LauderBlog

July 23: The Beckham Buzz

Posted on July 23, 2014 1:21PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Oh yeah, you can hear it around town these days. David Beckham's buzz. Folks are talking about the possibility that the star soccer player might bring his game to town. Our town, as in Broward County. Yep, right here in Greater Fort Lauderdale ... somewhere. Big time soccer with a big new stadium and a big big name behind it all. Beckham bends it in Broward. Just imagine. Nothing definite yet, mind you. Well, nothing even remotely serious yet, to be honest about it. But look, this is 2014. Buzz in the 21st Century rarely has any connection to "remotely serious." So as the 21st Century guy I consider myself to be, I've decided to do some buzzing of my own.

Because, face it, Broward County would make a swell home for Beckham's team. We have 1.815 million people, afterall. If you figure about half are women, that should mean something in the range of 907,500 season tickets. Heh-heh. I'm kidding of course. We have many many soccer fans spread around Greater Fort Lauderdale to buy those tickets, both male and female. Some of these are serious fans. Some, like me, are remotely serious fans. But lots of us will spring for tickets.

Then there's the old location, location, location thing. We are smack in the middle of a region with nearly six million residents. Interstate 95 and Interstate 75 cut through us from both the south and north, easy avenues for all those Miami-Dade and Palm Beach fanatics to join in the cheers of Broward supporters. And Beckham is planning a stadium that holds only 20,000? Beckham better build bigger if he comes to Broward, bro ... True, I admit there's the small issue of exactly where to construct this new sports venue but we can work all that out. Minor details. If his people phone our people and take a meeting or two, the deal's as good as done. Well, I'm pretty sure it could get done anyway - if Mr. Beckham wants it done. These are the advantages that come with being Mr. David Beckham. He's viewed as one of the sexiest men on Planet Earth who's married to an almost equally attractive woman who designs stylish clothes and who was a pop singing star. Oh yeah, and Beckham played some soccer too. Whatever. This is 2014 afterall and it's all about the buzz. Does any of this mean Beckham really will bring his team to Broward? To find out, you can listen carefully to the buzz - or flip a coin. Your odds of coming up with the correct answer would be about the same. As for me, I'll just try to stay remotely serious about the whole thing for now.

July 21: Finding Time

Posted on July 21, 2014 12:06PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Summer is the perfect time to find ... time. I'm talking about time for ourselves. Time to relax, to take some deep breaths, to look around and appreciate things. Last Monday, I suggested doing a "daycation" if you can't figure some way to spend a full week at a fine Greater Fort Lauderdale hotel. The "daycation" concept means luxuriating at one of those same hotels but only for a single work day, forgetting all about the office as you absorb the summer warmth into your bones. In our frenetic world, though, even one day may not always be feasible. So I'm offering another suggestion today: Just take a short break from the grind this week, an hour or less. Please. A brief getaway can do wonders for you and make everyone around you happier too through your improved attitude. It works.

Honestly, I believe in taking breaks when possible at any time of the year. Everybody needs some time to chill - and the busier our lives, the more important these breaks become. We require a chance to slow down and process what's happening, some space to put our pressures in perspective. Doing this even once a week can help a lot.

With summer a slower period for many of us, this season can give us the perfect opportunity to try slipping away from the computer for a while. Make sure to turn off your cellphone or put it in airplane mode or something. Then with a friendly wave at your colleagues, head out the door. Maybe for a walk around the block. Maybe to a nearby park. Maybe you wander to Starbucks and sit with a frappuccino for a half hour. Take a short drive in your car by the ocean or buy yourself an ice cream cone. Whatever it is, do it alone with the clear intention of giving yourself a break. If you're like me, lucky enough to work from home, you probably have more flexibility to escape from your desk for a bit longer. Hey, two hours stolen from the usual working day easily can be tacked on later if necessary. So, yes, I follow my own advice and sneak away when I can. For me, it's even more important to do this during the summertime when I can feel cooped up in air conditioned rooms or cars for lengthy stretches. Just the other day, in fact, I put on a swimsuit around mid-afternoon, walked over to the large pool at my condo complex and swam some laps. I chatted with a few neighbors and sat briefly in the heat to dry off, then returned home. I stole a few minutes more for a late lunch, nibbling on lentil salad and fresh cherries on my patio under the cooling spin of a ceiling fan. Before going inside to my iPhone and my computer and all the things still to do on a Friday, I noticed that I felt much more relaxed than earlier. Even the July afternoon heat was pleasant now. "Summer in South Florida," I thought, "not bad!" That's when I caught myself smiling as another thought popped into my head. "Not bad? Are you kidding? This is wonderful!" A mid-day break can do that for you.

