Dan Morris: Bourbon with ice was my Miami vice
Hearing tales of Commodore Richardson's recent sojourn to the States has made me reflect with a misty eye on my own time in the Land of the Free.
As a youngster, I was out there for some time, living the dream as a Central Park busker by day and a comic-writing coffee junkie by night.
Aside from a good stint in New York, my travels with my beaten battle axe of a guitar took me to Miami, Vegas and LA (I've always enjoyed the quiet life), where sunshine and sin were both in heavy abundance.
I made a bit of a schoolboy error on my first day in Florida, taking the exciting opportunity to darken the door of a certain world-famous tattoo parlour.
Having been featured for a couple of years at this point in its own Discovery Channel TV show, said studio sported a queue at least half a mile long. Wanting to bite the bullet there and then I joined said line, and five hours later my left forearm had been branded up a treat.
The problem was that, now, for several days I couldn't swim or risk getting my new ink saturated in any way. Back home in not-so-sunny Staffordshire, being told you need to avoid the pleasures of the poolside isn't much of a bane. Being told so when you're staying in Miami Beach is a bit of a kicker in the unmentionables.
'Still, it won't be too bad', I told myself. 'I'll just do like the locals – strap on the roller blades, roll up a cig, get body-building in front of bars, and let the ladies flock accordingly'. The American dream – it was mine for the taking.
Naturally my optimistic vision was quickly brought crashing down to Earth, yet despite this, and my inability to enjoy the sea or surf, my brief stay in Miami was top banana. Lunch took the form of a truly beautiful four-cheese and oregano pizza on an almost daily basis, and by the time my stay had reached its end, the owner had taken such a shine to my 'Hugh Grant accent' that said pizzas were free. Admittedly, this might have been more to do with the fact that when asked the age-old American-to-Englishman question, yes of course I knew David Beckham and was very tight with The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince Harry. But, my accent did genuinely have its uses.
Most of you have, of course, never heard me speak, and I hope I don't shatter too many illusions when I tell you that my dulcet tones are less akin to those of Mr Grant than they are to the lost love child of Liam Gallagher and Daniel Radcliffe. Still, to the average Floridian, I was Prince Charming, and to four lads from Chicago, nothing less than a king.
We all remember the bit in Love Actually where Kris Marshall's character – having flown to the States in search of fame, fortune and fornication – is sat in a bar with three American girls who are that enamoured with his voice they are simply asking him to name random objects. In travelling to America as a plucky 19-year-old, this had been my dream. My reality, however, was not to involve the affection of a trio of supermodels, but rather a quartet of burly football players from the Windy City who were on Spring Break.
It wasn't proper football. But I wouldn't have told them that. There was no other way of putting it – these chaps were massive. But when they arrived at my Miami Beach hostel, they proved to be gentle giants who were simply over the moon to be sharing a room with a comparatively pint-sized Brit they could claim as a temporary pet.
I wasn't going to argue – they treated this here pooch well. Immediately dragging me out for a night on the town, they bought me a shot for every voicemail I left on their friends' phones – scathing or not depending on the current state of their relationship. The only rule, I had to pop the plum in and channel my inner Stephen Fry. Easy peasy – especially with a throat well-lubricated courtesy of Mr Jack Daniel.
After a night of revelry that, truth be told, has always been something of a blur, I woke up with my first ever genuinely cranium-crushing hangover, while half of Illinois arose to a compilation of Dan-does-Downton-Abbey sound bites. You're welcome Chicago – you're my kinda town.
The tattoo was supposed to be the permanent reminder of Florida – yet that hangover has always been the truly unforgettable souvenir. That and the image of the room the morning after. Yikes. Yikes indeed.
Still, what can I say – never mind the headache, boys will be boys. Sixteen years later, I think its about time for another round.
Welcome to Miami...