I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Friday, December 01, 2006


I remember learning once that in every breath you take, are molecules of air that George Washington breathed.

That everyone breathed.

That we're collections of atoms.

And then it dawned on me that (as far as my little brain can comprehend, without MUCH thought on the subject) that everything except for light and sound, is basically... atoms. Heat is fast-moving atoms. Touch is atoms resisting one another (but no two atoms can ever really TOUCH if they're not bonded, because of electronic repulsion)...

And smell...is atoms...

And I comprehended that we leave atoms everywhere. When I'm cooking on a pot that my gandmother cooked on, I feel comforted because her atoms are on the pot. When I'm in a place that I know a dead body lay for a while, or that was once really dirty, it creeps me out because atoms of the dead or dirt are still there.

Lauren touched one of the bodies at the Bodies exhibition, and then she touched me and I FUCKING FREAKED OUT (and still sort of hate her for it, because when I realized the bodies weren't in cases, I told her that if she touched one of the bodies, I wouldn't be her friend anymore, because I'd be so grossed out that she had dead body atoms on her fingers, and then she touched one and WIPED IT ON ME) because I had dead plastinated Chinese Corpse atoms on me... and it disgusted me, and made me feel "unclean."

There's a scene in "The Ice Storm" where Elijah Wood is giving a report about how all smells are caused by atoms, and that the next time you go into a stinky bathroom...you're breathing poop...

I have an "atoms" thing. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, becasue it was also Elijah Wood's obsession in the ice storm, but I am coming out with it. I am as much of a freak as Elijah Wood was in that movie. And he was a weird kid - like Super Weird in The Ice Storm.

If you eat seafood, I won't make out with you for maybe seven or eight hours, and until you've brushed your teeth and drank something, because then you'll have fish "atoms" in your mouth. I hate going into Funeral Homes and being around dead things, because air that has picked up atoms from the dead thing are going into me, and leaving atoms of dead body or dead thing, or embalmed icky corpse down the hall, in my lungs. In my mouth. On my eyeballs.

I manage to ignore this creepy realization, and psychotically irrational phobia, usually, and by most accounts live a very normal (for Miami) life, not shunning human contact and public spaces because of my "atom fear," and really the only times when I notice it is when I'm in a public bathroom... I shut off the faucet with a paper towel if I can, and usually try to pull the door handle with the paper towel, because I don't want poop atoms (even though I'm covered with them after having been in any bathroom [not to suggest that I poop in said bathrooms, but others have] on my hands.

If a workman in my house with bad teeth asks me for a drink of water and I give him one of my cups, I briefly think, with some disgust as I'm putting the cup in the dishwasher afterwards, about that icky workman's atoms on my glass, and how I hope they get washed off in the dishwasher...

Yeah. I know. Fucked up, right? In a restaurant if I see a really gross person eating something, I'll be glad I'm probably not going to get their current fork, but think suspiciously about the thousands of other nasty mouths that have been on my fork...

Now that I've realized it's an issue, I'll work through it. But not before I watch the person in front of me in line at the Subway Ticket Machine scratch their ears and then hit the "PRESS FOR TICKET" button, and think, "Ugh. Now I'm going to have that guy's earwax atoms on me..."

Watch me work through some deep-seated odd issues, based on a comment I made on a blog about eclectic people coming to someone's house, and how I deem anyone that doesn't exude a cloud of soap, deoderant, or detergent fumes...dirty. And how I'm a freak:

They're not dirty, are they?

I can't befriend the dirties. Try as I might. They're fascinating people, but for some reason the fascinatingness seems to go hand-in-hand with being icky.

I'm cultivating (or I was before Stephen dumped me and I lost my audience to go out drinking at gallery openings with... CURSE YOU STEPHEN!) a group of artist friends, but some of them are...smelly. A little smelly. Smelly like, I wouldn't necessarily want them to lie on my couch and get their heads on my pillows... I'd think about whether I should Febreeze the sofa afterwards. And then I'd do it, and feel like it was clean, knowing that it really wasn't clean... I mean, it was, clean, but that there were atoms of dirtiness left on it...

