Miami: City of the Future by T. D. Allman

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Book Notes

Published in the mid-1980's, this book's sleek tour of 1980's Miami reveals a multi-cultural, rapidly-growing, global city founded on image and style. The motif of the book is T.D. Allman's fascination with "Miami Vice" (a television series popular during that time featuring two barbate detectives famous for their clothes). Through the look of that TV series, and other image touchstones such as Javacheff (Christo) wrapping pink fabric around mangrove islands on Biscayne Bay in 1983 (p. 42) and the grandiose opening of the grandiose Fontainebleau Hotel (p. 253), Allman re-interprets Miami's architecture and history in terms of imagination and appearance.

Allman looks at the tough times (the real-estate collapse of 1980, one of many such collapses (p. 13)), and Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs mission (p. 308). Of the latter, Allman points out how opposition to Castro galvanized Cuban exiles in Miami and in many ways egged them on to succeed within the opportunities of capitalism.

By the end of this book, the drugs the author took earlier seemed to kick in. In a series of brief, disconnected sketches, the author profiles a variety of politicians and miscellaneous issues. In many ways his enthusiasm for Miami seems itself to be hype: a forced fascination with all the diversity and international flavor that by the 21st century had become routine for many US cities. In that sense, his title is perhaps very apt--Miami in the 1980's perhaps did presage many issues facing 21st century cities.

As a comment on the architecture of Miami, Allman observes the irony of the beautiful highrises along the coast: his friend's oceanside condo requires a tortuous route of more than twenty minutes of effort just to get past all the barricades and fences to the ocean (p. 371).

This book's strength is the way it evokes, just as Rothman did in Neon Metropolis, the trials and tribulations of a city that grew very fast during the 20th century and defines itself very much in terms of image and imagination.

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