Lessons Learned and Neighborhoods


This past Saturday, Miami’s oldest bar, had its last call for drinks. After more than 100 hundred years in what used to be the Brickell neighborhood, it was forced to close by over-development and greed. It is a sad story. TOBACCO ROAD was more than a bar, it was a neighborhood institution, a casual restaurant that served excellent meals, provided a cozy spot to watch a game or enjoy happy hour with friends. It has the best live music shows in the area and we are going to miss it. At least those, like myself, who believe that a city should have neighborhoods.

Since moving to Miami over 11 years ago, I have witnessed the so called development of Miami’s downtown. Granted, this is not an old city. At just over 100 years old, it has nothing on Boston, New York or Chicago. Still, the quaint buildings that I so liked are mostly gone replaced by huge high risers that have made the area a maze without sun. There is construction everywhere and there is no end in sight.

In the process, the sense of neighborhood has been lost. The local businesses have been slowly replaced by chains or have closed down or lost their charm. Green areas are mostly gone and there are no parks. Bikes share the road with thousand of cars endangering both drivers and bikers. Crossing the street is scary and even walking on sidewalks is not pleasant.

Mansions along Brickell Avenue, the ones that were left, are quickly disappearing to give way to more condos. Who is going to live in all those apartments? Do developers really think the world is moving here? And where are all those people going to go with their cars? Is there a plan for public transportation? Replacing houses by apartment buildings has the double negative effect: it brings more cars into these areas and traps their toxic fumes in urban canyons. As it is, rush hour is a nightmare. There is no space to build new roads either.

In many studies on over-development and its impact on cities and people, getting rid of institutions that make a neighborhood is the biggest cause of the decline in the social lifestyle.  Many health issues, such as noise and air pollution, a lack of diversity in the population should also be considered. Environmental concerns have to be taken seriously. Miami is on the water and on the path of hurricanes. Evacuating this area in case of a hurricane could prove a disaster of epic proportions. The East Coast of the US is sinking slowly because seas are rising. Miami is not immune to this phenomenon. There are no schools, no churches and no hospitals planned for this area. At least not yet and probably not enough to satisfy the amount of housing and business units being built.

The number of vacant units, and I see a lot from my balcony, will rise further as many approved permits are built and more projects are approved. Thousands of new units will be finished by the end of next year. The local government mistakenly assumes that it is only developers who bear the brunt of the risks. Consequently, these developers get a lot of breaks from the government. The people who live in the area and are being pushed out often do not get the same consideration. This is very disturbing.

I know this post is not something you would expect from my blog, but caring about where I live, caring about my neighborhood has made me think twice. I believe it’s about time that the people who live in the area has a say in the development. This is a new city and money comes here in abundance from Latin America and Europe. Planners should think twice about how to make this a living, breathing, socially diverse place where neighborhoods can thrive.

 DSC00567p.s. Click on TOBACCO ROAD to learned more about its last day.

We Change as We Live

I have posted on this blog for a year now. A year of tossing and listening and much more, it’s been fantastic. This has been my first experience with writing without knowing what I wanted to accomplished. Things I had learned were worth sharing, I thought., yes, but what else? Slowly, I have let the thoughts in my mind come out and develop into concrete actions. Mostly it has been a reaction to situations. Different situations, different reactions, but it has worked out wonderfully so far. What has become a constant in my life is change. Yes, constant change.

verb: change; 3rd person present: changes; past tense: changed; past participle: changed; gerund or present participle: changing
  1. 1.
    make or become different.
  2. 2.
    take or use another instead of.
noun: change; plural noun: changes; noun: Change; plural noun: Changes
  1. 1.
    the act or instance of making or becoming different.

I am sure this is due to the fact that I have become open to many things, frequently considering other options and not accepting the obvious. Thinking outside the box, people would say. Some changes have been drastic and came about by my own choice. Letting my hair go grey, for example. I decided, I accepted the consequences and I am happy with the results. These changes are not by far what I expected, but somehow they fit into my new frame of mind and make me happy. Voluntary action, purposely taken steps that have made me realized one can and should do what makes one happy, regardless.

