LauderBlog

Nov 20: Oh Canada

Posted on November 20, 2014 9:35AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They're the most reliable of snowbirds, our Canadian friends. And this year, they're already migrating back in a big way. Early. Each autumn we permanent Floridians notice their return, normally just after Thanksgiving. In Greater Fort Lauderdale, many of these folks are French-Canadians and their presence is obvious. The sound of French wafts more frequently through grocery stores and restaurants and bars. Cars with white license plates that proclaim "Je me souviens" pop up everywhere. The phrase translates as, "I remember," by the way - and apparently no one is quite certain of its exact meaning. Perhaps it means they remember to leave Quebec before the snow flies. Lots of Quebecers try to do that. Well, in 2014 many have been successful. Just barely.

I'm not sure if these French-Canadians are very smart or very lucky or both. But they managed to escape harsh northern weather just before autumn unexpectedly transformed into winter. Early, very early.

As I write this blog, the temperature in Montreal is 26 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 3 Celsius. Look at that any way you like, Fahrenheit or Celsius. It's darned cold. On Thursday morning, snow showers are predicted. Of course, Canada is hardly alone in shivering through mid-November. We all know about the new polar vortex, which now seems to be called the "polar plunge" for some inexplicable reason. Before 2013, everyone simply referred to these events by another term, perfectly fine if less exotic: "winter storms." Maybe today's northerners feel better about the whole thing if they call their storms something that sounds unusually fearsome. I can almost see the t-shirts: "I survived the 2014 Polar Plunge!" Ah, but not South Florida's Quebecers. No, no, no. Many had nestled into their wintertime houses and condos and apartments before the plunge. That's especially true in my part of town. Dania Beach, Hollywood and environs - we have a high concentration of Quebecois snowbirds here. Just the other day, I took a stroll around my condo complex and spotted those telltale "Je me souviens" license plates everywhere. It seemed as if every third parking space had a Quebec car. As I said, these people are either very smart or very lucky. Or both. Right now the temp outside my condo is 61 degrees, high of 68 expected today. Chilly for us, summer for everyone else. Tomorrow our weather climbs back into the mid-70s, then soon into the 80s again. The Canadian exodus to Florida is likely to accelerate if this continues for long, with it all warm down here and all cold up there. I can imagine scores of parents and grandparents waving an early pre-holiday goodbye to their families before motoring south for the next six months. A whole bunch of kids may not have Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma around this December. But that's okay. By February, that same whole bunch of kids will pack their own bags and fly south for a week or two. It's nice to have parents and grandparents smart enough to live in South Florida, even if they're really only lucky.

Nov 17: Time Out

Posted on November 17, 2014 9:38AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Sometimes you have to stop so you can move forward. And sometimes you have to stay put so you can end up some place worth seeing. That's certainly true of life in South Florida. Here's what I mean. In today's frantic, do-it-yesterday, device-obsessed society, we're all so busy that we miss a lot. Tearing from here to there while sending two texts and answering a phone call. Sitting in a meeting while setting up another meeting and thinking about the meeting that starts in an hour. I'm sure you know the feeling. And folks under age 25? I'm not certain they can walk unless they're also looking down with both thumbs punching at a smartphone. So ...

Yes, so ... I'm just saying that sometimes we can find better alternatives. And whether you visit or live in South Florida, this tropical region offers many opportunities to stop, look and listen. You may be amazed what you'll discover.

Many of these blogs are about just such things. The things in Greater Fort Lauderdale that we usually don't notice. The subtle pastel shadings of the sea immediately after dawn. The salt scent that wafts through our air even many miles inland. The sound of rain as it patters off palm fronds. There's so much going on around us all the time that's worth our time, perhaps a few minutes or perhaps an hour. Or perhaps a whole morning or afternoon or evening now and then. Try hanging beside the New River to watch the wild variety of boats that will pass by you. Go to the beach, sit on a blanket and just observe. You're likely to spot seagulls and pelicans as they float overhead elegantly or plummet to the water fiercely to catch a meal. A downtown park bench makes a great vantage point for South Florida peoplewatching - the hurried, well-dressed business types forever on their phones ... the moms and dads with their energetic kids ... the couples who can't get close enough to each other. Whenever I do stop like this, I come away enriched somehow. I understand something or somewhere or someone in a new fashion. And that's always worthwhile. Give it a try, maybe. Turn the smartphone to vibrate and put it away. Scout out a place that feels inviting and plant yourself without doing anything except simply being there. Stop, look, listen. Have a few deep sniffs while you're at it. South Florida is extraordinary in many ways. But you have to find a way to find those ways. And the only way I know is the oldest and simplest - taking the time to appreciate what's right in front of us.

