As a native Miamian, I often get nostalgic about the Miami that I grew up in, the Miami of the 1970s with its quiet streets, mangroves and neighborly hospitality.
I used to think that I missed the small-town feel, but over time I have come to realize that what I miss is the propinquity. I first learned about propinquity in a psychology class in Miami Dade College, back in the 1990s when it was a community college with a handful of buildings that we referred to as the Kendall Campus. The term propinquity is from the Latin term “nearness” and refers to physical and/or psychological proximity, kinship or similarities in nature among people, hence its inclusion in Shakespeare’s King Lear. But moreover, propinquity is considered one of the main factors in interpersonal attraction. In fact, the propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form close relationships with those that they often encounter.
Encounters are rarer and rarer in our modern Miami. As we navigate the never-ending traffic congestion, compounding obligations and time-sucking social media, we seem to be ships passing in the night with an occasional nod, smile and on a “good day,” a polite pleasantry.
I was contemplating these missed opportunities as I tuned the radio from news to NPR’s The Moth while sitting in traffic. I always have enjoyed The Moth Radio Hour; it always provides this sense of connection which immediately turns my car into a living room and dulls away the sense of frustration that comes with Miami Saturday afternoon traffic. Here I must add that the fact that we even have weekend bumper-to-bumper traffic is a reality that I find perpetually perplexing.
As I listened to The Moth, I thought about its creator, George Dawes Green, and how he started The Moth in his living room in 1997. I considered how, over time, like moths to the porch light, millions have been drawn to this simple concept of storytelling because it provides us with a sense of connection, of community. And then I realized that, as a former member of the WLRN community advisory board, I knew that Miami was one of the 25 cities in the U.S. wherein Moth events are available, yet I had never attended one of those events. How was than even possible? The answer: life happens. And just like that, I subscribed to the podcast, purchased tickets online and soon found myself standing at the doors of the Olympia Theater for the Jun 11, 2019 Moth Story Slam.
The theme was chemistry, and the Olympia had a beatnik feel as the hallway of the theater was transformed into a stage area with cocktail tables, cushions on the floor in front of the stage and high-tops on the second floor overlooking it all. I climbed the staircase, crossed the parquet floors, took a seat at one of the high tops and settled in with a hot dog amid a John Eberson’s Mediterranean décor.
What happened next was magical. One by one, speakers walked up to the microphone and told their five-minute true stories. The stories and storytellers were as diverse as our community, and yet each one was so very Miami. And while the format was the same as the radio show, the live performance changed the dynamic completely.
At intermission I found myself chatting with other attendees as if we were all old friends. No polite Miami “who do you know,” “what school did you attend,” “what do you do for a living” conversation here, none of that. Only real vulnerable conversations about life, and of course, chemistry.
As the evening ended, I walked back to my car on Flagler Street with a sense of community, a reenergized love for this amazing place that I am blessed to call home and a commitment to make time to attend more events like this one. Propinquity and the sense of community it fosters may have been easier to achieve decades ago in Miami, but they are still accessible to us today if we carve out the time and make the connection that it provides a priority.
To attend the Moth Story Slam in Miami visit www.olympiatheater.org/ticketsevents.html.
Raquel Regalado is an attorney and a former Miami-Dade County School Board member.