by Dave Mondy
He went to South Beach to visit his brother. Really.
The men of Miami Beach have fish hooks in their nipples. At least they walk that way. Connected by invisible wire to invisible para-sails far out front, they are pulled down the street chest-first. Bared, bronzed and ballsy, they are as over-pumped as their women are svelte. The women of Miami Beach? Incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. A man’s head is so on a swivel that, in the ubiquitous beach shops, along with the sunglasses, swimsuits, and shellacked shells, they ought to sell souvenir neck braces: I Objectified Women on South Beach 2007!
This is not why I’m here. I am in Miami to visit my brother. I am on the beach because we don’t have one back home in Minnesota. And I’m staying the ultra-swank Royal Palms because I was able to Priceline it for ninety bucks (it’s normally closer to 250), and I thought it would be fun.
Heading out for some sun this morning, I couldn’t have been less-prepared for a pick-up: Laying out on my hotel towel, the combination of my pallor and physique equal an effect which I like to call, The Albino Gumby. Further alienating me from the beach bunnies, on my little portable speakers, I am not listening to neither reggaeton, rap, nor Salsa.
I’m listening to public radio.
I’m reading Fitzgerald.
I am trying to mind my own business.
But who should sit behind me but The United Colors of Benetton Teenage Hotties: There is the little blonde and brunette, the African-American, two Asians, a Latino; I know they are underage because the waiter won’t serve them the Mike’s Hard Lemonade they’ve ordered; they have their arms around each other’s shoulders and, yes, they are topless. Phones held out in front of them, they are snapping digital photos for the lucky boys back home.
What do I do?! Poke out my eyes? Offer my expert skills in photographic composition?
I walk down the beach to find some relief, but it‘s no good. Sights to my left and sights to my right. It’s not that I’m unappreciative, it’s just that it wears you down — sautéing all day long in this slow simmer of lust.
But the time the sun sets on South Beach, regardless of his normal temperament, the single man becomes single-minded:
Tonight, I will not go home alone.
She is wearing a white tennis skirt and a brown tank-top so tight that it might be sub-dermal.
The skirt swishes back and forth, clockwise, then counter-clockwise, to the beat of the Salsa/Reggae/Rap band. But more importantly, she is dancing at me.
I was lucky to find this club, Jazzid. Most of the hotspots here are of the booty-and-bass variety: Wait a half-hour and pay thirty dollars, just so you can go into a big room with music that, if it came on in your car, you’d immediately respond by pressing SEEK.
Jazzid, on the other hand, features a truly DJ-driven room on the second floor, and on the first floor, a great hybrid band: A Rastafarian-tinged vocalist singing in Spanish, a horn section, bongos, electric bass and guitar, drums…
The whole place is about movement. When you sit at the bar, you’ll nearly tip off the stool because the bolts are so loose. Look around and you’ll see why: Everyone is spun around, backs to the bar, watching the band while shifting in time to the music.
That’s a dance club: They can’t keep the stools from disrepair because the customers can’t stop moving their hips.
She looks at me again and I go to her. The currency of flirtation here is dancing and I’ve drank enough to try.
My spirit is willing but my flesh is white. Can’t get the rhythm right.
After politely shuffling along with me for a few songs, she’s swept away by a Latino with a less-awkward pelvis. To make matters worse, she’s then stolen from him by a fratboy who has, apparently, been taking Salsa lessons. Between the keg stands and date rape, where’d he find the time?
By 4 a.m., after a few more fizzled encounters, I’ve resigned myself to the empty bed.
Standing at the elevators, I’m almost there.
Then a woman/girl in a black dress comes up to me and says, “Can I see your hotel room?”
“My friend and I have a bet that the rooms on your side of the hotel are nicer than the rooms on our side. I want to take her up there and prove her wrong.”
Now the friend approaches, same dress, and says, “Hailey! No! We’re not doing this tonight!”
“You never let me party!”
“We just did last night!”
And the only thing I can manage to tip the debate in my favor is, “It’s a very nice room.” Apparently, instead of flirting, I think I’m writing a review on hotels.com.
Now, a whole gaggle on women/girls come through the door, pointing and yelling at Hailey: “Oh my god!” “We know you!”
“You’re Hilary Duff’s sister!” “You’re way prettier than your sister!” “Can we party with you!?” “You rock!”
And now, ascending the stairs backwards, stumbling, she yells, “I’m here for a birthday party!” She disappears around the corner, the gaggle disperses up the elevators, and just like that, I’m alone again.
Riding up by myself, the situation hasn’t registered yet; I’m like Wile E. Coyote cruising over a cliff, before he looks down. Hm, that sure was weird …
Then I look down. Oh my god that was—— And she wanted to——
I like to think I’m unaffected by the effluvia of pop culture and celebrity; I can honestly say that, until tonight, I didn’t know that Hillary Duff even had a sister. But now?
It’s a long time before I fall asleep.
The maid pounds on my door while I pound coffee; it’s 12:10 and checkout time was 12. As I throw my clothes into my suitcase, and check my bill displayed on the TV screen, I see that The Lust of Miami isn’t through with me yet.
It says that I ordered six movies. Pornographic movies. It says I owe seventy-two dollars.
This is horribly untrue.
I ordered one movie. A pornographic movie. I owe twelve dollars.
Now, how do I communicate this?
Say something say something say something… Of course there had to be a line at the desk. Of course it has to be the same female concierge that I talked to last night. The one I flirted with…
Who cares?! You DON’T have 72 bucks to spend! Do I wish I had not taken up the company of Pornography last night? Yes! But does that mean you should be shamed in spending 72 dollars? No! This is 2006! How many people have they got with this scam? Be a champion, a champion for the shamed, a champ for–
“Checking out?” she says. I give her my card and she prints the bill for me to confirm. “Is this correct, sir?” Her face changes. Why wouldn’t it? There’s twelve hours worth of pornography on there. As far as she can tell, after talking to her last night, I went straight up to my room, spent the entire night watching non-stop porno, and now… Here I am!
Listen, here’s the thing. I hardly look at pornography anymore, o.k.?! But last night (because of YOUR town, I might add), I had to– SAY SOMETHING, DAVE, JUST SAY–
“Ah, that looks fine. Thanks. Thank you.”
My little brother is waiting outside to pick me up.
A few days from now, I will help my brother drive to Minnesota to visit his girlfriend. That’s where she lives. I have no idea how he’s managed to maintain a long-distance relationship (nine months now) while living in this town.
My brother looks around at all the women, then locks his gaze forward and puts the car in gear. “It’s funny,” he says. “I’ve lived in Miami for over a year now, and I’ve only been out to South Beach once.”
My brother is a smart man.
Right before we cross the Venetian Way bridge, heading back to mainland Miami, I see a group of women applying sunscreen. Continuous spray sunscreen — it’s the hot new thing. Supposedly, it provides a more even coverage. Also, it contains aerosol, so you can actively break down the ozone layer while protecting yourself from the broke-down ozone layer.
It seems emblematic of South Beach in general: Stupid and hyper-focused on the surface and the surface only.
And yet, if you are going to only look skin-deep, it’s a pretty nice veneer. And the trouble is: I’m stupid, and hope springs eternal. Even before we clear the bridge, even as I goad, I know I will long to return — because there’s something so druggy, so addictive, in that nubile air.
Dave Mondy is a travel writer and writer/performer of many one-person shows. His production “This Love Train Is Unstoppable and I Am the Conductor” won the Best Solo Comedy award at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. His monologues have appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, and he has written for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” This story won the Silver Award for Funny Story in the First Annual Solas Awards.
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