2006.12.06 Back from the third world

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Just like that, I became an instant fan of Miami, Florida.

This is from the guy who had visited Florida only once—more than 25 years earlier—and apparently found no great reason to return in the intervening years.

And don’t think it was just the warm weather that won me over. Even when I was still wearing three shirts to stay warm in “chilly” Miami, I was having a great time.

Look, on Thanksgiving morning when I walked from my son’s house down the block to the ocean, little lizards scurried across the sidewalk as I approached. I was sold on this city right then. That was good enough for me.

And to top it off, a few days later in a shopping center courtyard, I stood close to what looked like a small egret walking around the shrubbery eating those little lizards.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) recently called Miami a Third World city. He’s never visited the place, but he certainly doesn’t like what he hasn’t seen. To him, it’s a showcase of what could happen to America if we don’t get that wall built along the border with Mexico.

Tancredo, in his great wisdom, said that if you moved Miami to another place, you would never know you were in the U.S.A.

It seemed like somewhat of a foreign country to me, also, but not for Tancredo’s reasons.

 I’m thinking of trees and birds and...OK, Tancredo, even the people. We went to a dinner at the home of Morenci native David Carlson and there was a Cuban present, along with a Columbian and someone from French West Indies. David is married to a Puerto Rican/Polish Columbian via Brazil, or something like that.

This is a typical Miami crowd, but I think all of those people arrived through the airport. Tancredo’s wall wouldn’t have done a thing to prevent the wonderfully multicultural world of Miami.

On the morning after Thanksgiving, while the family wasted time in bed, I grabbed my GPS receiver and headed out on foot toward a geocache 1.6 miles away. Geocaching can take you to such interesting places.

I was headed for a park up the bay. The hider of the cache noted that Mr. Stallone and Mrs. Ritchie use to live down the street. That’s geocaching in Miami, he said.

I obviously received a slanted view of the city. Ben and his two housemates found a modest size house to rent in Coconut Grove, near his job, in a neighborhood of spectacular homes. Enormous structures in pastel colors with little balconies and decorative gates. A few featured large open areas with steel staircases, looking somewhat like private art museums.

The most interesting thing I learned about these monstrosities is what lies underneath. I saw a couple of them under construction and it’s nothing but cinder block. What we use for factories and grocery stores, the south Floridians turn into beautiful, stucco-covered mansions.

This was only one small part of Miami. I read in the newspaper about shanty towns elsewhere. I wasn’t seeing that, nor was I feeling the summer heat that’s so far out of Tancredo’s and my world.

The trees and shrubs were familiar but strange. Loud cousins of what we know in the north. Flowers are so much larger and showier, just like the houses.

A vine growing through trees looked like our common bindweed, but it had spectacular magenta flowers. One tree had leaves like the Kentucky coffeetree, another resembled redbud. Something else must have been a locust. And all the coconuts and palms? We weren’t in Michigan anymore.

The automobiles grow differently down there, too. Bentley. Lamborghini. Jaguar. Porsche. Aston Martin. Third-world Ben drives his grandparents’ old Ford Taurus—still in excellent condition, but...you understand.

The opulence really is out of the world that I know. How can there be so much wealth in this city?

But as I walked down Bayshore Drive toward the park, with dozens of joggers ignoring me completely, I noticed there were always vultures circling overhead.

It doesn’t really offer a comforting feeling about the city. Enjoy it while you can. With ocean levels expected to rise and the vultures waiting, all of this can’t last. Something has to give.

And me? I’m ready to go again.

    – Dec. 6, 2006
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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