Lebowski Stops, Foucault Collaborates, Le Corbusier Listens
During an episode of The Hammer Conversation‘s podcast, Patton Oswalt told Jeff Garlin about the worst drug of them all. If you were expecting an uber-psychedelic narrative of Bill Hicksian proportions, you’ll be disappointed, because Patton believes there is nothing more addictive than convenience. Before dismissing such words as the balderdash of a comic-book geek, channel your inner-Foucault and go post-Structuralist on that shite. This past week, the Missus and I spent a week traversing through south Florida, where her cousin was joining the nation of matrimony. After walking into the check-in line at the ol’ Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, you realize why the flight experience has become such a pain in the arse. While it feels like damn-near everything in our society is moving towards a Wall-E model of enhanced convenience, the entire experience of flying is the only entity that is retreating towards increased annoyance. It would be far easier to deal with minor hiccups like removing shoes/belts/laptops/phones, longer waits, and shrinking legroom if it wasn’t such a jarring contrast with everyday life. If the pattern continues, by 2020, we’ll have whiz-bang gadgetry powered by wireless electricity, as our airline experience mirrors the transportation offered Hannibal Lecter.
After the wedding, we decided to visit Key West, Miami’s Calle Ocho, and Miami Beach, with the understanding that our exposure to a higher cultural calling will be indirectly-proportional to the number of tourists drawn to the respective locales. Each of these cities has a great story to tell, and contain a fair share of artists, thinkers, philosophers and other intellectuals (and some guy on the beach who yelled “Can I call you back? I’m selling some WEEEEED!” into a cell phone). Is it elitist for me to expect the commercial and entertainment options to reflect the more cerebral side of these places? I thought it was kosher to assume that Miami Beach, with its amazing array of Art Deco hotels, would feature a few stores that cater to the architecturally-inclined. Perhaps a few of the pubs would do so as well, a la the chemistry-themed bar in the laneways of Melbourne (Australia, not Florida). Outside of the single museum and sanctioned tour, I was not able to locate a scene that sought architectural immersion. What did I find: oh, kids, if you like clothing proprietors that stuff their displays with a cavalcade of wares featuring first-grade single-entendres, this is the place for you! I may have unreasonable expectations in hoping that the storefront windows might contain a shirt or two that reference the Deco aesthetic, or even the rich music scene that calls this region home, especially in hip-hop and Soca. But how many shirts emblazoned with evidence of our high ideals like “If drunk, try my breathalyzer” (with obligatory arrow aimed at the junk); or “$5 Footlong” (with obligatory arrow aimed at the junk), and on, and on, sub specie aeternitatis. Fret not – they also sell items that contain as well as reference your lower half (panties with “Insert Here” above an arrow towards…wow, you are getting good at this). The most popular of all, by far, is “I’m in Miami Bitch”, which deserves its own examination (the lack of comma is not an accident). The denizens of debauchery that don such clothing, these are – how do I say it – rebels. Their tattoos are definitely real. In fact, if you rummaged through their dresser, you’d find at least one shirt from a fictional company with an intentionally suggestive title (oh, “Dicken’s Cider”, you’re a sneaky one!) It makes me sympathize with whomever seeks political office in the US under the banner of transformational ideals. Regardless of party or ideology, just imagine the challenge of trying to explain the meticulous details of say, health insurance reform, to a country where the deciding voters possess a wardrobe composed of either
a) Big Johnson
b) Co-ed Naked (insert summer sport here)?
Perhaps, as the Dude once said, my approach to this whole situation has been very uptight, man. Would Michel Foucault waste his beach time in an internet café, lamenting the lowbrow nature of his surroundings? He’d leave the bitter essentialism to Le Corbusier, whose hatred for the mess of street life inspired Robert Moses and other urban “renewal” popinjays with their freeways-through-neighborhood monkeyshines. These questionable commercial establishments are merely holding a mirror to society, he’d say, and asking us “Do you like what you see?” Well Michel, I’m afraid they do. In the words of Christopher Hitchens, “Who needs a drink?”
Outside of the lewd clothing and lowbrow clubs, I’ll throw a few bones to the place. First, the city has shown some massive ovaries by standing up to foolish developers to preserve the Art Deco bad-assery. While most of the restaurants prey on the quasi-lucidity of wide-eyed tourists, there are a few neighborhood pubs, which offer hoppy beers and trivia, such as Abraxas (which adds a 70’s Funk soundtrack to your wild guesses – that’s right, the Missus and I finished second, covering most of our bar tab). As we walked onto Washington Avenue, a Corvette sped by, top-down, absolutely cranking… “Eple” by Royksopp? Nice! Nothing says “it’s time to get freaking crazy” like Norwegian IDM. And the drive from Key West to the beach is pretty damn sweet. The 3G dropped to EDGE, slowing down the mobile maps, and I could not recall where to turn after entering A1A, the freeway that leads into our hotel on the street facing the actual Miami Beach. Instead of yelling at my phone, I recalled the words of a young Robby Van Winkle, whose “Ice Ice Baby” instructs us that A1A leads to “Beachfront” (aka Ocean) Avenue. I never would have thought that my life would ever be positively impacted by someone who affixed the name “Hard to Swallow” to a creative work released to the public. Alright, lowbrow world, you win. Now where’s that t-shirt shop?