Miami -- as far from Portland as you can go in the US
I'm in Miami Beach, and it definitely counts as one of the more interesting trips I've found myself on. First off, the town itself (once you get to South Beach, not Miami proper) is opulant, expensive, and filled with beautiful people. As I paid for my vodka mojito and found I was spending 14 bucks, with gratuity included, it suddenly felt very foreign, perhaps even European...
But let me back up a bit. I'm here on business, which makes it extra surreal. My client wanted to go to a trade show and invited me along, which is good because the room is something like 300 a night (and I'm here two nights). He paid, and it was his car from Orlando, so I drove.
The highway is boring as can be. There isn't much to see except mangroves and what look like sugar pines. Other than the stretches of swampy bits, it actually reminded me a lot of Eastern Oregon's scrubland, only without the mountains in the distance.
On the way into town we stopped at a muscle car shop, where they charged 10 bucks to let you puruse the lot. Quick, not very interesting, but I got a hat out of the deal (I hate baseball caps, especially with some corporate logo on it...). It was a poor, black neighborhood; but then I think I kind of expectd that in Miami.
But, then we crossed the water into South Beach where we're staying at the Catalina Hotel, which is just as the literature made it look, although a little run down. But Miami... wow... the women are almost universally busty, low cut, leggy and sexy. There aren't a lot of dumpy guys, either, which doesn't help me much. Not that I'd go there, but it's nice to be able to entertain fantasies about being able to snag pretty girls.
There's this long stretch of street where it's just one restaurant after another, and they all fill the sidewalks with tables. It's almost like a dream where you're walking through a place and it never ends. Block after block of tables of diners, all with pretty girls trying to entice you to eat at their place.
We stopped at one place which was very loud, making it hard to talk, but the music was great. As we sat down a street peformer did a great show with cards at the table (which got him a nice tip), while in the background, I swear, the guitarist was playing Pink Floyd in a flemenco style. Later it was Zorba the Greek (which ended up with him selling me a copy of his CD).
We tried to go to a club but were turned away because the guy I was with was in shorts. A dress code! My god, do you know how unlikely that is in the nicest of places in Portland? Well, after we had a beer elsewhere, I went back on my own (being the dapper guy that I am).
It was the most amazing place I've ever been. I wish I could remember the name, but it's probably in the land of Faerie anyhow. It starts with a room as deep as the building with 25' ceilings (at least) and probaly about 20' wide making it feel kind of tunel like but still spacious. The space was lit mainly by candlelight, and it was divided up somewhat by these huge, gauzy, curtains.
There were people dancing in the middle to a DJ who was in a perfect little alcove on the side. Across the "hall" and by the full size billiards table (and I mean full size) was another alcove with a good sized bar, the surface of which was marble, lit from below, so the efect was a glowing bar and drinks.
The crowd was a mix of young and old, couples and groups and stray singles (like myself), straight and gay, black, white, every shade in between. All well dressed and well behaved.
But that wasn't the end of the bar. As I headed out the back there was a huge, covered patio. There were couches, tables with low lamps, people eating and drinking and talking and some light making out in darkened corners. The staff was all dressed in white from head to tow and were quietly and efficiently scurrying around taking care of everyone to the beat of the DJ's music pumped out through a sound system that I never quite found.
Going deeper took me into the grassy garden where there were more couches with lamps and indoor furniture in the outdoor setting. A big hammock in the middle of the lawn was swaying gently and obviously occupied, but I didn't look too deeply to see by whom.
Then the poolside party. The pool was longer than an olympic pool, and surrounded by couches that looked the size of kingsized beds or larger, all filled with the same people as the rest of the place. Across the walkway from the lounging groups was a series of bungaloes, where people were sitting around tables, playing games, talking about who know what, and I saw more than one ice bucket with the neck of a champagne bottle poking through.
And it still went deeper. There was another bar in the back, some sort of bungalow with a covered area, and finally a gate to the beach where I wandered out to the low surf and looked at the skyline from the low tide line.
I think this as as far as you can get from Portland in so many ways...