Reasonable Advice from Dave Barry’s ‘Insane City’

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Pulitzer prizewinning humorist Dave Barry has written a whopping 38 books, many of them set in his adopted home – and beloved punching bag – of Miami. The Broadway play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” based on his children’s story, just nabbed five Tonys last year. And, of course, he’s probably best known for his stint as a nationally syndicated humor columnist.

For reasons we’re still trying to figure out, we handed Dave our etiquette column, and he didn’t disappoint… He proceeded to diss Pacino, impersonate a Miami nightclub, and declaim on sidewalk dimensions. In short, he’s a natural!

Barry’s latest madcap Miami novel is “Insane City.”


Brendan Francis Newnam: In addition to a few thousand syndicated humor articles, he’s written a lot of popular books. Many set in and around his, well, I was gonna say Miami, but you’re from New York.

Dave Barry: Right. I grew up in New York but I moved to Miami in 1986 from the United States and have been there ever since.

Rico Gagliano: Do you get a second passport?

Dave Barry: You need nothing. We don’t need no papers in Miami. As soon as you get there they give you a drivers license. No matter who you are, no matter what age you are, no matter what species you are.

Rico Gagliano: Four-year-old recurring drunk driver? Here you go.

Dave Barry: Welcome to Miami! Here’s your happy meal and here’s your drivers license.

Rico Gagliano: Sounds like paradise.

Brendan Francis Newnam: A lot of your books are set in Miami, including this new book.

Rico Gagliano: Which we should note is an aptly entitled “Insane City.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s talk about it first and let’s ask why Miami hasn’t kicked you out of the city.

Dave Barry: No, but that’s the thing about Miami. Nobody in Miami has any civic pride. Not like all the other cities in the world where if you say, “Oh man it’s ridiculous there.” They go, “Wait a minute, no there’s something cool, we have a good museum.” You never heard that crap from Miami people. Everybody there goes, “Oh yeah it’s really screwed up here.” It’s like I can’t believe I’m still here.

OK, this is a true story that just today I read in the Miami Herald. A girl won a science fair competition there and her science fair project was cocaine. I’m not kidding. Her father is a drug agent or something of some kind, and her project was how drug sniffing dogs find cocaine. And so to do the project, her dad put cocaine in various rooms and the dogs chased it around. But the explanation they gave is, well there’s no rule against it in the science fair thing, and we checked with the dad and he said no, the ten-year-old girl never touched the cocaine.

Rico Gagliano: Was her dad Tony Montana from “Scarface”?

Dave Barry: Yes, I know yeah. And I gotta say this, I just wanna say this. The one thing we do object to in Miami is Al Pacino’s accent in “Scarface,” which is the worst Cuban accent. Anyone can do a better Cuban accent than that. So it’s on record, and I know he listens. Al, I know you’re listening.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He’s a big NPR listener.

Rico Gagliano: That’s right. There goes his donation to public radio. Thanks Dave Barry, that’s swell.

Dave Barry: He was hoping for the mug this year.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He would throw it against the wall ever year.

Rico Gagliano: So clearly your book is not going to rise to the level of the actual reality of Miami.

Dave Barry: No, no. Carl Haaisen says that nothing you could ever possibly make up about South Florida will not be exceeded the next day in the Miami Herald by some actual event.

Rico Gagliano: Well we’re glad that you keep trying and clearly you’re, therefore, the guy to answer our listeners etiquette questions, right?

Dave Barry: Obviously I was born to do it.

Rico Gagliano: So let’s get to it. Our first question is from Macalya in Seattle and Macayla writes, “What is the etiquette behind being talked to by that ‘crazy’ person on the bus? Particularly if that person is sitting right next to you and proceeds to tell you their life story and how many cookies they’ve eaten that day? Is it rude to just get up and move to another seat? Please note I am not the crazy person.”

Dave Barry: Well I guess the first question you always ask yourself is, is this Charlie Sheen? And if it is then I think you should pay attention, you owe him that. But if it’s not, it’s a good question, and I’ve had this happen to me. I think the best thing to do is become an Amway or Herbalife distributor.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, out-crazy them.

Dave Barry: Yeah, or just say, “It is so great to be talking to you because I have an opportunity.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: So it’s basically like jiu-jitsu, like use that opportunity to kind of come back at them.

Dave Barry: Be one of those people who actually needs people to talk to about something.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But then you’re gonna end up talking to a crazy person.

