I want to experience the best Miami has to offer but unfortunately I don’t do cocaine. Guess I’ll have to get creative with my three-day exploration of ‘The Magic City.’ As I step off the plane, I’m liberated by the sight of women proudly displaying their juicy curves in tight, colorful clothes—a far cry from my home in L.A. where any girl weighing in the triple digits thinks she’s fat. Inspired, I strut alongside them, blissfully unaware that the humidity has my hair expanding like a dry sponge in water.
I’m off to my hotel the exclusive, members-only, Soho Beach House. So exclusive, in fact, that I drive by it no less than seven times before seeing it. No sign. I’m blonde. Bad combo. Once located, my room is heaven. Its soft turquoise walls, rich wood trim and dusty red furniture are exactly what I would have designed myself (or so I like to think.) The bathroom is bigger than some bedrooms I’ve lived in and the shower is spacious enough for six people and a goat. The big, low windows only open a crack to ensure that--- upon realizing that life is never going to get any better than this---you can’t just end it all here and now. Luckily, the chain on mine is broken so that’s still an option.
I head back out to the dirty side of the city: South Beach. I wonder why strip clubs are so popular in Miami. If people want to see mostly naked girls hanging off poles all they need do is ride the bus.
South Beach is kinda like hell: hot, sticky, overpriced and hard to move around in because it’s so crowded with sinners. I enter Nikki Beach, a restaurant and club where beautiful people go to blow off steam by getting steamy and doing blow. The girls are all wearing six-inch heels in the sand, presumably because they’ve been wearing stilettos so long their feet are now stuck that way (Barbie was from Miami.)
My friends and I are seated at a table that’s practically on the beach, where we can observe fellow customers playing volley ball in swim suits. I’m feeling a little out of place because I forgot my thong. There are several couples making out for whom Nikki Beach has thoughtfully provided beds. Immediately upon arrival, a woman at the table in front of us who seems to be a near perfect balance of organic and inorganic materials (52% person, 48% plastic) gets up and drunkenly stumbles into her date, a thrice-her-age European man. Awesome. This is the South Beach I came to see. After sipping on what I can only describe as a 7-11 slushy laced with McCormick’s, I order the beef Carpaccio. Big mistake. If you’re at a restaurant where you can see more than three ass cracks at any given moment, order something fried.
Several hours later, I jolt awake in my hotel room, deathly hungover from the neon drinks. I stretch out naked on the giant windowsill sipping tea and enjoying a crimson sunrise over the ocean---until I realize that my window is visible from the pool and there’s a guy down there enjoying his view even more than I’m enjoying mine.
I venture out to Garcia's, a locally-owned fish joint on the Miami River. Fresh off the boat from Cuba, the Garcia brothers opened the restaurant in 1966 and, to this day, fishermen still sail right up to the dock providing fresh, never frozen fish. I order their famous whole fried yellowtail. A squeal from the next table alerts me to the presence of a cockroach hanging off the umbrella by a solitary stick leg. I’m thrilled—as far as I’m concerned that roach is a shiny brown seal of authenticity. The food arrives and sure enough it’s outstanding. The fresh, briny fish is brilliantly not fucked with; they doctor it with little more than lime and salt. Interspersed with sips of an ice-cold Presidente beer and overlooking the peaceful Miami River, I can’t remember enjoying a seafood experience more. People on Yelp give this place a hard time about hygiene but I don’t mind, I’d eat this fish out of a back alley in South Beach.
I meet up with some friends and we only have to drive 40 minutes south to enter an entirely different ecosystem: the Everglades. We pull into Gator Park, which looks like an unassuming shack on the side of the road, but in reality is the threshold to a world of mortal peril. We’re here for a private tour on an airboat, which as far as I can tell, is a cross between a boat, a lawnmower and a giant fan. We requested a tour by Chuck, their very best. Our guide introduces himself as such, but my friend Eric has been here before and informs me this is not, in fact, Chuck. The real Chuck is an old chain smoker who shot himself in the face once, and this guy is disappointingly young and whole. When we confront him about this he tells us that his first name is Andrew but his middle name is Chuck. Yeah, right. Chuck is not a middle name, unless it’s short for Charles or something, which I’m telling you right now it’s not. I don’t complain because maybe lying is acceptable behavior amongst swamp people.
Right away, I love the Glades. It’s wild, unspoiled by humanity and the perfect place to hide a dead body. “Gator!” Shouts Andrew/Chuck; I “oooohhhh” and “aaaaahhhh” along with everyone, though in truth I can’t find the fucking thing because everything in this swamp is green. After a minute of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ I spot him floating two feet in front of my face. Every instinct in my body says to sprint, but I can’t because I’m trapped on the boat-fan so I just play dead (which obviously worked.)
Exhausted from my near death experience, I rush back to the hotel for a massage with Tony, also known as “The Dreamboat.” As his magic hands squeeze my tight muscles, I realize I’m acutely attracted to this man. I suspect the feeling’s not mutual because my hair looks like it belongs to a member of Motley Crue and I smell like swamp. He proceeds to give me a deeply excruciating massage, but as we know from science (okay, "50 Shades") there’s a thin line between pain and pleasure. I give him a pretty good tip but not the best because there was no happy ending and I thought this was Miami.
Next, I head for a tour of Wynwood, the ‘arts district.’ Saying you’re going to Miami for the art is like saying you’re going to Vegas for the culture, so I’m skeptical, but I go anyway because there’s beer. Right off I can tell that Ryan, our tour guide, is amazing. He wears a shirt reading ‘wet paint’ that he painted himself and then walked around smudging paint on people saying “didn’t you see the sign?” I realize that I, the girl wearing a full body jumpsuit, that is both impractical for biking and regrettably clown-like, will never be that cool.
To my surprise, the best art in the neighborhood is outside of the galleries and museums—welcome to the world capital of street art. Nearly every exposed wall serves as a canvas. I can’t remember being surrounded by so much color. A few years ago this place was filthier than Garcia’s kitchen sink, but the street art triggered a process of gentrification attracting quaint coffee shops, local breweries and voila! Hipster heaven. We pause our tour for an incredible flight of beers at Wynwood Brewing Co., and I sway my way through the rest of the tour, much to the dismay of Ryan who is officially the stronger link in our tandem bike duo. He doesn’t complain a bit because he’s the best.
I celebrate my last night at Sugarcane, one of the many Cuban-inspired restaurants in Miami. I haven't had time to shower and change, so I’m still in my jumpsuit and flip-flops. The girls I’m meeting tower over me in heels and little black dresses, but I don’t care—I’m high on art (or maybe beer.) My dinner consisted of fried pig ears (meh) and cocktails comprised of vodka, passion fruit, mango and fresh jalapeño christened the Spice of Love, which as far as I’m concerned is the nectar of the Gods.
A few hours later, (12 short hours to be exact) I arrive back home, hungover as all South Beach hell. I strut off the plane in my new coral spandex dress, proudly displaying the extra pound I gained in Miami and my new afro. Upon seeing the horrified faces of L.A. travelers I immediately regret the fried foods, sugary drinks and impulse shopping, but no matter! I’m informed that while what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, what happens in Miami, never happened.