24.08.2010 - 31.08.2010 26 °C
Miami Beach, the land of drinking, swimming, drinking some more and rubbing Aloe Vera into your sunburn at the end of the day. I had intended to go to Florida only to visit my Grandfather's sister. But due to the incredibly high and uncomfortable humidity she had chosen (rather intelligently) to spend her summer in Boston with her children. So instead of visiting her I was left with a great deal of time to kill in the Miami region. I had wanted to arrive in Miami Beach and stay only for a few nights before heading to Key West. I was told I just HAD to try key lime pie, and this apparently is the place to try it. After arriving in Miami and realising how difficult it was to find hostel accommodation in Key West and just how little motivation I had due to the humidity, I decided instead of moving around from city to city or town to town, I would spice up my trip to Miami by from moving hostel to hostel.
The first hostel was not bad. It was not the worst I had stayed in, but then it wasn't the best. The thing that seemed to be common here was young girls in tiny bikinis or tiny dresses and high heels that must require a ladder or top bunk to get climb into, and guys with no shirts chasing after them. Luckily for these guy you really can't walk too fast in these heels, so this meant the chase was not too hard. The chase was probably also made easier by the large quantities of alcohol everyone was consuming. Needless to say I did not really feel like I fit in here. In my old shorts and t-shirts and thongs (flip flops) (though I am sure many of the girls there were wearing thongs of a different kind) (and maybe some of the guys too) I did not really feel the need to hang around and drink with everyone else. Luckily I was on the hunt for a good tattoo artist in the area and this allowed me to kill some time.
I started hunting for quotes and showing people the design I had in mind. I went to Miami Ink of course, if for no other reason than to say I went there. I got a quote from the guy there that made me politely smile and say 'I will take a card and think about it' while at the same time picturing myself running for the door so fast that scientists would be reconsidering theories on the speed of light and many other super fast things. This was not the most expensive quote I got. This stood at $1200. In the end I went back to the first place I visited. The guy had quoted me $600 but said he would do it for $400 if I gave a good tip. This was my kind of 'slightly dodgy, off the books' price. I was surprised that he had quoted such a small amount, judging by his book he was very talented. The work he had done previously was very detailed and he seemed to be able to adjust his style to the particular piece. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best when I gave him my picture and asked him to make it unique. (I had received a similar quote from another store, but I had a really good feeling about this guy and his ability). Unfortunately by spending all of this time working out where I wanted to get my tattoo I had done nothing at all towards organising to get my Brazilian visa which I planned to apply for while I was in Miami.
On the day of getting my visa I was unable to print of the application form as the hostels printer was broken. As was their fax. And coincidently so was anything else you needed to use that might cost them money. I tried the internet cafe down the road and they could not get Acrobat to work. So I was heading into Miami with no form. I had also forgotten to get myself a passport photos done> Luckily I at least had some rough notes on how to get to the embassy from the bus station. However once at the bus station down town I could not work out what direction I was meant to head in first. I saw a police car on the side of the road and decided to ask the policeman in the car. He told me the directions but then realised I was walking so he told me to jump in! On the way to the embassy I told him I did not have my photo ready yet so he drove me to get that done first. Awesome! My first ride in the back or an American Police car and a free taxi ride in one!
At the embassy I was able to fill out the application online on a prehistoric computer they had there. Given that I had not seen the application form yet (and that I have an Aussie passport and have never had to apply for a visa before) I was unaware I needed the details of when I planned to arrive in Brazil, what transport I had booked in and out of the country and an address for where I would be staying. So I had to leave all of this blank. And since it had been almost five months since I had last worked I thought I would be pushing it if I put down my previous employment details. So I put unemployed. That was hard. I have never had to write that anywhere before. Backpacking or travelling should be made an unpaid form of employment. Or when you buy your backpack you should be given a beer in a brown paper bag to introduce you to the feelings of dodginess you are likely to experience when you first have to do something as shocking as putting down unemployed on a legal form. I submitted my half completed form and the $35 application fee and said goodbye to that. There was no way anyone would be stupid enough to approve that application. Like people, countries have standards too!
