If you are thinking of venturing south to Miami, 3 talents (6000 denarii in Biblical times) of advice for you: 1 - brush up on your Spanish, 2 - bring an extra credit-card (an unsuspecting friend’s is preferable), and 3 - avoid South Beach. Miami se habla Español. Sure, you can get by in English but speaking un poquito Español goes a long way. Cost is not to be underestimated. While it’s not as bad as NYC or Hong Kong for example, rent prices are rising and getting higher because more snowbirds are moving here. South Beach is for tourists and seldom the most mild-mannered types either. It should be experienced the way one eats at Jack-in-the-Box (or Carl’s Jr.), under cover of darkness, out of desperation and something you reveal only under duress.
Prima facie, three pillars – Spanish-speaking, cost-prohibitive and bon vivants capture the Miamian élan. It is a greed-fest, a sin-city peppered with material girls and tanned meatheads. Ken and Barbie would do well here if they pimped out Ken’s Mercedes AMG and Barbie got a lip job. Speaking of plastic surgery, lip jobs are just appetizers. As of 2016, according to mia aethestics (a leading provider of plastic surgery across America) Miami has the most plastic surgeons in the US, more than NYC and LA. Their surgeons specialize “in body procedures like liposuction, tummy tucks, Brazilian butt lifts (BBL), and breast operations.” Let’s just say conspicuous female pulchritude is enhanced, noticeably. Most of the time I find it over-the-top and uncouth but maybe that’s the point?
La Faux Cultura
A big part of Miami – like many trendy cities today – is social climbing. Unlike DC where local politicos climb via sycophantic groupthink and slavish conformity or NYC where getting-to-the-top is a Darwinian blood sport for workaholics – whoever outlasts the other survives – Miami is more superficial, in a literal sense. It is a network driven city like any other but folks at the top are not hawking fancy degrees or “eviscerating their enemies” Jordan Belfort style. Instead, Miamian bonafides are serrated pectoral muscles, mommy make-overs, tricked out yachts, and lots of plastic wealth. Where else can you valet park at a hospital?
If “fake-it-till-you-make-it” was coined anywhere, it was probably in South Beach. Don’t be too impressed when you see a Lambo or even a perfect 10 sauntering by because odds are both are fugazi; one is probably rented while the other enhanced (hazard a guess as to which is which). There is plenty of money in Miami to be sure, largely inherited trusts and liquid foreign elites with some self-made crypto millionaires, real-estate moguls, and celebrity quarterbacks here and there (Tom Brady's $17M Mansion is on Indian Creek Island).
On-the-other-hand, there are hordes of folks exhibiting the trappings of wealth with little substance behind them. Selfies in front of super cars, Vitruvian bodies, and rococo rooftop condos make for convincing modern day Potemkin Villages. The tiled pool at Versace’s Mansion is the ultimate prop to class up your Instagram portfolio. Digital appropriation of high society requires a carefully airbrushed touch to beguile gullible subscribers. It's effective.
Singles Scene: Ghosting and Instagram
Miami’s vain and rapacious ethos translates to the dating scene. In the common era, dating is a minefield in most big-cities and Miami might take the cake for the most fraught with guile in my experience. Dating is an all-season sport of use or be used. US-bound-Latinas and Awfuls ("Affluent White Females") prioritize Sugardaddys, bottle-service, yacht parties, and US-visas. For the gals, beware of libertines, bronzed macho-men, and slimy club-promoters who dazzle with VIP access and feigned social-media empires. Real love is always elusive so to shortcut the process avoid DMs, discotheques, and YouTube celebs. Instead, focus on local food-markets, the vibrant art scene, crypto meetups, and café-societies where the fisheries are more favorable.
Something unbeknownst to most twenty something males is that dating improves dramatically post-30 with two provisos: you achieve career or personal success, and second you maintain good health; a good physique is optimal of course. (Here is a good video on the subject: 40 Over Fashion) I recommend coming to Miami in your 30s once you have some experience and cash-flow. The dating churn is full of ghosting and Tinder one-night rentals, which can devour your soul as a vulnerable muchacho, or muchacha for that matter. All the better to wait until you are more mature, selective, liquid and therefore more sought-after. Also remember, being sincerely nice, treating people with respect, and offering help to others can be game changers in a sea of superficiality.
