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The people who run the brothels provide sheets, towels, and linens. Other staples, such as sodas or underwear, are sold at extremely inflated costs. Abby has learned to pack her own amenities. Thigh-high stockings, which she can buy for five dollars, typically are sold for twenty at the bordello. A can of soda costs her $3.50. "I only drink water now," she says.
The bordellos have proven to be a comfortable place for Abby to work, but she prefers to remain in charge of her own business. She advertises in New Times and keeps steady appointments with her regulars. "The better way of doing things is to be on your own," she says. "Traveling the circuit is exciting because I can be independent. Although people don't think so, I'm in control of my mind, my body, and my money. Unless I'm in a fashion district." Abby's weakness is shopping malls. She has spent more money than she cares to remember on hats and lingerie and perfume. When she's not on dates, she spends time doing hair and makeup for friends or helping her mother sell flowers at flea markets.
These trips have inspired her to travel more frequently. "I'm a gypsy; I'm a butterfly," she boasts. "In a couple of months, I'll probably take off." When the winter season begins to wane in Miami she says she will most likely work in Orlando. Why? "Because tourism is always good there."
While Miami is known among sex-service providers as a promised land during tourist season, others who once breezed through town only for the winter have decided to establish permanent homes here. Sebastian grew so comfortable in Miami three years ago, he decided to stay. At first he traveled between New York and Miami, but over the years he was lulled by the palm trees, the warm Atlantic, and a steady stream of good clients.
So good, in fact, that he was given a new Mercedes-Benz by a South American client he had dated for only three months. With other clients as well, cold hard cash may not be exchanged right away. Some make direct deposits into Sebastian's bank account or just give him his own credit card. "I don't like the word sugar daddy," he says. "I prefer to call them my benefactors."
Although his business picks up when tourists hit town, he will not chase the season around the world. He does not, however, stay put. He travels when his clients want to meet him for brief encounters or weeklong vacations. "I lead a private life and don't get into the club scene," he says. "While the other boys are out there at the clubs or at the gym, I'm at home making money."
He regards his clientele as a way to augment his salary from his full-time job as an office clerk, and also as an investment in his future. In the next ten years he hopes to own a condominium in a South Beach high-rise. "Escorting is a job. A part-time job," he says. "It's not something I need; it's something that's helping me achieve my goals. Eventually I'm going to hit 35, and the looks aren't going to be there. If it's something I can do, I do it."
In coming weeks, as the crowds begin to dwindle, so will the sex industry. The hookers who advertise will revert to a local clientele, and the globetrotting workers such as Yvonne and Carlos will be scouting summer spots for their next money stop. Talvin DeMachio is spending early spring in San Antonio and Dallas, returning to his home base for a few days, and then he's off to Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. "I feel lucky I can travel around the world and do what I do each day and make my own schedule," DeMachio says. "Anyone in this world can be successful; they just have to find what they are good at. I am good at pleasing people and putting smiles on peoples' faces. I have always wanted to be successful ... and I am."