Miami 2009: Seven signs the End Times are nigh

As if from a modern-day Gomorrah — or a subtropical Cleveland — the residents of Miami are fleeing the city like never before. Approximately six people live in each shimmering condo tower downtown. In the burbs, "For Sale" signs outnumber soccer moms at an alarming five-to-one rate, experts say, and the only waterfront property in Miami-Dade County that's still sought after is the burgeoning molester colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Marlins games draw less than a 2 Live Crew show in Vatican City, and the Dolphins' recent doling out of ownership shares to any celebrity with a pulse — Jimmy Buffett, Fergie, the light-skinned dude from the Fat Boys — is a stubborn ploy to enliven a fan base that has clearly moved back to Michigan. The daily newspaper reporters have all been laid off, and realtors are committing hara-kiri. Tourists decided that watching Miami Social was a handy alternative to a trip here, and the big-money cocaine smugglers have relocated operations to Juárez.

But those Miamians who remain (mostly sex offenders, club promoters, and any politicians that haven't yet been shipped to upstate prisons) have been picking up the slack for our missing neighbors by acting like the crazed denizens of a doomed hellscape. You know, even more so than usual. Our politicians finally went off the deep end. Roman Catholic priests got jiggy with strippers. The Fontainebleau Resort was crippled with debt, and its slain heir was discovered to have been into naked women with artificial limbs. Animal stalkers eviscerated cats, horses, and baby-killing pythons. A high schooler stabbed a classmate to death in Coral Gables, and outrage ensued. Several mass shootings claimed the lives of teenagers in Liberty City, and nobody noticed. NFL players and a millionaire artist drove Bentleys drunk, killed people, and fled the scene. Miami Heat demigod Dwyane Wade was sued for $100 million, formerly rich people clogged the waterways with abandoned yachts, and everybody who was anybody had a Ponzi scheme.

The sheer quantity of weird, frightful and/or blasphemically titillating (Yoo-hoo, Father Cutié!) news brings New Times to one conclusion: That bearded, screaming dude handing out pamphlets on a street corner in Overtown was right after all. The Rapture is nigh.

Could these actually be residents at Icon Brickell?
Carlos Barria/Newscom
Could these actually be residents at Icon Brickell?

Behold the Seven Seals of Miami's Apocalypse. Repent, heathens. Or at the very least, stock up on bottled water and peanut butter.

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Ye condos shall crumble

Everybody has heard that biblical parable about the guy who built his house on stone. His home was still standing even as his neighbor's abode, which was built on sand, sunk into the earth.

You don't have to be Bob Vila to understand that the story, taken completely literally, has some sound logic behind it: Don't build on soft shit. That's why a lot of developers were skeptical of plans for North Miami's Biscayne Landing — a $2.5 billion condo-plex built on top of a rotting landfill. This year, the project entered foreclosure as it slowly sank into the trash below, bringing with it 200 hapless condo buyers into a garbage hell.

But hey, at least those doomed residents have neighbors to commiserate with. Not so for your average downtown condo dweller, who is dying of loneliness. Boom-era planning combined with recession-era construction has surrounded the waterfront with buildings doing their best impression of a Kardashian: allegedly beautiful, extremely high-maintenance, and completely vacant. A bored Icon Brickell security guard told us that 15 people inhabit the two 60-story towers he's assigned to protect. Your average condo might be worth a quarter of the $600-per-square-foot it once fetched. The groceries-starved cockroaches have resorted to eating each other.

But sometimes yuppies complain just to remind you that they exist. Like the waterfront condo denizens who have suddenly emerged to bellyache about clamorous shrimp boats keeping them awake at night — only to be met with blank stares from cops.

As if a descent into a foghorn-blasting garbage inferno isn't dramatic enough, in September, New Times reported that 17 Miamians had leapt to their deaths from condo buildings since 2007 — making our gleaming towers a suicide destination unmatched in South Florida. If that doesn't make you seriously consider moving to a duplex in Homestead to wait out Judgment Day, nothing will.

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And a false prophet named Ponzi shall seduce thee

The book of Ezekiel warns of "false prophets" manipulating the easily gullible: "Like a roaring lion ravening the prey, they have devoured souls [and] have taken the treasure and precious things."

That reminds us, Mr. Rothstein: How's our investment looking?

Here's some advice we wish we had published a few years ago: If your investment manager promises you a 200 percent return, that might be a red flag. If he has a single initial for a first name, be suspicious. If he dresses like a 20-something club promoter or has a MySpace page, run. And if he begins to sweat profusely and look around for the nearest window when you ask to withdraw your investment — well, go in front of your local news cameras and cry.

Now you know why New Times buries our savings in the back yard.

This past year, South Florida established itself as the nation's capital for Ponzi scams, the stunningly simple "Look, Ma, no investment!" scheme named for a dead Italian huckster. It wasn't just Bernie Madoff, who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud in March and bilked a nice chunk of his $65 billion from our local aging country-club set. There was R. Allen Stanford, an eccentric billionaire who lived in a Coral Gables palace, faked a British accent, and in June was indicted for allegedly shaking down investors for $8 billion. How flush was he with your poor abuela's retirement savings? He threw at least $20 million at the obscure cause of bringing the sport of cricket to Antigua, a plan as fiscally reasonable as filtering cow farts to save the ozone.

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