Art Basel, Boterismo, and Fashionistas
Art is a passion of mine, so I take a keen interest in local galleries wherever I go. In this sense, Miami also excels. While the list of annual events is prodigious, everything from Formula 1 to Miami Sailing Week to the Ultra Music Festival, the international art scene takes centerstage every December during Art Basel. Art Basel is a labyrinth of exhibits, events and panels that bring together artists, critics, magazine editors, and patrons of the world’s most impactful art. Miami Beach is one of 4 (including Paris, Hong Kong and Basel-Switzerland) metros honored as a host, another feather in the cap of Miami’s international clout.
A salient feature of Miami artistry is Fernando Botero. Fernando Botero Angulo is perhaps Colombia's most influential artist known for sculpting outsized figures. Boterismo, as the method is dubbed, exaggerates its subjects, particularly female forms. Some describe his work as satirical; I call it provocative. 13 of his sculptures - including Male Torso and Donna Sdraiata - are on display on Lincoln Road along South Beach. If interested, there is a "Botero Immersed" exhibition through October 2022 at the Nader Museum.
Certainly, Miami lacks the provenance of fashion centers like Milan or Paris, nor does it have New York’s acclaimed runways. That said, fashion and modeling are big industries. A friend of mine well-versed in Florida's modeling arena tells me Miami prizes the fit and curvy beach body more so than Paris or NYC. Sensible enough but I maintain models are still too thin. Miami flair might be termed tropical chic. Adrienne Faurote, a New York fashion editor turned Miamian noted that Magic City style is more "playful," full of warm colors while New York is more "sophisticated," opting for the darker tones of a Film Noir. A good synopsis, though it should be noted that people dress up, especially the Latinas. Latin bravura triumphs once again!
La Comida Peruana
I do not fancy myself a foodie, nor a fanatical aficionado of the art form perse so take what I say with a grain of salt. The food scene in Miami is good, it’s not great. The street food in LA and the fine dining in New York are better. The range you can sample is narrower than one might think. Yes – there are Cubano, Argentine and Greek restaurants galore among others. However, to my palate the distinctions are not massive. Compared to the barbecue and Tex Mex in Austin, Texas or the hidden Sushi Pizzeria hybrids in LA, Miami's cuisine is prosaic.
The experts tell me that Peruvian food is best. Apparently, this has long been established. Peru has been declared the World's Leading Culinary Destination about as many times as Tom Brady has won the Superbowl. To push the analogy further, I suppose the chef quarterbacking Peru's food championships is Gastón Acurio, known for transforming Peru's "common dishes into fine cuisine." Peruvian ceviche and pan con chicharron (bread with deep-fried pork rind (skin) or pork belly) are beloved. Peru's culinary dominance hails from waves of geographic (jungles, plains and mountains) and ethnic (Incas, Spaniard, Arabic and African) influences spiced together. Sabor a Perú is a local favorite.
Look Past the Pixie
The vacation lifestyle, animated street culture and feverish nightlife make for an entertaining experience. Whatever your métier or hobby – tourism, curating, salsa dancing, lounging, jet-skiing, food-crawling, lap-topping, co-working or selfieing – there is a scene for you. There are obvious drawbacks that spring from Miami’s profusion of stimulus. A Colombian Uber driver told me "Miami is distracting," an apt summary. The Halo Effect (a cognitive bias that makes you infer positives about someone or something that looks attractive) is strong here. Seeing past the pixie dust sprinkled throughout is challenging indeed. In Part 3, we will dispense with the flash and refocus on the substance behind what drives the city, its evolving politics, internationalism and history. More to follow.
A Colombian Uber driver told me "Miami is distracting," an apt summary. The Halo Effect (a cognitive bias that makes you favor someone or something that looks attractive) is strong here.