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Named Best Museum 2022 by Miami New Times

From late March to early September 2020, I worked as a physical therapist in the COVID-19 units at a local hospital. I was the first physical therapist in the unit and volunteered my time during our two surges.

I tend to leave writing to the writers and novelists of our world, but as I return to my regular work at the trauma center at the hospital, I find solace in chronicling my experience. It gives a sense of finality to those five months as nothing else really can.

It’s all more bitter than sweet, this leaving. It seems strange to say that because I always imagined the end of this, or rather the end of my direct involvement on the COVID floors, would be more . . . celebratory? Exciting? In my daydreams, I imagined we’d fight the battle, win, and then the battle would be done. A heroic cheer would go up across the nation and we would throw our surgical caps and face shields in the air and chant, “We did it! We won!” Instead, it carries on. The trenches are still wrought with the tears of continuous loss of life.

Volunteering to work the COVID floors has been a truly humbling experience for me. The decision to not tell my parents the extent of my involvement came easy. To continue with it for almost five months was hard. I also had to hold back on telling others so the information wouldn’t accidentally be passed on to my anxiety-ridden, lovely parents. To worry is to love – that’s my family. I wouldn’t change that.

But what also came with that was not being able to freely share my experience while it was happening. It was staying (mostly) silent as family members theorized the true validity of masks and social distancing. Some asked me, “I know you’re not in there because you’re a physical therapist, but do you know how bad it is?” And I bit my tongue instead of answering. There is a never-ending frustration that comes from how my career is constantly misunderstood. I am presumed to be uninvolved in many sub fields of medicine and that is a constant disappointment.

Nurses are the true backbone of this pandemic. They do the exhaustive daily work for their patients and we need to never forget that after this is all over – if it ever will be. But rehab services are there, too, working in the shadows of nurses and physicians. When we celebrate our healthcare heroes we forget those helping in the dark. But there are many of us there saying, “Let me help you. We know these days are long. What can we do to help?” Let’s not forget those in respiratory therapy, environmental work, care techs, diet and nutrition, maintenance, social work and case management, transport, and security, as well as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. They’re in those hallways and in those rooms, too.

As I go, I think about my contribution and the many moments when I asked myself if I was crazy for doing it. Did I actually help? Was it worth it? I wonder if any of the patients will remember me or their experience of laughing, dancing, and singing during their hospitalization. For some, it turned out to be their last dance, but for the many who made it to the exit doors of our negative pressure floors, I hope they can remember how much we all tried to make this as much of a healing experience as possible.

I know, as with all rotations, my memories will meld together into one kaleidoscopic view of the experience. E’s purple hair and nails will meld into C mourning the death of her mother. D’s jokes will mix with S’s stubbornness. My mind will mix them and store them away for another time.

I’m grateful to Rachel, Brady, Bill, and Brandi and so many others. We went in and we did our best. Their compassion for patients is amazing and working beside them made me a better therapist. It was a dream and an honor to work with each of them.

And of course, I’m grateful to Sean, who supported this idea from the beginning and is there when I come home every night. He keeps me laughing and helps me stay sane.

I wonder what the history books will say of this horrible time. Not one person has not been affected in some way, be it through a loss of a job, a dream, or a loved one. I wonder how we’ll teach our lessons from this to future generations. What will we keep to remember? I know that those I worked with will be able to reflect on the sweat, tears, PPE, frustrations, and loss. But I also hope they remember the singing and the dancing.

I was doing just fine, I thought. But I see a few cracks in my fine-ness. Normal always had a sliding scale meaning. I don’t know why we bother with it anymore. It’s added it to my list of no-longer-understood terms, along with Logic, Fun, Security, Truth, Reality.

People are opting for conspiracy theories, more open to snake oil. I have to look at the question: Are others wrong? Am I wrong? I’m thrown off by this thought. We’re so dug into our own ideas. It’s difficult to get around the math that allows each to come up with diverse answers. No fan of the overly medicated society promoted over the last half century, I can balance a properly vetted vaccine over suffering serious illness. I avoid antibiotics at all costs, but when plain old rest, Melaleuca honey, and oil of oregano do not knock me healthy, I will absolutely run for a Z pack before getting into serious trouble.

