Last week Dr. Simon V. Glynn, a professor of philosophy at Florida Atlantic University, delivered a lecture titled "Storm the Reality Studios and Retake the Universe" at the Miami Museum of Science. He proclaimed that we have entered the age of the "hyperreal," a "simulacrum" or artificial environment more adored and worshipped than reality itself. "Film, television, and video, when consumed regularly, may so debilitate the consumer as to render impossible the everyday intercourse," he told a polite audience of 25 college students and middle-age and elderly intellectuals. "This then appears to explain why even when people do in fact continue to congregate socially, they increasingly do so in sports bars, discos, rave clubs, and other similar sensoria; venues dominated by large video monitors, flashing lights, and loud music." These environments, he added, encourage "an increasingly unstimulating [sic], not to say flaccid, social intercourse."
This was heady stuff, but Basshead didn't necessarily agree with the professor's thesis. After all, what's wrong with going to bars and clubs? When I put that question to Dr. Glynn, the professor clarified that he wasn't against it, per se, just that people spend too much time going out instead of reading books and engaging in "articulate" conversations. "What I'm objecting to is the preponderance of one at the expense of the other," he argued.
Which raises the question: Is it possible to have an intellectually enlightening experience in a nightclub, or are such places purely about, as Dr. Glynn characterized it, "sensations"? Basshead theorizes that it depends on one's perspective. Take, for example, the opening weekend at Club Zno, a new club on 1439 Washington Ave. in South Beach that we visited on Saturday.
As we sat on a ledge against the wall, my friend immediately asked, "Why aren't the guys talking to any of the beautiful women here?" It was true: Everyone was simply milling about, too lost in the flashing lights and the sound of blaring rap anthems like M.O.P.'s "Ante Up Remix" and Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones Part Two" to mount a conversation. When they danced, they simply swayed in place, sometimes punching their fists into the air to underscore lyrics like, "There ain't no such thing as halfway crooks/Scared to death, scared to look, they shook." Their standoffishness was only broken when a rap celebrity like Jadakiss from the Lox deigned to walk through the crowd, surrounded by a thick entourage, before hustling back to one of Club Zno's three (!) VIP rooms.
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If the vibe of a nightclub invariably reflects its owner, then the wildly aggressive tone of Club Zno appeared to be a mirror reflection of its combative co-owners, Source magazine co-CEOs Dave Mays and Ray "Benzino" Scott. Admirably Benzino abandoned the VIP areas to lounge around the main floor, greeting and talking with his patrons. His sullen, wary expression nevertheless spoke volumes about the frighteningly electric atmosphere exploding around him.
Still Basshead acknowledges that the experience, though not entirely pleasant, was dynamic enough to make a searing impression. On the other hand, the exact opposite happened when we visited King Stable BBQ and Lounge, a modest bar nestled on the corner of North Miami Avenue and NE 54th Street in Liberty City. This place was friendly and inviting, a feeling underscored when owner Charomi King (better known as "Mrs. King"), perhaps sensing that Basshead would soon be ponying up nine dollars for a Cape Cod at Club Zno, handed over a free flask of vodka and a can of cranberry juice. Gee, thanks! But this good fortune didn't earn dirty, envious looks. Instead, as the DJ spun de rigueur hits like Lil' Kim's "Crush on You," men and women danced close together, enjoying each other's warmth; the music was clearly audible but not loud enough to drown out the conversations being carried out by people around the bar.
We were so enamored with King Stable that we vowed to return the following weekend. But next morning, while throbbing from the aftereffects of drinking countless glasses of vodka, the strongest memory was of Club Zno and how raw and discomforting it had felt to be there. So here's a question for Dr. Glynn. Which is the most enlightening nightclub experience: the one that intellectually stimulates you, or the one that makes you feel happy?