Thwack! Thwack! The three men hack their way through the Guatemalan jungle, one machetazo at a time. A thick canopy of kapok trees filters out all but the faintest stream of emerald light. As they reach the ruined temple, each man fires up his torch. The youngest, a college student, points into a pitch-black hole. "There," he says. "That's where I saw it."
A portly, bearded archaeologist aims his beam into the darkness. Suddenly, like a horny teenager's hand in a movie theater, the light finds what it's looking for and stops. Framed in the flashlight's pale halo is a frightening figure: a giant, hairless man, his bulging, unblinking eyes staring out from the crumbling wall. "Oh my God, we have a glyph," the archaeologist mutters. "It looks like their leader."
Scrambling over dirt and rock, the visitors tumble into the tiny room. Around them, every surface is splashed with shapes and colors. But these are no ordinary murals. They are prognostications, left by the Mayans more than 1,200 years ago. They are a warning.
Mayan Apocalypse Not
In one painting, three fertility goddesses flaunt their hideously enlarged hindquarters. When the stars align, the oceans will rise and the earth will shake, reads the inscription. In a second image, a wild-eyed cannibal, his mouth dripping with gore, tears strips of flesh from his victim. Men will turn into beasts, it reads. In a third tableau, beneath the king's portrait lies an ominous prediction: And at the end of the 13th era, a struggling lord will fall and take mankind with him.
But there is one larger message buried here. Slowly, the archaeologist circumnavigates the tomb-like chamber, studying a series of dots and lines as it winds its way around the walls. "It's a calendar," he says finally. And it ends December 21, 2012.
When news of the stunning discovery broke in May, doomsdayers across the world seized upon it as proof of the apocalypse.
Panic spread. Russians in the industrial town of Novokuznetsk raided store shelves like Rush Limbaugh unleashed in a pain clinic. Near the Russia-China border, prison wardens called in a priest to put down a bout of "collective mass psychosis" among inmates. In the Pyrenees, the French prepared to hitch rides off the planet on alien spaceships. And in Cuba, habaneros took to lining Bacuranao Beach to pray for Armageddon, because a fiery maelstrom is apparently preferable to another year under Castro.
"The end of the world is coming," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed in a TV broadcast earlier this month. "It turns out that the Mayan calendar was true."
Scientists scoffed. But in South Florida, a place so apocalyptic we see asteroid impact craters in our morning cortadito, Judgment Day has never seemed so real. As 2012 unfolded, the Mayan hieroglyphics began looking pretty damn prescient. Celebrities took over South Beach, ushering in a new age of physical and spiritual destruction. The shooting of unarmed Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin brought us to the brink of a race war. "Causeway Cannibal" Rudy Eugene became patient zero for a bath-salts-fueled zombie pandemic. And our heroes failed us in criminal court, in the state capital, and, most spectacularly, on the field in the new Marlins Park.
Cigarettes exploded. Flaming squirrels fell from trees. A meth addict burned a 3,500-year-old tree to the ground. A guy screwed a three-legged dog. A dude fell in love with his donkey. And while orangutans learned to use iPads, humans slaughtered, stabbed, and shot each other over videogames, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, taco sauce, and pork rinds. We had homeless beheadings, highway masturbators, and a killer who complained that his victim's brain tasted like ladyparts.
Despite all of those terrifying signs, you're still here reading this today. So unless a bath-salts-belching Kim Kardashian is gnawing on your femur, something went awry with the end of the world.
Let's revisit the year through the eyes of the Mayan warnings to try to figure out where it all went wrong — or right.
Mayan Prediction: When the stars align...
Florida Reality: While doomsdayers interpreted this piece of the Mayan warning as proof that a planet called Nibiru would emerge from its hiding spot behind the sun and hurtle into Earth, South Floridians suspected all along it foretold another, equally disastrous type of galactic realignment. Sure enough, in 2012 an ever-more-insidious constellation of ballers, reality television show hags, and Republican hacks coalesced at the tip of the peninsula like spunk in a Sunshine State-shaped cock sock.
The monied masses poured in from around the world as if pulled by the plata in their silken pockets. First came those hoping to share in the city's supposedly imminent sports greatness. Texas A&M touchdown tosser Ryan Tannehill arrived to Dan Marino-size expectations, only to find Dolphins fans giving up on the gringo and turning their attention to his bronze Barbie doll of a wife. Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria punked all-star peloteros Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell into joining baseball's most infamous manager, Ozzie Guillen.