Truth is losing. Its edges muddied to the point of erasing the import of a simple mommy mandate for Little Tommy to “tell the truth.” If adults are having alternative truths…now what. I recently saw kids rising up against their parents, accusing them of being tyrants during a forced close Covid year. Had a trial for them. They flat out refused to listen to parents anymore. The parents were laughing, the interviewer was laughing. I was alarmed. More of our boundaries are fumbling, crumbling, making living together an impossible task.
How is this anarchy going to work? Let everyone be their own guides? I wish we all lived with a high moral compass, but our world is made up of do-good citizens, and the people that take advantage. Is the information to be believed? Do I believe it? It’s time to drag out that old animal instinct and don survival gear.

I recently ran across the word “indubitably,” meaning “impossible to doubt.” I dislike the sound, too many d’s and b’s strung together to be taken seriously; but I’d better use it while I still can. If the definition of “facts” is no longer relevant, then definitions themselves are no longer valid. Now where are the lines I’m coloring inside?

Theoretical Physicists are positing the possibility that the universe exists as a hologram. Now THAT is making some sense. California is burning up, Puerto Rico and Haiti suffer endless disasters, the deadly Japanese Tsunami, flooding, huge artificially filled butt cheeks all the rage, one universal pandemic, Donald Trump being elevated to world leader of the most powerful country on earth… this has GOT to be the last ridiculously written episode of a holographically sophisticated Jenga game show thought up by powers far superior than this crowd on the earthly plane.

As I was considering the pileup of strange happenings (and the word “considering” could correctly be replaced by “unnerved by”), I redirected my thoughts by thumping on any old podcast; a discussion on twilight and its potentially unsettling ambiguity popped up. Someone objected to ominous music leading to a negative emotion, suggesting perhaps we are ignoring twilight spaces that need to be examined, approach it with an open attitude or run the risk of getting stuck in perpetuity with the known. How can we discover without branching into the mysterious?

Mother Nature is enjoying the break as “she” takes a moment to breathe. We are, after all, part of that nature puzzle. Perhaps with our virus enforced “time out” we will be able, as mom always shouted, to “think about what we’ve done”, and straighten up before earth gives us more good hard shakes off her pock marked hide.

I took this picture outside of Memorial Regional Hospital. On this day, I had taken my mom to this hospital thinking she had the coronavirus. She was experiencing pneumonia but no fever. It was such a scary day since this was the first month of the virus spreading around, and people were in panic mode. She could barely breathe, and she said her lungs felt like collapsing. I’ve noticed no one outside the tent was even social distancing since they didn’t know much about the virus.

People from the military came over to the hospital to check the status of how things were being handled in the tent. It’s my guess that’s the reason why they were there. I took this photo of them heading to the tent outside the hospital since no one was allowed to go in the building. One of the nurses was able to bring my mother inside the hospital to put her in an isolated room, just in case she was positive with COVID-19.

My mother was there for almost one week, and finally she tested negative for the virus. What a sign of relief it was for me. I could never imagine going through these scary times and thinking of losing my mother. I was very concerned and told her how much I love her! I was still outside waiting since I couldn’t go in there with her. My anxiety was through the roof.

After a week or so of her being there, she was feeling a little better and was released home. I picked her up and hugged her so tight, but even having her home, I still needed to be wearing a mask around her. This pandemic has taught me a lesson that we need to love our loved ones more and not to be selfish.

Sometimes I can’t believe how naive some people can be about this virus and think it won’t get to them. I wear my mask wherever I go. I’d rather be safe than sorry! A reminder to people, life is precious! We are not here forever. Take care of your loved ones! This virus has taken many lives. Be safe rather than sorry!

