Motor City Madness (Southern Fried Rock Edition)

Over the course of the past three days, I have spent more time in a car than I care to calculate. And not in a wind blowing through your hair, car commercial, Sante Fe state of mind kind of way; but a grinding, bumper to bumper, how long can this fucking red light possibly be, how do people fucking do this every day kind of sweary way.  Freedom my ass, Jeff Bridges/Denis Leary/Sam Elliott voice overs.

Southeastern Florida along the I-95 corridor is car culture country in all its blighting glory. What was once natural swampland has descended into a man-made auto swamp with all its attendant anti-social ills. Strip mall after strip mall. Six lane thoroughfares clogging out pedestrian ambitions. Lonely vigils at bus stops. Half-committed bike lane outreach.

In Miami proper there is public transit rail service that supplements the bus lines. Buses that are glowingly reviewed in one guidebook along the lines of “… don’t expect them to hold to any schedule, or to come even once every hour.” MetroRail is an elevated train running on a north-south axis through the city for about 34 kilometres. Right downtown there is an additional loop, the free of charge MetroMover that essentially operates as a shuttle for those moving around the core.

Still, in a city suffering from excessive auto-fixation – along with the pristine vintage beauties, there is noticeably large numbers of Lexus’, Mercedes, BMWs, high end SUVs including Hummers and upscale muscle machines – the use of public transit seems to be for those relegated to second class citizen status, an admission to not living the American dream.

Miami’s NFL stadium is located in a northern suburb of the city, ostensibly accessible only by car. So a capacity crowd of 75,000 makes its way to a game on the highways and surface streets that strangle it, home team strangers to the area. Thus, your tailgating phenomenon, a parking lot party. Bring a BBQ, some drinks, turn up the tunes and revel in some ashphalt fun. It’s like a bi-weekly alien space ship visitation, touching down and making its presence felt for a few hours, leaving behind little but litter and congestion to the nearby neighbourhoods and communities. Thanks for coming. Come again real soon.

Even a trip to the tip of the mainland, where the Keys begin is sheer car madness. An hour on, after setting out, still stuck in traffic, the sameness of strip malls rolling by like low end animation background, retail rules, until you eventually merge onto a fenced in, blocked in two lane road, mangroves on either side and the ocean just beyond. This is promising. Perhaps you’ve left that Florida behind you for a bit.

Finally. Key Largo. The magic of Bogie, Bacall, Hawks, noir intrigue in a sultry setting…

Except.. except.. upon emerging out onto the key, what’s that fucking strip mall doing here? Where’s Key Largo? You know, that Key Largo.

At which point, I realize it wasn’t Key Largo I was thinking of, not Bogie, Bacall and Hawks because that’s To Have And Have Not, set in Martinque. Key Largo was Bogie, Bacall and John Huston. The seedy side of Florida with a hurricane bearing down on it. That Key Largo.

Obviously, the car hasn’t wrought all that’s tarnished Florida but it certainly hasn’t edified the place either. The traffic jams, acres of parking lots and off ramps snaking through and over neighbourhoods can attest to that. Car dependence. Miami’s vice.

auto-o-matically submitted by Cityslikr

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