An Ode To Miami

Many are the reasons to love our dear city, but how easy it is to forget them after being cut off by a fellow driver who is mid-text while going 85 down Flagler. Here’s a refreshing perspective from a new transplant to remind us of the magical lure of our paradise by the sea.
Text by Ryan Jarrell | May 15, 2018 | Lifestyle

Being a recent transplant to The Magic City, I understand why my editor approached me to write this brief ode to magisterial Miami. Those long grown numb to the signature beauty of the Freedom Tower and the terrors inherent in navigating US-1 during rush hour may be stark and cold in their judgments of my new home. It’s sad to think that those that have longest enjoyed the pleasures of our shores are the ones most oblivious to them. Fear not, jaded residents! For I have come, like countless poorly shot rap videos before me, to remind you of all the reasons to love our city.
If I were to begin to catalog the many benefits one gains from residing in The 305, I’d have to start with the first thing I think of upon craning open my weary lids. I speak, of course, of coffee. I have traveled a bit in my tenure on our planet, and I can say with a certainty that there are few urban municipalities on this continent so obsessed and so proficient with this mud-dark manna of biblical proportions. Colada and cafecito were just so many illegible syllables until I first arrived, but the moment that molten ebony syrup bit my tongue, I fell in love. It has turned into an almost sickening passion previously reserved only for my current partner and certain scenes in a few Ashley Judd movies. I wish for every resident to appreciate what a gift the corner ventanita is. God forbid the day the Cuban coffee becomes wholly gentrified. In the genteel southern town I hail from, any cafe con leche purchased would be served by a scornful, tattooed art student for $4.25 a pop.
An additional reason, oft-cited by that rare species of migratory avian known colloquially as the Miami Snowbird, is the climate that grasps you as warmly as a lover through all phases and seasons. Yes, other great American cities may claim a longer history or more definitive and formative events in their lofty pasts, but come the day that old man winter shakes his hoary locks, every Boston Brahmin and Manhattanite goes scuttling, huddling in their hermitages for months at a time. Yes, the days sometimes swelter and the nights may offer little relief. Yes, brief and monstrous squalls may leap from perfectly sunny skies. But tell me that Miami doesn’t have, bar none, the world’s finest evenings for walking slowly, hand in hand, with the one you love?
And what overheard conversations will that breeze carry? What tongue will it speak in? Miami, like no other, is a city of almost true transnationality. One could wake up here and honestly wonder what continent you landed on. From the ringing rustle of Creole to the exuberant bombastic gesticulations of a curved Cuban abuelita in her flowered bata de casa, the mish-mash of languages is what makes this city so unique. Gone is the hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon tongue in this town. As primarily an English speaker, I’ve spent whole days without hearing a single recognizable word.
Through all of this, there have been surprises, I will admit. This city offers a steep learning curve unrelenting in its internationality. I will never forget the first time I heard the merry jingle of a passing truck, sure that summer’s haughty heat would be beat back by an ice cream treat, only to discover it was the afilador, wandering from street to street in search of knives to sharpen. Also, to classify most botanicas as pet shops seems…inaccurate by my admittedly more traditional definition. Very few pet stores in the land of my rural rearing feature life-size statues of African orishas and a curiously complete catalog of all-black roosters. But these shocks only made me proud of my street sagacity, they put me in-the-know within a city almost unknowable to a whitebread white boy.
There are also some things that took a certain…seasoning. Driving in Miami is as much a heavy dose of concentrated insanity as it is a testament to the power and efficacy of our recreational drugs, a panoply of paradoxical countermoves and near-cataclysms that had my fragile heart ready to break free of its calcified confines. But therein lies one of the many beautiful facets of our great city by the sea: We love it for its element of danger. There’s no such thing as halfway motorists in our city. So when preparing to embark, let one’s reptilian brain take reign and roar. Have you ever felt more alive than when dodging death’s embrace on the outskirts of one of our many suburbs, life enlightened by its fleeting nature?
I will not lie. I have, on occasion, cursed this city I have been absconded to. I have screamed and damned its name. Often I thought this disqualified me from the multitudinous ranks of proud citizens until I studied their behaviors, nature and habits more closely. In the end, I realized the truth: What could qualify me more as a devoted denizen of this city than to occasionally rack and rage at its many and sundry shortcomings? I don’t love Miami because it’s perfect. Not even close. I have come to love Miami in spite of, no, because of its organically honest nature. I love Miami because it’s Miami, whole and uncompromising. I love our city for what it is. And I welcome its warm embrace with open arms for as long as she’ll have me.