My kids are now home schooling, and we are keeping social distance. I am not playing Russian roulette with our lives. When this pandemic started, I made a lot of masks and donated them to hospitals, clinics, and to family members. I wanted everyone to be safe. I hope this pandemic is over soon. We need normal lives again, but I know it won’t be anytime soon. Be safe and stay safe, especially for those with health issues.

En mayo de 1980, contando con apenas 15 años de edad perturbada, agobiada y bastante confundida en ese momento, me emprendí en lo que yo pensaba en aquel momento una aventura. Era un viaje de ida y regreso del que sin saber, me marcó un destino sin regreso a mi casa. Como adolescente al fin, estaba pensando que era una aventura más con mis amigas, que para mí ellas eran mi soporte emocional y mentalmente en ese momento de mi vida. Ya que sufría de abuso físico y sexualmente en mi persona, tome la decisión de escapar de eso. Y como ellas se iban del país, no acepte la idea que me dejaran sola en ese momento, ya que no tenía el apoyo de mis padres. Me abia escapado de mi casa con mi silencio de abuso, y con ellas sobrevivi, brindándome su apoyo de comer y dormir en sus casas. Así fue como me embarqué a este paso tan grande que cambio mi destino con una historia que contar.

Por razones de la vida, en el puerto del Mariel donde todo empezó, nos separaron y no las vi más. Yo solita en una base militar estadounidense, me recalorizaron en Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, area de menores sin familia. Luego me enviaron a una escuela para seguir estudiando, la cual yo no quería continuar ahí. Me sentía extraña y no hablaba inglés. Ahí fue cuando empezaron mis emociones a perturbarme mentalmente, porque no entendía en ese momento lo que estaba pasando y por qué.

Me sacaron de la escuela y me llevaron a un hospital mental Saint Elizabeths en Washington D.C.. Me encerraron con personas mentalmente enfermas. No sabia por qué razón, yo no me sentía loca. Ahí me drogaron como una zombi, así me sentía. Y me privaron de libertad, llevándome a otro centro prision federal de enfermos mentales en Lexington, Kentucky, donde sufrir una depresión mortal. La cual quise atentar contra mi vida, me sentía perdida en un país sin un ser querido.

Sólo quería morir en ese momento. Con la noticia que estaba embarazada fueron momentos difíciles para mí que marcaron mi vida, con tan solo 15 años camino a cumplir mis 16. Adolecente, sola, sin familia, y embarazada en un país extraño, fue un caos de emociones revueltas en ese momento. Pues la cual tuve otra recaída en depresión intentando quitarme la vida en mi cerda de la prision de immigration de Lexington, Kentucky. Lo cual me insolaron en un cuarto con camisa de fuerza y medicada las 24 horas.

Del día, donde no tenía ni la noción del tiempo, solo estaba sumergida en mi terrible angustia y dolor, tragando lagrimas día a día sin saber cuál sería mi futuro. Solo me aferré a pensar que todo era una pesadilla que tenía. Después de tanto gritar que yo no estoy loca, decidieron hacerme una evaluación. Ellos sabían que estaba embarazada y me podía hacer daño de toda esa estrés. La cual yo le dije que al llegar al refugio de Pennsylvania, el primer mes que estaba ahí tube relación con un muchacho y qué el era el papa de mi embarazo. Al darle toda la información sobre el y qué todavía permanecía en el refugio Fort Chaffee, lo relocalizaron, y haciendo los trámites necesarios me reunieron con el. Sin embargo me sentía muy feliz de salir de ese horrible encierro.

Pensaba que estaba curada de mi depresión del todo, sin imaginar que lo que me venía después con mi pareja y papa de mi bebe. Bueno, creo que sí les interesa más de mí historia que no terminó ahí…

A Miami Story by Lynda Grant Killingsworth in honor of all Americans on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

A letter home from James Whitfield Grant dated Saturday, Sept 22, 1945 written in Tokyo Bay.

