THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE CITIES
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
“There are an infinite number of possible cities, of which this one happens to be necessary and therefore the best because it has been intelligently chosen. It is the optimum city,” pronounced my interlocutor, who had engaged me in conversation at Terranova’s Big Reveal Block Party. He was a blue-eyed blonde decked out in orange shoes, green pants and an orange shirt.
“Pray tell, by whom was it chosen?”
“It was chosen by The Hundred Jews.”
“Who are They?”
“They are the secret masters of the material world,” he declared in a conspiratorial tone, giving me cause to believe he was yet another South Beach nutcase. Madame Blavatsky would spin in her grave.
“Is Terranova’s Stephen Bittel one of them?”
“I cannot say.”
“He seems to believe that the world is an orange,” I said, having decided to go along with his nonsense while Beatrice was getting another round of mojitos.
“Orange is the optimistic color. Orange encourages us to aspire to be the best, to take risks, to compete with one another to make this the best of all possible cities in the best of all possible worlds.”
“I thought you said this was already the best of all the possibilities.”
“It is, indeed, the best if all cities that presently exist, and of all possible cities at this time, but the world does not stand still for our city, therefore The Hundred Jews had to save it from the Great Flood at the last election. Jews now control the commission, and Cubans run the city as usual.”
“What? Does the best of all possible cities proceed on a racist agenda?”
“It is not racist at all. In fact, it is racial harmony at its optimum material composition. More potassium was needed on the commission.”
“Yes, Cuban-American physiology has not completely rebounded from the potassium shortage suffered when sugar cane was favored over bananas in Cuba. Former Mayor Herrera Bower, for example, was quite lightheaded, fatigued, and spasmodic at times, as was former Commissioner Michael Gongora. They are presently eating a high orange diet and have subscribed to the Orange Theory. They are expected to recover in about three years.”
“I see. That makes sense, but why have Cubans run the city if they are that way?”
“They do not all suffer from Hypokalaemia. They more than anyone understand the necessity of dictatorship. Therefore they cherish our strong city manager charter. Besides, considerable negligence and erratic behavior in government does people a lot of good. And other Latinos with a banana-rich heritage offset the deficiencies.”
“Well, that makes sense too. Still, if the City of Miami Beach is the best of all possible cities, why does it seem to be more like a ghetto every day, with the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer? Just look at the misery on the streets and in the parks.”
“Are you so miserable?”
“No,” I averred, “not as miserable as the increasing number of vagrants squatting in doorways and parks. I still am miserable in my own way. That I know not what I want, is the cause of my complaint: if I had any known want, I should have a certain wish; that wish would excite endeavour. When I see people pursuing one thing or another, I fancy that I should be happy if I had something to pursue. But, possessing all that I can want, although that is poverty to most people, I find one day and one hour exactly like another, except that the latter is still more tedious than the former.”
“You are among the very few who have openly complained of misery in our happy city. Your complaints have no real cause. You should know from the misery that you see that you should highly value your present state because you are better off, and to be better off than others is the meaning of life to be pursued in the best of all possible cities.”
“The very sight of these miseries should give you something to desire,” he continued, “and that is why the police chief pulled off the sidewalk foot patrols, so that people can see how well off they really are in this best of all possible cities. Vagrants are even placed at the entrance to the city to encourage us all to maintain the status of our city as the best of all possible cities.”
“Yes,” I said, simulating increasing enthusiasm, “I should love to see poverty, the pregnant women sleeping soundly the park, and the joy that homeless people find in getting drunk.”
“The more of that the better,” said he, “to prove by way of contrast that this is the best of all possible cities. Great good cannot be had without great evil.”
“You know, ads should be placed in the papers and homeless people bussed in to further illustrate the wonders of the City of Miami Beach. I remember a commissioner said that is what tourists come here to see, what makes the city so colorful.”
“You’ve got the picture. You have something to be happy about!”
“By golly, I thank my lucky stars! I have shelter, my own bed, a pot to pee in, all for only 80% of my income. My best local friend dumped me because she said I am a loser, but she should have realized that I am a successful loser at least!”
“Thank the new city manager, the new mayor, the city commissioners, not your lucky stars, and thank the organization of selfishness that creates the conditions that make the best of all possible cities possible.”
“I shall do just that. And thank you for restoring my confidence in the leadership and my eagerness to follow the Big Plan. Perhaps Terranova will offer me a public relations job. Now excuse me, I must find my friend now.”
“Glad I could be of help,” he said as I hurried away.