Escape from Hotel California

Every few days I have to get out, whether it’s a foray to the supermarket or pharmacy or a walk in the neighborhood with Constant Companion or Daughter. Really, it’s only about two times a week. Our house is in a wonderful location, about a 20 minute walk to the grocery store in one direction and the pharmacy, bank, and more in the other. It’s fun being able to see what you miss when in the car. I get away, always to return.

Supermarket(s) expeditions are primarily in search of fresh fruits and vegetables and, silly me, to replenish the meat and fish we’re eating during the week. Though dreams of a nearly empty freezer are taking root! So far, we have enough toilet paper to last a while. Baking soda is another issue; I guess the newfound bakers have taken all of that along with the flour and yeast.

My mother always had an extra chest freezer in the basement or garage so when certain items were on sale she could buy ahead for the inevitability of … who knows what. She also prepared sauces and stuff to freeze. I have ably followed in her footsteps and inherited the Depression era mentality, must have for that proverbial “rainy day.” Perhaps it’s here now.

Latina-owned brands making face masks to protect spread of COVID ...

Last week, our city mayor declared that employees and shoppers alike must wear masks while in the stores. It’s a precautionary step. I’m sure you’ve seen loads of instructions of how to make your own face mask, with or without sewing. Thanks to my colleagues at the National Folk Museum of Korea, I have a few good masks on-hand.

Sometimes, I walk down to the supermarket. When I’m alone, abandoned properties, i.e. houses for sale with unlocked fences, beckon me to explore. In the past, I’ve salvaged some really nice things – most notable are number of succulents, now prospering on my back stoop, and a Frank Lloyd Wright Sprite (reproduction) that was created for the long-gone Midway Gardens in Chicago.

The two most recent homes I’ve explored are exemplary of our many historic Mediterranean revival homes. From the tile roofs to the arched doorways, these are graceful structures the speak to the history of our community. One large house, around the corner from ours, has been calling on me for years. We think it had been the site of a fire (arson?) and has been left empty since then. There’s now a break in the fence, through which I entered.

I noticed another vacant (lonely) house last year during mango season when a friend and I spied the fruit-laden tree. I love this old house. Like many of our subtropical houses it has a fireplace. The windows and doors are clad with “key stone,” a type of coral rock that had been harvested from the Florida Keys, thus “key” stone. It is now illegal to remove the rocks. UPDATE – The “For Sale” sign has been removed. I predict in the near future we will have another geometric Tropical Modern box house on this lovely site. Please save the amazing mango tree!

In the meantime, a few times a week Constant Companion (now really constant!) escape to walk in the neighborhood. We stopped at a pocket park where Daughter and I had stopped a few days earlier. I wanted to show him the fish that congregated there. They are in schools and swim in circles, then break into lines to form another circle and on and on. They are smallish and slender, maybe 12 inches with tails tipped with black. From time to time a member of the school would break the surface. So interesting.

And then there was the metal edging to the storm drain – fish and all!

At the corner near the supermarket is a juice bar, closed for who knows how long. Our community made worldwide news in December during Art Week because of the “banana duct-taped to the wall.” Is it art? Why did it sell? Whatever! Great sense of humor at the juice bar and their contribution to the banana = art!

One final image from a recent escape … A common tree here is the sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera). Their thick leathery leaves were often used as protection against sunburn when our community was in its heydays as a gathering place for seniors .

Photos of '70s and '80s South Beach at HistoryMiami | Miami New Times
Photo courtesy of Gary Monroe

Here’s a sea grape in bloom.


  1. Wonderful look at the Mediterranean Revival (and the teensy bit of MiMo in the juice bar, correct?) ! Here’s hoping for restoration of buildings and life in the neighborhood!


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