In August of 2014, I suddenly packed everything I owned and rode the Amtrak Autotrain down to Florida. Then drove four hours to Miami, where I had no place to live, no friends to speak to, and just my ragged emotions to keep me company. It was an interesting 30 hour trip.
I’ll spare you the details on the whys and the befores, as well as the nitty gritties of finding an apartment, purchasing furnishings, and performing all of the routine mechanics of restarting a life. But I will tell you about “Why Miami” and what I found here.
When I was in my early twenties, trying to start life for real, I got the idea that I wanted to live in Fort Lauderdale. Now this was way before the interwebs, so I had to do it the old fashioned way … I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce for pamphlets. And I was seriously considering doing it, but I was also in this new relationship. With the person who turned out to be my first wife. The short of that decision was she wasn’t interested at all in South Florida, so I had to choose sunshine or her. And I stayed in Virginia.
Skip ahead to August of 2014. My second marriage was ending and I remembered how I wanted to start my adult life so many years prior. And since that was essentially what I was once again doing, Miami became my destination.
Let’s get the spoiler out of the way right here. Did I do good? Yea, I did. Miami was exactly what I needed. In so many ways. Let us count the ways.
Sunny Isles Beach
I had done some minor research on the way down. I had seen Sunny Isles Beach before and thought it would make for a grand place to start. And as luck would have it, my options for residence there were severely limited. But the only available unit was just what I needed. Let me describe the place.
There is the Atlantic Ocean, lined with high rise buildings that only the super-rich can afford. On the other side of those narrow condos is Collins Avenue (A1A) and then endless strip malls along the other side. And just behind those was my apartment. Now here’s why I’m smiling still over high rise buildings semi-blocking views:
- If I could time the light right, I could walk out of my apartment and be standing on a sandy beach in under three minutes.
- I absolutely did not need a car. Every single thing I could want or need was in walking or bicycling distance. Meaning, within a quarter mile of where I lived. I could go weeks without ever starting my Jeep. Having a walkability index of 1000 was incredible!
- I had a great pool, quiet neighbors (mostly), semi-easy access to major arteries heading towards downtown, and I was happier than I could have thought possible.
So why did I leave that? Well, see two sections down. But before you do, let me tell you what was happening inside me.
I quickly fell in love with Miami. Just driving down A1A towards some event in the city, or wandering the beach in the evening hours, it was just plain magical. Every night I would walk over to the gym, then to the grocery for dinner fixings. Then usually a late night out with friends. During the day I could easily walk to do errands, and even sneak a swim in the pool. It was absolutely everything I could have ever wanted, and the memories of those days makes me smile still. For all of the unpleasant reasons that brought me to Miami, living in Sunny Isles was worth suffering through all of them.
Miami Fun Inexpensive & The Party Animals
One week after I moved to Florida, I decided to see if I could make a friend. I used a site called meetup.com and found a group called Miami Fun Inexpensive. They were hosting a “Beatles Tribute” thing near me, so off I went. And to skip through maybe five more events, I found more than a friend. I found dozens of people I still consider family.
All of the sudden, I had more folks in my life than I ever had. People who wanted to be with me. Who invited me to major family events, like Christmas. It’s where I met Nikki. MFI was the culmination of every single decision that led me to South Florida. They, and not just Miami, became home. And they will always be.
So during my first almost-two-years in Miami, I had it all. A glorious place to live, perfect weather, excitement, friends and extended family, a new love with a wondrous future, and live was indeed grand.
The Move To Suburbia
This is a hard section to write, because I have to be so very careful. There are two parts to the story, and each is very separate. I moved from the beach to deep within suburbia … south of South Miami in fact … because I was in love. To a single family home 160 blocks below the city. Down where it’s not really still considered Miami. And that’s where we need to draw some distinction. The place versus the why.
I am 100% glad I moved in with Nikki. There is no story there at all. Twas a great decision. It was just the place that I struggled with. Up until I moved to Florida, I was always in suburbia. Or to describe it with less letters, in hell. I despise endless tracts of single family homes with their suburban shipping malls and minivans. It’s this milquetoast existence that is really nothing. Not exciting. Not interesting. Not peaceful. It’s just where people go to find less crowded schools and maybe a Costco. It’s not me.
As much as I love Nikki and loved living with her there, being just off of 160th street in Palmetto Bay was agony. Anything “city” was between 1-2 hours away, depending on the idiots in traffic. And there are always idiots in traffic. Moving to Key Largo after a year or so was semi-better (that’s a whole ‘nuther subject), but the memories of driveways and chain link fencing remained. I simple cannot live in suburbia. And as it turns out, I struggle to live in more rural areas as well, even if they’re an island surrounded by beautiful waters.
I think part of the ease in which I was willing to leave Miami had something to do with these last few years. Barcelona beckoned because it was everything. A large thriving city. So much to do and see that you could never find it all. And my life in South Florida was not anything close to that. If I could just take my love to a place like that … ahhhh. So that’s why Miami found her way to the rearview mirror.
Waving Goodbye … Maybe
As I type this, I actually have no idea what’s next. It may very well be Miami. Barcelona is our current destination, and we have all of the paperwork and things necessary to make it happen, but covid-19 is playing havoc with the world and we’re in limbo. Not knowing what, where, or when. We could go as scheduled, or we could be required to start from scratch. If the latter, do we stay in Miami? Give up the dream of Barcelona Residency and go wander elsewhere? No idea.
If worse comes to worst, I could see Miami being home for another few years. (Just not in suburbia!). I still love this city. The weather, the excitement, the possibilities. It gave me life renewed just when I needed it. So Miami will always hold a special place in my heart. So I’m not counting her out quite yet.