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Monday, February 17, 2014

My Yammee

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Miami.   In a nutshell, one of my devoted readers contacted me with an offer I couldn't refuse.  She had 2 pets to bring down to EC and wanted assistance in getting her stuff organized for her container shipping and, once travelling, be able to escort one of her itsy-bitsy dogs with me and her with her other IB dog in the cabin.   She had a ton of frequent flyer miles to 'pay' for my flight.   She put up the moolah for accommodations in a motel.  HERE in EC, a motel means something ENTIRELY different, but I won't go into that. 

I searched for probably a total of 20 hours using a slew of websites, Craigslist (which was full of obvious scams), AirBnB, FlipKey, etc.....to find a suitable place to stay.  I wanted more than just a hotel room....a place I could prepare a few meals and enjoy extra space for the 4 days I'd be there.

But, whatever the reason, I could not find anything less than $100 a night....even at Days Inn, Extended Stay America, or other typical run-of-the-mill along-the-highway types.  I found TONS of rooms for $200 - $400 a night (and MORE!!!).   GET OUTA HERE!!!   With the Miami Boat Show going on and it being a 3-day holiday weekend, hotel rooms were hard to find.  I ended up at a Motel 6 for $100 a night (plus $3 bucks a day for internets (George Bush)).   I remember when their name meant the price of the room!!!!  GADS!  At least, though, this was a NICE M6 in that they had just remodeled many of the rooms.  Fresh thick paint, good-sized space, flat screen TV (in a casing that had RCA and HDMI ports), new beds, a microwave, and a small fridge fer my Scotch (CRITICAL!).  

I flew out of GYE after midnight and arrived in MIA 4 hours later...before the crack of dawn.  I had time to kill before the car rental agency opened, so I wandered back-n-forth, back-n-forth.   I tried to call the agency for a pickup but my quarters were of the EC type and didn't work in the TWO pay phones I was able to find.  Finally, I was able to get change.  But, the TWO pay phones didn't work.  I kept going out to the car rental shuttle area but it was useless as there was nothing there but crickets.

Finally, I killed a few hours and headed back out to the car rental shuttle pickup area in hopes my shuttle might be passing through.  Of the 12 or so stalls, I picked one to stand and wait.  A shuttle of a different company pulled in.  The door opened.  I hesitated.  Is that.......?   No way "HELLO!!!  What the hell are you doing here!!!!"   Deboarding the shuttle was none other than a former guest of mine (in Sept, 2013) in one of my short-term rental apartments in Cuenca!!!   She was making her final move from Rhode Island to Cuenca and all her shit.....errrrr.....bags were coming off the van!!! 

What a freaking small world!   She was by herself, so I helped her with her myriad of bags and escorted her, her cat, and two loaded carts down the myriad of elevators, moving sidewalks, and concourses to her gate where she was to board for Panama and, ultimately, Cuenca.

There's just NO explanation whatsoever to wrap ones mind around these small world occurrences!!!  I remember I was in Europe, Austria I think, and waiting at a train station.  In comes the train.  Car after car after car passes me and the train finally came to a halt.  The doors open.  Off steps two friends of mine from a church in San Diego!!!   THAT country, THAT date, THAT time, THAT train, THAT door.   Boggles.

Since I was in the States, I took advantage of the boooooooze prices.  In Florida, the cost for a 750ml bottle of Chivas Scotch 12 (the kind Mollie used to get me for thank-you's (RIP sweetie)) is about $27.  In Ecuador..................................................hold on..............................wait for it.....................waaaaaaaait..........$70.

GET OUTA HERE!!!!!!

Being an Analyst by profession  for 30+ years, I analyze everything to death.  If you've been reading my blog, you know that I've oftentimes compared the dif's between the US of A and Ecuador.  This past week, I had the opportunity to reverse the roles a bit.   I returned to the 'land of opportunity' from my so-called '3rd world country'.  So, let's see what I noticed coming at it from a DIFFERENT direction....shall we?

Luckily, the weather was nice.  It is February, after all.  So the mornings were a bit nippy but it warmed up nicely to the low 70's and no humidity.  Dano don't do humidity.

