Friday, February 23, 2024

Get Down

Sunshine and blue skies.  And traffic.  Lots and lots of traffic.  Miami is a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful you will find in the U.S.A.  No doubt.  And a car is both mandatory and useless to get around.  Interstates are parking lots.  Downtown is a whack a mole of wondering which streets will be open and which will be shut down.  Everything creeps along until it comes to a dead stop.  But you have never seen so many exotic, expensive cars.  Beamers and Benzs are like Toyotas here.  Lambos, Ferraris, McLarens. . . .  All only to sit in traffic.  I've talked to locals.  They say it has gotten much worse in the last few years.  "My" bartender at the hotel said she is looking to move after living here for the past twelve years because of the changes.  I told her that I used to come to Miami long ago and zip around town between neighborhoods like nothing.  Yesterday it took me over an hour to go from S. Beach to Coral Gables, and that was traveling on the interstate, the quickest route.  I miss old Miami.  

But still, it is a most wondrous and beautiful city.  Too bad you can't see it.  

If you come, don't bother with a car.  Just Uber.  That's what the locals do.  That's what they say.  And if you come, just plan on visiting one neighborhood and vicinity.  Trying to take in "Miami" in one trip will be madness.  I plan on coming back.  Don't misunderstand me.  This has been an informative trip.  Next time, I'll have a better strategy.  I've been having a wonderful time.  I'm not complaining. . . just informing.  The last time I was here some years ago, my gal put us up at the Four Seasons.  Now that was lovely.  I would suggest spending the money to stay in a place that is relaxing and resort-like.  It will cost more, but it will be worth it.  You can't have so much fun in Miami on the cheap.  Once we booked Air B&B in Wynwood.  I've been told it is like Hollywood there now, full of shops and expensive restaurants.  We stayed in a huge condo for cheap.  I looked at staying there this trip, and it is still much less expensive than staying in hotels.  There are lots of B&B places in Miami.  I just wasn't ready for "that" this trip.  We were able to drive around the city "back then" without a lot of trouble.  But as "my" bartender said, a lot has changed in a very few years.  

But yea. . . I'll come back.  I've had fun.  I've learned to walk again.  My walking muscles are barking.  And I've done the whole thing in flip-flops.  I still limp like Quasimodo, but I'm ready for longer hauls.  NYC in the spring?  I think so.  

Yesterday I did South Beach.  I thought going early on a Thursday morning would be a breeze.  Ha!  Traffic creeped.  The streets were packed with people for miles.  I crawled along in traffic looking for a parking garage, but I got super lucky and found a good street side parking spot.  I grabbed a camera bag and began my stroll.  Of course I was going to do Ocean Drive, but I was strolling Collins Avenue, too, looking for the funky shops of old.  I eschew places like Lincoln Road with its "Global Brand Stores" that attract tourists, of course, but the funky shops of old have been replaced by swimsuit and shitty apparel shops.  Selavy.  The world changes.  What can you do?  

I walked for hours.  Q called to tell me I needed to eat at a sandwich place that he loved.  The Sandwicherie.  So, just before heading back to my car, I went there for lunch.  And. . . you have to be shitting me!  It was a stand, not a restaurant or even a shop, but an open air stall with a couple of stools, no beer, and cold cuts on buns.  

"Best sandwich you'll ever eat," he said.  O.K.  Maybe looks deceive.  I'll try it.  

This was their premiere sandwich.  O.K.  Q was having his way with me.  This was a joke, a trick. . . some kind of story to tell his friends.  I'd passed up beautiful restaurants for a deli sub.  I owe Q one.  So I texted him.  

"Wait 'til I write this up."

"Post it on Yelp," he chuckled.  

Just before I sat down at the dirty, sticky counter there, a fellow was yelling to me in the street.  

"Hold that spot!  Hold that spot!"

He was a big black guy and was serious. 

"How am I supposed to do that?" I queried.  The Korean tourists standing there were happy he was talking to me.  

He jumped in a car and started backing down the street against traffic.  I directed him in, but he was not looking at me but to his thug buddy across the way.  When he got in the spot and got out of the car I asked him, "How'd I do?"  He was about 6'5" and tatted up.  He barely glanced at me and said to no one in particular, "Fine."

"You owe me five dollars," I said.  He didn't look my way, but he gave a single chuckle.  

"O.K., then," I said.  You just leave your car here.  I'll take care of it.  Don't you worry.  It will be fine." 

He didn't even look back.  He crossed the street to his thug buddy and they went into what I assumed was one of Q's favorite South Beach clubs.  Why else would he send me to the sub shack across the street?

Fucking Q.  

After scratching Q's phone number on the hood of the car, I headed to my own for the torturous drive to Coral Gables.  I wanted to go to one of the few good bookstores left in America, Books & Books.  There was a Leica store just a couple blocks away from the bookstore, too.  Cameras and books.  What fun. 

The Leica store sucked.  Books & Books?  It's not what it used to be, but maybe that is just the publishing industry.  But the place just didn't seem as "magical" as it used to.  They've expanded, though, and have a big indoor/outdoor cafe.  I was beat, so I took a seat and ordered a beer, the beer I couldn't get at Q's sub shop.  

By the time I was finished, it was traffic hour.  I thought I would go to a couple other places including a walk through the Biltmore and a pass by the Venetian Pool.  Coral Gables is a lovely place shaded by overhanging Banyan trees, but it, too, has become choked with traffic.  Miracle Mile is no miracle any longer, just a street full of half-assed shops and crummy restaurants.  I'd wanted to take photos in the Cuban neighborhood surrounding Calle Ocho which is nearby, but the day was ending.  There would be no time.  

Long ago in Miami on a visit with Brando who grew up in Coral Gables, we went to the races at Haileah Race Track.  Holy shit was that something.  But it was closed years ago.  As I say, things change.  Before "Miami Vice" reformed Miami, I used to go to the News Cafe at the far end of Ocean Drive.  They always remembered me there and when the place became hip, they would still gave me a good table overlooking the street.  I looked for the cafe yesterday, but it was gone, or so I thought.  It did close, I read, in 2021, but they have reopened further down the street.  It is not the same, just another tourist joint like the rest of them.  

You Can't Go Home Again.  There is no use trying.  That is true, of course, but not for the young.  For them, everything is perpetually new.  The Yotel is full of them, excited to be in the city, to sit in the bar, to anticipate their night out.  There is no sense in not being young.  No good comes to you from rejecting the present.  I don't.  

But man. . . once long ago. . . .  Ha!!!

Some things don't change.  This is what we were dancing to in the Club Deuce last night.  Get down, get down!  Some things are just too. . . something. . . to die.  Know what I'm sayin'?  Word.  

No comments:

Post a Comment