I’VE been veering awfully far west this week lads – taking the title of this column extremely literally as I made my way down from Dublin airport and flew over Munster and out beyond Schull, Kealkil, well beyond The Fastnet …
In fact, the fates (but mostly work) have brought me all the way from Ireland over West Cork to Miami, Florida this week where I’ve been whiling away a few days in an aggressively air-conditioned hotel trying to convince people to buy some of our TV shows. I admit there are harder ways to make a buck but it’s not half as glamorous as it sounds.
I am not, I repeat I am not in Disneyland.
And no, I’m not cruising around Miami Beach bare-chested in a convertible, either, as all my friends and family on WhatsApp seem to be suggesting I’ve been doing. Or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting from their numerous GIFs of Don Johnson with his hair blowing in the summer breeze.
It’s an absolutely daft, surreal place, Miami. One of the most truly multicultural cities I’ve encountered, and it seems to encapsulate the extremes of America in a way I’ve never quite seen. The rich are richer than you’d imagine, stinking rich. And there is a real edge on the streets, a sense that life here is not easy for those on the other side of the poverty divide. And Trump is only up the road from here in his resort planning whatever he’s planning to do with democracy.
It’s a hard, transactional place, America, but also an infectiously exciting country, where you get the sense personal reinvention is just part of the immigrant DNA, that you can come here and be anything, do anything, dream it all up again.
The American dream – with all the success stories and attendant misery that go along with that, of course, depending on how the cards fall your way. And there are lots of people on the streets here in Miami who are living in no dream.
Overall, I feel privileged to be able to have a taste of a city like this, but on my own terms, and with a return flight home at my disposal.
Whenever I visit the States, my mind always turns to the Irish immigrants, those huddled masses, who came here at a much different time, clutching to life on coffin ships, arriving into the free world on the very lowest rung of the social ladder.
The Ellis Island memorial and museum in New York is one of the most moving sites I have ever visited and has changed my perception of those people who went and forged a new world beyond the country that couldn’t sustain them and the horrors of imperialism and famine they left behind.
They certainly weren’t writing columns for The Southern Star from a hotel room in Miami, I can tell you. They certainly couldn’t check back in on their homeplace at the click of a keyboard. They could never have dreamed of the world that we get to inhabit, despite all its troubles.
I did have a little free time on the trip so I took an Uber out to the famous area called Little Havana the other night, a Cuban enclave filled with bars and venues with live Rumba groups playing the infectious rhythms of their homeland, which is itself not so far off the Florida coastline.
I’ve been in multicultural cities before in the US, and I arguably live in one back in Dublin, but standing in The Ball & Chain music club last night, I was struck by what a truly multicultural place this is, where Spanish is as common as English and people come in every conceivable shape, colour and combination, moving through the bar, the Latin rhythms banging, a true melting pot of immigrants.
Of course, statistics invariably prove that immigrants are a huge boom to the receiving culture. They are more entrepreneurial.
They are forced out of their comfort zone, often without a network of their own and bring their ideas and bent for innovation with them.
They can revolutionise and re-energise a society. And so, out here in this nation of immigrants, I am sad and angry to read headlines from back home about those far-right groups whipping up fear on Facebook and spreading hate in some of our vulnerable communities about some so-called wave of undesirables entering the country.
The people who propagate these views, in a country buoyed by US multinational taxes and thriving because of our smart, globalist industrial strategy, should have a quick check-in with their own history.
And the rest of us should welcome the new Irish, themselves fleeing unspeakable horrors – they will only make us better and stronger.
Bertie bowls over FF
THERE was an inevitability about the return of Bertie, wasn’t there?
Sure, he lay there on the ground like Michael Myers at the end of the Hallowe’en movies, presumed politically dead, but we all knew he’d leap to life again one day, accompanied by some spooky synthesiser music and a load of nervous smiles from Fianna Fáilers trying to make a break with their recent, sometimes inglorious past.
Yep, here he comes again, old Bert, looming in the skyline like some nefarious Chinese blimp, making absolutely no comment at all about whether he might run for President after being accepted back into the party faithful again, the prodigal son returned. In America of course, reinvention like this is what they love to see – no grudges held, dust yourself off and get back on the old horse.
But don’t mention the horses. Or the Galway tent.
The sky’s the limit
WHILE I’m here in the US, the UFOs seem to keep on coming. I’ve lost count of how many have been destroyed at this point and I’m beginning to worry that there’ll be an alien invasion before I get back to Ireland.
As if Miami wasn’t weird enough already. I must say I had a little chuckle to myself when I read a headline about Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau saying that he ‘ordered a US warplane to shoot down an unidentified object that was flying high over northern Canada’. If our airspace was compromised, would Leo ‘order’ the Brits to shoot down the offending interloper too?
It’s column 100 and we’re still in a hopeful, if weird, world
COLM TOBIN: Waging war on the fact I’m turning into Tony Soprano in middle age!