Like grains of sand in an hourglass, they squeezed from one side to the other. People — lots of hungry, slightly drunk ones — bottlenecked into the narrow entrance of Books & Books (265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-4408). What pulled them was not gravity, but a force equally strong: free food and alcohol. Inside, the bar was surrounded by a wall of grubbing hands. At the center sat a middle-age blond woman taking glass after glass of champagne, occasionally passing the bubbly to someone and saying, "You owe me."
Visitors mobbed the concession stands — pushing, snatching, nearly growling. Heck, it had been 25 years since the book shop's founding, about time Miami's embodiment of culture and education brought out the animal in its patrons. Mellow harmonies on the soundtrack countered the mad scene as an acoustic band performed yards away on Aragon Avenue. Pedestrian traffic congested the rest of the closed street.
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The minutes did not pass much quicker a few blocks away at The Bar (172 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-2730). In fact they seemed to drag once typical bar band C.O. Jones took the stage. The group, comprising older dudes with day jobs, covered songs by the Doors and Doobie Brothers, among others. There were no empty seats, and imbibers had no choice but to stand. When the band asked the crowd for a request, Nancy, a young mom out for a night on the town, shouted, "Wu-Tang!" Unfortunately that was not in the band's repertoire. Instead the quartet broke out into an Aerosmith song and everyone began puking simultaneously. Well, not really, but they probably wanted to. A swaying man asked if it was okay if he leaned on Nancy's chair. "Of course; I don't want you to fall," she replied. "Don't worry — I've stood through worse bands than this," he said. "Sweet Emotion" indeed.