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!!!
- 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!!!!
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!!!!!!
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.
Enjoy the photos!!!
|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????|
|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.|
|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