LauderBlog

Apr 14: Flying Away

Posted on April 14, 2014 11:22AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You are leaving us now, you snowbirds. For a while. But knowing that many part-time South Floridians read this blog all year long, I wanted to wish you well for another summer. And to thank you. Those of you making the semi-annual migration are a vital part of our landscape, our culture. Sure, you are the butt of jokes sometimes because you offer an easy target for younger folks. Dinner at 5 pm? The Early Bird Specials can seem amusing to people who make dinner reservations for 9:30. Driving the speed limit, or below, on I-95? Haha, look at the license plate and the driver: yep, a snowbird for sure. Ok, whatever. This is mostly just good-natured humor and, hey, it's a simple thing to poke fun of anyone. I've got plenty of witty lines to skewer the twenty-somethings who party and eat and drink til dawn every weekend ... and never drive below 80 mph on the interstate.

My point for any snowbirds reading my blog today is this: I hope you understand that you're appreciated in your South Florida winter home. Because you know what? You really are appreciated.

Those of us who live in South Florida year round recognize that our economy needs you here, for one thing. All those homes and condos you own - paying your taxes and your maintenance fees. All the cultural organizations you support by attending concerts and shows and performances of many kinds. All the nonprofit groups you assist by giving donations and volunteering time and going to galas. Thanks so much for that. But there's something else too. Despite the jokes about you, we actually enjoy having you around. From the time the snowbird migration starts in the fall until it ends in the spring, you add a vitality to our community. That may even be hard for you snowbirds to believe, but it's true. You might wonder, "With so many young vibrant people, with so much diversity, why would anyone care about a bunch of older snowbirds?" You lend a different dimension to our world, that's why. You indeed are older and, often, you are more interesting. You also help fill up our roads and stores and restaurants and theaters and, by doing that, you add to the seasonal vibe, the buzz that livens the air from November through April. Yes, I may have to search harder for a parking space because the snowbirds are in town. I may have to wait longer to snag a restaurant seating or to use my condo's laundry room. But it's a small price. Like many of my full-time neighbors in Greater Fort Lauderdale, I'll miss you in the coming months. And I'll look forward to your return.

Apr 9: Big Time

Posted on April 9, 2014 11:08AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's another sign of Greater Fort Lauderdale's many good changes. Some more evidence of our growth as a major international tourist destination, our development as a sophisticated place to enjoy the tropical lifestyle. Because just look at the lineup of stars coming to our town. This weekend during Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival. And beyond. Let's begin with Luke Bryan, who must be one of the hottest acts on Planet Earth at the moment. Only last weekend, he and Blake Shelton hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards - and seemed to win pretty much rave reviews, judging by what I read. One example, quoting from a CBS News blog: "They deftly stole the show with a mix of self-deprecating, celebrity-skewering jokes and two performances apiece." That same day, Bryan was on the cover of Parade magazine. Big time, indeed.

So it turns out that this weekend, Luke Bryan will be one of the headliners right here in Fort Lauderdale at the Tortuga Music Festival. Along with Eric Church, who was the butt of some kidding during the ACM Awards. Oh and a few other entertainers you may have heard of.

Like, say, Sheryl Crow. Or Ziggy Marley or Hank Williams, Jr. or Dierks Bentley. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You can find out more about the beachside music extravaganza at this link: http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com. But really, I'm trying to make a point beyond simply a reminder about this huge annual event. It turns out that Greater Fort Lauderdale for some time has been getting a fairly constant flow of top-name stars. In the next few weeks alone they include Lady Antebellum and Carlos Santana - Santana's already sold out by the way. Sorry. John Legend is doing a night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts too. Then the big MOVE Live show comes to the Seminole Hard Rock complex, starring Julianne and Derek Hough of Dancing With The Stars fame. Oh, and Jay Leno was here shortly after leaving the Tonight Show. You get the idea. Big big acts who find themselves playing to large audiences in Greater Fort Lauderdale. That's been happening for a while, true, but these days it's more and more common. And so I suppose this must say something about who we are as a community in 2014, don't you think? I do. All the star performers offer more than something delightful when you're in our area. They also are proof that Fort Lauderdale has grown up ... and turned into a hot spot for everyday visitors and famous visitors alike. As an everyday resident who's watched these changes happen, I've got to tell you - it's about time.

