Here I am in sunny Miami Beach, Florida staying with my wife in the Clevelander Hotel until Sunday. She’s down here to give a paper at a political science conference at the Royal Palm Hotel and I am along for the ride.
In general, the unrepentant Marxist does not travel very much. Outside of trips to Nicaragua and East Africa with Tecnica and one to see my good friend Mark Jones in London before he died, I wouldn’t dream of staying in a hotel. I made an exception in this case because I really love the art deco architecture of South Beach, the section of Miami Beach that most hotels are located in, as well as having an affinity for the locale of two of me and my wife’s favorite TV shows: Miami Vice and Nip-Tuck.
The hotels are really strikingly beautiful to my eyes. They have the same pastel colors as the Necco candies of my youth as well as the Tums I now take in my old age to cool off chronic heartburn. They look good enough to eat. Yummy.
When Miami Vice was airing on NBC from 1984 to 1989, South Beach was in disrepair. The local bourgeoisie made the wise decision to turn the area into a tourist attraction by channeling funds into the remodeling and renovation of over 100 hotels in about a two square mile area. By contrast, the resort hotels of my youth in the Catskill Mountains of upstate NY went down the toilet. In both areas, the hotels were owned by Jews but in Florida they seemed more committed to diversity as the people hated by Walter Benn Michaels might put it.
The Clevelander Hotel is on Ocean Drive, which is a stone’s throw from the beach. If you walk along Ocean Drive, you will be accosted by the maitre de’s of all the restaurants on the ground floor of hotels like the Clevelander who try to thrust post card sized circulars in your hands advertising half-price deals on chicken fingers and Mojitos. The general effect is a cheapening of the restaurant as if you were being lured into a whorehouse in the Red Light district of Amsterdam.
Late last night we stopped in at an upscale version of one of the joints, a place called Proof that is close to the Royal Palm where my wife will be giving her paper on economic crisis, a topic perhaps relevant to the hustlers on Ocean Drive and the panhandlers we have run into as well. We were sitting there drinking high-priced martinis and sharing an even higher priced Caesar’s Salad when the ex-basketball player Dennis Rodman showed up with his entourage. They took a table about 15 feet from our own where Rodman, a colorful personality to say the least, held court.
It turns out that our good friend Michael Yates stayed briefly at a sublet a block from the Royal Palm some years ago when he began the first leg of a pilgrimage described in “Cheap Motels and Hot Plate”. He gave us some suggestions on a walking tour that will take up.
The Clevelander is a block from a mansion that was once occupied by Gianni Versace, the Italian designer who was murdered by Andrew Cunahan in 1997, a serial killer. The place is overdecorated, like the man’s silk shirts in my opinion. South Beach seems to draw such personalities like Versace and Dennis Rodman who had and has a reputation of promiscuity that exceeds Tiger Wood’s. Of course, in Rodman’s case this was not likely to lose him lucrative contracts with major corporations since he did everything he could to flout middle-class convention to start with.
All in all, I am enjoying myself thoroughly and will have more to report in the next day or so.