It’s the people who make Miami so worth experiencing. Immerse yourself in their joys and their conflicts, and you see what America is becoming, what it already has become, in fact. More than a vacation spot or an exotic film location, Miami is, and always has been, a revelation of America.
That was considered a perverse, ridiculous contention 30 years ago, when in the pages of Esquire Magazine, I first pointed out that Miami was America’s City of the Future. The “experts” already had decided: Miami was un-American; Miami was finished. I had come to a very different judgment: that all the things that made Miami seem so un-American were what made it America’s newest great city — a subtropical Chicago, a salsa-flavored New York — the city that was leading us into a nationwide reinvention.
Time has vindicated that judgment. Today you find immigrants, drugs, globalization and service-sector economies in Northern suburbs and Midwestern farm towns. In fact the rest of America gets more Miami-like with each passing year. That is because the forces that once made Miami seem so peculiar never were unique to Miami. They were universal phenomena, reshaping people’s lives and the substance of nations around the world.
Today America in its entirety finds itself caught up in the kind of metamorphosis that Miami, prophetically, underwent starting many decades ago. The most important thing Miami has to teach us is that, when it comes to the future, you can’t pick and choose. You must make the best of all the changes overtaking you. You must learn from them, also enjoy them if you can. Miami certainly continues to be a trend-setter in that regard.
The macro-indicators tell us climate change and rising ocean levels may make Miami the whole world’s city of the future, but who cares what the barometers tell us, so long as Miami remains America’s best party town!
If you want to see the lies America tells itself, head for the theme parks, but if you want to see the truth about America, start with Miami. Miami does not deceive us as to the true nature of life. Life is tough. Life is unpredictable. Life is stranger than we can anticipate or even imagine, and there is no escaping it. Life never ends well, but what a ride toward that ultimate denouement! Faster, wilder, better, I’ll tell you, than any ride in any amusement park.
If you’re scared of Miami, you’re scared of life.
Excerpted from the new revised edition of “Miami: City of the Future.” T.D. Allman will appear at 4 p.m., Nov. 23, Room 7106.