antonia-williams-gary_2_web.jpgI was in South Florida recently and was excited to, once again, see the unofficial area bird flying high. The cranes were everywhere, From Brickell Avenue and Coral Way to East Edgewater, the new marketing name for a very old community along Biscayne Bay between 29th and 36th streets.

Edgewater used to be my old neighborhood; much of it has simply been removed, soon to be replaced with towers for luxury living.  I can hear the realtors singing Happy Days Are Here Again.

I will probably not recognize the new profile of the residents by the time I return again but, one thing I know for sure, you cannot stop progress.  That is what many see, progress in the continued growth and development along the waterways of South Florida, venues for the rich and richer. 

Miami/South Florida is exciting and unpredictable. One of the first sights on my most recent visit was a Rolls Royce parked at a 7-Eleven.  You won’t see that in too many other places, especially not in Dallas, where I’ve been living for the past six months.  In fact, I’ve only seen one Rolls since moving there. I must be moving in and around the wrong zip codes.  But they are ubiquitous in South Florida.

What a contrast!  Texas has the highest employment rate in the nation; Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates. Yet Bentleys, Rollses, Maseratis and other high-end luxury vehicles are to Miami what the Ford 150 trucks are in Dallas.

The disposition of the people in the two places is also a study in contrast.  I have found few people rushing around in Texas.  Drivers actually stop for pedestrians in and outside crosswalks, wait their turns at four-way stops, and don’t honk at drivers going below the speed limit while looking at their GPS (that would be me).  Civilized?  You bet!

Yet, there is something about South Florida.  For me, it has become a great place to visit and I will return often.

Actually, my next trip is already planned: the first week in December, for Art Basel, the annual must-do for me, when the entire town transforms into a cornucopia of all things fine art.

The opening of the  Perez Art Museum Miami (P.A.M.M.) will be one of the highlights of that week.  I hope you all pencil that opening on your calendar for the public events that are being scheduled from early December through January.

In another contrast, the art community in Dallas is very well established. The Dallas Museum of Art was founded in 1903 and has added many new programs and buildings over the years.

The Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003 and the newest museum, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which opened last December, features cutting edge exhibitions.  But Miami, all shiny and new, remains a beacon for those who want and like an adrenalin rush, with two new museums opening by 2014.

Me?  I’m happy in Dallas, where I have been offered a warm and Texas–size welcome.  I have not met any strangers there and, over time, I want to cultivate flowering cacti, thorny and beautiful when in full bloom.  They remind me of life: prickly if touched in the wrong spot but bringing so much joy when encountered at the right time.

Right now, I am planning my visits to Miami/South Florida at least quarterly, to get plugged into that vibrancy found nowhere else I’ve been in this country. 

Things I’ll look forward to during my next time in the area: fried fish, with the head and tail still on it; a leisurely drive  up and down South Beach’s Ocean Drive; checking on the folk in Overtown, however few may be left behind in that fast-developing central area;  hitting at least one of the ever-changing hot spots that feature the Miami sound live; drinking real café Cubano; hugging my five grandchildren again, and again (they include one set of twins); seeing all my peeps (Sorry if I missed you a few weeks ago); and, most of all, watching those flying cranes take the city farther up into the sky to touch the moon over Miami. 

And then I’ll return home, to the Big D, bolstered by the bling and the Bentleys that can only be found in my Miami.


Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at toniwg@bellsouth.net