LauderBlog

Sept 17: Landing at Last

Posted on September 17, 2014 9:30AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Sometimes a mere strip of pavement is more than that. And so it is here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Because after two and a half years of very intense work, a new runway will be christened this week at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. You well may ask, "So what?" Indeed. Except that, really, sometimes a mere strip of pavement is more than that. Not only is this a state-of-the-art runway, it's also an impressive piece of construction in its own right. But most importantly, that mere strip of pavement will ease all of our airline comings and goings from this community, reducing airport holdups and allowing larger aircraft such as 747s to land here for the first time. The cost: $826 million. It's a big deal - and it's been a long time in the making.

I know this because I've watched that runway-making up close and personal. I live in Dania Beach only a few miles from the airport, you see, and I followed the legal wrangling that went on well before construction began in January 2012. Then like so many folks who drive in Broward County, locals and visitors alike, I have endured endless changes to the roads in the area as the runway slowly took shape.

During all this, I was fascinated to see the evolution of the huge project. Massive beams were trucked in along with even more massive mounds of earth, soil that was piled high into a large hill rising some six stories on the east side. In flat South Florida, it looks like a mountain. The new runway is elevated over Federal Highway, angled southwest to northeast, and cars pass through cavernous tunnels beneath it. Wait until you see this thing. Or land on it. The grand opening on Thursday is scheduled for 10 am with some 600 VIPs on hand as the first landing takes place - an Airbus A320 with another 150 VIPs and media aboard. See what I mean? A big deal. From now on, flying in or out of FLL should be easier than ever. Of course, this always has been the simplest and most pleasant airport in South Florida, an opinion shared by many of my fellow South Floridians. Parking's a snap, crowding normally is minimal except during extreme peak times ... and the airport is a stone's throw from Port Everglades for cruise passengers or I-95 for tourists who want to motor off in rental cars. Oh yes, this week marks the start of a new era for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. And for Greater Fort Lauderdale. This is no mere strip of pavement. It's the future.

Sept 15: Seaside Sundays

Posted on September 15, 2014 11:39AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

How would you spend a Sunday by the beach? There's no bad way to do that, I promise you. It's all good, as the saying goes - and in this case the saying actually is true. I was thinking about that over the weekend, well, on Sunday specifically. Because I found myself at the beach doing my own favorite seaside activity. I was eating. To me, there's nothing quite like dining al fresco by the ocean to make good food taste even gooder ... uh, better. Whatever linguistic skills I possess can fail me at moments when I'm savoring linguini by the waves. Or conch chowder or bacon and eggs or pretty much anything that's tasty. So yes, on Sunday I stopped on a whim at a lovely Fort Lauderdale beach café for a brunch of fresh orange juice and a Greek salad. Delish.

But as I looked around, I realized that lots of other people have very different ideas about the best way to spend a seaside Sunday. It turns out that not everyone wants to sit and eat. Don't ask me why.

The Exercisers: You know the type. They each run energetically past you, or skate or skateboard or bicycle or maybe just walk at a fast clip. And they delight in doing this as you sit there, eating. Still, I have to admire their ambitious approach to weekends. (I like to think they all meet up somewhere for burgers and fries after their workout.) The Readers: At the opposite end of the activity scale, the readers take their sitting-by-the-sea very seriously. Hey, at least I get exercise by lifting a fork to my mouth. But not the readers. They just grab their books and settle in motionlessly for hours, whether with a paperback or a tablet. Personally, I'd rather look at the ocean than at a book but who am I to judge? I guess they're having fun. The Socializers: I watched a group of 12 socializers on Sunday coming out of my café, all laughing and teasing together. Some folks prefer visiting the Atlantic Ocean in packs, creating their own mobile par-tay. I suspect Sunday socializers are fueled by quantities of healthy Sunday beverages - like mimosas, mojitos and margaritas. Oh, yeah, then there's all those other people who go to the beach too. They simply slather on sunscreen all day and lie in the sun and play with beachballs or Frisbees and maybe take a dip in the sea now and then. Some of them venture out a bit farther by riding waverunners or floating under parasails or whatever else. As it happens, this category of weekend beachgoers often makes up the majority of the seaside crowd at Greater Fort Lauderdale's Blue Wave beaches. Okay, sure. To each their own. It's just hard to see why I'd want to complicate a perfectly fine Sunday beach visit with something like exercise or reading or sunbathing when I could simply sit there eating. There's nothing complicated about a glass of OJ and a Greek salad. But don't try to explain this to the exercisers among us - they'll never understand.


