Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day the South Beach Way

(This Valentine Vision, seen on Lincoln Road selling the plants perched atop her  voluminous skirt, seems to have escaped from "Alice in Wonderland".)

I’m back in Miami Beach and every day I push my grand-daughter in her stroller up and down Lincoln Road, the 8-block long pedestrian mall which is the main street of South Beach.  As we promenade,  my jaw often drops at the exotic, outrageous and just plain weird things I encounter on this Main Street of Bizzaro World, home to art galleries, drag brunches, mimes, clowns, evangelists, flea markets, produce sellers, Hasidic Jews, bikinied beauties and a whole lot of homeless people rubbing elbows with tourists, models and club goers.  Adding to the excitement are the many kinds of vehicles threading through the crowds: skateboards, Segways, bicycles, and every kind of stroller and motorized chair.

Like every Main Street in the U.S.,  Lincoln Road is now awash in Valentine’s Day decorations and gifts, but here in South Beach they do Valentine’s Day their own way.
The Britto Art Gallery on Lincoln Road is devoted entirely to selling the work of Miami’s most famous (and controversial) artist, Romero Britto.  He was born into abject poverty in Brazil in 1963, is self-taught and arrived in Miami in the 1980’s.  His cheery, comic-book-like images of Mickey Mouse and smiling cats, the Statue of Liberty and the Virgin of Guadalupe now sell for many thousands of dollars each, and he has  designed for Miami huge street art, parking meters, china, purses, umbrellas, luggage, even the uniforms worn at Miami airport.

Serious art critics in Miami scorn his art and dismiss Britto as a “hack” but yesterday, people were streaming into the gallery, filled with his “heart” images for Valentine’s day and streaming out with purchases in his distinctive winged-heart shopping bags.
 Many other stores on Lincoln Road had striking Valentine-themed displays yesterday, suggesting that you tell your valentine you love him/her/it with:
 Wigs and dresses,
 Paul’s French bakery had heart-shaped bread and macaroons.
 A sports bar encouraged Happy Hour with an inflatable teddy bear
 A man was kissing two parrots he had saved – one fell from a tree, the other was given up by his owner.
 A psychic was busy doing readings.

By this morning (Monday) things had quieted down a lot and the crowds had thinned out except for two models being photographed.
 But on Valentine’s Day lovers of every persuasion will be thronging to the outdoor restaurants, bars and happy hours, the flames of the outdoor heaters will flicker (because it’s unusually cool for Miami Beach), music will be blaring from every restaurant and bar, and South Beach will be celebrating love—every kind of love—in its own unique way.

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