Once upon a Time in Miami

A dream, a castle, a neighborhood uproar

Once upon a time in Cuba, there was a little boy named Anthony Enriquez. When he was just a baby, the family moved to Puerto Rico. Later they came to Miami. It was a nice place.

When Anthony turned seventeen, he bought a giant stone eagle that weighed a hundred pounds. He dreamed of putting it on a house one day.

As a man, he traveled all over the world, seeing all kinds of wonderful things: castles, ancient cities, big doorways, and bright colors. Anthony dreamed of having a castle of his own.

One day he returned to Miami. He missed his mom and dad and grandmother. His mom wanted a new house, so Anthony and his father each drew up plans. She chose Anthony's.

This made him happy.

And then Anthony fell in love with Glencers, a funny man from Venezuela who could decorate, design, and build anything. Soon they combined their names (Anthony Glencers Design) and began helping people all over the city make their houses nice.

One day in 2000 they wandered along the shore of a pleasant lake in West Miami-Dade. A big man named Mr. Booth put a For Sale sign on an empty patch of grass next to his house. The plot at 3477 S. Lake Dr. was narrow and cost $62,000. Anthony didn't think it was a lot of money. And he bought it.

He and Glencers spent all day cutting away the tall grass and trimming trees.

This would be the place for his dream house.

The neighborhood that surrounded the tiny lake was normal. People there lived in little pastel houses that looked the same. Some were dull pink, some were dull green. Some had bars on their windows and doors, but the people seemed nice.

Anthony and Glencers cut up snapshots of pretty things they had seen all over the world and put them in a book. There was the gateway to the city of Ibiza, in Spain; the big stripes on the castles in Portofino, Italy; and the big wood beams of the adobe houses in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

At the end of the book, they combined all the pretty things in a drawing of a little castle. Of course Anthony's giant eagle would go up on the top balcony, overlooking it all.

It would be a giant symbol of peace.

Their house would be taller than all the houses in the neighborhood and would have a drawbridge with a stone moat. A huge curtain the color of blood would cover the front entrance to block the sun.

A big koi pond would fill the middle of their flagstone living room.

The front would be a concrete wall with no windows. The back would be all glass so that Anthony and Glencers could spend their days looking out at wildlife in the lake: alligators, turtles, manatees.

They used a big truck to drive all over Miami, gathering old telephone poles and other building materials. They found special workers who knew how to make rounded corners, polish concrete, and build large doors.

Anthony, Glencers, and the workers toiled all day and night behind a tall concrete wall. That wall made some people angry. One day an angry old priest visited them. He lived in an acid green house down the street and made notes about code violations. Soon he began showing up every day, making notes on their house -- the height, the colors, and the crimson curtain. He drove a big truck that said "Love Jesus," but he hated their house and their dog, Caesar.

Then other people came. Some lived in the neighborhood, others simply visited. When Anthony and Glencers stepped outside the gate, people asked them strange questions.

What kind of house were they building? A warehouse? Some of the neighbors feared the men were, perhaps, vampires. Could they see their fangs? Old men and children bothered them. Often. One told Glencers he was a police officer and demanded to see the inside of the house.

Glencers and Anthony did not want to pay attention to them.

They slept sometimes on a mattress in the open living room so they could ensure the workers arrived on time. They woke up each morning to see turtles and alligators swimming in the lake, and they liked their spot.

After a year and a half, they had spent almost a quarter-million dollars to make the house just right. Two metal doors could be rolled down in a mighty storm to make the house a solid, impenetrable block. When it was finished, they painted their stripes in red patina paint, which the sun turned a bright pink.

Old people began to clamor outside. They sent an army of code enforcement officers. Was the building too high? Why was their shower so shiny? Would they park their cars in the front or the back?

A year passed. And then another six months. Finally one day a moving van entered through the shiny steel gate. The old priest tried to peer over the wall, but he could not see as they filled the castle with nutcrackers and swords and antlers and mirrors and white couches and masks and orange fish and books and statues and other things that made the little castle seem more like a dream.

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