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CHRISTMAS TIME IN MIAMI BEACH

((Excerpt from, "Art For The People: A Collector's Journal"))

It’s why you come here.

Vast ocean … endless and endlessly calming.  Immediately upon arrival, I see the horizon, the beginning of a dream where blue and green become aquamarine.  The breeze along Ocean Drive carried my thoughts there the moment I arrived.  Suddenly, serenity became reality.  Breathe.

Tourists wade and wander, lured by the enticing waves that beckon their assurance.  Strangers pass strangers on walks to nowhere as seagulls hover, virtually floating on air above the rolling currents.

A topless lady in front of me bathes and basks in this sun-kissed scene.  Ah, a dangerous fantasy.  For the thrill, I rise, walk to the shore and get my feet wet in the creeping waters.  The sinking sand has sunken my fears of never having enough time.  Before me I see waves of time, endless time, there for me to embrace.  I look skyward where I see seemingly infinite sky and towers galore.  The skyscrapers behind me come nowhere close to touching the tropical blue, but they inspire me to reach … and relax.

Could I live here?  You bet.  My pants, wrapped above my knees are now wet from the warm waves.  No matter.  I’m free. This is the home of my spirit … a “soar” subject.  Suddenly, I hear the holiday festive voice of Ronnie Spector echoing from the street.  Her “Sleigh Ride” is shaking me from my tropical siesta.

♪♪ JUST HEAR THOSE SLEIGH BELLS RINGING AND RING-TING-TINGLING TOO!  I SAY IT’S LOVELY WEATHER FOR A SLEIGH RIDE TOGETHER WITH YOU!♪♪

What?  Where am I?  Oh yeah, I forgot.  It’s Christmas time in Miami Beach.  The two don’t seem to go together, but it is indeed reality…

Miami Beach is what happened when a few people found paradise and the secret got out.  It got out big.  It’s a mixture of sun, sand and water where the palm trees don’t just sway in the breeze, they swagger like an overconfident drunk.  There’s an infectious Afro-Cuban-Salsa-Calypso-Pop-Reggae beat that pumps from car stereos sauntering up and down Collins Avenue.  Everyone is out doing their own thing in this super-hip, bohemian free for all.  You get the feeling that the only things keeping people from really “going for it” (and you know they want to) are the cops and traffic lights.  From the looks of things, the cops and traffic lights barely have control.

A native vibe seems to permeate everything in Miami Beach.  This time of year, that vibe is dancing with the spirit of Christmas.  Somehow it’s working.  Miami Beach is a sexy, risky, gritty, kick-ass, art deco-worshipping haven where it feels like gremlins are gnawing just beneath the resort facade. What’s more, the city seems unapologetic about this, which makes it even sexier.  If you want trouble, you shouldn’t have a tough time finding it here.  Miami Beach is near yet far.  It’s close to the Third World, but with the conveniences we don’t want to live without.

Imagine meeting a hot babe for the first time.  She looks you in the eye and says, “I’m not bad … but I’m no angel either!”  Then she struts away.  That’s Miami Beach.  It is what it is.  What happens here stays here?  No.  Unlike Vegas, people here are not that afraid ... or secretive.   

Here’s another thing.  Whether you’re rich, poor, young, old, white, black, male or female, shades (as in sunglasses) seem mandatory.  Everyone wears them and not necessarily because of the bright sun.  To be seen squinting here doesn’t seem cool.  It just goes without saying.  People wear them even on overcast days.  Still, on bright days here, I keep taking mine off so that I could get a good look at the place. 

One observation … these high-rise buildings are literally going up like popcorn.  Will the coastline, not to mention economy, be able to support the weight of all of those buildings, cars and people?  And what about hurricanes?  People here must hold their breath through every hurricane season.  Also, parking and traffic in Miami Beach are horrendous.  If you’re driving, keep all hands on deck because many other drivers don’t!  Driving in Miami Beach is like walking a tightrope.  Elderly drivers, chicks on cell phones, dudes on motor-scooters and city buses darting out from here and there make it treacherous.  One false move and you’re road kill on Collins Avenue.

You also get the feeling in Miami that many people are here to GET THEIRS … whatever (and I mean whatever) that may be.  Of course, it’s a beautiful city where many, many people have contributed much to the vibrancy of the place.  Perhaps my observation has something to do with the great, year-round climate.  With weather like this (hurricanes notwithstanding), why not go out and get yours?  Careful!

At any moment, Haitian or Cuban refugees could come washing up on shore.  It’s their final hope.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Art, culture, humanity, design and innovation drive this place like few cities I’ve visited.  Who doesn’t want to partake in that?  Throw in a little sun and surf and you’ve got a party.

Miami is on the edge of so much.  It can breakthrough, but it can also breakdown.  I guess that’s the appeal.  It’s like walking a tightrope.  If nothing else, it reminds you that you’re alive.  Still, if you’re not from here, hearing Christmas music in Miami Beach is kind of strange.  Palm trees and Santa Claus just don’t seem to go together.  I guess that’s the charm.

Well, enough holiday chit-chat.  Let me try to get back to that place of sand, ocean and sky.  I’ll clear my mind of everything and just …

B-R-E-A-T-H-E …

Finally, I’m clear again.  Please God, just let me hold onto this serenity for a few more minutes …

♪♪DING-A-LING-A-LING … DING-DONG-DING!♪♪

Rats!   

Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes



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