I awaken early; reinvigorated, refreshed and seemingly unaffected by either yesterday’s eight hour flight or the five pints of Bud Light drunk the previous evening. My mind pours over the anticipated excitements of the forthcoming days in this vibrant U.S. city tinged with a Latin fervour. The glamour of South Beach, fun filled nights in waterfront bars, exotic cuisine and the clamour of the crowd at the Miami Heat basketball games.
Sometime later I am behind the wheel of my Chevrolet Camaro hire car, attempting unsuccessfully to find the exit to the multi-storied car park maze in which I had parked. On exiting it a full fifteen minutes later I am thoroughly disillusioned with the inconveniences of city life. The decision is made to leave the city and head north to the southern periphery of The Everglades. Forty minutes later I am finally on the highway; a virtually traffic-free sun baked expanse of road that would be the envy of most every other nation.
A little over an hour later – The Everglades are everything I had imagined they would be. To the left of the road the thick foliage is an abundance of green and to its right cormorants and herons line the sun strewn banks of a large body of water. Several miles later I notice the unmistakable black contours of an alligator in the water, lurking in a sinister manner, no doubt waiting to strike, as if it were a German U boat in the Atlantic.
Late morning – Feeling rather weary and extremely hungry having not eaten since the soggy penne with broccoli consumed in my economy class seat the previous evening, I perform a U-turn and start back towards Miami, perusing the road signs for local eateries as I drive. Gator Land appears on my right, its outdoor dining area a heaving mass of humanity, followed shortly thereafter by a sign for the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. I press my foot down on the accelerator as my mind mulls over the imagined culinary delights it will offer; a fusion of American burgers/ribs and Seminole Indian inspired recipes.
The interior of the Miccosukee is cool and dark; the lights of the vast lines of gaming machines flare incessantly. Following the concourse to my right I enter a vast room. Bewildered I inspect the long tables with moulded polypropylene chairs on either side. It gradually dawns on me that this is a vast bingo hall. Noticing what appears to be a café on the other side of hall; I hurry across the garishly decorated carpet towards it. My culinary expectations evaporate instantaneously on viewing the sorry looking food items through the grease smudged Perspex screens. They appear to be poor imitations of pasties and pies. Gingerly I pick up a tray and after inspecting the food items miserably for several minutes decide that the guava and cheese pastelitos appear the least offensive choice. I ask for two. The waitress stares back at me blankly. I repeat the order in Spanish whilst holding out two fingers for added affect. Finally having located a table not marked with a disabled sticker I sit down and hurriedly bite into one of the pastelitos. The taste is abhorrent, the guava and cheese having merged into a sticky pink paste; a loathsome combination that leaves one feeling both nauseous and violated. The offending items are hurled angrily into the plastic bag stuck to the table to the right of my chair; in fact there is one positioned next to each seat. I wonder if they are sick bags. On closer inspection it is evident that the bags are for bingo paper.
I remain in my seat taking large gulps from the large paper cup, which purports to be Coca Cola yet tastes nothing like it; however it has the desired effect of gradually dissipating the pastelito aftertaste. As I drink I analyse the surroundings. A sparsely attended bingo game is under way at the front of the hall; its elderly players stare forlornly at the bingo paper in front of them. It is obvious as I am drawn into the depths of lonely introspection that the prospect of hope has long since deserted the Miccosukee. Sometime later out of the corner of my eye I notice a man biting into a pasty like food item, he grunts in disapproval before hurling his paper napkin onto his plate and then marching off (see below, man in the black shirt walking away).
Stumbling out into the oppressive sunlight I return to the car, troubled, jet lagged and queasy. It occurs to me as I drive out of the reservation that it is as if the medicine men of the Miccosukee Seminole Indians have performed a malevolent spell, which results in not only the frequenters of the Miccosukee losing the contents of their wallets on the gaming machines but also their soul; souls that will drift listlessly for eternity in the bingo hall. A modicum of revenge for the centuries of injustice meted out to them by the white men.