July 16: Endless Summer

Posted on July 16, 2014 10:16AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Endless Summer License PlateThere he is, surfboard under one arm. Behind him, a massive half sun has turned the world into a palette of warm color, all yellows and corals, pinks and oranges. I like to think he's walking along the beach in Fort Lauderdale just as the sun ascends for the morning. A closer look, though, shows this surfer isn't on a beach at all. A symbol of what's held holy by real surfers everywhere, perhaps, he walks on water. Above him is one word: Florida. And underneath him are two words more: Endless Summer. Of course, I'm talking about a graphic image here - in this case, it's on one of this state's official license plates. Yes, the Endless Summer plate. And I'm blogging about it for a reason.

Because this Florida tag in some sense can seem more than just another option for our automobiles. Heaven knows, we have enough choices in this state. We offer license plates with whales and license plates with sea turtles and license plates with panthers. We can show support for law enforcement and sports teams and the military. We can celebrate universities and the arts, tennis and golf. Our cars can pay tribute to coral reefs and manatees and John Lennon. The list is endless. Including Endless Summer.

Just the other day I was stopped at a traffic light when I noticed the Endless Summer plate on a car in front of me. I've seen it many times before. But this time, for whatever reason, that summery image of a surfer and the sea and the sun started me thinking. In many ways, this license plate represents what Florida is all about, doesn't it? And that's especially true for South Florida, where our climate only rarely gets chilly. We are famous all over the world as a place where summer never truly dies, no matter what the calendar says. Call it whatever season you like. Our autumn, our spring, our winter ... each is simply another version of summer. There are most definitely perceptible differences among those variations, mind you. I've written about them many times in these blogs: our freshening fall breezes, our cheerful wintertime blossoms, our perfect spring temperatures. South Florida's environment is not all the same, all the time. And yet all of it is summer. So whether you come to play during summer or in some other season, you will find what you expect. A sea turned into a palette of summer colors at sunrise, warm yellows and corals, hot pinks and oranges. I can't guarantee that a surfer will wander by, crossing past the sun in silhouette at exactly the right moment. But in South Florida, there's a good chance that might happen too.

July 14: Day Dreaming

Posted on July 14, 2014 9:54AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Fort Lauderdale hotel balconyOh, for a nice day at the beach. A work day, I mean. This morning, I started dreaming about taking today off and heading out to do ... nothing. But am I at the beach? No, I am here working at my computer instead. There's a good chance you may be doing the same thing, sitting at your computer and dreaming a little. Listen, I have no complaints about my life. I love what I do and I'm very happy living in Greater Fort Lauderdale. My morning began on the patio, enjoying the warm sun and sipping a banana-watermelon-coconut smoothie. There are worse ways to kick off the work week. Still, I've been reading lately about a new trend among South Florida residents. One journalist dubbed it the "daycation" - meaning, a day spent at a fine local hotel. My choice would be a luxe property on the beach, maybe the Ritz-Carlton.

A few years ago, I did a full day at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale with Gwendolyn and we both had a marvelous time being pampered under a broad private cabana, overlooking the ocean and munching on chilled seafood. Wow, nice day indeed.

Anyway, here's what this daycation thing is all about. Like me, you live and work in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Like me, you're pretty busy. And like me, you'd love a day to do ... nothing. A work day, I mean. So what's the solution? You look for a hotel around town where you'd want to hang out, then check online or call directly to find if they offer any one-day deals. Many South Florida hotels have these packages available. Even if not, they may be willing to arrange something that would give you just what you're looking for. Can't hurt to ask, right? Right. Because what you're looking for is a vacation from the grind. A week-long staycation would be wonderful, of course, but if you can't swing that at the moment maybe a "daycation" would give your head the break you crave. Imagine lingering around a pool lined with palm trees, sucking a perfectly made mojito through a straw as a pool attendant hands you an extra towel. You slip into the water for a cooldown, order a shrimp salad for lunch, then head off to the spa for a massage. By the time you leave, you feel so relaxed that the valet nearly has to pour you into your car. At work the next day, and for weeks after this, you now and then bring to mind that lovely decadent daylong holiday. And you feel relaxed all over again. Ah, a work day of nothing except luxury. That kind of nothing can last a long, long time.