Dear Mom,

Well, here is the bad news – we have been detached from the Third fleet and reassigned to the Fifth fleet for duty – I don’t know for how long but the reason was that we did such a good job evacuating POW’s that they felt that we would be a good ship to keep out here until things get straightened out.

The men on the ship were pretty mad about it since we are the oldest ship in the Third fleet and rate more battle stars than any ship in the Third or Fifth fleet. I have known about it for several days but did not want to write you until I cooled off a little.

Our Captain made a speech to us today and told us why we are going to stay out here a little longer. He had to make a speech because the rumor started that he asked for six more months of occupation duty. Naturally everybody believed it since he hasn’t been out here long and he is a Glory-hunter. He denied the rumor of course, and said you couldn’t believe everything you read in the papers (some of the boys got clippings from the New York Times that listed the San Juan as one of the ships to be reviewed by the President on Navy Day in New York Harbor). He said if we got our orders we could be in San Francisco by Navy Day but don’t count on it-So we are just sitting here waiting for something to happen. I admit this is very interesting duty but it is nothing like the U.S.- We feel that by the time we get back all the celebrating will be over and everybody will have forgotten about the war. I still have hopes of being home Xmas but don’t count on it.


Uncle Jimmy, a veteran of every major battle in the Pacific was in the Navy when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 79 years ago. He came to Miami with my parents, my sister Annie and me looking like the okies from fanokie, and lived with us for several years after arriving in Miami Dec 17, 1947. I am sure if any of my Jr. League buddies had seen THAT picture, 3 adults and 2 babies in a Jeep Dad needed for Dad’s work, I would have never been invited to join this prestigious organization. Our first apartment was near their new place of employment Hill York established in the 1920’s by Everett Carroll and Ren Niche located at SW 8th and 12 Ave.

I loved Mr. Carroll and the opportunities he gave my father. Dad ended up as President of seven Mechanical Contractor Companies and he and his brother, Uncle Jimmy, never worked anywhere else during their 35 year careers. Mr. and Mrs. Carroll, Uncle Everett and Aunt Babe, lived a block off of SW 8th Street, the famous Tamiami Trail built by a distant relative of ours, Barron Gift Collier. His great grand nephew married my grandfather’s cousin and this elegant Bascom, Florida native, population 30, served as hostess to the likes of Ford and Edison at their home on Utopia Island, now a Ritz Carlton.

Dad found an apartment nearby, and because it was right after the war, the only language spoken was Yiddish as our welcoming new city had become a haven for those who were in Nazi concentration camps. Boy did they love Anne and I, and I can remember being so young and sitting on their lap and running my figure on numbers that I did not know how they got there. Mama knew, and even though Mama only spoke Southern and they spoke no English, there was a bond that proved language did not matter. Their means of communication was LOVE.

Uncle Jimmy was just barely 20 when he joined the Navy on October 18, 1940, fourteen months before we declared War. He served our Country in the North Atlantic and saw war there against the Axis which entitled him to wear the Navy bronze “A.” He never slept the night through after he and his Navy boys, who lovingly called him Reb, freed the POW’s. He told his mother about it but could never talk to anyone else, not even his brother, my father. When I was a teen, my Grandmother told me his stories, and what he had witnessed as she felt it important that history be told. I remember the conversation 58 years later and her confession that she really liked Eleanor Roosevelt who was not at all treasured in the South at that time and revered years later. I agreed and will share what was told in other stories. This letter was addressed to:

Mrs. LL Grant
501 East Jackson Street
Marianna, Florida

The airmail postage was 6 cents.

Great Neck, Long Island meets South Florida

My mother, Zada Wilchyk fell in love with Marvin E. Williams up north. How they met, fell in love and married in 1936, I never knew the details. They came south to start their family in West Palm Beach, FL where I was born in 1941. Then they moved to Miami and my brother was born here in 1943.

Mother’s parents moved here then with grandfather establishing a tailor shop one block off Flagler in downtown while grandmother and mom opened a restaurant called The Spot near the courthouse. Father worked first for Frankie Watts Motors, later at Luby Chevrolet as their best mechanic in town I was always told.

