Monday, July 17, 2006

West of I-95

In my first-ever post, which I think about nine of you have read, I talked a little about what life is like in Dade County. Not “Miami,” mind you, but Dade County. I am not going to get redundant here as I made this point very clear in my opening post, but the idea all of you non-Miamians have about “Miami” in your head, and what is, in real life, Dade County, are totally different. Well at least they are if you venture west of I-95.

East of the Interstate is South Beach. Also contained there are Bal Harbour, Brickell, Downtown and just about every other part of the city the Dade County Board of Tourism and CSI want you to see. But none of that is really Miami. Sure, it may be the city you see on TV or in rap videos, but it is about as much Miami as The Strip is Las Vegas. I had a conversation with a girl who had moved to Dade from some shithole in the Midwest or Rocky Mountains or something, and she said she absolutely loved it here. Shocked that a year-relocated white person would still be touting the virtues of our fair city, I asked where she lived, and she told me somewhere in the Beach. Apparently she rarely if ever ventured West of I-95. Well, OF COURSE you love Miami, sweetheart, you don’t fucking live there. You live on the Travel Channel.

Are there life-long residents who live out there? Sure. Are there people from West of 95 who prefer to live east because it’s nicer? Of course. But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the transplants who claim to have moved to Miami but are really living in our version of Disneyland. They think Miami is full of beautiful models and sandy beaches and charming art-deco apartment buildings when, in fact, it is really more full of slightly-overweight Hispanic girls with back tattoos, man-made lakes and track homes. But they wouldn’t know that if they’ve never driven on the Turnpike.

West of I-95 is Dade County’s version of Flyover country. Aptly named, since most people who come here fly over it on approach but never set foot there except for their trip to the Rental Car counter. It is flat and ugly and where the bulk of our population lives. While it gets no real media attention, it is the home of large, influential numbers of people that are largely ignored when Hollywood comes to town. It is the blue-collar Cubans, the blacks, middle-class Hispanic families and what’s left of White Dade. It is the people that make this city what it is, both good and bad. It is Miami’s heartland and it’s the Miami nobody ever sees. If the words “Palmetto Expressway” don’t immediately send you into a fit of crying rage, you don’t really live here. If you can go a whole day without being forced to speak Spanish, you don’t really live here. If you’ve never sat on US-1 and thought “Would it have been so fucking hard to extend 95 to Homestead?” you haven’t really lived here.

I do not claim to be some hardened local, becasue like many who live here I too am a transplant. But what I am not is a permanent tourist. What I am not is someone who came down here for the weather and the beaches and refuses to leave my little tropical paradise bubble. If you have never lived in a place that did not end in Beach, or Coral Gables, you get no Dade cred. You’re just a step above a snowbird and 2 steps above a tourist. Before you go off touting the greatness of Greater Miami and The Beaches, think about where you live and what you do. If you don’t go west of I-95, you don’t really live in Miami, you live in a fantasy world.

20 Comments:

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

Also, Miami Beach and Miami are completely two different places. You might as well call Miami Beach St. Louis (as in a bit more desirable) and Miami, East St. Louis (as not nearly as nice). They are actually two different cities. Miami, with the exception of a few areas, is a hole. Well, in my opinion it is. With that I can totally see why people live and want to live there. With the exception of a hurricane, and 100 degree temperatures and 100 percent humidity for a few months of the year, its nice temporate climate. If just bothers me that all you ever see or hear of when it comes to Miami is South Beach this or that. They don't show the lack luster downtown up close with the throngs of crack addicts, or the shitty traffic after Marlins games on the Palmetto Expressway, the trashy strip clubs like the Nice and Naughty. Its like saying Orange County and LA are the same thing. But in fact they are not. Geographically right next to each other but miles appart in many ways. Or even better, it would be saying that Newark is New York. Greater New York, but not the same.

 
At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Rick said...

The reason why no one but the locals understands the difference between Miami and Miami Beach is the media and their constant blending of the two. I would not in the least be surprised to hear the story of a tourist looking for the News Cafe around Bayside.

I don't know if I would be as harsh on the folks east of I-95 for their choice of residence, but I think their perspective of South Florida is certainly very different compared to the westerners, as you said.

Just curious, WD: you ever hear of the White E's?

 
At 10:00 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

The closest that I have ever come to seeing Miami was when I flew to Jacksonville and drove down to Orlando to take my then six year old the the Magic Kingdom. So, I guess we were living in a fantasy world too, just a bit further north.
I am originally from Washington State and there are some really shitty towns there too. I grew up by Ft. Lewis and whenever there is a military base, there are a lot of hole in the wall dives that come along with it. WD, I don't know if you have heard of this one, but Tillicum rings a bell. It is the boil on the ass of Pierce County.

 
At 11:06 PM, Anonymous J said...