Nov 12: Flip the Script

Posted on November 12, 2014 11:00AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Film FestivalThe scene: Fort Lauderdale. The time: Today. As our film opens, we see a long shot that pans across the famous Fort Lauderdale beach. Then the camera slowly zooms in on an attractive young couple who are sunning themselves on a blue blanket spread out among the golden sands. A young man is texting someone. The scene cuts to his smartphone screen, where we now can read his text. It says, "Weather is great down here in Fla! How's life in Chicago? Haha!!" Hard cut to another smartphone as the camera zooms out to show a different young man in a heavy sweater typing his reply. His screen reads: "Chicago is freezing, smart guy! Wish I'd flown down there with you when I had the chance!! Fla sounds real good right now!!"

That may read like the opening lines of some fictional movie script. But my guess is that it's not far from reality at the moment. Tourists visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale from northern states likely are gloating for the folks back home, sending a barrage of texts and emails and photos and videos. All with one basic message: "You're stuck in the November freeze - and I'm not!"

If those same folks back home have a clue, along with the money and time, they really might want to consider joining their pals in South Florida. Our weather is ... well, just about perfect. I'm looking at a weather map that shows current temps around the nation as I write this blog on Wednesday morning. Chicago: 25 Fahrenheit. Detroit: 35. And farther west, lots of teens and 20s and even single digit or subzero temperatures, with the polar vortex spinning its way toward the northeast. From northern New York to West Virginia on Thursday, highs are predicted only in the 30s. Brrr. So I say rather than suffer obnoxious texts from vacationing friends in Fort Lauderdale, why not flip the script? Come on down and join ‘em - and maybe take in a real flick or two while you're at it. As it happens, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is going on through November 23. This 29th edition features lots of terrific movies, naturally, plus some fun events to check out. Learn more about the festival with a quick click: http://www.fliff.com/. Then maybe snag a few tickets for the films of your choice, make those airline and hotel reservations and escape this very early wave of winter. If you're shivering in the frigid north somewhere, I can tell you that there's an alternative for sure. The current reading in Fort Lauderdale is 79, highs in the low 80s expected. Not a cloud in the sky. And, trust me, that's not fiction.

Nov 10: Compassion Passion

Posted on November 10, 2014 9:33AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Greater Fort Lauderdale has a heart. Often, a very big one. Don't believe everything you hear. Or read. I can speak to this issue with first-hand knowledge because I'm not only a writer - I'm founder and president of a federally recognized nonprofit organization based right here in, yep, Greater Fort Lauderdale. My group, the Humanity Project, has an extensive website at www.thehumanityproject.com. We offer acclaimed programs for kids, helping them to stop school bullying and drive without distractions. We also have a special website for socially isolated teens, with an emphasis on the LGBT community at www.thp4kids.com. And we do all this for free - no charge for any of our programs or materials. I tell you that not to plug my group but to make a point. I know my community from the perspective of someone who's working to help people. That's why I can say, honestly and with confidence, Greater Fort Lauderdale has a heart.

Of course, I'm mentioning this because of some recent less-than-stellar PR about the City of Fort Lauderdale. City authorities are dealing with a difficult issue that confronts many communities around the nation: how to deal effectively and humanely with the homeless. Those same authorities have made efforts to handle things and, let's be honest, some of those efforts didn't go well. Media madness ensued.

