- By Susan Welsh
Welcome to Miami
"“Expect no more. This is happiness.”
The iconic gates of the Versace mansion, the ubiquitous art deco architecture, and the allure of the Atlantic Ocean's cool presence and potential fury--this is Miami.
Every day, along Ocean Drive, is a parade of sorts-- but on the day of the Gay Pride Parade, color is intensified. I'm not much of a parade fan, but this one was an exception. Blessed with our guest status at the magnificent Betsy Hotel, we were just steps away from an oasis of comfort and delicious food and drink. Most importantly, though, we were guests of a hotel that serves the LGBTQ community with an incredible level of sensitivity and inclusion--from a Pink Flamingo trained staff to a history of programs and projects like TransArt and Pride Poets Light the Night.
The hospitality and warmth of the staff at the Betsy is unparalleled (our gratitude, especially, to Yassir and Dyana). I was tempted to sell everything back home and live there until the money runs out! Every room and every space is filled with books that have been thoughtfully curated--this is a hotel built as literary homage.
Owner Jonathan Plutzik's father was Pulitzer prize nominated poet Hyam Plutzik and The "Writer's Room" is this hotel's space dedicated to artists in residency and an homage to similar spaces in pre-war hotels where guests "recorded memories and linked to home."
Alumni of the Writer's Room number over 400 and include Kay Ryan, Amy Tan, New Jersey poet Robert Pinsky, Christina Baker Kline and our hometown poet Gerald Stern. This month The Betsy celebrates poetry month with a series of events, including Irish Poets: A Poetry Reading with O, Miami the organization behind the O, Miami Poetry Festival, a month-long initiative with the mission of every single person in Miami-Dade County encountering a poem.
Parties and music roll all night long, though we only participated through the open door of our courtyard deck. Still, the vibe is energizing, especially with nighttime temps in the seventies, unlike the tundra-like conditions we left back home. Here, the heat is a soothing balm, an elixir for Northeast bodies pale and cold from the gray, dismal drizzly, monochromatic months and months and months of winter and this year's recalcitrant Spring.
Poetry and palm trees, loud and proud and waving every color and stripe of humanity--this is Miami.