[and some questions on the forces of identity/ifying]
“Okay what’s the next direction?” Mike asked as the buildings of downtown Miami splashed by our little rental car.
“We’re going to get on A1A North”, I said.
Not a second went by and Mike and I both sang out in unison “A1A BEACH FRONT AVENUE”, as if a force beyond our control.
On the plane ride to Miami I read “Someday This Will be Funny” by Lynne Tillman. My favorite sentence from the collection of stories being, ”Startling, what gets kept.”
I had told Mike over and over again the week before Miami: the only thing we must do while in Miami is go to the Art Deco Historic District in Miami Beach. I was adament. I downloaded an app that had a walking tour of the district so I could identify each building. We never used the app – we just meandered around the district, stopping for mojitos and a close encounter with the ocean. We were on vacation and plans were to be avoided.
Que sera sera.
The Art Deco Historic District was the first 20th Century neighborhood to be designated as historic – and the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world. But it was almost lost.
In 1979 Barbara Capitan spearheaded a revival of the buildings from the 1920′s, 1930′s and 1940′s that had gone into disrepair. But a Miami beach commissioner, who subsequently lost his seat on the commission, didn’t see the buildings as historic or of importance and fought the designation, arguing for the leveling of the buildings.
“Startling, what gets kept.”
Startling what doesn’t.
I also read that Biscayne Bay was dredged to fill much of what is now known as Miami beach.
Mike was adament we get a proper cuban dinner in Miami. The night before my friend’s wedding we found a hole in the wall Cuban restaurant. The only seats were dotted along a lowercase b shaped counter. The walls were yellow and filled with a mish mash of Americana and Cuban art. We sat at the bulbous part of the b, adjacent to a middle-aged couple who was mid-way through their meal. We ordered food we couldn’t pronounce and watched the coverage of the Bieber arrest on the boxy t.v.’s that had been hung in each corner, every once in a while making eye contact with the couple and shaking our heads in unison over the low point the news had hit.
That morning we had visited a cuban bakery near our hotel. The woman at the counter didn’t understand us so she called for the man in the back who could speak English to take our order. It felt like we were in another country, really. We were the minorities hearing, tasting and seeing new things – one of my favorite feelings in the world; getting swept away from what you know and what you think you know. A shake-up of your place in this world.
[Miami has a large concentration of Cuban exiles that fled Fidel Castro's regime beginning in 1959. This has significantly changed the demographics of Florida and, more specifically, Miami] More on this here.
A few days after we arrived back in Milwaukee I received an email from the hotel we stayed at in Miami. From: Holiday Inn Express, Thank you for staying with us… How odd, I thought, to get an email from the hotel. How does a hotel email? Thank you, it says, as if it were a person.
What gets kept and what doesn’t. What’s inevitable and what isn’t. What to fight for and what to let go. There’s force in everything I guess. But not everything is forced.
“One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too.” – Nietzsche