I'm definitely not writing this blog to defend those efforts. And I'm not writing it because someone asked me to. No one did. Rather I'm hoping to add a little perspective for those who may visit Greater Fort Lauderdale without having the chance to understand this place more deeply. I've been here for 25 years. I see the massive amounts of money donated to nonprofits and other worthy causes. I see the enormous number of volunteer hours served by our residents, full-time residents and part-timers alike. A couple of specific examples also may help make my point. In last week's elections, local voters overwhelmingly approved an expensive school bond issue and another tax to support the Children's Services Council of Broward County, which helps fund the Humanity Project among many other groups. In both cases, roughly three out of every four voters reached into their pocketbooks to say yes to kids. See what I'm saying? To me, this suggests a community that's far from heartless. Quite the opposite. I'm sure city officials can and will find a better way to help homeless people soon. Clearly there's room for improvement. But I'd hate for anyone to get the idea that recent events are a true indication of our character in Greater Fort Lauderdale - or the City of Fort Lauderdale. They're really not. Many many many residents in this county of more than 1.8 million find ways to do something that improves our society. Among the spate of jokes and commentaries lately, that's worth remembering.

Nov 5: Gator Gaze

Posted on November 5, 2014 8:57AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The eyes were barely visible now. The eyes of an Everglades alligator, about six feet long - small by the standards of the Glades. Not so small, though, when he's staring at you from the water a very short distance from your airboat. That's what was happening on Monday this week, when I took some visiting relatives to the Sawgrass Recreation Park in far west Broward County. People often forget that Greater Fort Lauderdale includes the Everglades, a unique environment that also stretches far north and south and west from us. But only a half hour drive from the Fort Lauderdale airport brings you to places where you can venture safely into the Everglades ... and perhaps meet eye to eye with a gator.

My sister, Sondra, and brother-in-law, Jack, are staying with me for several days after flying down from Raleigh, North Carolina. We're very close, the three of us, and love spending time together. And so we're doing local restaurants and water taxis, strolling our downtown streets and driving off to check out the alligators. We've done all this on previous visits but it doesn't get old for us.

So yes, Monday afternoon ... There we were, out among the sawgrass to search for those gator eyes peering from black water. "I see one, off to the right. He's at least a six-footer!" our airboat captain announced over the furious whir of his motor. We then slowly edged toward the alligator before coming to a stop - when the gator began to swim. Toward us, closer and still closer until the captain said, "He's big enough he could hurt ya if ya fell in." Which was when I reminded myself, "Do not fall in." The gator moved to within two feet of our airboat, a steady sideways swishing of its tail propelling this impressive creature. I've seen many larger alligators in the wild, up to 13 feet long. But there was something different about this one. He floated now, near us and motionless, staring from the water as the captain noticed that this gator was unusual indeed. "He's missing a front leg," the captain said, "and he's got some chunks from his tail. He's been in a big fight." Jack and I were snapping photos as the gator patiently waited, as if posing, and then the airboat motor fired up again. We repositioned our earplugs to block the noise, soft rubbery plugs thoughtfully supplied by the park as part of the admission price. And before long, we were back on shore, Jack and Sondra and I all smiling after our latest foray into the Everglades. This had been a good trip highlighted by a memorable if damaged gator. Next time they visit, we'll head for another ride into the Glades no doubt. I look forward to it already. You can do it too, starting with the info at this link: http://evergladestours.com/. With some luck, you'll see them for yourself - those eyes, a pair of cold eyes gazing from the dark quiet waters of the Everglades. I have no idea, of course, what a gator may be thinking when he looks at us. But I know what I'm thinking, every time I look back at a pair of eyes like those: "This is something everyone should see."

Nov 3: Time to Dine

Posted on November 3, 2014 2:38PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

There's still time left. From now until Thursday to be exact. Dine Out Lauderdale is hanging around into the first week of November - and well, I thought you might appreciate a reminder. That big October 1 - November 6 promotion offers an opportunity for the gourmands among us to sample some appropriately gourmet meals at a very reasonable fixed price. I'm talking about 35 bucks, plus tax and tip, to try out that spot you've been putting off because, hey, restaurants are expensive these days. Think about what you spend on dining out in 2014. You'll probably realize that $35 is pretty much the cost of eating dinner at any place that's even halfway decent.