Dave Barry: But you might sell them Amway products.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You can make your bus fare back.

Rico Gagliano: There you go. Alright, so Macalya there’s your answer and you also got a new career out of it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: This question comes from Tim in Lexington, Massachusetts. “What do I do when someone, who is clearly a moron, is walking in front of me, slower than anyone has a God-given right to?” That’s the first part of the question. The second part is, “Also regarding Miami: really? Why so many clubs?”

Dave Barry: Those are two questions that are often put together.

Well I agree about the people walking in front of you. I got to say that the person asking this question, Tim in Lexington, it never occurred to him to just go around? Before we call the person in front of us a moron we might think, “Hmm, if I just step aside here…” But assuming you can’t do that for some reason if you’re in a narrow, Lexington has these sidewalks, they are known for it. The city of very narrow sidewalks.

Rico Gagliano: And big cars.

Dave Barry: Lexington is Viking for narrow sidewalks.

But this is my mother-in-law this person is describing. Seriously, and I hope to God she’s not listening, but my mother-in-law is the slowest walking human being on the face of the Earth. So presumably if I take two steps she should be two steps behind me but she’ll be like three steps behind me. Even though I’ve only taken two, there’s something in the space time continuum where everything around her time actually goes backward.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s why you look so young.

Dave Barry: And so the answer is, Tim in Lexington, I don’t know. Really don’t know what you could do. But I agree though, it’s very annoying when people walk really, really slow. We want to say, “Why are you even pretending to walk? Why don’t you just admit you’re basically standing still, or kind of going sideways like a, is it what, a weeble?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: But wait, do people walk in Miami? Or is it like L.A.?

Dave Barry: Nobody walks. You’d be crazy to walk. I mean, if you walk the snakes could get you, the pythons.

Rico Gagliano: So let’s move to the Miami part of the question.

Dave Barry: Oh, why so many clubs? I know that he’s right, there are a ridiculous number of clubs and I do know I once did a story for the Miami Herald about the club scene in Miami and it was brutal work. I went with our club reporter, we had an actual club reporter at the time whose job was to cover the club scene and her name was Tara Solomon, called “The Queen of the Night”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Her parents must be proud of that.

Dave Barry: I called her up and said, “Tara I want to do a story on clubs,” so she goes “OK, you have to meet me…” at whatever it was, “at 1.” Turns out that was 1 AM, that’s when she started. So every night I would go over there and I would go to club to club with Tara and every single one there would be giant bouncers not letting a lot of people in, and we’d go right by because I was with Tara Solomon, the Queen of the Night.

Rico Gagliano: Of course, she’s the queen.

Dave Barry: Go in there, and there was music that sounds like… and you know there’s lights flashing in dark, and you could pay like $38 for a vodka. And sit there for about 20 minutes with these weird club characters, unable to say or hear anything. And then Tara would go, “OK it’s time to go, we’re going to another club.” So we’d walk outside, go through past another line.

Rico Gagliano: That’s why there’s so many clubs, because you need time in between each one to regain your hearing.

Dave Barry: Or, or, here’s the other possibility: it’s all just one club, and they just sort of take you around a different entrance, and it’s the same.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s like you’re kidnapped.

Rico Gagliano: It’s like the Truman Show of clubs.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought that Tim was referring to the country club, the golf club. I thought Miami has a lot of clubs because there’s a lot of old people retired there.

Dave Barry: Miami doesn’t have old people. They drive into buildings. Seriously, you have never seen a town where 83-year-olds drive into buildings more often than not. They always live because they’re always going one mile an hour in a gigantic Oldsmobile. They don’t really get killed.

Rico Gagliano: It’s your mother-in-law driving.

Dave Barry: But they end up like in the salad bar, they’re way into the club, and they’re like “Well he thought his foot was on the break, when in fact it was on the accelerator.” It’s like, OK, but how long does it take to figure that out? You’re only going one mile an hour, can’t you see, “Wait a minute, I’m entering the building now.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe they should remove the accelerators from their cars.

Dave Barry: They don’t use them anyway really. I am really almost one of those people so I should not be making fun of them.

Rico Gagliano: So Tim that answers your question.

Dave Barry: Yeah, I think we got Tim squared away. Tim, wider sidewalks is the answer for you. Move to a city that’s got some width to its sidewalks.

Rico Gagliano: Dave Barry, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Dave Barry: I think we helped a lot of people.