I'm now in Miami. In order to afford the move, I needed to sell both my condo and car. I did. I didn't make any money from the sale of the condo. I sold it for the amount owed on the mortgage.
Before I sold the condo I tried to replace the floors, however, I didn't finish. The unfinished work wasn't appealing, causing the value to drop. After I sold the car, I had just enough money for the move, and for the purchase of a bicycle as a form of transportation.
I purchased a blue 1998 Fuji Odessa mountain bike. The bike was blast to ride, perfect for a city like Miami.
Arriving in Miami felt like an enormous weight was lifted from my shoulders. I’ve always been a little high strung. I yearned to live in the hustle and bustle of a large city. I finally arrived in the city where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
I had an apartment and a job. The apartment was in a complex called Taho Springs. Taho Springs was located in a section of Miami called Doral, on 4800 NW 79th Avenue. I now had an opportunity to live the life I dreamt.
I arrived in Miami sometime during early 1999.
I was looking at my arrival as a new start. I was gonna make a ton of friends. I was gonna meet plenty of women. I was gonna party, work hard, and enjoy life to the absolute fullest.
Taho Springs was a very cool complex. The complex possessed plenty of grassy areas, a small gym, multiple pools, a basketball court and a large pond in the center. Benches surrounded the pond, allowing residents to relax, while enjoying the scenery.
When I arrived in Miami, I drove by the complex where I saw a for rent sign. I went to the management office, explaining my situation. I told the lady I just arrived in the city and already had a job. I just needed an apartment.
She was very understanding. To this day, she was one of the nicer people I've ever met. I wasn't making much money. I was working at a new job and moving to a new city. In all fairness, she didn't have to rent the apartment to me at all.
She probably could have found a tenant with better qualifications. I don't know her reasoning, nevertheless, she did decide to rent the apartment to me. I was very grateful. A few days later she gave me the keys. The move was official.
I’m now renting a one bed room apartment for about $630 a month. Considering the location and all the amenities, I thought the price was excellent. I was paying basically the same amount of money I was paying for the mortgage and condo fees of the condo I purchased in Connecticut.
When I moved into Taho Springs I owned very few belongings. The only things I brought from Connecticut was a computer, a small TV and some clothes. After the move, I didn’t have much money. I didn't have any furniture either.
Luckily, there was a rug in the bedroom. Without a bed, I went to sleep on the floor every night. The lack of furniture wasn't a major issue. I knew I could make do with whatever I'd find.
I didn't let the fact I was broke get me down either. Technically, I couldn't afford the apartment at my current salary. I had the mentality, if I worked hard, opportunities would present themselves. Eventually, I’d earn enough money to comfortably afford the apartment.
My life wasn’t going good in C.T.. I was determined to make it in Miami. To the point where I use to say, “I'd live in a box on the street then go back to Connecticut to live.” And at times, I probably came very close to living in a box. Parts of my life didn’t go great in Connecticut, often feeling like a nightmare. I didn't want to go back.
Shortly after I moved, a tropical storm hit Miami, drenching Doral. I think the storm was named Irene. The storm caused flooding unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The entire area was flooded with at least a foot of water. The parking lot where I was staying looked like a lake. I could have gone fishing from my patio. Days after the storm ended, the roads were still flooded.
As cars pulled into the complex they bogged down and got stuck. I was new to the complex, only briefly having met a few neighbors. Our building was the closest to the entrance. Many of the residents from my building waited by the entrance to help push cars to higher ground if they got stuck.
With a bicycle as my only form of transportation, I could only keep a couple days’ worth of food in the apartment at a time. The storm was worse than expected. The Governor flew to Miami, flying over Doral and Sweetwater in a Helicopter to see the damage himself.
Many of the stores were closed. The roads weren't fit for driving. I needed food, yet didn't know where I could purchase groceries. I didn't have a choice except to take my bike onto the flooded streets to find a supermarket.
Riding through the streets was an adventure within itself. There were parts of the street where the water was almost to the top of my bikes tires. Only a few trucks were on the road. There weren't any pedestrians or other bike riders. A lady in the passenger seat of a vehicle took a few pictures of me as she passed. She probably thought I was crazy.
