47 Hours in South Florida: Hyman Roth, Modernism, & the Third World, Jan 20-22, 2015

Air fares became so insanely cheap that I could not resist this trip; two nights in South Florida midweek in January.  I arrived Fort Lauderdale Airport at 3:30 PM on a Tuesday.   I put the bicycle together and bicycled to downtown Fort Lauderdale for the night, where I stayed in an Airbnb.   The next morning I bicycled the fifty miles from Fort Lauderdale up to Palm Beach.  I ate lunch there before taking the TriRail commuter train that afternooon all the way down to Miami.   I then bicycled late that afternoon from the train station near MIA airport to South Miami Beach.  The next morning I got up early and bicycled up from South Miami Beach back up to the Fort Lauderdale airport, in time for my 3:00 PM flight back to Raleigh/Durham.

South Florida is about an imagined life, if nothing else.    In The Godfather, Part II, Hyman Roth was a mobster who lived simply in South Florida, eating tuna fish sandwiches while discussing “business” with Michael Corleone.     His small house was one story, of stucco.



I have an overactive imagination on these bike trips.   One day on this trip, north of Fort Lauderdale, I overheard a fifty something skinny guy walking around the parking lot of an upscale strip mall, barking a strong New York accent into a cell phone “When’s the guy coming down here with the fucking money!”

When you bicycle up and down South Florida, the most pleasant bike ride is to weave through the grid of older neighborhoods much like those of Hyman Roth.  These houses are a distinctive Florida style, and they go on for miles and miles.

You find these houses in middle class and wealthy neighborhoods:

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You also find essentially the same houses in rough neighborhoods, such as the area between the Miami airport and downtown, which I cycled through (quickly!) on a Wednesday afternoon:

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That same neighborhood had areas that felt like the Third World, a Latin American country.

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There was a rugged industrial area along the Miami River.    Small ships from places like Haiti unload there directly, as well as lots of people in the scrap metal business.


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I biked into Miami Beach at 5:30 PM in time for a quick swim before it got dark.

In South Miami Beach on a winter night you are bathing in the warm humid air.    It flaunts the Florida ideal of an imagined perfect life, 1930’s style.    For only one night a year, this is a nice place to be.  Beyond one day the hedonism would get on my nerves.


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Modernist architecture is all over South Florida.   On this two day trip  I did not really seek anything out, I just took pictures of buildings that I found attractive.

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In West Palm Beach, as you bicycle you see signs of the ultra rich everywhere.   However, the minute you get off the main tract by the beach, things get seedy pretty quickly.  Still, sometimes seediness has style.

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Postscript:   The supermarket chain Publix needs recognition for supporting quality architecture.    In both downtown Fort Lauderdale, and North Miami Beach, the supermarkets were not only of quality contemporary style, but the buildings are built right up adjacent to the street.  Parking is not in front, but rather behind, or alongside.

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