5 Things to Love and Loathe About Living on South Beach

Note: This was written shortly before I moved off of SoBe. Opinions still stand and I think if/when I return to Miami, i’ll be opting to live a bit further inland – say, Coconut Grove?

This building was down the road from me. I saw it every day. (Yanked from flickr.com/photos/mrclean/)

I’ve been an unintentional, sometimes unwilling, unofficial resident of South Beach for the past 5 months. The first of those 4.75 months were spent living inside a cramped hotel room with my soon-to-be husband and his cat – but more on that later. As a lifelong Miamian, i’ve had the opportunity of living and hanging out in several of our city’s fine (and not so great) neighborhoods, including Sweetwater, Kendall, Pinecrest, and Coconut Grove. In younger years, I often dreamt of packing my things, getting a room mate, and testing out some beach front living, but it never really panned out – until now. South Beach, a conglomeration of too much bass, khaki shorted tourists, and sun tans in every possible shade of bronze, wooed me for a few weeks and has subsequently left a foul taste in my mouth. Like the salt water that burns your nostrils after a dip in the Atlantic, i’ve learned that perhaps I, too, am not a fish. Still, sometimes it has its’ moments…

5 Things to Love

24 Hour Eateries

Coming from the suburbs, there’s nothing quite like moving to a place where your midnight craving for falafel can be (fairly) easily fulfilled. SoBe is the closest thing Miami has to NYC eating habits. There are plenty of bodegas open late, lots of 24 hour pharmacies, and you can basically find a pizza or a burger well into the evening. I discovered one of my favorite pizza joints, Primo’s, when I was starved for a slice at 2am, and my god is it phenomenal pizza. There’s also Crazy Mexican for when you’ve got the taco itch, 8oz Burger Bar when you need some meat (they also have 2 vegetarian patty options!) with a craft beer, and Chow Down Grill if you’re drunk and not very picky about your fried rice.

Walkability

I wouldn’t exactly say that South Beach is pedestrian friendly, because we’ve got more drunken asshole driving around per square mile than the majority of Dade County. What I would say, though, is that walking the streets of SoBe is much more entertaining than attempting to hike around in most other parts of Miami. From my current apartment, I can very easily walk to a number of gas stations and pharmacies and bodegas, 2 laundromats, a yoga studio, a bank, a few restaurants, and oh yeah, the ocean. My old place in Kendall would have me walking for at least 35 minutes until I reached any center of commerce. Plus, walking around here, you’re sure to see something at least remotely interesting.

Architecture

SoBe is home to Miami’s infamous Art Deco Historic District. On top of that, even the not-so-Deco structures here have a personality all their own. I mean, just look:

We could see this one from our bedroom.

The Goddamn Ocean

I mean, have you seen the beach?! I always took it for granted when I was younger until I wound up taking a trip to New York’s Rockaway Beach (I was having a bit of a Ramones moment last year). Although not the most beautiful beaches i’ve been to (that title belongs to Pochomil, Montelimar, and San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua), South Beach definitely has much to offer. (Relatively) clean, long stretches of sand and cool, blue waters to splash around in without so many waves that i’d be afraid to go in, it’s pretty fantastic. Plus, it’s where my husband proposed to me. I can’t really argue with that.

Not engaged (or pregnant) here yet, but certainly falling heavier in love on the beach.

5 Things to Loathe

Parking, Parking, PARKING!!!