But Dine Out Lauderdale lets you branch off in new directions, discovering fresh culinary territory to add to your experience. "Okay," you say, "like where? And what do I get for my 35 hard-earned bucks?" Let me tell you about it.

We'll begin with the "where" part of those questions. More than 35 top Greater Fort Lauderdale restaurants, that's where. To give you some better idea, check out these names for starters. How about 15th Street Fisheries or The Capital Grille? How about Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale or Via Luna at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale? How about Le Bistro or 3030 Ocean or Chart House or Coco Asian Bistro & Bar? Or maybe Johnny V or Café Maxx or Shula's on the Beach? See what I mean? Some impressive spots. Now for the "what-do-I-get" part of the questions. You'll get a specially prepared three course meal. Mmmm. The charming Mai-Kai Restaurant, for instance, allows you to choose among three appetizers, three entrees and three desserts. Like, perhaps, blackened shrimp for an appetizer. Possibly the filet mignon or nut encrusted mahi-mahi for your main meal. Topped off by key lime pie ... or chocolate mousse pie or mango sorbet frozen yogurt. Here's one more to whet your appetite for Dine Out. At 15th Street Fisheries, you can choose a Caesar salad or raspberry mixed greens for the first course. Then grilled mahi-mahi, grilled swordfish or Key West snapper for the entrée. A mini red velvet cupcake or key lime bar completes your meal at that lovely waterside restaurant. This link gives you the complete list of Dine Out Lauderdale restaurants and menus: http://www.sunny.org/dineout/. It's a great deal, really. If you're going to drop those 35 hard-earned bucks on a meal, after all, they may as well pay for a meal you'll remember.

Oct 31: Show Offs

Posted on October 31, 2014 12:39PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

What exactly is a "boat show"? Sounds pretty basic - unless you haven't been to one before. As a South Florida transplant who wasn't around boats much while growing up in the Midwest, I could see myself asking this puzzled question. Hearing about the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, I might well wonder, "Okay, yeah. What is a boat show anyway?" I mean, obviously you expect to see boats sitting around. Somewhere, somehow. But where and how? And what do you do when you're there? So as Greater Fort Lauderdale prepares to open the 55th edition of the world's largest boat show, let me tell you about this event based on my own experience at previous shows.

First of all, expect crowds - but happy crowds, interested and interesting crowds. Not all of them monied folks by any means but people from various economic and social backgrounds, all milling and gawking and generally having a good time. For details about where to park and how to get where you're going, check out this link: http://www.showmanagement.com/fort_lauderdale/event/transportation. Options include park and ride as well as the water taxi. The show runs from October 30 through November 3, by the way.

After you arrive, you'll find yourself at one of six marinas or at the convention center. It's fun to catch the indoor scene at the convention center, where large vessels indeed are sitting around, much like a car show. There's just something about seeing so many boats displayed in that way all at once as you wander among them and think, "Wow, I'd like to own that one! And that one!" But make sure to head to some outdoor venue too. To me, the marinas offer the boat show at its best. All right, so you get inside the marina gate and maybe you're a bit hungry or thirsty. Normally you'll spot food vendors who offer a variety of tasty meals. Then you simply start walking among the docks, where many of the boats are tied up. Floating within arms reach, billions of dollars worth of them. Boats of all kinds. Yachts and superyachts and megayachts, high performance boats and fishing boats and sailing yachts as well as just about anything and everything else that can carry a human being across water. It's all there for you ... for the price of a ticket. To visualize it, imagine yourself at any marina you've visited. Then picture that place filled with many of the most impressive yachts available anywhere in the world, most of them bobbing on the water, some of them planted firmly on dry land. You may saunter through a few tents along the way, with all things marine for sale including engines and generators. And electronics and diving equipment. And jewelry and hats and caps and sunglasses. Stuff that even I could afford. I hope you're getting the idea. There's plenty to do at this boat show, whether or not you can write a huge check for a megayacht - or a kayak. Not to worry. The best part of a boat show for the majority of visitors is just the chance to dream a little, catching a close-up glimpse of vessels we might like to own but never will - and pausing for a moment to fantasize. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is a place for that. For most of us, it's what a boat show really is all about.

