Monday, February 20, 2017

Miami Beach B-Day...

Well, it is 12:01 am, February 14, 2017 and Jackie and I are here in Miami acknowledging with gratitude, the acts of kindness and good fortune that made it possible for me to have made it to my 70th birthday, a goal made all the more poignant as so many others seem to be falling by the wayside lately.  I had a close call this year, and can take no personal credit for this dubious birthday accomplishment, particularly in view of my careless, even cavalier attitude toward my well being.  Were it not for the miracles of modern medicine and Jackie's care, my last posting ever may have been in August of this year.  I do not take this good fortune lightly, and am certain divine intervention was at play.  In this regard, it is best not to think or question to much about that which is not yours to know,  and just be mindful and grateful.

As planned the party for two began at 4:30 with pina coladas at the News Cafe fortified with floaters from a bottle I had in my pocket, followed by dinner at Spiga, a very appealing looking Italian restaurant on Collins and 12th that I had admired from afar for many years.  But alas, it was just ok.  My Caesar salad was weak and a bit wilty with not a hint of anchovy flavor and the pear/ricotta/ ravioli/pasta thing I got sounded great on the menu, but was short on flavor.  Just a bland creamy unexciting concoction that looked lifeless in the bowl.  Jackie was much more impressed by her tagliatelle and I had to agree that it was pretty good.  No need to go back, however.

Readers of this blog know that I always like to say that there is something uniquely American about America.  There is an exuberance about our architecture that expresses the unbridled hopes and aspirations, the ambition and imagination, unleashed by the unlimited possibilities of the new world that is no better exemplified that by the Art Deco District of Miami Beach.

While there is no shortage of examples of Miami Deco architecture, the Leslie Hotel built in 1937 is one of my favorites, probably because of its bright cheeriness, and because I have a niece named Leslie whose bright, outgoing ways match the hotel's warm welcoming demeanor.

Still working on the lifeguard station series, but only one new one this time.  All the others are about the same as last time we were here and already recorded, and while the weather was great for the whole week, the sky was frequently flat and uncooperative, photographically, much of time, although not always, obviously.  

Stayed for the week at the Winter Haven Hotel on Ocean Drive, a classic deco hotel built in 1939.  The room was small but nice, although a bit damp feeling and uncomfortable at times.  We didn't have a car which turned out to be a good thing, necessitating our not spending too much time in the room, and making us walk 3 or 4 miles just about every day.  Every time we are in Miami we talk about spending a month or two in the winter.  Maybe next year.

When you are on foot or riding a bike, you get to see a lot more.

An architectural detail on the wall of the old 1930 synagogue we passed on lower Washington Ave. which is now a Jewish museum.  It was a Sunday afternoon a little after 3:00 and we were on our way to Smith and Wolensky on the canal at the bottom of Miami where we love to have a two martini late lunch and watch the cruise ships leaving Miami Harbor headed for the Caribbean.  Saw 4 ships that day and were not disappointed.  That's it for now.



More on the Winter Haven...

In spite of our kind of small and mildly muggy room, one saving grace for Jackie at the Winter Haven was the french toast which was some of the best she'd ever had, which is saying a lot.  It was as good, maybe better than mine.  Thick sliced, well soaked, and well cooked to produce a sweet, custardy consistency inside, and a crispy exterior.  


And the mojitos were also strong and good, in fact when the bartender was pouring the rum, I was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to stop.  So while I'm not sure I'd stay there again, I can recommend a long, lazy late afternoons happy hours on their veranda...


Oh, and one more photo I took in a Miami cafe one morning that I liked a lot but realized there will be no place to put it, so before it becomes an orphan photo, I will append it here...There is something Gandhi-ish about it.  You can see my head in one of the central mirrors.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Back at the Cafe St. Germaine, Old San Juan...

Dateline, Old San Juan:
January 17, 2017

It's been a couple of years since I was here last, aimlessly wandering the streets in search of rum smoothies and inspiration.   I thought I had my fill of Old San Juan back then, when I almost burnt myself out spending those few weeks finishing my book "Cinco Calles".  In the end, the only thing that saved me from a complete literary meltdown were the five o'clock, five dollar happy hour mango mojitos and tapas on the third floor cafe of the St. Germaine at the corner of Sol y Cruz.   Here I gently drift into an alternative reality, channelling the zeitgeist of a time and place long gone and for the few hours that it lasted, I was in the zone, at one with the "lost generation", a raffish, Hemmingwayesque wannabe spewing meaningfully meaningless literary blather dressed to impress, masquerading as an exercise in self importance.  Poetry as a selfie of the soul.   So much so, that it brought to mind a poem I had written in the late 90's during my long cushy years of self imposed indentured servitude.

As if to deny their humanity,
the materialists have been heard to ask the question...
Suppose you were to take an infinite number of monkeys,
and place them in front of typewriters
to strike randomly at the keys
for an indefinite period of time,
could one of them product the great American novel,
a sonnet, or at least some mediocre poetry?
Why yes I could answer,
I am that monkey!!!

Now I'm back.  Perhaps you remember the interior photo I took at the St. Germaine back then and posted in the Cinco Calles posting of May 2015...

 For a change, nothing has changed.  Even me.  As luck would have it, they had not yet gotten their delivery of mint leaves for the day and therefore while mango mojitos were on the menu they would not be in our future today.  Had to fall back on a second choice which might have been a first choice anywhere else, the Boozy Colada, which lived up to it's name.  A thick, velvety rum smoothy that, with the help of a floater, got us to where we were going in no time at all.  The veggie centric tapas were few and since I avoid hummus (I am always disappointed by all but mine, since I don't skimp on the lemon and garlic) we shared a flatbread which was good.  As you don't need to be told, the photo below is the heart of the operation.

While it is not readily apparent at first sight, the next shot is actually a selfie of Jackie and I, just the way we like it these days.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it, and look in the mirror on the wall in the middle of the central area on the third floor which was still devoid of other patrons when we got there at 5:30, there we are.

The corner of Cruz y Sol from the window of our table at the Cafe.  Didn't take a picture of the exterior.  Don't know why, but there must have been a good reason that I can't remember right now.