Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Many fond memories of Little Havana

Little Havana.
It was certainly in the news the last few days, Ground Zero in the uproar over Ozzie Guillen's asinine comment about his mancrush on Fidel Castro.
The Marlins manager self-destruction aside, the flap brought back memories of my time in that colorful neighborhood in Miami.
It's where the spanking new Marlins ballpark is located on the site of the old Orange Bowl.
For 15 years every fall, I spent many weekends covering football at that historic stadium during the 1970s and 1980s.
Friday nights it'd be Miami Killian or Miami Palmetto against Miami High.
Saturdays it'd be the U before the Hurricanes got really good.
Sundays it was the Dolphins and that began with the Super Bowl years of Shula-Griese-Csonka-Kiick-Warfield, et al.
Whatever the game, I usually parked in somebody's backyard in Little Havana.
Old men would be holding up five fingers yelling, "$5! $5! No block! No block!"
That is, your wheels would not be blocked in when you got back after the game.
I usually parked further away and paid $2 or $3.
Never gave its safety a second thought, either, as I walked the six blocks or so north to the Orange Bowl.
I knew that old man would look after my car like it was his own.
The only time I had car problems, Little Havana came to my rescue.
I was headed toward the Orange Bowl early in the '80s for a Dolphin game, driving along a street in the neighborhood just east of the stadium.
Suddenly, my car stalled and I couldn't get it re-started.
Folks stuck behind me in that pre-game traffic were not happy.
Then a beautiful thing happened.
A couple of guys from the neighborhood approached me.
They didn't speak English.
I don't speak Spanish.
Yet they got under the hood, fixed whatever needed fixing and got my bucket of bolts running again.
I tried to pay them, but they wouldn't take my money.
They just smiled, we warmly shook hands and then they disappeared back into the neighborhood.
Little Havana and its people were good to me, all right, and I'll never forget it.

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