And then came the celebrity succubi — those tired, two-bit attention junkies scheming to soak up any spare attention we had left. Reality television stars, in other words. On Bad Girls Club: Miami and The Real Housewives of Miami, weaves were pulled, boob jobs were bitch-slapped, and the bar for human decency sank to an all-time low. At least until South Beach Tow took that bar, shoved some strippers onto it, and raked up the dirty dollar bills that rained down.
But Miami's Mayan prophecy wouldn't be truly fulfilled until the rising of its triple moon: the callipygian Kardashian sisters. We almost avoided it. Producers of Kourtney & Kim Take Miami were denied by Di Lido Island, rejected by Belle Isle, and booted from the rest of Miami Beach. Then — like the ditsy chick in horror films who can't help but mess with evil spirits — the legendarily corrupt Mayor Andre Pierre invited the terrible trio to North Miami with open arms.
Soon the Kardashians had whipped South Florida's worst TV stars into a terrible, T&A-fueled frenzy. One Real Housewives star's son nut-punched a homeless guy, only to get caught after proudly posting video of the assault on YouTube. King of Diamonds dancer Tip Drill broke her face after tumbling more than 20 feet down a stripper pole in pursuit of celebrity cash. Northwestern High School's legendary marching band was pulled into a rap video called "Bandz a Make Her Dance" alongside porn star Alexis Texas (of Buttwoman vs. Slutwoman fame). And Paula Simonds, a mild-mannered Miami mother of three, renamed herself Lacey Wildd and went on a plastic surgery binge. Wildd wanted size triple-M breasts, but after 12 previous operations, not a single Miami plastic surgeon would touch her. And when this city's boob docs take the moral high ground, it must be the end times.
As if this methodical destruction of Florida's moral fiber by celebs weren't enough, the most despicable crowd of all arrived in August: the Republican National Convention. Fox News' four horse-anchormen of the apocalypse flew into Tampa to stoke the hellfire flames of controversy as Mitt Romney took the pulpit and Clint Eastwood grappled with an empty chair. But the real action was outside the convention center. Strip clubs around Central Florida stocked up on talent, including a bevy of busty porn stars (including one who looked like — shudder — Sarah Palin) hired to prostrate themselves as conservative pols showed off their stimulus packages and rained handfuls of fiscal-cliff cash. And everybody and their mother brought their Glock.
Whether it was Republican right-wingers or slutty reality TV stars, by year's end South Florida was so chock full of famous craziness — and guns — that something had to explode. The stars were aligned, like a cut of pure Colombian yeyo on Nostradamus's gnarly old nipple. All we had to do was snort.
Mayan Prediction: The oceans will rise and the earth will shake.
Florida Reality: In the end, however, maybe it was volcanic ashes — not Kardashian asses — that we should have worried about. If there's one common theme among apocalyptic predictions, it's that nature is about to wreak its primordial revenge. Christians expect drought, famine, fire, and tremors before the Rapture. Norse mythology says the planet will shake as the gods fight it out. For the Mayans, the god of earthquakes was also the god of death. Cizin, a laughing skull with a necklace of eyeballs, was responsible for destroying earlier civilizations. Why not ours as well?
As the year wore on, Miami indeed teetered dangerously on the brink of collapse. After city commissioners agreed to shell out more than a billion dollars for a thoroughly unnecessary project, French engineers began tearing a three-quarter-mile tunnel beneath Biscayne Bay. Like a 12-month enema, a massive, $45 million German drill named Harriet churned underneath us all year long.
Soon, pieces of Miami began collapsing. Three construction workers perished when a five-story parking garage pancaked at Miami Dade College's Doral campus in October. Tropical Storm Sandy's unrelenting rain and wind tore Fort Lauderdale streets to pieces. In the boob-job bastion of Bal Harbour, the entire beach was swept out to sea. And South Beach turned into a Vietnamese shrimping village for six months, with TV anchors in fisherman waders reporting live from flooded street corners like an episode of The Most Dangerous Catch.
