Excerpts From Far From Perfect, Chapter: 14 Overlook. Some of the names within the chapter I changed to keep the privacy of the individuals private.
One day while taking the bus to work I noticed a for rent sign hanging from the top of an apartment complex. The complex was called Overlook.
Within the complex were two high rise style buildings with balcony's, a large pool, small gym, and tennis courts. The complex was gated. And most importantly, Overlook looked like the type of apartment complex found in the city.
Overlook was located near Miami International Airport, just off NW 7th Street. I called to find out the cost of a one bedroom apartment. They were reasonably priced.
I went to the management office to fill out the necessary paperwork. From there, within days, I was renting an apartment. Just like the management office at Taho Springs, the ladies working in the office at Overlook were excellent.
The apartment I got was on the first floor. It was in decent shape, located very close to the pool. I still didn't have any furniture. I owned a few milk type crates I used as shelves. Nothing else.
When I moved out of Taho Springs I didn't take the mattress Adriana gave me. Brenda owned a second bed she kept in the spare room I slept on while renting her room. Both of the next two rooms I rented had beds of their own.
Many of the stores in the immediate area were small, culturally rich urban stores.
At the time, prices were great. A small furniture store was located a block away. I walked there to purchases a single mattress for less than $50.00. I didn't have any way to carry the mattress to my apartment. Even though the mattress was only $50, the mattress was quality, very thick and fairly heavy. I dragged it all the way to my apartment.
When I arrived home, I put the mattress on the floor in the living room under a window, setting up my new pad like a studio.
Sometimes during the weekends I went to the pool in the morning. Then, when I went back to my apartment I took a nap on the bed under the window, letting the sun warm me.
After moving to Overlook, I ate my first Cuban Hamburger from a local cafe. I liked going to the local cafes to get Café con Leche’s in the morning. I didn't even know a such thing as a Cuban Hamburger existed.
On a Saturday I walked to get a Cafe con Leche early in the afternoon. I asked for a hamburger and a Café con Leche. The lady working said they only served Cuban Hamburgers. I decided give the Cuban burger a try.
Let me say, the Cuban Hamburger was delicious, packed with flavor. Potato chip fries were added to top. The Cuban burger tasted very different from an American hamburger, yet, the essence of the burger possessed the same feel as an American hamburger.
I lived in the first-floor apartment at Overlook for about a year. I was very happy with the apartment. At the same time, wanted an apartment on a higher floor with a better view. I asked the management office to let me know if an apartment on a higher floor became available.
Shortly before my lease expired, an apartment on the seventh floor in my building became available. I seized the opportunity and rented the apartment.
The view was absolutely incredible. The 7th floor apartment was facing east, overlooking the pool and downtown Miami. Many days I looked out the sliding glass door in disbelief of the view.
The layout was basically the same as the first-floor apartment, a decent size one bedroom with a walk-in closet, full bathroom and a full kitchen. Due to the higher floor, I was paying a little more for rent. However, the rent was still inexpensive, especially considering the location and view.
If I remember correctly, the rent was about $700 per month. I was making about $12.00 per hour. Even though the rent was very affordable for Miami, finances were tight.
I didn't have many friends during this part of my life. I lost many friends when I moved out of Taho Springs and the Doral area of Miami.
After the moves I had a lot of trouble making new friends. I was always looking for something exciting or different to do in my spare time.
One of the great things about living in Miami is, plenty of different events almost always take place throughout the city. And plenty of them are inexpensive. I went to as many events as I could while living at Overlook.
When there weren’t any events, I blended Pina Colada's to take out by the pool.
Although very tough on a person's body if suntan lotion isn't used, the Miami sun was as addicting as anything I'd experienced.
The pool was surrounded by beautiful palm trees and tropical foliage, positioned in the center of the two buildings. Though, many days I was the only person using the pool. I laid by the pool, by myself, relaxing.
Every weekend the Flagler Dog Track hosted a very large flea market in their parking lot, consisting of hundreds of tables selling a wide variety of items at low prices.