Life in Miami from the 40’s through the 50’s was a segregated, two paper, “small town” that saw the development of Miami Beach bringing rich tourists down each winter and then the immigration of masses of Cubans, which would forever change the character of this city.

From Colored town (as it was called then) becoming Overtown, to Miami Dade Junior College beginning, to the Miami Dolphins under Don Shula winning, and to television shows discovering South Beach – My childhood memories of life growing up before any of this, near Flagler between S.W 4th St to S.W. 16th Street, with a neighborhood of mom and pop stores like TipTop grocery, Puritan Dairies, and Burdines and Richards, the Olympia Theatre…that’s the Miami Ill always remember.

My father was born and raised on a farm in South Dade where eventually the Tropical Racetrack was built. He and his twin brother Thorne, dropped out of school in the 4th grade to work with their father on the farm to survive the Depression. How he and my mother who grew up in the north met, fell in love, married, I never learned the story. I knew that mother was college educated, had a trained operatic singing voice, and was a reporter and editor for the Great Neck News during the “Jazz Age.” I grew up hearing her stories of the Marx Brothers creating chaos in her office whenever they dropped by, and Clifton Webb always visiting with his precious yapping dogs, one with a pink bow, the other a blue bow. She went riding in Central Park with Frederick March and her best friend, Sue and they were hell raisers during Prohibition!

My father was as handsome as Clark Gable when they married, worked as a mechanic for Frankie Watts Motors on Flagler and later Luby Cherolet (now long-gone), and at one time worked as a diesel engineer on the Orinoco River in Venezuela. He was Baptist, mom was Jewish, and my brother and I were raised respecting both religions.

La embajada del Perú fue el 4 de abril del 1980 y mi hija nació el 12 de Abril de 1980 , así que cuando nos llegó la salida por el Mariel el 17 de mayo, ella solo tenía 36 días de nacida.
Cuando nos presentamos en el edificio de seguridad donde nos recogerían ,nos entregaron salvoconductos como si hubiéramos estado en la embajada del Perú, algo totalmente falso (los cuales conservo).Llegamos al Mariel en una guagua, lugar el cual era un campamento lleno de carpas donde los catres estaban en la tierra. Había un solo edificio de cemento que era donde te registraban y te hubicaban en la carpa que pertenecías. Nosotros salimos como familia de un preso político.

Cuando nos toco la revisión mi esposo tomó la niña en sus brazos en lo que me registraban y revisaban. Una miliciana me mando a pasar detrás de una cortina de saco, y me registro toda. Cuando salí atolondrada con lo que había acabado de vivir, buscó con la mirada a mi esposo y lo encuentro del lado de los que habían revisado. Se había pasado sin que los milicianos lo revisarán, por lo que pasó sus prendas, dinero, y La Niña con sus areticos.

Mi angustia era como podíamos estar tanto tiempo allí con una niña tan pequeña. Las personas nos decían días y semanas de espera. Dios nos protegió siempre. Salimos al mar en la madrugada del 18 en 17 horas de odisea llegamos a Cayó Hueso, en el lugar de las carpas del army. El trato fue maravilloso. Cuando vieron La Niña nos montaron en la primera guagua para Miami.

El Orange Bowl hay mucho que hablar. Las personas llegaban a los alrededores y te regalaban las cosas que tenían puestas, te compraban helados, lloraban. Estaban tan felices de lo que estaba pasando. Y después el aeropuerto de Opa locka, tan organizado, todos tan cariñosos. Tenían muchachitas para entretener y cuidar los niños en lo que te hacían las entrevista y los papeles de immigracion. Nadie podía creer el tiempo que tenía mi Lily. Pensaban que había nacido en la embajada del Perú. Hoy graduada con un Master en business administration.

