By Becky RandelRRecently, The New York Times travel section ran a piece entitled, “Miami, My Way” by Liesl Schillinger. The questionably researched, highly judgmental and frankly unenlightened piece elicited quite a response from both Miami residents and visitors alike.
Miami’s local NPR station WLRN, wrote a brilliant open letter to The Times entitled, “Miami, Our Way” which pointed out Schillinger’s numerous factual errors and offered some alternative (original) suggestions on food, drink, etc.
While WLRN’s letter addressed some of the shortcomings of Schillinger’s piece, many of the more perplexing statements in the article remained unaddressed. Here are nine additional objections to her piece.
1. Schillinger’s basic position statement is the following:
“Experiencing “my Miami” actually involves leaving what most people think of as Miami quite a bit, and exploring wondrous, but not necessarily glamorous, places in the Everglades, Coral Gables and Key Largo.”
So “her Miami” isn’t actually in Miami. Good start on an exploration of Miami. Look out for her next piece, “My L.A.,” featuring the best and brightest spots San Diego has to offer.
2. In her first obnoxious quip, Liesl reveals the true nature of her feelings when she references a friend, who told her:
“Most of the allegedly cool stuff in Miami is actually stuff for New Yorkers who go there — it doesn’t have to do with Miami.”
So, most of the purportedly cool stuff in Miami was created entirely for New Yorkers but is actually not cool enough for said New Yorkers and has nothing to do with the city in which it resides? Shockingly, Miami doesn’t actually revolve around New York. In fact, almost half of the city’s tourists aren’t even from the U.S. (44%), and of those that are; only half are from the Northeast. Additionally, anything in Miami has to do with Miami, simply because it’s…in Miami.
3. The judgmental tone continues when she explains what her Miami is NOT:
“Nor does it involve Art Basel, nightclubbing or being seen at whatever outrageously expensive new restaurant or louche dive bar is being buzzed about by Northern foodies.”
Louche? Wow, did you get that from Dictionary.com’s word of the day? Literally, it was recently a word of the day. Also, louche and dive mean the same thing; it’s redundant. Miami gets accused of a lot, but too many dive bars? Not a major issue. P.S. Yes, Art Basel has become over-commercialized but to totally pooh-pooh one of the world’s premiere art events—which brings together thousands of artists and collectors from around the world and generates millions of dollars for the city—is just ridiculous.
4. Which leads into a reiteration of her self-congratulatory anti-cool position:
My theory about Miami…is that, for the most part, it’s best to skip the “allegedly.” It’s the uncool stuff that’s cool about Miami — the salty fried food, the lime-drenched cocktails, the crowded beaches, the tawdriness, even the “touristic” stuff, as foreigners call it.
OK, valid point – an exploration not of the previously covered “cool” places, but instead, a deep dive into a different side of the city. That’s what The Times Travel section used to be about, no? Surely from here, she praises the delectable food and colorful culture of Little Haiti, the authentic Cuban and Colombian diners scattered throughout town, the spanning beauty and natural splendor of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, the exciting art and restaurant scene in the Design District, the fresh-off-the-boat fish markets where no one speaks a word of English, the grew-into-a-mini-city-overnight energy of Downtown/Brickell, the accepted cheesiness of Ocean Drive, and the most “touristic” yet arguably the most gorgeous beach in the world—South Beach. Stay tuned for the opposite. But she does recommend visiting the Everglades. Is this an
interesting experience? Yes. Is this the best thing to do in Miami? If you like mosquito bites, then yeah, for sure.
5. Something else she doesn’t want to do is:
“…spend long hours admiring disposable art in the warehouses in the Wynwood District.”
Disposable? That’s just cold, girl. So, Art Basel art is not good enough for your highbrow, Florida Everglades loving eye and Wynwood is disposable. Please tell us, where do you purchase your numerous works? By the by, Wynwood is awesome.