Sept 10: Ties That Bind

Posted on September 10, 2014 11:26AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

South Florida is never far from New York City - all of the Northeast, actually. I mean that in more than one way. The obvious way involves our many air connections to and from that part of the country. A flight from the NYC area to Fort Lauderdale is cheap and a cinch to arrange. But there are other, deeper connections between the Northeast and South Florida too. And this seems a good moment to remember those again, now as we approach another 9/11 anniversary. We are linked with our northern friends, and especially with New York City, through the bond that is our people. Greater Fort Lauderdale is filled with full-time and part-time transplants from the great metropolis, folks who came here for the tropical lifestyle. Sun, sea and sand are hard to resist after a lifetime of snow, sleet and slush.

South Florida also is a hugely popular tourist destination for Northeasterners, of course, and we always are grateful for their visits throughout the year. And as the northern presence has taken root down here, businesses have sprung up to serve that population. Delis, bakeries, shops, restaurants. Just look around and you'll find them.

But the bond between us is greater than that. The culture of the north has influenced the culture of the south, entered the mix that includes other influences from places such as the Caribbean and South America, Europe and Asia. Our unique vibe pulses with more than one jazzy harmony straight out of Manhattan. You'll hear this if you listen carefully. And so the shock that was 9/11 hit us in South Florida even more profoundly than in many other spots around the United States. When the towers collapsed, we could smell the smoke in Fort Lauderdale. I recall talking with my travel magazine editor, Arthur Frommer, shortly after the attack. Based only blocks from the World Trade Center, he knew people who had died that day and told me about them. A very, very personal connection for me. I visited New York less than two months later, when the ruins still sighed a continuous cloud of smoky ash. Soon after, I wrote a poem that now is part of the Artists Registry at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. If you're interested, you'll find it at this link by clicking on the quill pen icon: https://www.911memorial.org/registry/rsk1writer. Every American over the age of 20 recalls exactly where they were when they first learned about 9/11. That memory is a permanent part of us - and may nothing like that tragedy ever happen again. As we remember 9/11 this week, every one of us has that same hope. And those of us in South Florida also can feel grateful for our close friendship with the people of New York and, yes, all of the Northeast. And we thank them for it. Whether or not they ever set foot in Greater Fort Lauderdale, they're each here among us all the time. Believe me, they are here.

Sept 8: A Life Lesson

Posted on September 8, 2014 9:31AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You can learn a lot in South Florida just by looking around once in a while. Sometimes the lessons come in the most unexpected places. From the most unexpected sources. I was reminded of this again over the weekend when I glanced out my third-story bedroom window, only to discover something I'd never seen before during 25 years in Greater Fort Lauderdale. An iguana climbing a building. A tall building. My condo building, specifically. Yep, there he was staring forlornly in at me and clinging for life to the slippery sides of a structure he had no business trying to scale. Small lizards such as geckos, sure no problem. They crawl up and down buildings all the time. Large and lumbering tree-climbers such as iguanas, definitely not. They rely on claws for traction in ways that geckos don't.

This was a small bright green iguana, obviously quite young and even more obviously inexperienced in the ways of the iguana world. The problem, of course, was that the condo's slick white paint didn't allow him to turn around and climb down. Climbing even higher to reach the roof evidently didn't seem like a good option either. He was stuck 30 feet in the air with no easy escape.

Looking at this poor creature outside my window, I had to laugh. You almost could see the wheels turning in that tiny lizard-mind as he tried to figure a way out of the fine mess he'd gotten himself into. And just about then, it struck me: This lizard wasn't much different than any of us at certain moments in our lives. In a bout of bravado, perhaps, or simply misjudgment, the little guy had attempted something that seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn't a good idea. He didn't learn that, though, until he was too far into the whole thing to turn back. Some lack of experience had landed him in a serious jam. Sound familiar, maybe? It sure does to me. I suspect all of us have worked ourselves into those "Uh-oh!" spots. You know, "Yikes! What have I done?!" Some of us may use words other than "Yikes" of course. In any case, you no doubt can appreciate this youthful iguana's predicament now. I found myself wondering what I could do to help. I mean, I couldn't exactly call the fire department, right? This wasn't a cute kitten. It was a very non-cuddly iguana. You'll be pleased to hear that this lesson in the dangers of poor planning has a happy ending. As I watched, the iguana suddenly sprang from the building to a bottlebrush tree about four feet away from the condo - and he made it. I spotted him with all four legs wrapped tightly around a spindly branch he'd managed to grab while falling. The iguana was safe. And hopefully much the wiser for his ill-conceived escapade. For my own part, well, I also felt enlightened in some way. Relieved as well, I guess. Because, hey, if even iguanas can find solutions to the problems they cause themselves, there's a pretty good chance the rest of us can do it too.

