Dorothy Stein: dismissed. Michael Rodriguez: dismissed. Marie Pierre Louis: dismissed. Carolyn Acosta: dismissed. There must have been at least 40 dismissed traffic cases that afternoon. Reasons ranged from police officers not showing up to a little old witness saying she flat-out forgot seeing the traffic accident. “Ah, justice for the working man,” I thought, winking at a bench neighbor who looked like he was covered in white confectionary sugar. (It was the dust from his construction worker gig.) He smelled like some red Burgundy I had fantasized about, like the 1911 La Tâche New York Times writer Frank J. Prial describes in an indelible piece called “Postcard from Paris.” It was the charismatic funk of armpits perfumed with ambitious sweat.
Then I heard my name: Dinkinisha O’Connor (every once in a while, people add an “a” to the end of my name). I stood up proudly, waiting to hear the wondrous word that suddenly became synonymous with financial emancipation and reinvention: dismissed. I, too, would walk out the North Miami courtroom, redeemed by faith in the police officer who had better things to do than show up for some trumped-up charge.
I was wrong. Wiggling out of the corner of the courtroom bench was this fossil of a man with what looked like an encyclopedia of notes. The judge asked me to approach the bench, my blood pressure getting higher and higher, heart pounding like krunk music.
The officer began to tell his side of the story. Something about me ignoring a “Do Not Enter” sign. After advising me to plead “No contest,” the judge asked me how I wanted to plead. “NOT GUILTY,” I exclaimed in my preacher’s daughter voice. Truthfully, I was guilty, but I was bitter that I was the only mother *&%^$*(#^&* whose police officer had actually shown up. I was sentenced to a $300 fine and “Aggressive Driving School.” It was like some Seinfeld episode. “Aggressive Driving School?,” I echoed facetiously as I exited. “I’m the dude who stops her car, so the duck family can cross the street in peace.”
As I started calling my best friend Sandy, funky armpit dude tried to start up a conversation. “I’m sorry you have to pay that steep fine,” he said in an oleaginous French accent. “Yeah, well you stink,” I responded dryly (PMS and a $300 fine make for a very sour soup). However, he thought my comment was hilarious and begged for my number.
Later that afternoon I was scheduled to have burgers and red Burgundy with a friend at the Miami Beach Marina. The beef that Cheeseburger Baby uses in their mini burgers tastes so fresh and mild that the natural booty-must of a red Burgundy or red Burgundy-style Pinot Noir is a perfect pairing. However, because of my $300 fine, my plans of getting some La Tâche-knock-off were cut short.
So as I was driving to W Wine boutique, mulling over what bottle I would get instead, I listened to a woman on NPR talk about umami (oo-MA-mee). She said it was the fifth sense after sweet, sour, bitter and salty, a Japanese word loosely meaning “deliciousness” (Shout out to the researchers at The University of Miami School of Medicine who have been credited for finding taste receptors in the mouth that detect umami). It’s a sense stimulated by certain wines, Parmesan cheese, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, fish oil and other perfect pleasures. It’s a very philosophical sense, but after some light research, I learned that umami just makes things taste better, or it definitely makes it seem that way — like MSG for the soul.
When I arrived to W Wine Boutique, I picked up a bottle of 2005 Château Croix Mouton Bordeaux Superieur ($15). My friend said she was running late because of the long line at Cheeseburger Baby, so I sat on the marina’s bench, watching people frolic on their yachts, the ocean breeze washing away marauding thoughts about an increased car insurance rate. I pulled out the paper bagged bottle now chilled from my ice-filled wine bag and popped the cork.
Mmm…Before I even poured the juice into my one and only Reidel wine glass I got for free at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, I could smell sweet hickory smoke and toasted pizza dough fresh out of a brick oven. Was this the beginning of the umami discovery process? I poured the jammy, purple waterfall into the glass. It was gorgeous. The taste: Haitian cacao with a long clove-infused finish. Was this really $15?
“So, you know it’s illegal to drink in public?,” said a stout voice. I looked up and found a very handsome, tall, black truffle-toned-confectionary-sugar dusted construction worker standing in front of me.
“I’m not drinking. I’m looking for my umami,” I responded coyly.
“I’m looking for perfect pleasure.”
“Oh, well, here I am,” he answered excitedly.
To kill time I pontificated with Jean Marc (that’s his name) about how man’s quest to find umami is at the expense of its providers. Grapes work like dogs in the vineyards, fighting for every drip of water, so that I (we) can sit here and “dismiss” our woes into the spiritually healing musts of red Burgundy… I was on a roll. I started talking about the African children who die to retrieve diamonds, so we can satisfy our abysmally egotistical umami…
“Wow, that’s deep, Boo,” he responded tenderly. “Do I smell funny?”