It wasn't until he wrote a piece for the New York Times about relocating to Miami that we realized that one of The Awl co-founders lives in our fair city. And we couldn't wait to find out what someone behind an online publication with the tagline "Be Less Stupid" thinks about this weird and wonderful metropolis.
Writer Choire Sicha was one of the early editors of snark site Gawker. In 2009, he founded The Awl, an all-purpose irreverent media/politics/culture site, with David Cho and fellow ex-Gawker editor Alex Balk.
Recent posts include The Vexed Posthumous Life of Oscar Wilde, Is "Prometheus" a Big Gorgeous Bag of Hot Foolish Space Garbage?, and How To Make Beer Ice Cream. There's also a curious concentration of news about penises and bears.
Sicha now splits his time between the Magic City and the Big Apple, the constant contrast providing a razor sharp perspective on what's great about our city, and what, decidedly, is not.
Who are you:
I write about culture for publications, and also run, with my business partner, a network of websites.
Years in Miami:
I have been largely here for the last two and a half years. Time flies!
First Miami memory?
When I first drove into Miami--having taken my car down here on the auto train to Orlando, just like any respectable old snow bird retiree--I was on route to our place in mid-Miami Beach, so, at last, I got on the Julia Tuttle. And I was like, ooh, that's kind of cool that people just fish for dinner anywhere, off the highway and stuff--and look! There's like a fishing village under the bridge! Then I found out it was the sex offender encampment.
Now I live in Brickell, just south of downtown Miami, the home of the 20-page booklets of apartment building regulations. Brickell is wonderful, but apparently all the coop boards think they're running snooty Manhattan Park Avenue buildings. I like order and peace too, but these buildings have more rules than a federal prison!
My office and coworkers are mostly in New York, so I do a combination of actual commuting and virtual commuting. That's a good thing, because the 5 other writers in Miami suck up most of the writing work down here. This summer, I'm back and forth every other week or every week. I love the people on the plane to and from Miami--half are tourists, and half are people carrying like just a BlackBerry and a file folder, with no luggage. It's basically a two-hour subway ride to work.
What's your idea of a perfect day in Miami?
My ideal day here is getting in the car and heading down to Pennekamp for a half day on a boat, then stopping at Florida City for Florida's best Mexican food (Moreno's, on highway 9336), then rolling up through the Redlands with the windows down, looking at the fruit groves and the dogs and the peacocks and horses. I just love it down there.
Prefer 395 or 195?
Oh my God, are you kidding? 195. The MacArthur is the dumbest road imaginable. Plus you have to drive by the contemptible Fisher Island! Although truly I prefer the Venetian or the Bal Harbour bridge, because I love exclusionary practices.
Where do you take out-of-towners?
The Raleigh for brunch. Makoto. Cecconi's, for sure. That place has some kind of magic. And now Juvia, just for the view. Oh and the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage! There's nothing that causes a blanker look than telling people "I'm taking you to a parking garage." And you're like, "wait, don't panic, it's a parking garage with a New Yorker architecture critic review!"
I used to love [name redacted of a popular fish shack] until it almost killed a friend. Oh but: the number-one most important spot to visit used to be Jimbo's, of course. RIP Jimbo's! So tragic.
You had been to Miami only once before moving here. What did you expect life to be like down here?
I guess I didn't expect people to be so bold in presuming you won't understand what they're saying to your face in Spanish just because you either are or you look like a white person. Like, it's just Spanish, not Tagalog or Korean or some secret private language. Honey, I grew up in California, I know exactly what you're saying about me!
I didn't expect it to be so beautiful all the time. Especially in the summer, with the storms and the hot ocean and everyone wearing nothing. It really is a stunning and weird part of the world, despite people's attempts to build cheap knockoff "Mediterranean-style" drug dealer palaces out of fiberglass and stucco everywhere.
Between the modernist buildings, the contemporary buildings, all the work by Arquitectonica and the 40s and 50s Florida chic style, South Florida has some of the most beautiful architecture in all of America. Downtown Miami and its financial district is one of the most attractive urban downtowns in America. Many of the new
buildings are magnificent.