Then the animal plagues began. Burmese pythons and aggressive African crocodiles overtook the Everglades. Caribbean crazy ants crept into Miami-Dade. Malarial mosquitoes migrated from Key West. And feral cats turned the University of Florida into an extra-large litter box. Tiger cubs and alligators were suddenly kosher in kiddie pools.
Humans tried to fight back. Officials declared open season on invasive species, including a $1,500 prize for bagging the biggest Burmese python. Some people turned to vigilante justice. A dude in Jacksonville was arrested for skinning dogs in his front yard. A guy in St. Petersburg stuffed four kittens into a bag and put them in a freezer. A lady in Bay County decapitated her kids' pet rabbit and then crept under her mobile home to hide from cops. And a Tampa woman was arrested for going "Gangnam Style" on the back of a manatee.
Other folks simply took to eating their animal underlings. In Broward County, an 8-year-old retired racehorse named Marco was stolen from a barn in Southwest Ranches. Later that day, his body was found hacked to bits, his muscles stripped of flesh. "That horse was a pet," owner Suso Sangiao-Parga lamented. A $1,000 reward failed to capture the anti-equine invader.
But the joke was on the thieves, or whoever ate the purloined pony pieces. As a New Times investigation uncovered in August, South Florida racehorses are riddled with more drugs and steroids than the cast of The Jersey Shore. In fact, American thoroughbreds are so thoroughly doped that Canadians and Mexicans are now rejecting the toxic meat. That's right: Mexico — where food safety means that the man serving you a meal of Montezuma's revenge wears a sombrero — is shunning our rancid horse flesh.
But even the most brazen assaults on the animal kingdom were Pyrrhic victories. Mother Nature and her minions would have their way with mankind. An alligator in Leesburg tore off an old lady's arm. Another gator ate the hand off an Everglades boat captain, who was then fined for feeding the creature. And a dolphin at Sea World bit the hand of a little girl.
The manatees, presumably, are still plotting their revenge.
Mayan Prediction: Men will turn into beasts.
Florida Reality: Rudy Eugene shed his clothes as he walked across the burning-hot MacArthur Causeway. But it wasn't the midday sun urging him from Miami Beach toward downtown Miami. It was madness.
When he saw a 65-year-old homeless man named Ronald Poppo lounging under a Metromover platform, Eugene attacked. In minutes, the 31-year-old car washer and small-time pot dealer had smashed Poppo's face to a pulp, plucked out his eyeballs, and begun gnawing flesh from the old man's face. When cops arrived, they had to shoot Eugene four times before he finally stopped. Poppo was left blinded, faceless, and barely alive.
News of the "Causeway Cannibal" raced around the world. The Internet exploded with theories of a mysterious virus behind the "Miami Zombie" attack. Only a few months earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had unveiled tongue-in-cheek posters asking Americans if they were prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Now it seemed to have truly arrived.
Another explanation for Eugene's violent outburst quickly took hold. He must have been on a new type of drug called bath salts, claimed the head of the Miami police union. As Americans wondered how in hell the scented shit next to their grandma's bathtub could transform anyone into a cannibal, local media blamed the so-called synthetic cocaine for a guy exposing himself to children and a young Miami man growling at police. In West Virginia, one dude was so high on bath salts that he supposedly donned a bra and panties, slaughtered his neighbor's pygmy goat, and passed out. South Florida politicians raced to ban the stuff.
Even though tests later found only pot in Eugene's system, maybe the politicians were right — the cannibalism certainly didn't end with Miami's zombie. In Bradenton, a man smoked synthetic pot, shot off his Glock, and ran around the neighborhood naked. Near St. Augustine, cops discovered a young man nude in a puddle of urine and broken glass after a late-night rampage at a random home. But before they could arrest him, he jumped off a second-story balcony, was zapped with a Taser five times, and bit a man in the stomach. In Palmetto, a dude got so high on something that he took a bite out of someone's bicep. Another man tried to chomp on a cop car. A mom bit her daughter for turning off a Rihanna CD. And Naples resident Giovanni Martinez got so drunk he threatened to eat a nurse's face "like that guy in Miami."
Not even Rudy Eugene ranked as crazy as Tyree Lincoln Smith, a North Florida man arrested in January for allegedly chopping a Connecticut man to death with an ax and then eating his victim's eye and brain. Smith later told his cousin that the eyeball tasted like an oyster and the brain like "a woman's come."
