The Birth of Venus (1863) by Alexandre Cabanel
THE MIAMI BEACH NYMPH by David Arthur Walters
The City of Miami Beach would not be worth a plug nickel without its heart and soul, for there would be much better places in the world to live and play. And what is the heart and soul of the city? What a stupid question! It’s that marvel over there, the one walled off by the towers of concrete, glass and steel. It’s the beach!
Now there are people who examine the beaches of the world and rank a few of them as the best beaches according to some criterion or the other. I’ve seen quite a few beaches myself. But the best beach in America is Miami Beach. If you do not believe me, I’m prepared to admit that I might be wrong. Send me a round trip tour of the beach of your choice and I’ll get back to you with my ranking.
First of all, Miami Beach is a magic beach. In fact, Magic City depends on its beach for its magic. If you approach the beach in the right frame of mind, you will soon know what I mean. Not that the fortune you need will fall out of the sky, but you might find the nutty person of your dreams, a suitcase full of one-hundred dollar bills, a diamond necklace, a Rolex, and an old silver dollar, among other things no less significant but not as valuable, such as pretty shells, hearing aids, and false teeth. Or the square Axlent watch from Scandinavia that washed up at my feet one spectacular Sunday morning just after I had looked around and mused, “We see roundish and triangular things in nature, but we don’t see many square things on nature’s surface. Man makes square things. Why, man is a square, that’s what he is!” So I declared the watch to be found art.
But those are the trivial signs of the magnificence of Miami’s fabulous conjunction of Sun, Land, Ocean and Sky. I reside just a block from South Beach, in front of the wall of hotels, yet every time I walk onto the sandy beach on a sunny Sunday I am astonished by the glorious simplicity before me: the broad expanse of tan to white sand stretching north and south as far as the eye can see; the blue to green Atlantic, sometimes smooth, sometimes wavy, rounding off the horizon in the distance; the deep blue sky; perchance a few white clouds; all the foregoing presided over by the Disk, sometimes yellow, sometimes silver, sometimes glaring its natural white. That is in startling contrast to the artificial confusion of consumables and scrambled brains at my back.
‘Willy’ summed it up the other day. He had been robbed on the beach: his rib was broken and his head grazed by a bullet while sleeping behind the Delano Hotel. Was he not afraid, I asked, to sleep on the beach again? No, he replied, for there is no feeling in the world like the sand at one’s feet and the sky above, from which god looks down at the water. And what does god see when he looks in the ocean? asked Willy. He sees himself, I said. That’s right, man! he exclaimed. His name would be Narcissus, I said to myself, if he ignores the water nymphs.
I saw one of the water nymphs dreaming this morning. Artists paint and photographers photograph nudes stretched out or curled up on beds and couches, but the Master lays down a young woman in a bikini on two hotel towels on the sand near the water’s edge. He puts her to sleep, curls her up like a fetus, on her right side, practically naked in the sandy womb, not quite innocent but innocent enough. She unconsciously clutches a towel with one arm stretched between her legs. Her face shines in the sun but the golden light does not awaken her. She is obviously dreaming Miami Beach.
I reluctantly averted my eyes from the sleeping beauty, not wanting to put her to shame, and continued on my way – three young men sat nearby, all staring at her to no end. It is no wonder that the noble Arabs of the desert had only one god above, I said, given the attraction of the oasis below.
Mark my words, Miami Beach is the heart and soul of the City of Miami Beach. I would not give a hoot for the city without her.