For a variety of reasons, my wife and I don't live in the United States. But her parents are in Miami, and by the force of some maternal magnetism, we've had both of our children at South Miami Hospital.
When our daughter was born in 2016, we exploited the generosity of a family member and stayed for three months at their old house near the Shops at Sunset Place. It had a pool and a backyard. We hosted friends and barbecued out on the grill. In the early evenings, I jogged rectangles around the neighborhood blocks.
From that time, what I remember vividly is smoking a Cohiba beside the pool's aquamarine glow after the baby was asleep, feeling master of my borrowed suburban domain.
Then we returned to the Dominican Republic, where my wife had a job. Two years later, we were making plans for another trip to Miami, this time for an extended, eight-month maternity leave. We decided to go wild this time. We won't be in our 30s forever! And probably never again in Miami. So we rented a place on Brickell Bay Drive. It was the cheapest furnished two-bedroom we could find: a $2,200-a-month short-term lease at the Four Ambassadors.
You might know the Four Ambassadors as the sad huddle of squat high-rises blemishing the Brickell skyline. Before we visited, I had searched the address. Google Street View showed a gold-plated Hummer waiting to be valet-parked. The place was Wynwood, Little Havana, Coral Gables, and Jewish Miami Beach all in one (somebody slapped a mezuzah on our door frame when we arrived). The sixth-floor hallway was coated in several layers of calcified marijuana smoke. The lobby of the complex, an immaculately preserved snapshot of 1987, should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site or the setting of a Cocaine Cowboys 3 reenactment.
At least we were in Brickell, where you can walk or take the Metromover almost anyplace worth going.
Home, sweet home.
In hindsight, of course we weren't going to "go wild." We had an infant and a toddler. When we left the condo, it was usually to drive our daughter to preschool and pick up Pampers for our son. On our way in and out, we brushed with miniskirts and Maseratis, immigrants and investment bankers.
And we saw a lot of parents, too, navigating the only truly walkable neighborhood of Miami, with City Minis, Starbucks, workout clothes, and laptop bags, trying to do it all, not succeeding.
But at least we were in Brickell, where you can walk or take the Metromover almost anyplace worth going: namely Sparky's, Bali Cafe, and, if you can scrounge up a babysitter, the Corner.
We crossed the bridge to Brickell Key at least three times a week. It got us out of the house. We walked around the perimeter path for exercise and sent our daughter scampering across the grass of the park at the southern end of the island. The skyline — our proud old towers standing firm against another building boom — lighted our evening walks. I jogged without headphones and listened for different languages. The collision of cultures, the weight of the skyscrapers, and the roar of 737s leaving MIA reduced our new-parent problems to their proper scale.
The yachts glided by. The bikinis twerked. The people at the Mandarin sipped their cocktails and wine. And through it all, we pushed our stroller, interlopers among imposters, hardly living the life, but still in the most beautiful city on Earth.