Things are bleak in the subtropics. China owns us, we're losing the War on Terror, summer's sticky misery is here, alligators are treating the suburbs like a human smorgasbord, and the sun will burn out in a scant five billion years.
So on a hot gray Tuesday afternoon, a Miami New Times reporter, wearing a company hat and carrying a box labeled "The Universal Complaint Department," stopped by the downtown courthouse on East Flagler Street to sample the Zeitgeist. The citizenry groused both verbally and in writing.
Sitting in the shade of a Metrorail overpass, a yellow-eyed man named Black Jesus thundered a mouthful. "It's fucked up out here," he said. "Everything's ass-backwards. Can't get a job. Every time you go to a homeless shelter, they put you in a program; the program tries to pimp you out. People donate all this money, and they feed you slop. You gotta eat slop. Every time it rains, we just messed up. We sit up all night and you can't get a dry shirt."
The Universal Complaint Department
Black Jesus' friend Willy Darvy sat next to him on a marble planter devoid of plants. Darvy rested a long cigarette in one hand and a brass-handle cane in the other. "It's unnecessary for all these Americans to have a green card workin' under the hammer and still not gettin' paid," he said, staring through thick visor sunglasses. "Someone has really hogged it up."
Black Jesus added it's ridiculous that you can't buy hot food with food stamps. "Why can't you take them to the deli and get food? Food is food."
One block east, a curvaceous woman named "Paper Chase" and two stout Hispanic men in business shirts smoked outside an office building. "Working for The Man sucks," the two men agreed between puffs. One had been doing it for two years; the other, all his life. Paper Chase announced herself the true Queen of Miami and complained of having been overlooked by the press, until now.
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On the courthouse steps a sharp-featured, pin-striped lawyer named Jeff protested that the backlight on his Sirius radio was on the fritz, while a man with nothing in his mouth but two front teeth said he was hungry. "Downtown Worker," a busy gray-haired woman in a pantsuit, kvetched that the worn granite tiles lining Flagler "are horrible!"
Two balding, surly gentlemen standing on the corner of Flagler and NE First Avenue muttered that their only complaint was "you."
Outside Starbucks a pretty blond in a black sweater took little time to scrawl "NO PARKING" when asked about her universal complaint, while a giant, guffawing attorney in a blue suit thought hard to come up with this: "It felt good when I heard that a Miami commissioner was arrested but not for corruption." (Johnny Winton was busted, drunk, for punching two cops at MIA.)
Nathaniel Robinson, a retiree missing several fingers and the tips of his ears, whose skin bore scars attesting to horrible burns, griped about transportation. "Why do they give driving tests in every kind of language but only post signs in English?" he wanted to know. "And why does the Government Center station that sees 30,000 passengers per day have two bathrooms?... People talkin' on their cell phones should get a ticket automatic. That's the majority of accidents."