The dog track was only a few blocks away. I either walked or took my bike. I saved a lot of money shopping at the flea market. I purchased brand new belts for $2.00, new packs of socks for less than $5.00 as well as plenty of items of necessity. The Flea Market at the Flagler Dog Track was without a doubt one of my favorite places in all of Miami.
The atmosphere was incredible. Hispanic music played. Plenty of food stands were located throughout the flea market. I always liked walking by the Arepa stand, hearing them yell AREPA, AREPA, AREPA, AREPA. The arepas at the flea market were choice. I almost always purchased an Arepa.
Sometimes I went to the Flagler Dog Track to watch the dog races. I didn't have good luck betting on them, yet enjoyed the races.
South Beach hosted a fitness festival during the summer. The event was free and took over most of South Beach. I decided to attend, taking the bus to the festival.
The event offered a wide variety of different fitness exhibits and competitions. A beach soccer arena was set up to host soccer matches. Another exhibit consisted of a boxing ring where an instructor taught viewers how to box. They had an area for people to play paddle ball. As I was walking by, I was asked to play and did. I enjoyed the event and liked the idea of a fitness festival.
Another day I rode my bike to the Calle Ocho Festival. Calle Ocho is an enormous annual festival held in Little Havana, spanning many miles along SW 8th Street. In many ways the Calle Ocho Festival is closer to a party then a festival.
Multiple stages are set up where live music is played. They have tons of food, drinks and different exhibits. I rode my bike to the festival. I rode along the adjacent street, just South of SW 8th Street.
I stopped at one of the stages. Pitbull and Lil Jon were performing. I sat on my bike watching part of the concert. I continued riding through the streets, people watching, enjoying the music and smells of grilled food.
While I was living at Overlook, I read the first book of my life from cover to cover. I was about 30 years old. I always enjoyed reading articles on the internet and in magazines, however, I never read an entire book.
The book I read was very enjoyable. I began reading every spare minute I could find. I read every day at lunch. If I didn't have anything to do after work, I read when I got home.
I was very interested in the city of Miami, its history and the people living in the city. I purchased and read a number of books related to Miami. I purchased Miami: City of the Future by T.D. Allman. City of the Future is a very thick book, telling an interesting story. I read MOB Over Miami. MOB Over Miami details the darker side of a local nightclub owner.
Any interesting book I could find with good reviews, I read. I read the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code was very interesting, as a result I read all the books published by Dan Brown at the time. I read the Da Vinci Code, Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels and Demons. All by Dan Brown.
Over the next couple of years, I read 1984 by George Orwell, Killjoy By Judy Garwood, Seabiscuit, Joe DiMaggio: A Hero's Life, A couple of CSI Las Vegas books, a CSI Miami book, Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and at least one other book by Donald Trump.
I also read The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy. The trilogy was probably one of the coolest set of books I ever purchased.
Each book contained a series of letters. Each page has a different letter. Some pages have envelopes attached to the page. The reader opens the envelope and pulls out the letter to read. The letters are hand written. The book also possesses very creative artwork.
Sometimes I went to the Hialeah Horse Track from work during lunch time to sit in the stands and read. At the time, the horse track was closed and had been for many years. The building and track was deteriorated, a bit spooky in a cool kind of way. There weren’t any horse races or casino.
However, it was open for the public to use as a park. I usually went during the middle of the day, during lunch time. The only people I saw were a few maintenance workers scattered throughout the park, making the horse track a great location to enjoy reading a good book.
Sitting in those seats was an awesome feeling. They were the original seats from back in the day. People sat in the exact seats as they watched some of the greatest horses in horse racing history race around the track.
I climbed up towards the middle of the stands. I was the only person in the stands. I was probably a good thirty feet above the track. The dirt oval was very much intact. It looked magnificent, even if filled with weeds and grass.
The tracks signature Pink Flamingos still called the park their home, roaming free throughout the center of the track. I liked the atmosphere of the abandoned park.
