March 29, 2012 —
The thumping bass beats coming from next door rattle the windows of our hotel room in Miami. Though the music isn’t very loud while in the room, you can feel it in the floor.
I’m visiting Emily in South Beach, FL. She’s here producing a fairly big beer commercial. It’s very exciting for her and the director involved. I came down to visit and hang out, but it wasn’t until a day or so before I got here that Emily told me that Ultra, a new music festival, was going on that weekend.
“Hope that’s okay,” she had said sweetly.
“Of course,” I had said, and I didn’t think about it for another moment until I landed in Miami and met Emily in the back bar of the South Seas hotel. I heard it for the first time, the dull thumping beat emulating from a few doors down. Unrelenting. Unchanging. Over and over again.
After a little while of catching up, we head out to dinner. It’s a lovely night and my first glimpse of Miami. This part of the city is exactly how I imagined: scantily clad woman, tattooed muscular guys, flashy convertibles. Loud music from different bars. Emily and I stroll down the beach enjoying the sunset. When we return to the hotel, the music has stopped and the silence is golden.
The next morning, Emily has to work, so I venture down to the beach by myself. I rent a chair, order a drink and sit out reading. Thankfully, the crashing of the waves nearly drowns out the beat and my book carries me away.
“You here for the festival?” the woman sitting next to me asks.
“No, actually.” I say. She looks baffled.
“Well, you picked an odd weekend to come to Miami.”
I explain I’m visiting my girlfriend and she sympathizes. “Did you go to the boat party last night? It was crazy!”
“I bet,” I say, and am relieved when her friends come back so I can return to my book.
I read for another hour, which turns out to be a bit too long (I am currently nursing a bit of a sunburn). Eventually I head back to the hotel to sit in the shade by the pool.
Closer to the hotel, the thumping is loud. But loud isn’t really the problem. The problem is a second separate beat coming from the other side. Now the two beats compete with each other. I visualize the sound waves mixing in the middle of my brain. My brain scrambles to make sense of the two of them, to meld them together, to get them to match. It cannot and it’s unsettling. I’m getting so old.
But, it’s amazing how resilient the human body is and after a while I hardly notice it.
Saturday night we all go out for Cuban food. Emily asks one of the local production crew members for a recommendation and we find a place a little off the beaten path. On the phone with the restaurant Emily inquires if you can hear the thumping techno music.
“Is it loud there?”
“Yes” they say. “It is Saturday night so it is crowded.”
“Yes, but can you hear any music?”
“No,” they say, somewhat confused.
“Great,” says Emily, giving me a thumbs up. “We are going to be six.”
The restaurant turns out to be authentic and absolutely delicious. And though the folks around us are all drunk and yelling, it is a far more preferable kind of loud.
On Sunday, the DJs next door start adding a bit of melody. It is the first time that I recognize any song at all. It is literally music to my ears.
I fly back to the New York on Sunday evening and though the festival is ending that day, Emily and the crew are moving to a house outside of the area. I am sorry to miss that side of Miami. I imagine it to be more my speed.
Back in New York, the weather has turned a bit colder compared to when I left. The sound of traffic, sirens and the overall hum New York City has never sounded so quiet.