Some South Floridians took an altogether different tack to their bestiality. Pinellas County Humane Society employee Eric Antunes loved animals so much that he snapped photos of his girlfriend's three-legged dog licking his dong. Just down the road, Carlos Romero was arrested for jerking off next to his miniature donkey. Romero admitted to always having felt an attraction toward animals and lambasted Florida for looking down upon his desires. He argued that, unlike donkeys, human lovers "stab you in the back, give you diseases, lie to you," and are "promiscuous." Romero said he hadn't fully consummated his love for his donkey "because she's blooming into maturity." For that poor creature, at least, Judgment Day could not come soon enough.
Men weren't the only ones acting like animals in 2012, however. Within a week of one another this summer, two women went wild masturbating in public. Ashley Holton caused a traffic jam near Ocala when she jumped out of her car wearing just a pink shirt and began pleasuring herself on the side of the road. When a female cop tried to put pants on Holton, she bit the officer. A week later, Tracy Mabb stripped for no reason at an intersection in Pompano Beach. Police said she flashed passersby a view of her "vagina and buttocks" in a "completely vulgar and indecent manner." When confronted by cops, she allegedly refused to put her clothes on and shouted, "I don't give a fuck!"
Another lady was arrested for driving topless to her boyfriend's house, while three women were caught smuggling pot, a crack pipe, and clean urine (to beat a drug test) inside their vaginas. A female car thief was arrested mid-poop on the side of I-95, and a crackhead was busted with three rocks concealed under her dentures.
But the award for 2012's saddest end-of-the-world streaking incident will have to be awarded posthumously. Inga Marie Swanson arrived at a Tampa-area party uninvited this past October. But that was the least of her problems. Swanson showed up naked, bearing a giant metal cross and mumbling about the end times. When she returned to the party wielding an antique gun and calling people the Antichrist, two off-duty policemen shot her.
Mayan Prediction: A struggling lord will fall and take mankind with him.
Florida Reality: The walkers shuffled their feet in the moonlight sheen, their empty faces glowing red and blue in the glaring lights of an abandoned cop car. There were tens of thousands of them: packs of people now hardly recognizable as human, dressed in pajamas and Crocs, drained by hours of waiting in line. They lurched slowly down the streets, from Brickell to Broward County, Homestead to Hialeah. Occasionally, one creature would crawl in front of another and anarchy would ensue. But mostly they just slouched toward the polls, driven by some strange demonic hunger for democracy. "Baaaallots," they moaned. "Baaaaaaaaaaaallots!"
Somewhere in Tallahassee, a weisswurst-pale giant reclined on a throne made of small plastic piss cups. The lights were off, but with his bulging, bat-like eyes, Rick Scott could see the strife consuming his kingdom. The state was going to hell, and it was all according to plan.
The scene wasn't a nightmare, of course, but Election Night 2012. South Floridians were zombified by ballots thicker than The Brothers Karamazov and lines longer than the crapping queue at Sun Life Stadium, not to mention the choice among local candidates as distinct as gonorrhea and the clap. The plebiscite panic was, therefore, a fitting finale to a year in which Floridians were abandoned by their elected leaders and goaded into turning on one another like Gambian pouched rats (which, incidentally, are taking over the Florida Keys).
The Mayans had warned that the 13th era would come to an end with betrayal by an incompetent leader. Florida had no shortage of those in 2012. From the governor's mansion on down, politicians screwed us over and over in their personal pursuit of power. But it took a pelotero-purchasing psychopath to really bring South Florida to its knees.
Scott certainly seemed to be trying to dismantle Florida this year. The Medicare fraudster entered office promising to create 700,000 new positions by 2017. Instead, two years into his tenure, the state has barely broken the 100,000 mark. It probably didn't help that Scott's job czar, Hunting Deutsch — whose name sounds more like a scheisse porno than a politico — quit earlier this month after reporters discovered he'd collected unemployment checks for months while jaunting around Europe on vacation.
It also didn't help that a federal judge blocked Scott's attempts to drug-test state workers as unconstitutional. His previous urinary crusade — demanding that welfare recipients piss into a cup before receiving benefits — somehow passed legal muster, only to cost Floridians thousands more to administer than it saved them.
Then Scott passed the buck in the wake of Trayvon Martin's slaying by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The governor stocked a 19-member panel full of gun enthusiasts and then waited for them to tell him that the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law — Zimmerman's defense — was A-OK.
