I took a road trip one winter weekend to Virginia Tech. in Blacksburg, Va., when I was in college. It was rainy and cold. If you wanted to go anywhere, you had to get in a car or take a bus to get through the black slush. Everybody stayed indoors in their maroon-and-orange sweatshirts, drinking, complaining about the dreary weather, and drinking.
No offense to my Hokie friends – I know you love your school – but when I read this past week that Businessweek.com had ranked Blacksburg the No. 1 U.S. town for raising kids, I laughed so hard I nearly squeezed out a third child.
The town of 41,383 was lauded for its "excellent" schools (all seven of them), its lone community center (with "even" a nine-hole golf course), its proximity to an institute of higher learning (site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history) and its diversity, which turns out to be 84 percent white, 8 percent Asian, 4 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic and 2 percent multi-racial.
Huh? Apparently "family-friendly" only pertains to one particular kind of family.
This magazine's diversity criterion is the same one I use when I separate clothes to bleach in my washing machine.
The town also wins marks for low crime, but I quickly discredit that to the fact that nobody in their right mind wants to live there, so there's nobody to rob.
I don't blame Business Week all that much. I know a lot of parents who talk about getting away from it all and raising their kids in some remote, happy, picket-fence place.
But we all know that Happy Valley isn't so happy after all.
Their wishful thinking reminds me of the near-perfect town that Jim Carrey inhabited in that 1998 movie, The Truman Show. Only, if you recall, Carrey's character, Truman Burbank, spends most of the later half of the movie trying to escape his one-dimensional life in the town's mind-numbing, idyllic false reality.
Miami certainly has its flaws. It tends to be over-sexed, materialistic, obsessed with plastic and perfection, expensive, maddeningly transient and occasionally threatening. And that's just for starters.
But I'd rather raise my kids here than any other place.
We live in a big city with all its many benefits – multiple libraries, youth sports leagues, parks, museums, art galleries and theaters – but we also can choose to spend our weekends picking strawberries in the Redland, riding bikes in the Everglades or catching snapper and Florida lobster in Biscayne Bay.
We get to sit in the stands and cheer on our city's professional baseball, basketball, football and ice hockey teams.
My kids attend an excellent public middle school that is 56 percent Hispanic, 28 percent white, 11 percent black and 5 percent Asian, and I have no doubt the lessons happening inside go far beyond what's covered in the Spanish, French, German and Italian magnet program.
In the next few years, they'll attend their friends' bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras and sweet 16s. We're already researching about a half-dozen excellent choices – public, private and charter – for high school.
In the neighborhood where we live, there is an orthodox Jewish temple, a 114-year-old UCC church, a Catholic church, a Buddhist community center, an Episcopal church, a Hare Krishna temple and an AME church all within walking distance.
If my kids choose to stay home or start college in Miami, there are more than a half-dozen colleges and universities for them to consider. Yet, even with my enthusiasm for Miami, I think it would be good for them to get away and explore life and school in another place they can make their own.
Please God, just don't make it Blacksburg.