Apr 8: To The Beach

Posted on April 8, 2014 11:04AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's a South Florida symbol - the beach. That's true for both tourists and locals. Even those two words, "the beach," stand for something special. More than just one special something, really. I think they represent relaxation, of course, the opportunity to take some time for yourself. But "the beach" also suggests a kind of freedom. At the beach, we're not constrained in the usual way by lots of clothes and we're at a place where the daily frustrations can't reach us. Traffic? Not when you're lying on the sand. Bosses? Not if you're wise - leave the smartphone at home ... or at least silence the thing and use it for photos only. Bills? Nope, there is no mail delivery on our beaches, fortunately. In South Florida, a day at the beach is the ultimate form of escape.

I was thinking about this after a quick comment made to me by a stranger the other day. I walked by him, smiled and said, "Gorgeous day, huh?" He replied, "Yeah! I'm going to the beach!" And he said this with a huge grin and tone that told me this dude thought there was nothing better on earth than heading to the beach.

A lot of people feel that way in this part of the country. Again, both visitors and residents. I live in Dania Beach, only about one mile from the ocean as the seagull flies. In my neighborhood it's easy to find homeowners who make their personal connection with the beach known to the world. Two blocks from my condo, a lovely home has a sign hanging neatly on the front door. It says simply, "Welcome to the beach!" Another house nearby sports a blue ceramic tile next to a window. The tile shows a seahorse and one word in white lettering: "Beach." Other homeowners have turned surfboards into patio furniture or nautical ropes into decorative lawn fencing. These are neighbors who celebrate a relationship with the sea as part of their everyday lives. It is important to them ... the sea, the beach. You'll find similar reminders of the beach all over South Florida, especially in coastal communities. For tourists, obviously, the beach typically is a big part of any vacation to Greater Fort Lauderdale. Beachside hotels are among those most in demand. And beachside cafes and beachside bars and beachside anything. To those of us here, whether staying briefly or permanently, the beach is more than a pile of sand near a large body of water. The beach is a lifestyle - and we love it. (Photo courtesy of http://facebook.com/ftlauderdalesun).

Apr 6: Endless ways to satisfy your urge to submerge

Posted on April 6, 2014 7:12AM

Posted by Guest Blogger

Written by dive enthusiast Rob Curran

Sunny, it's gridlock out here
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea...

Blue skies overhead, my buddy Susan and I slip into our scuba gear and shuffle off the beach into the ocean. Divers-down flag in tow, we make the easy five-minute surface swim out to the first reef, just a hundred yards from shore.

We descend 20 feet, to a chaotic scene. Over to Bob, for the traffic report...

It's eight a.m. The locals rolled out of bed just two hours ago. But it's already bedlam. And still ten minutes before the traffic peaks, and the jam turns to gridlock.

It's a riot of color and a deafening roar of visual cacophony. On the noisy street, the manic rush hour races ahead full-throttle...

Trumpetfish, leaning on their horns.

Angry damselfish and sergeant majors, cursing, weaving and cutting in and out of traffic.

A four-foot nurse shark dawdling in the fast lane.

Bottlenecks of yellowtails and silver grunts.

Tie-ups and tangles of neon wrasses.

Cleaner fish hustling customers for a wash and wax at the detailing station.

Two stoplight parrotfish jockeying for position at the drive-up window, angling for a nip at the coral and a quick take-away.

A gang of four-foot tarpon hanging out on the corner, on the down-low.

A lone sea turtle, just passing through.

And two blind lobsters tap-tap-tapping their way down the sidewalk-their antennas like white canes-oblivious to the chaos and commotion...

Susan touches me on the shoulder, to get my attention. My buddy flashes me an enthusiastic OKAY! signal (looks like ALL-CAPS). I notice that the mask and regulator do a poor job of concealing the eat-a-banana-sideways grin on her face.

And I think: "We could be shoveling snow today. Instead, we're diving Fort Lauderdale. From the beach!"