Scott's omnibus voting bill was even more catastrophic. The law slashed early voting from 14 days to eight, including the Sunday before the election when Democratic-leaning black churches usually took their parishioners to the polls to vote. Meanwhile, the guv watched Republican legislators load the ballot with long-winded attempts to kill the separation between church and state.
So what did Scott say when the restricted voting schedule led to some people waiting eight hours — a full shift, but not at jobs the governor promised — to cast a ballot? "Oh gosh, it's exciting," he said as voters lined up like the undead behind him. "People care about this election. That's what I wanted all along."
Scott wasn't the only politician riding us like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, straight down toward Armageddon. The title of Disastrous Dear Leader could just as easily go to Connie Mack, Allen West, or David Rivera. The Republican Party's three wise men all lost their wits — and their seats — in November.
Connie Mack seemed to have the Senate seat locked down until voters were reminded that the handsome candidate used to be kind of a douchebag. He got into random road-rage fights, was thrown out of bars, and once nut-punched Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant during a bar fight. Then, on Election Day, he encouraged his Twitter followers to Instagram their ballots, which just happens to be a federal offense. Mack lost to smiling septuagenarian Bill Nelson.
Then there's Allen West, a man so insane he once fired a pistol next to the head of an Iraqi detainee, allegedly requires his wife to be his personal "porn star," and dashes off one-word responses ("Nuts!") to the American Muslims he ludicrously blames for 9/11. Despite spending a record $18 million to try to retain his House seat, West lost to Democrat long-shot Patrick Murphy. Then West demanded a recount and murmured about fraud for two weeks before conceding with a resounding eat-a-candy-bar-out-of-my-ass-I'm-out-of-here type of speech.
This year also turned out to be the swan song for David Rivera, a politician so shady that he forever endeared himself to local reporters. After a long and — insert antonym of illustrious here — career, in which Rivera was caught living off secret campaign donations, lying about being a spy, and breaking 11 ethics laws while in Tallahassee, he kicked the corruption up a notch in 2012.
He allegedly paid some schmuck named Justin Lamar Sternad to run against Rivera's opponent — Joe Garcia — in the Democratic primary. Rivera bankrolled the bogus candidate via Republican political operative Ana Alliegro, another gift to journalists everywhere. She once compared her pistol to her husband's genitals during a fight with the poor guy. "If you think your [penis] is powerful, this is mine," a naked Alliegro told her hubby, according to a police report. When her husband tried to ignore her by going to make coffee — who does that? — Alliegro fired the gun into the ceiling. "You see. It's loaded," she said. "This is business."
And it was, at least until Rivera blew the election, Sternad spilled the beans, and the feds came looking for Alliegro. She disappeared, but we can only assume she is out there somewhere, comparing her gun to a schlong and plotting a comeback.
If Alliegro's bizarre antics sound familiar, it's probably because they resemble the sordid case of Broward County School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb. According to an investigation released this year, the local judge's wife carried on multiple affairs with bankers involved in deals with the school board. She allegedly provided them with inside information in return for trysts at fancy hotels.
Like Rivera and Alliegro, Gottlieb seems sure to escape punishment. But she wasn't even the worst school board member. That title probably goes to Beverly Gallagher, who's now in a halfway house after pleading guilty to accepting payoffs from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen seeking school construction contracts. Or maybe it goes to another former school board member, Stephanie Kraft. She's awaiting trial on charges of accepting cash in return for helping developers avoid $500,000 in fees.
Then there's North Miami Beach Mayor Andre Pierre. He earned his hellish Christmas with the Kardashians by wasting $4,000 on city badges for his buddies, driving a $100,000 Porsche that he never reported as a gift, steering city money to criminals, allegedly accepting bribes from a nephew who is now awaiting trial for corruption, and giving his soccer team thousands of dollars of free hours at a city field.
Across the bay in bourgie Bal Harbour, meanwhile, top cop Thomas Hunker ran things more like a Congolese war lord than a police chief. According to federal investigators, Hunker's much-touted money-laundering sting squad helped drug lords launder more cash than it actually seized. And the $30 million that the department did rake in was promptly blown on iPads, first-class flights, luxury car rentals, appliances, and golf outings. To top it all off, Hunker's men made no significant arrests. Instead, they spent most of their time hosting massive barbecues for the men in blue.