July 9: Parrot Perches

Posted on July 9, 2014 11:16AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Let's just say they like to talk. A lot. I'm not exactly sure what they're all talking about. But I do know this: Their squawky chatter makes me laugh. Our flocks of wild parrots also are a favorite photo op for tourists. And most local folks, if we're being honest, have to confess that we enjoy them too. Yeah, our parrots are noisy. But not all noise is annoying, right? We join the roar of a crowd at sporting events. We dance until daybreak at deafening clubs. We ride motorcycles so loud they can crack the eardrums of their riders. And, definitely, we do plenty of our own chattering ... On cellphones and in person. In cars, in restaurants, in offices and just about anywhere else we possibly can open our mouths and make a sound.

So, really, who are humans to complain about a little parrot talk? Maybe we feel some kinship with these blabbering creatures. I can't say. But to many of us, South Florida's many wild parrots are charming. And some places offer a very good chance of seeing them at any time of the year.

One usually reliable spot is on Las Olas Boulevard, in the main shopping district around the Riverside Hotel. Heading a block or two east from there, keep listening for the telltale squawk and look for the fast flutter of wings. Parrots tend to fly quickly in small flocks, then perch in the branches to make some more noise. Another good place to see our wild parrots is the tiny riverside park just off Las Olas. Called Colee Hammock Park, this city-owned oasis long has been one of my personal faves for unwinding on a busy afternoon or chilling on a day off. More often than not, I see (and hear) the parrots when I'm at that park, where they usually dart back and forth across the New River in groups of four or five. But you don't have to visit prime parrot locations to catch a glimpse of these birds. They are scattered throughout our community. They're a bright, colorful counterpart to the sleepy and silent iguanas I blogged about earlier this week. Like all our wild animals, native species or not, they help to make South Florida what it is today. We are one of the world's top vacation destinations, famed around the planet for our sunshine and our beaches, our sports teams, our tropical lifestyle. And our exotic flora and fauna. It's a pretty cool place to hang out, for sure. A tad noisy now and then, yes ... but that's okay. Sometimes the most charming things also come to us nice and loud.

July 7: Leaping Lizards

Posted on July 7, 2014 1:16PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They've become a much-enjoyed presence in South Florida, appreciated by tourists and many locals too. With a face that only could be loved by a very devoted mother. And if my own unscientific observations mean anything, they're making a real comeback after some tough years. Of course I'm talking about our iguanas, those prehistoric-looking lizards that once seemed to be almost everywhere around Greater Fort Lauderdale. Lately I've noticed that iguanas are much more common than they were for quite a while. When I say they went through some "tough years" I really mean "cold winters," at least by iguana standards. We had several stretches in the early part of this decade that included unusually chilly weeks in December and January.

A refreshing change for us humans. Not so refreshing to iguanas, which thrive in our hot humid climate. When the temp goes low enough, these poor creatures literally freeze - dropping out of trees, stiff as a plank. If the weather stays too brisk for too long, they don't survive. Sadly, many iguanas shuffled off their mortal coils during those winters.

You may or may not know that these lizards aren't native to Florida. You also might have heard that naturalists say they don't belong here, upsetting the eco-balance or something. But you know what? Most of us like them anyway. Because, well, what's not to like? Iguanas don't harm humans unless you're goofy enough to try picking one up. They're peaceful vegetarians that, for the most part, stand around soaking up the tropical sun and staring blankly off somewhere, perhaps thinking deep lizard thoughts. I can't say for sure. But I can say that I've recently spotted several around my own condo in Dania Beach. There's an old large, deep forest-green guy who seems to like a good swim in our lake. And there's at least one medium-sized iguana along with several small bright-green lizards, the youngsters that scamper up a tall coconut palm outside my patio. I'm seeing iguanas more often in other areas around town as well, their numbers apparently leaping upward again. If you'd like to do your own iguana-watching, give Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale a try: http://www.floridastateparks.org/HughTaylorBirch. This has long been a big iguana hangout in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Or just keep your eyes open if you're taking a Water Taxi ride near the Sunrise Boulevard drawbridge - another fave location for iguanas in the past. Let the naturalists tsk-tsk about our iguanas all they want. I think they add a lot to the exotic vibe that's so much a part of South Florida. Later this week, I'll tell you about another beloved import to our environment and where to find them in all their squawking glory. Wild parrots. Yeah, the naturalists complain about the parrots too but what do naturalists know about having fun anyway?

