First Words — 17 February 2012
On Forbes’ miserable Most Miserable’ list

The news that we live in the Most Miserable part of the country came as news to me.

I’d just come from lunch at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, where the Bistro overlooked the pool and, farther, the seabreeze-scuffed ocean. Yachts churned out in the Gulfstream waters. Guests in Yves Saint Laurent smiled and chatted on the terrace, clinking glasses of Chamisal chardonnay over plates of steak frites.

A guest at this beautiful place, I figured, could pick any place in the world to spend a holiday. Why would they ever pick a miserable one?

And, clearly, they had not. Even on a cool day, with the Florida sunshine slipping through what appeared to be dark Irish clouds, life looked great. I could imagine scenes of such happiness repeated up at The Breakers in Palm Beach and The Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale and The Setai down in Miami Beach … and pretty much any place equipped with a beach, a bar and a concierge.

More than just the visitors, however, the indigenous people of South Florida also appeared far from miserable. Away from the four-star resorts, I saw people laughing on their way to dinner on Las Olas Boulevard, a scene surely playing out on Lincoln Road and Clematis Avenue and on the Broadwalk in Hollywood.

What was going on here, I wondered. Had I misread Forbes magazine’s list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities’’? Was that really Miami in the No. 1 spot? West Palm Beach No. 4? Fort Lauderdale No. 7?

I tried to think of a really miserable place, and my eye caught a headline, “Athens Burning.” That’s it! European bailouts, austerity measures, cuts in pay and pensions, clouds of tear gas…Could there be anyone more miserable right now than a Greek?

Yet that night, at the annual St. Demetrios Greek Festival in Fort Lauderdale, there wasn’t a miserable Grecian face in the crowd. People sat shoulder to shoulder at long tables, laughing and talking, feasting on hot gyros and loukoumades, dancing to live music, clapping hands, throwing dollar bills at the feet of the dancers.

The people who have every reason to be miserable appeared giddy on a Saturday night in the Seventh Most Miserable City in America.

Over an Alfa beer at a table away from the dance floor, I started to think the Most Miserable list seemed not just wrong but mean. Maybe it was made by and for people elsewhere, people who want to look down their noses at South Florida? (You know who you are, Liz Lemon!).

Those of us who live here know that we have issues. We do crawl in traffic. Our homes have lost value. We have bugs the size of mailboxes.

But we also know why we are here. That there’s more than enough good to outweigh the Miserable.

Take a look through the pages of this issue, and you’ll see more than a few of our assets. You’ll meet two Olympic medalists, Dara Torres and Anna Tunnicliffe, training here for a London reprise. You’ll meet proud educators who are teaching much more than the A,B,C’s. You’ll tour one of the finest design districts in the country, and jump off on a Caribbean cruise, and sample the finest wines at the American Fine Wine Competition, and taste the Passion Fruit Crème Brûlée.

We may be on some miserable list again. But we know how to live.

Mark Gauert


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