August 2, 2009


Dialectics in Action: The Modern Hair Ball Meets the Beach Chair

One of the things I love about living in Miami on South Beach is the weird eye-candy I get a taste of here almost daily. For instance, we have many feral cats in our neighborhood alleys and parking garages, obviously all cousins to one another, with fur (what remains of it) in matching HTML Gray #777777. Many of these cats wear remaining vestiges from the gene pool of some patriarchal male tabby—just barely perceptible now as stripes in a slightly darker charcoal gray #888888.

You’ve seen these cats on animated TV programs like The Ren & Stimpy Show. Cartoon cats with electrified beehive hairdos and balding pitchfork tails, mostly leg, a few ribs, no butt, and very little in the way of body. (Cats I once thought lived only in cartoonists’ imaginations until I moved here and found they really exist.)

Another thing you get on the Beach is dumpsters the size of semi-trailers, parked on streets where renovation from condo to rental unit and back again is a rotating occurrence apparently more habit-forming than Crystal Meth. When you see one of these green behemoths parked on your block, it indicates the time has come to clean out your apartment and rid yourself of all its unused furniture, free of removal charges to you. Most “So.Be-ans” find it too strenuous a task to toss their mattresses and peeling press-board dressers over the high walls of these dumpsters, so their abandoned furnishings get arranged around the sidewalk or alley or grass nearby like so much flotsam surrounding a sinking ship.

You know, of course, the Kantian philosophy of thesis and antithesis? Two opposite ideas meet headlong to create a synthesis—something never contemplated before. The guy with his chocolate bar runs into the gal with her jar of Skippy’s to create (voila!) the peanut butter cup then made famous by Hegel. (Or was it Reeses…?) Anyway, that's background for tonight’s textual analysis. Now to apply dialectics to yet another serendipitous conclusion...

Just before sundown tonight, someone slipped into the nascent shadows behind a dumpster parked at the Jewish Community Center next door to us to dispose of what must once have been a beautifully upholstered Chippendale wing-back chair but which now resembles something the Dukes of Hazzard might drag home behind their pick-up to place among similar lawn furniture in their back-forty. You know, right next to the old refrigerator with the rusty padlock? This seen-too-many-butts-in-its-day setee has a yard-long rip in the back where a spring coil protrudes, huge enough for any giant from Brobdingnag to use to repair his retractable ball-point pen.

Anyway, there I was walking eastward when I experienced this incredible ah-moment of dialectical materialism in the making. Strolling past aforesaid museum-worthy chair, I observed, lying comfy on its seat cushion right there in the middle of Sixth Street, a feral #777777-and-888888 stripey feline grooming her swastika-shaped tail in exquisite outdoor luxury (like some postmodern cat-model posing for Pottery Barn's latest catalog cover). Our eyes met. The cat resumed licking itself, and I continued my walk toward Ocean Drive. And me without my camera.

I have no witness to this spectacular moment, unfortunately, because the schnauzer I was walking at the time has a serious case of cataracts, is nearly blind, and mostly suffers from senility. He’s never sure whether he’s inside on his way out, or outside on his way in, if the elevator is going up, or coming down—and so, I assume, he now supposes we’ve built onto our apartment, expanding the living room out into the street, have bought ourselves a new chair at Ikea, and have inherited a two-dimensional cat formerly owned by Beavis and Butthead.

Admit it. You have to love Miami Beach. Where every dog has his day, and every feral cat her own Ethan Allen showroom.

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