The answer is manifold:
The Real Estate Market:
Recently, I had a lunch in the vicinity of a wealthy Brazilian who dreamily spoke about buying his condominium in Miami Beach, like so many of the nouveau riche of Brazil in recent years having done the same. The problem with buying property in South Florida is that the buyers have no intention of ever moving to South Florida, they simply want their cheap pied-a-terre in the sun. One plausible reason, for instance, is that they have no intention relocating their families because what few private schools that give their children a chance in the wider world are not immediately available to them. There is no driver to improve on these services. So their properties languishes most of the year, empty, with no one adding to the local economy except that initial hit of the sale with the oncoming payments going to a bank elsewhere.
Industries That Add Little to No Intellectual Capital to the Surrounding Region:
Here, this is where I’m going to have to piggyback off of IV drip, you leave little room and incentive to develop any other means of production and innovation–except to create more production and innovation for tourism.. Tourism is main “industry” in South Florida and tourism is a form of economic crack. Tourism is not production. When your economy is predicated by money methadone doses of disposable income via
Lack of Prestigious Institutions of Higher Education:
The University of Miami. It ends there. Where else would a serious academic find work in that area? Where? The majority of major and metropolitan cities have multiple academic institutions of note in their vicinity.One can look at cities like New York City (Columbia, NYU, Hunter and Baruch Colleges), or Boston (Harvard, MIT, Berklee) or San Francisco (Stanford, University of California-Berkeley) and see the direct opportunities and their attendant satellite institutions to able to develop and reside in these cities on a permanent basis. Outside of CENTCOM, where else does Miami sport a concentration of thinking beings that could be called a think-tank?
Disincentive for Retaining Those in the Arts & Sciences:
I have said for many years that South Florida experiences a problem usually indigenous to the developing world–that many of its best and brightest leave South Florida and never return because the intellectual infrastructure does not support their development, or (most importantly) the salaries commensurate to their education and experience level. This “brain drain” continues unabated even to the time of this writing.hit upon an observation that made me leave home for good and made me come up with a sort of corollary to it: that there were more tattoo parlors than there were bookstores when some fifteen years prior, the inverse was true.
Outside of the American Meteorological Society, what else is there for the scientist?
The City of Miami designated a section of the city to be its Design District. Ostensibly, it is a high-minded concept but the trouble is, Art is never designated, Art isn’t neatly corralled into quandrangular zones. Art isn’t fixed, it isn’t Cartesian, it’s organic. The city planners in their hubris, totally obviated this from their thought. Even their attempt to create a bantustan for artists has essentially transformed into a large-scale attempt to sell high-end furniture. Artists flee the city in response, not necessarily to the attempt but the lack of foresight on the part of the city planners to set something aside to allow them to CREATE, and attract art lovers and attract still more intellectual and artistic capital.
The “Wild West” Atmosphere Fostered By the Narcotics Trade of the 70’s & 80’s:
It goes back to a phrase many of us from South Florida take a perverse pride in: “South Florida, a sunny place for shady people”. I remember running around with my dad at age four and seeing 18-wheelers jammed to the ceiling and to the gates with black 30-gallon garbage bags filled with Marijuana. Weed, folks. Weed. That is more several human beings could probably smoke in a lifetime, I would think. And this was a common sight. Miami was such a lightly defended drugs transshipment point for such a long time–of course it would be an El Dorado for all the scumbags who came forth! Scarface and Miami Vice didn’t help things either. Old-timers in South Florida still speak of the 80’s with dew in their eyes.
Not to say the shady aren’t thinking people, more often than not, they are. When an environment attracts a mass of individuals who live by their wits and fiat of brute force, there is little play for intellectual development. Money has to be hustled and made, thoughts and art take a backseat. But so much of the infrastructure is more blatantly tilted towards those who cheat, not create; those who hustle, not build. After several decades of an influx of miscreants–how could any intellectualism survive?
The Local Media:
The emphasis on the tacky, the sensational, the superficial pervades everything there. I am happy to leave this point undefended and leave myself at risk of nausea. All one needs to do is tune into Channel 7 news.
