Crazy in the Coconut Grove

I went there for the wrong reasons.  The name sounded familiar, something I knew as a child.  I thought that perhaps my grandfather had lived there, he was an interesting man back in the days of giants.  ‘Coconut Grove’ even the name sounded mysterious.  Like a party on the beach and all the men wear linen suits and play roulette and the women wear taffeta dresses and drink martinis, all night.
I entered Coconut Grove from perhaps the wrong angle.  I was told that it was the place of celebrities and the wealthy, nightlife and glamour.  However, what greeted me that Sunday morning was a shocking poverty.  Not quite the Aldine or Newberg despair, nor the Detroit and old Philly houses spilling out onto the streets, but a remarkable blight [this impression from a writer of a free web log who’s job is to travel from one poverty-infested area to another for work].  I considered my route being commanded by my Phone of i.  Perhaps She [an engendered way of speaking about inanimate objects] had gotten it wrong.  Along with avoiding tolls, I had perhaps toggled on “avoid wealth and glamor” or “Section 8 here I come.”  Coming from the airport and all was perhaps not the best trajectory for a grand entry into Coconut Grove.  First impressions are important, but when one travels, one learns not to rely on them.  Nor second.  Or twelfth. I found what I believe was the last $6.00 (UDS) spot in the centre ville, and took to the streets to discover and explore.
Coconut Grove is a small area to the south of Miami.  The Grove was first settled by mosquitoes and an admixture of tropical plants and northerly specimens that formed what was called the hammock.  This hammock stretched for fifty miles.  In time, people from other places like islands and continents settled and went choppy choppy chop.  These first people made second people, and then even more people came from other far-away places like Park Avenue, the Gold Coast, Perth, 1 Avenida Belgica, La Habana, Cuba, and New Jersey.  These people also made more people, and they set about to build more better houses than the rough mansions of old which they then filled with a rich culture, even if much of that culture came from catalogs and at the recommendations of the Rob Report.  In time, the hammock was cut down so that today only 0.809371 hectares remain. The area also has become less of a distinct Village and more of a signpost saying Welcome and one saying Come Again surrounded by the clutter of low taxes and a free economy.  Miami encompasses the village and the traffic of Route 1 seem to spill over onto the narrow lanes and tourist destinations.
So, here I was in Coconut Grove.  The late autumn day was sunny and the heat of the summer I had last experienced when in Florida seemed gone.  The streets about the commercial area started filling up and on two opposing corners were very popular brunch spots with many super-glamourous people sitting and some waiting for an open table.  There was an overabundance of small dogs.  I tried not to step or stomp on them.  I found a spot which had loud music pumping as the others and which served rather soggy eggs Benedict for the amount of American dollars I paid.  About me, most people spoke Spanish, but not the sort one hears on the streets of New York.  I then remembered that I knew the name ‘Coconut Grove.’ There was a fire some years back, actually exactly on my birthday in 1942 at a nightclub.  This was the name that stuck with me, but I was in Coconut Grove, so I may as well enjoy it.
The downtown commercial area looks like once it was full of trendy boutiques and the typical establishments of a Main Street in Anytown, USA.  Today, it appears a good part of the area is for rent with a smattering of brunch spots and junky little store filling in between.  These shops are the sort I am amazed to exist and am convinced they are a front for:
1. drugs
b. the Borg trying to take over the world via a series of portals housed in the cheap real estate
1.2 Bad life choices
e. none of the above these are really just shitty businesses that will close in 1-2 years because the people or person who opened it or runs it is a fool and basically small business is dead.
Bethatasitmay, I finished my brunch at a loud and crowded spot, lied to the waitress that everything was ‘great thanks’ and then spent an hour searching for the bike rental station since both The Googles and locals didn’t know exactly where this thing was or had been moved to.  I finally found the publicly rented bikes and then went to adventure in order to see more of Coconut Grove than the soaped up windows of the dying downtown.
The first thing one may notice about the Grove is that it is made out of traffic.  The second is that the bike trail is not so much a trail as it is a semi-connected series of sidewalks you may ride on punctuated by narrow roads where a Lamborghini or other beautiful monster can knock out your brains at any moment. Even on what should be a sleepy Sunday, the Grove is traffic of all manner of luxury cars doing exactly more than the speed limit when they weren’t piled up at some intersection.  Anything you can think of was there.  Cars of all expensive price point, all bumper to bumper.  All horns a-honking when they weren’t demonstrating to me and others their turbo feature to go from 0-40 MPH in 1000 feet before having to slam on the brake. I rode my bike in fear and trepidation.  “Disculpame! Tiene alguna poupon gris?! I exclaimed, hoping I remembered enough Spanish to yell “Look where you’re going!” at a particularly inconsiderate driver of the latest model of whatever is seen in Grand Theft Auto.


This biking was no country for old men.  Nevertheless, I managed to find a few streets that were quiet, but these typically ended quickly, the Grove is on the water on one side and the highway on the other. These streets were peaceful and lined by well-appointed houses, the older of them open to the road while the newer ones were fortified manors with gates, carports as their only entry, and more-or-less looked like dental offices or women’s health clinics in conservative Catholic countries.
There may have been a time when Coconut Grove was a quaint local area.  Some sleepy getaway just outside of Miami.  However, today, it seems a close and claustrophobic zone of development where the rich house their lives behind a number of walls and the endless traffic creeps up Main Boulevard for reasons that are not quite clear to me.  I may return when I am no longer a temporarily inconvenienced millionaire.


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