Volume 16 • Issue 43 | March 26 - April 1, 2004


Miami, a virgin dressed in skeumorphs

By Andrei Codrescu

The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Palm Beach megalopolis is a new city in a huge state that contains the oldest city on the North American continent, St. Augustine, the greatest number of non-natives of all the states in the nation, some of the worst racist past of any Southern state, the greatest number of incoming retirees and refugees, an active inner migration, and a bountiful variety of eco-systems that have been nearly destroyed by mindless greed and ignorance. Few residents feel at ease here: old-timers feel uneasy about newcomers, old people feel uneasy about the perfect young bodies on the beach, the young feel small before the ocean, speculators experience constant vertigo, the cities don’t know where they begin or end, spawls and freeways go right through the siesta hour, the animal world is visible enough to reproach human assault, and the climate is both perfect and unpredictable. Florida is known as a “swing state,” aptly, because its population is in flux and its politics are a work in progress. The human symbol for this polity is the confusing “butterfly ballot” that had so many people voting differently from how they intended to vote because they followed the wrong signals, and as for an appropriate architectural symbol I would propose the Fontainbleu Hotel in Miami where in the late 1950s Frank Sinatra defined the mythic peak of Florida as the land of sunshine, gelt, sequins, and carpe diem. If you put a drawing of the “butterfly ballot” next to one of the Fontainbleu, you’ll find them structurally compatible, the perfect equivalency to a tequila sunrise binge and hangover. Whatever the Spaniards might have thought of Paradise when they arrived in Florida is now lost to us. But sometimes it comes back, for no good reason. As the poet William Carlos Williams put it: “The pleasures of travel/depend on the strange hours/we keep/to see them.” Sometimes in Miami, when the sun sinks into the ocean, and you’re looking at it from a window high in the sky, the clock is set at such an hour.



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