Not all journeys come to an end

All journeys come to an end. This one ends in Miami, Florida. With some 130 hours of driving through the United States behind me, from New York to Chicago, from Chicago to Las Vegas via the Route 66, from Las Vegas to San Francisco, on to Los Angeles and Phoenix, a brief stop in Austin to get to New Orleans, a highlight in St. Petersburg and eventually Miami from where I am writing the last part of this series of four travelogues.

My previous entry ended somewhere near Phoenix. Leaving the desert at the time, I was happy to make a small detour to Silver City, a town in the Grant County, in south-western New Mexico.

The atmosphere there was quaint, quite a change from the bustling cities I had seen in the past two weeks (San Francisco, LA, even Phoenix). Although home to a prominent university, the town once lived on the mines surrounding it. Today, you can visit the remains of this in the green vegetation that has brought a relief to my eyes after more than a week of driving through the desert.

Today it bustles with art shops of all kinds, as well as an overwhelming ‘Antique Mall’ – quite a literal name for the premises, – a collective of alternative characters that ended up entertaining my whole morning.

This local community is made up from people of all sides of the United States who have reverted here for its ideal climate and its arty approach to business and life in general. It’s when a silversmith tells me about the family behind the once-upon-a-time silver mining that I’m taken back to my journey through California where I had first come across the “Hearth” family name.

Back in Santa Maria, they own a quaint winery which trades wine all around the country. Here in Silver City, they once prospered with the mines, while in the bigger picture, they’re partners of Cosmopolitan Magazine. I realise that instead of the world getting bigger on my journey, it actually gets smaller.

Mexico boarder leads to New Orleans
Looking back, my attraction to Mexico may derive from a similar dividing line it has with the States and ours with Turkey. While in California, my inquisition into finding an urban rational about California once being Mexico was dumbfounded. Arriving in El Paso, getting a feel of the first Hispanic Americans of my journey, I’m intrigued with the city’s proximity to Ciudad Juarez; on one side of the mountain you’re in New Mexico, while your sight can see the demarcation of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

Very much like the drawn Turkish flag on Pendadaktilos, the words “La Biblia es la verdad. Leela” stand out in white on the side of the Juarez Mountain. I’m convinced I’ve found a political message, but as I look into it I revert to religion.

The words are translated as “The Bible is the truth. Read it,” an idea of an evangelical pastor who organised the project in 1987 after attending a meeting of ministers who wanted to do something to show the unity of evangelical Christians in Juarez. And as I attempt to get nearer to the boarder, that’s when I realise there is no going further, or rather seeking further is dangerous. El Paso may be one of the ‘safest’ cities in New Mexico but Ciudad Juarez proves one of the most dangerous in Mexico.

The drive to get to New Orleans is long, while the tourist quarters, the French Quarters and Bourbon Street shout out similarities to a compact Ayia Napa with better music perhaps.

Witnessing organised tourist tours to the remains of Hurricane Katrina drive me out of the centre; I don’t want to participate in a trade that’s booming from a disaster. I find quaint neighbourhoods, I find a parallel world that is more human and I finally get my hands on local free press that holds a common ideology to mine. I forget about last night’s frenzies into the prominent New Orleans Gay Pride organised in the heart of the city since 1971. I’m not impressed with the taste of Alligator served at every street corner. I head to St’ Petersburg in need of some culture.

St. Petersburg marks the final run
Pleasantly surprised I discover The Dali Museum Collection with rich works from Salvador Dali’s entire career; every particular moment and every medium of his artistic activity is at hand.
Including 96 oil paintings, many original drawings, bookworks, prints, sculptures, photos, manuscripts, and an extensive archive of documents, the works were collected by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse who have meticulously put the museum together.

In 1942, the Morses visited a travelling Dali retrospective at the Cleveland Museum of Art organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and became fascinated with the artist’s work. In 1943, the Morses bought their first Dali painting – Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope! (1940). This was the first of many acquisitions, which would culminate 40 years later in the preeminent collection of Dali’s work in America. In 1943, the Morses met Salvador Dali and his wife Gala in New York initiating a long, rich friendship regularly visiting the Dali’s villa in Port Lligat, Spain which is transparent in the works and guided tour of the museum.

I leave St. Petersburg fulfilled and feeling closer to an artist I treasure. It feels fitting that I should recall him just a couple of days before I take my return flight to Cyprus.

Miami does a wonderful job at saying goodbye. Its beaches and islands really do look like the photos I had browsed through on Google. The Atlantic Ocean confirms however, that the Mediterranean Sea has more to offer when it comes to swimming.

Flying above the shores of Miami and its islands presents another America, as though I want to rediscover it from above, the view is mesmerising and perhaps one of the most beautiful take offs I’ve ever had.

Perhaps not all journeys come to an end. This one will remain close to the heart. For many reasons.

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London