By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Sometimes it's embarrassing to live in Miami, and sometimes it's downright scary -- scary enough to make locals blanch -- turn white as sheets, even. Yet people are shy, if not subtle, about expressing such discomfort. Rather than simply observing the obvious -- that a lot of mostly young, mostly affluent black people like to come to Miami Beach and party Memorial Day weekend, and that, since this holiday is regularly scheduled and comes once every 365 days, year-round residents can just plan around it or deal for a few days -- temporary white flight is instead masqueraded as "escaping from the Beach."
Take, for example, the lead of Jon Warech's column "The 411" from this past week's Miami Sunpost: "It is that time of year again when locals cringe ... and possibly even skip town altogether. That's right. It's Memorial Day ... Holler!"
Even less oblique was an invitation (see the actual invite below) for an event at impenetrable Design District joint Grass devised by promoter Evrim Oralkan, who included in his e-mailed beckoning, in case you didn't get the gist of the concept, the following: "As you know, this weekend is the Memorial Day weekend, and as usual locals will prefer not to go to South Beach. We have a special party, Nuit Blanche, a White Affair. Enjoy the weekend in style, away from all the craziness of South Beach."
A postweekend story in the Miami Herald by Nicole White gave Grass and the nouveau separate water fountains craze a pass, completely avoiding the issue of or even the word race and allowing Oralkan to dismiss Nuit Blanche with a glib explanation.
When The Bitch passed by a White Affair herself, her unnatural pallor was perhaps for once of social assistance, allowing the nearly albino dog and her crew of pale riders to vault over the normally unassailable Grass door barricade. The event attracted what might be considered Grass's normal dining crowd, that being the cast of Cocoon V: The Shuffleboard Tournamentand a group of younger, kind of preppy diners and bar patrons trying to inexplicably appear old beyond their years. It should be noted Grass itself, while irrationally discriminating in its clientele, has never been known to discriminate againstwould-be entrants based on melanin levels; some of its staff members, including one long-time door dude, are people of color. Still, throwing an event pointedly called Nuit Blanche just isn't smart or polite.
"People perceived the idea of the party very well, as Miami is a city which needs some upscale party concepts," Oralkan told The Bitch. The Beach itself seemed a bit subdued compared to last year, with The Man making his presence felt on bicycles and by handing out bottles of water. Adish Jain, owner of Guru Restaurant on Twelfth Street (where The Bitch likes to go to admire the orange walls and scarf down some palak paneer) thought the crowd was actually doing some self-policing. Jain, who keeps Guru open for regular business hours each Memorial Day weekend, observes: "The crowds have been coming for the holiday for some time now, long enough to realize there's a certain expectation for how to act on Miami Beach. Happily, people are rising to the occasion."
Inanimate ObjexNot too long ago the sidewalk outside Objex Artspace was bustling with trendoids and art aficionados. The Bitch recalls being too awed to even woof softly to political iconography manipulator Shephard Faireyduring this past December's Art Basel as he met fans and discussed his fauxsters, then hanging at the gallery. During the four years since it opened as a vanguard of the emergence of Miami's Wynwood Art District, the space with the green walls and glass-brick façade on 36th Street and NE Second Avenue served as home base to a clique of underground, consciously lowbrow artists, not the least of whom was owner Dustin Orlando. Sadly those days are gone.
The doors to the gallery are bolted shut by decree of the Miami-Dade Police Department, and what remains inside is empty space, not art space. An eviction notice is pasted to the door (well, it was until The Bitch snagged it) and workers are busy disassembling abandoned installations. Orlando's former one-bedroom apartment above Objex shows no sign of the California transplant. A box of his abandoned possessions sits curbside as neighbors rummage through it. One man finds a pair of red Adidas sneakers and trots off.
Orlando's onetime gallery collaborator, friend, and neighbor Karen Genettatells The Bitch how she spent this past Wednesday sleepless. Though Genetta, a popular scenester photographer and nightclub habitué, denies hitting the cocaine, empty baggies overflow the ashtray beside her.
"Where's Dustin?" The Bitch asks.
"In rehab, where he needs to be for a long fucking time," Genetta replies.
The petite, attractive Genetta takes a swig of a Heineken as she monitors two online computers at her workstation, accessible through the gallery's back door. The phone keeps ringing -- people interested in hiring her. Preoccupied, Genetta's mind seemingly straddles the divide between reality and the hallucinogenic.
"You could make movies about the things that went on here," she continues, referring to nights of nonstop, drug-induced mayhem. "In the beginning everything was going great, but then [Orlando's] ego got out of control. He thought he was above it all. He thought he was above even running his own fucking gallery, and it crumbled," Genetta says with listless detachment.