May 20: The First

Posted on May 20, 2015 11:54AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Our lives have many firsts. Some are big: first kiss, first paycheck, first car, first home. Some are smaller, almost too small to remember. They come and go without us really noticing. Maybe it was something like our first boat ride or our first bite of mushroom pizza or our first glass of red wine. Or whatever it might be. We likely don't recall those sorts of firsts. I always think human beings should experience lots and lots of firsts, some of them important firsts and some of them just minor moments that add to our existence. And so it was that I looked forward to a small but meaningful first in my own life - my first takeoff and first landing on the new runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Ok, sure, I admit it. Not a major first in the grand cosmic scheme, is it? Still, it was important to me because my Dania Beach condo isn't all that far from the airport. I lived through the huge construction project that brought us the brand new south runway, an unusual structure because it slopes upward toward the east directly above busy Federal Highway.

I had watched the backhoes and bulldozers, the massive mounds of earth and the concrete columns for many months. The 8,000-foot runway cost $719 million, a giant undertaking that disrupted traffic in the area - my area - for a long time. I feel a certain personal stake in this runway, in some odd sense. And so it was that I came to that first takeoff. And first landing. I've been doing a bit of traveling lately and my recent flight carried me toward North Carolina from the south runway. I actually could spot my own condo building as the jet lifted off, climbing into a clear sky before banking northward. When I came home, my flight landed on the same runway, with more airport construction visible to my left and a view of lush tropical South Florida to my right. At last I had experienced the south runway for myself. Yes, they were two small firsts in my life for sure. The departure and arrival weren't so very different in most ways from nearly all the other flight departures and arrivals of my life, beginning with my first flight from Cleveland to Detroit at age 12. That was a memorable first. In a way, though, this new first was memorable too. I'd never before taken off and landed on a runway that I watched workers build, piece by piece, chunk by chunk. A runway that carried me within eyeshot of my own home as I left Greater Fort Lauderdale. It was a reminder how far this community has come since I moved here in 1989, when FLL felt like a minor regional airport. FLL is minor no more. It also was a reminder how far I have still to travel in my own life, or so I hope - with many firsts still to come, both big and small. When I stop to think about it, I suppose, maybe there are no small firsts anyway. Every first is a big one.

May 19: Faraway Places

Posted on May 19, 2015 8:30AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They call us the yachting capital of the world. Are we? Yes, we are. By "us," of course, I mean "Fort Lauderdale." And by "the world" I mean ... well, planet earth. Not just the yachting capital of the United States, mind you, or even North America. The world. And not in some exaggerated-ego sense either, like Leonardo DiCaprio's famous film line about being "king of the world." He wasn't, as his character soon discovered. But definitely, Fort Lauderdale is yachting capital of the world - exactly as advertised. For one thing, we hold the world's largest boat show each autumn. Everything from superyachts to kayaks to boating paraphernalia is spread out around the Fort Lauderdale beach area. To me, the boat show alone advances our claim to be yachting capital of the world.

But there's more to it than just this. All you have to do is look around to see why the claim is true. My own experience certainly tells me so. I've traveled to six continents and 52 countries so far, including yachting meccas such as Sydney and St. Tropez and Portofino. But I've never seen the sheer number of top-quality massive yachts as we have in Fort Lauderdale.

I was reminded of this just the other day when I decided on a whim to head out my condo door for a walk. With no particular idea where I was going, I wandered through my neighborhood in Dania Beach. Two marinas are within a few blocks of my place, one of them a large marina with some gorgeous yachts. Including superyachts, the largest of the large. Again by sheer whim, I ambled into the bigger marina for a quick walkaround. As I strolled down a wooden dock, I was struck by the places represented by some of those yachts. There was the Andiamo III from San Francisco and the Dzul Ha from Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis. There was the Current Obsession from Montreal and the Trikomo II from La Guaira, Venezuela. I walked past yachts from Hershey, PA and Annapolis, MD and Wilmington, DE. Oh, and two yachts from Bikini in the Marshall Islands - one of them called Change of Latitude. Do you know how far away the Marshall Islands are from Fort Lauderdale? Let me tell you just how far: 7,322 miles by plane. The whole earth is only 24,901 miles around so Bikini is way way off indeed. And why do all these yachts travel to Fort Lauderdale? Because we are truly the yachting capital of the world. Once you're here, you don't have to go very far to figure that out for yourself.

