3 days in Miami

I escaped the gray New England winter for a few blissful art-soaked days in Miami last month. I’m already scheming a return visit. The coffee culture alone (okay, that and the beach) made the trip worthwhile.

If you plopped New York down into the tropics and turned the time machine back a decade or so (to the city’s grittier, early-Giuliani days), it would feel a bit like Miami does now: edgy, macho, hyper, loud…and a little show-offy. Like a guy in too-tight pants at Vincent’s nightclub…but who also happens to be an awesome dancer with a great sense of humor (and killer tats).

Miami is a peacock to Boston’s mourning dove.

I teased some locals into telling me what they called the crispy sunburned tourists littering the beach (“our garden tomatoes” for your future reference; do not fuck around with the sun down there).

My friend and I stayed at the Park Central Hotel, an art deco classic and, according to the tour bus that drove by and snapped pictures while I floated in the pool, Humphrey Bogart’s favorite place to stay. The hotel is haunted (at least on the floor and room where we stayed) but I would visit the “Blue Jewel” again.

I wish someone — anyone — I spoke to at the hotel knew who painted this awesome mural, a recent addition:

park central pool miami

The style reminds me of the graffiti in Naples, Italy (another one of my favorite places, which also has a similar New York vibe)…maybe an Italian artist painted the one at the Park Central?

"the war of the pinocchios" Naples, Italy, 2008

“the war of the pinocchios” Naples, Italy, 2008

The lively mural at the Park Central was a hint of things to come; we visited the Arts District on our way out of the city toward Ft. Lauderdale.

Being the directionally-challenged Massachusetts snow birds that we are, we got lost. We landed on the wrong side of the expressway, in Overtown, where we quickly discovered we weren’t in Atlantis anymore…

legions of Atlantis U alums?

A cop turned us rather angrily around in the right direction (“The only reason you ladies should be here is to buy crack!”), and off we went, to the Arts District, which was still pretty gritty, but infused with tons and tons of jaw dropping, eyeball popping street art.

take a walk on the wild side

crosswalk Miami-style

It was light years from the slick SoBe scene.

I demanded coffee, so we stopped for a cafesito at the Panther Cafe and grabbed a grilled cheese at the Ms Cheezious food truck parked out front. It’s obvious the mascot does not let the wares pass her lips.

detail, Ms Cheezious food truck
We sat outside the cafe with our sammies and soaked up the scene. The hipsters were out, sitting under Audrey and her famous neck. Wintery, crabby Boston never seemed so far away or uptight (imagine Ms Cheesious in Beantown? There would be a Puritanical outcry; she would have to bust out the Patagonia fleece—or bust out of it).

outside the Panther Cafe, Miami (photo by Jen Niles)

The baristas at Panther were super nice and helped me pick out the perfect bag of beans to bring home—so comforting, especially at 3 PM when you’re fading and in need of a fix.


grinding it the right way at the Panther Cafe, Miami

Everywhere we went, everywhere we looked, incredible, massive artwork hit us from every angle…

a girl, a monkey, and a stag beetle

“anything can be beautiful when you look at it with love”

Stag beetles seemed to pop up quite a bit. They are very cool-looking in real life.

We spotted a drug deal going down in front of the wall below. We pretended not to see each other, and waited for them to walk away before snapping this photo. This is just a tiny part of it:

stag beetles are hot down here

steam punk stag beetles are all the rage (photo by Jen Niles)

Even the store fronts (and as you can see above, the crosswalks) are decorated.

groovy storefront, Miami

it’s elemental that you have a groovy storefront in the Miami Arts District (photo by Jen Niles)

This grey mural stretched down an entire city block; this is a small fragment of it. I can’t imagine how long it took to paint.

"solarium," Miami

“solarium,” Miami

As always, now that the arts have made this area famous and beautiful, the developers are licking their chops. Someone I spoke to in line at Panther told me that Wal-Mart wanted to build a store in the middle of the district. There goes the neighborhood! The local people are fighting it but…we’ll see what happens. Espero que no suceda.