If I liked more people, and deemed less people "dirty" or "smelly," maybe my group wouldn't consist of manicured and straightlaced professionals, and I'd have more toothless crackwhore and crusty sailor friends. But probably not. I come off as arrogant (apparently, according to my mother) and so they probably wouldn't like me because they thought I was condescending. And I probably wouldn't like them, deep down, because they were dirty and I couldn't get past it...


Confidential to Vidas:

I wrote the post below before reading your excellent blog, basically saying the same thing.

Hey Miami Herald - Get over it.

So, earlier this week, a Senator or something called Miami a Third World Country.

Y Ay, dios mio! Miami is in a fluff. Boy, oh, boy! People are mad as heck! Other people are also calling Miami dangerous! Crime infested! Taken over by immigrants!

And the people that say such things are 100% correct.

This place is a dump and a hellhole. Yeah, we have beaches and warm weather. Big effing deal. I've never professed to love Miami and I never will. I applied to UM as a safety school, and when it proved impossible to get into any of my "real" choices because everyone applied to law school the same year I did, I begrudgingly (very, very begrudgingly) moved down here.

"IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, MOVE!" Yeah, fuck you. I'd love to move, but I don't have the energy to work 11 hour days and then come home and study for four months for a two-day test. Kiss my ass. Moving isn't easy for lawyers. I'm living here, essentially as a prisioner of a decision I made five years ago, and extracating myself from this scenario is not as easy as it would be for, oh, ANYONE WHO ISN'T A LAWYER. [OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I DO HAVE SOME WONDERFUL, FANTASTIC FRIENDS WHO HAIL FROM DOWN HERE, AND WHO DO NOT FIT ANY STEREOTYPE OF MIAMIANS. I AM THRILLED TO HAVE THEM AND LOVE THEM DEARLY. I'M SPEAKING IN GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT THE DOMINANT ENVIRONMENT AND MENTALITY.]

So, I'm here, and I grumble. Because, truly, Miami is a terrible place to live. It's stratified (UBER Rich zipping their Bentleys and 200 foot yachts past Haitian crack addicts, on their way to a $3,000 meal.) it's plastic, it's dirty, it's corrupt, it's overdeveloped, but under-infrastructured, its expensive for normal people, and getting moreso every day and, yes, it sucks to live here. Great to vacation, sucks to live.

I have no civic pride for my current domicile. I'd gladly trade in year-long nice weather for proximity to varying types of geography and topography, like I'd have if I lived ANYWHERE ELSE. I'd give up the beaches for museums, and cultural activities that I deemed enriching. And one day, I will. I would never raise a kid down here - I think it's completely irresponsible, and will likely result in your raising offspring that are plastic, greedy, selfish, assholes, with no concept of other people in the world. Because that's the culture down here. As far as I'm concerned, after I've packed my last box, I won't be sad when this city is under 20 feet of water. Good riddance to bad garbage.

The Herald, however, was EXTREMELY offended by these hits Miami has taken. And in true Miami Style, it wrote an incoherent article about all the plusses about living in Miami. I think my favorite is that if you're going to have to wait for a drawbridge, wouldn't you rather it open for a Yacht on a Breakfast Cruise, than a Garbage Barge? Personally? NO. I'd rather know that I was delayed because tons of waste were being carted out of my city, as opposed to being delayed because a millionaire wanted to eat breakfast on Biscayne Bay.

Check out this poorly-written article with sixth-grade analysis here, from the Miami Herald, a "Pulitzer-Prize" caliber shining beacon of journalistic 1) integrity 2) reporting (Yeah, right.):

What is it with haters and Miami?

Time magazine this week wrote that our area's luster has worn thin, partly because it costs too much to live here and partly because traffic is bad.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., whose own state's population reportedly includes as many as 300,000 illegal immigrants, recently labeled Miami a ``Third World country.''

And Australian filmmaker George Gittoes has made a documentary declaring Miami more dangerous than Baghdad. Did we miss a few car bombs in this neck of the woods?

