Miami’s Quiet Secret

I don’t really want to tell you this. You might spoil my fun.

You see, I’m probably the only person that you (don’t) know who comes to Miami for the peace and quiet.

“But that’s impossible,” you’ll say, over the din of some salsa music.

It’s not. Here’s my secret, one I’ve been privy to for many years.

Without telling anyone, you book a hotel for December — specifically for the day after Art Basel.

This is an event where famous and not so famous people turn up to stare at naked women spending three days with pigs in a store window.

Please, I am not exaggerating. I witnessed this once at Art Basel. It was quite artistic in its way. The pigs seemed perfectly happy. The naked woman was a little dirty, but otherwise seemed at one with her art.

Once all the glittering people have left, off to their frozen Christmas parties and nebulous end-of-year financial planning meetings in Illinois and Arkansas, Miami is yours.

Well, mine.

The beaches are emptier than a Kardashian fan’s head. When you walk into a restaurant, the staff are happier than a Catholic Cardinal on seeing a cherub that talks.

And the weather — at least in recent years — is the ultimate in sublime. It’s 80 degrees. It’s not humid.

Even the drugged-out folks who stagger along Washington Avenue at 7.30 in the morning seem somehow serene and glad, too, that the large people from Tulsa and the Upper East Side have gone away.

At the News Cafe — where Versace had his last coffee and I cannot help but have two every morning — you can choose your seat and keep away from the smokers, the New York brokers and, of course, the families with young children whose parents wish they weren’t there.

You can wander into any store and be the only person there. This is a particularly peculiar sensation everywhere but the Gap.

Then there’s the beach.

You can claim the kind of square footage that would normally be impossible to find when the populous populace and paparazzi throng every square inch.

You can look out toward the water, colored that green that isn’t turquoise but wants to be, and dream without effort or interruption.

Actually, there is always the possibility of slight interruption on South Beach.

But between the second week of December and the time that the New Year’s revelers stagger in, ready to level the place, your beach peace may well only be interrupted by the occasional loud conversation or the very occasional shrieking child.

South Beach, mid-December.

South Beach, mid-December.

I admit that on one occasion this trip (today, as it happens), a Venezuelan man came with two of his friends and decided to bring his little ghetto blaster with him.

I’ve never understood why people come to the beach with loud music players and turn them on, volume loud.

Do they not imagine, for one moment, that other people might not want to listen to their putrid nightclub pap?

Do they not consider that people come to the beach to listen to the ocean, rather than the electronic twangings of some soft-headed, E-addled producer from Philadelphia or Bogota?

Because the December peace is so precious, I confess to feeling resentful that my serenity was broken in such an arrogant, ignorant way.

But I tolerated. Because this is my time and place.

Alright, I’ll admit I got my revenge.

As I walked past these three tasteless, Speedo-sodden charmers, I sprinkled some potato chips on the sand nearby.

Within seconds, 60 seagulls hovered over them, squawking and shitting with excitement.

You break my peace, I break your legs. Well, you know, metaphorically.

The evenings are just as delightful as the days. Wander slightly away from the beach and you’ll find a cluster of very fine restaurants.

Oh, they’re not fine dining. They’re finer than that.

Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Barceloneta, Sardinia, Macchialina. Most of them are owned by the same people. But their only interest lies in serving good food in a deceptively casual atmosphere.

At this time of year, you can wander in, smile, sit, eat marvelous food with slow abandon, and never be annoyed by anyone or anything.

The servers have time to chat about their artistic lives and their tattoos.

The bartenders have time not only to pour you a drink, but to add a little extra to the glass.

Then you can walk back down the Lincoln Road Mall and take the time to study the outdoor diners’ faces, make up their stories and wander at a pace no different from that of a two-humper participating in the Paris-Dakar Camel Rally.

Just as on the beach, someone might try to annoy you. They have the time, and, they assume, so do you.

A woman accosted me on the pretext of wanting to know what I was reading and where I’d bought my sweater.

She then dragged me into her supposed beauty salon, where she proceeded to tell me I’d got wrinkles.

Full of the relaxed nature of December Miami, I asked her: “Do you shave your mustache yourself, or is there a fine serum that does it while you brush your teeth?”

This might not have been entirely polite, but she was thinking that her fine looks would make the sale. And the sale was $700 worth of some lovely serum that would make me look hundreds of years younger.

I probably shouldn’t have told her that looks aren’t everything, but I was relieved that she didn’t see the irony.

These, though, are mere pimples on the wrinkle-free face of December Miami.

I don’t expect my words have been persuasive. I’ve been hoping they won’t be. You may have noticed that I’ve tried to sprinkle them with a sense that not all is perfect.

So please don’t change your personal habits. Please continue to go to Miami in April or June.

I won’t be there, you see. So you won’t be able to annoy me.



Photograph: Chris Matyszczyk