July 2: Going Fourth

Posted on July 2, 2014 10:28AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The summer holiday gods have smiled on us. This weekend we get three days off in a row thanks to the 4th of July. Those Friday/Monday 4ths don't come around too often. (I could tell you exactly how often if I'd paid more attention to my middle school math teacher.) In any case, it's definitely time to par-tay! And if you're in South Florida, you've come to the right place. After 25 years in Greater Fort Lauderdale, I can tell you with some authority that we do up the 4th of July in serious ways. Serious, meaning fun. Like, for instance, how about hanging out beside the Atlantic Ocean with several thousand of your best friends to hear live music and watch fireworks? See? I told you - seriously fun.

Well, it just so happens that you can do exactly that. And one of the best spots for a beachy 4th is on our most famous beach, right at the end of Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. From 12:30 to 9:30, you'll find all the makings of a holiday blast.

There will be a Kids Zone with a DJ, face painting, bounce houses and much laughter all around. The live bands strike up their sounds between 4:30 and 9, when the fireworks begin. If you've never seen fireworks shot out over the sea, you should. I don't know how the turtles feel about it, but the human crowds always let out plenty of oohing and aahing. For more info about the Fort Lauderdale beach bash, check this link: http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/events/july4. Other major 4th of July celebrations, fireworks and all, take place in communities throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale. These include big ones in cities such as Deerfield Beach and Hollywood and Pompano Beach. Here's another website for you, with the details you'll need to plan a most excellent holiday: http://www.sunny.org/july4. Of course, you don't have to join the throngs to enjoy the 4th of July, South Florida-style. You can find your own patch of relatively quiet beach, perhaps in Dania Beach or at nearby John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. Sure, all our local beaches will be busy on Friday but those two areas usually are more low-key and relaxed even during the high-demand holidays. Or maybe go for an airboat ride in the Everglades or do some shopping. Or whatever. Because remember, these three-day mid-summer breaks really don't come along very often. And if you listened to your math teacher better than I did, maybe you can tell me just how often that is.

June 30: Fun Wherever

Posted on June 30, 2014 10:29AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Ok, so you've just arrived in town for the big summer holiday. Or maybe you're doing the staycation thing, with a week at a fine hotel on the beach or something. Well, smart move by you. Because it should be a fun time with lots going on around Greater Fort Lauderdale. The good news: Weather forecasters predict an excellent chance for an enjoyable 4th of July outdoors, fireworks and all. The less-than-good news: The days leading up to the 4th may be kinda rainy. But, hey, no worries. Indoors, outdoors, or wherever - you can have yourself a wonderful vacation. Later this week, I'll tell you about some of the many July 4 celebrations, places to go for great fireworks viewing. Right now, though, I want to offer some ideas for handling the rain with a smile.

First of all, keep this in mind. Typically, our rain comes in the afternoon. Not always true, of course, but that's the South Florida summertime norm. And this means that the mornings may offer your best chance for lying on the beach, swimming, golf or any other outdoor stuff you want to do. The earlier, the better.

The next thing to remember is that our storms are pretty amazing if you really experience them. Find yourself a good safe spot away from the lightning and settle in some afternoon this week to savor nature's own fireworks display. I love our thunderstorms. You also have many indoor options if it's wet outside. There's a massive outlet mall at Sawgrass Mills, a place that could easily occupy several days if you're a serious shopper. Here's a link if you'd like to know more about this popular tourist destination: http://www.simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills. We've got museums too, such as the Museum of Discovery and Science or the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale or the Stranahan House, each one worth your time. Oh yeah, then there's Katy Perry. She's performing at the BB&T Center on Wednesday. That same night, the American Legion Symphonic Band plays at the Herb Skolnick Community Center in Pompano Beach in a concert called, "A Patriotic Celebration with a Salute to Our Veterans, Our Musical Heritage and Our Country's Heroes." Really, this should be a terrific week in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Don't let something as insignificant as a little rain get you down. It is our rainy season, afterall, and the precipitation is needed to keep everything healthy and green. Roll with it and, yep, keep that smile on your face. And get ready for a bang-up 4th of July, including the opportunity for live music and fireworks on the beach. It's always a special holiday in South Florida. With only a bit of effort, you can make the entire week just as special.

