On the the continuum from ‘utopia’ to ‘dystopia,’ the two extremes loop back and converge on a single point in space—a point known simply as ‘Miami.’ From the air, Miami could be a futuristic alien landscape. Giant swaths of identical, picturesque homes sit in rings around unnaturally geometric ponds, surrounded by uniformly emerald-green grass. Subdivisions the size of small towns stretch off in all directions. Feeble-minded heiresses with dogs the size of walnuts patrol the pristine sidewalks.
And the golf courses! Oh, the golf courses!
The city is a testament to man’s dominion over the wilderness. What was once nature is now the housing developers’ fevered caricature of what nature should be like. Built impossibly in the middle of a giant swamp, it is a decadent obscenity made necessary by the inscrutable engine of commerce. “Who wants to live in a fake swamp built on top of a real swamp?” asks the sensible American. “Can I buy a hat that matches my boat?” asks the newly-minted Miami resident as he steps off the plane.
Miami’s airport is as much of an enigma as the city itself. Right off the plane, gigantic signs warn travelers that Miami International Airport was the TSA’s airport of the year for 2008. I suppose this is intended to mean that they were the airport least likely to allow an airplane to explode in midair, but more likely it means that they were the airport most likely to detonate passengers’ hand luggage without warning. In the ongoing war on terrorism we must remain ever-conscious that these are two completely disparate (albeit equally admirable) goals.
Miami’s is the most crowded airport I have ever seen, and impossible to navigate. To get to my connecting flight I had to follow a poorly-marked path through a hole in the wall and down a cavernous hallway, gnomes biting at my ankles the entire way. I finally made it to the TACA check-in counter, where I was presented with a series of Teutonic riddles. After correctly answering no fewer than five out of seven, I had to go through security again before I could get to Concourse J, which, by the way, was not marked on any maps until I was actually in Concourse J, thus kind of defeating the purpose, no?
Sure, the palm trees mere yards away from the tarmac may seem alluring, but combined with the lute solo of The Twelve Days of Christmas drizzling out of the PA system, the effect is devastating.