I took a trip to Miami Beach in November, 1996, with my Peace Corps friend Liz. We stayed in one of the old Deco hotels on Ocean Drive, and wandered around for a few days taking pictures. Yesterday I had the negatives scanned so I could put them online.
I was using a compact point-and-shoot Olympus camera that I had for about ten minutes in the mid-'90s. It took pretty good pictures, but its life span was short -- it fatally jammed a year or two after I got it.
Below, in italics, are excerpts from my journal at the time.
Some memorable Miami Beach characters:
1) The Iguana Woman -- whom Liz and I met outside Lucky Cheng's restaurant, cradling a huge inert lizard wrapped in a special crocheted iguana-jacket. Apparently she runs a shelter for abandoned iguanas -- not something I ever thought of as a compelling social problem, but then I never lived in Miami.
2) The 95-Year-Old Woman -- who begged spare change from me and Liz as we sat outside Java Mania, or something like that, on Washington Avenue. She told me she's 95 and wished she had my legs -- and admonished me not to smoke, as she'd lost children who smoked. (A daughter and a nephew, actually.) She told me she'd lived in Miami Beach for 20 years because it had the best climate -- but she also termed herself "disgusting." She was dirty and clearly wore a bad wig. I felt awful for her and gave her $1.
3) The Wheelchair Woman -- selling strands of plastic beads on Ocean Drive. Bought two for $1 -- she had an "Artists Anonymous" bumper sticker on the back of her chair. It was a pity purchase. I dropped the beads in a planter. I'm sure some partier grabbed them.
I was infatuated with the groovy pastel lifeguard stands on the beach...
...and the colorful hotels on Ocean Drive itself. This was after Miami Beach had gentrified -- when I first visited in the mid-'80s these hotels were all painted beige, with phalanxes of retirees lined up on every porch.
More from the journal:
On Friday, we just walked around Miami Beach, up to Lincoln Road and along Ocean Drive. Liz hit a resale shop and got some happenin' green bell-bottom cords. We had dinner at Lucky Cheng's but there were barely any people there -- we had to go back at 11 to see the show, which involved a lot of bad lip-synching and a Latina drag queen getting attacked by a burly Latino man. (This after she ordered him to "eat her pussy." She screamed, "Get off me, you freak!")
Sadly, we missed by one day a show titled "Men Doin' Flowers: An evening of men being erotic with flowers," at the Kremlin. I can't even imagine.
We were blessed with amazing weather, I remember. Hard to believe 1996 was 23 years ago! These images are a little slice of history, even though the buildings (protected by architectural preservation laws) haven't changed much since.
I could have sworn I took a picture of a poster for the "Men Doin' Flowers" show, but I can't find it now. Maybe Liz took it. I'll have to ask her.
I used to have a great t-shirt from the Clevelander, which had an excellent outdoor bar. (Probably still does.)
From the journal:
Saturday we went to Coconut Grove and there was an art show -- got a CD but nothing else. Last night we went to Wet Willie's, where Liz was highly amused by Hare Krishna musicians on the sidewalk. I had 2 grain alcohol slushies, and then at the Clevelander I had beer and Liz had rum and Coke. Then we went to dinner at the Cardozo... We had sort of loosely planned to go out, but it didn't happen -- which, like I said, was really fine anyway. At least I got a good night's sleep!
Only last night did I realize, when looking at the negatives again, that the person who scanned them missed two of the frames. Argh! So I need to follow up today and get those shots scanned as well. As my mother always says, everything has to be done at least twice.