Our Man in Miami: A Night on the Town with Irvine Welsh & Public Enemy

“My God. Did that really happen last night? If I didn’t have pics I’d swear it was just an extended jetlag and writing fatigue hallucination.” That’s from my pal Irvine Welsh, who texted me as soon as he woke up last Sunday morning. It seems a particular portion of our Saturday night was a little far-fetched even for a man whose mind is behind some of the most out-there novels in the history of literature. Then again, catching Public Enemy in a locked-down burlesque joint on a sultry late summer evening is almost too surreal to be believed by anyone.

Irvine had flown into town on Friday and given me a ring, and we’d agreed to meet the next night. At the time, I had no idea where we’d go, but I figured something swingin’ would come up. Little did I know that it’d be something that swung in straight from another world.

Like all wild nights, it began with some splendid fortification. In this case, it was at the ever-hopping Mercadito, which opened in Midtown Miami back in May and hasn’t had a mild night since. As always, our host was the indefatigable Brian Hicks, a Chi-town native who seems predestined to table-hop. As a manager, Brian makes Mercadito move as smoothly as the Miami River. As a man, he’s the consummate gentleman. and he never fails to make patrons feel more than welcome.

Mercadito, which means “Little Market” in Spanish, knows how to feed folks too, with perfectly-portioned delicacies sourced as fresh and as fine as it comes. The cocktails are also crazy cool, and we opted for some pineapple concoction that tasted like a treat from Dionysius himself. Perhaps that’s why the rest of the night came off as some sort of ecstatic madness – we’d drunk from a god’s flask, and now we had to pay for it.

And how. The drive up to La Fee Verte was pleasant enough. As we crossed the 79th Street Causeway, Irvine filled me in on his August in Edinburgh at the legendary Fringe Festival, and I tried to counter with recollections of my summer in the thick of it all. We talked about books (he’s here to finish up a novel called The Scag Boys), flicks (he’s in L.A. next week to see about the filming of his book Filth), and women; or more precisely, his one and my lack of just one (Irvine’s longtime accomplice happens to be one of the most remarkable women alive).

We entered La Fee Verte expecting no less than sheer sexy from the get go, and we weren’t disappointed one bit. The art, the furnishings, the colors, the lights – all harked back to a time when burlesque was big business. Here, a man has to pinch himself to remember he’s actually in the 21st century.

But all the trappings in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if the entertainment didn’t also hit the mark, and here the joint outdoes itself. Aurora Natrix, Milena Hale, and my own personal favorite, Nicole Soden, shook and shimmied their way into our hearts as if they’d been designed to be broken. Call me a masochist, but there’s something about a tease that leaves me reeling; something delicious indeed. And these three knockouts knocked the proverbial wind out of me.

Then it happened. The lights dimmed, the room went silent, and a voice came out of the ether: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy!”

The crowd, such as it was, went nuts. And Irvine and I looked at each other with a note of utter surprise. We kind of expected Chuck D to be there – Flavor Flav, on the other hand, was always in doubt. That the two would then ascend to a go-go dancer’s poled platform and launch into some of the most riotous hip hop ever to blast from a boombox never once entered our minds. Sure, we counted on hearing the hits, but from a stripper’s perch? Not in a million years.

Things got even kookier when Chuck and Flavor started serenading the birthday boy, who’d obviously coughed up a good chunk of change both to lockdown the joint and to lure what’s left of Public Enemy. And from the way these hip hop heavyweights bantered about, the largest part of that chunk must’ve been going straight into their pockets. But who am I to criticize? The cat made it possible for me and Irvine to see two of rap’s most historical figures from within arm’s reach. And at the end of it all, we both felt as if we’d seen something few people ever would see – let alone believe.

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