Oct 27: Sunny Spooks

Posted on October 27, 2014 10:31AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Happy HalloweenAre you a Halloween kind of person? I'm most definitely a Halloween kind of guy. All my life, it's been among my favorite holidays, these days joined only by New Year's Eve as my two personal picks. To me, they're each playful holidays, a chance to have fun in a way that's wackier than you can at any other time. There are Christmas kinds of folks, and Hanukkah people. There are those in this country who prefer Thanksgiving or Easter or Passover or the 4th of July. But nope, not me. Give me Halloween. So I'm excited this week, savoring gorgeous late October weather in Greater Fort Lauderdale as I prepare for a day of fake-but-fun ghouls and goblins and spirits and spooks. And we all hope, continued sunshine.

Which brings me to things we might consider doing on Halloween here in town. This day is always a hoot around the Fort Lauderdale area. If you have kids, one thing you might consider is the big Halloween event at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. I'll be part of this open house party again and it's always a delightful time for the family. Lots of candy, lots of entertaining stuff for children, even some helpful information. All in a safe place - and it's free. To learn more, check out this link: http://www.jdch.com/html/homerun-kids/events/2014/10/jdch-halloween-open-house.html.

The Museum of Discovery & Science has a bash happening from 6 - 9 pm on Halloween, with a costume contest and jelly bean tasting and even some edible bugs, plus their own mad scientist and more. Details at this click: http://www.sunny.org/includes/calendar-of-events/Trick-or-Treating-at-MODS/18795/. Of course, you may not have kids. Or you may want something to do after you drop the kids off with their grandparents or whatever. Your more adult options this year include the Hoodoo Voodoo Halloween Blues Ball at the Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale. I've loved the Downtowner for many years, a funky relaxed spot to meet friends and enjoy live music. In 2014, they have a big lineup of bands, with costumes encouraged. Find out more here: http://www.sunny.org/includes/calendar-of-events/Hoodoo-Voodoo-Halloween-Blues-Ball/19054/. Or just hang out in downtown Fort Lauderdale, maybe on Las Olas or along the Riverwalk somewhere. You're bound to bump into some spooky things in the night, for sure. As it happens the world's largest boat show also coincides with Halloween. I'll tell you more later this week about the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which spreads out through several locations near the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean from October 30 - November 3. Some thoroughly awesome vessels will be tied up for you to drool over, with plenty of salespeople on hand to help you make a purchase. Come to think of it, the boat show might be the scariest option of all on Halloween. Just bring your checkbook and ask the price of one of those thoroughly awesome vessels. If the answer doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what will.

Oct 23: Tips for Planning a Party, Event or Wedding in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Posted on October 23, 2014 6:24AM

Posted by Guest Blogger

Get ready residents of Fort Lauderdale and South Florida: Party, Event and Wedding Season is almost upon us! Yes, the last six months may have been on the hot side, but we all know that the next six months is going to be absolutely perfect. Residents of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County look forward to this time of year all summer. Of course, so does the rest of the planet!

While people in the north are battling cold winters they seek relief by visiting South Florida. Fort Lauderdale is known as the "Venice of America" due to the numerous canals and waterways that intersect the city, but it has so much more to offer. From stunning beaches (accessible from some of the world's finest hotels) to amazing dining on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale is a major destination for brides, grooms, corporate retreats, participants in expos, conventions and trade shows AND anyone else looking to throw a party or event.

As the owner of EviRental.com it is my job to make sure that guests to this great city find exactly what they need to make for the best trip, vacation or visit possible. If you're planning on making Fort Lauderdale a destination for a wedding, party or event in your future, please consider the following tips:

Tip #1: Choose Where to Stay

Fort Lauderdale is home to some of the most beautiful and amazing hotels in the world. Once you've chosen Fort Lauderdale, take the time to make sure that your stay will be incredible. If you're planning an event like a wedding, our hotels may be the perfect venue for you. It is also important to remember that whether you're a visitor or a guest, your guests will need a place to stay! You can start looking for the perfect hotel by visiting the hotel pages on www.sunny.org.

