South Beach: Not Very Early Modern
|South Beach, Miami is the least early modern place in the United States. Having never been here before, the missus (who for some strange reason does not want to be referred to as 'Lady Truewit' anymore) and I decided to book a room for a few nights in the middle of it all before heading over to the Radisson for three glorious days of Renaissance Society of America-ing. This decision will go down in Truewit vacation history as "a big mistake."|
First off: when the internet review tells you that the hotel you're randomly choosing in South Beach is "in the center of the action on Ocean Drive" you should keep in mind that "the action" is composed entirely of hordes of skimpily clad men and women climbing in and out of Hummers in order to pay 30 dollars a plate for bad pasta served in outdoor restaurants blasting deep house music 24 hours a day. This would be fun to watch for about 2 hours and maybe more, depending on whether or not you want to keep drinking 12 dollar mojitos. Indeed, when you first get there, it's even deeply gratifying, in the way that the world it is when it completely conforms to your expectations: But of course, young man, you are wearing nothing but artificially inflated muscles, sunglasses, and shorts while you eat your bad pasta. And of course, young lady, you have decided to go to the supermarket wearing a bikini, high heels, and giant golden earrings. Why wouldn't you? It's South Beach! Keep up the good work!
But then, when the buzz from the mojitos wears off, and you think you might like to take a nap, and you head back to your room to discover a dance party happening on a roof thirty feet away from your window, and the lady at the front desk shrugs and says, "It's South Beach," well, then you begin to realize that the world conforming to your expectations with complete unthinking consistency is not always gratifying. In fact, it actually becomes horrifying. Waking up in the morning to discover the places that served bad pasta whilst blasting deep house are now serving bacon and eggs whilst blasting deep house -- this is one of those unwelcome moments, perhaps associated with aging, when you realize the world has more staying power than you do. At 10AM, I cannot pump up the jams, no matter how many times I am exhorted to do so. Unless said jams are things like marmalade, and I am being asked to pump them up on toast, in which case, we can talk.
Making matters even stranger, the fates have conspired to bring RSA to Miami on the same weekend as the Winter Music Conference, an event I'd never heard of before, but one that immediately marks itself out as cooler than RSA by leaving the word "Renaissance" out of its name. As I discovered when I tried at the last minute to book a room in a nearly sold-out South Beach, the WMC is a yearly party/schmooze-fest for DJs and dance music aficionados that attracts thousands of groove-obsessed club kids to Miami every year. I like dancing, a lot, but I am not entirely sure that I would shell out $435 to get passes to a bunch of dance parties over a 4 day period. Of course, I shelled out $175 to get passes to a bunch of panels on Erasmus and masculinity in Dutch landscape painting over a 3 day period, so who am I to talk. The point is, why do the fates have to torture me with this particular alignment of conferences? Couldn't it have been RSA versus the Necrotic Flesh Removal Society of America? Or the Kidney Bean Association of America's Biennial Legumapalooza? Or anything? Those club kids look like they're having FUN. Plus you know they've got better drugs than us. Damn.
Anyway, it's not entirely a disaster here. It is fun to sit and drink and watch people go by. The weather is really pleasant, if you go in for that kind of thing. I've also had two celebrity sightings: while eating my first 18 dollar hamburger, I saw Bernard Kerik, the man who will single-handedly keep Rudy Guiliani from winning the Republican nomination, at the table next to me. He was talking with his co-lunchers about a book by 'Jay' that he really liked... I'm going to go ahead and assume that he was using his pet name for Ben 'Jay' Jonson. Celebrity sighting number two: the New York football Giants' tight end Jeremy Shockey, riding in a gargantuan black Hummer down Ocean Drive, shouting at the top of his lungs and giving some dude on the sidewalk a big 'hang loose' sign. When Jeremy Shockey tells you to hang loose, I suggest you immediately begin to do so, because that guy is big.
So I guess there are some things I like about South Beach. But if you take away the celebrities and the dancing and the sunshine and the sexy people and the delicious mojitos and the music and the beach and the cool parakeets flying around everywhere and the novelty thongs and the cosmopolitan party scene, you really aren't left with much. Just RSA.