Say what you will about the drunken creeps lurking in the alleyway shadows of South Beach, but they are pretty well-read. Or at least they were this week when the O, Miami poetry festival hosted a poetry-themed edition of Bas Fisher Invitational's Weird Miami Bus Tour.
On Wednesday night, Nathaniel Sandler, founder of the Bookleggers mobile book exchange, led a couple dozen ambulatory readers on a safari of the beach's alleyways, showing off hidden passageways and levers that could cut off power to a city block with just one tug. He paired each stop with a poem that evoked some spirit of the place, a daring challenge given that there are only so many poems about sticky puddles or severed thumbs.
The brave crew was deposited by a school bus near that mysterious all-night massage parlor down the block from Tap Tap. "The code of the alleyway," Sandler warned them as they stepped off of the street and into the network of back passages, "is always watch your six."
The crowd was a head mix of poetry fans and local luminaries. One turn down the wrong alley and Miami would have been down one half of Afrobeta, the Wolfsonian would be listing a curator opening on Craigslist, and there'd be no more Real Sorbet. Thankfully, an informal headcount at the end of the night seemed to indicate that everyone safely made it back to the mainland. This is what the Weird Miami Bus Tourists saw:
This is, according to Sandler, "one of the least famous arches in the world." The entry to this alleyway led the group to a building that Sandler said was probably a brothel. There was nothing from the outside of the building to suggest this, although Sandler (in the black jacket) did seem pretty confident, as well as an unusual combination of relaxed and itchy.
Many of the South Beach alleyways have gated alcoves where garbage bins are stored. An eyesore? For artists like Jim Drain, there is beauty (and likely flesh-eating bacteria) everywhere. Now that rents are rising in Wynwood, could this be the location of Miami's next hot art scene?
This padlocked box appeared to be either a drug drop or the location of the new Miami Herald offices.
There are many ways to tour the alleyways of South Beach. On foot (in closed toe shoes) or aboard a rented bicycle, Segway, or naked guy. Naked guy? Stare at this photograph and let your eyes slip focus. Within a few seconds, you will see an entirely hairless naked guy waving to you from behind the counter. It is not an optical illusion.
Behind the Wolfsonian sits a boarded up and vacant building. Well, at least it's vacant sometimes. Sneaky slim people use this hole to enter the building and take dangerous, unsupervised naps. As such, according to Sandler, there are periodic police raids of the building. That's something that sounds way harder than just moving that No Trespassing sign like a foot over to the right.
Sandler read a Pablo Neruda poem atop this structure that he described as "a cross between a stage and a crypt [because] they are currently exhuming Neruda's bones to determine the cause of his death." Presumably, this means investigators can rule out that Neruda died because he didn't have any bones.
When people think of the beach, they think of fun in the sun. But when the sun goes down and the fun ends, all you're left with is a load of sand in your swim trunks. Fortunately, if you know where to go, something can be done about your beach cooter. Visit your local alleyway, drop it off, grab a sandwich, and come back for it after your beach cooter has been thoroughly detailed. Not sure what the rampant horses are all about, though. Sand in their cooters?
One of the goals of the O, Miami poetry festival is to provide an environment in which every Miami resident encounters poetry during the month of April. Looks like the alleyways of South Beach are one step ahead of you, Four Eyes.
Stowaway! Now you must walk the plank...into our arms, you adorable stowaway!
This lever regulates electricity to many of the homes on this block. No one on the tour pulled the lever, at least that's what they told the cranky guy on dialysis who had been DVR-ing Law & Order: SVU.
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Like so many other good things (smart decision-making, bathroom soap), the tour came to an end at Mac's Club Deuce. The weary Weird Miami Bus Tourists boarded their school bus and returned to their boring lives notable only for their comparatively low risk of being stabbed with a broken bottle. The O, Miami Weird Miami Bus Tour may be over but the participants will always have their hookworms to remember the night. And the commemorative tote bags.