Other changes have been subtle, coming into my life without planning or decisions on my part.  How my relationships work is one of these subtle changes. As I have developed new interests and new ideas, I have noticed that attitudes of friends and family have become different. Surprisingly enough, I have not feel in the least perturbed by any of this. Seems I was expecting the changes and embraced them.

My husband and children have taken it all in without reservations. I was not surprised by that, but still love them for it. My closest friends have been accepting and supportive. Other friends have been reserved, critical, indifferent. Mostly I was surprised at the ones who were critical, but not enough to let them interfere with my decisions. After all, one cannot live awaiting anyone’s approval!!!

One sure thing I have learned: as we live our lives, change happens. It is refreshing and welcome.

Nora Ephron, I am embracing my neck!!!

41cRDasGDKLIn 2006, Nora Ephron, screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright, author, wrote: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. In the book, Ms. Ephron writes about things women my age know so very well: age, loss and vanity. Her exquisite wit and talent lead the reader on a path to understand what happens to us as we age, as we start to realize that youth is fading away. The first essay is about the neck. If you haven’t read it, please do!!

When I read the book, I completely understood what she meant. I even agreed with her as I laughed out loud at her comparisons and advice. “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck”, she once said. Have to say I did not disagree. After all, I have seen older women, I have seen that my neck was not the same. Still, I never considered being so preoccupied with it. I was still adjusting to other changes, my neck was not important yet.

Oh, how wrong can we be!!! Not two years after that, my neck became the center of my aging concerns. No, the worse had happened, my neck was definitely showing signs of wear and I thought everyone was looking at it!! I now know, each one of my friends was worried about her own neck and had no interest in mine. At least the ones that were real friends!! Or the ones who would not worry at all about aging, and we all have a friend like that.

I felt as Ms. Ephron did, I should have paid attention to my neck when I was young. I should have taken care of it more than my face, which could be helped with make-up and creams and other such things. Our necks, I am sorry to say, do not response all too well to those treatments. Short of surgery, there is little you can do to improve its appearance.

Her advise was to start covering your neck at 43. I was older than that when I read her book, so I was a bit late. Still, her ideas were seriously considered: wearing turtlenecks and scarves, Oriental collars à la Joy Luck Club!!! Just hilarious!!! Trust me, I have considered each one of those pieces of wisdom. Have even worn some of them, but these are just ways to ignore what is there in plain sight: our aging neck!!!

I have done facial exercises, have slept without a pillow and have used untold creams and lotions. I decided a long time ago, there would be no cosmetic surgery in my life. A couple of times, I have been tempted. The only thing I can tell you is that my fear of unnecessary pain kept me from those thoughts. I always say that if I have to suffer pain, it must be for something more than looking great: like having my C-Sections. My children were my reward.

Since starting this blog, I have changed many of my preconceived ideas and concerns. After all, once you let your hair go grey, few things frighten you about aging. On that note, I am telling Ms. Ephron: I’m sorry, regardless of what you said, I am embracing my neck. It is not that I suddenly find it attractive or I have found a miracle remedy. Sorry to say, that hasn’t happened. Probably is not in the realm of possibilities. I have not gone against my principles and had surgery either. None of that, I’ve simply decided that what I am doing is all I can do. Life continues, my neck will just have to take second place, or a place further down the line.

Creams and lotions and exercises will still be part of my daily routine. After all, I am now used to them and will missed them if I stop. My pillow will or will not be used at night. This will depend on my mood or my headaches. I am refusing to cover my neck unless it’s with a fabulous necklace or it’s cold and I need a scarf or a turtleneck. Everything that shows, I have earned. For good or for bad, what I did or didn’t do is now irrelevant. Age has its rewards and its detractions. I will consider my neck one of the latter and move on. Feels great!!

P.S. Please get the book and read through it. Your idea of aging will be greatly improved and you’ll laugh non-stop.