Riches are no shame

A writer for Scuba Diving magazine once called Fort Lauderdale "an embarrassment of riches." Curious expression. What, exactly, does that mean?

An embarrassment of riches is too much of a good thing. Which, for a dive destination, is a high-class problem, isn't it?

Time and again over the last decade, the readers of Scuba Diving magazine heaped praise on Greater Fort Lauderdale. The diving played to rave reviews, as-year after year-readers recognized the sunny blue-water destination with a host of "best" accolades, among them:

• top ten in the world for wreck diving, marine life and value,
• top five in the U.S. and North America for big animals and shore diving.

How did Fort Lauderdale end up in this embarrassing (but welcome) situation-with too many choices for world-class diving?


Too rich? Because mom

Blame our predicament on Mother Nature.

The source of our blessings is the Gulf Stream, which is, in essence, a river in the ocean. Just off Fort Lauderdale, the Stream swings in close to shore. This river is rich in marine life and nutrients, and it bathes and nourishes the living coral reefs in warm, blue currents.

The waters off Greater Fort Lauderdale are a marvel of biodiversity: Mother Ocean decorates the sea bottom with a painter's palette of colorful hard and soft corals, sea whips and purple fans. The reefs teem with riots of small, colorful tropical fish---hundreds of the same species seen throughout the Caribbean. And divers thrill to encounters with large marine life: sea turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, barracudas, huge angelfish and giant green morays.

In Broward County, three reef lines parallel the 23 miles of golden sand beaches, from Deerfield Beach in the north to Hallandale Beach in the south. On the reefs, structures run the gamut.... from flats, holes, and undercuts... to ledges short and tall, and mini-walls.

The first reef begins a hundred yards from shore at its closest. This reef varies from two-foot limestone ledges in ten feet of water, to true coral reefs at 15 to 25 feet. The second starts about a half-mile from shore. Depth ranges from 30 to 50 feet. The third reef lies about a mile offshore; depths run from 60 to 100 feet.

The dive sites are close in, no more than a mile from shore. Quick, quick.... hop a dive boat on the Intracoastal, and your captain zips you out the inlet, to the ocean. One-two-three.... 20 to 30 minutes from the dock, you're drifting down onto a reef or wreck. No long boat rides in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Year round, underwater visibility averages a respectable 30 to 50 feet. But from May to October, divers experience moments of astounding water clarity, when viz ranges from 60 to 100 feet+ on the deeper reefs.

Greater Fort Lauderdale is all about endless ways to satisfy your urge to submerge. Whatever your passion for diving, whatever your interest, whatever your skill level, Greater Fort Lauderdale is, year-round, your Number One Destination for total immersion fun. 

And I think: "We could be shoveling snow today. Instead, we're diving Fort Lauderdale. From the beach!"

 

Apr 2: Rock the Ocean

Posted on April 2, 2014 9:06AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Fun for a cause. What could be better? The fun comes in the form of music on April 12 and 13 at the Fort Lauderdale beach. The cause, appropriately, is that body of water at the end of the sand: You know, the ocean. No kidding, this is a major event that's returned for a second year following a successful debut in 2013. Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival will take over Fort Lauderdale Beach Park for the weekend with some of the top acts in country, roots and rock music. Like, for instance, Luke Bryan and Eric Church. And Sheryl Crow and Hank Williams, Jr. And Dierks Bentley and Train and Ziggy Marley and ... An impressive lineup for sure.

Just as impressive to me, though, is the conservation connection here. The Tortuga Music Festival's tie-in with the Rock the Ocean Foundation means that something will emerge from this event beyond just having a good time.

