Sunday, April 8

A Barcarole For The Strip -

I was there for only the last chapter of the sad saga: the final closure of the neighborhood Trattoria. It was the southernmost institutional anchor on the strip. I'd often passed by and glanced at the regulars gathered inside since they left the door open and inviting, but I'd never thought to intrude.

The closure caused not a ripple in the rest of the neighborhood which barely noticed it was gone. Shortly after, another proprietor purchased the joint, gave it a change in costume, and opened it again as a different kind of restaurant. There are only a couple of small Italian spots left now on the strip.

The rest of the road is a graveyard of classical statuary frozen forever in its dance, faded signage, and the debris you might associate with the aftermath of a volcano. The street exhibits the cruel negligence of Blight: empty storefronts line its sides, abandoned buildings wait expectantly for arrivals that never happen.

A couple of once-great civilizations touched down briefly here a generation ago, but they are gone now. Foraging residents of the surrounding area pick their way through the shards for some artifacts they can repurpose. They move through here shrouded in the dim street lighting which disguises their assignations.

Even the streetwalkers have departed. With the downturn in the economy, their customer pool dried up, and they left for greener pastures elsewhere.  But, not to worry, because officials have announced a new building project. When the construction workers flood into the area again, the streetwalkers will come for them. And then the whole circus will begin anew: sex, drugs, and you bet your life.

Not that there haven't been new buildings installed on the strip lately. The biggest new building is a commercial enterprise that sucks money out of the neighborhood like Count Dracula. The money it takes in is on a one-way ticket out, never to be seen in these parts ever again.

Meanwhile, the vanished Italians have been succeeded by a community of invisible East Indians who remain carefully hidden behind closed doors, high walls, and bulletproof glass. Theirs are the few remaining establishments which survive as ongoing businesses.

But the Indians have good reason to be wary. A few blocks south of them, a dozen bulldozers and earthmovers are parked, awaiting the signal to pounce on another site. Development vultures patrol, watching for any signs of weakness in their prospective prey, drooling to flip their real estate. All they need is an excuse.

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Michael Sallah describes some of the shadowy characters who have been moving through South Florida Real Estate in recent years:

a fugitive Russian couple alleged to be "deeply entrenched in Russian organized crime, creating shell companies, straw buyers and brazenly stealing land through phony deeds and forgeries."

:: The Miami Herald ::