I was barely able to see the road or sidewalk through the water. I couldn't tell if I was on the sidewalk or street. I remember worrying about the possibility of a storm drain or manhole being opened due to the storm. I knew I would have taken a nice tumble into the drainage area. I rode about mile before reaching higher ground where stores were open.
Taho Springs was a place where I experienced many great times, and made many great memories. Many of the things I envisioned before moving to Miami became a reality. I met plenty of new friends. I felt like I belonged.
I began looking for a girlfriend. I had my computer. I decided to go back to what I knew, chatrooms. I met a lady online named Vanessa a few weeks before New Year’s Eve, 1999. She was living in South Beach. We were both in a similar situation. She recently moved to Miami from Peru, just like I did from Connecticut.
After speaking on the phone a few times we made plans to meet each other in person on New Year’s Eve in South Beach. Neither of us owned a cellphone. We arranged to meet at a specific location, at a specific time just west of Ocean Drive.
I let my imagination get the best of me. It's 1999. I'm in Miami. I’m going to meet a girl for the first time, a girl for whom I just met online, on South Beach, for New Years. I imagined her being a little risqué with courage and faith in people. I imagined her being happy and carefree. And I imagined us having a great night, laughing, flirting, getting to know each other, celebrating the new year.
I took the bus to the beach New Year’s Eve. The area where I was meeting Vanessa was packed. Everyone was dressed very nice. I think they were dressed the way they were dressed was because most of the people planned to hit the club scene.
I was in jeans and a sweatshirt. I defiantly felt out of place. I looked for Vanessa, however, I couldn’t find her. After waiting for a while, I went to a pay phone to call her. I didn't get an answer. I kept trying unsuccessfully for the next hour. Since I was already at the beach, I decided to look for a bar to celebrate the New Year.
I found a small bar on a side street with a pool table. I ordered a beer while sitting at the bar, drinking, waiting to see if I could get in a game of pool. The people in the bar were in groups, doing their own thing. Just like the scene on the streets, I felt out of place. I stayed for a couple drinks before leaving.
After I left, I walked around Ocean Drive by the beach boardwalk. Small groups of people where spread throughout the street. After walking around, taking in the scenery I took the bus home.
The next day I called Vanessa. She swore she was at the beach, which is quite possible. I only knew what she was wearing. The area we planned to meet was packed. We stayed in touch online. A few days later, she took the bus to Doral where we met at a Miami Subs. We grabbed a bite to eat, while getting to know each other better.
She was very pretty. She was also very different than I expected. She wasn't risqué. She was very nice, well-spoken and didn't drink very much. Additionally, she wasn't as interested in a boyfriend as much as she was interested in making friends.
In other ways, we were in the same situation. Neither of us had much money. We were both trying to meet new people, trying to find groups of people we fit in with. In difference, I was looking for a female companion.
Vanessa only stayed for a couple weeks before we parted ways. Soon thereafter I became friends with a bunch of other neighbors from my building. I met a lady named Adriana. She was from Venezuela and a few years older. I was still working part-time, sometimes working over night shifts for inventory. As a result, I was often awake late at night when I was off from work.
We met late at night in the laundry room, around 2am. We were both doing laundry. She'd only been in the United States a short-time and didn't speak English. I didn't speak Spanish. We introduced ourselves as best we could given our language barrier. We were both new to Miami. We were both happy starting our new lives in a new city.
She lived in an apartment on the same floor as my apartment. Sometimes when I got bored I sat outside my doorstep. Whenever she’d see me, she walked over to talk. I had an English Spanish dictionary. We both flipped through the pages, finding different words to describe our thoughts. Each time she stopped over, we learnt more about each other. We also learnt how to communicate better. Before long we developed a very good friendship.
She often spoke about her relatives in Venezuela. I offered to let her use my computer to e-mail relatives and friends in her home country. She did and was appreciative. She was kind hearted. During her visits she noticed I didn't have any furniture or a bed.
