March 18, 2005

Day Two; Such Nice Boys Here

If you're a dude, you'll want to click on this picture

        Being the pretentious New England Elite that I am, I had never stayed in a hostel before in my life.  (Hoang had though, in Ireland a few years ago.)  We stayed in the hotel portion of the Clay Hotel and Hostel, and it was fine.  They did upgrade us to a "Deluxe" room, whatever that meant.  The TV only received a handful of channels and the remote didn't work, but other than that, for 75 bucks in South Beach, you can't beat this place.  If I were single and younger, the hostel part of the joint (in a wholly separate building) would be a great place to stay and meet people from all over the world.  If you're on a budget, and not over the age of 40 or so, I'd certainly recommend staying here for your trip to Miami. 
        We awoke to a perfect day with only a few puffy white clouds in the blue sky.  We had breakfast at some Patisserie on Collins Avenue (2 blocks away and parallel to Ocean Drive - and filled with clubs and shops rather than the hotels and restaurants) in an effort to recall our daily morning meals in France last summer.  I so wanted to order in French... "Deux Chocolatines et deux cafe Americain, s'il vous plait."  Realizing how stupid I'd sound, I went with English, though I did mumble, "merci."  The food was pretty good, but as is the case everywhere in the US, not as good as the crappiest place in France. 
        So we ate and drank slowly on the outdoor patio and engaged in our favorite activity:  People watching.  Mostly pale tourists in black socks and sandals at this time of day (10 AM or so), so it was easy pickings.  Then... A commotion.  Some unintelligible shouts and a few honking horns.  My famedar buzzed and I stood to get a better view.  5 seconds later, there was no need.  Right there, 20 feet away in the road, a giant Cadillac Escalade rumbled to a stop right in front of us.  A window rolled down and then a white grin emerged from the darkness within.  Why, it was Shaq-Daddy himself!  Sadly, we did not have our camera with us, so I have to resort to this and ask you to pretend he was driving a giant SUV.  I had no idea Shaq was a Mennonite - all his chrome was black, even his dubs were black.  I suspect he's trying to start some so-unbling-it's-bling urban cultural shift or something.  Hoang, previously looking oh-so-chic with her coffee and croissant, dispensed all pretenses and yelled, "Shaaaaaaaaaaaaq!"  Remembering that she got upset when I ignored Elijah Wood at LAX, I didn't try to stop her.  And hey, she got Shaq to flash his famous crooked smile and even wave his enormous paw at her.  I was about to yell, "AI for MVP!" but didn't feel like getting into an NBA argument (because I couldn't care less) so I just smacked myself in the head for not having my camera instead.
        Since we were headed to the beach for the day, I needed to stop in a shop to pick up the cheapest hat I could possibly find.  I found one for five bucks, but since I threw it away two days later, I forget what it even said.  It was a piece of crap though.  At the register, the employee said something in Spanish to the very Latino looking lady in front of me, but it fell on English only ears.  "Oh, I'm sorry, you looked Mexican to me." 
        "I am from Mexico, but I don't speak Spanish."  Hello Uncomfortable Silence.  When it came my turn and she had left, the cashier lost it.  In all her years and all the people she's served, she'd never heard such a thing.  Boy, Shaquille O'Neal and a non-Spanish speaking Mexican within 10 minutes... What are the chances?
        After passing a few homeless Floridians in winter coats (it was pushing 80 degrees at this point), we checked out of the Clay Hotel.  If you read yesterday's adventure first, and you have a ridiculously high amount of reading comprehension, you'll remember I said something about putting our shirts in the closet the night before.  Yeah, well, for all I know they are still there.  Sigh, I've never forgotten anything in any hotel anywhere before.  Even though it was a month ago now, it still bothers me.  Oh well, some underpaid, overworked illegal immigrant maid now has a rather stylish BCBG black top and her husband is sporting a nice light blue shirt.  Good for them, they deserve it.  Anyway, dressed like an idiot in a mismatched beach/hiking combo outfit (with the $5 ugly hat, no less) we made our way to the Avalon hotel, about 7 blocks away on Ocean Drive. 
        We made a quick stop at a very special market for some snacks, then picked up some very special Chinese take-out.  The guys working in both places were extra super special nice to me for some reason.  They went so far as to call me pretty and even asked me what I was doing later!  The hugs were okay, but the pats on my butt were a bit much.  After I met those nice handsome boys, we arrived at the hotel, changed into our beach attire, and crossed the street to South Beach.  The beach there is, quite simply, one of the better beaches I've ever been to.  I never stepped into the water, but as far as the size, the weather, and the sand were concerned, it's right up there with anything in Hawaii or even Bondi Beach in Australia.  Throw in the fact that 15% of women were topless and 15% of women were wearing thongs and 95% of the women were in bikinis at least, and it might just be the best darn beach in the world.  Our beach time was short-lived this day, however, as we were still yearning to see Uconn play their opening round game of the NCAA tournament. 
        So after a few hours of doing absolutely nothing on the beach, we gathered up our stuff and walked to the Clevelander.  On the way, we walked through a very special section of the beach where all the nice young men seemed to all know each other very well.  They must all work out and shop together because they were all very toned and tanned and were all wearing very similar Speedos.  The guys in the town are sooooooooooo nice!  They all smiled and said hello to me and, like the nice young men at the Frooty Market and Sum Yum Gai, were curious as to what I was doing that night!  They all seemed very accommodating, so we took this picture of their pretty flag to remember them all.  I was having such fun!  (I felt badly for Hoang, though, because no one was nice to her there, even though she's so beautiful.  Oh well.)  One of the guys tagged along with us and even though I said we wanted to get to the Clevelander, he took me to some guy named Gianni Versace's house, who was apparently one of their friends, judging by the same pretty flags flying in front of his house.  I bid him adieu, he told me that French drove him wild, but when I put my arm around my wife he got all prissy and scampered away mad.  Must be that spicy Latino blood or something.
        On our way to the bar, I snapped a picture that is pure South Beach:  Versace's house/memorial, Hare Krishnas, and a Ferrari all at once.  When you reach the level of people watching/critique Hoang and I have, certain scenes become sensory overload - this was one such time.  We sighed at our inability to say anything witty and quickly walked to the bar. 