As we can clearly note, no Fulbright scholars here on the green screen.
I am totally dismayed with my own total state of expectation at the events of the mass shooting in Connecticut today. I should be shocked. I should be totally slackjawed. I should wince. But I don’t. I am not surprised. This is (on the low end) the SIXTH mass-shooting (including four during this summer) I’ve read about in the US in the PAST YEAR–and I am certain that I am overlooking quite a few that escaped my purview.
This man may have committed the ultimate brace of crimes: he killed his mother, he killed children, he killed innocents, he killed himself. There is no reprisal possible. So it is time we reflect on the underlying problems.
The problem isn’t the guns. Gun control isn’t the answer; the human race has an infinite creativity to kill, to destroy. Guns are simply a singular vehicle to accomplish such a twisted goal. Banning them just the sugars the creativity to use other means to carry out such mass homicide.
I believe the problem is that there is something terribly rotten in American society, in its accepted norms, that its people can react in horror at such a massacre one moment and be totally invested in another television show or some YouTube video less than 24 hours later. There is something totally dangerously perverse and viciously intertwined in its society that its people can actually become blasé–like myself in approximately four hours–to these incidents. Because we will. I can bet the house on this. There is something evil infiltrating our thoughts, our souls that in a country that is currently not under occupation, not warring on its own soil, that such violence occurs there.
Why in the supposed “land of plenty”, in the supposed “most powerful country” in the world, is such carnage becoming increasingly commonplace? Why?
There was no innocent beginning for this journey.
There was an omnibus of reasons why I decided to leave. When pressed to count the reasons, it feels like something in the ballpark of a baker’s dozen of reasons why I left. I was still reeling from a failed relationship from years ago…I had gotten fired from a very glamorous-sounding (and stressful) job in Tribeca, New York City and I was burned out for close to six months from the experience. It took months to unspool my mind from routinely discussing mildly obscene but galactic figures and machinations that wouldn’t have made me any richer in the near term. More, NYC bored the hell out of me, there was no mystery left for me there. I looked at what I had: not a whole lot. I looked at what I didn’t: a car note, a house note, kids, wife/girlfriend/”honored” jumpoff…I was logistically light enough to leave. Lastly, and most importantly to me, I saw the direction the United States was taking as far back as 2003. I watched the kudzu infiltration of a hybrid Orwellian-Huxleyian state. I wanted no part of it. At least not the sweetly noxious American variety. Here, I will spare you my explanations for the encroachment of a neo-feudalist order, I don’t think this space is appropriate for that now.
But in the end, I felt like I had to, simply.
The original plan was to be to go to Bali, find a hut, get a motorcycle (although I’ve never ridden one, but what the hell?), and WRITE. I was supposed to be the black hermit who came out every few days to surf and head back into his hut to write some madness that I felt, might change the world. And then I would proceed to Germany, swing eastward into Asia Minor onwards to Afghanistan (how I’d learn Pashtun despite a complete non-mastery of Spanish, I don’t know—but what the hell?) and swing into the Phiilppines, and then after that, only God was supposed to know. I decided to take a small detour to see Carnaval in Brasil (how long was I going to be single? So…what the hell?). Upon landing at Magalhaes Airport in Salvador, Brasil, all my plans were immediately destroyed the second I tried to switch on my BlackBerry. Whenceforth, the story began. While my itinerary has undergone some major modifications (no Bali yet and no Berlin, either.Yet) it has not suffered a similar dearth of events.
I think about my walk from my rented condo on Ladeira da Barra in Salvador in the Ondina bairro to the Pelourinho during Carnaval, to a bloco where pretty much only the hardiest foreigners went. I think about how fucking scared I was and yet I couldn’t make myself NOT GO into the true heart of the true Brazilian Carnaval, alone. I would repeat these walks throughout my time here in South America even to go deep in the favelas of Zona Norte, São Paulo–by accident (more on that later). Because of the first favela incursion, subsequently I was hesitant to go to another. This time, it was Mangueiras in Rio de Janeiro where I schemed to get a haircut (of which was subesquently invaded by the majority of Brasil’s armed forces the following day).
