Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tips for Someone Writing a Book About Miami

A novelist was writing a book set in Miami and put a post on a local message board asking if there was any specific Miami Slang she should use in the book. Her main character, surprisingly, was Hispanic, and the only slang she could think of was “ain’t” And she wasn’t even sure a Hispanic Thug Teen would say that. Actually, Miss Novelist, he would be a lot less likely to say “isn’t” although this is still making the massive assumption that the character, in fact, speaks English.

My #1 pet peeve about any pieces or literature, film or television that take place here is that anything not called “Cocaine Cowboys” is horribly, horribly inaccurate. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of their characters are not Hispanic. For some reason producers still seem to think this is some “melting pot of diversity,” like an LA west if you will, and that we have a lot of every ethnic group. No, this place is about as homogenous as Salt Lake City, the only difference is that instead of Mormon everyone here is Latino. So my first advice to you, Miss Novelist, is make sure there are no more than two white characters in your book and every peripheral character’s last name ends in a Z.

Another tip, for accuracy everywhere someone goes should be prefaced by “The.” The Beach (meaning Miami Beach,” The Gables, The Grove, The Pines, The Lakes. Hialeah is just Hialeah, since it needs no introduction. Biscayne Bay is often balled the Bay, but actually I would say 50% of the people here couldn’t tell you what that body of water between Miami and Miami Beach is.

The county we are in is called “Dade” even if all of our official documents say something different. Everything north of us is called “The United States.” Actually, it’s called “Lauderdale,” even if you are going 20 miles north of that particular city. Not “Fort Lauderdale” just “Lauderdale” We are all very lazy and typically assign one word designations to any city. The city of Orlando is known as “Disney.” For instance “Yeah, we’re going up to Disney this weekend to visit my sister in Altamonte Springs.” Perhaps it includes a trip to the theme park, but more than likely it’s just a 3 hour ride on Florida’s Turnpike.

Papi is a term women use for men, like “Oh, Papi, that shirt looks great on you.” But more often it is used after the word “Ay,” which roughly means “oh” and is used in exasperation. Like “Ay, Papi, fuck me harder.” “Mami” is a term men use for women, most often in strip clubs. As in “Oye, Mami, come here and let me see that ass.” “Oye” is like “Hey.” A lot of people also seem to think it is the name of any bartender, waiter or doorman at a nightclub. “Oye, lemme get two Johnny Black on the Rocks and a Vodka Red Bull.”

Cabron is popular as a sort of derogatory term among friends. “Oye, Cabron, hurry up we’re gonna be late.” Actually, Hispanics never concern themselves with punctuality, so that would be an improper usage.

Every Hispanic guy ends every sentence with “bro.” Regardless of whether or not he is addressing a male or not. Many girls use this term as well. A typical Miamian might say “Oye, Bro, I was down at the Ale House in Kendall, and Bro, you should have seen the asses in there Bro. There were like, chicks everywhere, bro. Unbelievable, bro.” This is not an exaggeration. Oh, yeah, and every guy in Miami is an ass man. Every street has at least four different names. SR-826 is called “The Palmetto,” SR-836 is called “The Dolphin.” Everyone hates both of them. All 27 of the White people live in a place called Pinecrest. Except the White Trash, who live in a place called “Cutler Ridge,” who have now renamed themselves “Cutler Bay.” But that is all that has changed.

Hopefully you can inject some accuracy into your books as even the likes of Elmore Leonard and Dave Barry, while both writers in the league above the league that is out of my league, still don’t quite get the essence of the overwhelming Hispanic population. Not that I do, but I try to help anyone writing about Miami understand that if you want to be accurate, you've gotta keep the American characters to an absolute minimum. I’d say no more than 11%, but that’s just a guess.

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9 Comments:

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Johnson said...

Don't forget about rat on a stick aka the kabobs you can buy from every street vendor at any sporting event/concert. Every Miami story should have at least one scene with a character purchasing one or failing that, getting wasted at a bar and eating pizza that you know is mediocre at best when you're sober but is like a gift from heaven when you're piss drunk.

 
At 7:29 AM, Blogger aikin said...

oye, bro
Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes and if that poor novelist were to depict her characters accurately, I doubt anyone would believe her.

You're 100% correct in your observations, though.
Except I live in Cutler Ridge and I don't think I'm white trash. I moved here because people speak English in the grocery stores. And it beat 79 and Biscayne, where I used to live....

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You also may want to make mention of all the shit people sell in the streets here. For those who don't live in Miami, there are people that walk in between traffic at major intersections and sell food, among other things. I've seen everything from lobsters, shrimp, fruit, flowers and my favorite blow-up action figures. It is so random and disgusting...

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger jc said...

If you liked Cocaine Cowboys (made by a couple of "white" Miami kids by the way who don't live in Pinecrest), then you need to read "The Man Who Made it Snow" by Max Mermelstein, a Jewish guy from Brooklyn who became the mastermind behind the Cali Cartel.

"Hialeah is just Hialeah. It needs no introduction"
classic line

 
At 12:18 PM, Anonymous that guy said...

And also, this author needs to interject some tourist incidents too...

- "Es-pan-oh-lah" for Española Way.

- "Hi-ah-lay-ah" for Hialeah.

- Calling Cubans Mexicans

- Paying $50 at the door to Mansion and saying they "hung" with some B-level celeb who probably didn't show.

- Thinking the whole county resembles Miami Beach.

 
At 6:12 PM, Blogger ROBERT said...

you need a run down call me me i will give it to u clean and uncut and i am hispanic puerto rican to be exact

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Manola Blablablanik said...

I think Dave Barry addressed that 11% ...

WRiting a novel like that is certainly challenging. Honestly, I think the best way to go about it is spending a year at the place of your choice meeting people and doing research.

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous James said...

Please tell your novelist to have a seen of one of the 27 white people (I would be one of them) in Pinecrest who can't get groceries and/or a Subway sandwich because I don't speak spanish. With the kicker being all the other latin americans in there laughing at me for being agitated.

And of course, the entire theme of the novel should be customer based and the customer's experience and how every Miamian in the service industry thinks he or she is doing us a favor when ringing our order or making a transaction.

I've never met lazier people than I have in Miami.

I can't wait to move back north.

 
At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey you forgot us white people in Homestead.

 

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