The Biscayne Times

Aug 05th
Welcome Back, Genius of Despair PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nancy Lee, BT Contributor   
September 2019

An intrepid blogger comes in from the cold

“YPix_EyeonMiami_9-19ou’re no Jack Kennedy,” said Sen. Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle during a 1988 vice presidential debate. That quote has been echoing in my mind since the BT asked me to step in for the illustrious Jack King, who has retired.

I’m certainly no Jack King. I’m not a seasoned journalist. I’m a writer born from blogging, where you’re required to capture the reader’s attention in the first sentence and you’re more conversational.

I started my blog, “Eye on Miami,” in 2006 with community activist Alan Farago. I wrote 5573 blog posts, and we’re up to 9,386,941 page views on our now dormant blog. Not bad for a former art teacher.

I did write a short final post: “Really hate writing for this blog now. I think because government -- county, state, and federal -- is just so very bad, embarrassingly bad. I feel like I am always looking away -- as if there is a dead rat on the sidewalk and I don’t want to barf. How much can you look away? But when I don’t, it just makes me crazy. We have a Bizarro world filled with hater, xenophobic, racist people. I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.... Everyone I research has skeletons in their closet. I can’t do it anymore; it sucks my optimism gene dry.”

Alan and I knew the rules of blogging. You must write every single day or you lose your readership. As a tag team, we managed to write daily. Alan got up earlier, so if there wasn’t a post, I’d think of something. Many of my posts were well researched and took days to write. Others I’d just throw together in a couple of hours. It got me angry when the readership was higher on the subpar blog posts than the ones that made me proud. I have a folder on the blog of those 71 favorite posts.

My blogs were often humorous or snarky, and I’m sure they were filled with grammatical errors.

I had a rule: “Don’t insult the blogger.” So a comment that was negative didn’t see the light of day. I never got paid for my blogging, so abuse was not tolerated, even about my writing style. When a grammatical error was really offensive, lobbyist and former Miami Herald reporter Dusty Melton would write me a polite e-mail and point it out.

Another rule: Ignore the City of Miami. Since my husband worked for the city, I mostly wrote about Miami-Dade County politics. There was plenty of material. Avoiding the city was a good move. My husband lasted 19 years.

If you go through enough government records, you can find plenty of information. There were times when intense research turned up unexpected finds. For example, it afforded me most of the county commissioners’ Social Security numbers. Turns out, before 1995, Social Security numbers were on all property deeds.

I came to know too much about the commissioners, and it was occupying too much brain space. I intensely disliked some of them, in this order: Natacha Seijas, Lynda Bell, Joe Martinez, and Pepe Diaz. I also detested Javier Souto, but his monologues were so torturous to the other commissioners, I secretly enjoyed them. He always referred negatively to the “wine and cheese set that live east of Biscayne Boulevard” (translation: not Hispanics), and he ranted about Cuba.

The overload of useless county information -- including real estate holdings and what every lobbyist was up to -- wasn’t making me happy. Then when Donald Trump entered the picture, Rick Scott became a U.S. Senator, and Ron DeSantis became governor, it was like an explosion in my head. I was really in deep despair, which brings us to how I found my penname name: Geniusofdespair:

Ana Menéndez in 2006 wrote about the election in the Miami Herald. She mentioned me and used the term “Genius of Despair.” My friend Irene Secada suggested I use it as my blog name. I’m always in despair at election time. But 2016? Woof!

Another reason I stopped writing was that people actually threatened me. Former county manager Steve Shiver was one, and the wealthy vice mayor of Palmetto Bay hit me with a SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation). It’s a lawsuit not meant to go anywhere; it’s used to harass a person and cost them money to hire a lawyer. It might not have been so “strategic” of him to sue a researcher. I know more about that guy now than I know about my husband. Let’s just leave it with this: I call him Bagel Boy now. It was his first job when he lived in New York City.

I hadn’t turned on my computer since I stopped writing my blog last November. I turned it on to write this column, and, curiously, it won’t boot up.


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