Days 10 – 18 (June 28 – July 6)
When you revisit a place that used to be home, you see the extremes which had come to seem ordinary. In the Sunshine State, the light is brighter, the shadows newly sinister. Miami feels dangerous in a way I used to try to convince myself it wasn’t. This isn’t irrational fear: A few days ago, a 20-year-old friend of Kenda’s died in police custody during broad daylight at busy, commercial Normandy Triangle, just two blocks from our house. Three months ago, our gardeners’ 16-year-old son was killed by a stray bullet outside a high school dance. We keep hearing story after story like this, not just headlines from local news, but sordid, tragic happenings around us, to people we know. The recession — sorry, Richard; can’t call it a reset — is drawing out people’s survivalism, their viciousness. People drive like crazy in Miami not just because they learned on foreign streets, but because they’re only looking out for themselves, for the next deal, the payoff around the corner that will bring them the American dream and their Scarface bayside mansion. This is Third World colonialism: an acquiescence to vested power and gated apathy to the violent desperation imbalance breeds.
The city is also heartbreakingly beautiful. The buildings that have managed to be completed are lush and extravagant: koi ponds and Spanish moss on Lincoln Road, a green Swiss-cheese UFO on Collins that pays tribute to the legacy of Morris Lapidus, a modernist Miami Beach High School with grass walkways and white columns. The Atlantic is warm and blue, the beaches soft and white. I love this city and it will break your heart.
Such a cliche: You can’t go home, but I can sit in the lovely upstairs studio of my neighbors’ house and look at the red tile roof of the first home Cole ever lived in and I ever owned, where there’s a green-tile pool I built, and roses growing where I buried my longtime cats. Our tenants have it looking better than ever and I’m grateful that they’re there, but talk about close and yet so far.
We’ve spent the past nine days in our old haunts, eating gelato at Dolce Vita, sushi at Katana, and medialunas at Blue Sky, and even checking out a brand-new spot: Bernie’s Latin American Cafe on Alton (healthy Cuban-based cuisine; sweetest, most tender ropa vieja ever). Cole and I went snorkeling over an underwater cemetery, a sunken barge, and a reef with a Shake-A-Leg boat. It was the first time in 30 years, since he broke his spine, that our friend Harry Horgan dove. I saw Harry using his paralyzed legs underwater, gracefully, strongly pulling himself down an anchor rope, son Eli right behind. The next day we watched some eight fireworks in four directions from the Shake-A-Leg island in Key Biscayne, toasting Susie Horgan’s 50th birthday.
Mostly, it’s about the visiting. Nineteen days here is not enough to see all the people I really want to see. There’s much about Miami society I can’t stand — epitomized by Ocean Drive — but when it comes down to individuals, there are amazing people here. I managed to meet with my old Ladies Who Listen music club and with many of the women from my former book club — funny, smart, spirited dames. And of course, it’s been great seeing Cole’s sisters, Kenda and Karlie, who look as beautiful as ever and are also older and wiser. We even got a bonus: hanging out with Bud’s niece and her family, who were also passing through town our first day here. So much to do; that’s why I haven’t written, and have to go.