going back to the basics
at the speed of light
going back to the basics
at the speed of light
Say Miami and people reply with, “Beach, please.”
Yes, from what I saw in my brief time in Miami, the city is all about its many beaches, suntans, margaritas, and coastal souvenirs.
But what if you don’t like all of the above?
That was me in Miami. A vegan in the seafood city. A park walker among shopaholics. The best thing about it, though, about being an outcast, is that you find places no one else talks about.
Like The Freedom Tower, for instance.
An art museum and the headquarters of a few departments of the Miami Dade College, the Freedom Tower was once the epicentre of Miami’s people.
When I first set eyes on the building, I knew nothing about it. My map informed me it was a museum, and curious to learn the city’s culture - and more so to avoid standing under the sun - I entered the intricate architectural marvel. I’d noticed from afar that it was a proper tower. Although smaller in diameter than the buildings I’d seen in New York City and Chicago, it’s just as tall.
Paying a rather hefty entrance fee of $12, I went it with a confused mind. Perhaps I over paid, I wondered. I worry about entrance fees where ever I go, not because of the price but because I hate leaving thinking I’d wasted it. The thought lingered as I accepted the brochures from staff, listening as they explained what I should expect to see before letting me explore.
Constructed in 1925, The Freedom Tower was the headquarters of The Miami News, which the publication vacated in 1957 as refugees from Cuba flocked the city and the government needed a place to process them.
As I stood there watching vintage photographs of the people who’d fled Fidel Castro’s regime to come to Miami instead, I felt an intense coldness replace the heat in my body. Children torn away from their parents, families shattered, lives disrupted, these people had come to the only place that’d take them. And there I was, half a century later, on the same spot that the early residents of Miami had bled and wept.
It was a powerful moment of realisation. Although the government sold the building to private buyers afterwards, it still stands as a haunting reminder of the city’s history. It’s no wonder that Spanish is such an integral part of Miami - airports, stores, street signs all had a Spanish version of their English text and messages.
Concluding that I hadn’t wasted my money at all, I moved on to other exhibits. Sure, I could’ve learnt the history and, perhaps, even seen the photos online. However, there’s a strange comfort about being in the presence of history.
The building’s design included the original but painters had to recreate it in 1988 to protect it from ruin.
This one showcased hundreds of artefacts and tools used by early settlers of Miami, including cultural representations from ancient civilisations, as well as paintings and statues of olden traditions like games, meditation behaviours, and social gatherings. Original copies of history books and writing samples, and even copies of Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.
This is an entire floor dedicated to social and technological advancements in the US. It was perhaps the most interesting and surprising part of my visit to The Freedom Tower. It showcases social developmental proposals from individuals and organisations. Some of them were just plans but some were in production.
Examples include, an urban housing plan for California, an upgraded city plan for Detroit, eco-friendly gear and cycles for farmers, waste management systems, abortion awareness campaigns, hydrology development plans for LA, and even a proposal to revamp windows in prisons to improve inmates’ morality.
These stunning proposals made me wonder how much the world is changing and how less we’re aware of it. New home designs, architecture plans, systems for police personnel protection, smart vehicles, all of which were a glimpse of our potential and the possible future. Humans are incredible, and the mind’s capabilities transcend the impossible.
If only we put that to good use, we’ll leave the world a far better place than we found it. Perhaps humanity isn’t lost after all. If only -
Good times have gone by
trials, testaments gone by
trailing still, traces
– – – – – – – – – –
Photo: Vintage typewriter at the American Writers Museum, Chicago.
My first day in Chicago, I decided to visit the bean. Of course, I’d heard from friends who’d visited and from the countless online recommendations that visiting the Millennium Park and The Bean within is a must-do activity while in town.
And so I did. Clutching my umbrella trying to stay dry—on the second day of summer, mind you—I entered the almost empty park. It was a Friday, but the rains had doused minds of potential tourists (I realised on another day).
Unmissable and grand was the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Facing the Great Lawn, it’s a massive open area fit for concerts and parties for none other than the second-most populous city in the United States.
It took me a while to comprehend the grandeur of the Pavilion, and even more time to understand how weird the structure is. It’s an architectural marvel, for sure, but to me at first, it looked like a giant spider’s web—but a beautiful one at that, though.
Turning away, I faced the only other thing everyone spoke about—The Bean. I’d never understood what all the hoopla was about it. And I thought perhaps I’d see what’s so great about it when I did indeed see it in real life. I didn’t.
Sure, it looked nice. It’s a giant coffee-bean-shaped metal structure that reflects everything in front and underneath it. And because of the unique shape, the reflections are different from one place to another. When I stood outside the bean, my reflection seemed just like on any other mirror, but as I walked underneath, my reflection distorted. It was interesting for a few minutes, but I couldn’t gather why it’s such a huge tourist destination.
At that point I realised: The bean isn’t the only worth-while spot in the city. And I decided to find the other, less known marvels—the places that don’t make it into popular tourism brochures. And I did find some of them, too. (More on them later.)
Expecting something more promising from Chicago, I turned to the Lurie Garden. The raindrops on petals made already enchanting plans even more attractive. It was a beautiful sight. And like any plant-laden area, the scent of wet grass and fresh blossoms cheered me up in an instant.
As I walked around the garden, crouching low to read the name cards of the plants, I realised how towering the buildings of Chicago are. All around me were high-rise constructions—some gawk-worthy, to be honest—looking over puny trees and humans alike. I was in a natural sanctuary in the middle of a concrete jungle.
Exiting the garden, I got lost. The Millennium Park is such a large area that it’s only too easy to lose your way. I didn’t mind, though. I like walking and exploring and I ended up going round and round in circles.
Then I saw something odd. It was a huge pillar, sitting snug in the middle of a big clearing. As I approached it, I saw it wasn’t a pillar but a fountain. A huge structure spitting water in an incessant manner. And it was still raining. When I walked around it, I saw there was another one, and with the face of a child on it. It was a pair of fountains, both flashing human faces that spew copious amounts of water.
It was fun to watch, but soon lost it’s thunder. It’s a massive attraction for tourists, and as I saw on a different day, children and parents alike play and drench themselves in the fountain.
For me, though, it’s more interesting to think about the resources and effort it took to construct these architectural wonders of the Millennium Park. During my visit I came across hundreds of such large and grand structures that must’ve taken the best of architectures and the most expensive of materials. It put the wealth of corporate America in a new perspective.
Oh, but the trip was wonderful. And more posts (and photos) follow.
Learning every day