Mother. Of. GOD. Parking is fucking terrible on South Beach. Unless you are an official resident (I.D. and all) and are willing to shell out near $100 a month for a parking pass, you will be fucked on South Beach. I’m fairly certain that the Miami Beach Parking Department are in bed with Tremont Towing and Beach Towing, who have their hands beyond full on any given day. Let’s see… Public parking garages are few and far between, and anyone staying more than, say, 5 hours is destined to pay $20 not to have their car impounded. As for street parking, you might be lucky enough to get to a metered space but this means paying over $1 an hour and hoping the meter doesn’t run out before a meter maid comes by and writes you up. And by god will they write you up. Over and over and over again. I left my car for a day once at an unfortunate meter (never park on Meridian south of 5th!) and got 4 parking tickets in under 12 hours. That’s practically $100 – more so if i’d waited over 30 days to pay it off. Oh, oh. But always MAKE SURE TO PAY YOUR PARKING TICKETS. JB and I had the misfortune of finding my car missing right before dinner on Father’s Day, only to find out that my 5 outstanding tickets had granted Tremont Towing a free pass to hunt down and take my car and then rape me with a $300 fine (on top of the practically $400 I owed from overdue tickets). Lesson learned.

However, there are ways around the parking fiasco. When we lived on Ocean Drive, we came to realize that we would only get ticketed on weekends, and only once in a while. We cut our losses and decided not to pay meters, and still wound up only paying maybe $40-$60 a month on either car. Additionally, living on 5th street, we found certain meters don’t appear to EVER get ticketed – not even on weekends! If you can find one of these golden locations (and sorry, I won’t be telling you on the off chance I move back to SoBe and need it myself), you’re pretty much set for life.

High Cost of Living

SoBe living ain’t cheap. I’ve never been to a more expensive Publix in all of Miami ($6 for a small pack of string cheese? You fuckin kidding me?!). You have to pay for parking always (see above – or again, I had to PAY to use the Publix parking garage if I were staying longer than 2 hours. Granted, who shops for that long? But you never know!) Although some entertainment (people watching, swimming in the ocean) is free or cheap, plenty of other stuff (concerts, comedy shows, festival entrances, night clubs, bar tabs) are much more expensive around here. Unless you know your way around to the cheap joints (like Las Olas Cafe for the $4 breakfast special or Club Deuce for you seedy bar flies out there), you’ll end up overspending within a few hours of visiting the island.

Some girlfriends and I before an afternoon at the Deuce, back in my own bar fly days.

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

Hello, police state! I’d never actually been to SoBe on Memorial Day Weekend (a.k.a. “Urban Week”) until this year, and I can see why. Absurdly long lines to get in and out of the island. Checkpoints as far as the eye can see. More obnoxious party-going tourists than you can shake a glow stick at. And cops everywhere. Everywhere. All up and down the street. In cars, on bikes, on foot. In the fucking SKY! Seriously, helicopters were flying above our apartment for days on end. Luckily we knew our way around some of the annoyances (taking the Venetian instead of the Macarthur helped at times, as did living/using the streets south of 5th). We didn’t even go out to explore that weekend. We were better off indoors until the craziness passed.

Tourists

This is just me being a snob, but after a while, being around tourists just gets old. I figure this is what NYC people must feel like hanging out in most of Manhattan. Too many teenagers looking to “party” and trash my town and if it isn’t them, it’s old folks with too much sunblock, scared to cross the damn street and taking too long once they do to look up at the pretty buildings. If only life were more like Grand Theft Auto…

It Smells

Yeah, I said it. It’s possibly not the worst smelling part of town, but it is pretty funky. The mixture of sunblock and tanning oil sizzling off people’s sweaty bodies, homeless dudes in every possible state of cleanliness (fun fact: during “Hurricane” Isaac, JB caught a naked bum showering next to our trash bin), and more sweaty but probably not homeless folks walking around without caring about their personal B.O. (you’ve never been to a worse smelling Whole Foods – or maybe that’s just the overcrowded hot food bar – and I normally love WF!) makes the streets of SoBe the wild west of odors. But hey, it could always be worse!

All that being said, I miss the damn beach. Being landlocked in a town where you can’t walk to anything is insanely frustrating. I got spoiled having a 24 Hour CVS across the street as well as a variety of open-late amenities a few blocks away. South Beach, you will always have a place in my heart – you crazy fucking bitch, you.

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