Monday, April 20, 2009

South Florida Musings

I want to talk about this region I've lived over the past decade - South Florida. It's been on my mind for a while to blog about the misconceptions, perception and perhaps some truth about the region which goes from Miami, Fort Lauderdale to Palm Beach.

Up till a couple of days ago, anytime I have to do a transaction in other parts of the country and I give my address, the rep would like to engage in a little chit-chat about what it's like to live here. Even once when I was buying a computer for my Aunt who was just getting into the information highway, and gave the address. The rep was like "oh you're close to South Beach?" with awe in his voice. "Not anymore. I used to live ten minutes away from it though" I replied. "What was that like . . ." I laughed and told him SoBe (as we locals say for South Beach) doesn't have the same effect to us as it does to tourists.

Misconception 1: Not all Miami is South Beach. I want to scream everytime I'm watching a Heat game and the team is playing at home and one TV Commentator says "We're coming to you live from South Beach." No they're not! They're coming to you live from Bayside! Or from the Downtown Miami area. There's still a 15-minute to 20-minute drive (if no traffic - that will be answered prayer) to get to South Beach from the Arena. But I get the point; it makes it sound more glitzy to say South Beach than Bayside.

South Beach is only a few streets that connect together that make a whole bunch of guys lose their minds when they visit. You got Lincoln Road, Ocean Drive, what else Alton Road is not far off but folks actually live there than the bars, boutiques, night clubs and hotels.

Misconception 2: Miami is quite different from Miami Vice or CSI: Miami - A few times those TV shows got it right but there's still much more those shows don't show you. Like actual quiet places with real families and not models and actors. But the Bad Boys movie with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence was close to fact; they actually shot both movies in South Florida.

Misconception 3: It never gets cold in South Florida. Ok so we don't get brutal winters like Boston, Chicago or New York. But the weather can dip to less than 40 to 50 degrees from what you start with during the day. And as much as my friends up north say not to talk about our version of cold weather. Look, at least they get a season. It is so erratic down here during the winter that it sends a shock to your toasted system. That's why folks are always getting the sniffles.

Misconception 4: Only fun you can have is at South Beach. Then I'll say how limited. Like I said, South Beach is just a few streets. Why don't you go to Hollywood - Hollywood, Florida that is. Check out the huge Seminole Hard Rock Live and Hotel. You could almost get lost in there. Go there for a concert, improv, gambling (if that's your thing) or shopping.

And if that's not your thing, go to the Grove - Coconut Grove. It's like South Beach Lite; less rowdy.

Want more? You have to visit Las Olas -that is the upscale version for us locals who don't want to deal with the noise of South Beach but leave it to tourists to enjoy but now tourists are getting in on the secret. Yes, midnight is just like midday. If you're a small town person, please bring a person with you not to feel overwhelmed. You might be leaving at 2am and you see a throng of people just getting in trying to get your spot to park.

Then you have to go to City Walk in Palm Beach. It's a drive but so worth it. I spent a b-day a year and half ago one night and I will not confess when I got home. All I'll say is there was dinner, movie, a bit of shopping, site seeing and listening to local musicians

Misconception 5: Other than partying, there is no sophisticated "culture." - This is one of the things that get on my nerves when I visit other parts of the country and they ask where I'm from. I tend to dispel a lot of perceptions folks might have about me when they see me. There is an "enlightened" crowd, dare I say, "intellectual" crowd here also. We have one of the world's biggest book fairs - Miami International Book Fair, you have got to check out the "Design District" in Miami, or the Furniture district in Fort Lauderdale and DCOTA in Griffin.

Also, there's a politically active crowd in South Florida. How did you think President Obama won Florida? He and many Democrat Politicians spent A LOT OF TIME DOWN HERE LAST YEAR. There are great exhibits to check out, plays to see and South Florida has a thriving Native American community. Visiting the Indian Village would be an eye-opening experience about some history lessons you may not have read about this great people.