I was sunning on South Beach when a thunderstorm materialized. Lightning struck the top of a lifeguard stand and rain started to pelt me. I sought cover in a grove of trees, but they offered little protection from the downpour. I kept on and waited under an awning outside a Starbucks. The fashionably dressed people inside stared at screens and ignored me like I was a rodent scurrying up from a flooding sewer. Embarrassed, I scampered over to The Carlton Hotel and drank a dark lager from Cigar City Brewing. My bathing suit dripped water on the floor, but the kind bartender didn’t seem to mind. For whatever reason there were dozens of photos of The Beatles on the wall. I asked the bartender if they stayed there. She said they didn’t, but that people always asked. The lager was excellent as all of Cigar City’s beers are. The rain kept up, so I went back out and crossed Collins. Outside a generic surf shop a homeless man ate a pastry from a garbage can using a plastic fork. A block over, a well-dressed man sat outside a pizza shop under an umbrella cutting into a piping hot calzone. After waiting for a red light, I cut up Espolona Way. Four ostentatious women sat outside the Little Havana Cigar bar smoking hookah and drinking Singapore Slings. Each held a Pomeranian on their lap, and they spoke over one another as the Pomeranians yapped. Back at the Barcelona Guesthouse I changed clothes and blow-dried my Rainbow sandals. The Barcelona Guest House was a ramshackle affair. One of the cheapest places to stay in South Beach. The clientele seemed to be me and a collection of private investigators. When the rain finally stopped, I went back out. I wanted to see Versace’s mansion on the way to Joe’s Stone Crab. I stood across the street, amazed Versace lived there and unsurprised he died right on the steps. He was so accessible. I wondered what he’d think about it being turned into a tacky hotel and restaurant. I decided he’d be plenty happy to be remembered. I snapped a photo, lit a smoke, and crossed the street. Every breath feels magical in the heavy Miami air. No matter what time of year. To be clear, it was October. It was my birthday. That ocean smell and breeze can’t be found in a city that size anywhere else in America. I wandered around the mansion admiring the architecture and the gilded fence that surrounded it. A shoeless man seated by a trashcan asked me for a smoke and I obliged. He asked if he could have two. I laughed but again obliged. I continued along Ocean Drive. Large fences blocked the view of the Atlantic. A seafood festival was being setup. I stopped at Muscle Beach and watched the weightlifters. No one was working out. All the chiseled guys stood around talking except one young guy, of average build, who kept jumping up onto the concrete wall that surrounded the workout area then jumping down and back up. It must have been five feet high. When I arrived at Joe’s Stone Crab, there was a line even though the restaurant wasn’t open yet. I put my name on the list and sat at the lobby bar and ordered a Lychee Martini then another. In Florida they call Lychee “alligator fruit” because its skin is rough like an alligator’s. I had not seen hide nor hair of an alligator anywhere around South Beach, though I’d seen plenty of rough and weathered skin. Eventually my name was called, and I was ushered to my table. A large bib was tied around my neck. My waiter, Gary, had been employed at Joe’s Stone Crab for 23 years. His opening spiel was perfectly rehearsed and professional and left room for improvisation. What I found most fascinating is that stone crabs aren’t killed for the claws. The claws regenerate, so no snow crab dies in the eating of snow crab claws. I liked how humane this initially seemed, though the more I thought about it the more I imagined how terrifying it would be if someone kept showing up and removing my hands, even if they grew back, though not as terrifying as death, which was the fate every other animal served at Joe’s Stone Crab faced. I ordered the jumbo stone crab legs and another Lychee Martini. When the stone crab legs arrived, they didn’t look real. More like porcelain. They’d been perfectly cracked with a tiny hammer and the meat could be easily removed in luscious, mouth-watering bites. They were served with a mustard sauce which I slathered on each delectable piece. After dinner I wandered up to The Scapegoat, which is my favorite bar in South Beach. The inside is dark and small, and they play rap from the late 80s and early 90s. I drank a couple local IPAs, one from Funky Buddha and another from Lost City, then walked back to the Barcelona Guest House along Ocean Drive. The night air was steamy and wet. People were starting to cruise the strip and the bars and clubs were filling up. The South Beach nightlife was waking up, which let me know it was time for me to go to bed.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His short fiction is forthcoming in Wigleaf and Gargoyle. His memoir “Bridges” is forthcoming from Bull City Press.