LauderBlog

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?

Aug 13: Summer A While

Posted on August 13, 2014 12:23PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Summer is cresting, reaching its humid peak. But not for long. These dog days are numbered, with September only a couple of weeks away. Typically in recent years, September's weather remains warm but with hints of cooler, fresher days to come. August is, well, August. Just as it should be, all languid and sensual and tropical here in South Florida. And one of the best parts is this: There's still time to enjoy your summer getaway, be it a staycation for locals or a trip to Greater Fort Lauderdale by jet or car for out-of-towners. You see, we have bargains at this time of year. Two-for-one deals, luxe for less offers and more - some of them available right on this website.

Like the two-fers I mentioned. If you go to this link, you'll find all the details needed to snag what you want: http://www.sunny.org/summer. You can do snorkeling or diving, ride a banana boat or rent bicycles. Maybe you'd prefer a chillout spa treatment for you and your significant other. Or an evening sail on a catamaran or a trip to the museum. Check it out and you're likely to discover just the thing for you ... and that S.O. of yours.

As for the luxury bargains, here's the link to get you going: http://www.sunny.org/vip. The promo is called Vacation Like a VIP, an opportunity for a room upgrade at some of our top hotels and resorts. Plus you'll receive a $100 resort credit, $25 Amex gift card, free valet parking and other goodies that also include 2-for-1 specials. Both Vacation Like a VIP and the summer two-fers are good through the end of September. Because, oh yeah, it definitely will stay summer for a while around these parts, long after autumn settles in up north. So I say, why not make the most of these hot weeks? In Greater Fort Lauderdale, we are busy in the summer months, just not as busy as during the winter season. We offer the same luxurious hotels and resorts, the same tempting restaurants, the same charming attractions. We still have festivals and concerts - and beaches that are less crowded. I've vacationed in local hotels many times during the summer and I've always had a blast. And though I've not found a way to make a staycation happen for me again in 2014 so far, I sure wish I could. Three or four days in a luxe suite by the sea sounds like just what I need about now. Ahhh ... But whatever I do, I'm going to have fun. Since summer is hanging on a while longer, I may as well hang on to it right back, grabbing for all the warm pleasures I can reach. I might get sweaty while I'm reaching but for sure I'll be smiling too.

Aug 11: Fresh Perspective

Posted on August 11, 2014 11:18AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

If you know Greater Fort Lauderdale, as a tourist or resident, I have a suggestion for you this week: No matter where you are, take a tour of our lovely spot on the globe. And I'm going to tell you just how to do this ... yes, no matter where you are. In a period when so many other spots on the globe are caught up in miseries of one kind or another, South Florida can give us a respite from the bad news. So I'm talking about a relaxation tour, if you will. As in visiting our beaches, lying in the hot sun, then maybe driving up A1A for a while before motoring toward the splendor that spreads throughout far western Broward. If you have the time and means, of course, a real trek around our county is the way to go. Lucky you.

But in our busy lives, we don't always have either the time or the means to do this. That's why I'm offering an alternative idea to snatch a little break from the grind. Just take a mental tour of Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Yep, a mental tour, exactly as I took the other day. It helps, believe me, no matter how goofy the suggestion may sound to you. Here's what happened to me. Like many of us lately, I was dwelling on all the horrible events happening in our world at the moment. It's hard to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the reports sometimes, isn't it? Wars in the Middle East and Ebola in Africa. Immigrant children arriving by the thousands without adults in the United States. Political gridlock at home, tyranny overseas. The list of human troubles seems endless. And I needed to stop obsessing about them. I couldn't hop in my car and head to the beach right then, so I closed my eyes and imagined I was at the sea. I could feel the waves as they massaged the shore with their gentle breakers. I could see the palm trees against an unclouded sky and I soon absorbed the warmth of the sunshine. Then just as I began to relax a bit from my world-stress, I mentally moved off for a stop in the Everglades to unwind some more. I envisioned a vista as if from the air, the vast sweeping grass extending to the horizon in every direction, a shallow swamp of such grandeur that it has inspired writers and artists for generations. Briefly I was there, entirely alone within my head. And I felt better, much better somehow, after my imaginary tour of beach and Glades. Try it yourself - you'll see. News reports often can warp the view of our own lives. We learn mostly about the bad, rarely the good that's all around. That's not the fault of journalists. It is up to each of us to gain a more realistic perspective on things. For those folks who do know Greater Fort Lauderdale, as a tourist or resident, this region can help us to find that perspective even without moving from our chair. All we need to do is to imagine the beauty ... in detail, exactly as we remember. By all means, visit your favorite South Florida places in your mind. When you can't swing a real vacation here, a mental vacation can work as a temporary substitute until you return to the beach in person. In the meantime, soak up that imagined sunshine - no sunscreen required.

