Surveying the swampscape to find understanding and purpose has lead me to conclude that the trouble with the tropics is a man-made disaster. But here the Miami power players are not swayed from promoting the alter ego myth of the Florida Panther in spite of the real extinction of the Eastern Cougar.
When i was a little brown nut fresh off the boat, Miami extended its kindness welcoming thousands of political refugees with open arms and a commitment to freedom that still towers today. The Freedom Tower (we called it Tyrone Power) was the Ellis Island for Cubans who fled the tumultuous castro revolution 90 miles south. My childhood memories of that place are the subject of a dreary past that haunt me and the historic downtown landmark. The cries and wails of anguish can be heard today 50 years later.
Pardon our Appearance
No amount of renovating will glamorize its historic significance. Boatloads of sandblasting will not strip the place of its haunting. The Freedom Tower stands mostly empty with memories of the Cuban experience etched into its pillars and facade.
Land of Yesterday
Just south of that pinnacle of promise was Bayfront Park, or Pigeon Park as it was know to us. This brief expanse of public commons was my retreat from the drudgery of poverty. The Library stood at the south end as a repository of knowledge nested in charming tropical landscape. I spent hours there reading under a coconut palm in perfect swampiness.
Some years passed and assimilation seeped in through my pores. I found a warm spot in my heart for Miami. From Morningside to Gesu to Edison and MDCC the Orange City was not a bad place to be. I waited on tables at the then futuristic eatery that defined the marina where Miami Vise would be filmed years later. I graduated and said goodbye to the swamp.
Birds Eye View
Things always look better from on high, but the reality on the ground is usually less impressive.
Something happened in the 80's. The beloved Bayfront Park of my youth was deemed wild and unsightly by officials bloated with a cocaine fueled economic boom. The library was demolished and a master plan for the precious property was hatched. The carrot of developers has always been progress and economic boom, but the truth in time is always disillusion.
Sign of the Times
The precious patch of tranquility and permanence became a commercialized endeavor. Worst of all it got pummeled with truck-loads of concrete. Today it is a labyrinth failure, a monument to the lack of vision.
For some this may all seem perfectly normal. Caravans of courtesy coaches loaded with shoppers. For me it is a manifestation of everything that is wrong about brute-head planning and self serving profit minded interests.
Believe it or not this is the actual entrance to the park today.
This is what you will see where once stood elegant stands of royal palms framing a vista of downtown.
This is a monument to the diminutive Christopher Columbus with hands extended as if to say " don't blame me".
Not sure what this chimney thing is, perhaps a Tequesta BBQ pit.
The Water Feature, no doubt designed by a world-class genius, may off limits to the public but the sea gulls can't read so they take advantage of the giant drinking fountain.
This is the view of the promenade towards the norther direction.
In fairness there is a nice sandy spot for visitors to soak in the sun. But there is probably concrete below the surface.
You know I am a visual person. I am very keen on what is evident to the optic nerve. My glass is neither full nor empty, but crystal clear. Pictures do not lie. This is a scene from the ruins of Bicentennial Park, future home to a museum of complexity.
The inspirational banner on the back of the WLRN building says allot also. A crowd of kids with arms extended as if to surrender to the authority of progress for progress sake.
Miami is not a complete disillusion. Street art, such as this hidden gem in Wynwood, give hope in the most direct way. Perfectly swampy irreverence.
The Miami of my youth was a better place. Better because it really was less of mans making. Given time we manage to make things worse. Not by intent but by sheer ineptitude. Not content to leave well enough alone, man has the uncanny ability to blunder his way to oblivion. Give us time and money and we create not a better world but one that is fraught with misgivings. At the end of the day, life is about people. But the places we inhabit determine how we behave towards each other.