Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lost in South Beach, Miami

To not know where we are, as children, is a nightmare.
To not know where we are, as adults, is a perfect dream.

- Ray Bradbury, Yestermorrow 

To wander around Miami's South Beach is not really to risk getting lost. The ocean, as vast and unmistakable a landmark as ever was created, sees to that. Thanks to its discipline there is a kind of grid, not overly perfect in its geometry, by which the confused visitor can orient herself. It goes like this: 

Forming the vertical lines are sky, horizon, water, sand, scrub bushes and a low wall followed by more sand, dotted with volleyball nets and jungle gyms for adult males, a comfortably wide boardwalk, set against thick, oddly rubbery grass lined with coconut palms, a concrete sidewalk set against the asphalt of Ocean Drive with its unbroken line of restaurants offering $8 breakfasts, then on to the serious avenues of Collins, Washington and other roads until you get to the big Alton road and, beyond that, more water, this time with boats, and another horizon, this one filled with immense bridges and the skyscrapers of Miami.

You could follow any one of those lines down to South Point or up to, say 22nd street or beyond, on foot. 

South Beach is a walking town, and that is one of its greatest pleasures.
You can stroll nearly anywhere, at nearly any time. Get lost, get found, stumble around into parts you haven't seen before. Landmarks are plentiful. There is Joe's Stone Crabs at one end, Espanola Way and Lincoln Drive in the middle,  and, if you're a bookish short, a regional library at the other.

What about crime on South Beach? It exists - how could it not? - , but there are even more police. They glide around like sharks in their wonderful black and white sedans straight out of a 1960s cop show, lights occasionally flashing but sirens rare. Those who love the early morning when all is dark and quiet and the sun has not yet begun to glow red on the horizon will be comforted by the stealthy presence of Miami's police. The many homeless, drawn to the place by the soft weather and communal beauty, seem to coexist peacefully with the representatives of the law. At least that's what I've seen in my early morning wanderings. A few beach strollers and joggers appear before dawn, so even the earliest birds are never entirely, dangerously alone.

And if one gets lost and tired, there are buses. The South Beach local costs $0.25, city buses $2.25. Exact change is required but bus drivers tend to be kind.