Sunday, March 24, 2013


Those who are regular readers of my blog (both of you) surely recall a few years back when I waxed on about the city of Orlando after I took a job there. I wrote a couple of stories about how my preconceived notions of a town that I thought was all about Mickey Mouse were erroneous. I discovered a real city amidst the assumptions. And I thoroughly enjoyed my four years there.

Well, new job, new city. Bienvenidos a Miami, Gringo.

MIAMI? City of surly locals, riots, Pork and Beans, and optional English?

Well there you go. There were my assumptions about the place as I packed my car and headed to my extended stay hotel on March 10 to start my gig here. To hear tell, the first things I needed to do were to get my concealed weapon permit and a Spanish/English translator.


As it turned out, the first thing I needed to do was find a way to get to work without driving. Because the traffic is insane here. Fortunately for me, since my career is in public transit management and Miami has an excellent transit system, that was relatively easy to figure out – an express bus to Metrorail, then a 20-minute train ride to my office in Overtown.

OVERTOWN? Where they had the riots?

Yes. In 1989 some locals overturned some cars and set them on fire in response to a police officer being acquitted in the death of a black teenager. In 1989 we also still had the Berlin Wall and Wham was making records. Shit, for that matter, I was still married.

Ancient history.

‘Hey Jer, I watch the First 48. They’re always talking about the Pork & Beans area of Miami. Isn’t the city basically a huge ghetto?’

In a word. No. In two words, hell no. Does Miami have its ‘hoods? Of course. I would not dare venture to Liberty City (where P&B is located) after dark. But for that matter, nor would I go to East Cleveland, the Joy Park section of Akron or Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach after dark either. Point being, every city has ‘hoods. But for some reason Miami’s are somehow more notorious.

But for every Liberty City I give you Coconut Grove. For each Hialeah I give you Coral Gables. For each Overtown I give you South Beach. There are good and bad areas. And after two weeks and asking a bunch of questions of the locals, I am figuring out which is which.

The next assumption of Miami: Everyone speaks Spanish.

This, I will admit, is true. And not just because the Mariel boatlift in 1980 deposited 125,000 of Fidel’s finest in the city. But it’s really due to Miami being the Capital of the Caribbean. I have met many Cubans. But I have also met Venezuelans, Colombians, Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans. It is truly an international city, the gateway of the Americas.

But here’s the thing people won’t tell you – these same people SPEAK ENGLISH TOO. If one approaches you & starts spitting out Spanish at you, just say ‘No habla Espanol,’ and they will say ‘Oh…’ then will converse in English. Yes, the assumption is the default language is Spanish, but they know English. And for those xenophobes who decry, “This is AMURRICA!” realize these people know that. That’s why they learned English, Bubba. To date I have had no problems communicating with, well, anyone.

Even when I order my daily Cuban coffee from the diner downstairs. Or, Colada, as they call it. Let’s talk Cuban coffee for a moment. It will be a fast moment, for once the caffeine from the extremely strong, extremely sweet nectar hit your central nervous system, you will chatter out incomprehensible jibberish.

YOU will be speaking a foreign language too. Bienvenidos a Miami, caffeine junkie.

This is a very interesting, mesmerizing place. You can see anything here. Last week I took a drive to Miami Beach, to Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach. In the span of three city blocks I saw a beautiful young woman in a skin-tight neon bathing suit and a Hasidic Jew dressed in all black. You can see someone blatantly stealing a flat-screen from a house in Allapattah or a Frenchman selling baguettes on a street corner.

Yes, Miami is, to use a quickly-tiring phrase, off the chain. Sometimes it moves too fast. Which is easily rectified –

Drink a triple-shot Colada. That will get you up to speed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Crazy month.

Exactly one month ago today I was in my final week of employment in Orlando, having accepted a position with Miami-Dade Transit, scheduled to begin on March 11. So the “plan” was to resign effective February 22, with a two-week respite before cranking it up on South Beach. I had contacted realtors and had some money set aside to fund my move south.

Then my mother passed away on February 19.

Whoops. So much for that plan.

An emergency trip to Ohio and a funeral on February 22 extended my stay in Orlando one week, which reduced my time between jobs to one week. In Orlando on March 1, be ready to rock in Miami on March 11. And the money I had set aside for the move? Had to use that to get me & my brother to Ohio to say goodbye to mom.

Money well spent.

But it also meant my plans for a killer bachelor pad in South Beach turned into an extended stay hotel room in Homestead. Ain’t gonna be rubbing elbows with LeBron any time in the near future. More like buying vegetables from Jesus on Krome Avenue.

But it’s all good. That’s what makes life fun. Remember, life is weird. And it cannot be predicted. Can’t really even be planned for. I had meticulous plans for this Orlando-to-Miami relo that got snuffed out when my mother took her last, long breath.

But I made it. I’m here in Miami, in my second week in my new job.

And I love it.

Not just the job and the people (which are both great), but the city. Miami is the shit, yo.

Now. I will let you in on a little secret. I am a closet Urbanista. When I took the job in Orlando, having moved there for Port St. Lucie, I had visions of being an uber urban hipster. I was going to get a place near my downtown office and either walk or take transit to work. As it turned out I found a place in Altamonte Springs and was essentially forced to drive to work. Well, I could have taken transit, but it would have taken 90 minutes to traverse 9 miles.

I ain’t that hardcore.

So. Back to Miami. As mentioned, I had to go to my fallback plan of living in Homestead instead of Brickell. But…Miami ain’t Orlando. Translation: traffic is insane down here. Yeah I know it’s bad in O-Town too, but this is a different world down here. Transit isn’t an alternate, green way to get in touch with your inner environmentalist around here. It’s a way to maintain your sanity.

And sane I am.

Every morning I catch an express bus that operates on a dedicated busway that parallels US 1 to the Dadeland Metrorail station for a 20-minute whisk into downtown. A 35-mile commute in just over an hour.

Let me repeat that: A 35-mile commute in just over an hour. To downtown Miami. You literally cannot drive it faster…let alone what you have to pay to park downtown.

Oh, and it’s free for me. Cuz I work for the transit system.

Jealous yet? No?

Then drive on with your bad self.

For me, it’s awesome. I have re-familiarized myself with my ipod & various websites as I peruse and rock out while someone else deals with traffic. My blood pressure is lower, my spirits higher.

And my wallet’s fatter.

I work in downtown Miami and live 35 miles away. And I never set foot in my car to make the trip. What about lunch, you say? What about needing my car during the work day?

Dude, we got Metrorail that runs every five fuckin’ minutes to take me to Brickell. And an automated People Mover that sallys around the downtown high-rises. Transit rules here. And I am taking advantage of all of it.

I am finally an Urbanista.