The goal is to help the public better understand the environmental challenges facing the world's oceans - and to raise money that can make some difference. Funding for research, for education and for ocean conservation. Last year, this festival contributed more than $70,000 to organizations such as the Guy Harvey Foundation and Nova University simply through ticket sales and donations. This time around, the organizers hope to bring in more money for the cause. And we'll all hope for weather much like it has been in recent days. Just about perfect. Typically April is one of our best weather months so there's a good shot at pleasant temps and sunny skies. But the music forecast is even more reliable: Oh yeah, definitely a 100% chance of awesome listening. I mean, look at that lineup again. How cool would it be to hang at the beach all afternoon with performers of that caliber, each singer backed by the soft rolling music of the sea? Very cool. For more info about Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival, just click here: http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com. Even the names of some of the scheduled acts can make you smile. White Denim or maybe Moon Taxi. Or Blackjack Billy. Or my personal favorite name on the Tortuga Music Festival roster: Quaker City Night Hawks. This event's conservation partners have less inventive names, but important ones. Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation and National Coral Reef Institute, to list only a few. Like I said, fun for a cause. Really, does a weekend ever get much better than that?

Mar 31: Going for Greatness

Posted on March 31, 2014 11:09AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Have you heard about this thing? Next weekend in Fort Lauderdale, they are going for it. For the gold, for the gusto, for the greatness. This one-time-only event is called "Drumming 4 Guinness" - and it happens not so much in Fort Lauderdale as around Fort Lauderdale. Judging by the name, you might expect Drumming 4 Guinness to be an Irish band or something, a bunch of dudes blowing penny whistles and beating bodhrans in exchange for pints. Not at all. Drumming 4 Guinness is a serious attempt to form the largest-ever drum circle, with drummers from 129 nations attending to set an official Guinness World Record. The percussionists will make the circle by standing at attention, both arms outstretched to the side so the tips of their drumsticks touch. Estimated distance: six feet apart. So roughly every six feet (or less when short-armed drummers are side by side), a woman or man with some kind of drum will take their position on Saturday, April 5.

The goal is for drummers to completely encircle the perimeter of Fort Lauderdale ... well, except for that strange part of town that juts out of nowhere to the north. But yes, the main southern portion of the City of Fort Lauderdale will be ringed by drummers.

And what drummers! Some of the biggest drumbeaters on the planet have pledged to be there. They include Stewart Copeland, formerly of the Police, and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. Don Henley of the Eagles will handle one of the coveted spots too as will the most famous name to grace Drumming 4 Guinness: Ringo Starr of the Beatles. Wow, huh? The prediction is that the world record should require precisely 12,866 drummers - though event organizers have an extra 200 local drummers waiting just in case they're needed. At noon sharp, a text message will go simultaneously to all 12,866 (or so ..) drummers. The text will read simply, "Start banging!" Then the huge percussion assemblage will launch into an eighth-note rhythm played at 100 beats per minute for the next half hour. The city has set up a special hotline for noise complaints. Just think of that sound! Bam-bam, bam-bam, bam-bam all around Fort Lauderdale, a pounding both rhythmic and merciless, for thirty uninterrupted minutes. Helicopters will hover with video cameras to prove this is the largest drum circle ever on earth, at which point Guinness World Record officials will sanction the event as one for their book. Imagine the World's Largest Drum Circle ... right here! Meaning, uh, right inside your imagination. April Fool (slightly early)! Haha! Though personally I feel this would be a most wonderful event, I'm sorry to report the whole thing's a figment of my own warped mind - in keeping with our tradition of April Fool blogs for sunny.org readers. Hope you enjoyed it. And hey, don't feel disappointed. Ringo Starr may not be drumming in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, but neither are those 200 local drummers. That's probably a sound best left to the imagination.

Mar 26: Horses & Seahorses

Posted on March 26, 2014 11:14AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

One event this weekend is all about horses. The other ... isn't. One takes place at a race track and will attract fans from all over. The second event is smaller, more local, offering up the sea in one form or another. Of course I'm talking about the big Florida Derby thoroughbred race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. And the Dania Beach Arts and Seafood Celebration on both Saturday and Sunday. You pick which one best fits your tastes. Let's start with the Florida Derby. In the run up to the Kentucky Derby that's still several weeks away, our own Florida Derby is important. Our winners typically go on to compete at Churchill Downs in May - hey, the Florida Derby even is listed on the official Kentucky Derby website among major races that lead to the first of the Triple Crown events.

