Pick Up and Go

Blue Martini is maybe a good place to meet a significant other. But first listen to the stories they tell.

I don't really like to date," says Javier, a short, dark, timeworn fellow in his thirties. "I basically come here looking for a sexy woman. You know, the kind who's confident and dresses in a way where you can see everything but her areolas."

Lucky for this shrimp, most women's chests meet his leering gaze at eye level.

"Would you consider a woman sexy if she weighed 300 pounds and was self-confident?" I ask.

"Well," he says, taking his eyes off of his vibrating BlackBerry long enough to look me up and down, "you're confident and overweight, but I'd still do you."

It's 11 p.m. Friday, and Javier and his striped, long-sleeve, button-down crew are standing on the jammed patio at Blue Martini (900 S. Miami Ave., Miami). Since the chain opened a fifth location in Mary Brickell Village — a swanky pocket just south of downtown — this past October, the place has earned a reputation for stilettos, suits, and the occasional balding head. Pickup is the name of the game here. And I'm not talking about a truck.

Not far from the spot where Javier and his demented buddies ogle a cocktail waitress in a teal bustier stands Vanessa, a 5-foot-nothin' 27-year-old with the kind of short, stylish bob that would make Victoria Beckham proud. "At the Beach, you're going to find the kind of guys who wear sunglasses at night," she says. "The kind of guys who don't have a degree and all they do is promote or DJ. Or they're models in 13th grade, working hard to get their business degree after eight years in college. Here you're going to find lawyers, doctors, architects ... people who have substance and interesting things to talk about."

Then George, a cigar-smoking orthodontist who's part of Javier's crew, approaches. "I think this necklace is interesting," he says, grabbing a sparkling blue strawberry charm Vanessa wears on a long chain. He brings it to his face, examines it, and then lets it back down, caressing her breast coyly with a ringed finger, "but it doesn't really match your outfit."

"Get out of here," she says. The boys turn around and head toward the dance floor to hunt up some fresh meat. Vanessa puts her hands on the hips of her skinny jeans. "Can you believe that guy? He asked for my number and I thought he was cute, so I gave it to him. Then I look down and notice he's got a wedding ring on! I'm not looking for that."

Vanessa, a Brickell resident, says she comes to Blue Martini to relax in a place close to her home. "I'd never date a guy I meet at a bar ever again," she asserts. "I once dated this guy I met at a bar. He was a doctor and seemed really nice. We hit it off on our date and ended up at his place. Mid-making out, he stops, looks passionately into my eyes, and asks if I could stick my finger up his ass."

Must have been a proctologist.

"I just think the best way to meet guys is through friends," she concludes.

"What?!" says her friend, 24-year-old Ingrid, decked out in a blue satin dress with a plunging neckline that reveals half of a rose tattoo on her shoulder blade. "You hooked me up with that gross guy that one time. Remember? He disappeared halfway through the night to go to a strip club.... The best way to get a date is by meeting a guy out on your own, but it's like having a second job. You got to put effort in."

"How about online dating?" I ask. Ingrid flips out.

"No, no, no. I was on Match.com for a week. Just seven friggin' days, and in that time, over 700 people looked at my profile. The Saturday of that week I came here, and I recognized all these people I had never met before. And they recognized me. Then I realized we had seen each other on Match. It freaked me out so much that I actually left the club to call my mother. And as soon as I got home, I canceled my account."

"I know a couple who met on eHarmony who are getting married this fall," says Vanessa.

"Well, good for them, but if you have to meet a guy online, what does that say about your social life?" asks Ingrid.

"I don't know," says Vanessa, tucking a long, blond strand behind her ear, "but online you can get to know someone's personality first before getting to know them physically."

It's around 1 a.m. and I've heard this conversation before, so I head for the ladies' room, where women spritz themselves with free perfume and blow-dry their hair. As I'm about to leave, I overhear Stephanie, a redhead with perfect makeup, talking to a friend on her phone. "Yeah, I've set my MySpace profile to private. No one can even e-mail me unless I make them a friend first."

When she ends the call, I ask why she's at this high-end pick-up joint. When she begins describing her Internet nightmare, I understand.

"I thought I was being punked," she says. "I'm 39 and thought I was too old for MySpace. I really didn't understand the whole stranger thing, so I'd make anyone a friend at first. He was 40, a history professor, and seemed attractive from his photos. We had two weeks' worth of witty banter online and over the phone before we decided to make a date. But when I first pulled up to his condo and noticed it was a complex for residents 55 or older, it was the first clue that something wasn't right. When I got to his apartment, I was relieved he was good-looking, but the only furniture he had was a crocheted couch that looked like it was passed down from his grandmother. There were guitars everywhere, and instead of a dining room set, he had a drum kit. He was nervous, so he immediately started to talk about music and the greatest band of all time: Yes. He knew all the nuances of each band member and wanted to watch this bootlegged copy of Yes's first concert ever.

"So we started watching the video, which looked like it was taped on a crappy 8mm, and ... whenever one of his favorite songs came on, he'd jump on his drum set and start banging them out.

"After the movie ended, he goes to me: 'Where are my manners? Let's go get dinner.' So we go downstairs and get into his yellow 1985 Toyota Supra, which they don't even make anymore, and get sushi. As soon as we got into the restaurant, I ordered sake bomb — the tallest sake they had — and a $70 boat. I figured the guy hadn't been on a date in 25 years and had a lot to make up for. During dinner, we talked about our parents and he gets all misty-eyed. He looks off to the side and I see a tear fall. He tells me that his father had died, and when I ask him when he passed, he says, 'November 16, 1985, and my meaning in life is to avenge his death.' Ends up his father died of cancer....

"We get back to his place and he starts to tell me he's into the S&M/bondage scene. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love sex as much as the next person, but we hadn't kissed or even held hands on this date. Then he tells me he has a foot fetish and asks if he could lick my feet. I was wearing Candies, which are open-toed, and said, 'My feet aren't even clean.' And he said, 'The dirtier the better.'

"I knew at this point it was time to leave.

"Oh, and I forgot the worst part," Stephanie adds. "Right as I'm walking out the door, he turns to me and says, 'By the way, if you wear skinnier heels, like stilettos, it'll make your legs look thinner.'"

By this point, I've heard and seen enough about dating. As I leave the ladies' room and head for the exit, I spot Javier and his buddy George the orthodontist. They're grabbing two women with breasts that could hammer a nail, and dragging them onto the dance floor. Then I look closely at George's finger. The ring is gone.

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