Friday, August 17, 2007
Outside the Government Center, where the library and art museum meet, people are tucked into crevices, hiding in the shade, all clinging to one form or another of games of chance. They all look like times are tough so they invest their negligible cash in scratch off tickets or lottery cards because something’s got to change.
It’s got to be hard to appreciate the luxury of literature and seemingly frivolousness art when you’re depending on luck to get you though. Art is so vain in that respect. It makes dull lives richer, but it also flaunts how it’s perceived as more important than the common man, and for that, it can be shameful.
Inside the art museum, the mood is just as sullen. The artists themselves, I’d hope, would cringe at the cold policing of the exhibit. I’m with a toddler, and for that, my bags are searched and kept behind the desk, I’m followed closely and repeatedly reminded that he can’t touch anything, though he’s come nowhere near to doing so. We are the only patrons, yet I’m told my empty stroller is blocking something in the wide-open room. We are shooshed and moved along, told that we cannot use the stairs because “the boy could fall down and we’d be liable.” It is uncomfortable and insulting, not to mention uninspiring. Artists these guards are not. The vulnerable transformed into bullies by just a teaspoon of authority.
Actually, it was inspiring. Thinking how there are so many planes to living, one on top of the other, coinciding and coexisting in the oddest of ways: simpletons protecting the profound, poverty and wealth inches from each other, science demonstrated by the make believe. In fact, Miami just might epitomize the phenomenon of multi-layered.
But, this city’s outlook has always made me angry. It has a rude and callous nature so that instead of a culturally rich society, all I see is a mosaic of leftovers: a population of people who’ve run away from their shitty little countries or run away from the authorities or run away from the accepted social mores. There isn’t the sense of hope like in other immigrant rich cities such as New York or San Francisco. There is a feeling of resentment, distrust and a need for either revenge or retribution. It’s as if people think someone owes them and they don’t care who has to pay, just as long as someone does.
Truth is, I’ve hated this place for as long as I can remember. Probably from the time my dad packed his things and moved here without us, without even telling us until it was done. I’ve always hated the fact that my dad fell in love with the kind of town where people depend on lotto scratch offs for their hope, then think it’s okay to throw their new failure on the ground. And for a long time, that ugly face overshadowed any other Miami might have.
I know there is good here; I’m not so naïve as to believe that any town is one-dimensional. And of course, my husband and all the richness of his life here are an obvious example of how it’s right. Each day, this city reveals a little bit more beauty to me, or at least it’s intricacies. One or two nicer faces appear, like the hotdog vendor who saw me spill my café con leche on myself and handed me a napkin, or the incredible view from each of the Metrorail and Metromover platforms. Cranes litter the skies and sirens are as common (and annoying) as house music, but tucked away in the crevices of the skyscapes are personalities, proof that dozens of realities are superimposed on top of each other: painstakingly intricate architecture holding it’s shadow over crumbling men, a glass brick wall making you believe for a moment that the filth behind it might be beautiful, a crowded train platform overlooking a steady stream of cars – each with one passenger, virtually self-contained environments gliding past us without knowing we’re here, not sweating or hearing all the conversations. And the clouds before a rainstorm move so quickly over the city. They change the light and the temperature and thus, the mood of the place in just seconds. It’s a delicacy savored only in the moments you are not miserably hot.
And moment like right now, where the cool breeze makes it all tolerable. Perhaps the heat is what blinds me to the other dimensions. Perhaps my hatred is just the dripping sweat in my eyes, distorting what I see, just seasonal. Maybe I stay because for half of the year it cools off, my eyes open up. I discover something new and settle into a normal routine for a little while before summer hits again. Or maybe I hate this city because I remember hating this city. As a teen, I did not know the people or the buildings or the smells or the food; I just knew that the place in my heart that held anger also stored the name Miami. With that as my canvas, I’ve painted the rest of my experience here. It’s amazing that I ended up here anyway. I guess I guided myself here to heal my relationship with my father. Imagine if I can repaint over such anger or reinterpret the ugliness I think I see and call it art. I need to figure out how to not hate Miami, because otherwise, I’m just one of those pods of isolation driving down I-95.