My first glimpse of Miami from the back seat of a taxicab brought a rush of tears to my eyes. It was an emotional experience. I had never been here before, but knew I’d come home. The love affair endures. The hot-blooded heartbeat of this passionate, mercurial city touched my soul. It still does. Palm trees silhouetted against swiftly changing sky and water, towering clouds under full sail, lightning that pirouettes across a limitless horizon and the sheer violence of sudden storms — all continue to leave me breathless.
That I was born in Paterson, N.J., a gritty black-and-white newsreel, was wrong, some cosmic error, a cruel joke of fate, a glitch in the universe. I felt dazed there, like a sleepwalker, a displaced person with no prospects. I never went back, though I’d come to Miami with only a single suitcase for a brief vacation. I felt alive for the first time in my life. Miami was where I had always belonged.
Did Hollywood play a role? As a child, I saw Sinbad the Sailor, starring swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Did it sink into my subconscious? Change my future forever? Or bring me home at last? The possibilities never occurred to me until I saw it again, on TV in Miami, decades later. I watched, mesmerized.
Sinbad sails turbulent Technicolor waters beneath brilliant azure skies, single-mindedly seeking the home of his long-lost father, an island called Deryabar. Others believe it is only a myth, but Sinbad searches the seven seas, his quest peopled by monsters, villains, pirates, adventurers and beautiful women, until, at last, he finds Deryabar and happiness.
I realized that when I first saw Miami, its turbulent, Technicolor waters, its brilliant azure skies, I had found my Deryabar. The color and the sweep are identical.
The monsters, the villains and the pirates? They are all here in Miami. I have seen Walter Slezak, the despicably evil and greedy villain, countless times among Miami’s politicians.
A friend pointed out that I may relate so well to Sinbad because my long-lost father disappeared, never to be seen again, when I was 7. Maybe, maybe not.
I do know that the moment I found my way home, words and stories began to rush and flow like a torrent, and suddenly the prospects were endless. I am so lucky I found where I belong. Here, where the night sky seems close enough to touch, so bright and brilliant that a Miami International Airport traffic controller once gave Venus permission to land.
That is why Miami is always a major character in my work.
Edna Buchanan will appear 10:30 a.m., Nov. 23 Room 7106.