After taking a seat, before I started reading, I imagined what it was like sitting in these very same seats, looking out over the track during the 1940's and 1950’s. I imagined the crowd around me cheering as famous horses like Citation or Secretariat thundered around the track.
I visited the track somewhere around 2004, during an era where there wasn’t much hope of the Hialeah Horse Track ever reopening. Many days as I sat in the stands, I thought about trying to purchase one of the chairs. I didn't know who to ask. No one was in the stands other than myself. Only a few maintenance workers were working throughout other parts of the park.
I was always thinking about ways to obtain different collectibles, especially collectibles related to Miami. I read about a collectible show in Coral Gables, a show only showcasing Miami related collectibles, held at a church in Coral Gables. I attended. Before going to the collectibles show, I already owned a small collection of magazines dedicated to Miami.
After attending, after seeing many of the cool collectibles on display, I started looking for a larger variety of Miami related memorabilia. I found a die cast 1996 Road Champs Metro-Dade transit bus for sale online. I purchased the bus at a great price.
I found a Spirit of Miami HO scale locomotive, new in the box. I purchased the train as well. Many many years later, I purchased a New York to Miami tin toy car from the 40's or 50's, the only one I'd ever seen. Even to this day, I haven’t seen another for sale.
Most of the collectibles purchased, I was only able to keep a few years. I continued to struggle financially, usually having to sell different items to pay bills. Though, owning these items, even if only for a short period of time was very cool.
After living in the complex for a while, I decided to join a gym. I joined a gym located in a little shopping center almost directly in front of my building. The gym was inexpensive with a verity of exercise machines and weights. One of my goals was to improve my stamina. Many days I went just to use the treadmill. Other days I'd lift weights as well.
At some point after moving to Miami, I ended up with a desk job. Previously, I only worked at jobs requiring physical exertion like warehouses. After I began working at a desk, I began having trouble sleeping. In the past I experienced difficulty sleeping, however, while working at a desk, things got much worse.
By the time I arrived home from work I possessed an enormous amount of built up energy. The extra energy was part of the reason I joined the gym. I went after work, lifted weights and ran a mile on the treadmill. Most nights the exercise helped me sleep better.
I've always admired and enjoyed photography. Though, I lacked education on the subject. For the most part, I just snapped away.
The scenery in Miami is stunning. Even without technical knowledge of photography, I managed to take a few good photos. As years past, I read about photography, learning how to take better photos. I learned different techniques and took a wider variety of photos with better results.
Overlook was the exact type of complex I wanted to live in. Overlook was urban, with good amenities and a great view. I didn't have many friends. I figured I could make a few friends within the complex.
From there, I turned my apartment into a bachelor pad. I set up a futon in the living room I used as a couch during the day and a bed at night. I purchased tropical foliage and palm trees. I put them by the sliding glass door. Then, I turned the spare bedroom into a computer room.
During the time I lived at Overlook I met some good people within the complex, nevertheless, I didn't develop any lasting friendships. Most of the people I met were closer to acquaintances. We'd meet in the hall, ask how each was doing, before going about our day.
At the same time, at least on the floor I was living, the residents seemed to look out for each other. Every few weeks the fire alarm went off. The alarm was usually a false alarm. However, it stayed on until the fire department arrived to do a sweep of all the floors, ensuring there wasn't a fire.
During these times, most people opened their doors to see if smoke was in the hallway. Many waited outside their doors in case the building needed to be evacuated.
My next-door neighbor was a very nice much older lady. Due to her age she couldn't make it down the stairs on her own. A few times we stepped outside our doors and smelt smoke. In those cases, everyone stayed on our floor. Tenants didn't want to leave the older lady if we needed to evacuate. The remaining tenants stayed to help her down the stairs.
The neighbors who lived in the apartment on the other side of the hall from my apartment threw parties on the weekends. I ran into them in the hallway every now and then. They were always very friendly. Nobody on our floor seemed to mind the noise. They usually played Hispanic music throughout the night.
