Sunday, September 1, 2013

MIA: You Look Marvelous Part 1

In the old Saturday Night Live routine, Billy Crystal would say, “It’s not how you feel; it’s how you look.” Somehow this popped into my unbalanced mind as I wandered to, about, and through Miami International Airport earlier this summer on my way to a variety of clandestine destinations I would rather not disclose unless you are a Facebook friend of mine or intend to read this article till the end. In any case, I bring good news today, and it concerns the reformation of what was once the frighteningly ugly eyesore located smack dab in the middle of Dade County which once upon a time was the first introduction to our city and some massive terror involved with renting a car for tourists.

As the Dalai Lama says, “ Things change,” and some proof can be found these days at the airport. There is ongoing evidence of this as one sees construction by 826 and 836, but none as profound as the brilliantly named -- this is sarcasm lest we forget -- Miami Intermodal Center, the 2 billion dollar ground transportation hub with the 10 cent name. Come on man! Where is a solid Jorge M. Perez naming controversy when you need it? How about the Ozzie Guillen Center, he a managerial symbol of quickly coming then going?

I rode the Metrorail to the Intermodal Center(MIC) in the Miami Central Station (MCS) which houses the Rental Car Center (RCC). While the naming might be amateurish; the buildings are not. The Metrorail itself  was as shoddy as ever, but mostly clean, and mostly on time. These days there are intervals of 15 minutes at most even on the weekends, and the ride to the airport on the Orange Line from Dadeland South is as quick as a car -- in rush hour quicker. At around $2, it is a bargain if you don’t need a cab to take you to the stations. As we are unfortunately accustomed to, a few stations had broken escalators and others broken elevators, but at Dadeland, we were lucky. The airport station is another story, the crown jewel so to speak,a veritable love story.

I read some history at Critical Miami, followed the politics at TransitMiami, and flashed my EasyCard for the ride. Despite the colorful announcements -- “This train are going to the airport,” -- obviously language lessons for those delivering information on public transportation is a casualty of the sequestration -- getting off the Metrorail at the airport was revelatory. Riders who begin on the busway might feel like they have encountered Dr. Brown’s flux capacitor in Back to the Future as they enter a 1970’s bus, transfer to a 1990’s train, and disembark in 2020 glory. It’s that good -- and that beautiful.

A short ride later, one is in the airport taking off shoes and throwing away water bottles before entering similarly modernized terminals with clean lines, cool design, and abundant places to sit and relax in a number of the terminals. Contrast this with the airport experience in 1995. for those who still prefer Ft. Lauderdale, I say, “Have you lost your mind?”

Some of my mirth was mitigated by subsequently  visiting Changi Airport in Singapore with its sleeping lounges, sliding boards, butterfly garden, shopping mall, and free foot massage machines. Some was also mitigated by the magnificence of the structure and service in Incheon in Seoul and the food court/observation deck in Tokyo Narita. However, it is clear that those who now visit Miami are greeted by an experience we can be proud of and one that visitors will not cringe at, like they do at JFK, LaGuardia, or LAX. In fact, it is one we should be proud of.

Art in Miami has changed over the years, and nowhere more than at the airport. So today, it’s not how you feel; it’s how you look, and MIA -- you look marvelous.