Miami was a wonderful place when I was a child. I didn’t know about racism because we all got along so well. Perhaps I was sheltered from it. Most of my friends were from Cuba, families who wanted to live in the freedom afforded by the United States and not the state of a country under a dictator. Such views today are not understood by young adults because they didn’t see these events. The attractive view of old cars taken care of in the hands of their owners may look prudent in the eyes of us who don’t think about doing anything but buying new, but it isn’t realized that in their world new cars do not exist and if they did, a lifetime of salary could not pay for one. This is what the families from Cuba in the Sixties saw. This is not what Cuba looks like on TV shows today.

In 2003 Maria and I drove down the street where I lived. It was unrecognizable. Every house had heavy iron fences and locked gates for every driveway. The windows were barred as if each house was a prison. Fifty years make a difference, but that should not the difference fifty years makes. Comstock Elementary School looked different from when I attended, and that is what the difference should be. I’m sure Miami today is a lot different overall. But is it the wonderful place I remember as a child, or was I sheltered from much of it? My memories should remain in tact. Knowing what I remember makes it a wonderful place in my head. Will I ever move back there? No.

I remember the Miami Seaquarium and the Cranston Park Zoo on Key Biscayne. I remember wishing to see the Weeki Wachee Mermaids someday. I live closer to Weeki Wachee now – I better go. The gas stations then included Sinclair, with the brontosaurus logo. I believe Sinclair was part of Atlantic-Richfield and it became Arco. Whatever happened to Arco gas stations? There was a place North of Miami called Frontier City. I remember going there, riding the bumpy stagecoach into the town and watching gunfights. Back then I could wear six-shooters on each side of me with a belt of bullets ready for me to shout “Bang, bang!” at every stranger I encountered. They were toy guns and plastic bullets. Today, kids would get bullied by adults for being so evil. The danger is not knowing which side is evil.

I remember being a Weeping Willow Tree in a school play. Learning quickly that being an entertainer was not natural for me, becoming a musician didn’t mean becoming an entertainer. That’s something I forgot growing older. One time I got in trouble for talking before we were to watch a film in Second Grade. The teacher made me sit facing the back of the room. So I placed my chair facing the back, but in front of an old aquarium. I saw the entire film through the reflection off of the aquarium. The teacher had to know, but she did not move me.

My banana-seat bicycle was my favorite thing at six and seven. I rode that bike everywhere; if my parents would’ve known where, that bike would’ve been taken away from me. A school mate a few blocks away had this bike called an English Racer. It had three speeds and twenty-six inch tires! Every bar on the frame was straight, not curved. I got to ride it but sitting on the saddle was impossible. I sat on the frame. As a young adult, I rode centuries on my twelve-speed Fuji. A good bicycle will always be a must, but riding one now is not the same as then.

I could hear the roar at the Orange Bowl on game days. The stadium wasn’t real close but close enough. Sports was not an interest to me then. I probably played stick ball one time. The stone alley ran behind all of the houses on the block. Some yards had driveways in the back and some in the front. We didn’t have driveways at our duplex. Parking was in the street. My mother would give me money to walk around the block for a haircut. Then, it was crew-cuts! My hair was short. As a teenager later on I rebelled, but after my bald spots formed, no more long hair.

My father worked at the Miami International Airport. I remember the terminal there and flying to New Jersey as a little boy. Rides around the airport were fun. Occasionally, we’d stop at a dairy farm to buy ice cream cones. I can’t recall finding better chocolate ice cream anywhere ever again. Hialeah was another ride destination, but I don’t remember why. It was known for the dog races, but if my father went to the races, I never knew.

Remembering Miami isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. My eighth birthday was celebrated in New Jersey after moving away. The rest of the family went back to Miami to move us to Delaware. It would never be the same again. Cold weather. Kids beating up each other. No palm trees. Snow. More snow. Cold. Did I mention cold? It took me twenty years to get used to the cold. But Miami will always be a great place, even if not so much today. A trip there will be planned soon.