The area was horribly seedy. The bar was at the side of one of those wide roads you see in the films with the soulless 7/11 shops and Neon advertisements shooting into the sky. It was sandwiched between a sex shop and a tattooist and had “entrance round the back” written on the door, which made me shudder.
Our taxi driver was asked to wait whilst we had a peer inside. It was like something from the Dead Ringer For Love video, but without Cher to spice things up. There was a curiously musty aroma and it was plain that the guys inside had been sitting there since the late 1970s, allowing the hair to grow on their heads and bodies without any pruning or topiary. It was absolutely beyond words, so we made a hasty retreat and sat in the taxi trying to work out where to head next. The i-phones came out, so I decided to stretch my legs in the parking lot, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.
Emerging from the darkness came a middle-aged black man wearing day-glow shorts and a vest top. He looked wrong; a combination of insanity and drug-addledness. He made a bee-line for me. I politely backed away. “What’s your name?” He slurred, his strange eyes bulging. “Benjamin” I mumbled, smiling politely in a “please don’t rape me” sort of way. “Are you Russian?” he asked; “Yes” I replied, hoping it would throw him off the “Ohmygodyourebritishiloveyouraccent” scent. It didn’t work and in one swift move, he entered my body space and pinned me up against the car, whilst inside Matt and his mate continued with their i-phones.
I somehow managed to extract myself from immediate danger and got myself into the car. I sat, heart racing, in the front seat and said; “right, I think it might be time to go”. It seems no one heard me. The man started tapping on the window and for some unbelievable reason, the taxi driver, oblivious to what had been going on outside, opened the window, and suddenly the man’s face was back in mine. “Can I come with you?” He said. “No, thanks” I replied “What’s your name?” he asked again, “Benjamin” I repeated. He held out his hand as though to shake mine. I offered him my hand half-heartedly and he went to kiss it, which I thought was his way of acknowledging defeat.
Unfortunately instead of kissing my hand, he licked it, and then seductively allowed his spit-sodden bottom lip to smear itself across the back of my hand, leaving what can only be described as a snail’s trail of saliva. My subconscious spoke; “dear Lord, that was absolutely hideous!” thinking surely, this was the time for the taxi driver to step on the gas and get us out of there. Unfortunately not and now my suitor was waving condoms at me and trying to thrust one into my spit-laden palm. He then grabbed my arm and started, with a rather frightening amount of strength for a crack whore, to pull me out of the car; “okay guys, now’s the time for you to realise what’s going on and give me a bit of help!” I yelled... and finally, the other people in the cab tuned in to what was going on and I was rescued.
The taxi screeched out of the parking lot and the strange man was left limping in our wake throwing condoms in the direction of the cab. Obviously adrenaline then made me see the funny side of what had just happened, and for the next ten minutes, all four of us were laughing so hard we thought we were going to burst.
Later on, we found a much more salubrious corner of town, where the gay bars were between antique shops and lovely cafes, and my faith in my people returned.
I don’t think I’ll ever live to see the day when weather does something as spectacular as it did yesterday afternoon. It had been raining; quite heavily at one point and at a curious angle. The sky went a shade of purple and everything looked sort of foggy. I sat in my hotel room looking out towards the western horizon where I could see an orange smudge behind a ridge of floating mauve clouds which looked like smoke and made the skyscrapers resemble chimneys. The smudge was the sun, and it was slowly burning through the mist; first a long way away and then coming closer, travelling at speed across Miami, glinting in more and more panes of glass across the city. It was as though a thousand orange lights were being switched on.
I rushed onto the balcony and stood in awe as the light came nearer and nearer to me. And then suddenly my face felt warm and I realised I was bathed in this beautiful crimson light. I looked behind me, and over the ocean was the most enormous rainbow, a great arc in the sky, the largest I’d ever seen, stretching from one corner of the horizon to the other. In front of the rainbow, aeroplanes in the sky were glinting mysteriously in the sunlight. And suddenly I could hear car horns beeping across the city as drivers spotted the rainbow. I looked across and saw people on the balconies, waving and smiling. And it lasted like that for five minutes. Five magical minutes where time seemed to stand still and the world was bathed in paranormal light. Five minutes where I could do little but hold my breath and wonder. I had to thank God. I couldn’t think of anyone else who could have brought this extraordinary gift to us all. It was profound and utterly joyous. And so bizarre to think that on the other side of the States, an earthquake had rocked Chile and a tsunami was crashing across the Pacific Ocean. Mother nature certainly knows how to put on a show.
350 years ago, Pepys woke up in Epping. He had some red herrings for breakfast whilst a young lad attempted to mend his boot-heel. Unfortunately he left a bigger hole than was there before. You just can’t get the staff. Pepys then jumped on his horse and rode back to London through Epping forest commenting that the road was good, but on one stretch might as well have been a canal! In London, he found all the shops closed and the army out on the streets; a thanksgiving day was being observed across the city in honour of the return of Parliament.
He finally met up with Montagu, who seemed very glad to see him. They had food together, and then Pepys called in on his daughter, Mrs Jem, before finally heading home and finding his wife well.
The following pictures might give some sense of the extraordinary weather here yesterday...
Plane in the rainbows
As the sun sets