Florida, much like much of the US of A, is FLAT!!!!!   No hills, no bumps, no valleys.  The only way you get a view is via a high-rise condo or a hump in a freeway overpass.....and that view is of FLAT.

I stayed in the South of Miami...an area called Cutler Bay (though I never saw a bay).   I was amazed at the fact I had driven over 200 miles by the time I turned in my car.  Yes, 200+ miles WITHIN the metropolitan area known as Miami!!!  

My observations:
  • It's flat (I may have eluded to that fact before)
  • In a stretch from 200th St to 40th St on the Dixie 1 highway (6 lane divided arterial), I counted 35 fast-food franchises.   Those that stood out along the by-way,  not counting walk-in/sit-yer-ass down restaurants such as Denny's, Fudruckers, TGIF, and the like.  Nor, counting the endless cafeterias, rib joints (with bare necessity dancing), or the inevitable Starbucks.  I'm talkin McD's, Booger King, Dairy Queen, Something Pollo, Wendy's, Taco Hell, etc.  
    • Of those 35, 7 were McDonalds, and 4 of 'dem were Burger Kings.  Just sayin....
  • Though I'm SURE it's just a coinky-dink....hordes and hordes of obese people.  OMG!!!
  • BIG cars everywhere!!! I was scared.  GEEEZZZ....where do all these people take their big 4WD SUV's off-roading in Florida!!!!!!  I saw so many big-ass trucks towering over me in my puny Toyota Corolla.  I'd have to pole-vault just to get into the drivers seat!!!
  • $3.50 a gallon for gas...unless you were near the airport in which case it was $4.50.
  • Nice smooooooth roads with nary a pothole.  Wish we had THAT in Cuenca!
  • Very civilized.....no horn-honkin, don't think I ever heard a car alarm wailing, and no stupid CHIRP CHIRP every time some locked or unlocked their doors.
  • Every one stopped at red lights and stop signs, no matter whether there was anyone else present.
  • Big-ass cop cars (the Ford Crown Victoria kind) and, likewise, taxis of the same gas-guzzling make and model because, after all, they WERE cop cars at one time.  And, the population of taxis on the road was very minimal.
  • Architecture.  WHAT architecture???   Miami evolved in the 1950's bland era when Jackie Gleason was King.  Houses are single-floor boxes with no character whatsoever.  Blahhhhhhhh.    No imagination.  Nothing for future generations to appreciate.
  • Streets were clean and landscaping manicured to a tee.
  • Almost no one walked.  Very few people on the sidewalks.  Everyone drove everywhere.
  • Welcome to Strip Mall World.  Miami is the epitome of strip malls.  Thus, no walking.  The arterials are lined mile after mile with strip malls (and some actual mall-malls) of lifeless character.  In rare exception  (ie; Coral Gables, South Beach) there was no personality.....no identity....to the neighborhoods people lived in.  Sure, they had a name, but it was just a name with no character.  No central village that anchored the neighborhood, where people meandered and said 'hello' and sipped a coffee with their newspaper, no local hangout, no identity to be proud of, or defend, or take pride in.   I doubt very much they have locally organized events, parades, or other village-type events that bring their inhabitants together.
  • Spanish and English was commonly spoken.  Pretty much half and half.  Cubans and Hispanics very much dominate the demographic.  Oh...and senior citizens.  LOTs of them!!!!
I did get a couple of hours to adventure into the world of Miami that IS alive.  That being Miami Beach, or more specifically, South Beach.  I'd been there twice before.  But, it dawned on me it was over 20 years ago.   YIPES!   Feels more like 10.  Back 'then' SB (or SoBe) was just getting the attention of the world.  It was a haven of small boutique art-deco designed hotels.   It was (and still is) the place to be and be seen.  Back then, it was a small strip of small hotels that were renovated to be chic, painted in deco colors, and highlighted in neon.  I remember walking by Versace's home...where he was later murdered.  I remember Collins Ave, Washington and the Lincoln Rd Mall, just a block or two away, being rather desolate and begging with opportunity for revitalization.  Back then, it was the stereotypical scene with older Jewish folk sitting out on the front verandas in their rocking chairs yammering on about something.   Now, those places have been given new life with the younger crowd and the energy entirely different.  Chic shops and clubs line Washington and Collins where, when I was there 20 or so years ago, it was ho-hum.