Tip #2: Talk to an Expert

Unless you're a professional wedding or event planner, the chances are that you haven't planned too many events or parties beyond some birthday parties! That is always good practice, but a larger event, like a wedding or a corporate retreat, takes a lot more to put together. I strongly recommend that you talk to a local wedding or event planner who can help you. Yes, they are professionals and they cost money, but it has been my experience that they end up saving people both time and money in the long run.

Tip #3: Use Local Vendors

This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised! Fort Lauderdale is home to the best party and event companies in South Florida. Whether you need flowers, lighting, or caterers Fort Lauderdale companies will make sure you get the best available in South Florida.

Tip #4: Consider the Weather


The weather in Fort Lauderdale is absolutely beautiful year round. Of course, some seasons have a bit more risk than others. If you are planning a wedding or event during the rainy season (May-October), make sure you have a backup plan. You may have always dreamed of getting married on the beach, but I'm sure that you don't want to get married in rain storm! At the very least make sure that you rent a tent to protect your guests from the potential bad weather (or the bright sun)! You can find multiple quotes from tent and event rental companies using my service www.evirental.com to save you time and money.

Tip #5: Make Fun Suggestions for Your Guests

If you have guests coming in from out of state or out of town, take the time to suggest great activities for them. Many people like to come to Fort Lauderdale early or to stay late. Fort Lauderdale has a number of fun activities and things to do. You can scuba dive, attend boat shows, go to the beach, relax in a spa, go fishing, play golf, try water sports, attend lectures, visit museums, and dance the night away. If you have an event or wedding website, link to www.sunny.org, but make some suggestions for your guests. Prepare a welcome basket with some maps of the area, lists of things to do and some great products from local businesses! Trust me, you're guest will be delighted!

Tip #6: Enjoy Your Stay

Obvious right? I just wanted to make sure you didn't forget to have fun!

-Michael Riordan, Co-Founder, EviRental

Oct 22: The Conventioneers

Posted on October 22, 2014 9:44AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You'll see them often around town - and they're all here on a mission. They are the conventioneers. I'm talking about the many thousands of folks who arrive in Fort Lauderdale annually to take part in large conventions, whether for work or play - learning something new for their jobs or learning something new for their personal passion. Or in some cases, learning how to live more effectively. The largest conventions usually take place at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, a lovely facility directly beside Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. I happen to like our convention center, especially the impressive sailfish sculpture that seems to leap from the fountain outside. I've been to the center many times over the years for events and galas and, yep, conventions. And I can see why this convention center attracts organizations from all over each year.

But it's the convention attendees who fascinate me. I typically spot them in one of two areas: either on Fort Lauderdale's SE 17th Street Causeway, near the convention center, or around the Fort Lauderdale beach. They're not hard to identify, that's for sure.

Sometimes I'm sitting at Starbucks on 17th Street when I notice a gaggle of folks all talking and laughing as they walk by. And they're each wearing a security pass that dangles from a cord around their necks. That's an obvious giveaway, the combination of the passes and their excitement. But if I listen carefully to what they're saying, I also may pick up some idea about which specific convention brings them to town. Sometimes it's mostly medical chat about an imaging technique or maybe they're comparing notes about cruises or cosmetics or whatever else. On occasion, I have realized that one of the big self-help gurus is holding a seminar at the convention center. To me, that particular group of convention people seems pleasant but very earnest, often spending top dollar in an effort to discover a better way to live. I hope they find it when they come to South Florida. On other days, I may be walking along A1A near the top hotels on the Fort Lauderdale beach when I bump into some of our conventioneers. They probably aren't wearing their dangly passes but it doesn't matter. They greet each other on the street in a different way. Not like family or friends but as happy colleagues who've briefly escaped their convention. I can almost feel their relief. And I can sense their enthusiasm for Fort Lauderdale as they chatter about convention business, then turn their eyes and perhaps their cameras toward the sea. The conventioneers are among the tides of visitors who sweep in and out of Greater Fort Lauderdale every month. I always enjoy seeing them. They add a unique element to the vibe of our community, another kind of enthusiasm I guess. And a special joy whenever they get the chance to break free from work for a while.