The morning begins with a relaxed, perfectly flat 20 mile bicycle tour of Miami Beach from South Point Park along Government Cut, then north to 79th Street via Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Once north of South Beach, Collins Avenue becomes a continuous row of highrise condominiums. A few blocks inland, smaller two and three story apartment buildings and modest homes dot the landscape. After lunch and people watching at a sidewalk cafe on the Lincoln Street pedestrian mall, we tour the discomforting Holocaust Memorial and ride through Flamingo Park.
Under sunny skies, the temperatures soar into the 80s today. Aboard Cutter Loose, the air conditioner is working hard to keep the cabin cool and dry. It is difficult to make the transition to a Christmas mindset under these conditions.
Somewhere south of Fort Lauderdale and north of Miami Beach, English ceases to be the primary spoken language. We use this as an opportunity to improve on our conversational Spanish. Both residents and visitors alike are highly diverse. There are many different languages spoken in this community.
Back aboard Cutter Loose, we take advantage of our slip to focus on chores, including laundry, an engine oil change and a haircut. In the evening, we attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at the Miami Beach Community Church, one of only a few churches in South Beach. Parishioners and visitors reflect the overall diversity of the community. From caucasian families to gays and drag queens to African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and the homeless, this congregation welcomes everyone. The soloists render a professional performance and everyone seems genuinely comforted in hearing the familiar passages, singing traditional carols and raising their candles to illumiate the dimly lit sanctuary. Perhaps there is reason to believe that peaceful coexistence may actually be achievable.
After the service, we stroll along the pedestrian mall and Ocean Drive. Temperatures have fallen into the mid-seventies and a slight ocean breeze makes for a comfortable evening walk. A lively outdoor Hanukkah concert is taking place on the mall. Compared to Friday night, the tone of the celebration on Saturday evening is more subdued. Sure, the flamboyantly dressed attention seekers are still reveling in the party atmosphere that is South Beach. But most folks are gathering in small groups to enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve dinner.
It is after 11 PM by the time we return to Cutter Loose. At this hour, we are thankful to be able to walk to the boat in a marina, thus avoiding a potentially wet ride in the dinghy. It has been a complete day. Needless to say, we will not be staying awake for Santa’s arrival tonight.