Miami Babylon—Gerald Posner
“Too Much is Never Enough”
Bienvenido a Miami Beach—A place that is pure, scenes that are graphic, people who are greedy, and a multi-cultural society which is collectively colorful.
Miami Babylon, published in 2009, is a social and historical timeline of Miami Beach. This is not your average text of footnotes which are marked by milestones for those who reside in a particular place, like the beach, to be docent guiding visitors to the important figures, symbolic narratives, and ceremonial remembrances. No, this is not the Americana regalia reared to glamorize by concealing the bad with the beautiful. Miami Babylon is bold with facts yet offers flashes of film noir strewn across the grid of this city.
Posner’s project was a tenacious, and surely, diligent effort to tell a story. You only need to conclude Miami Babylon to realize his four years of devotion included “nearly two hundred interviews… 700 hours of recorded conversations, yielding 9,000 pages of transcripts.”
Posner’s book brings the 38 Chapters like 38 shots from a colada: a strong espresso sugary salvation to lift you on the level of fast cut-throat Cuban language—sometimes dramatic but always forthright. This Styrofoam cup of 6 ounces is pinched on top and poured into 4 or 6 plastic 2 ounces demitasses. This metaphorical transition of Miami Babylon offered to the reader (ounce by ounce,) sums the storyline of the past and byline of the bustling beach’s future. Gerald Posner’s portrait of Miami Beach as the historic city of Babylon is certainly apropos.
Quotes from a particular subject, compose some chapters as colorful events. Other chapters are headlined with the subject matter. “Gasoline on a Fire,” begins in 1980: a decade that transformed the beach of leather-skinned souls preparing to die in order of lawn chairs aligned on the sandy shores to heathens howling in a playground of paradise, a term once used by Time in 1981, ‘Trouble in Paradise,’ because of crime and drugs. What Time magazine did not know is that 1980, a year that saw an estimated 125,000 Cubans arrive and remain under a refugee status in Miami, was only the first wave of change.
A brief history, which begins in Chapter 2 titled, “No Sane Man…” continues in Chapter 4, “Rumrunners and the Bust,” which encompasses Al Capone and prohibition. By the time you reach Chapter 8, Cocaine Cowboys, you think you’ve understood Miami Beach because of people like Pablo Escobar, who was not even under the radar of the FBI when the cocaine business flourished. But the cards that you have been dealt by Posner’s recorded timetable: racism, anti-Semitism, power and corruption, activist and preservationists, and people who survived political hurricanes, have coalesced in future chapters. Completion of Miami Babylon gives the reader references to the reality of a city of paradise, but a paradise for which you must pay because, as Morris Lapidus said, “Too much is never enough.”