin Kline boxers and a line of pubic hair. Here are bronzed skin, firm bums and melanoma. Hunchbacked old ladies drive gull-winged Thunderbirds. Yellow-haired bohunks squeeze into elastic cycle shorts. Miami Beach is an Art Deco feast of pink and ochre, of turquoise balconies and folly towers, of beach-front hotels called Winterhaven and The Tides. It is the coolest place to be seen on the planet, according to Tanya and Mitch.
‘It’s a head-fry,’ says Tanya.