So yeah, it's a big deal in the horse racing world and Gulfstream is celebrating all this week. Derby Week, they call it. Poker tournaments, cocktail parties and other special stuff. You can check out the details here

Not too far from Gulfstream Park there's a delightful little park of another kind. Frost Park in Dania Beach, with baseball fields and a running track and large old trees. And a pleasant vibe. That's where you'll find the Dania Beach Arts and Seafood Celebration. With much homespun fun, such as huge sand sculptures as well as nautical arts and crafts. There also will be seafood ... lots of seafood. You can expect live music on stage and a family friendly environment everywhere, including part of the park set aside for something they've named "The Dania Kids Beach Party Area." This will be reserved for things like the Sand Clinic, Professor Clark the Science Shark, Let's Paint the Fire Truck and more. You get the idea. Pretty much a good time for pretty much anyone who wants to kick back, relax and party among families. For more info about the Dania Beach Arts and Seafood Celebration, click here. Listen, either event should be a blast so you can't really lose. The Florida Derby is the bigtime, with prestige and lots of money on the line at a well-known race track. The Dania Beach Arts and Seafood Celebration is the smalltime, with nothing on the line but a nice day at the park. Like I said, you decide which one suits your preferences on this last weekend in March. All I know is that our weather generally should be quite fine, thank you. Oh, and I know something else too, at a moment when winter seems determined to linger well into spring up north. Whatever I end up doing on Saturday and Sunday, I'll probably feel very glad I'm doing it in South Florida.

Mar 24: South Florida Snowflakes

Posted on March 24, 2014 11:14AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Nope, not that kind of snowflake. The human kind, the sort of person who's like a snowbird - but isn't. A couple of years ago or so, I blogged about the topic because I'd only heard about it recently at the time. Now, I'm blogging about the same subject because the snowflake lifestyle these days seems so ... popular. Ok, so first let me define my term here: A "snowflake" in this context is a person who comes and goes frequently from a second home in Florida. As opposed to the classic snowbird who typically appears at their Florida home sometime around the holidays and leaves sometime soon after Easter. At my condo complex in Dania Beach, I see both varieties of part-time residents. Lots of them. But for whatever reasons, I've noticed many more snowflakes in 2014 than ever before.

My new upstairs neighbor is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. A really nice guy, he owns some Subway shops somewhere in New York State. Not sure where exactly. He was down in Dania Beach for about two weeks prior to the Super Bowl, then headed north right before the big game. For reasons that seem entirely understandable if you think about Super Sunday's massive munchie demand.

He wasn't back until about three weeks ago and just left for his New York home over the weekend. See what I mean? A snowflake. This year the snowflakes have descended steadily in South Florida. I'm always spotting folks in my parking lot I've never noticed before, pulling into some numbered space as if they're the owner. I'm not complaining or anything. It's sorta fun to enjoy this parade of new faces. I also suspect some of them may be short-term renters - you know, tourists who settle into a condo for two or three or four weeks with friends or family. There are many variations on the type of visitors who stay much longer than the usual vacationer. Of course we still get many many snowbirds who spend all winter in the tropics. Another neighbor of mine, just next door, drives her Lincoln Town Car into the space beside my Mini Cooper in late November and doesn't head north again until April. But I'm fond of the snowflakes, not least because of the word itself. There's a certain charm to the term, I think, the suggestion of a slightly wacky impulsiveness. Snowflakes seem to simply drop into town whenever they darned well feel like it. No doubt the reality is more complicated than this. Whatever. Their habits make me smile ... and add something to the unique culture that is South Florida.

 

Mar 20: Cruising Into Town

Posted on March 20, 2014 7:33AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It was a funny feeling. Something about this busload of cruise passengers seemed strange as it passed me one day recently. I was simply standing outside some shop near the 17th Street Causeway, minding my own business, when the bus suddenly appeared. In the corner of the bus windshield Princess Cruises had posted a sign that read, "Fort Lauderdale: By Land and Sea." Just a shore excursion around town, of course. I suppose this should hardly have surprised me. I was very near one of the largest cruise ports on the planet, Port Everglades. And we're in the busiest part of the cruise season. And many thousands of passengers pass through Fort Lauderdale each week, boarding ships for voyages through the Caribbean and beyond. But as often as I've spotted cruisegoers and cruise crews in the past, I'd never seen this - a large comfortable bus full of people who unmistakably were on a shore excursion around this city.