I guess most importantly, finding out the reality of the Miami existence is when you learn it's impossible to make plans with anyone, and that's a bummer. Because everyone lives 45 minutes apart and no one's spontaneous and everyone hates driving and planning. I've never met so many lonely people in my life!
The real key, I finally decided, to living here is to pretend that you're on vacation. Wear a swimsuit all day, make yourself a leisurely dinner, go somewhere pretty. Go to Haulover Beach and get naked and let it all hang out. You'll stop worrying that there's nothing to do if you make an art out of doing nothing.
Has living here affected your writing? Save for the NYT Townies piece, it seems you still mostly write about NYC.
It's true, and there's a couple technical reasons for that. For one, I get conflicted-out on a lot of interesting journalism about Miami. For another, I just know way more about New York.
I did enjoy writing about South Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke for Maxim. I got to see all the infamous nightclubs of Miami Beach, which I never would have gone to otherwise. Wow, they are not my scene! But truly fascinating.
How does the local LGBT scene compare to that in other cities you've lived in like NYC, San Fran, and Chi-town?
I don't really know any gay people in Florida. Isn't that weird? Most places I go, I don't even see any gay people. Half the time the ones I meet are "discreet" or are dating someone who works for some Spanish bank who's in the closet. Lots of the gay guys around here decamped to Fort Lauderdale a while ago, which is the worst place on earth. Though most of those guys are now going from threeway orgies to threeway kiddie play dates. Everyone grows up!
It seems like you sort of accidently started blogging. How did you get started with Gawker?
It was indeed very accidental! I was just blogging for kicks, and then the owner of that site hired me to write his new porn site. Fortunately that only lasted a couple weeks before I got transferred over to Gawker. I never would have made it writing about porn. How much is there to say really? "Wow check out this video, this person put something inside this other person!"
I try to tell young people in Miami about this--that they should learn how to write by doing it for fun, on the Internet, and say yes to opportunities and to not worry too much about what happens--and pretty much they look at me like I'm an alien. Miami is a real distance from the strange industries of publishing and magazines and newspapers and the Internet of New York.
Any plans to start The Awl Miami and take us down?
Nope! People in Miami just aren't that attached to the Internet. There are so many fewer desk jobs, where people sit around and cruise the Internet for pleasure and for education.
You also have to look at the total audience size in the U.S. for smart readers. The cap on that is somewhere between a little over 1 million people (the audience of "Girls") and 23 million people. That high end is only somewhere north of the 15% or 20% of American adults are fully, devotedly, comfortably literate--people who read in English for pleasure, and who do or at least would buy books.
That being said, I would very much like to start a Spanish language publication someday. And as well: despite the success of Ocean Drive magazine, I do feel like the beach needs a very cool kind of street sheet, with lots of fabulous photographs, lots of local gossip, lots of funny, chatty, catty Miami Beach stuff. That'd be a great publication both editorially and from a business perspective. I'd love to do it but, you know, when?
What happened to that book you were writing?
The book--it's a funny, chatty, weird history of sorts of New York City in the year 2009--is tentatively on the HarperCollins schedule for spring 2013! Am working furiously with my terrific editor.
Why do you love Miami?
I love Miami for all the cats. If you're ever lonely here, you can just go outside at twilight with some cat food and you'll be surrounded by friends.
Why do you hate Miami?
I hate Miami for all its potential. It has everything: gorgeous beaches, rich people, diverse people, lots of immigrants from all over, cheap cool places to live, perfect weather, an abandoned warehouse district... Miami could so easily become the new Berlin. But it's not going to happen--yet.
Even that terrible man Sam Zell (blech) said he had to relocate his businesses out of South Florida because he couldn't retain talent here. Right now, there's very little business opportunity apart from where there is massive opportunity: banking, real estate, tourism, various and sometimes shady immigration-related businesses.
One huge problem with Miami's development is that the smart kids either stay home and live with their parents now or they get the heck out of town. There can't be a cool culture scene without young people living independently. They have to make neighborhoods.
In ten or twenty years, Miami might easily be the greatest, most interesting city on earth. All the ingredients are here! But then, fairly shortly after that, in the medium-term view, it'll probably be under 3 feet of water, so it all might be too late.
In a word or two or three, Miami is...