Miami isn't like it is in the movies....
March 18, 2005
"Miami isn't like it is in the movies," asserted one of the students who had crawled out of their hotel room window and were sitting on the second-floor ledge of the hotel next door to mine. They had come down to South Beach for Spring Break. The two young men and one young lady were nursing their beers when I encountered them, and chatting with the pimp and pot-dealer who keeps regular hours between the buildings
"How is it different?" I asked.
"Miami looks so rich and glitzy in the movies, but there is so much poverty around here, lots of poor people sleeping on the beach and on the streets. Guys in wheelchairs with no place to live, bag ladies, crazy people yelling, stuff like that," he said, and added, as if an afterthought, "I've been drunk for two days now."
"How long is Spring Break?" I inquired.
"We've got a week, until Sunday. I guess you old folks who live here will be glad when we're gone."
"Not at all. The students I've met so far have been in a good mood, and they have kept the noise down when asked. Just make sure to leave your money here and you'll be welcome back."
"I don't know if I'd vacation here," he said, and took a swig from his beer. "I like the beach but it's so sad, so many messed up people on the streets."
"Yeah, I know," I conceded. "It's not only sad, it's unnecessary and therefore disgraceful. Everybody tries to pin the blame on everybody else when the subject comes up, or they say nothing is wrong, that this is what you get with freedom, that these desperate people want to be poor, homeless, addicted, mentally ill. I was just reading an essay written by the president of Miami Dade College, about poverty putting Miami on the leading edge of progress here. But he still thinks we should imagine a better society for Miami."
"Miami Dade College? Is that a good school?"
"I don't know, maybe I'll look into it, see if they have working classes in political activism, civil disobedience, nonviolent revolution, but I doubt that to begin with. The president, Padron's his name, seems to be on the ball, talking about the writing on the wall, how people should take responsibility for the poverty or else the party is not going to last. More than half his students are poor, he said, and a lot of them are below the poverty level. Most locals can't afford to buy the condos in the glamorous towers you see on TV. Most families get less than twenty-grand a year, and the condos go for more than two-hundred grand, up to millions - some of the new condos in South Pointe over there will include a butler."
"No way!" the young fellow exclaimed. "Where does the money come from?"
"From people who got rich off other people up north. And the dollar is low, so Europeans think they're getting a big discount. And rich Latin Americans are trying to secure their money now that the socialists are reacting to the free market exploitation sponsored by the Yankees. Plenty of laundered drug money is around. Miami is one of the most corrupt cities in the United States, you know. Real estate speculation has gone crazy down here. I know people who are unloading their condos for a big gain."
"They want $500 a night for a room across the street," observed his female companion.
"I don't drink," I said, "but I hear it costs forty bucks to get into clubs around here."
"We went to a club one night and it cost us fifty dollars each," she said, "So we drink on the beach now."
"Well, South Beach was really dirt poor when I lived here in the late Sixties," I said. "Not much was happening down here then, lots of old folks, things were more laid back, things were cheap, the cops had a vagrancy law to protect the community with, it was a better poverty than the pathetic poverty you're seeing. Anyway, I've got to go. Try not to drink too much."
"Oh, I'm soooo drunnnn, drunk," moaned the third student, who had been quietly swigging his beer.
"Remember not to chug-a-lug hard liquor," I advised, "because that can kill you. And beware of Leroy's drugs, and his women too."
"Hey, nice to meet you," said the young man who was so worried about Miami's poverty.
"Likewise. And don't let the poverty scare you. We get used to it, too used to it, so it’s pretty much ignored, like it’s natural. By the way, homeless people sleep under the ledge you are sitting on, especially when it rains. Maybe the next time you come down, you might bring a sleeping bag and save yourself some rent."
March 8, 2008
The Real Estate market is crashing, and prices, unemployment, and crime are on the rise. But hedonism is alive and well on South Beach. Come on down, and bring more money - we need it!