Unreality in South Beach

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Masks are not mandatory, people drink and laugh in bars, coronavirus infections continue to increase. In Florida, the death toll reached 16,544 on Friday

“Don’t you think that life is no longer real? Don’t you think that it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do? “

Tom is a massive man in his 70s. We are in the bar of Harat’s, a pub in South Beach, Miami. Outside, under a cloudy sky, the heat is very humid. Meteorologists forecast a deluge in a few hours. On the street you can see what you see every day on the streets of South Beach: convertible Ferraris, impossible bikinis, tourists, beggars. Tom drinks seriously and methodically: a glass of beer and a glass of whiskey. It is 13:08. The reporter is not sure that life has ever been real in this narrow strip of expensive land surrounded by sea.

On Lincoln Road, the neighborhood mall, there used to be something like a piece of reality: a branch of Books & Books, the chain of independent bookstores that 25-year-old Mitchell Kaplan founded in 1982. Books & Books still it’s there, in a sense. “At first this was a bookstore. Then it was a bookstore with a cafeteria. Now, since June, it is a cafeteria without a bookstore ”. It is explained by a waitress. Renting the premises was too expensive for a book business, but it is not so for a soft drink and fast food business that, paradoxically, maintains the Books & Books name.

A few miles north, at a Biscayne Bay university, Barack Obama is holding a rally before a group of separated, masked pedestrians and fifty cars. Things of social distancing, an emblem of the Democrats. Locked in their cars, with the engine running to run the air conditioning, the attendees pay tribute to the former president with honking of their horns. Obviously, they don’t hear anything. It can not. Obama keeps the “swing”: smile, eloquence, not a drop of sweat. But all you hear is honking. It’s like Frank Sinatra giving a concert in the engine room of the battleship Bismarck.

Miami, and especially some of its areas, such as the very touristy alley called Espanola Way in South Beach, a few steps from the bar where Tom drinks, is characterized by nighttime noise. The night is a cacophony of full blast Latin music. But for a couple of days the mayor of Miami, Carlos Giménez, a Republican, has ordered that the music be turned down. Nobody knows how much to lower it and some hoteliers have suffered the first fines of 500 dollars. The mayor says that background music forces patrons to speak louder, spreading more miasmas in the air and increasing the risk of contagion. Masks are not mandatory, people drink and laugh in bars, coronavirus infections continue to increase. On Friday, the death toll reached 16,544 in Florida and the contagion count reached 771,780. Therefore, it is convenient to lower the music.

Tom is a popular man at this establishment. A newly arrived customer gives you a hug. The reporter is interested in Tom’s opinion about public measures against the pandemic. Tom shrugs his shoulders and asks what is done in Argentina, where the reporter lives. “The quarantine lasts from March 20 and the virus continues to spread,” is the answer. “Jesus,” Tom exclaims. Order another beer and another whiskey. “The truth is, I don’t know what the correct policies are for this problem.” Then he utters the vaguely nihilistic phrase that heads this chronicle, about the apparent absence of reality and meaning in our actions. Everything is so strange that it makes you want to accompany this man in his alcoholic therapy.

Obama has said, under the concert of horns, that the presidential elections on November 3 “are the most important of our lives.” He has also said that if Joe Biden wins in Florida, with his 29 delegates, Donald Trump will be finished. Trump has voted a few hours before, precisely in Florida. After voting “in favor of a guy named Trump,” he announced that during the day he would hold rallies in Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin. No distancing or masks. “It will be huge crowds,” he promises.

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