Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lincoln Road in My Own History Book

If you pick up the New York Times and read the latest article about ultra cool Lincoln Road without some personal reflection, then you haven't experienced the real South Beach with all of its stops and starts and diversions in the long road to its current glorious remake.

I thought about it this morning as I took the long scenic walk to the post office on West Avenue from my start on Washington. I don't know exactly how many blocks I've got to walk to get there but I pass by Drexel and Euclid and the brand new Starbucks Hear Music store where I shortstop to burn another CD for my trip because, after all, there are only 3 Hear Musics in the US and one of them is right here! The music-heads in there all know me by now because I've been burning Peter Kater, R. Carlos and good old Kris and have been annoying them for weeks to get me Johnny Whitehorse. Besides, I get free coffee at this point, and sometimes cake too.
At Meridian, I pass another Starbucks across from Ghirardelli's cafe and nearly crash into four roller bladers coming strong with cute little dogs on leashes keeping pace.

At Jefferson I hear my name called out by Susan who is eating outdoors at the Van Dyke restaurant with her sister-in-law, so I sit and chat for awhile. The Van Dyke is sister to the trendy News Cafe on Ocean Drive and the food is so good (Hy loves the Middle Eastern combo)and reasonable too. The grand hotel that houses the restaurant has been there as long as I've been around and has the most elegant restroom on the beach, with long antique mirrors and fancy old fashioned sinks. They've even got a little magazine store out back with its own great big Greek salad for 4 bucks. What a deal for Lincoln Road, not to mention the Lavazza coffee for 92 cents and sometimes its free if the guys behind the counter feel like it!

Interesting phenomenon, Lincoln Road. When I was about 8 years old and my mother used to take Marian and me here to check out Lerner's, Three Sisters and the Liggett's drugstore for the hot fudge sundaes, it seemed like such a long walk from one end to the other. Those were the great times for Lincoln Road, especially with summer vacationers from New York as we were then,with Saks, Lillie Rubin, Moseley's Linens,the souvenir shops, departments stores and first-run theatres. Last survivor from that time was Moseley's which closed a year ago, although, of course, we have Macy's north on Meridian which was and will probably be to us forever Burdine's.

Now, we cut to the late 70's and I'm walking with 10 year-old Geraldine down the Road, checking out the remnants of the remaining stores as Lincoln Road is dying its slow death. Saks is still there,and we frequent the old bathroom with its polka dotted sinks, but it is on its way out and the junk stores are taking over. Anyone want to buy cheap electronics at rip off prices? We still have our favorite souvenir stores and the shops that sell the appliqued handkerchiefs, but there are more closed stores than open. It looks like crime will be taking over Lincoln Road. Cameras feed back to the police station and you keep your handbags close to you.

Enter the 80's now. We've finally moved here and I'm writing with Harry and Lincoln Road is half out of business and half hopeful new art center. The rents are dirt cheap but no one is buying which is why it's now being promoted as a place for wannabe artists to display their stuff. Harry, an artist himself, isn't too impressed.A few ambitious souls open cafes with French style names like Lyons Frere and the Miami Beach Bistro, our afternoon hangout. Its bare ceilings with the pipes coming out, wooden floors and paint splashed all over the place,kind of reminds you of Greenwich Village. Hey, we're magazine writers and its perfect, especially with the daily specials like the crabcakes and Greek salad.
The Bistro eventually morphed into the current Van Dyke but it lasted a good two years which was a big deal for Lincoln Road at that time. Stores opened and closed as fast as a month could pass, and you took bets on each new opening. A little boutique might look promising to me but Harry would quip, "I give it two months," sometimes that was being generous. Nothing much was happening. We wrote stories about Gerry Sanchez and his bold, ambitious plans for South Beach and the editors laughed but they published it anyway. Who would have guessed what the future held for a place soon to be dubbed SoBe and its surprise bonus of cafes, smart shops and Lincoln Center megatheatre on none other than Lincoln Road?

So, I walked those streets today, passing all the bright and beautiful cafes and my favorite shops like French Connection and Anthropologie and Starbucks Hear Music and Books & Books and thought about all the changes and the stops and starts. And I realized just how much I loves this stretch of Miami Beach that carries so much history and so much of my history along with it. It is just a wonderful reminder of all the friendships, even going back to my teen years, that have bonded on this famous street. When I walk the antique shows every other Sunday,it reminds me of all the future possibilities this street can carry.

In the old days, the real old days, you would play dress up, white fox stole, mink coat, fancy evening attire to walk on Lincoln Road.These days, you walk Lincoln with the South Beach look, whatever it is-Bling, retro, Ocean Drive Mag. If you're not sure, check out the store windows and try one of those looks. They'll all work. Tommy Bahama,Cavalli, Earl Jean. My style has been and will always be Southwestern, my Navajo jewelry, jeans, cords.

In another month I leave to follow my style to the west and to my western buddies. A different lifestyle,a different character and a different comfort.I will walk the Black Rock Desert in Nevada and climb Calumet Mountain in Colorado and help Blue Star build his home in Wind River,Wyoming and maybe with Brian's new green obsidian Jeep we might even chance Mt. Antero. The possibilities in life are endless and intriguing. We are in a continuous motion of change and if we put our minds to it,we can move gracefully in its rhythms, back and forth. I am blessed to live in these times and to be able to enjoy both the sounds and smells of nighttime desert sagebrush and the Mediterranean omelette at Pasha's on Lincoln Road.

When I get back, Gerri and Mitch and I will go to Balan's for dinner to celebrate her birthday as we do every year. A Lincoln Road tradition. And so we continue to keep building tradition upon tradition and memory upon great memory.