welcome to miami, part one

They will see us waving from such great heights

Somewhere over South Carolina.

The United States is hideous from the air.

It’s all the same thing: Culs-de-sac near bucolic stormwater ponds full of antifreeze, motor oil and Lord knows what leading to residential collectors that lead to overbuilt collector-distributor roads leading to clogged arteries adjacent to a limited-access freeway, Target, Wal-Mart or both. In the distance, a languishing town that is the reason that suburban blob eats its way into the countryside. It repeated for hundreds of miles as I sat for the first time in a chair in the sky.

Is this Daytona?

Hello, Florida.

It’s been a week since Renée and I traveled to Miami for our second anniversary/honeymoon. I don’t like taking vacations, but it was the best thing that has happened to me in a while.

I took Freedom by Jonathan Franzen with me. I’ve owned it for years, but I just couldn’t get past the first few pages. But that has been the case for many novels since late 2011 that weren’t written by Michael Connelly. I was deep in the doldrums until fairly recently, and I credit that book and this trip for getting me completely out of that hole. I think I really needed time away from work and life to do that, but I’m too much of a workaholic to do that voluntarily.

My first flight wasn’t bad at all. Going through TSA was a breeze. My years of covering courts made going through the metal and “the government just want to look at your dangly bits” detectors a breeze. Overall, the plane rides felt like very long elevators. I was fine on the first leg until we got close to our extremely short layover in Charlotte. I chalk that up to being slightly hungover. It was the first night of my vacation and I wasn’t expected to operate heavy machinery for several days, so I did not care. If that flight was five minutes longer, I would have needed an airsick bag.

On our last leg, I no longer felt nauseated, but my eardrums popped and refused to pop back out. I was pretty much deaf when we landed in Miami and stayed that way until the next morning.

"It looks like the opening to The Golden Girls."

“It looks like the opening to The Golden Girls.”

We stayed at Hotel 18, which was across Collins Avenue from Miami Beach. It was a studio apartment, and I fully intended to cook one day while we were there. It didn’t happen.

This is the courtyard. I read in this courtyard, and it was amazing.

This is the courtyard. I read in this courtyard, and it was amazing.

I did use one of the glasses to keep a glass of cold water in the fridge at all times because it was humid. It wasn’t as humid as Hampton Roads or Richmond in August, and it came nowhere near Savannah in summer, but it was oppressive.

This is Madonna. Madonna sometimes washes dishes. Like a virgin. Be like Madonna.

This is Madonna. Madonna sometimes washes dishes. Like a virgin. Be like Madonna.

We celebrated our anniversary at Spiga and I began what nearly was a daily tradition of eating octopus. They were incredibly accommodating despite us being there really late due to a delay in us getting to Miami and arriving close to closing time.

The next day was my birthday. We didn’t leave the room until after 1 p.m., but I didn’t care because I could hear again.

Once we stated getting hungry, I remembered my promise to Dave that I would get at least one Cuban sandwich while I was there. I did a search for the most authentic place and was directed to the Playa Café on Washington Avenue.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

I had to order this sandwich in my rusty Spanish. This sandwich was delicious. If it was the last sandwich I ever had in my entire life, I would have been OK with it. It might not look like a lot of food, but remember that a Cuban sandwich is pressed. Also, it was about the size of a Philly.

Afterward, we waddled our stuffed selves along the Lincoln Road Mall, where I bought some shirts after being afraid of my luggage not fitting in the plane and not factoring in sweating through at least one shirt a day. On the bright side, this allowed me to ditch some more shirts, so we’ve finally reached the point that my oldest shirt is 10 years old. Yes, until then, I was wearing clothes that dated from college. And high school.

Afterward, we met up with Renée’s friend Kris and celebrated my birthday. We started at Wet Willie’s deeper in South Beach. I’m not even going to link to that abomination. That was the place that got me everlasting gobstopped when I was in Savannah during a (nearly) citywide blackout.

After one drink, which was not as potent as the one in Georgia about eight years ago, we headed across Biscayne Bay to Brickell. Our first stop was Batch. I can’t reasonably judge this place because of where we went next.

I agree with this sign.

I agree with this sign.

Currently, my favorite restaurant, Spice, is in Manhattan, and my favorite bar is in Miami. I need to make a lot more money.

But, anyway,




I love you, RedBar.

I’ve you’ve ever been to Charlottesville, RedBar is what Oakhart Social would be in a larger city. Although I’m back in the city with McCormack’s Whisky Grill (I prefer it to Big Whisky), I still miss Oakhart. But not as much as RedBar.

RedBar, I pine for you.

I had a life-changing Old Fashioned and drank Plato’s form of a Whiskey Sour. The atmosphere was perfect. The music was great. It’s currently my mental happy place.

Once my birthday was good and celebrated, Renée and I went to Maxine’s for a late-night snack. I don’t have a full grasp of how late it was. I don’t really want to know. It was a great night. That is all that matters.

The following day, we finally made it the entire block over to the beach.




Clearly, we were out for a long while. I still don’t fully recognize my arms. I still got about 25 pounds to go to get back to where I was before I had to commute to Charlottesville for four months, so I didn’t remove my shirt. I think I have to actually do real exercises because I tend to burn of whatever I eat any given day.

Except for June the 24th. We went to Indomania, in which I ate an obscene amount of food. Renée tends to eat only once a day, and I partially picked up on her habit on this trip. I could not handle it.

I was ravenous.

While she was picking at her plate, I devoured the majority of the Rijsttafel Sumatra. O, Dutch-Indonesian fusion, where have you been all of my life? I don’t know how people in Miami stay so svelte. I would be so fat if I lived there.

With no regrets.

Needless to say, I slept well that night.

There’s more to come. Expect Part Two within the next 24 hours.

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