Aug 6: A Good Place

Posted on August 6, 2014 8:50AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Wow, South Florida. Who woulda thought it? Not me. Who would have believed way back when, in the summer of 1989, that this tropical spot on the map could hold such appeal ... for me? You see, this week marks a big anniversary in my world. Back on August 7, 1989, I drove with my then-wife to our new apartment in Plantation for the first time, arriving after many years of living in Vermont. Like thousands of others from chilly northern states, we were new Floridians. If you'd asked me on that hot August day to guess how long I'd live here, I'm not sure what I would have said. But almost certainly I'd have never imagined that the true answer would be a quarter century and counting. I mention all this now for a reason: Because it may help to show what a uniquely appealing place South Florida is. And how, over time, this region becomes part of you.

I remember that my first apartment was in a lovely complex with several tennis courts, including clay courts, and two large swimming pools. After a lengthy day of investigative reporting at the Sun Sentinel newspaper, I would come home and slip into one of those pools for a sunset swim under palm fronds that vibrated in humid breezes. It really did seem like paradise.

I had exchanged a beautiful cold area of the United States for a beautiful warm area of the United States. And though I adored Vermont and still do, I soon felt sure I had made the right move. I loved the sunshine, I loved the ocean, I even loved the humidity. For at least my first ten years, I often joked about feeling like a popsicle that was still thawing out after so long in frigid New England. I'm thawed now. And I'm happy here. Since 1989, I've been fortunate enough to travel all over the world as a writer. From Papua New Guinea and Borneo to Russia and Ukraine, from Hong Kong and Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City to Lima and Santiago and Buenos Aires. I've visited grand cities and small towns, trekked through jungles and rainforests and mountain tops. But I always return gratefully to my Greater Fort Lauderdale home. I find it more than just familiar, comfortable. To me, South Florida offers a chance to live among the exotic and the sultry sexy, with a climate that sprouts flora and fauna like nowhere else and attracts a blend of people like nowhere else too. We sway to a different music that has been mixed from many cultures. I like what I hear, a rhythmic lifestyle that has pulsed its way well into me now for 25 years. And counting. Yes, I'm in a good place, a very good place - and I feel lucky to be here.

Aug 4: Liquid Sunshine

Posted on August 4, 2014 8:53AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

That's what they call it around these parts. Well, some folks call it that anyway. Rain in South Florida = liquid sunshine. These, of course, are optimistic glass-half-full people. They believe in looking for the positive side of life and, in our sometimes rainy summers, they find the good through spinning a sunny turn of phrase. Yep, liquid sunshine. To be honest, not all South Floridians look at this meteorological issue in quite the same way. Most of our residents like to complain about the weather any chance we get, just like the residents of nearly every other spot on earth complain about their rain or snow or cold or heat. But I also must say that the liquid sunshine optimists have a good point.

For one thing, our rains are warm rains, not the cold bone-chilling rains that are so common in more northern climes. Warm rain, hey, you can live with it. Cold rain is a bummer. But this liquid sunshine thing goes deeper than that if you explore the real meaning a bit more.

The truth is that rain can be beautiful - as beautiful as the sunshine. We simply have to view it in a new way to recognize rain for what it is. Some things in nature offer us an obvious beauty, like those sunsets I blogged about a week ago. They are the kinds of outdoor spectacles that materialize dramatically in front of our eyes, vibrant colors radiating on the horizon, apparent to everyone. Liquid sunshine is subtler. It requires us to see beyond the small inconveniences of umbrellas and windshield wipers until we discover the majesty in a raindrop, the poetry in a puddle. Really, just take a good look for yourself. Liquid sunshine is more than a nice term for rainy days that allow us to visit museums and take in afternoon flicks and sit in covered seaside cafes as the lightning forks down from cloud to ocean. Truly, rain can be beautiful - yes, as beautiful as the sunshine. The unique glimmer that comes off wet pavement, the drops of moisture sliding down palm fronds, the coconuts encased in a glistening dew. We're in a short period of rainy days at the moment, something typical during our summer months. That's why they call it the rainy season. But whether you're a tourist or a local, there's no need to let the rain get you down. The forecasters tell us the wettest part of this week should end by Thursday. Until then, relax and enjoy it. Look carefully for the sunshine in all that liquid because, you know what? The optimists are right. The sunshine is there. (Photo courtesy of http://facebook.com/ftlauderdalesun).

