Why I'm Still Here: Miami
Miami is the city you fuck. That was what I used to say anyway. A place that’s great for a good time, but way too crazy to ever take seriously.
But 15 years and an entire career built on complaining about the place later, I’m still fucking here.
And every day, as I sit in the ever-worsening traffic, watch my friends move away, and get aneurysms every time I try to get anything resembling service, I ask myself why.
This is not some rah-rah Miami piece, about how we’re some emerging city with stunning diversity, and high culture, and blue skies, and how we're becoming the next great global destination. A) Because I don’t believe any of that and B) this piece wasn’t written by the CVB or Movoto.
And I wish the reason I'm still here was as simple as “the weather” or “the parties” or “the absolute abundance of cafecitos.” But after trying twice to leave, I know it’s none of that at all.
It's because I don't know how to live anywhere else, and whether Miami reflects me or I'm a person who reflects Miami, there's just not another city where I would fit in and thrive. And in that way, I'm kind of trapped.
I don’t really care about anyone’s job; the only thing I like to talk less about in social situations than children (and maybe dogs) is work.
Nobody in Miami EVER asks about work. This is why women in South Beach can live in $3,000-a-month apartments and Instagram pictures from the beach all day, without anyone wondering how they pay for it.
It’s also why when a guy tells you, “I run some businesses,” no further questions are asked.
You could be a successful lawyer. You could illegally import toucans. It doesn’t really matter, because in Miami people don’t judge you by your job, they judge you by how enjoyable you are to be around.
Maybe this is a little shallow, but I appreciate a place where “What do you do?” is more likely a question about your choice of narcotics than your line of work.
I also don’t like little needless rules that make my life harder or make it harder to have a good time. This is why I -- like most people in Miami -- haven’t bothered with car insurance since 2005.
This city is more permissive than perhaps anywhere other than New Orleans. We used to have a tourism slogan that said: “Miami: The rules are different here.” What it really should have said was “The rules are nonexistent.”
How many times have you gone to another city and found yourself asking stuff like:
What do you mean I can’t wear a bathing suit here?
Who says I can’t walk out of this bar with my drink?
Why are you kicking me out, it’s only 3am?
Why is that stripper leaving her bottoms on?
What do you mean I HAVE to stop for pedestrians?
Other cities like to put a limit on your ability to party. Not Miami. And even if you haven’t seen the sun rise at Space in over a decade, it’s always nice to know you could if you wanted to.
I also truly detest anything boring. Hence my dislike of discussions about children, but also why I‘ve stayed here as opposed to cleaner, easier places in Florida.
Because as stroke-inducing as day-to-day life is in Miami, one thing it’s not is boring.
For its entire history, this has been a place where people come to get away from something else. And if that’s why you’re here, you probably have a great story to tell. So say what you will about the people in Miami, at least they’ve all got something to talk about.
The news is better than 90% of supposed “reality” TV. Edna Buchanan always said, “I’m always afraid to leave Miami, even just for the day. I’m afraid I might miss something.” Because she knows better than anybody that not a week goes by that you don’t see something on the news, shake your head, and say “Only in Miami.”
You never know if you’ll wake up to a morning news story about a cockfighting ring up in Hialeah. Or Justin Bieber drag racing down your street. Or Justin Bieber getting caught at a cockfight. Whatever.
But perhaps what keeps me here the most is this: if you have any education, a semblance of a work ethic, and show up on time, you can get ahead. Like, frighteningly ahead.
I have a friend in town who’s a very successful realtor. I asked him once how he does so well in a city where, literally, the girl giving you your lap dance could also sell you a condo, and you know what he told me?
“I call people back. And show up when I say I will.”
That’s it. The secret to his success is simply returning phone calls. Because apparently, common courtesy isn’t a thing in Miami.
Which, at first glance, is infuriating. But once you realize there’s nobody here you can depend on, you can make a lot of money when you make it clear that people can depend on you.
At the risk of sounding like a colossal douche, I’ll just say the same applies to dating. If you’re a guy -- especially a guy over 6ft tall -- who doesn’t use a car as a replacement for a personality and has a job he can actually explain, dating is pretty easy.
That is, if you want to date women who have things like jobs and personalities themselves. If you came here with aspirations of dating Miami’s stars of Instagram, well, you’re probably living somewhere else now.
And nobody’s pressuring anybody to get married or have kids here. This is America’s Neverland, and the women are just as on board with that as the men.
I’m not a Miami apologist. I don’t think this is the greatest city in the world or “the place to be” or really, even, a great place at all. But it’s the place that matches my personality. I don’t like to be asked questions, I don’t like annoying little “rules,” and while I don’t mind working hard, I don’t like competition.
And anywhere else in the country, I’d have to deal with all of that.
So yeah, once upon a time Miami was just a city I’d sleep with. But like so many dysfunctional relationships, after long enough you just don’t know what “normal” is, or what you'd do if you left. I’m not sure what that says about me, other than that I’m going to be here for the foreseeable future, getting into arguments with waiters in broken Spanglish, and still wondering why I would ever live somewhere else.