So the cost of living is rising in Miami, a growing number of residents speak English as a second language, and some neighborhoods have violent crime problems. Which one of those things doesn't apply to every other major metro area in the United States . . . including Denver, which is next door to Tancredo's home in Littleton, or New York City, home to those pundits at Time?

It is true that driving on Miami's highways can turn you into a rageaholic, and rising property taxes and home insurance rates have left many of us convinced that a gourmet meal is getting to pick which flavor of ramen noodles to eat for dinner.

But enough is enough.

In a letter to Tancredo, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez wrote, ``Your elitist attitude is contrary to the tenets upon which this great country was founded and detracts from meaningful discussion regarding the problem of illegal immigration, a cause you profess to care about.''

Of course, Tancredo should care, considering that Denver, Boulder and Pueblo, among other Colorado cities, have declared themselves sanctuary cities for illegal residents.

Not every government official -- present or former -- from cooler climes is down on Miami.

Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton White House, loves it.

''Five years ago, I moved to Miami. I found a community with open arms, warm hearts and a generous spirit,'' Shalala said Thursday. ``It's an incredible place to live and work and play. I can assure you that no one cherishes America -- and all that it represents -- more so than the many people of diverse backgrounds and cultures who call this place home.''

What Time, Tancredo and Gittoes don't get is that to judge Miami properly you have to be able to discern when the glass is half-full and when it's half-empty.

These latest Miami bashers seem to only have access to half-empty glasses.

Half-empty glass: Miami-Dade County's homicide rate has risen over the past year or so.

Half-full glass: Most of Miami-Dade is very safe. Sadly, the vast majority of violent crime in Miami-Dade takes place in just a few of the county's 123 ZIP Codes -- not unlike the way of life in most urban areas.

Sure Miami has its problems, but to counter filmmaker Gittoes, Australia is no land of Oz, either. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, domestic violence there has increased steadily since 1999, and physical assaults increased from about 550 per 100,000 people to more than 800 per 100,000 between 1993 and 2005.

And Tancredo's Denver? According to areaconnect.com, that city saw 795.7 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2004. The national average that year was just 554.4 violent crimes per 100,000.

Half-empty: Time magazine says ``on many mornings, rush-hour drivers on packed causeway bridges between Miami and Miami Beach have to idle their engines a bit longer as the drawbridges raise for yachters on their breakfast cruises from nearby celebrity islets.''

Half-full: The alternative is idling your car engine on a rusty bridge in the Northeast while waiting for a garbage barge to pass by.

Which view would you prefer?

Half-empty: There are lots of ultra-expensive condos taking up ocean views in Miami.

Half-full: We have easy beach access regardless. Of course, you can get the same access in the Northeast -- but for six months of the year you'll be too bundled up against the cold to enjoy it.

Half-empty: As Time pointed out, some Miami neighborhoods are still segregated by ethnicity.

Half-full: That's also the case with dozens of major metro areas -- including Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit and New York. And in some places all that means is some people want to live next to folks with similar backgrounds. It wouldn't make a good Benetton commercial. So what?

And where geography is concerned, let's face it, Miami really is the Gateway to the Americas. You can catch a boat or a plane out of here to any and every country south of the border.

Colorado does get some points. It is the gateway to Utah and Wyoming.

The diversity, the culture, the exotic food flowing into Miami? Only a Disney theme park could match it. Can't remember the last time Vegemite was on the menu of any reputable Miami eatery.

But seriously, the difference between most of us who like it here and our city's out-of-town critics is we understand that every vibrant, growing place experiences growing pains and we struggle to improve.

But we can still appreciate an area's good points and potential -- even if that place is Australia, Colorado, New York or anywhere outside of Miami-Dade County.

(Miami Herald staff writer James H. Burnett III moved to South Florida about a year ago from Milwaukee. He's quite happy to have traded winters along Lake Michigan for the neon of South Beach.)

*** My Side Note: James H. Burnett III -- please see me in two years to discuss your opinions then.