Getting Down in Downtown Miami with Graffiti Artist AholSniffsGlue
Wild Miami characters don't come much wilder. A tourist couldn't ask for a better guide.
Photo by Jake Katel
AholSniffsGlue is a wild Miami character. He oozes a homegrown street-smart style overshadowed only by the boozy, brazen cartoons and droopy monochrome eyes he tattoos across the city's face. His personal experience echoes that of many first-generation Cuban-Americans. He was raised in Spanish and picked up English, but his body-language is Miami through and through. He's fiercely proud of the 305, the good, the bad, and the ratchet. A tourist couldn't ask for a better guide.
Also, at the bottom of this post we're pleased to premiere AholSniffsGlue's short film Biscayne World, a truly unique and raw look at the boulevard that runs through Miami. (So unique, in fact, we made our own film about it too.) Biscayne World is an experimental animated documentary based on the insane everyday interactions AHOL experiences on a Biscayne Boulevard bus, and was made with Michael Aros and Marnie Ellen of Miami's Borscht Corp. You can watch it below for a hot dose of real Miami.
VICE: What was it like growing up in Hialeah?
AholSniffsGlue: Hialeah was cool because it was really all I knew. I grew up knowing Spanish before I knew English. The whole class was in ESL and shit. Me and my brother were the first generation Cubans so we pretty much learned everything from Sesame Street. We never went to pre-school or nothing. It was pretty cool growing up bummy and shit, but not knowing any better. There's mad Cuban culture down there. You don't really know where you're at until later on and you're like "Damn, we grew up dirt poor," but it is what it is. It's cool with the Cuban coffee smell everywhere, Cuban bread everywhere. But now that I think about it, I don't ever want to live in Hialeah again. No turning back, but I have so much appreciation for Hialeah and its unwillingness to change. It's its own little world. Even right now, Little Havana is going through a mega tourist transformation. You go to Hialeah, and it's the same shit.
What's your favorite place for food and coffee?
There are a bunch of little places by Red Road. So many fucking places out there. When it comes to Hialeah I like Morro Castle, that shit's fucking dope. But Cuban coffee, that shit you can just get anywhere.
What should someone order at a Cuban restaurant?
I like croqueta perparada, which is like a Cuban sandwich but they smash croquetas inside of it. Marudos are like those bananas that are really sweet because they're kind of like rotten bananas. And I guess black beans and rice is typical. Yuca. I was going to order Latin Café earlier today just because they deliver cigarettes and I only have two left. I don't know if they're supposed to or whatever. I've had them deliver beer, too. Latin Café also, if you get a mimosa to go, they give you a gigantic fuckin' cup, so there's all these little tricks for how to get more juice.
When did you first move downtown?
It was during the Vagabond parties, the Shake parties [about five years ago]. I was actually living in Kendall before that for a little bit in a warehouse. I was driving back and forth and I remember getting pulled over mad times by the same cops over there in Kendall, and I was like man I can't be doing this shit. At that time, the gallery was around here, we were doing two parties at the Vagabond and at The Electric Pickle, and I was still working my regular job. It was just mad logical. If someone wanted to see me at the gallery, the gallery would hit me up and I would just head over there really quick.
How has the neighborhood of Downtown changed in the last five years or so?Right now, there's a mega transformation going on with all the construction, the real estate shit is poppin' off again, so you see people in that green neon all day long just walking around here. I can hear cranes from inside my house right now. Shit's just changing. I don't know if it's necessarily getting safer or any better. The gentrification shit is definitely doing its thing. With Wynwood so close, I think that's really what's responsible for all this. My rent is def going up and it's the same for everybody, but it is the price you pay to be out in the mix of shit. Biscayne is getting more and more congested. It used to get congested at five o'clock and now it more like it's like two or three o'clock. It's already crazy. It's interesting to see how much more crazy it's going to get because even when you leave for a week or two weeks, something changes.
Where are your favorite places to eat in the greater Downtown area?
I love that place La Palapa. If you go down toward the water there. It's Honduran food. It's pretty much the same thing you can get in a Cuban place, they just throw beans on stuff. It's pretty cheap, and it's a good place to just get away from most of that stuff. It's pretty chill, and you can get a beer and baleadas. It's a Honduran burrito, taco lookin' thing. For less than $10 you can eat and get a beer.
Latin Café is pretty cool, too. It has a happy hour type of thing and it's a more straight up Cuban thing. Enriqueta's is pretty dope, but they have really crazy schedules. I still don't know how they haven't adapted to it being so busy around here. I figure they can make double the money. It's either Cuban true or Cuban lazy. Then, in the Midtown area, Sakaya's awesome, and Black Brick. I'm still waiting for the day they deliver, but it's not happening anytime soon. I've even been going to Bayside lately because it's neglected by locals, and it allows me to enjoy Miami as a tourist.
Where's the best shopping?
Flamingo Plaza [in Hialeah] is always dope because it's weird and a total novelty. A lot of people have already peeped game out there, so you have to spread out the amount of times you go there because they don't really re-up on shit all the time. The Swap Shop is cool. USA Flea Market is off the chain. Go out there and get some gold teeth and shit. I love the ratchetness and the weirdness of it, but if I need to get new socks or new underwear, I'll most likely just go to Walgreens. Midtown Shops has Target and shit like that, too.
Where do you go to hear music?
Gramps has been doing it with their programming and shit. They've always got some random stuff going on. Churchill's is classic. I've been going there since I was 15 years old. Electric Pickle is always fun. Coyo Taco's been doing cool stuff in the back. Even at La Palapa, they'll have Spanish karaoke really loud. I never do it but it's cool to go see people fuckin' wasted singing Spanish music.