Now, Cadillac Escalade's, Mercedes, Masseratti's, buff beefcake bods, boob-jobs in thongs on rollerblades, Cops on Sequeways, drag-queens lip-syncing songs for audiences sipping their mimosas, and tented sidewalk cafes line the streets.   Doormen and bouncers are everywhere.  Cars creep along Ocean Drive to take in the spectacle.  Much fashion magazine modeling is done here, too.  As I inched along the boulevard, a handsome, perfectly coiffed guy jumped out of his car, decked out in a handsome black suit, and struck a model pose as a photographer took his shots.  With his chiseled looks, the model had it all down perfect.  He had 'the look'.   He looked like he had stepped right out of page 2 of Vogue.

40-50 story condo high-rises dot the Miami Beach landscape so much you wonder how the ground under them doesn't collapse from all the weight.  Buildings, in my humble opinion, that are nothing more than glass, square boxes that won't age well.  It'll be the blight of Miami in 2030.  I looked up at those high-rises and thought....why would I want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to own a box within a box that's like everyone else?  Oh...but wait a minute....it's got a VIEW as far as the eye can see!!!!!!

OF FLAT.

I also took a spin along the cruise ship terminals to gawk at the big ships.   Years ago I went on a couple of Caribbean cruises out of Miami.  I remember the first time seeing all these huge cruise ships parked along the pier and looking for which one was mine.  Then, I saw this little pip-squeak boat sitting in the shadow of all these big bullies.  It was my boat.   It carried only 800 passengers (which I liked) but it looked so darn small compared to the others that carry 4-5,000!!!!

I'm home now.  Ensconced in my house in Cuenca where I have a yard of roses, bamboo, iris's, geraniums, and calla's.  Where I look out at hills and have a view of downtown Cuenca.  Views here, are a dime a dozen.  We have potholes, we have clean-cut yards and not-so, strip malls are a rarity, people walk the streets to shop, a neighborhood celebration is underway, and kids enjoy the zip-line that's part of their playground.  In general, we have small cars, cops have small cars/pickups, taxis are small cars.  And, there's really nowhere we need to be, to be 'seen'.

And we have the idiots who honk their horn all the time or let their car alarms wail as they casually load their groceries into their trunk....while the neighbors dogs bark incessantly.

DAMMIT!!!!

Enjoy the photos!!!

Dano

One of the fancier neighborhoods of Miami.   Upon entering CG, the tone took on a whole new angle.  Lush trees canopied the streets of mini-mansions and there was nary a blade of grass out of place.

 

LOVE these trees.  Take a look at the people walking underneath on the left side.  See how BIG this sucker is????


 
But, the moment you leave Coral Gables you're slammed into a visual reality of the 'norm'.  Streets become rather bland, cars parked on the front lawns of small bungalows, and virtually no tree canopy.  It's like a line was drawn in the sand....you stay over there, we stay over here.

Oddly, I saw many expensive cars parked in front of very basic homes.   Like this Mercedes SUV.
 
An example of the old architecture of Miami, well-preserved.

The new architecture of Miami....big, tall, boxes.  Nothing to savor in the future.

I can't imagine a couple of those little squares in these massive buildings...being called my home.  And, of course, there are Association Boards that tell you what you can/can't do....like no plants on the balconies, only white drapes, don't hang anything on the railing, etc etc.   BLECH!!!!

At least this building has some character!!

And this one, too.
 


The 'Hummer' of all cruise ships.  There's over 14 deck levels!!!!

Appropriately named don'tcha think?   The front of the ship looks like a Beluga whale...with it's bulbous head.
South Beach.  Several hotels have a classic car parked out front to add to the deco ambiance of Ocean Drive.

Of course, the rich get the premium parking spaces in front of the hotels to add to the lavishness of Ocean Drive, too.
(PS to car owner....UGLY wheels!!!)




Ocean Drive is never boring.