Mi esposo (28) y yo (20) en el 1980, Marielitos que le damos las gracias a este gran país por darnos la oportunidad que nos fue negada en nuestro país, donde nuestras hijas estudiarían y viven en libertad y respeto al ser humano.

Hay muchos detalles de cada lugar que los revivo en mis recuerdo, pero me pasaría de las 1000 palabras, gracias por la labor que hacer. El Mariel fue una huella muy importante en Miami. Vinimos con muchas ganas de crecer y trabajar. Gracias.

Like many Miamians of Cuban descent, I grew up very aware of my family’s history on the island. This year marked the 40th anniversary of their exodus. My grandmother, aunt, and father left Cuba on the Mariel boatlift of 1980, in which as many as 120,000 Cubans made a traumatic exodus to the United States.

My father was born in Havana into a family of entertainers in 1964, five years after the revolution. My grandfather, Miguel Cancio, along with my grandmother’s brother, Kiki Morua, founded the popular ‘60s band Los Zafiros. My grandmother, Monica Leticia Morua, a musician in her own right, was known as the “Voz de Crystal.”

As a young boy, my father had a dream to become a great doctor like my great-grandfather, Dr. Leoncio Morua. He was able to attend a boarding school in the province of Matanzas. When he was 16, he was caught telling a joke about Pepito, a famous Cuban character. My father and his friends were told that they were being expelled for betraying the trust of the revolution. My grandmother, fearing my father’s future in Cuba, decided it was time to leave the country. At that time, there was no legal way to leave Cuba. Then, in April 1980, an incident at the Peruvian embassy caused Castro to announce that all those who wished to leave Cuba could do so from the port of Mariel.

The Mariel situation offered an unexpected way out for my family. After appearing in front of a government panel, my father was separated from my grandmother and aunt and was taken to a holding facility in Havana, then to a camp for unaccompanied males near Mariel, where they waited alongside newly released criminals. A few weeks later, he was put on an American cabin cruiser. As the boat left Mariel harbor, my father panicked and tried to dive overboard and swim ashore, but the American captain on the boat and a family friend calmed him.

My father was reunited in Miami with my grandmother and aunt, who had come on another ship, and they spent several days in the Orange Bowl, where other refugees were kept, until they found their way to a home in Miami Beach. My father did not return to Cuba until 1993. Since his return he has dedicated his life to advocating for the reconciliation between his native and adopted countries. I also have had the opportunity to return to my father’s country of birth and walk on the same streets my family once walked through in Varadero.

This year marked 40 years since my grandmother made the decision to leave her family, her career, her beloved Varadero and the future she hoped to have in Cuba for her children. It marked 40 years of her life in this country, raising two children and becoming Abuelita to three grandchildren.

