I’ve eaten more bagels in the past three days than I have since–well, since last spring break, which was the last time I visited my father-in-law and his wife in south Florida. Behind me surf crashes on the sand fourteen floors below; looking west through the condo dusky orange and purple bands mark the sun’s retreat. We’ve bounced between the workout room, ocean, pool, and shower since Thursday morning, snatching an advance on summer. Tomorrow’s weather promises to be the best. It’s been delightful.
I expect this afternoon’s visit to South Beach will last for a long while. We met Samuel and his girlfriend to walk around the the Art Deco district, watch the crowds, savor the sun and cool breeze–and find pancakes. Restaurant after bistro after cafe filled sidewalk tables with diners, hostesses smiling as they passed out menus and discount coupons to entice us to sit, their smiles going blank when we asked “are you still serving breakfast?” No, they were not, but Samuel wanted pancakes and we indulged his quest. Rock music blasted from a plaza where seated patrons encouraged college-age students, helmeted with inverted plastic beach pails, who jumped, shook, and stumbled in what may have been a dance. I scanned the two tiers of sidewalk tables in a crowded open-front cafe playing painfully loud disco without spotting a single woman. Lap dogs were everywhere, carried as often as leashed. Dozens of dogs sat dutifully under cafe tables, waiting for handouts and human clumsiness to deliver food scraps like manna. I saw one woman lowering a full water glass to the sidewalk for her parched pooch. (I trust the water temperature in the restaurant’s dishwasher s exceeds the sanitary code minimum. ) Judy and I were not hungry when we stepped into South Beach but the walk, sun, and crowds burned through the morning’s bagels. Samuel’s solo quest became a team effort. We turned west off Ocean Avenue, walked to Collins, and started north. No crowds, fewer restaurants, but paydirt came at Cafe des Arts, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also had the pancakes. The menu promised maple syrup but delivered only ersatz caramel-colored Shur-Fine corn syrup that may have been driven past a maple tree on the way from the plant. Not that I was deterred, mind.
Carbo-heavy meals, walking on crowded sidewalks, and hot sun made for a logy drive back from Miami. A nap tempted until I looked at soft lowering sunlight lighting up the ocean. The air temperature was 66 degrees–only a bit more than what our Miami-acclimated son calls “bone-chillingly cold”–but warm enough for me. A young couple sat side-by-side in the sand, clad in jeans, long-sleeve shirts, and Polar fleece tops. I walked passed them shirtless, wearing only a bathing suit, and dove into the modest waves. When I surfaced and looked back to shore they were brushing sand off their clothes and heading north. I floated into the swells feet-first, staying in the water until the sun dropped behind the nearest buildings.