Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not My Miami

James O. Born

Last Thursday I attended an event in Miami about eighty-five miles from my house. The lovely Lissette Mendez of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts set up The Noir Side of the Sun: Crimes, Mysteries and Thrillers, Miami Style and held it at an interesting and sort’ve Noirish little restaurant named Soya e Pomodoro right in the heart of downtown Miami on 1st.

I visit Miami from time to time, usually for the Miami Book Fair, but haven’t been downtown on a weekday in several years. Despite hanging out with fellow event participant and Naked Author, Paul Levine, the visit made me feel kind of old. I can see why my dad would sigh as West Palm Beach built up. Miami, while always a big city has changed character on me. It’s much nicer downtown. There are trendy spots in the city springing up. And no one is robbing or shooting the tourists. This is not the tough, beautiful, crazy town I used to love. It has gentrified and frankly, I don’t like it as much.

I walked downtown with friends and didn’t feel the usual concern I used to. I saw no fights, heard no gunfire and not one cop was rude to us. What the hell? We walked into a resturant and patrons were speaking English. Why not visit freaking Kansas or Colorado? I want to hear English I'll speak to Jackie Winspear. What happened to the Miami I loved for so long?

As a young DEA agent and even a few assignments with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) I saw the streets of the city from a different angle. I chased people committing crime both on foot and in a car. I knew alleyways and which way one way streets ran. I tingled with excitement at the thought to going to Miami. Now it feels a little like Disney World or the new Times Square (The one without topless bars and prostitutes), a little sterile and false without a sense of adventure.

Thankfully Paul Levine, long time Prince of Miami, had a similar feeling in that we got lost on one ways streets and had problems navigating construction sites. Can you imagine; construction in Miami.

I enjoyed hearing the other writers at the event like Edna Buchanan, Lynne Barrett, Vicki Hendricks (who has the best photo on her website which I posted here), New Times reporter Bob Norman and former Florida MWA President Bob Williamson. I had a great time with Paul and some friends at Perricone’s after the event. But my ride home left me a little sad that something I had loved so much had changed. I’m sure many think it is a change for the better but I fear we’ve lost our edge by reining in Miami. It’s like a brawler who now only wants to box. Interesting for a while but without emotion.

Soon he becomes irrelevant.


  1. In order to make Jim Born's next trip to Miami more interesting, I will petition Mayor Manny Diaz to bring back some oldies but goodies.

    --Marielitos camped out under the freeway.

    --Shootouts between rival drug gangs at Dadeland Shopping mall

    Keys's fishermen bringing in tons of "square grouper" and bribing local cops.

    The occasional police beating/shooting leading to a "civil disturbance" (an oxymoron, no?), preferably during Super Bowl Week.

    A TIME magazine cover story about Miami with the headline: "Paradise Lost."

    The tweaker carrying the severed head of his girlfriend in Coconut Grove. (Consult Edna Buchanan on this).

    The anti-Castro militant who fired a bazooka at a Polish freighter in Government Cut in some sort of protest against Communism.

    And, the old City Commission, which sought to bar all Miss Universe contestants from Communist countries.

    Let's also bring back the motto: "Miami. The rules are different here."

  2. I lived in Miami in the early 1980s. At one point during one of the riots (so many then I can't remember which one), I-95 was shut down because cars on the highway were being shot at. I went home to South Miami and watched the lights of the gunfire from my apartment house rooftop. Those were the days, Jim. (of course I can't remember if both of these memories were the same riot or different ones...possibly different...)

  3. Now, just click your heels together three times and repeat:"There's no place like home....there's no place like home,"


    not sure but wasn't mayor Diaz one of The Pep Boys?

  4. Jeez, Old Miami makes LA seem like a 1950s family sit-com.

  5. I feel the same way about Old New York. You're right about Times Square, especially. It's like we got invaded by Minnesota.

  6. Paul,
    Thanks for pointing out all the neat things I didn't mention.

    I would have loved to know Karen in those days.