Saturday, January 12, 2013

Disconnect Miami ... by gimleteye

Friday night at Zuma, the restaurant in the Epic Hotel. I've avoided downtown Miami for years. It's changed since I worked there, before the bust, the housing bubble and crash. Last night I felt as if I were in a different country, although it was only twenty minutes from my driveway in Coral Gables.

If I had polled the roaring crowd at the restaurant, a $20 million buildout owned by Turks and staffed with managers from Great Britain, jammed with mid-January celebrants from God-knows-where to ask who knew the zoning changes that allowed Jorge Perez and the Related Group, Greenberg Traurig and lobbyists to block public access to the Miami River, none would have known what I was talking about.

If I had asked, did anyone know the "Miami Circle" was right there, across the river in the shadow of and blocked by blackened towers? I'm guessing, no one would have raised a hand. The parking area at the entrance to the hotel was filled with Rolls Royces, Porches, Lamborghini, and Bentley's. There had to have been a hundred million dollars of cars jammed "in the front" VIP parking.

Through the noise, my friend said to me, "Miami is on fire." Who was I to argue, nor was I quick enough to answer, "That why we have fire departments."

My mind was otherwise too absorbed with memories of caution abandoned. I thought about Art Teele, the late chairman of the Miami Dade County Commission who blew his brains out in the Miami Herald lobby. Art could have saved the Miami River. I tried to persuade him. He told me Marty Fine was too powerful, the Latin builders who hated him were too powerful. He had to play their game, his way. I thought about whatever bankers met in a room to keep Jorge Perez afloat even though he disappeared a billion dollars of their money, years after Art Teele was gone. The Royal Poinciana Hotel, a hundred years ago, where flappers reveled in another Gilded Age -- whites only -- while the living memories disappeared of native Indians who used the river mouth to trade and retreat back into the Everglades only a few miles away.

"Enjoy, while you can" is the spirit infecting this corner of a city that is recognizable and unrecognizable. In a week I head to southern India and then Burma with a stop in Thailand. I was last in Bangkok more than thirty years ago. A blind fortune teller in the market selling bears, monkeys, and tapirs held my palm, felt my head, and told me I was destined to be a great general. I suppose he was nostalgic for US soldiers who had served nearby to wage that war of necessity.

I look forward to a different perspective at sea level in Asia. Save the Everglades.


Al Crespo said...

You kind of had me until you described your upcoming trip as "a wealthy American tourist in places where thousands of years of history, memories and stories are as obscure as the passing tides."

I am truly amazed that you would label yourself as a "wealthy American tourist."

Have you no sense that "wealthy American tourists" in foreign lands are little different than wealthy Turks who spend $20 million to build out a restaurant in Miami?

They both represent a class of folks who believe that their money provides them a sense of entitlement that allows them to take advantage of the locals along the way.

Is that also how you view your involvement with the Everglades? Just another wealthy American with time and money to dabble when you're not off traveling the world?

Jesus, I am really offended by that attitude!!!!

al crespo

Gimleteye said...

Al, perhaps I was too obscure. I certainly didn't intend that, the way you read it. I guess the point lost: there are no "poor" American tourists in India. Those of us who go to India are, in some respect, not so different from the strangers who inhabited Zuma or South Beach nightclubs, for whom Miami is a hit-and-run kind of destination. That is obviously a simplification. The fact is that all these places we inhabit have stories and memories that ought to count for something. The point was also to direct some harsher light at those of us who ARE from Miami but have little regard, or no regard, or uninformed, incurious or knowledgeable but take no responsibility for the information we deny or glide past in our daily lives. The sentence I removed ("I look forward to being a wealthy American tourist in places where thousands of years of history, memories and stories are as obscure as passing tides."), taken out of context -- or impenetrable in the context I meant -- is obviously provocative. Anyhow, I took it out.) Thanks for the note.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the fortune teller was speaking of a different type of war. We all have to keep fighting for the environment, for a sense of history and place, and for a kinder world. Keep fighting.

Al Crespo said...

Gimletye...I think that you and Genius have been in the trenches far longer than I have, and have fought the good fight with more success than many folks appreciate...perhaps I came off as stronger than I meant, but just before reading your piece I had read a story about an incident that had sparked the recall of some the bad behavior of some "wealthy American tourists" in Europe that I still recall with anger, and I guess that anger carried over.

I understand fully your concern about folks and the history of this city - I came here as a boy in 1947, and a day doesn't go by that I don't recall either a building, a person or a memory of this city over those years and marvel at what has happened to make Miami a place I find less appealing every day.

Have a nice trip. Personally, I like the term traveler better than tourist :-)

Anonymous said...

You need to bring prosperity to the city of miami. Not for a few but for all. We need new people in the commission. People with a vision and with a plan. Denis Rod has both a vision for Miami's future and a plan to bring more jobs to
Miami. We need people like him to put Miamians back to work!!!

Anonymous said...

Epic Hotel. I am still shocked the entire waterfront is not open to the public, at least as a river walk. The City is supposed to require every property owner to allow a pass through for the public.

Why is the Epic Sales Center still standing on the waterfront five years after sales started? Ugo Columbo and his partners need to stop preying on greedy politicians.

Mike Hatami said...

Just take a ride up the river and you'll see what a waste of waterfront the Miami river is, not just to pedestrians but to boaters as well. Notice that despite all the condos that have been built along the waterfront, almost none of them have facilities for docking boats? It's a shame as the river could have been the focal point of Miami, instead we're left with this mess.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Rod is a worthless crony who is a Francis Suarez puppet. He wll lose to Manolo Reyes or Ralph Rosado in that commission race to replace Suarez.. We need new young blood.

Anonymous said...

Manolo Reyes is an old hag who has run for office for 10 times and LOST. He will run with the backing of Armando Gutierrez and his mafia to continue more of the same banana republic style of government as Regalado does.

Ralph Rosado will run with the money provided by his big bucks clients that he lobbies for now.

We need people with integrity and leadership.

Anonymous said...

When will the Epic Hotel remove its "temporary" sales center?