Sept 5: Hollywood & Fine

Posted on September 5, 2014 11:07AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

I was in downtown Hollywood last week around noontime. Good move. Because I ended up with a delightful lunch - and a reminder about Hollywood as it is these days. It's a pretty cool place. Okay, so here's what happened. I'd made the short trip from my Dania Beach condo to my Hollywood hair stylist for the usual once-a-month cut. But when I got back to my car after the haircut, I realized I was hungry. And the fine options on Hollywood Boulevard felt tempting. So I settled into an outdoor café table by myself at Taverna Ylamas, which is among the many terrific Greek restaurants in Greater Fort Lauderdale. I've eaten at Taverna Ylamas before and thoroughly enjoyed it. Just as I did this time around. Mmmmmm ...

Half of a Greek salad, some fried potatoes and a bottle of sparkling water seemed ideal for the warm afternoon. And there was occasional conversation with my server, Sarah, a young woman of Middle Eastern ancestry who couldn't have been more pleasant. Plus it's always entertaining to catch the vibe along downtown Hollywood Boulevard, whether mid-day or at night. So I sat, sipped, munched, chatted and watched. Not a bad way to spend a lunch hour.

I've found myself going to downtown Hollywood more and more in recent months, Each time, I discover something that impresses me. Being so focused on lunch last week, I noticed the broad variety of restaurants there. You can go Irish at Mickey Byrne's or Jamaican at Ginger Bay Café. Or maybe Mexican at either Takitos or Orale. Or what about Vietnamese at Pho VI or Japanese at Tokyo Grill or Thai at Red Thai & Sushi or Chinese at Huang's Mandarin House? There's vegetarian too and Peruvian and Argentinian and no fewer than nine spots for eating Italian. Impressive, no? Yes, definitely impressive and I could go on. But it's probably easier if you just check out this link for a list of the restaurants: http://www.visithollywoodfl.org/DiningGuide.pdf. You'll also see a listing of eateries along Hollywood's oceanfront Broadwalk or on the Intracoastal Waterway if you prefer. Or you simply can head to whatever area you like best and look over the restaurants in person before you pick. Scope out the menus, get a feel for the ambience, maybe say a few words to the staff. Then do what I did. Settle into the restaurant that seems perfect for you on that particular day, order exactly the meal you want ... and savor the experience. Because, if you're like me, there's a good chance you'll try a different place the next time you're in Hollywood, if only for something new. All I know is that a lovely bowl of authentic Vietnamese pho is starting to sound pretty darned good to me right about now. Like I said, it's a pretty cool place these days.

Sept 3: Chic to Chic

Posted on September 3, 2014 8:46AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

So we've all survived another August in South Florida. Excellent! And now there's something fresh to prepare us for the fall season soon to come. It happens every year from September 1 through 30. They call it Spa Chic. And all I can say is get ready for some serious relaxation. During this month, we can knock 50% off the price of full spa treatments at some of the best places in Greater Fort Lauderdale - or in all of South Florida, for that matter. For $99 we can settle in for an aromatherapy massage, my all-time personal favorite among spa treatments. Then we'll also receive a facial, loofah scrub and reflexology treatment before the spa folks pour us out the door and into our car for a chilled-out drive home, whatever the traffic hassles. Who can worry about gridlock after a spa session like that, eh?

To find out more about Spa Chic, here's the link: http://www.sunny.org/spachic. You'll discover some familiar names there, truly luxe spas such as Spa Atlantic at The Atlantic Hotel & Spa or The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. Or Bliss Fort Lauderdale at the W Fort Lauderdale. Or Spa 66 at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six. Or Spa Q at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort & Spa.

Some of our local day spas are taking part in the Spa Chic promotion too, including Karma 7 Day Spa and Planet Massage. You get the idea, I'm sure. Lots of top choices for that pampered treatment you've been craving. Everyone can use some TLC now and then, someone to give us the gentle, caring attention that seems so rare in our hectic and competitive society. So I say, why not grab the opportunity now that it's here? Can't you just almost feel it already? I can. There's that comforting stroll toward the treatment room among the lovely scents and soft sounds. And you are pretty sure this is going to be great. Of course, it is. Your muscles give up their tension little by little as the massage therapist works down your neck and shoulders to the back and arms and legs. By now, you're probably not thinking about much of anything as you lie on the massage table ... as it should be. But one brief thought suddenly pops to mind: "What was I so stressed about anyway?" When the massage ends, you remember that there's still much more of your Spa Chic session ahead before you have to leave. Ahhhhhh. And when you finally go outside, the world will be exactly the same as it was when you entered the spa. Naturally. But the funny thing is that it's likely to seem like a much nicer place somehow.