Actually, you don't do anything quickly on Ocean Drive - it's gridlocked from 10 AM until 3 AM and the sidewalks are jammed with sidewalk restaurant seating and people walking.  They say we northeasterners are rude... While that may be true, Ocean Drive people are worse.  No one says excuse me and no one gets out of your way.  If I weren't so contented and on vacation, I'd have been getting in shouting matches.  Also, if these people ever do go up to New York or Hartford or Boston, they'd be dead within their first hour.  No one thinks twice about stepping in front of traffic while jaywalking down there.  Stupidos.
        We got a table at the bar and watched Uconn dismantle Central Florida.  They didn't play well, but they won.  I got into a small argument with the bar's TV guru, about how he had the Uconn game on the local affiliate rather than satellite, which meant lots of in-game switching.  It was annoying, especially since he never understood my (correct) point, but whatever.  It was a boring game and the outcome was more or less predetermined and I was in a beach bar in Miami in flip-flops rather than at my desk in snowy Connecticut.  I got over it.      
        We ate some nasty cheap lunch and watched some more basketball.  At some point, an emcee started yapping outside at the pool bar and drew our attention to the catwalk over the pool.  Wet t-shirt contest?  Bikini contest?  Nope... Two butt-ugly girls in hats/shirts/shorts/sneakers bounded out and started an abysmal dance routine.  I was embarrassed for them at first, and then just got annoyed.  I just didn't get it.  Hoang was mystified.  We drank another Bud Light.  Those Bud Lights were adding up so I went to use the restroom.  Man, I hate when clubs employ some bum to stand in the bathrooms handing out paper towels and squirting your soap for you and expect a tip.  It's so corny, so unnecessary, and so insulting to the dude... Plus it makes everyone uncomfortable.  I find that having some guy do those menial tasks for me to be more trouble than doing it myself.  Fortunately, I was in my swim trunks and had no money on me, so that was a justifiable excuse for me saying lo siento.
        Around 5 we went to our room and took a nap.  This is the life... Especially with March Madness going on as well.  The Avalon Hotel is decidedly more expensive than the Clay, and the bed/room/TV was certainly nicer, but being right on Ocean Drive takes away from the solitude one wants in a $200+ room.  This week was also Spring Break for some colleges, so we had some drunken galoots next door to us, and we could hear their every yelp, bang, and bump.  That kinda sucked, but we got used to it.  Something else I could get used to is the meal we had that night at A Fish Called Avalon.  The hotel gave us a nice deal if we ate at their signature place, so we did.  And it was fantastic.  I even had a couple raw oysters (Hoang loves them) and can recommend the place if you have a few bucks to spend.  Since we were on "vacation time," we didn't finish dinner until 11 PM or so, which was fine since we were then off to a club - what South Beach is both famous and infamous for. 
        The club business in Miami is fickle - what's cool one month sucks the next.  What's a good scene on a Friday may be totally opposite on a Saturday.  We had asked around and were told more than once that the place to see and be seen that night would be CroBar.  Not knowing any better, we made our way up there only to be faced with a line about 200 people long.  We don't wait in lines.  Hoang was looking hot in her little dress and strappy heels, so I told her to go work her magic.  10 seconds later, the door guy (a drag queen) was waving us in.  That's my girl... It wasn't until we were through the door that she told me she had said that I was her "gay friend."  If questioned, I had the pictures to prove it.
        I paid the exorbitant cover charge (I was going to try to work my magic there, but was still in shock at being so gay all day).  25 bucks each.  That's right, 50 bucks to walk in a door.  And 200 people were waiting on line for that privilege.  This place better be great.  "Two gin and tonics,"  I shouted above the thumping music.  Well gin, by the way, not anything with a brand name.  18 bucks.  So now we had paid 70 bucks... Yeah, this place better be insanely great. 
        It wasn't.  It is a rare club that stands out in my mind.  Sure, we had fun, we danced, and we used up some more of our retirement fund on another round of drinks... But the ambiance and music were essentially the same as any other "cool" club in the country.  Ok, the women wore less clothing and they were open until past dawn, but I'm married and can't stay up all night anymore.  I'm not upset that we went, you simply have to when visiting South Beach, but at least now I know I don't have to do it again.  Your club sucks when all I remember about it a month later is how much of a rip-off it is (we could have paid another 50 bucks to get into the upstairs lounge if we wanted).  To be fair, I remember two other things - one of the bartenders was stunningly attractive and two dudes in wheelchairs "danced" next to us.  For the record, unlike puppies or a guitar, a wheelchair is not something that gets the ladies.

Go back to Day One at South Beach
Continue on to Days Three and Four; Thanks for the Mammaries
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