A prelude to ART Basel Miami 2012:
I ’ve just run about seven and a half miles, to a bar named “Times Square Inn” were I often take a break before heading back home. But today I’ve been rerouted to another place in the Opa Locka Triangle where I’m sitting in a small crowded room, with Ray Ray on my lap and Love to my left. It’s an unplugged social network and a nefarious world to the uninitiated. It’s not my scene and apparently not my lap, yet I am suspiciously tolerated here because I run through this neighborhood often and have gotten to know Ray Ray, and Love.
Times Square Inn in the Opa Locka Triangle.
The Opa Locka Triangle is approximately an eleven block area that was created by erecting barricades inside the greater city of Opa Locka back in the 80’s by law enforcement attempting to curtail an epidemic drug scene responsible for numerous murders, assaults, and other related crimes. However it’s not the 80’s anymore yet the drugs and the subsequent war on addiction is still desperately going on behind outdated barricades. Police still answer aggressively to the call of crime, but are also now required to give out citations for saggy, baggy pants as a fashion crime–really.
Times Square Bar interior.
I once thought to simply hang here for the sake of documentary, but along the way it’s become more than that–it’s become breaking down and stealing barricades, barriers, walls, what have you. It’s also become making friends outside my usual comfort zone, rather than maintaining that presumptuous critical distance practiced by traditional documentarians.
Map of Opa Locka Triangle courtesy Google Maps.
Part of the old Barricade in the Opa Locka Triangle.
Ray Ray is an androgynous looking woman in her early 20’s who usually sports dark baggy athletic shorts, basketball shoes, a Tee or jersey and stocking cap to hide her femininity while Love always flaunts her feminine form by wearing tight strapless dresses, tops, short shorts, etc., she is also always adorned with a long black lustrous wig.
Ray Ray sitting in a truck.
We are all sitting where little sun filters through semi-opaque encrusted windows–while in the evening the darkness summons a solicitous retreat each time the door opens. This room is furnished with a bed, a couch, a hot plate, a small refrigerator and an old 36 inch TV that’s lost its color standing before a desperate weathered bathroom. This place is normally a cheap one room efficiency for its occupant. But tonight it’s become a sacred space for ritual; it’s become a pop up semi-non profit, crack and heroin dispensary, benefitting the old tenant who barters his home for product.
Bathroom with small brown bag to dim the light.
An old skin popper, aka Doc lives here, given the name for his knowledge of pharmaceuticals. Shirtless, Doc, sports a couple of close range shotgun wounds on his shoulder and stomach, healed over from the 60’s, resembling small lunar craters. He is the most gracious host…
The mood in the room is crowded much like a subway station at rush hour with people bracing uncomfortably close to the ledge–even though we are all close, inches apart and bumping shoulders in turn, most visitors volunteer to maintain expectant margins of personal space. This is the stiffening feel of the scene until the door opens to let in the Man. A tall man looking remarkably like Snoop Dog in his 70’s. The mood quickly changes in the room as the aged crack don brightens everyone’s face with anticipation. Once in, the chatter waxes and private space wanes.
I manage to avoid breathing second hand smoke, but can’t avoid the noxious odor of burning crack cocaine–it’s an overwhelming sulfuric stench combined with burning chemicals and plastic, topped by the flavor of sweet citrus, which adds to the existing aromas that already permeate the atmosphere in this small dank room. It’s acrid to my senses, but no doubt an acquired taste to the olfactory receptors of crack connoisseurs.
For some off reason, my thoughts wonder from this scene to another–to other space inhabited by a different consuming crowd. To larger halls in enormous salon vitrine, where square ridged Ringling like tents stand side by side strong yet give way to brick and mortar palaces, which in turn bow in reverence before Basel art. It seems so distant in the moment from here yet close enough to be reminded by the familiar glow of electric luminescence bathing eclectic desire. Crack is sold here today and tonight where over there, at the other place, rock hard or soft retinal eye candy teases gazing desire, selling reified coolness, conceptualized Post-Fordism, often dubious kitsch and camp or what ever else passes for sincere or ironic artful willingness, this season.
As the outsider, let in to this modern speakeasy–the only white guy amongst a convivence of Black living Americana. Here tonight it’s a Black thing, in this part of the Triangle, run by an old Black man who could easily pass as an event planner / relational artist, doling out the conviviality fit for clean “works” and a three dollar “stem”. Like an ‘old school’ OG situationist, this doling situational event leaves no record or trace other than the anecdotal memory. It’s an institution of sorts that spins and spawns the quotidian conversations.
