“If Miami hasn’t got it, they haven’t invented it yet”

I have always had a rather troubled relationship with Miami. It all began with Crocket and Tubbs. For older readers, those names will immediately conjure up images of two flashy detectives racing around Miami in expensive cars and speedboats, fighting Florida drug lords. Younger readers may have seen the more recent movie remake of the hit television series, Miami Vice, but they will have missed the deep impact that the show had on audiences around the world. “[It] influenced men’s fashions toward Italo-casual and interior decor toward the Memphis look,” writes Ed Stephan of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Miami Vice

Almost lifelike. Crocket and Tubbs take on the bad guys. Photo by Thuur Kroon

It all seemed totally implausible to me, as a young man living in South Africa and later Holland. The only cops I had ever met drove around in yellow pickup trucks (SA) or VW Golfs (NL), wore ill-fitting uniforms and took pride in the fact that they lived mundane, suburban lives. But not Crocket and Tubbs. They wore the very hippest suits, drove around in Ferraris, and lived on yachts with pet alligators. And yet no one ever suspected that they might be “on the take”. Get real, Floridian show-makers.

After the series ended, Florida and Miami kept a low profile for a while and I gradually concluded, based on numerous American movies and series, that the city and state had transformed itself into a sunny repository for every pensioner in the United States. As if everyone over the age of 65 was forced to move to Miami, where they could be sucked up and swept away by hurricanes. Because that was the other thing I knew about Florida: if the sun wasn’t shining, it was sitting right in the path of deadly storms with incongruously friendly names like Freddy, Gerald, Herman and Isidore. Names designed to lull elderly people into a false sense of security. If I were a hurricane-namer, they would be called Fist of Fury, Godzilla’s Breath, Hide Suckers and I-of-the-Tiger. Get serious, Floridian weather people.

In the midst of all this confusion, I discovered Dave Barry, a former columnist for the Miami Herald who has won the Pulitzer Prize for inventing hilarious band names, writing about exploding toilets and berating Floridians for their poor driving skills and strange habits. His delightful pieces took my contorted view of Florida and twisted it some more. If you are planning a trip to Miami, I suggest you put aside the guide books and read some of Dave’s columns online. (You’ll find a link at the end of the article. If I post it here, I’m afraid you’ll never come back.)

To top it all, when I thought my perception of Florida couldn’t get any more ridiculous, along came CSI: Miami. The main character, a detective played by David Caruso, can best be described as the implausible love-child of Crocket and Tubbs. If he were any cooler, he’d be the answer to global warming. Having watched a couple of episodes, I am also forced to conclude that no one ever dies a natural death in Florida. Which makes it even more of a mystery why pensioners continue to see the state as the ideal place to spend their golden years.

That said, I call on Floridians to set the record straight or to accept that they will forever remain, in my perception, denizens of The Weird State.

(The title is a quote from Miami Vice by actor Joe Dallesandro in his role as Vincent ‘Vinnie’ DeMarco. Click here to see more photos of Thuur Kroon on Flickr. And here’s a link to one of Dave Barry’s columns on the poor driving skills of Floridians.)

Richard de Nooy