I heard their music from my apartment. I liked listening to the music, hearing them laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves. I didn't have much of a social life. I guess in a way, I was living vicariously through the neighbors.
Towards the end of my stay at Overlook I got to know them a little better. They even invited me to a couple of their parties. I had a good time. Their parties were very similar to how I imagined.
One morning I looked out on my balcony. A couple of pigeons made a nest. Seeing them directly outside the sliding glass door was very cool. They stayed for a while, however, eventually they made a gigantic mess, causing some of havoc.
I lived at Overlook during both Hurricane Wilma and Katrina. During Hurricane Wilma the entire complex lost power for about a week. I didn't have internet for at least three weeks.
Without AC, most people including myself kept their doors open to create a breeze. A few people ran generators on their balcony's. They ran extension cords from their generators to neighboring apartments, giving their neighbors electricity as well.
Without electricity, I could only take cold showers. Food was also extremely limited. The people with grills invited neighbors over, cooking for other tenants on their floor.
The old lady next to me owned a grill. She was able to obtain a good amount of meat and rice. I remember going to her apartment for meals. She was serving anyone who walked through her door.
I lived at Overlook for about 4 ½ years.”
Things were decent at Overlook for the majority of my stay. Even though I was living in the type of complex I envisioned, I wasn't living the lifestyle I envisioned. I guess I felt my life turned boring.
I didn't have as many friends as I would have liked and there were few if any parties within the complex. I'm not saying I preferred parties every night. I'm just saying I would have liked to have made a few friends and have gone to a few parties.
For whatever reason, I simply didn't meet people in general who I stayed friends with for an extend period of time.
I tried doing different things on my own to meet females and people in general. I went to sports bars, little clubs and cafes within the neighborhood. I even went to a popular nightclub downtown.
The club wasn't like the club I frequented years ago on the Berlin Turnpike. I felt out of my element. I didn't have any luck, either meeting a female or even a friend at these places.
I've always preferred to be around people. However, I got use to doing things on my own. Doing things on my own wasn't the best scenario, however, I did get some enjoyment out of many of the things I did.
The Calle Ocho Festival was a great memory. A few times I did have friends visit I knew from different areas of the city and work. And I did meet some cool people from different floors within the complex.
After I moved out of Overlook, I moved around a bit. I rented a room from a very cool couple a few blocks away. The room had its own entrance located on the side of the house. They were renting the house themselves. The family let me move in immediately.
The house was a Spanish style house with an outdoor tiki bar in the backyard. The husband worked for the city as a driver for the disabled and elderly. His wife was nicknamed the Ice Queen by friends because she liked to keep the Air Conditioner at a very cold temperature.
The AC in my room was part of the central AC system. I didn’t mind the cold temperatures. They also had a daughter who was going to college in Connecticut, at UCONN.
I thoroughly enjoyed staying with them. They treated me with respect and were friendly. Sometimes they invited me inside the main part of the house for lunch. The way they invited me and treated me felt genuine, less invasive than other places I've stayed at.
The Ice Queen told me about a great outdoor restaurant down the street at the corner of Flagler and NW 57th Ave. They served Cuban food and fresh juice. She said they delivered a different meal each business day of the week for $25.00 a week.
The food was great, and the price was great as well. The Ice Queen either worked from the house or got home early. She had meals delivered during the week.
Riding was still one of my favorite past times. I often rode my bike around the neighborhood. During the majority of the time I stayed here I was between jobs. I spent many days trying to find employment. Eventually, I found a somewhat steady job. However, I only lived at their house few months. Money wasn't the issue. Money was tight, yet, somehow I paid rent every month.
The house was being foreclosed on by the bank. The landlord informed the family. As a result, they decided to move.
They asked if I wanted them to try to find a place with an additional room. I thought the offer was very cool. At the same time, I didn't want to put them in a difficult situation.
I moved out as well. I probably could have stayed an additional couple of months, rent free, by myself until the bank took over the property. I didn’t.
After leaving, I moved around a bit before I found a studio in a small apartment complex on West Flagler Street.