Walking down Ocean Drive is like walking in Nice, only safer, and almost everyone speaks English here… as their second language. I eavesdrop on conversations while buying Italian Roast for my French Press from a Cuban barista who spoke German. On my way to a tapas dinner I saw a tourist give five Euros to a baffled homeless man.
Like almost every beach community there are leathery transients interwoven with the over-excited party-goers, spring breakers, regular tourists and locals. They don’t cause a lot of trouble, just enough. Stop for breakfast at the News Cafe and ponder the last moments of Versace. Take off your top and get baked on America’s greatest beach. Walk the historic Art Deco district in your flip shades and panama hat, winding up on Lincoln Road at dusk. Spend a quarter to ride the South Beach Shuttle down to Joe’s for stone crab before the season ends in May. Hit a few clubs or a dark dive bar or two, then retire to your cinematic hotel with a slice of Brooklyn pizza and a New York Times. Or not.
The bold colors and swagger belie the fragility of the place; a wisp of sand in a rising tide. Luxury all around but everyone makes their money someplace else. The neon-lit cast of characters work on their lines, exaggerate their poses and try to figure out their next move. As I posed my model in South Pointe park one Saturday I saw, through the viewfinder, two men dressed as bride and groom stride into the frame and stop. Looking up from my camera I politely asked them to move on just a few more feet. “No, this is a photo shoot” snapped back their hipster photographer. “So is this” I replied.