The situational event is an illusive nomadic gathering playing hide and seek in a small community within an 11 block area–it’s bearing dysfunction is by and large granted a pass by the empathy of the larger community. Ray Ray showed me this room and this room shows me it’s history inscribed on the walls.
Like other rooms down the road this room is similar to situations I’ve been caught up in before in my own past haunting. My past…Ray Ray and Love’s past and present…This is where Ray Ray and Love let their hunger live outside their skin accompanied by the fear of not being fed. It’s in their eyes; it’s in their gestures. This is where others gather as well to hunt satisfaction for haunting desire–searching for lost ambrosia.
Ray Ray constantly speaks about escaping this place–speaks about an all purpose fear–which is the fear of not getting straight or the fear of living straight or clean (being “straight” is just another way of saying you don’t need a fix, yet).
Eventually the smoke clears and old school soliloquy quiets the return to the phantomization of the self. Until the next cloud builds, the fog catalyzes yet another round of tit for tat chatter waxing echoes off these hallow walls.
I ran here first before making my way to that annual event known internationally as ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH. From here I got roughly a 10 mile run before hitting Midtown Miami. I am on my way to visit one of the more modest art fair satellites, but when Blue calls I run home instead to get the truck then drive to meet her at a corner on NW 20th, to say ‘hello.’
Blue watering Max and Sparx.
I regroup in “Overtown”–a mostly Black American community below Midtown and Wynwood, Miami. Overtown is similar to the Triangle, but geographically larger–Blue is a friend who lives in Overtown, and she is like others I know lately who unflinchingly walk the walk and talk the talk.
‘Hello’–she jumps in the truck…then I ask to take her to a small art venue titled “SEVEN”, to see what she thinks about the Basel invasion. Despite her timidity and crack induced insecurity, I get her in the door, at NW 2nd Ave 22nd Street (known by some as the northern part of Overtown–renamed Wynwood in the spirit of gentrification).
As Blue and I tour the compact satellite art fair “SEVEN” [seven art galleries from New York] I take pictures of her standing, sitting and leaning with art work. Curious eyes are staring at me and Blue as she does her best to hold herself back, mockingly close to caressing or kissing this or that sculpture or painted form.
Eventually, Blue notices a freestanding bricolage with blue ribbon cordoning off a square around a sculptural assemblage made up of a wooden stand, and small birdcage with cat taxidermy inside anointed by a stuffed parrot. All of a sudden Blue is under the ribbon, determined to act up in the demilitarized zone, safely posing with arms pretending to caress the sculpture–when FUCK!, I see a couple of angry gallerists hurrying our way, who then over react and begin yelling as I try to calm the non-negotiable situation. Finally, I overreact as well and resort to a stern ‘shut the fuck up’ which disarms the gallerists.
Not wanting to waste time waxing insensitivity with New York gallerists, Blue and I leave. Blue seems elated to have pissed anyone off at this point. As well I feel I succeeded in having maneuvered Blue out of her usual comfort zone–the street. Later I return to “SEVEN” alone to explain to all concerned, the pleasure I had visiting their temporary insensitive existence in Miami.
Tamas Banovich, owner of (and security for) Postmasters gallery.
By and large, at this point I am feeling sequestered so I run a few miles around to the outside, circling to witness the affects on the mood of the local neighborhood–as if to see polychromed street murals and artistically painted walls rising up to create a new southern aurora borealis–trumpeted by an illuminating mood indifferent to that flash of lightning fast Bic lighter already sparking the mood of the hood’s smoking shadows of cigarettes and three dollar stems.
Plotted by subsumption of Miami’s profane tranquility–cultural tourist wonder about the hood without really being present in the hood. The native narrative is visibly underwritten by real-estate bestowing onto itself pillaging rights of those things pretending to be the left overs of past relational history. Hence forth carrying on an imagined dialectical relationship between Global mobility and an enlightened court of celestial nobility–the result signaling the illusion that new embodied immortal forms have arrived [here] to think somewhere else–res cogitans versus res extensas!
I am done and have abandoned the truck and decide to run back to the Triangle, where I began this story–it’s about a 12 mile run, just short of a half marathon, by way of Overtown and Liberty city where I pause for conversations. The Triangle lacks chatter about conventions, but is none the less inhabited by similar wondering bodies so familiar and uncanny to those wondering bodies from whence this traveler came.
“What dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”
Such was my cure for Basel Salts this year[.]
This post was contribute by Richard Haden.