It is only recently that I’ve really felt like I come from Miami. I moved to Gainesville, Florida, the day of my 17th birthday and lived there on an off for about ten years, and that city, oddly, was far more culturally advanced than the metropolis I grew up in. The Miami I grew up in was largely devoid of things that would make me call a city home: walkable neighborhoods, and—in the absence of those—a strong public transit system; environmental awareness; a forward-thinking urban presence in music and the arts; and a young foodie culture. The Miami of my childhood could never be accused of being an intellectual, cultural, and environmental mecca.
In and near Gainesville, I was introduced to environmental concern, politics, pristine beaches, a vibrant music culture, a city traversable on foot or bike, and an all-around easy way of life. People call Gainesville the “velvet pit” or “velvet couch,” because it is so easy to slip into a torpid, yet comfortable existence there. Perhaps most noteworthy was and is its music scene. In the 90s, it was home to an internationally renowned club, Simon’s, which put Gainesville on the map where house music is concerned. It is hard for those who did not frequent this club to understand the community that developed around it, one that gathered passionately around music and danced, as a form of expression, not simply due to intoxication. And its punk rock and indie scenes were noteworthy, being home to bands such as Against Me, Holopaw, and Hot Water Music, to name just a few.
Moving to Madison, Wisconsin, was a cultural shock in terms of nightlife, and this might sound funny to people who compare the two cities side-by-side. Madison is, though, quite Footloose, despite the best efforts of its few established djs, who try to cultivate a dancing scene that is fairly dead, possibly due to high property costs and the lack of an embedded dance culture. The corporal energy just isn’t here.
Now I’ve spent almost as many years in Madison as Gainesville, and so I cannot call either one home. Despite Miami’s disastrous environmental footprint, my longing for the familiar and familial, as well as my sister’s recent move back there for graduate school, has made me think of it as home in a way I had never thought possible. Whether this is due to my sister’s presence and our explorations of the city I can’t be sure, but there is an emerging, young, urban food and music scene that feels new, explosive. For years, I have associated Miami with the Winter Music Conference or euro-focused house music. Now, I go to Vagabond and hear nothing short of indie house. And when visiting Miami, I hear music on the radio and in clubs that doesn’t begin to play in Madison for months. In short, I have begun to feel an urban sophistication in Miami that makes it a place I want to go for more than just a short-term visit. I can almost imagine a life there.
So this post is dedicated to my sister Billie, who has invigorated the city of Miami for me and added its nightlife to the many other things, such as family and Jewish delis, that have made me start thinking of this city as home. In honor of that, my favorite song suggested by her from my last trip home, Treasure Fingers’ Remix of “I’ll Get You,” Mighty Mouse’s remix of Ali Love’s “Love Harder,” and another song taking the Internet house community by storm, Russ Chimes’ remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Starry Eyed.” The latter, while not my personal favorite, is quite Miami.