My highway bar crawl through Miami

I went back to Miami this past week for the first time in nearly a year and a half. That’s the longest I’ve been away since I arrived in Miami at the age of nine, bright-eyed and excited, expecting something out of a Ramona Quimby book (the extent of my knowledge of life beyond the backwoods of Tennessee). But Miami was about as far from the setting of those books (coincidentally Portland, Oregon) as you could get both culturally and geographically in the continental US. Then and now. Good and bad.

Stopped to make a wish at the Yoko Ono wishing tree at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. Thanks Dana & Kiki.

My first memory of Miami is of the swirling concrete overpasses of I-95. Specifically the two intersections of highway plopped down in the middle of Overtown in the 1960s, destroying what was then a thriving (albeit segregated) neighborhood. I didn’t know any of that at the time, although I soon learned that by the 1980s passing Overtown even from above could be dangerous—due to the riots that shut down that same highway right after we arrived in 1982, the occasional stray bullets, the carjackings.

These days Overtown is still poor, but it is also finally, maybe, a neighborhood in recovery. (Or from another perspective, a neighborhood being gentrified and the residents being forced out.) But this post isn’t about Overtown, it’s about greater Miami, a place I love to hate when I’m there and miss when I’m gone.

Overtown is just a symbol of the downside of Miami—100 plus years of poor governance, poor planning, and corrupt politicians at every level of government (I like to start with the swamp draining but I’m sure this point could be debated). And these days at the state level it just gets worse and worse. But that’s a downer, so let’s wander on to the good stuff, and that would be La Fiesta, which Miami does so well.

I arrived in Miami with a last-minute plan to surprise a friend for her birthday. The surprise, however, became complicated when my flight was delayed in Chicago (due to those pesky tornadoes that were tearing through the St. Louis airport around the same time). Then my brother picked me up at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale and despite our fifty plus combined years of living in the area we missed a turn on the highway and ended up in West Broward, a coma inducing land of strip malls that I hope never to return to again–if only Maria would get out.

It got worse as we then headed south and our highway somehow dead-ended in Opa-locka, a city run by scoundrels (I exclude only the newly elected Monestime from this category) with no redeeming qualities other than their Arabian nights themed city hall, which is one of the top cheesy architectural wonders of the world and a site you really must see before you die.

AO speciality cocktails

Finally we navigated our way back to I-95, the beckoning neon lights and cocktails of South Beach lighting our way. Only three hours late for the “surprise”, we dropped my bags at my brother’s apartment, threw on South Beach wear—as little clothing as you can indecently wear—and headed for the New World Symphony’s recently finished Frank Gehry designed performance hall.

Of course this was the symphony Miami Style, meaning it was fabulous–with a sexy young conductor in soccer wear holding up a yellow card at the end of each performance, flashing videos of soccer players above, electronic music and dancing with friends in between each performance, and always a full bar within arm reach.

The rest of my days went much like this: long, nerve-wracking drives on the forever under construction and congested highways of Miami-Dade County and gorgeous evenings drinking with friends near the water. It was a great visit, but for me Miami is best experienced in short spurts, preferably at Christmas or New Year’s when non-stop hedonism is more socially acceptable and I’m not supposed to be working. At least in my own mind.

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9 Comments on “My highway bar crawl through Miami

  1. Sorry I missed your visit, I would have loved to hear about your travels (especially how you met my friend Danya!). West Broward does have an Ikea now, you know 🙂

  2. Sorry I missed you too. We should have done another yoga party…. Ah, well, hopefully in December. Yeah, Ikea and I hear claims for Weston all the time too, although I’ve never visited the latter.

  3. Overtown just sounds so dreamy.

    And the symphony? I can dig the dancing techno music inbetween performances and the skimpily clad women (I can’t think of a time when I don’t dig skimpily clad women), but the maestro in the ref uniform with yellow cards? Foul on that, foul!

    • You’re right, much better had he too been skimpily clad. Next time I suggest he just leave the soccer shirt off completely.

  4. Edith! I’m disappointed in this blog. Miami is not that bad. And neither is Broward for that matter. I make it fun 😉 And what about the wonderful times spent with your friends?? It only deserves a sentence or two at the very end of the blog? Goodness gracious woman!

    • Sorry, I was obviously still hung-over when I wrote this. And I promise to royally trash Portland in my next blog and/or say lovely things about Miami, because you’re right, Miami’s not that bad. And even if it was I’d always keep coming back. For Maria! And assorted other friends, of course. Happy Birthday tomorrow!

  5. I forgive you 🙂 Remember that you have lots of peeps and family who love you here and that IS a good reason to always come back. xoxo.

  6. Hi MikeMan you have a nerve sticking your neck out like this. Its a woednr its not been chopped off by now! I have just recommended to one of your commenters a good read on this entire subject. I think you will enjoy it whether or not you are a Christian because after all much of political correctness in today’s society has its source in Christianity anyway. Let me know if you do read it what your reaction is. Divine Sex Liberating Sex from Religious TraditionPhilo Thelos

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