A recent Sunday drive from Coral Gables to NE 63rd street really got me thinking.....wow, this place is kinda classy. Starting out in Coral Gables we decided to take the scenic route from the Coral Gables Congregational Church to our home. We put the roof down on the convertible and we went down Bird Rd. through the Grove to S. Miami Avenue, Brickell Ave then up Biscayne Blvd.
Let's just jump to the Coconut Grove side of Bird Road. I remember the first time I drove through the grove with a boyfriend he pointed out to a big live oak near a park he had sex in. I thought "wow!" this guy had sex in a tree. He was quite proud of his accomplishment, it made being part of the mile high club seem blah by comparison. Yet whenever I'm in the Grove I think of that and how it's gone from funky little cabins tucked away in the middle of jungle-like hammocks to mini-mansions hidden among the foliage. I remember the the Tigertail Lounge and the theater that played Rocky Horror Show till '83. As we made our way towards S. Miami Ave I glanced up to see if there were still any hot Cuban men fornicating in the branches.
South Miami Avenue in the Grove is to me the truest part of old Miami. Lush tree-lined streets, Stately Old Spanish and Art Deco Mansions line the street. When the poincianas bloom the red blossoms make the street look like its aflame. I lived on this street for a few years. Many of my neighbors were diplomats and cocaine dealers. On the corner of 15th and South Miami Ave a South American diplomat was shot in broad daylight. It was the 80's. Good times.
Brickell Ave, the heart of the financial district, here is where we really begin to see the new, 21st century Miami emerging. I remember it being just a collection of banks in a row. One block away in what is now known as "Mary Brickell Village" there was a chicken farm and an old plant nursery. Old tenements filled with the poorest of the poor hung clothes out the windows. Even in the smartest sidewalk cafe, a feral chicken could be likely to steal your food or eyeball you into intimidation. Today the tenements are gone, fancy high rise condos intertwine with spectacular office towers like the Espiritu Santo bank building.(I used to tell people that it was the bank of the Vatican). What was once a ghost town on the weekends was bustling with walkers, runners, bikers on an early Sunday Morning. No chickens were to be seen.
Finally, Biscayne Blvd. No street has changed as much as this one. Running through the heart of downtown to destinations north, this was once the seediest, most dangerous, outrageous street in the city. Lined with bars and adult bookstores for about five miles the street had a terrible reputation. As kid I used to play a game called "punch buggy" each time you saw a VW bug I'd punch my brother. As a teen we played "punch slutty" each time we saw a hooker....well, let's just say we were very bruised up. Today, it's on it's way to it's initial glory as Miami's "front door". A basketball arena, Opera House, Performing Arts Center, Museum Park, new foliage and tree plantings. Hookers still roam the Boulevard, but they are few and far between, a game of "punch slutty" would be quite boring.