A few days later she took me to her apartment. She purchased a new mattress and asked me to take her old mattress. I did. Her old mattress was in great condition. I put it in the bedroom and slept great from that day forward.
A few different people were staying at Adriana’s apartment. Adriana’s apartment was a one-bedroom apartment. The living room was setup like a second bedroom. Multiple cots, day beds filled the living room where relatives and friends slept.
After I got the bed I found a table and a framed painting someone left by the dumpster. They were both very cool, both in great condition. The table was well crafted, possessing plenty of character. I used the table regularly. To this day it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever owned.
Adriana cleaned houses for a living. She also had a son in high school. I'd see him playing soccer in the hallways of the complex. We became friends as well. When he got his driver’s license he took me to different places throughout Doral.
He showed me an apartment complex in Doral called Doral Isles (I'm not 100% sure of the name). Doral Isles was gated community with its own Beach. The sand on the beach was stunning. Palm trees were everywhere. Doral Isles was the type of place I didn't even know existed.
I started meeting other friends throughout the complex. I met another lady in the laundry room. We met while I was doing wash. She was going to all the laundry rooms in the complex, placing business cards on top of the washers and dryers. The business cards had her name and number, offering to give residents haircuts.
Her name was Maria, she was a few years older. She also recently moved to Taho Springs with her husband. She was trying to earn extra income cutting hair from her apartment. She took me to her apartment where she introduced me to her husband John. Soon thereafter, she cut my hair.
Over the next few months I became very good friends with Maria and John. They always tried to include me when they'd see me in the hallway. Plus, they treated me with respect. Sometimes they stopped over my apartment or vice versa.
We were all struggling, trying to find ways to make our lives better. John often talked about starting his own business. He'd run different ideas by me, asking what I thought. Unfortunately, at that age I didn't have much feedback to give him.
Marie and John were friends with a younger girl named Olga. She sometimes stayed at their apartment. She was a few years younger than myself, nevertheless, Maria and John thought we might make a good couple.
They introduced us. The four of us went out as a group a few times. We went to Bayside Market Place. We walked around, took photos and listened to live music.
Another day John drove us to the Aventura Mall. We began hanging out on a regular basis. Maria wanted to learn how to cut hair as a professional in order to get a job at a salon. We drove to Hialeah to check out a local hair cutting school.
I dated Olga for a few weeks. We got along good, though, our relationship wasn't serious. Soon thereafter we began just chilling as friends.
Things were going great. Living in Miami in a way reminded me of when I first discovered the internet. Everything was new and exciting. Adriana introduced me to Caffe con Leche and all of its wonderfulness. Caffe con Leche took coffee to an entirely new level. After a cup of this stuff I'd be in a great mood for hours. I was introduced to Cuban Coffee. Cuban coffee gets a person’s heart going. The first few times I downed a shot of Cuban coffee, I was awake the entire night.
I realized the mesmerizing effects of the Miami sun. I enjoyed stepping outside the sliding glass door onto the patio as soon as I woke up. The second I stepped outside I felt the sun warming my entire body. I just stood on the patio soaking it up for a few minutes. The feeling is amazing, especially coming from a cold weather climate.
The entire area seemed to be growing. A new pizza place opened in a little outdoor mall across the street. I was either their first or one of their first customers. The pizza was excellent. They always remembered me and were very hard workers. I liked the owners and wanted them to do good.
Whenever I met someone new from the area, I always mentioned the pizza place. Plus, I tried to eat there as much as possible. Every time I ordered a pizza for delivery, the pizza seemed to arrive in minutes. When I walked across the street to pick up food they always hustled to prepare my meal.
After living in Miami for about a year, I learnt the Miami Sun is also tough on a person’s body. I was taking buses or riding a bike every day. This was before there was a push to improve public transportation in Miami.
Even though public transportation in Miami was better than anything I'd experienced, quite often buses ran late. The area where I was living didn't have many covered bus stops. Sometimes I sat in the sun for hours waiting for the bus. Extended exposure to the sun often led to dehydration. Plus, being from a northern state I wasn't use to the heat.