Hmmm...I gotta say, I am quite happy I have the choice to live E of 95. I may have no Dade rep, but I'm quite happy living in the Grove & the Gables. Also, I love sporting events from Dolphins Stadium where the show the Clevelander and other scenes from SoBe. That is soooo not Miami Gardens!

Joe: Gotta love any analogy regarding the StL.

 
At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Johnson said...

" If you can go a whole day without being forced to speak Spanish, you don’t really live here."

Dude, I lived in Miami for 6 years without being forced to speak Spanish. I've used Spanish more here in Va due to the 3 years of it I took in high school than my entire tenure in Miami. To quote Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, "English motherfucker, do you speak it?"

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous The Brewer Patriot said...

Amen! When I tell people I live in Miami, they always say something about how glamourous is it and how it must be paradise. If this is paradise, I am going take a leap into a goddamn canal and just lay there in the searing heat waiting for a gator to rip me limb form limb.

It is a perfect vacation spot, so when people come to visit they always ask how i could go to school here and how i could have gotten work done. simple. because after your week of clubbing and going to the beach every day you leave, but I still have to deal with the rampant incompentence, the obscene traffic and the fact that I don't speak the language (by choice). Also, i can't go to the beach everyday, and there is no way i could afford to go clubbing every night -- not that i would even want to.

 
At 9:24 AM, Anonymous MiamiGirl said...

I completely disagree. You don't have to drive around all of Miami everyday and meet every square inch of ground to say that you really "live in" Miami. The way I look at it is there are good and bad parts of Miami... I don't have to live in a bad part to be considered a real Miamian... I don't go far west of 95 only because I don't like to drive and spend money on gas. I don't want to live in the suburbs because there is nothing to do out there besides the regular "chain" outlets... and in that case I could have stayed in North Carolina.

Thank god, I live in a city where I can work and do everything else I need to do including restaurants and shopping fairly close to where I live.

That's why I don't go West of 95... because I don't have to.

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Tara said...

I had a thought on this, but it's gone. Not a good thinking day for me, apparently. Anyway, I've only been to one tiny section on Biscayne Bay and in a hotel. My friends and I went venturing out on one street that night because there was a festival or something.

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Miamista said...

Another golden post by the one WD! The first post you made btw, was classico!

Dude who says he didn't have to speak Spanish/has to more in VA... I know the coke in Miami is top notch (well not personally of course) but man! Miami IS Latin America. It is the only major city where the majority of the people are immigrants. Fact. And the languages are Spanish and to a lesser degree Creole, are accomodated and used in business and entertainment as well as home no one has to learn to spiki inglee. (Jokes, don't anyone get pissed.)

It's not Orange County and LA. (Broward is too poor to be Orange County.) If Whites in-migrate think of the Eastside and Westside LA County, in reversal. (Affluent) whites folks want to be closer to the water, transportantion and jobs - MB, Grove, Brickell, NE Dade/Bal Harbor/"Canyons",Cutler, Palmetto Bay, Gables(?),etc.

If you lived in Miami years ago that's a whole different story. Get ready to read because I have the excerpt but not the link to an old Washington Post article. (sorry 'bout the length Dade)

"In the 1990s, some 95,000 white non-Hispanics left Miami-Dade County, decreasing that group's presence by 16 percent, to around 492,000, or about one-fifth of the county population.

They either moved away or, in the case of elderly residents, particularly in the Jewish community, died. (The Jewish population in Miami-Dade County has decreased from about 250,000 to 100,000 in the last two decades. The new destination for Jewish retirees and younger migrants is Broward and Palm Beach counties).

As whites left Miami, they poured into Broward. Between 1990 and 1997, the white non-Hispanic population here increased by about 82,000, or 8 percent, to more than a million residents.

These dramatic numbers follow an equally large out-migration of whites during the 1980s. So many non-Hispanic whites left Miami-Dade in the previous decade that Marvin Dunn, a sociologist at Florida International University, who has followed the trend, said in 1991, "You get down to the point below which those who are going to leave have left and the others are committed to stay. I think we're close to that with whites."

But Dunn was wrong. The whites keep leaving.

"White migration to Miami-Dade has essentially stopped," said William Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan, who coined the phrase "demographic balkanization" to describe the ongoing trend of ethnic and racial groups to self-segregate – not only within a city, but from city to city, and from state to state. End

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Ashburnite said...

" If you can go a whole day without being forced to speak Spanish, you don’t really live here."

It's pretty much the same in the town I live. They need to just go ahead and change the name from "Herndon" to "El Salvadore." I need a translator if I have to ask anyone anything at the grocery store.

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger minijonb said...

oooh! miamista just used the phrase "demographic balkanization" and i got a little turned on =;-) that's what happens when you were a Metropolitian Studies major in college.

anyway, i've spent most of my time in South Florida in very white parts of Broward County visiting relatives. when i would venture down south to Dade, it would usually be to a Disney attaction like a South Beach hotel or a horse track. i've never seen the real Dade County. keep bringing on the stories.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger Manola Blablablanik said...

