Saturday, July 22, 2017

Driving into Overtown

We missed our exit off the highway. My mom wanted to use the HOV lane which was blocked off from normal traffic, so when it came time for our Wynwood exit we were trapped. Once the lane ended I got off in downtown Miami. I turned the car around and we found ourselves in Overtown. The buildings were still crammed together along tightly packed streets of fluorescent tropical colors. The main area of Overtown was two blocks of buildings. I saw a fenced-in field where some cocks were feeding.

Driving through the old neighborhood rekindled my mom's memories. She said that in the 1960s you could walk from Overtown to the beach. This was before the highways and walls blocking in the vibrant neighborhood that used to be called the Harlem of the South. The segregated beach was Virginia Key and it was a hidden gem. My mom said white seemed to prefer the stretches of uninterrupted white sands. Blacks ended up with the beaches with palm trees and blue crabs hiding in the grass. She said there was a toy locomotive that would snake along Virginia Key beach. Beachgoers would ride the locomotive in between the bushes and at various points. There was a dance floor, and snack bar.

The groceries stores were owned by the Chinese, although my mom couldn't remember whether they were Jamaican Chinese or Chinese. Each grocery store had a ledger and you would buy things and it would be put in your ledger and subtracted from the paid amount. When a customer's ledger reached 'zero' they had to put more money down.

There was a restaurant called Nasty Man's, that had flies in the window (this I actually know because I've used this detail in one of my plays). She said the whole vibe befitted the establishment's name so she stayed away. 

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