And then there’s being temporarily detained by the Policia Federal of Brasil on the Uruguay/Brasil border. Or even losing my passport in Joinville for 24 hours during said escape from Brasil. And a winter in Argentina, where I lived in Avellaneda for awhile. I think about the journey from a placid winter beach in Mar del Plata all the way to the Hamptonesque toniness of another beach, recently that of Punta del Este, Uruguay .
I learned foremost about sharing. On my accidental trip into the favelas of Sao Paulo, the family I stayed the night with tried to share their breakfast. I watched the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God), with the scene where the character “Shaggy” was introduced to his love, Berenice. At the threshold of the flat, her mother hustled the young criminal into her home with little questioning. I was brought into a favela in a more furtive and discreet fashion, but also with NO QUESTIONS. I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I’m Shaggy!”. In that favela deep in the Zona Norte of Sao Paulo I spent a night with a family where no one save the eldest of five children spoke my language, where the family bathed by a weakly tumescent garden hose. In the morning, they tried to share their meager portions of presunta and pão with me. They couldn’t have had much more than that in the entire house and still they attempted to share that with me. The clothes I wore on my back were worth more than what the family must have paid in rent for the shack. That experience I doubt I would see in the United States. It unsettled me. I was supposed to see this.
As deeply enriching this experience is, it is also exhaustive to psychological reserves I didn’t know I had. Additionally, I didn’t know they required a long replenishment cycle. When I started, I felt really young, exuberant. I stood at the edge of a high precipice. I felt like I could breathe in tingly crystals of excitement and have a glorious run of MY BACKYARD, the planet Earth. After a fashion, a man just wants to stop. More often than not in this experiment/Hegira, it’s been the mundanities, the tedious items in life that often don’t make the travelogues. Whether it was the tense queues of the Receita Federal in Rio de Janeiro or the waiting in rodoviarias, ferroviarias, airports (including the ghastly Miami International Airport ) –there is a psychological toll I surmise that is greater on me after spending some 30 years in the same country as opposed to the individuals who spent 25, 22, and in some cases 19 years in their home countries. It is exhausting having to deal with changing locales, changing cartographies, changing accents and languages–and never hearing your own. And when you do, it is often in the guise of someone who as well received the identical compartmentalized mission orders: to ceaselessly seek all iterations of the other–not your own. It is depleting meeting and bonding with people over and over again, knowing you may never see them again in this life. It is also exhausting changing yourself, because you declared to yourself the Old You died when you boarded that flight when in reality, the Old You too, has a survival instinct; and like Rasputin, must be killed over and over again with no 100% certainty it is dead at all.
Even now, I am still fielding this question: “When are you going coming back to the United States?”. My answer has been nearly unequivocal, but mostly: “Never”. I can’t tell anyone with any certainty what my next trick will be, but whatever it is, it will have to be a good one.
On the other hand, I strongly don’t encourage ANYONE to do what I do. I’m posting my disclaimer HERE: you DO NOT have any licence to go to any favelas, morgues, police stations, and (as they say in Brasil) night clubs. DON’T DO IT. Taxi drivers are the enemy. Learn “Castellano”. House money says you’ll crap out before I do. Stay home. Stay safe. Turn on the Travel Channel. Tell your significant other you were just playing around and it wasn’t meant to be serious and you love them. House money says you’ll get hurt, destitute, or worse.
But… If you decide otherwise… 😉
It has come to my attention that people in general have a rough time PAYING attention at all. I send these emails to keep up with everybody and to relay other information that sometimes I feel is important. And people still call me while I’m at work or when I should be reasonably asleep, wanting to know things they could just as easily emailed or texted me about.
Why am I railing about this now? Why I am choosing a little bullshit email as a sounding board for my complaints of some of my friends and in turn, society? Because this man is really concerned past his customary irritation. My criticism is not about a perceived casual disregard for my simple wish It is about our collective failure to pay attention to important details because our brains are currently assigned to running tasks that do not conceivably improve its programming.