6. In waxing poetic about the Lincoln Road of the past (where she makes most of her factual errors), she says the city’s pedestrian only thoroughfare:
“…now resembles a charm bracelet strung with glinting baubles.” (Her example: Sunglass Hut).
What does this even mean? It’s too colorful? It’s strung together? Are charm bracelets bad? Either way, is it wrong for an area to stay afloat during one of the country’s most difficult economic downturns by opening stores where people actually spend money (Sunglasses in Miami kind of make sense, no?)? While we’re judging kitsch turned corporate, have you been to SoHo lately? There’s a Bloomingdales, for God’s sake.
7. Her description of Ocean Drive (during the Super Bowl) goes:
“…the six-block stretch between the Winter Haven and News Cafe seethed with roistering tourists and moonlighting strippers, who gyrated on raised platforms, dressed as football referees, shaking their pompoms.”
Point for you Liesl. South Beach can be very cheesy—especially during big events like Spring Break and the Super Bowl. I bet no one knew that before this article. Take a visit to Times Square on New Year’s Eve and let me know how many Pulitzer Prize winners you run into. Meanwhile, isn’t this the exact “uncool” and “touristic” scene you claimed to love?
8. A narrative of one of her evenings goes:
“I’d been wandering for two hours on that balmy night, when, around 2 a.m., I spotted the glowing letters “CLUB DEUCE”…and recalled that an in-the-know New Yorker had urged me to check the place out, because… chefs from Miami’s most desirable restaurants have taken to going there after hours, which lends the place fresh cachet…I was halfway across the street when I overheard two flashily dressed patrons chatting by an idling limo that blocked the door. “No stretch marks, no bullet wounds, just sex, hot, hot sex!” one man raved to the other. Their cryptic, unsavory exchange was the jolt I needed to remind myself that I knew better than to go cachet-hunting in South Beach.”
Liesl, Liesl, Liesl…where does one begin? So, you went cache hunting at 2 a.m….to a bar called Club Deuce. Had you done ANY research at all, you might have seen Esquire’s write up of Club Deuce, which said, “Presumably, you are in Miami because you are looking for trouble. At the Deuce, you will have a very good time finding it.” But research is for serious outlets, like The New York Times. By the by, “cache hunting” is for losers. Especially at 2 a.m. And even more so when following around presumably drunken, over-tired chefs just looking to relax (or get laid) is considered “cache.”
9. In possibly Schillinger’s largest blunder, the three restaurants she decides to praise in her uncool, non-touristy (or touristy?), unique exploration of South Beach are:
1. Joe’s Stone Crab: The city’s highest grossing and most famous restaurant (with the longest wait).
2. Pubbelly: Basically the newest, hottest restaurant in the fastest growing area of SoBe. All the foodies, and New Yorkers and everyone else she claims to ignore love it.
3. La Sandwicherie: Every local in South Beach has been here hundreds of times. Everyone knows it. The only good sandwich shop around. They even deliver.
On the other hand, she looks down on the new Panther Coffee, saying its, “…where men in architect’s glasses and women with stern expressions sat typing at laptops. I would have thought the place had been airlifted from NoLIta, except that one patron wore only a bikini and Prada sunglasses.” So, it’s a coffee shop where people do work (in other words, a coffee shop) and they look serious while doing so. But they are in bikinis. Because it’s Miami. Which arguably makes it all the more interesting, original and authentic to the city.
Other than the aforementioned mistakes (which don’t even cover the gamut—she calls Coral Gables “lushly decayed.” Her largest inaccuracy of all.), the main issue with Schillinger’s piece is that she just can’t decide what she wants to say. Is she exposing most of the previously covered Miami scene as “wanna be” New York and instead, offering creative, hidden options that most aren’t aware of (for the most part…no), or is she criticizing the city while taking ownership for a place she obviously doesn’t know well—only to basically regurgitate the most unoriginal and overly covered outlets? Her most original offerings are actually outside of Miami. Either way, this article offered almost nothing inventive or exciting; other than revealing the sadly deteriorating tone and content of The Times Travel section.