Donald MacInnes: My first turn at Miami vice became a blur of shiny poles and $1 bills

In The Red

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The Independent Online

Cast your mind back two years to the first In The Red hosted by me which - with all retrospective apologies - I wrote by my sister's pool in Homestead, near Miami.

Happily, in less than two weeks I shall be heading back to south Florida for the first time since that era-beginning dispatch was filed to the sound of crickets, the smell of sunblock and the buzz of too many banana daiquiris.

And, as our transatlantic trip approaches, I find myself recalling my first visit to the US, back in the day when my relative youth and lack of funds meant I was at the mercy of whatever the family wanted to do.

I was too broke to disappear off and do my own thing, but a little too old to feel in any way happy about being led by the nose from pillar to post (or pole, as it turned out).

I was five days short of my 21st birthday when I stepped onto American soil for the first time, and thrillingly aghast about being in the land of all my TV and movie dreams.

My American brother-in-law Bill, whom I had never met, picked me up at Miami airport. I expected we would then go straight to the house he shared with my sister, but he had other ideas.

After a few twists and turns in one of Miami's less salubrious neighbourhoods, we pulled up outside something called The Cathouse.

This was a squat concrete building which only identified the business going on within by the use of a neon sign featuring a pink cat in high heels wrapped around a pole.

I swallowed my terror and walked in.

At this point, I should say that Bill was a good decade older than me, so I was quite intimidated by his man-of-the-worldness.

As a result, when he handed me a double Jack Daniel's and Coke, I threw it back, not wishing to appear a baby.

Same with the next five and thus the darkened interior of the Cathouse soon became a swimming mass of chrome poles and one-dollar bills.

I found (and still find) table dancing clubs about as sexy as a slaughterhouse and, I can assure you, being inside one with an older brother-in-law whom you barely know is an experience akin to watching a movie with your parents when a sex scene comes on.

You just want to scream.

I was therefore delighted when Bill led the way out of the club and we began the journey home.

I sank into the passenger seat, relieved, but I should have known that things were bound to get a whole lot messier.

Next week, upside down at my 21st birthday in Key West...

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