July 30: Crabby Lobsters

Posted on July 30, 2014 12:26PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's either lobster mini-season or mini lobster season this week. Depends who you ask, apparently. Words are funny things and it turns out that their arrangement matters quite a lot. You know, this word before that word but after this other word, etc. Otherwise? Chaos - or at least confusion. I'm rather certain that floridalobstering.com has forgotten that important grammatical lesson. The website confidently informs us as follows: "Every July the coastal areas of Florida are flooded with lobster hunters trying to get their share of this year's bounty when the official mini lobster season kicks off." Hm, ok ... If you guys say so. Listen, I'm no expert on this topic by any means. But I'm trying to envision what lobsterhunters will hunt during the 2014 "mini lobster season" that happens July 30 and 31.

Because what exactly is a mini lobster? Bigger than a jumbo shrimp, maybe? But smaller than a very muscular mussel? Do divers turn over small rocks to find their mini lobsters or perhaps detect them only from the glint of sunlight reflected off tiny claws? No doubt, a saucepan is large enough to cook up two or three of these petite crustaceans.

Or is this really the 2014 lobster mini-season? Haha. Yes, of course I'm only teasing the good folks at floridalobstering.com. A lobster mini-season makes a lot more sense than a mini lobster season, though it's not nearly as funny. Anyhow, this week indeed will see thousands of divers plunging beneath the waves to look for a free dinner. A bunch of free dinners, if they catch their limit. Hunters are permitted to bag as many as 12 lobsters on each of the two days. Call me crazy but 24 lobsters sounds like enough food for a decent beach party unless you and a couple pals have unusually big appetites. And speaking of big, the lobsters must meet size restrictions to be legal: Their heads have to be more than 3-inches long. Hardly a mini lobster. So go, be safe and happy hunting. A good time will be had by all ... except the lobsters, obviously. They get noticeably cranky every year around this time - crabby lobsters, we might say. Haha again. And be glad, be very glad, you are not a spiny lobster with a 3-inch head in Florida. If they make it through the two day mini-season, these creatures will have precisely seven whole days to relax. On August 6, the regular full-length non-mini lobster season kicks into gear. It lasts non-stop until March 31. And you wondered why Florida lobsters get so crabby ...

July 28: Sunny Settings

Posted on July 28, 2014 11:53AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

truly appreciate South Florida, sometimes you must look up. Now is one of those times. In recent weeks, we have been fortunate to experience unusually beautiful summer sunsets for some reason. Not sure why, exactly. Perhaps it's the Saharan sand that recently blew across the sea to us. That atmospheric sandstorm happens from time to time in the warmer months, often bringing vividly colored skies in the morning and at night. Or perhaps it's something else. But whatever the cause, the spectacle has been there to enjoy on many of our rainless evenings lately: brilliant oranges and reds, the kind of thing more often savored here during autumn. All this color hasn't happened on every recent clear night, of course, so I can't guarantee anything. Nature is a tricky thing to predict.

I can say, though, that I've witnessed many of these extraordinary summer sunsets this July - and it's worth looking up for yourself some night soon to see if it's happening again. Believe me, the phenomenon is very much out of the norm. More typically, twilight at this time of year gives us mostly varied shades of blue. When there's no evening rain, we normally would find banks of bulky white clouds low on the horizon piling themselves into grand towering formations, shifting through a palette of blues and then purples before turning black as the sun disappears. I've blogged about that summer sight in the past.

But Summer 2014 so far has offered something else along with those billows of blue cloudbanks. Just the other night, for instance, I sat sipping a cocktail at around 7:30pm as the light show began with the usual blue-and-purple hues wrapped around segments of otherwise white clouds. By around 8 or so, the real color kicked in. To the west, vibrant oranges sifted throughout whole columns of cloud, with those intense oranges soon followed by bright reds that seeped across the sky toward the ocean. Three long horizontal streaks of red hung in the north then, each directly above the other like lines on a page, hovering motionless for perhaps ten minutes or more. Then the streaks quickly evaporated from view as the cloud columns faded to indigo - and, as always happens, the light show ended for at least another day. Will there be a new show tonight? Tomorrow? I really can't tell you. But as a longtime resident in this part of the world, I can remind you now and then that it's worthwhile to turn your attention skyward in South Florida. Your text message will wait as you check out something very different from any info on your smartphone. It's called nature, my friend, and you find it sometimes simply by looking overhead.