Long before Coconut Grove’s first high-rise was built at 2951 S. Bayshore Dr., that address was known as The Compound and described by Miami Herald reporter Stephen Trumbull “…a pastoral setting of cottages…occupied by newspaper and news wire service men and women…” and UM professors. The verdant property would become Sailboat Bay Apartments, later The Mutiny Hotel. The heyday of The Compound was mid-1950’s to June of ‘67. A paradigm shift was occurring in Miami and changes at this address reflect historic change to all the city. This fragment of interconnecting history concerns some of The Compound’s residents in a short span of years. Historic references to The Compound are few, I located some details from Herald stories and research into the life of one of The Compound’s celebrated residents, my aunt, Evelyn DeTardo Hively. By her 1953 Edison graduation, Evelyn had a scholarship to the University of Miami and was a Herald copy boy. By June she was Herald Staff Writer with an article: Evelyn Faces Life reporting on an illegal, pornographic dime peep show. Later she wrote a special series to expose illicit activities behind seemingly innocent ads placed in the Herald, ads offering young women the opportunity to become fashion models but really fronts for prostitution & illegal massage. Evelyn wrote regular columns: Tip Top Teens about outstanding achievements of Miami’s young people and What’s New at the U, events at UM. In May of ‘58 the Herald sent her to Haiti to report on Papa Doc Duvalier. Then to Haiti to track down and investigate a witch doctor known for making zombies. She wrote a fullpage zombie story April 12, ‘59. Evelyn was likely the last reporter to interview movie idol Errol Flynn in Miami and Cuba during the revolution filming Cuban Rebel Girls. Evelyn worked at the Herald for 7 years then Time bureau assistant and later professor of English at Miami-Dade College. Another Compound resident, Denne Petitclerc, had a flair for hooking readers to a story with first lines, “A pair of armed bandits, a bolita bagman, his brunette bookkeeper, a stolen car and an innocent horseplayer flopped up like a school of mullet in a police net Saturday.” Nixon Smiley’s Knights of the Fourth Estate credits Petitclerc for “combining the technique of fiction writing with newspaper writing long before Tom Wolfe & Gay Talese” “he gave readers a glimpse of newspaper writing that would not be seen again until the late ‘60’s.” and “the Herald had become widely known as a newspaper which encouraged individual style and individual writing”. Mr. Petitclerc, like my aunt, was a young, outstanding Herald reporter, among the first to discover the link between Miami, guns and Cuba with investigative reports on the Cuban revolution focused on the underground delivering guns to Castro through Miami. Petitclerc would go on to befriend Hemingway, write novels and write the TV series Then Came Bronson and the screenplay for the feature film Islands in the Stream. One of my aunt’s best friends at The Compound was Frances Swaebly Herald’s theatre critic. She interviewed stars of the era, Jose Ferrer, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Joe E. Lewis, to name a few, featured in plays and shows in Miami. Reporter Bob Hardin had been living at The Compound after graduating from UM. He, like my aunt, had been writing news for Miami papers since high school. Like my Aunt, he wrote an expose of illicit activities at Miami massage parlors. His series on the Mob’s violent takeover of Miami laundries gained national attention. For those years The Compound housed creative, talented Herald writers. Other residents of The Compound were United Press International’s Andy Taylor, and Joe Emmert, UM Marine Lab. September 7, ‘62 reporter Stephen Trumbull wrote the Herald story which inspired this History Miami story. Nixon Smiley celebrates Trumbull’s writing style as “salty leads, colorful phraseology likely to take unusual turns.” That’s the case in Intellectual Cats which brings together the residents of The Compound when they decided to round up the stray cats on the property. Surplus cats were products of Crissy being boarded by Bob Hardin & Andy Taylor. She produced innumerable offspring. The Humane Society took many, older cat residents remained. By June ‘67 Ellen Emmert wrote in the Herald, Grove Progress Means Loss which serves as the Epitaph of The Compound- “the future home of Coconut Grove’s first high rise, Compound residents will be saddened, suffer a small personal loss when bulldozers move in.” From “a pastoral setting of cottages” to Sailboat Bay Apts. to Mutiny Hotel, a big leap. What of those who came before? Late 1920’s to ‘30’s this address, 2951 S. Bayshore, was the place for lavish parties and social events when attorney Leland Hyzer and his wife lived there. These small fragments of Miami history might be lost, forgotten if not pieced together for readers and kept in the archives of History Miami.

On January 1, 2020, I officially became a minimalist. I’m collecting experiences now, not stuff. I also figured, the less I own the more I can travel, only there’s no traveling this year. I still need my dose of traveling though. Travel is ESSENTIAL.

While international traveling is suspended, people have come up with virtual traveling ideas. The Vatican Museum, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal – all are in virtual tours that can be done from home. Cool, but my idea of traveling involves getting up from the couch, so I embarked on a new kind of journey. I researched the Miami Trails and their histories, picked up my water bottle and started out into new explorations of a very familiar place: home. Since I enjoy the writing as much as I enjoy the hiking, here is my little contribution to encourage you to enjoy and learn more about our own community. In this pandemic, my passion for traveling has led me home.

