They had to drag us kicking & screaming, a couple of sun junkies, to the airport as we scratched and clawed for one more fix of nurturing sunshine, for a nap in the quiet, balmy shade, to float, just once more, toes surfacing from time to time like playful stubby bath toys, in the cool ocean water. Who the fuck wants to go back to New York in February?…or March? There’s no snow upcountry, no meditative cross-country outings, no snow-shoeing through windblown drifts, no hope to hear the satisfying crunch as one’s boots break the crusted snow in the trees.
My mind skated through ways to wriggle free of the confines of the car driving us to Miami International Airport, I masterminded overwrought, Rube Goldberg-like schemes to circumnavigate the responsibilities and commitments awaiting us upon our return. I was even so desperate when shoe-horned out of the car I swear I spat alternative destinations at Jori with the volatility symptomatic of Tourette’s, all of these idealized locations warm, beachside and unrealistic.
I’m dumbfounded. I’ve visited, hung out and partied in Miami more than a handful of times yet never was I so reluctant to depart. We were supposed to leave a few days earlier when, what Jori referred to as an “epic night” resulted in a hangover so debilitating that we both got the spins at the mention of flying. There were a couple of nights, I’m not sure what perfumed the air, but a cast of characters with names too well known to mention seemed to have taken over a small wedge of South Beach and bathed it in a hurricane of alcohol and a good slick of animal fat, more so than I have seen in past years at this event. Drinking into the small hours can be accomplished anywhere, and another late night party was unequivocally not our lust, though the Bloody Maria’s made by the Bar Lab boys using Lady Jayne’s barrel aged Worcestershire sauce were something special, as was their garden pop-up bar, Broken Shaker, complete with outdoor ping pong and foosball…serious grown-up fun.
We had indulgent feasts at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Pubbelly, the Dutch and Yardbird. All restaurants I urge you to check out when in Miami, along with Scarpetta (mentioned below). We were, again, wowed by the machine that is Joe’s Stone Crab. As good as some of our meals were, one can always find more of a good thing, especially in that department, in town (NYC).
The folks at Amstel Light & the MSL Group had booked us at the Raleigh Hotel, of which I had heard but never seen. A well-preserved piece of Deco history, the Raleigh’s quietly beautiful terraced lobby is adorned with black and white photos of now-ancient or deceased celebrities acting out a life more glamorous than ours, acting it out right where we were standing or swimming, in that pool of undulating proportions lazily framed by Corbusier chaise lounges, soft sun beds and giant palms stuffed into planters of generous girth half a century ago, now a remarkable example of adaptation and the well-traveled, indifferent guests draped casually but never clustered or cluttered, part of the scenery and minding their own business, and a former diving platform turned fountain, this is the best pool on South Beach, the best atmosphere, the best vibe. Perhaps like Dick Diver I too wanted to prove my youth and beauty once more, to climb the diving platform and aspire to feats of agility my body can no longer perform. To feel that strength when you’re too young to be impressed because you’re too busy impressing yourself on the world. Something stirred as Jori and I baked to a golden brown.
We have stayed elsewhere on South Beach, the large hotels such as the Loews, as busy as Grand Central and right at home in Vegas. We ventured over to the Fontainebleau and felt superior as we witnessed the desperate cramming together of slick-haired wannabes posturing in barren and glittered halls. To note: the saving grace of that hotel is Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, where we were treated like royalty and ate in the same manner. Even the disorienting scale of furniture, drapes and wood paneling at the Delano did not compare to the cultured, slightly worn comfort of our little spot on the beach.
The attempt to create multicultural experiences, one adjacent to the other, under the same roof is both confusing and depressing. These mega developments are as overwrought—or as my buddy Josh Ozersky likes to say, ungapatchka—in the attempt to capture their “captive” audience as was my scheming for one extra day in the sun. The Setai, on the super high end, has the competence to combine strong Asian-influenced aesthetics and luxury without the gauche ostentation that Miami would do well to leave behind.
This was all window dressing for what was really going on. The great decompression. The travel, the back-to-back events, our never-ending move, the stomach bug that infected our whole New York family, the one Jori and I managed to keep at bay until the day we arrived for the wine & food festival. We needed to stop, for a moment, dead still. This need, the jones, what is was and why it was necessary clicked when Jori said, as she smiled at me and touched my neck and tickled my beard moments before we parted ways in the airport—she was bound for Albany and I was headed to town—”I’m sad we’re parting from each other. I feel like I just remembered how much I really love you.”