Back on Miami Beach I was more than happy to change hostels, though I was not getting my hopes up about the people I would find at the next hostel. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. I met a group of people here who were from all over the world and had been working at summer camp in the US together. I had cool, down to earth people to drink with! And there were no teeny tiny dresses and massive heels in sight! These people wore proper clothes. And had real conversations. I got along with these guys so well that once I moved hostels for the third time I still spent most of my time back at this hostel. Using it's internet, drinking at it's bar and stealing free food from it's breakfast buffet. One of the guys I met there wanted to get another tattoo so I took him to the place I was planning to get mine done. I showed him my artist's portfolio and he booked in to get a tattoo done right before I got mine.
On my final big day (tattoo day) I headed back into Miami, down town, to pick up my passport as I had handed it in with the visa application. I had to wait half an hour and was left thinking how much of a pain it was going to be to apply for this visa from Ecuador or Peru as it would all have to be done in Spanish. And finding the embassy would probably not be the easy. I went up to the window when it was my turn and was handed my passport with my visa in it. Wtf?? Who on earth gives someone a visa when they can only fill in half the application form and have no income? Why have the visa application in the first place? Clearly countries unlike people do not have standards. Or maybe Miami is the place to lower existing standards. From what I had seen going on in the hostels for this part of the trip, I was going with the second option. I was not bothered. I had my visa! And being completely unorganised had paid off! It made me wonder, of all those things in life I have always been ridiculously organised for, how much of it could I have just winged my way through?
That night I headed in to get my tattoo done. I was not shitting myself which was weird. I was expecting to be pretty freaked out by the idea of it all. As I was sitting in the chair I was thinking about the picture I had chosen and comparing it with some of the designs on the wall. Just as he was about to start drawing it onto my leg I suddenly thought I wish I had chosen something a little more detailed and not so feminine. Something a little more tribal maybe, a lot more stand out'ish than what I had selected. But I kept my mouth shut. What was done was done, it was too late to change my mind now. Then he started drawing the design on my leg. He started by tracing completely different flowers to what I had shown him onto my leg and then free styled the remainder of the tattoo. It was perfect. SO much better and SO different to what I had chosen. I LOVED it. And it was completely unique now. THIS is why he is the tattoo artist and I was just a customer with no artistic talent in the chair. I am so glad I chose this guy to do my tattoo. I went mostly with my gut feeling and it paid off.
The excitement soon disappeared and was replaced with the no so wonderful feeling of pain. After about 45 minutes I had pins and needles through my hands and was starting to get them around my mouth. I had no idea how those guys you see sitting in tattoo chairs calmly managed to do that. Were they on horse tranquillisers or something? And how exactly had I managed to forget just how painful this was. I swear it was no where as bad as this last time. Honestly! This is when Boris (my artist) asked me why I had not had a few drinks before I came in? Of course I had thought this was bad as it thinned the blood. I asked him if he ever drank before a tattoo and he said he always got plastered because they hurt like hell. Really? I had not noticed. So with that I was off to the bottle shop (liquor store) and bought my first six pack of bud. Not long after that I went back for the second six pack. While this did not help with the pain as such it caused me to talk to everyone and anyone who came through the door. This took my mind off what was going on at least.
Once my friends from the hostel came in to see how I was going I only had about an hour to go. I was happy to have people who were going to hang around to talk to me. I was drunk enough now to demand to have someone's hand to hold and luckily I had three people offer. They had to rotate as I was squeezing their hands so hard I was causing them pain. I showed no sympathy however, as I knew I was going through more pain. And I was too drunk and in too much pain to focus on anything else. By the time Boris got to colouring in the leaves (the last bit thank god) 3.5 hours later I was about ready to say I could not do any more. I counted the 12 leaves and counted backwards as he finished one by one. And it was done. I had my tattoo and I could finally start being excited about it! I did give Boris a generous tip, he had done a great job. And he had put up with me for over three hours. That alone was worth a decent amount of money. I went back to the hostel and had a few more drinks and put a picture up on facebook. I then decided that now, while still pretty drunk, would be the best time to do the hardest thing involved in getting a tattoo....sending a picture to the parents (or in my case my mum and step-dad). As I clicked send I hoped for the best and decided it would be a good idea not to go on skype for a week or two, or ten. I had my new travel tattoo and I was on a pretty natural high. If only I had not left my camera on the table at the hostel the night before I flew out to another continent! At least I can blame the beer.