Aug 27: Past Labors

Posted on August 27, 2014 11:17AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Why not do "different" this Labor Day weekend? You know, try something you've not done before. Like, maybe taking a long look backwards to better understand how this part of South Florida came about. That's what I did recently with my girlfriend, Gwendolyn, when we visited the New River Inn - the centerpiece museum of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. Don't expect the high-tech razzmatazz kind of exhibits you'll find at so many contemporary museums. Despite some modern touches such as an introductory video or informational audio recordings, the New River Inn is like a brief journey to the past. And somehow it seems especially appropriate during the Labor Day holiday because ... well, you'll learn that Greater Fort Lauderdale didn't happen easily. Or quickly. The process was painfully gradual and, yes, laborious.

Even the New River building itself is fascinating. The inn was constructed in 1905 by a U.S. senator from Florida, assembled from hollow concrete blocks and, like the Egyptian Pyramids, held together only by its own weight. For 50 years, it was a prominent hotel. Today, one of the rooms is preserved as it was in the New River Inn's heyday. A charming hotel room, indeed.

The rest of the building also feels old, with its gorgeous hardwood floors and creaky staircase. But the remaining rooms serve as small exhibition halls for reminders of our early South Florida past. You'll find information about the Seminole Wars and the Army fort that gave this city its name. Gwendolyn and I both were especially attracted to some of the surprising wall displays. We learned, for instance, that Broward County was home to a vibrant newspaper for African-Americans in the days of segregation - and that I live fairly close to a spot where there was a thriving nightclub for blacks of that racially separate era. We poured over a travel map of the time too, a long thin paper with only one road on it: Dixie Highway. The map also showed that new communities such as Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach offered hunting among other activities for tourists. All the difficult work that led to the Greater Fort Lauderdale of 2014 was started by pioneers who envisioned things such as beachside hotels, Las Olas Boulevard, Port Everglades ... and then worked to make them real among the mangroves and mosquitoes. You'll find the New River Inn at 231 SW 2nd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, not far from the Museum of Discovery and Science. For more info, visit the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society website at this link: http://www.fortlauderdalehistoricalsociety.org/. The Labor Day holiday is intended as time off for rest and relaxation. But it's good to remember that our R&R in today's Greater Fort Lauderdale is possible only because many others before us worked so hard.

Aug 25: First Whisps

Posted on August 25, 2014 12:20PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You'll call me crazy - and you won't be alone, believe me. But I actually felt the first very early suggestion of approaching autumn in the air over the weekend. See? I told you that you'd call me crazy. Because if you live in South Florida, what you probably felt in the air more than anything was hot. Hot hot sunshine. And if you don't live in South Florida but glanced at our weather map, you probably noticed that the temp indeed was hot. And yes, of course I agree. It was hot. August tends to be like that in our part of the world. But ...

But there was something else in the air as well. Did you notice? I'd lived here several years before I began to detect the subtle but real seasonal changes beyond the obvious "wet season dry season" thing. And I found that the more closely you pay attention, the more finely attuned to those changes you become. As a result, I've learned to feel the harbingers of cooler weather, the hint of things that are on the way.

On Saturday morning, I stepped out on my patio and immediately recognized something was different. A fresher breeze was flowing off the ocean, which only is about a mile from my home. For the first time in months, I didn't turn on the ceiling fan as I sat down with my morning newspaper. No it wasn't cool outdoors, obviously. Just ... different. And by now I know that this difference means that it won't be many more weeks before the most intense period of humidity and heat in Greater Fort Lauderdale will slowly, slowly start to give way to more pleasant weather. If it plays out as usual, our climate in September and October will shift back and forth between the fresher breezes and the remaining hot stretches. But nicer temps are coming for sure. Those better days will bring with them our annual run of major events, including the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival - each of those only about two months away. We'll have more outside festivals and concerts too such as Lauderdale Live in late November. Then we're into the holidays, with Christmas on Las Olas and on and on and on. So you can start planning because, no kidding, I really did feel those first whisps of autumn ... even as the worst heat of summer continued to drive up the thermometer. Call me crazy if you want. But refreshing weather is hiding just around another summertime corner or two, waiting to announce its arrival. Over the weekend, I could hear it whispering to us.