There's no place like home
There's no place like home
There's no place like home
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7 comments:

  1. Ahh too bad you came to my hometown and I didnt know (though Im currently a bit north in Palm Beach County)...I couldve showed you around and /or arranged a place to stay...Miami has alot of beauty but it is spread out all over the place and traffic flow can be a huge PITA if you dont know what/when to avoid...South beach can be a total nightmare esp during the boat show. IF you ever visit again (and to others who may go), places on your list should include Coconut Grove, Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Fairchild Tropical Gardens/ Matheson Hammock to name a few...Also, most Non-Cuban spanish speakers always complain that even they no puedes entiende nada..jaja..... Thanks for the blog,, I hope to make it to Cuenca sometime soon for "recon" visit. Cheers-jw

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    1. For some unknown reason, my blog got published before I was completely done, and didn't include photos. NOW it's done in case you want to read/see parts you missed in the first go-round. Dano

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    2. I checked back today and saw the pics +more commentary, and was wondering if my late-night brain was sleep walking or something because I somehow missed them the first time, haha... cool, Thanks again, I always enjoy your updates. I also forgot to mention Villa Vizcaya on my list of things to see in Mijami..peace-jw

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  2. Thanks for the great read. I know Miami has changed a lot over the years. If you ever get to Jacksonville Florida your welcome to stay here. See you in May.

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  3. Hi, Dano I will be visiting Ecuador from 25th of may to 9th of July.how can I connect with you.I love to read your blog.Claudine from utah

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    Replies
    1. Hi Claudine....thanks for the compliment!!! You can reach me at danoinec@gmail.com

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  4. Hi! My name is Sarah, and I love your blog! I am an animal lover and that's why I wanted to send you this article below. I live in California, but I am hoping to move to Montanita/Manglaralto later this year. Kind Regards, Sarah ~x~

    The Stray Dogs of Montanita: Your Chance to Help Man's Best Friend

    David and one of Montanita's many stray dogs: he just wants to be loved!
    Anybody who has lived in or traveled through developing countries before will be familiar with the sight of stray dogs. They are so heartbreaking to see so underfed, diseased and suffering.

    These poor dogs are not properly cared for, or neutered, and are left free to roam the streets, multiplying rapidly in the process. There is never enough food to go around and the dogs often end up dying of starvation or from diseases or injuries sustained in fighting with other dogs and traffic.

    Here in Ecuador's most famous surf town, Montanita, stray dogs are Everywhere. I’ve noticed them everyday on our way to the beach to give surf lessons, constantly swerving the truck to avoid running over the dozens of dogs lying in the middle of the road in a suicidal manner, too tired to move.

    They don't look too healthy and although they may look rough, they really just want to be loved. Just a simple pat on the head and these dogs will collapse in joy. But at the end of the day, nobody looks after them, there is not enough food to go around, and many of them will catch diseases and suffer painful deaths. So what can we do to help alleviate some of the suffering of these innocent creatures?

    Barak Epshtein first arrived in Montanita nine months ago and set up “Café del Mar” on one of the main streets in town. Everyday Barak sees the dogs around the town and he is sick of seeing their suffering. “Nobody cares about the dogs here, nobody is doing anything to help them,” he says. But he has an idea. Barak is appealing to a veterinarian from around the world to come and live in Montanita for a month, or longer, and work in a clinic neutering and treating the town’s stray dogs for diseases.

    His plan is in accordance with the advice of many animal rights organisations. All too often governments think purely in a short-term economic manner, ignoring the suffering of the animals and killing them in inhumane ways.

    Obviously the best way to help the dogs is by giving them homes and registering them. However in places with large stray populations, like Montanita, neutering the dogs and treating them for common diseases is a great first step.

    Barak will provide a suitable clinic for the treatment of the animals, and other people and businesses in town, such as Montanita Spanish School, will be providing the materials needed. Many others will be volunteering their time to assist with the program in other areas.

    In return, the suitable applicant will have a comfortable apartment to stay in and all food provided for their time in Montanita. On top of this, they will be treated like Gods around town, with free access to all of the clubs and bars with more free drinks than you will need in a lifetime. And with the high season almost upon us, their time in Montanita will certainly be an experience.

    So if you, or anybody you know, is interested in helping the dogs of Montanita, and have a background as a veterinarian and/or in neutering and caring for animals, then please email the school at this address: info@montanitaspanishschool.com and we can put you in touch with Barak. Start dates and time frames are all flexible.

    Kind Regards,
    Michael
    http://montanita-spanish-school.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-stray-dogs-of-montanita-your-chance

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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