Going under in South Florida

2 12 2013

Two months in South Florida and already I’m dreaming of Yellowstone. I came here to see David and relax in a tropical climate. It has been anything but relaxing.

Challenging is the word. I have returned to journalism, currently writing for the South Florida Gay News, an alternative weekly publication with legitimate press ties. This week we put out a 96-page print edition. They only do that kind of stuff in Canada anymore. Thus, there is potential here.

And there are people here. Lots of them. Miami-Dade County alone has 2.5 million of Florida’s 19 million people. You must travel by car here because the buses and trains seem inadequate and traffic is thick. I’ve dropped anchor in Broward County where Fort Lauderdale seems more navigable. The locals, the vast majority transplants from the Northeast (New York and Boston), have been friendly and welcoming. David and I have joined a gym, attend civic meetings and regularly monitor our health. South Florida is home to a wonderful medical community. NFL stars have all their sporting operations here — and so do the Cougars for facelifts.

I am writing just enough to support myself and, thank God, the Jeep is running well. I have yet to travel by train or bus — save a one way ticket to Panama City on the ol’ dirty dog herself. The Tallahassee station is still the worst on the route. Filthy.

Down this way, the landscaping and planning are first class and the condominiums quite towering. My articles are serious and typically cover health. I have written about cancer, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and poverty. The subject can be depressing, but I am learning a great deal, getting a paycheck and coming to understand this region of the country.

Yellowstone seems so far away in so many ways.

The wealth here in South Florida is staggering. People are showy with their toys, especially the sports cars. Coming from Subaru country, it was surprising to see so many Ferraris, Porsche, Rolls Royces and Maseratis on the roads. When I first arrived, David secured a loaner car from the BMW dealership and we motored around in style, making our first excursion into Miami’s South Beach where models, aspiring and oblivious, stroll the outdoors Lincoln Road mall by the dozens. A few blocks away from Lincoln Road, where the tourists feel safe to shop is where you will find the real story of Miami Beach.

The island is going under.

Miami Beach is a 7.5-mile barrier island. It’s a densely populated playground for the rich and famous and it has a flooding problem.

David and I discovered this first hand — or more appropriately first foot — as we hiked the back streets from Lincoln Road to Espanola Way. It was my birthday. A time to celebrate. I do not recall a heavy rain that day but soon the sidewalks were under water and the streets were disappearing as well. I mistakenly thought you could pass with a little tippy toe dance through the water. I was wrong and my toes plunged deeper than thought to find firm footing. The water was ankle deep. I would be dining with wet shoes. Not a pleasant situation.

David was able to get around the standing water easier. He has longer legs. The experience, nevertheless, prompted me to pause and contemplate climate change. There is no doubt the situation is changing in Miami Beach. Waters are rising, but not everyone appears concerned. The young girl working as a hostess at the Espanola Way restaurant we came to brushed off my report of flooding conditions as if it were no big deal.

“Oh it’s Miami Beach,” she said with just the right amount of arrogance to indicate this sort of thing happens all the time. The rest of the restaurant staff spoke Spanish as a first language. This is a language I must improve in. We dined on a mediocre, overpriced meal that night — just as thousands of tourists had done before — fooling ourselves to think we were paying for the ambience.

Living here has opened my eyes to realities of the urban world, realities not found around the Old Faithful geyser basin. Practicing journalism again has reminded me of the discoveries that sometimes you wish had remained buried. Tides change on every new moon in Miami Beach. Billion dollar fortunes are just one hurricane away from disaster. Could there be such a storm on the horizon?

Advertisements