Sept 30: Heads Up

Posted on September 30, 2014 12:28PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Sometimes good things are right under our nose. Or over our head. In this case, actually, the good things are on top of our head. I'm talking about sunhats, by which I mean any of the hats we wear outside on South Florida's warm sunny days. Excellent protection against the rays for sure. But they're a funny thing in some ways. And I think they say a lot about the people who are under those hats. All you have to do is look around to see for yourself. You'll spot big hats and small hats, elaborate hats and simple hats. Hats with broad brims and hats that are basically all brim with no hat at all. Elegant or ugly, plain or covered in logos.

Some people, some women especially, prefer those wide floppy sunhats. You know, the kind of hats made of cloth or straw with a brim so broad it bounces when they move. These hats can be fairly expensive or very inexpensive - but either way, they sure do keep out the sun. Still, I have to admit they make me chuckle to myself a bit. They are hats for those who take their sun protection seriously and also want to express something of their own style. Perhaps worn by the more flamboyant folks among us.

Then there are golf-type hats, just a band with a big brim but no cap at all to cover the head. These naturally air-conditioned hats are for women and men who fancy themselves quite sporty, thank you. When they walk down the street, they feel cut from the same cloth as Michelle Wie or Phil Mickelson. Their golf handicaps may be a lot higher than Michelle or Phil, but they look like they're ready to play with the pros in the next open. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the caps worn by sports fans, mostly the observers of sport rather than the real or wannabe players. They may be guys, they may be women. They have one thing in common, though: they love their special team. I put myself in this category, wearing a baseball cap for the practical purpose of blocking the sun as well as to show my support for the Detroit Tigers. Born in Detroit, I'm a lifelong Tigers fan. I harbor no delusions about looking stylish in my hat, believe me, and I suspect most people in sports caps would say the same. Our hats deflect the sun and maybe hide a bad hair day as they announce to the world our sports loyalties. Nothing else. Many other varieties of sunhats can be found under the sunshine in Greater Fort Lauderdale, of course. Some people enjoy donning a fedora or an Indiana Jones hat or a hat made for tropical expeditions, constructed of sun-resistant material with a chin strap. As I said, look around sometime and you'll discover all sorts of sunhats worn by all sorts of human beings. Hats are a statement about how we see ourselves. My statement is, "Yeah, I probably look silly in this hat, but I don't especially care. As long as the Detroit Tigers are winning ball games, I'm happy." If you're a baseball fan, you will understand.

Sept 24: Relaxation Row

Posted on September 24, 2014 9:21AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You can find many ways to relax in South Florida. But one special part of Greater Fort Lauderdale offers more options than most - and at a very good price just now. I'm talking about the Fort Lauderdale beachfront, where several top spas are lined up awaiting your arrival. The other day I was walking along the ocean when I looked up and noticed a sign: "Heavenly Spa by Westin." The name alone felt relaxing somehow. Who wouldn't like to pay a visit to a heavenly spa? Sure sounds good to me. Anyway, the sign on the front of the Westin Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale got me thinking. Thinking about the Spa Chic promo that continues through the end of September: Half-off savings on full spa treatments that include an aromatherapy massage, facial, loofah scrub and reflexology. All for $99. Not bad, huh?

But the Heavenly Spa sign also made me realize how many luxe spas are located within a few short blocks on the Fort Lauderdale beach. At least five of them, that's how many. This seems an impressive number to me.

A quick tally shows the spas at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale and the W Fort Lauderdale, as well as those at The Atlantic Hotel & Spa and the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort & Spa, along with the Westin of course. Count ‘em, five major spas all in walking distance of each other. Many other top spas are spread around Greater Fort Lauderdale and they're part of Spa Chic too. You can check out the full list at this link: But the heaviest concentration of luxury relaxation is in that one place, a veritable row of stress relief planted on the west side of A1A on Fort Lauderdale's famous beach. Imagine the possibilities. You could do the spa thing some afternoon with four of your best friends, each of you visiting a different spa so you could lunch together later to compare notes. Or you could stay at one of the hotels and try their spa on Day One, then do the other four spas on Days Two - Five. Or you could plan a serious spa test by going to all five spas on the same day, back to back. Uhm, or not. I suppose even spa treatments could feel like too much of a good thing. But you get my point. With so many spots to chill out, and with prices so low this month, a trip to the Fort Lauderdale beach seems even more appealing than usual. And hey, if you don't go for a spa session you at least can walk up and down A1A to dream about it. Just being so close to so much relaxation couldn't hurt.

Sept 22: Turtle Talk

Posted on September 22, 2014 11:04AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

If you see pink plastic tape on Greater Fort Lauderdale's clean beaches, don't worry. It's only nature at work, not some strange litterbug who bought plastic tape in bulk from Home Depot or something. The tape can come in other colors, by the way, but this year I've noticed mostly pink for some reason. In any case, it's there to serve a worthwhile cause: safe sea turtle nesting. In Florida, our nesting season runs from March through October and it's an important time for sea life in general and these giant turtles in particular. That's because almost 90% of all nesting by sea turtles in the United States happens right here in the Sunshine State. It turns out that even turtles know a good place to visit when they see one.

So during this eight month period every year, you'll spot lots of plastic tape held by wooden stakes surrounding these nests. The goal is to prevent people from accidentally disturbing a nest, which could end up destroying the many eggs waiting below the sand to hatch.

Sea turtles are remarkable creatures. Mama turtles crawl on shore to scout out possible nesting places, then drop about 100 eggs in a hole on the beach. Before heading back to sea, these mothers cover their eggs with sand and even try to hide the exact location of the babies by spreading sand around a wider area. Then they disappear, never seeing their offspring. When the hatchlings emerge about 45-55 days later, they rely on the moon to guide them to the water. This means artificial lighting near our beaches is built to avoid casting unnecessary light. Take a look at the streetlamps beside the Fort Lauderdale beach east of A1A, for example - you ‘ll see what I'm talking about. I'm always impressed with how seriously we take this whole sea turtle thing in South Florida. How many places do you know that have a special phone number "to report a turtle emergency," huh? You'll find a sign with just such a number on the Fort Lauderdale beach. You also can schedule an evening early in the summertime at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park or the Museum of Discovery and Science to learn about the sea turtles. Something to consider for next year, maybe ... For now, just be glad that lots of folks care about the health and welfare of our sea turtles: green turtles, loggerheads and leatherbacks. We each can help by keeping beaches clean, avoiding the use of flashlights and other artificial lights on beaches at night and making sure not to disturb those nests. The pink tape and wooden stakes may look a little out of place on our lovely seaside sands, but they're not. Just the opposite, really - they're a sign that a precious part of the subtropics is still alive and doing very well.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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.