May 14: A Futuristic Look at Black History in Fort Lauderdale

Posted on May 18, 2015 6:37AM

Posted by Kitty Oliver - guest blogger

The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) is taking a high-tech approach to introduce visitors to the history of the library with a new theme park-quality animatronics exhibit unveiled earlier this month.

Funded in partnership with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB), the exhibit will remain on permanent display in the library's entrance to the gallery which features revolving shows by artists from the African Diaspora. It is dedicated to Samuel F. Morrison as "a visionary" who helped to establish the AARLCC and enjoyed an illustrious 26-year career as Broward County Library Director.

Visitors will be greeted by a lifelike robotic of Samuel F. Morrison, the catalyst behind the creation of the library, one of Greater Fort Lauderdale's premier cultural attractions. A sensor activated by each passersby activates the animatronic which features Morrison sitting at the edge of his desk poised to tell the story of the library and the surrounding community. Morrison's pre-recorded narration, as well as realistic gestures were developed with technological precision based on digital head and body scans.

"The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center plays a valuable role in our tourism initiatives and the cultural life of the African-American community and we see this endeavor as further expanding our commitment and support," said Albert Tucker, vice president for Multicultural Business Development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The new display promises to become a must-see attraction for the thousands of multicultural visitors flocking to Greater Fort Lauderdale this summer for major events including the annual conference of the National Urban League and the American Tennis Association's 98th Annual Conference and Championships and Family Reunion Fun. For those who have visited the AARLCC in the past, the new Morrison robotic warrants another trip. 

May 13: Looking Ahead

Posted on May 13, 2015 1:30PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Hey, I love spontaneity as much as the next guy. But sometimes planning helps. I mean a spontaneous question such as, "Why don't we stop here for ice cream?" will get me every time. No need at all for any advance plans. Or even things like, "Wanna go to the park for a while?" or "Maybe we should do the Bonnet House again today!" or "I'm feeling like an airboat ride in the Everglades. Whattya think?" All those and many many more questions will get me motivated to head out the door. (Or in the door, I guess, if it's that ice cream shop ... ) All this to offer a simple suggestion, especially for out-of-towners thinking about a possible June trip to Greater Fort Lauderdale. There's a big and very cool music festival from June 19 - 21 right in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale - get your tickets now.

Or soon anyway. It's called "Lauderdale Live," and continues this community's run of big-name outdoor music fests in recent years. You may remember that the Tortuga Music Festival played to sold out crowds on the Fort Lauderdale beach just a few weeks ago. (Blake Shelton already is booked as one of the headliners for 2016, by the way.)

Now comes Lauderdale Live. Another biggie. And so you may ask, "Big, like, who?" How about big, like, Phillip Phillips, who had a platinum-selling album and the huge single, "Home"? How about O.A.R., with their eight studio albums to date and packed live concerts at places such as Madison Square Garden? Not bad, eh? Other acts includes Sister Hazel and Ben Rector, Kris Allen and Luke Wade - and the entertainingly named New Orleans funk band, Dumpstaphunk. Among others. Good times will be had by all in attendance, guaranteed. So then, back to this advance planning issue. Now that you might like to go to Lauderdale Live, you'll want to explore buying tickets. Do that at this link: It even can save you money on festival tickets if you book at one of the hotels included on the Lauderdale Live website. Still plenty of time, of course, but then again ... Well, it's like I said. This party should draw some big crowds and there's no sense risking a sellout that keeps you outside looking in. Nope, you'd rather be inside looking out. Because inside is the best place to be at huge music festivals like Lauderdale Live. Inside is the best place to be at ice cream shops too - no tickets required.

