Saturday, March 27, 2021

Return To Pompano Beach

Pompano Beach isn't quite SoDoSoPa just yet, but they're trying!

It was weird to revisit Pompano Beach after selling our condos there 15 years ago or so - just before the bubble burst.  Oh, right, there are no bubbles, just market re-evaluations.  A helpful reader taught me that.  And yes, he was full of shit.

Anyway, being in the "big city" which is all Southeast Florida is, one mega-city from Homestead to Jupiter and beyond, is pretty jarring.  People are in a hurry to get everywhere, even a block or two from their homes, and are willing to risk life and limb to do it.  Running red lights is so common that people hold back when the light turns green, to check for red-light-runners.  This means, of course, that fewer people can go through the intersection when the light changes, which in turn, encourages more red-light running.  People -what's not to like?

We decided to visit a waterfront restaurant we visited once by boat.  They have valet parking, but unlike Seasons 52, there is a huge wait for a table.  Over an hour for a table by the water, nearly an hour for a table inside, and thirty minute wait just to sit at the bar!  We ordered two drinks, which came to over $30 with tax and tip (!!!) and decided to try a less-expensive venue across the street.  Yes, we are old and retired and "living on a fixed income" and take advantage of "early-bird specials!"

But again, I am no longer in the game.  Back when we lived here, we were both working, and we spent money at places like that and never thought much about it.  People were literally lined up out the door to buy $13 cocktails in 7-ounce glasses that were mostly ice.   They must still have jobs.

The big high-rise complex that was going to be built was never finished.  They finished one building and the rest is a vacant lot.  I think it went bankrupt.  Lots of signs saying "units for sale!" and "restaurant opportunity - commercial space available!"  $850,000 for a one-bedroom "designer ready" unit on the second floor facing the dumpster - with a $3500 a month condo fee and $10,000 a year in taxes, plus another four grand in hurricane insurance.  I guess developers don't own calculators.

But construction is booming - mostly on luxury rental units, which, like the condos of 2008, are all topping out at once.  Each has a weird name, like "Luxura" and there is a wall going around the construction site exhorting us to "Live the Lifestyle of Luxura!" with photos of 20-somethings all laughing and having a good time, apparently with photo-shopped teeth.  I am not sure most 20-somethings can afford "Luxura" nor could the model by the pool wearing that kicky outfit she just bought from the boutique across the street that doesn't exist yet, but will replace the Mom-and-Pop Kebob&Gyro shop that has been there for 40 years.  Maybe.

The best part?  You'll be close to the nightlife!  And Kenny's House.

Pompano Beach (or SoPoBe, I guess it should be called) was never a high-end place to live, always in the shadow of its wealthier brethren in Ft. Lauderdale, the Galt Miracle Mile, or Miami Beach.  It was the kind of place you could buy a bungalow with a dock, to keep your 18' fishing boat at, and park you Pontiac under the carport.  It was a refuge for retired Italians from Long Island, including more than one old mobster or hit man or such.   The food was amazing.  But one by one, the old Italians have died off, and the great restaurants have closed.  Times are a-changing - but not that much.  Kenny's house is still there.  Stubbornly.

It makes us appreciate the island.  As Mark says, "you have to leave the rock once in a while to appreciate it!" to which I reply it really is more of a spit of sand and not much rock.   But it is true.  The idea of waiting more than a minute or two for a table on Jekyll Island is alien to us and would cause people to leave the restaurant.   And $13 cocktails?  They had better be artisinal cocktails cooked up just right, not Tanquerey and some high-fructose tonic water served in a small glass.

Of course, that is the thing about living in one place - you learn the ins and outs of an area, and find the real bargains, such as our favorite run-down Mexican Taqueria, or the "Taco Tuesday" special at the island tourist trap.  You also learn the local roads and traffic patterns, and learn to avoid certain streets and routes, as well as how to take a few shortcuts if traffic backs up - something that rarely happens, if ever, on our little island, other than at the gatehouse during an event.  We just never leave the island during those times.

There are still a few isolated places we remember from back in the day.  John U. Lloyd State Park (Whiskey River) for example, is still a great place to visit, but not on a weekend.  Our favorite site by the beach, where we can hang two hammocks next to a picnic table, in the shade, is still there - and rarely claimed by anyone but ourselves.  Spring Breakers have yet to find it.   Of course, they changed the name of the park, I guess because the old name was racist or something, I don't know.  Some things change, for better or worse, others seem never to change.

One thing that doesn't seem to change here is the traffic - always congested, but always moving, despite the numerous bridges over the ICW as well as the commuter train traffic from Miami.  Unlike Washington, DC, where traffic comes to a standstill and stays that way for hours, the traffic here can ebb and flow, but never seems to stop entirely.

The weird thing about Broward County is that they actually have a campground in the middle of this mega-city.  It is near I-95 and the railroad tracks.  You can kid yourself that the traffic sounds like the surf at the beach - with car horns and sirens.  There is a Frisbee Golf tournament here, and it is the first park I've been to where the Frisbee Golf course was actually being used seriously (and not by the merely curious) or utterly abandoned.  Fascinating to watch.

But we will push North soon and get back to "normal life" and finish painting the living room.  Oh, joy.   This has been a nice little shakedown cruise for our summer trip, which should take us to a dozen States or more this summer and fall, from as far North as Maine, and as far South as Alabama.  Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, New York, The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Natchez Trace, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  It is a beautiful country - get out and see it sometime.

If nothing else, it might make you appreciate home that much more!