Sweet home Hialeah

South Floridians love to use Hialeah as a punchline. And I get it. The city has a bad reputation for harboring corrupt politicians and nosy neighbors, as a haven for cheap rents and illegal workers, and as the home of the tackiest and loudest Cuban immigrants of the entire diaspora.

This place is so special that it only has one major street and outsiders still manage to get lost.

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Oh those outsiders. They think they can spend a few hours in the “City of Progress,” and then feel entitled to criticize and point fingers.

This weekend, I encountered one of “those” people – a pretentious beauty salon patron who wanted to lighten her hair, but didn’t necessarily want to go “Hialeah blonde.”

She said this loudly in an attempt to garner laughter. But when her punchline didn’t receive the clamor she was expecting, she tried it again, “Not a Hi-a-leah blonde,” this time emphasizing the “ah” in the middle.

Still, her joke was met with unbearable silence.

Partly because we were in a sophisticated salon, excuse me, hair studio located in Coral Gables and the insinuation that the stylist would be capable of doing a horrible job was met with a raised eyebrow and a slight puckering of lips. But mostly because, unbeknownst to her, the audience members of her comedy special were Hialeahan – myself included.

And at that moment, one of great impulse and little reasoning, I decided to go full blonde. Because I’m from Hialeah and I wanted to somehow prove a point that really didn’t require further evidence in the most passive aggressive way possible.

You see, Hialeah is twice my birthplace. The first birth came in the late seventies, when I fumbled out of my mother’s womb in the hospital that bears the city’s name. The second was a figurative birth, my entrée into adult life, which took place in the early 2000’s. Without a silver spoon or a safety net, the city welcomed me regardless of who I was or was no longer. Hialeah didn’t care that I was suddenly poor, she put her arm around me and said, “Honey, we are all broke.” Only she said it in Spanish.

I stuck around for five years and loved every moment. There is simply no place like it and here are the reasons why:

1. 49th Street is the parade route for every celebration and the road for every morning’s commute. Regardless of the occasion or the time of day, your speed is limited to 5 miles per hour. They had to build two Starbucks less than 1.5 miles from each other because by the time you get from one to the other, you’ll want a second cup.

2. Some crazy company swooped into Hialeah and decided they were going to change the mall’s name from Westland to Westfield. Two months after the name change, they changed it back when they realized no one could pronounce the new name.

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3. Hialeah is the last place in South Florida where you actually talk to your neighbors – and not just when there’s a Hurricane. Even when you don’t want to talk to them, they are talking to you. They want to know who you’re voting for. They ask for help reading and/or writing a letter. They show up with leftovers from the bakery. And, best of all, you can ask them for toilet paper in emergency situations.

4. Everyone knows where they can get anything at a cheaper price. Pick up a tomato at Publix Sabor and an old man from across the plantains will tell you that they are 10 cents a pound at Presidente Supermarket. Try on some shoes at Kohl’s and a woman will tell you that she just saw the same ones at Ross for $10 less. As you walk into Bed, Bath and Beyond someone will see you and give you their 10 percent coupon, claiming that they went inside and didn’t like anything.

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5. Around every corner and at every turn there are some incredible stories – many of them tragic, many of them heartbreaking. From the abusive boyfriend to the victim of fraud to the lonely widow to the caretaker of an orphaned child – all of those stories live and thrive within these walls. But like the old adage goes, with great sadness comes great joy, which is why Hialeahans are so raucous and boisterous, why they defy fashion norms and trends and why they don’t conform or assimilate. They march to the beat of their own pots and pans.

And the reason why I’m not only blonde, I’m a Hialeah blonde.

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A rocket for our pockets

I found a dollar in my pocket. We are on our way to recovery people!

With economists focused on Greece, Congress sitting on one dollar coins, and the Supreme Court defending Walmart, it seems everyone is too busy to notice that the country is minutes away from having to move in with Canada. Seriously, times are tough and I have a sinking feeling we’re about to start screening our calls to avoid bill collectors from American Express Blue and China. So, I’ve come up with a plan to save us. Sure, I’m not an expert. After all, I passed college math with a C- (on the third try). But, I’m patriotic. And that should be enough to help me help us.

Without further delay, I present my top ten steps to fix the economy of the United States of America:

1. Nationalize porn. Did you know that roughly $90 per second is spent on porn? That’s $2.8 billion per year. Politicians are equal parts perverts and hypocrites, so it makes total sense to let them run an industry they would actually be really good at. It’s an easy money-maker and the next time a politician’s package appears on Twitter, he can always say he was conducting quality assurance. With the government running the show, Homeland Security can help get rid of all that malware in internet porn and the FBI can entrap gross dudes in chat rooms. Duh, everyone wins.

2. Sports education. Professional athletes make way too much money. So, listen up members of the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB: if you play a professional sport in the United States, you must fund at least three failing schools within the state of the team you belong to. You may also attend a few classes there if needed. If you play professional soccer, you’re excused from having to fund education, but you’re welcomed to teach Physical Education for the extra cash.

3. Credit score inheritance. When your parents die, you should have the choice of inheriting their credit score. Grieving orphans will find solace in a new credit card, while revitalizing their local economy.

4. Pot for all. I’m not sure how this will stimulate the economy, but it will help take the edge off of being broke.

5. Baby citizenship. We have a crap load of kids that need homes in this country. And, we have a crap load of immigrants that want to stay in this country. Why don’t we just pair these two up? If they keep one of ours, they get to stay with automatic citizenship. This way our kids will learn a new language and culture and they won’t feel compelled to breed their own kids so they can stay, saving us health care, court and immigration enforcement costs.

6. Legalize gay. Forget about what a boon this would represent to the wedding industry, that’s a given. What gay marriage really represents is the extra income that gay people will have once they don’t have to send donations to the HRC or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or Lamba Legal Defense Fund. Instead, gay people will redirect all their charitable donations to the National Endowment of the Arts, Arts in Education and every glee club in America.

7. Co-dependents. You should be able to claim dependents regardless of relation and age. I once had a friend live with me for nine months. I should’ve been able to receive a tax break for that. Even if the dependent doesn’t live with you, but comes over to eat your food, you should be able to claim them as a dependent. Oh, and parents should claim their kids until they die.

8. Bring the troops home. We need the troops here. Especially when we declare the war on gangs. Their new mission is to clean up our streets and get rid of these ridiculous morons that fight over colors of a  handkerchief. While we’re at it, let’s militarize maximum security prisons. Let’s see how much time they have to shank each other when they are in perpetual boot camp.

9. Make something. We need to make things. Let’s re-open those car factories and make time machines in them. It doesn’t matter if they work or not, we’ll sell them to unsuspecting Asians. More importantly, we should learn to make water. If we figure out a way to make water, we’ll be a superpower again.

10. Tax the rich. I don’t know what the big deal is. Why can’t rich people pay taxes? Everyone is so sensitive about taxing rich people. Do you know anyone that makes 3 million bucks a year? I do. Her name is Snooki. Now tax the shit out of her, please. If rich people don’t want to pay taxes, they have to adopt poor families. And when I say adopt, I mean adopt their debt. Find them a job and pay for groceries and pay for their uncle’s rehab and their kid’s sweet sixteen. You must do this for at least 15 families from the neighborhood you buy your weed from. Either that or pay your fair share of taxes.