WD, excellent post!

I am one of those natives who chose to live across the pond, after living my entire life in the Gables, Kendall, Coconut Grove, South Miami (yes, I lived as far west in Kendall when it was still relatively 'east') ... but, I must say ... while SoBe receives completely photoshopped attention from the media (just *look* at that beautiful skyline on CSI!) ... it's not all Mickey Mouse over here -- it's only the media makes it seem that way. I agree and let me add to your point: not only must you live the REAL Miami to know it, if you're going to live on the beach, you need to see it and experience it warts and all, fair and square before you can call yourself a true resident. There are parts of the beach where ONLY Spanish is spoken. There are parts of the beach where you don't see anything BUT low income housing, bums, crack addicts and horror of horrors -- cellulite on someone's pale ass (yeah, that would be me!) ... but one must keep in mind, Miami Beach has always been exploited as a tourism destination since its inception, and as such, all these things will be glossed-over. Simply the nature of the beast driving the local economy.

In fact, in some ways, the ugly side of Miami Beach does have more of a real city feel than the more 'sterile' places like Coral Gables or built-up McMansion communities in Kendall. Believe me, spend some time walking on Washington Avenue and you might feel it's more genuine and not quite so Mickey Mouse at all. And the nice thing about the gritty side of the beach it's that it's gritty 24/7 -- not like Downtown, which becomes a ghost town.

 
At 1:18 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

Joe - I really need to do a whole post on the OC/LA thing too. And traffic after Marlins games i actrually nonexistant. We were just unlucky.

Rick - I am not hard on them for their choice of residence. But to judge the city you need to experience the hwole thing. And no, I have not heard of White E's. Do share....

Rachel - Anything around Ft. Lewis sucks. Except for Lady LUcks Cowgirl Up. That place rocks!

J - You live W of 95, in case you forgot. The Grove, while nice, is a good representaiton of Miami. At least I tihnk so.

Johnson - And you lived at UM for 5 of them. The Bubble doesnt count.

BP - Yeah, and you live in Brickell. So what does that say? Even the nice parts are often unbearable.

MiamiGirl - And well you shouldn't. I don't go to Surfside for the same reason. But I do know this city better than a lot of people who lived here for 20 years (ask some of my native friends and they will concur). My point is that one cannot truly comment on this city unless one has gotten to know it as a whole.

Tara - Probably better you didn't venture out of Bayside. That area looks a litle like Mogadishu.

Miamista - Thanks for the info. I have actually wondered what the exact numbers were on White Flight in Dade and I shared your comment with a few friends.

Ash - Yes, but you are a short car ride away from "normal" DC. I am not so lucky.

Mini - Calder and/or Hialeah = REAL Miami. Especially if you went during the day during the week. Try the Flagler Dog track if you want something even more authentic.

Manola - I lived on the beach for about a year and a half. I know it has its authentic parts too. Especially when you get north of South Beach. But it is still a whole different world than Kendall or Westchester. That you must admit.

 
At 5:31 PM, Anonymous MiamiGirl said...

I hear ya... I just prefer to "block out" the parts I don't like... this way I don't have to think that I made a bad choice in moving here. Crazy I know but it's sometimes a must just to get through the days here.......

 
At 8:34 PM, Anonymous nicole said...

A "friend" of mine (I use the term loosely) kept trying to convince us of how dirty, dumpy and trashy Miami actually is. But we had a hard time believing that considering all that we'd seen about it on TV and in movies. We also take everything this broad says with a bucket of salt.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Every well known locale has the "real" side to it that most of the tourists never see. I can't count the number of times I've heard, "You're from DC? Hey, I've been to Georgetown!"

 
At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Rick said...

The White E's: South Dade's version of the KKK. Don't know if they're still around, but they all used to have big white E's on the back windows of their P/U's.

 
At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Mikey said...

I've lived in Miami since I was seven only leaving to go away for school. I don't speak spanish, and can pretty much only tell when I'm being at cursed at. I know what you're a saying about native's not knowing miami, but I know it pretty well because of jobs that I've held. I have to disagree about being forced to speak spansh. While spanish is spoken all around me pretty much ever place I go is capable of speaking english, and I work in Doral, live in Kendall and hang out in all parts of Dade. I don't live in the UM bubble (though I visit to hang out with white people every now and again)

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger Spill The Beans said...

So do I get any cred if I spent all day today (and many, many, countless many other days) in Carol City and Liberty City?

Just checking, cuz I'm writing this, practically naked, from a hotel room on Biscayne Blvd.

Please get back to me on this one. As an FSU fan, your opinion on this matter is incredibly important to me. ;)

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

I really love naked commenters. Well, female naked commenters.

 
At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't believe you. exist and your name's mikey. sounds like a cuban guy pretending. cuz he feels bad.

 

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