Monday, the talk around my workplace wasn’t about the war in Central Asia or the coming Depression that’s about to drown the United States. What I thought was a fait accompli of a headlining political story with a United States senator propositioning a undercover agent for a blowjob (for once he wanted to give back to the common man, I suppose) wasn’t.
The main story wasn’t even about Turkey attacking Northern Iraq with a hundred thousand men to harry some more Kurds occupying land the Turks didn’t want anyway while rating the United States its number one threat to its security.
It was about something undoubtedly more important. It was the main story on CNN on Monday.
It was about the disaster that was Britney Spears’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Just to show you how weak the reportage was it didn’t bother to cover the failure on the part of everyone involved.
Please allow me to take a momentary digression. Sometimes I feel like I closed my eyes for five minutes sometime in the Nineties and before I opened my eyes and began to shudder in distress, all of a sudden this smelly-footed virago was all that tens of millions of Americans could care about. And this woman along with an even less talented and racist blonde, Paris Hilton, dominates our reality.
It is as if God decided it would be more cost-effective to outsource the day-to-day responsibilties of scripting Reality to Joe Eszterhas.
We are all–me included– complicit in filling our minds with this bullshit which is why we cannot recall simple key sentences for vital correspondences. We are losing valuable RAM space for want of the trivial. I plead with you to be more conscious of the everyday jetsam that fills our minds everyday. Watch a little less YouTube. Make a conscious effort to focus on something not so superficial such as the goings-on of the marginally talented.
Let’s set the mood here:
How do I begin?
It has taken me several months to write this email. I don’t really know where to begin and much less what exactly to say that would sound appropriate. Presently, I type on and feel so maudlin reflecting on the entirety of my five years here. Some of you I haven’t talked to in months and sometimes years. But believe or not, if you’ve gotten this message, you are always in my thoughts.
The story of my five years here in New York has been one of pain, sometimes Pyrrhic sacrifice, loss, and betrayal. It is also a mini-saga of how misunderstandings can lead to anguish and isolation in this enormous city. Conversely, it has been also the story of strangers clinging onto the life preserver of and in the constant hustle, becoming friends, sometimes lovers, and even family.
I want to make this move while I am healthy, still unburdened, and still young and resilient enough to take risks and recover from my mistakes. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, proud of the things I had the guts to try to take, and proud at what I’ve lost (which meant that at one time, I at least, had it). In the various the stages in which I’ve met all of you,you all of touched my life, all of you helped me learn or added new mysteries to my life for me to contemplate further. All of you have had a hand helping me become something I was not when I first came here. I am now tougher, wiser, more patient. Like it or not, all of you helped me become a man, fully capable, and indomitable like those I aspire to become more like.
But it is time I go home.
This departure is the real deal. Sometimes my plans simply evaporate into stale talk but it’s very real this time. I’ve already squared away my apartment in Miami Beach. My mail is already being forwarded home starting yesterday and I’m transferring within the company I work for to work back home. Funny, my landlady is actually a bit distraught that I’m leaving at the end of February (for some of y’all who’ve had to hear my trials with the various landpeople I’ve dealt with over the years, I’m certain that at least raised an eyebrow). Several months ago, I asked myself a question, if the whole point of me coming to New York was to create something that would make me happy, what if I failed to do it or changed tack and did something else; could I just bypass the whole “trying to be happy thing” and simply went someplace where I’ve always been happy? Wasn’t it the the whole point?
I realize now that no matter what, I am happiest at home. If I lose everything I own in a fire, be relentlessly pursued by killer watermelons, or be beset by wild dogs; if were at home somehow I’d find a way to be happy. I cannot explain it to you very well except I know Miami Beach is kind of my spiritual home. I want to stop complaining about and how much New York City sucks and just do something about it.
So I’m gone. I’ll be in New York a lot after I leave, mostly for business and shopping (I think I’ve turned into a chick), but I’m done and tired and I’ve proven everything that I needed to myself in relation to this city. I’m just too old for the struggle, I rather chill at home and climb my mango and grapefruit trees in the backyard when they’re bearing fruit and eat my Argentine steak sandwiches in the evening.
Thank you all for the experience.