June 25: Pompano Pizazz

Posted on June 25, 2014 11:05AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Things change. Including cities. Pompano Beach offers an example of some of the good changes happening around Greater Fort Lauderdale in recent years. City officials have been working to create a warmer, more artsy feel that attracts both tourists and locals. And the best place to see what I'm talking about is at the beach itself. For the past year or so, I've been impressed with what I've found there. If you're not familiar with the new look at the Pompano Beach shorefront yet, let me tell you what to expect. First, of course, you go to A1A and Atlantic Boulevard, then turn east. Yep, east from A1A. In some spots, such as Pompano and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Dania Beach, A1A is not directly beside the ocean.

Anyway, in Pompano Beach you'll notice an attractively landscaped entrance as you motor toward the sea, pretty palm trees that welcome you to the sun-&-sand. Except in Pompano these days, it's much more than just sun and sand.

Instead, the city has built an appealing shorefront park that offers you options beyond simply spreading out your blanket on the beach to bake yourself silly. Right away, you may get a smile from the kids playing in the cute little splash pad as it spurts cooling streams of water upward. Lacy tall palms have been planted all around the area and grass provides a pleasant alternative to the sand. There's a nice little wall and a new walkway that allows you to stroll up and down the beach without getting sandy soles. Pompano has included plenty of bathrooms too - always welcome at the beach, for sure. Barbecue grills, picnic tables, sheltered tables, showers ... the usual beachside niceties. And lifeguards. Sea oats grow there as well as sea grape as the grass gives way to the broad sand that slopes gently into the water. And in the background, the well-known Pompano Beach pier extends far out over the ocean for fishing or fish watching or whatever you like to do on a pier. It's all quite delightful, really. Not too long ago, Pompano Beach was more or less an afterthought in Greater Fort Lauderdale. I can remember going with friends to the beach there many years ago and feeling less than impressed. It seemed like nothing more than a big empty space of sand without much of anything nearby. But as I said, things change. Along the Atlantic Ocean in Pompano Beach, they definitely have changed for the better. Much better.

June 23: Summery Judgement

Posted on June 23, 2014 6:38AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Summer settled in this weekend. In Greater Fort Lauderdale, so did the crowds. Wow. Whatever happened to "the slow season" anyway? That's what we used to call it in this part of the world. "Slow" as in few crowds, relatively empty restaurants, hotels with a wide array of available rooms. Parking was never an issue during the summer either, even at our best beaches. Well, my friend, I'm here to tell you all this has changed ... for the better. No doubt, the 2-for-1 seasonal bargains as well as the Vacation like a VIP promotion have encouraged more vacationers.

On Sunday I took a long drive south on A1A to check out the scene. From Pompano Beach to the beach in Fort Lauderdale, things most definitely were hopping with happy folks doing what happy folks do in the summer. Swimming, lying on the sand, playing games with friends, eating, drinking. And smiling a lot. I saw all of this through the open windows of my Mini Cooper. Obviously, locals and tourists alike have reached a fresh judgment about Greater Fort Lauderdale's summertime appeal. The slow old days are over. Enter the New Summer Season.

As I started out, I rolled by the new beachside park in Pompano Beach. I'm going to tell you more about that park in another blog later this week, if you're not familiar with the lovely renovations there. But for now, let me say only that it was packed. Every parking space along the beach was taken, with motorists idling for spots to open up, and the spacious nearby parking lot was busy too. This was at about 10:30 in the morning, mind you. People were stretched out on blankets, playing with their kids, splashing in the warm surf and generally have a darned good time. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was much the same. I also noticed many couples and families and singles out for a morning walk, maybe heading to breakfast or to the farmer's market that opens in that community each Sunday. And in Fort Lauderdale, almost every beachfront parking spot was gone by late morning. In some areas, the beach looked like it does in March at the height of " the busy season." Throngs of sunbathers and swimmers were spread everywhere. A group of fit young people were whacking a volleyball over the net at A1A and Sunrise Boulevard. Hotels and restaurants also seemed to be doing a good business, from what I could tell. It's a nice thing to see because, hey, I've been saying forever in these blogs that summer is its own special season in South Florida, offering its own different rewards from our cooler drier winters. Listen, you'll still find things a little more relaxed, a bit less bustling than during the January - April period. It's not crazy busy right now. It's fun busy, with exactly the right vibe to savor the sultry tropical days ahead.