Coco Plum Circle in Coral Gables marks the junction of Commodore Trail and Old Cutler Trail. Old Cutler Trail goes south along Old Cutler Road through beautiful historic neighborhoods. Old Cutler Road is historic itself, being one of the first roads in Dade County connecting Coconut Grove with Cutler, an old farming community. The trail follows a natural limestone ridge along Biscayne Bay and was referred to by the pioneer settlers as “The Reef.” Then it was widened to become a wagon trail and declared a public road in 1895. I can almost see myself on top of those wagons wearing a flower hat. The Florida legislature declared Old Cutler Road a historic road in 1974.

Walking down Old Cutler Road is a delight. It is shaded all the way to Matheson Park/Fairchild Tropical Garden by beautiful old banyan trees and charming Floridian-style houses. The trail is also a bike trail, so watch out for silent bikes coming from behind. Right across from Fairchild Tropical Garden there’s a parking lot that leads to a forest protection area within Matheson Park. It’s not part of the trail but it’s worth the exploration. Birdwatching, photography and nature appreciation are the activities permitted here. It is truly a forest within the neighborhood and in the middle there is an open space where other paths meet. We took the one going south and eventually found the Old Cutler Trail again.

A little south of Fairchild Tropical Garden, the trail actually goes through a gated community. To follow the trail you have to cross the street and go to Snapper Creek Road. At the other end of Snapper Creek Road, you leave the community and cross the footbridge to Red Road to continue on Old Cutler Trail. Not far from there, at Southwest 110th Street, you will find the entrance to the old Parrot Jungle. It opened in 1936 and quickly became a tourist attraction with a signature structure. After Parrot Jungle moved, the Village of Pinecrest purchased and restored the building and it is now a park with a farmer’s market, children’s activities, and events year-round. It is now called Pinecrest Gardens.

After Pinecrest Gardens, Old Cutler Road follows the coastline. It curves from 57th Avenue to 67th Avenue and at the Y junction at 135th Street you have to go left to continue the Old Cutler Trail on Deering Bay Drive. One block after the Y junction it’s Chapman Field Park. You don’t have to enter the park to continue on the trail, but we did. There’s a trail within the park with a big loop that starts and ends at the canoe dock. Fishers canoe through the canal into open sea while dog walkers let their dogs run without leash in the trail.

There are few shaded areas from Chapman Field to the Deering Estate, so it is very important to wear a hat and sunglasses and don’t forget the water! The Deering Estate, on 168th Street in Palmetto Bay, is an ocean-front historic site and museum with beautiful grounds to enjoy nature. It is part of Miami-Dade Parks and an admission fee is charged. Outside of the estate you may visit the historic Chinese Bridge and kayak or canoe to open water from the People’s Dock.

Just across the bridge, on 173rd Street, you will find Thalatta Estate. I can’t describe how lovely this place is. It was purchased by the Village of Palmetto Bay and is also part of Miami-Dade Parks, admission free. Its charming Spanish architecture, turquoise water pool, perfectly maintained grounds with palm trees and all kinds of flora, and the breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay make it perfect to host the most romantic wedding. Thalatta Estate is my favorite site along Old Cutler Trail.

The Palmetto Bay public library on 176th Street at Ludovici Park is worth mentioning. With an amphitheater, a two-story community center and a bike path loop, it must be the highlight of this community. I will certainly be in the lookout for events at this location when this pandemic permits it. Next to the library there’s a stable, most likely private. Horses are such beautiful animals.

Cutler Bay starts on 184th Street. It was designated as Tree City USA in 2009 by the Arbor Day Foundation. Although beautiful and shaded with trees, you can notice the change in the neighborhood. It’s newer, not historic and not grand. Old Cutler Trail ends where 216th Street, 87th Avenue and Old Cutler Road converge in a circle.

From Coco Plum Circle at Southwest 72nd Street to the south end of the trail at 216th Street there are 13.5 miles of asphalt trail that wait to be conquered, and it’s at this point where Biscayne Trail starts, which I will cover in a future post. Eat seasonally, love locally… or love your local trails.

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