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More Stories - The Way We Were
Granddaughter Jackie, who lived in a small town in mid-Florida, sent me a gift of sorts, a descriptive essay she turned in to her English Honors II class on my birthday, October 12th. I'd like to share.....
The Streets of Miami
The familiar faces, the disheveled buildings, the multi-cultural sounds. As soon as you step onto the street, it hits you like a freight train traveling at one hundred miles an hour. The brimming streets and sidewalks are jammed with life. Cars on their way to work, neighbors taking their daily stroll around the common area.
The sound of honking car horns blare in your sensitive ears. The sound of airplanes flying over your head, disrupting your conversations and putting them on hold. The Hispanic music fills your mind and causes you to flow and dance to the pandemonium. The variety and styles all so different yet oddly the same as the first. The many people verbalize their belief and opinion in their natural language. People screaming, kid's laughing, dogs barking, and chickens squawking. These promulgated announcements are at every unkempt street corner. There is no escaping the noises of everyday Miami life. At every street, every building, every home, the sounds envelope you like air, and like air they become a necessity.
The smells hit you almost as soon as the sound does. The smell of home-cooked, Cuban-style food fills your nostrils. There is nothing like the heavenly aroma of true, homemade, Cuban viands and confections. Once you smell beyond the overwhelming smell of food, the smell is no longer delectable. The new smell is that of stale beer and urine. When ambulating down an alley in the ghetto, these stenches overwhelm your mind. Bright and early each daybreak the stenches are powerful, atrocious, and loathsome. Once outside there is no avoiding the smell of exhaust fumes coming from the many vehicles that crowd the streets. As awful as these smells sound, once you leave Miami you miss them almost immediately and the wind is empty of all the smells that have become a part of your everyday life.
The sights are astounding! Businesses and homes cover almost every patch of land. These buildings are written on with graffiti. Gang symbols, "I love" announcements, and the usual immature, teenage swill covers walls and buildings. Multitudes of individuals crowd the ground, whether it is meant to be walked on or not. In every neighborhood, everyone knows each other and everyone is on a first name basis or you are known through association (For example, everyone knows me as Jackie or as Bess's granddaughter). You are immediately greeted as confidants and friends of the family. The people and kind and never rude, always lending a hand. Even those of different languages and who can not understand each other, try using signs or just repeating what they've said over and over again until the message is understood. Restaurants, general stores, movie rentals, clothing stores, all kinds of stores line the roads.
Once the vacation is over and you have returned to the usual setting, you will feel a void in your life where these sounds, smells and sights have come to grow on you. Every time I leave this setting I feel this void and it is always there until I visit again and once more remember the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and most importantly, the people. Nothing can fill this void because what fashions the city of Miami are the people, and they are only found in Miami.
Well, Jack, you just about summed up a lot of what I like about Miami and our neighborhood, Allapattah, a mix to the max. Except I've been here so long, I rarely can smell the exhaust fumes any more except when some loathsomely maintained vehicle rattles past.
And you forgot the birdsong; the cucucuru morning and evening of the ring-neck doves, the chirr of pigeons, jarring of blue jays, occasional piercing cry of a goshawk, inventive mockingbird territorial song and noisy conversations of grackles, ratatat of red-headed woodpeckers and, once every few years if we're lucky, the heartbreaking morning lament of a pair of nesting orioles.
Thanks for your essay, and keep them coming.