Quiet, Please

At Privé (136 Collins Ave., Miami Beach) on a recent Friday, a handsome, tall, tawny-skinned man swept Rampage onto the dance floor.

His name was not easily ascertained. He shouted something, but it was inaudible.

Patrice, Morris, Laurence, and Horace (I know, who's named Horace?) were all hypotheses I shouted as we danced.

Finally he typed it into my cell phone. M-A-U-R-I-C-E.

It seems no matter where you go in South Florida, loud music negates conversation. "In Miami all communication is done at the level of the hip. People dance at each other," comments my friend Danny, a handsome, sandy-haired 26-year-old from Surfside. "That's why in these clubs and lounges, they like to crank up the volume to such deafening levels. They want to make talking impossible, because if it were even an option, people wouldn't know what to do with themselves. Miami is terrified — terrified — of having a conversation."

If you think this is hyperbole, walk into Mynt Ultra Lounge (1921 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). Once on a Wednesday at 3:30 a.m., I lost a John Belushi-size buddy there. The place isn't particularly large — by daylight it would probably take a mere 30 seconds to traverse. But that early morning the sirens, strobe lights, and slams of the fusion drummer rendered me blind and deaf. I plodded around like a mole wrapped in a cocoon.

Finally, after an hour, I found him swigging champagne at some hotshot's table, coked up out of his mind, shut inside his own private party. His greeting, "Where were you?" was bellowed at 30 times normal speaking volume.

Churchill's Pub (5501 NE Second Ave., Miami) is the rare place where simply talking is — at least sometimes — encouraged. The English-inspired rock and roll joint in Little Haiti was sparsely populated, and intermittently quiet as bands came on and off the stage on a recent rainy Sunday night. Daniel, a twentysomething with a black Mohawk and a sharp septum piercing, was shooting pool. "The two or three times I went out in South Beach, I was not pleased," he said, taking a break between shots. "Sometimes I might meet people, but there's no way to communicate. You can't even find out their names. If I wanted to talk to a girl, I'd have to take her outside the bar, which would make me look like a perv. You can only go on how they dance, or how they drink, neither of which is very revealing."

He prefers Churchill's, where folks can pop over right after work and not worry about getting in, as long as they can pay the five-dollar cover. "I also don't like random people touching me that I don't know. I mean, crazy shit happens around here. Somebody set my neighbor's car on fire the other day. But at least here you know what you're getting yourself into. There everything's so fake you hardly know what's coming."

We focused on our drinks and the music, as local band Alud took the stage and played a twenty-minute set.

When the band was finished and the filler music took over at a moderate volume, Ellen, a petite, cherubic 21-year-old sipping on a whiskey, added, "Clubs disgust me. I don't want to go home feeling like my brain melted, or to watch them eating each others' fucking faces all night. Cheap thrills, cocaine, and a headache from bad music." She said she recently went out to RokBar (1905 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). "I left there feeling like I had no soul. There are a lot of people in their thirties looking to feel like they're young again. I'm still young, so I don't need that. My brain is still ticking. I like to listen to it once in a while."

Lulu, a baby-faced, poufy-haired brunet with a sweet smile and small eyeglasses, wasn't as appalled by clubs but said they've never done her any favors in the romance department. "I went out to Club O'Zone (6620 SW 57th Ave., South Miami) for their ladies-only Fridays a few times. Of course there's a variety of types of women there, but for the most part they're all cha-cha girls, hoochie-mama types." The music was overpowering, which hurt her chances. "The more you talk to a person, the more you find her attractive. You don't have a chance to do that in clubs.

"I'm turned off by all the lesbian clubs in Miami." She grinned. "I'm going to start my own place."

The talk died down as another band came on and rocked out for about twenty minutes, and then conversation began again. Theodor, a tall, thin man wearing long, weathered dreads and a uniform work shirt, seized the opportunity to tell us we had all missed the point. "Clubs are places of action, not places of talk. Guys go there to cheat on their girls, not to have a conversation. They're doing it right there, in the bathrooms!" He laughed. "Plus, say you want to communicate with someone, it's not that hard. You can get close to someone's ear and talk loud, like we're doing right now. And you're leaving out sign language."

As indie rock band Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? took the Churchill's stage and flooded the speakers with enough guitar, drums, and soulful lyrics to completely drown out the conversation, we smiled. Then Theodor promptly reminded us that at Churchill's, unlike many other ear-shattering clubs, if we wanted to keep talking, "There's always the back patio!"

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.