What I didn't know about South Florida is that it is only a long strip of realtor-constructed malls along the coasts, and that the huge inside is not inhabited. You can take any number of roads straight out of neon-lit malls and end up in a huge swamp. The swamp used to be a real paradise for birds and fish, but the developers drained and criss-crossed it with canals for future building, so it's only a depressing grass desert now. What little remains of the great swampy interior is the Everglades National Park that has its water slowly sucked out of it to feed the growing insanity of the coasts. And insanity is about the only thing you can call it as you drive hopelessly lost on weirdly numbered roads, highways, toll roads and overpasses. They have names like '145th SWN Miami Park 12 Blue Cove 1234," named and numbered as randomly as they were built. As your focus adjusts and you figure out where you are (after throwing out the useless Google maps!), you are hit by a feeling and a smell. The feeling is one of nauseated pity at the psychological condition of the natives locked in squares and circles flanked by boring malls. The squares and circles repeat inside the loopy roads like fast-forwarded viruses replicating in a test tube. The smell is one of car exhaust and dying flesh. You realize that the feeling and the smell are one and the same thing, and that this is what America wants the whole world to have. No wonder some people want none of it. Not everyone is a Euro-rich tourist with rose-colored glasses.
Andrei Codrescu's latest book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).