Saturday, November 8, 2008
A Trip Down South Beach
View of the ocean from the rooftop bar of The Hotel in South Beach
So last week I went down to Miami with the rest of my grad program for the ULI Fall Conference. The conference was technically in South Beach, and our hotel was located a few blocks away from the conference center in the Art Deco District. I have never been to Miami before, let alone South Beach, but based on the limited information I had received, I had a feeling that I was not going to be a big fan. After staying down there for five days, I can only say that my suspicions were confirmed.
Don't get me wrong, there was were some nice aspects. The art deco architecture was pretty cool, and it was fun to imagine what it would have been like in the 40s and 50s. I should note, however, that staying in the hotel rooms in the art deco hotels (or at least the ones that haven't had the room layouts redesigned) can be pretty annoying especially if you are sharing the room with someone else. We stayed in the Surfcomber, which is now operated by Doubletree, and the rooms were tiny. There was barely enough room for my roomate and me to put our bags anywhere.
Anyways, the weather was nice, and it was nice to see the ocean (although the sand on the beach was really pretty terrible). Until we actually walked out on the beach, I did not know that South Beach was a topless beach, and while naked women were not exactly littering the beach, I did see more than a few mammaries. I did get to eat lunch at this delicious Cuban restaurant one day, and that might have been the highlight of the trip. I did also like the mix of Cuban/Latin culture. I would say that this is about the extent of good things, though.
Last year when we went to the Fall ULI Conference in Las Vegas, I thought that I had been to one of the most over-priced places in the country. However, after going to South Beach, that assumption has been altered. Meals were overpriced everywhere, and drinks were even more so. One night, I accidentally bought a Coors Light for $9. Yes, $9. I lost count of how many Bentleys and Aston Martins I saw driving around, and perhaps these people have no qualms about paying $9 for a beer. I, on the other hand, appreciate the fact that I can buy an 18 pack of Coors Light for $9, and do not like getting ripped off.
I guess the bigger problem with South Beach was that somewhere along the way people down there decided that good taste and style should be replaced by flaunted wealth and trendiness. This extended all the way from the way people dressed, what cars they drove, and what stores and restaurants were present. While there was plenty of shopping near us, I didn't see a single store that even tempted me to set food inside of it.
I feel like my whole experience can sort of be summed up in an encounter that I had the last night we were there. We all had eaten a nice dinner at a restaurant called Wish (the tab was picked up by some Clemson alumni who had given us a tour of some projects in Miami earlier that afternoon) and were sort of doing a pub crawl on the way back to the hotel. Well, it turned out that a number of people from our program had ended up at some club that was right down from our hotel, so we started heading that way. We got to the door and our group, about 8 guys and one girl) were told that since we didn't have enough girls, we could only get in if we paid the $20 cover charge. Well, one guy went in with the girl, and 4 or 5 of the other turned around and headed back to the hotel. Not to be deterred, I tried talking my way in and ended up calling one of our girl friends who was already inside and got her to come out to see if she could convince them to let me in. Well, after a couple of minutes without much success, I decided to leave and said to my friend (the girl) something to the effect of "Fine, I don't even really want go to in this shithole anyways." At this point, the bouncer (with a shaved head and tattoos on his skull), who I had previously had no interaction with, starts yelling at me and telling me to leave. Although I don't remember with 100% accuracy what he said, he did include something about me being a "9-5 Brad Pitt," told me to go over to Ocean Blvd., called me a "yuppie", said something about my "sense of entitlement," and asked me if I was wearing a costume. It should be noted that at the time I was wearing an oxford cloth shirt, khakis, penny loafers, a navy blazer and a tie with skulls & cross bones on it and compared to the douchey clothes that everyone down there normaly wear, I suppose that I did look a little "yuppie"ish. I told the guy at I appreciated him calling me Brad Pitt and ended up walking back to the hotel. I came up with much better comebacks once I was back in my room, but I guess it didn't really matter.
So, that pretty much sums up my experience. Needless to say, I have no desire to ever go back to South Beach, or even Miami for that matter. If I'm going to the beach in Florida, I'll stick with the greater Destin area (Grayton Beah, Blue Mountain Beach), thank you.