That must happen all the time. Don't ask me why I've never noticed it. But here's my point: Seeing the shore excursion bus felt odd to me because I'm a very experienced cruise traveler myself. I've been on many similar buses on shore excursions all over the world. But here was a bus helping folks to explore the delights of Fort Lauderdale. Strange.

The sight of that bus reminded me that many people from other states and other countries view Greater Fort Lauderdale as pretty darned exotic. And interesting enough for a lengthy shore excursion. We are the kind of place listed in cruise line brochures as a port that's well worth a paid organized outing. Naturally, I agree that this community indeed is pretty darned exotic. And interesting. I write about it every week. But, wow ... a shore excursion to carry passengers to some top local sights by both land and sea. Please understand that I'm accustomed to boarding shore excursion buses in such places as Egypt, where I rode with an armed guard through the Sinai desert for eight hours during the Arab Spring. Or in China, where some seven hours of bus-riding brought me to and from the Great Wall. Or in a city such as Yalta, Ukraine, located in the now-volatile Crimea. I was there only last June and, yep, part of my time was spent on a half-day bus tour to a czar's palace and the world's largest winery. So maybe you can see why a shore excursion bus seems like such a big deal to me. And why it felt out of place in Fort Lauderdale - until I thought about things for a moment. Hey, it's possible some of the cruise passengers on that Princess bus were from Egypt and China and Ukraine. Or perhaps from New York and Chicago and Montreal. Who knows? But to them, Fort Lauderdale merited the time and money for a formal tour off their cruise ship. And they were right, it does. Sometimes, though, you need to view your own hometown through a stranger's eyes ... especially if they're peering at you through a tour-bus window.

Mar 18: Wishful Thinking

Posted on March 18, 2014 11:37AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

What would you wish for? Imagine you're in South Florida on vacation, soaking up the glorious weather as a brutally harsh winter lingers in your home state. The skies here are nearly cloudless, the temperature in the mid 70s. You had phoned friends up north in your hometown a few minutes earlier and learned more snow was predicted there. But hey, you're ... here. In Greater Fort Lauderdale. On Sunday, I watched a young attractive couple make their own wishes in a very public way. I'm not sure where they were from but I sensed that they were tourists. Just something about their clothes and carefree attitude, I guess. These early twenty-somethings didn't quite feel to me like locals. The real giveaway, though, was their brief wish-making session. Here's what happened.

There's a fountain at a small shopping plaza in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It spurts and burbles outside a coffee-and-doughnut shop I visit now and again, just below a large mural of a blue sky blotted with puffy white clouds. The sky wall, as I call it.

The fountain doubles as a wishing well sometimes, which is evident from the array of pennies and nickels and dimes in the water. So yeah, this pretty woman with short brown hair walks up to the fountain holding a coin in her hand. Then the guy appeared too, a good-looking dude with curly dark hair. He was much taller than the girl but they made an appealing couple, which indeed they seemed to be judging by their behavior. Anyway, the girl stood there a moment looking into the water, coin still in one hand. The young man took out his own coin. For an instant, they were motionless. Thinking, apparently ... deciding what to wish for. Soon each tossed their coin in the fountain, smiled and walked away together. That's what got me wondering about these kids. What did they wish for? If you had been them, what wish would you have offered to the Fountain Gods? Obviously, I will never know for sure what thoughts passed through their heads right before they threw those coins. Maybe they both wished for a long healthy life. Maybe they hoped to summon up romantic forces that would propel them toward marriage or toward lots of kids if they already were married. Or ... Yes, just maybe they wished to stay as long as possible in this tropical paradise. Or to return as soon as they could. That's what I like to believe. Because if I'd been a nice-looking twenty-something from a northern state in 2014 on holiday in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, with an equally attractive partner to help savor the experience - well, I know what wish I might have made: "Please, somehow and some way, don't let this ever end ..."