Aug 20: I Do, I Do

Posted on August 20, 2014 10:36AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Speaking of weddings ... We do a lot of that in our society, right? We talk about weddings, plan weddings, attend weddings. We show wedding pictures and wedding videos and post everything on Instagram or wherever. Weddings are a huge part of our culture, as they are in most cultures on Planet Earth. Weddings make us smile and we human beings love them. Which leads me to weddings in South Florida. The other day, I drove past a wedding party on the Fort Lauderdale beach. Hot day, with high humidity, but that didn't stop these folks from standing on an unshaded dune for a photographer - she in her full white wedding dress, he in a tux with his equally tuxedoed groomsmen nearby. They may have been feeling a little steamy in their clothes, but they seemed to be having fun anyway.

I also noticed that an event last weekend in Wilton Manors focused on LGBT weddings, something I'm glad to report is a growing segment of the marital industry. And as it happens, a very good friend of mine got married to a terrific partner a couple weeks ago. So yep, weddings have been on my radar screen lately for sure.

I suppose every place and any place is a good spot to get hitched if you're marrying the right person. But I must say, there's a lot to recommend a beach wedding here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Or maybe you prefer renting out a lovely hall at a luxury resort, as another buddy of mine did a few years ago for his wedding. Hey, listen, the options in South Florida are many. Some people get married while scuba diving, leading me to wonder if an "Okay!" hand signal to the preacher is as legally binding as saying the words, "I do!" Guess so ... Others go out to the Everglades for marriage among the gators. I got married on a dock outside my home in Fort Lauderdale, a romantic setting on the city's deepest canal - second marriage for us both, just the two of us and a justice of the peace. That may not be your thing but it seemed perfect to us. Still, it's hard for me imagine many locations more beautiful than the beach for your big day. You'll find some resources for wedding planning on this website at http://www.sunny.org/weddings/, where an "Ambassador of Bliss" is available to help you. Cute, huh? But that's the whole idea. Weddings are supposed to be joyful. A wedding among the South Florida tropics should kick up the happiness quotient. As for the years that follow your wedding day, well, I'm afraid you're on your own to continue all that happiness, my friend. All I can say is good luck.

Aug 18: Just Grassy Us

Posted on August 18, 2014 11:37AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

When you live in South Florida, Spanish-speaking is helpful. Greater Fort Lauderdale and surrounding counties are home to huge numbers of folks from all over Latin America, from Argentina to Peru, from Colombia to Nicaragua to Mexico. Their colorful, charming cultures are one reason South Florida is what it is. So I find that, every now and then, it's fun to toss a little Espanol into my conversation with Hispanic friends. You know, a few words as a sign of appreciation and respect for their native language. And since we live in a text-and-email society, what better way to do this than with my iPhone? That was my first mistake. Dictating my email to Siri was the second mistake.

In reply to a friend's email, I began with a short common phrase, something I was sure Siri could copy down easily. "Muchas gracias," I said into the phone. Luckily, I glanced at the words before hitting the send button. Because Siri had written: "Just grassy us." Oh-oh, muchos errores.

By now, though, I was intrigued by the possibilities. So I put Siri to the test, keeping the phrases easy at first to see what she came up with. "Como estas?" seemed obvious enough. But that came out in Siri-Spanish as, "Call Matt." Since I just had asked "How are you?" in Spanish, I figured I'd try answering my own question with a cheerful, "I am fine!" But when I dictated "Estoy bien" I looked down at my iPhone to find, "And story BN" - whatever that's supposed to mean. Hey, at least I have a good friend named Matt so that translation made some sense anyway. At this point I decided, what the heck. I wanted to give Siri a real challenge. In Spanish I said, "The weather is very hot!" which should be something like "Pero el clima es muy caliente!" You can imagine how well Siri handled this one. Here's what was printed on my screen: "Patrick came up as we come into." Uh-huh, ok. Thanks a bunch, Siri. Well, you get the idea. My well-intentioned dictation efforts fell flat. Yes, Greater Fort Lauderdale is the adopted home to lots of Spanish-speakers. You can hear Espanol on our streets and in our shops and hotels and restaurants many times every day. And it's wonderful to make friends with these people, discovering more about their traditions and experiences. South Florida also provides a great opportunity to learn some Spanish if you care to try. But whatever you do, don't rely on Siri to handle your Spanish for you. I have discovered this could get you into some very unintended trouble. And cause much confusion to those Hispanic amigos. As one more example of this, let me tell you how things ended up during my dictation session. I decided to send these wacky Siri phrases in an email to myself so I'd have them for this blog. For that email's subject line, I dictated a single Spanish word: "Espanol." Wouldn't you think Siri could get that right? Nope. When I received the email from myself, I found the subject line was two words: "A spaniel." Sometimes you just gotta laugh, don't you?