A Pirate Looks Back at 41 Years

Today is May 11. Forty-one years ago, a child was born in Coral Gables to immigrant parents. The mother from Cuba and the father from Uruguay, who through fate met in a small city called Miami, Florida. Coral Gables is a small city adjacent to Miami in a County which was then called Dade.

May 11 is an interesting day. For on this day, two notable artists were also born on this date: Salvador Dali the surrealist Spanish artist and Irving Berlin, a Russian immigrant who would become one of our greatest composers of such songs as “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.”

Now the child born in Coral Gables on that day in 1965 was born in a different time and era; the mid-sixties. The Beatles just recorded the album “HELP!” and were two years away from Sgt. Pepper. The hippies were not hip yet. LBJ was president, and this child’s parents were unemployed. In the previous five years, the mother had used every effort to bring her entire family from Cuba, many of them staying in her house. Fortunately, just before May 11, 1965, the mother’s parents finally reached America from Spain, after having managed an escape visa from communist Cuba.

During this era, much of the natural world of South Florida had not yet been bulldozed over. One could see Biscayne Bay from US-1 and Brickell Avenue in those days. Try looking for it now. I-95 had yet to be connected from Miami to Palm Beach. Men had yet reached the moon.

That child as you can probably guess, was me. I have little memories of the 1960’s except for a few. I remember the moon landing. I remember my mother playing the piano. I remember Eisenhower’s funeral and I can recall my fourth birthday party. My fourth birthday party is notable because I jumped into my backyard pool wearing the nice birthday outfit my parents bought me.

My memories really lie more in the 1970’s. I remember that as a 7 year old, the current age of my son, I used to walk by myself to the corner store to buy packs of Topps baseball cards for ten cents each. My abuelo would give me one dollar and I would buy ten packs of the 1972 series cards. Stick as much gum and my mouth and hope to get cards of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1971 World Series Champions. My favorite players were Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. I don’t know why I took a liking to the Pirates, but they remained my team until the Marlins finally came to town. I would always check the TV listings to see if the Pirates were playing. Back in those days, since we did not have a local team, we had Atlanta Braves baseball. So I would watch that each day and would listen to the Braves games on the radio, WKAT back then. I liked the Braves in those days because they were perennial third place teams behind the Dodgers and Reds which I hated. I also hated the Phillies. Any team that gave the Pirates trouble, I hated them.

I also remember discovering the Beatles in the 1970’s. A friend turned me on to them when I was in Elementary School. I then turned all my friends on to the Beatles. Hell, we were the only sixth grade class with Beatle song sing-a-longs during lunch. I once pissed off the music teacher because I started playing on her piano “I am the Walrus” and went into the chorus, “I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the Walrus….” She did not find it too amusing.

My city has changed throughout the years. All the green spaces replaced by high density condos and shopping malls. Although, if you look, sometimes even in the City, you can see what I saw in the above image at Key Biscayne, Florida. There is beauty all around us. You simply have to look for it. Yes, even in what we call progress, we can find natural beauty.

But is it progress that we cannot let our kids play in our front yard unsupervised? I used to be able to do play in my yard or a friend’s yard. I used to walk to school by myself or the corner drugstore at age 10. The truth is that we were all safe. Kids were not getting murdered, molested, or shot like they are today. We read books. We played with our friends in those days. We went out on Halloween by ourselves. Those days are long gone.

Now it all seems that the innocence of youth is all but gone at such an early age. What future lies for our children is scary.

As for me, I find my solace in nature. I find peace of mind in the Everglades and in our natural environment, or at least, what remains of it. Another place that I find peace is near the ocean. No matter how bad things are, put me in front of the ocean, and my ailments are cured.

So, as I do each year, I spend the mornings of my birthday out taking photos of nature. I’m back from my morning shoot and have to go thorough some 300 images of egrets, herons, and other interesting critters from this morning.

It’s been an interesting run thus far. Let’s see how things are ten years from now.

I close off this essay with another Owl image since it is Owl Week at PPG.


Julio Zangroniz said...

Incredibly beautiful image. Like you, I think that beauty is there, waiting to be "collected" by anyone who takes the time to look for it --even if it's only a few seconds just before sundown, or in a more permanent piece of celluloid (or digital info).
And you are right. The times *really* have changed. I'm a bit older than you (59), so I can recollect "the good old days" a bit longer.
I feel bad about how *my kids* --now 23 and 25-- will have to cope with their world.
Thanks for the post.

Pete said...

Happy Birthday Mike. Cool memories. You are actually younger than me by about six months. I was born in Santiago de Cuba on Dec. 16,1964. Left Cuba when I was One, so I don't remember anything. I would like to go back someday and see where I was born, but not while the Tyrant is there.

My abuelos thought they would go back someday and they all passed before they could go. My father thought he might some day go back, he's 71 now, and has little hope of seeing a free Cuba again. We went from Cuba to Spain, to Puerto Rico and finally to Miami. My dad calls Miami his third exile. My recollection starts in P.R.

I remember seeing Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in our black and white TV. Didn't really discover the Beatles until Jorge my next door neighbor in Miami introduced me to them while we were in high school.

There's a saying that "anytime past is better than the present" I don't think times were necessarily better but they were surely simpler in many ways. Life had a slower pace that I miss sometimes now. The days and weeks seem to fly by now. We cram more and more things into each day, multitasking ourselves into oblivion. And unless you make a conscious effort to stop and look around, like you do with your camera, our lifes are just blowing by in the blink of an eye.

Lets hope our children and their children will have the wisdom to take a few steps back from the abyss we sometimes seem headed to.

Srcohiba said...

Amen to ya Pete. My folks are from Oriente too. My grandma from Santiago so who knows, we may be related.

Pete said...

Every Cuban has a story to tell. You could write volumes longer than the encyclopedia Britanica documenting all the stories from the Cuban plight. My dad for example tried leaving Cuba for Jamaica in a boat. He and several other friends including a pregnant woman. The motor on the boat broke down and they were lost at sea, drifting for three days and nights. They ran out of food and water and became dehydrated. They thought they were all going to die and started saying their prayers. Then they spotted land. They thought they were seeing the mountains of Jamaica, and started paddling towards it. The boat smashed against the rocks of the coast and broke apart. They almost drowned. When they were spotted and rescued, they realized they were back in Cuba. My dad spent I think a year in jail. He was let out sooner because my Grandfather had some influence as he was a well known business man. My dad had just met my mom and he was planning to send for her, and marry here once he was out of Cuba. If my dad had died at sea, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this. Next time I see him I will ask him to tell me the story again. For it's been years since he told me the first time.

What is your Mom's maiden name?

Srcohiba said...

her family from Santiago is called Parlade...

they had a family of doctors. My grandma was a Dr. in Pharmacy.

Pete said...

My dad knows a Carlos Parlade in Puerto Rico. He says that he used to play in a big farm next to the river that belonged to the Parlades.

Anonymous said...

To Srcohibe:

I am a Parladé as well and I am in the process of developing our family tree. Surely we are related. Please contact me through an email to isla9209@hotmail.com
Thank you