We were reading the Miami Herald January 15 and their writer was investigating whether Miami or Tampa was the real "mecca for lusty dance." Suddenly, this religiously mixed metaphor exploded into a vividly weird mental image: millions of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia marching piously toward... a woman with no undies grinding a pole?
That's when we realized our region's journalists appear gripped by a bizarre epidemic. The prevailing symptom: declaring that South Florida, or Miami specifically, is a "mecca" for just about everything.
Sure enough, a quick Nexis search showed that local journalists have declared our region a mecca for (ahem, clears throat) big spenders, swinging, club decadence, swindlers, con men, addicts, hard-luck cases, "plain ol' out-of-control ballers," drunk college kids, the rich and powerful, shoddy law enforcement, Jamaican music, Latin American artists, tennis, scooters, illegal weapons, cell-phone tracking, "senior citizens looking for a warm retreat for their retirement years," out-of-state "narcotourists," Appalachian drug dealers, new film directors and producers, and, of course, hard-core beat freaks.
Our antiques show, meanwhile, is a "virtual Mecca for serious and casual collectors." We are a "surf-culture mecca for all things tiki," a "medical Mecca for Latins," and "a cantorial mecca."
It's all a bit religiously confusing. South Florida is apparently a "mecca for Jewish retirees" and the "midwinter Mecca for Jewish fundraisers." Unfortunately -- until this article -- nobody has declared Miami a mecca for schmears. (As you can see, copyeditors apparently have not decided whether mecca should be capitalized or not.)
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The Herald has used the phrase 42 times in the past five years and 913 times since 1982, based on our archives search. New Times is not immune: We've printed the comparison 32 times since 1995. This very reporter once regrettably announced that "South Florida is Mecca for this hemisphere's most devoted morons." The earliest instance we could find of a reporter making the South Floridian-Holy Land comparison was 1972, when the New York Times called Miami a "mecca for wandering young people."
South Florida is indeed a pretty batshit-insane region. But are people really flocking from around the globe -- which the mecca comparison implies -- for our scooters?
We're proposing a new rule: For anything fraud- or Ponzi scheme-related, we are allowed to hoist the banner of "mecca." And pill mills. And Appalachian drug dealers, because we're not really sure who those guys are. And... screw it -- lusty dance. King of Diamonds must be the mecca of something.