Monday, August 25, 2014

Materialistic Miami

So recently I've become intrigued with connection between Miami and materialism.   A recent perusal of my own past blog posts do allude to a certain "shallowness" that epitomizes my hometown. So I decided to do some casual research, talk to friends, ask strangers, internet searches to shed some light on this opinion that people have about us. So here is what I found.

Firstly I asked people if they thought Miami was "materialistic" if they agreed, if yes then why. 

Most of my female friends said Miami was materialistic because the Latina girls look at you weird if you don't wear makeup and look nice. One anglo friend stated "it's like I have to wear shoes and lipstick just to go to work, I want to be judged by my mind" I didn't have the heart to tell her that her mind would be much more appreciated if she tried to make the case it came in look better. On the internet I read a few similar complaints by women as well. The pressure to "look nice" was considered "shallow." and "difficult."  

So here's my take. I just spent a week working in Indianapolis. I work in the medical field selling to nurses. I can say without a doubt the term "sexy nurse" has not reached Indianapolis yet. In offices where I went "business casual" gave up the "business" side of casual in 1987 and died there. I also saw the worst hair I've ever seen. I can say people in Indy were not "shallow" because, at first glance, they really didn't care much about their appearance, or perhaps they did and "disheveled" was the look.  Zoolander's "Derilicte" came to mind. However, if looking your best is "shallow" and looking like an extra from "Rosanne" is "not shallow" I think I prefer shallow.  Of course appearance should be accompanied by a nice purse, shoes and for women, Miami is a forcefully shallow place.

I often forget: looking your best often = shallow = bad person.   Being disheveled and plain = non-shallow = good person. Therefore Miami is full of bad, shallow people. Indianapolis is not shallow, because appearances don't matter as much? Hence it and its environs are full of deep, thoughtful people. 

For men Miami materialism is also linked to appearance and that giant extension of ones penis: your vehicle. Miami has a car culture for sure. According to Forbes magazine 14% of all vehicles purchased in Miami were considered "luxury" vehicles. By comparison, Los Angeles and New York had luxury purchase rates of 12% and 11% respectively. This is compounded by the fact that Miami's median income is about $5,000 less than either city.  So driving a nice car is a priority in Miami.  I have lot of theories for that, firstly a lot of young Latino professionals stay home till they're married, so buying the Beemer for $200 more a month is no big deal if you're not planning to pay rent until you're in your mid 30s.  This trend is not limited to men of course, but once you've driven a luxury car for awhile its hard to go back to a Corolla. (Full disclosure: I have two BMWs) I don't consider myself "shallow" I just love cars. However if my car preferences undo all the good things I've done, so be it.

I could ponder about our "materialism" wondering perhaps that a playground of the rich and famous might have something to do with it, or perhaps the deprivation of luxury vehicles in Latin America (too conspicuous, bad roads, extremely high import duties). Perhaps just a cultural norm to look your best in any occasion, maybe we just want to feel sexy(shallow?) all the time.  I am sure there a lot of factors related to class, culture, ethnic background that make Miamians want to strut like all the feral Peacocks that wander the metropolis. I can see how "looking your best, as much as possible" would intimidate people who feel that first impressions or optimal grooming aren't important.

Looking good might be shallow. Driving a nice car might be materialistic. However in hot climate like Miami's would you really want it any other way? Really, if you want to look ironically plain or unkempt go to Brooklyn or Portland. At least there you can cover it all with a coat and a scarf or something. But don't come here complaining that you "need to look good" to make it here, because yes, that is one of our social norms. You might call it shallow, we call it good grooming.

Monday, August 11, 2014

NYT Reporter Pamela Druckerman Spends Two Weeks in Miami Shopping and Swimming, then declares "it's just Semi-intellectual."

I saw dolphins frolicking in Biscayne Bay this mornng off Baywood Park. I was thinking how I could reply to Pamela Druckerman's diss by the New York Times about Miami. . They were happy to run the piece because the NYT has never seen an anti-Miami screed that it didn't publish.  Let's be clear, Druckerman hasn't lived here since High School.  She apparently wrote down some childhood memories, did a Google search about the arrival of Cuban exiles and shopped and swam a lot. She apparently didn't have any interesting conversations with anyone, spoke to a professor of urban studies named Richard Florida, from....Toronto....about Miami, who has decided that Miami hasn't found it's space "of ideas and brains."

Druckerman, who lives in Paris and has great concern for wealth inequality was quick to maintain that Miami is "materialistic" unlike wherever she currently resides. She didn't give examples of what she meant, but I assume she means hard work, rewarded by money and nice things is a bad thing. She was quick to point out our wealth inequality (a resort town that caters to the wealthy generally has that effect) and how Miamians just blithely "drive by the poor" unlike the French who exile them to suburbs named Banilieue. Ms Druckerman apparently cares about the poor and occasionally tries to talk to her Miami friends about it. (It's not mentioned anywhere else in her body of work.)

So I imagine Pamela came to Miami, probably South Miami, hung out with some suburban friends who went shopping with her at Dadeland and Merrick Place.  She made her South Miami friends drive her north of Flagler Street (which few suburbanites ever do, unless they live in Doral) to Wynwood, saw the cool murals, walked into a gallery which was new and "hip". New Yorkers never go to Coral Gables galleries because A. they're too expensive and sell "established" artists that show in New York and Paris. B. They can see all those artists in New York and Paris anyway.

Then Pamela perused the New Times or Miami Magazine and noticed that there were a lot of ads for personal trainers and plastic surgery. Nothing against either occupation, but it's work and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless you're Pamela Druckerman. FYI Pamela: New York and LA have a lot of personal trainers and plastic surgeons too.  She swam laps in her parent's pool, or at the South Miami JCC and returned to Paris. 

She spoke to no intellectuals based here, because they're "scattered around town" and didn't take the effort to drive 20 minutes to go see any of them.(Non rush hour traffic in Miami, everything is 20 minutes away....true).  I could go on about our local schools and their growth, but it wouldn't matter really, Pamela came here looking for vapid and she found it. She's Reece Witherspoon in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, finding that Miami is just a hick town full of shallow, albeit attractive, Cubans.   Be honest, Pamela Druckerman, you didn't find "intellectuals" because you really didn't look. I mean there are more than a few New York "intellectuals" "scattered around town" that you could have looked up, but you didn't bother. 

Pamela, perhaps you should check out all the new factories that the "materialistic" Venezuelans have put in all those warehouses west of the airport. All those Venezuelan engineers have brought a lot of manufacturing expertise from the now decrepit Venezuelan oil industry. But you wouldn't know that, because you didn't make the effort. In typical New York and Parisian style you came here to look down on us and were upset that Miamians don't care about New York or Paris except what comes off their fashion runways. She knocks the growth of new condos here, last I checked New York was chock-a-block with new luxury condos too.

Miami is what it is, a new global city. Vibrant, beautiful and exciting. A "Magic City" that turned a swamp, a beach and an airport into something amazingly cool. A hub of Latino moxie, energy and promise. All bathed in sunshine and fun. It's a shame you didn't see any of that. You never moved passed the Miami Vice version of Miami and you didn't even want to. 

Pamela, I never saw dolphins in Seine (or in the East River for that matter) and I never went looking for a beach in New York. You said you came to Miami hoping it wasn't "vapid", I can say if vapid were a true Miami trait, you are truly a Miamian.