Yet no shady cop or bad politician could begin to approach the amount of damage inflicted on a city's collective pocketbook and psyche like Jeffrey Loria. If anyone meets the Mayan prophecy for a failed leader, it's the Marlins' thief-in-chief.
This was the year taxpayers handed Loria a brand-new $500 million stadium ($2.4 billion with interest!) and told him to make us proud. Things started well enough, as Loria — an avid art collector — assembled a gallery of halfway respectable ballplayers including Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.
But under the drunken, profane curatorship of Ozzie Guillen, that gallery quickly became a freak show. Third baseman Hanley Ramirez turned into Hitless Ramirez. Guillen, after praising Fidel Castro, benched Bell. And the Marlins actually ended up worse than they finished last season. Loria apparently took it as a sign that all bets — including promises to invest in the team — were off. He fired Guillen and last month sold the team's seven best players. It was a new low for Loria and his son-in-law, team prez David Sampson, who were caught lying about the team's profits while wrangling a new stadium. A recent poll showed them barely beating Castro in local popularity.
"Those two slimeballs are getting away with multimillions of dollars of the people's money," one commenter wrote regarding a New Times article about the stadium swindle. "Hell is not hot enough for Loria."
At least with Armageddon's arrival, it seemed, we'd all get to sit next to him in Hades and watch him sweat.
However, if you're still reading this, it's safe to say the flames of everlasting hellfire have yet to sear the soles of your feet. The walls of your condo have not crumbled. Legions of bodies fueled by bath salts to rise from the dead are not, we assume, scratching at your screened patio door. (If they are, a word of advice: Roll this issue of New Times as tightly as possible and aim for the eyeballs.)
In other words, December 21 came and went, and you're all right. So what in hell happened? The signs were all there, weren't they?
Turns out all of that Mayan doomsday stuff was total bullshit. (Consider our ancient Quechua translator fired.) Earlier this year, news that archaeologists had made an important find on the Yucatán Peninsula really did rock the world like a lost chapter from Revelations. They did in fact find cryptic murals and a calendar that ended December 21, 2012.
"But their calendar is cyclical, like every calendar," says Traci Ardren, an archaeologist and University of Miami professor who specializes in the Maya. "Just because our calendar ends December 31 doesn't mean that January 1 won't happen."
In fact, Mayan mythology doesn't say much about the end of the world. "The only source [for apocalypse theories] is the imagination of the public," she says. "There is no actual data that people are working from. Once people start telling stories, anything gets added to the story."
It's really no surprise that South Floridians feel like the world is about to fall around them, Ardren explains. After all, just this year, a giant eyeball mysteriously washed ashore, a man was caught keeping human brains in a storage shed, a puppeteer planned to kidnap and cook children, kids began drinking hand sanitizer, and a man in Deerfield Beach choked to death on giant cockroaches in an attempt to win a pet python.
"Everything is possible in Miami," Ardren says with a sigh.
Bath salts, voodoo hexes, or zombie viruses notwithstanding, Rudy Eugene really did eat Ronald Poppo's face. Connie Mack really did punch Ron Gant in the pecker. David Rivera really was the most corrupt congressman in the country. LeBron James was alone among our leaders in that he actually gave us something, titty-twisting the Oklahoma Thunder into submission and earning us our second NBA championship parade in six years, while the Marlins and Dolphins continued to embarrass South Florida.
Women really did masturbate in public, hide drugs in their hoo-hahs, and burn down ancient trees while smoking meth. Men actually did molest disabled dogs and miniature donkeys just for the fun of it. And yes, you can totally go kill a Burmese python in the Everglades, no questions asked.
In other words, it might not be the apocalypse, but South Florida is still pretty damn apocalyptic. Living here is like the final scene of Fight Club: Everything is falling down and going to shit, but everything is also all right.
Ardren has her own analysis of how this city, like so many others around the globe, could be waiting years for something that will never happen.
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"There are a lot of people who are waiting for Fidel to die," she says. "It's a similar kind of thing: waiting for this cataclysmic event that is suddenly going to change everything, when in fact it's going to be complicated and messy."
She pauses and then adds, "Maybe it's human nature, but they are waiting and it's just not happening."