May 11: A Good Start

Posted on May 11, 2015 10:47AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Sometimes it just all looks so beautiful. For me, South Florida seemed that way this morning as I took a long drive south along A1A. Even before the drive, usually annoying things like leafblowers didn't feel so annoying somehow. Have you ever had the experience? If so, you won't forget it. One of those mornings where everything appears fresh and vibrant and alive. Because you feel more alive in some way - or maybe you just feel more glad to be alive. It might happen to you after an especially wonderful night. Or after an especially bad one. Then dawn arrives and with it the brightness and the warmth. And yes, all that beauty.

As I drove in my Mini Cooper, sunroof and windows open, the humid air felt pleasant on my face, almost comforting. The traffic was what traffic often is in South Florida, a bit frenetic, a bit chaotic, distracted drivers everywhere. I suppose traffic is the same in most urban areas these days, isn't it? But on this morning, this welcoming morning, I mostly shrugged off the bad driving and paid attention to the sunshine. And the sky.

The sky was a pastel blue, the summery blue we get when the humidity comes, with wads of white clouds bunched here and there. In the distance, vast bulky columns of blue-black storm clouds towered - not menacing to me on this morning but dark and robust. And beautiful. I stopped briefly in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea for a coffee and doughnut breakfast before heading off again. When I got to the northern end of the Fort Lauderdale beach, I drove through puddles left over from the rain that had come and gone there. The cars in front of me spattered my windshield with spray. I didn't mind. I could see that the ocean had cleared after the brief storm, colored all teal closer in and a rich deep aqua farther out. I noticed that frothy tips of waves popped up on the sea in the distance, small whitecaps reflected in the sunlight, as foam breakers rolled onto the beach. The sky was mostly blue again by now, with only the faintest wisps of white visible, and then soon I was passing over the impressive bridge near Port Everglades and on south from there past the airport with the vividly painted planes gleaming on the tarmac. And I couldn't help feeling grateful for the drive, for the lovely lovely morning. Another busy work week would begin for me in a few minutes as I neared home. This had been a good start.

May 7: In Appreciation

Posted on May 7, 2015 2:02PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Let's start by saying, "Thank you." Thank you for visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale ... or for living here, whether full-time or part-time. To which I only can add, "You're welcome!" Because I'm among those who live here full-time and spend my money on food and beverage and attractions locally. Sometimes even on local hotels for those great staycations. I am a tourist in my own adopted hometown. It's a fab place to be a tourist, as you know. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this - you already love the Fort Lauderdale area, as I do. And that brings me right back to those opening two words, "Thank you." Why? Because it's National Travel and Tourism Week, that's why.

And because Today, Thursday, May 7, the folks who run this very website held their annual thank you party, wearing red to show support for tourism. When visitors inject $11.4 billion into the Greater Fort Lauderdale economy, there's a lot to be thankful for. And that's exactly what visitors did last year, a figure that doesn't include us local tourists of course.

In this part of the world, tourism isn't just a nice seasonal income jump for business. It's the throbbing heart of our economy, season after season, year in and year out. In 2014, more than 14 million tourists stayed and played in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Wow. And one more figure: Tourism employs 168,000 people in this county alone. So most definitely a hale and hearty "Thank you!" is in order as National Travel and Tourism Week continues. Thank you for making South Florida your escape, your sanity. We all need an escape now and then - you're not alone. South Florida's about as good as escapes get. An escape from whatever or whomever may drive you a little nuts from time to time. In a way, this week is a thank you to those whatevers and whomevers, I suppose. So "Thank you" to the lousy winter weather up north. And "Thank you" to the unreasonable and unappreciative bosses that seem the norm these days. "Thank you" to the Internet for making work a 24/7 drain on the energy of so many employees - and "Thank you" to social media for ensuring that moments not consumed with online work are spent socializing online. "Thank you" to the traffic jams and "Thank you" to the distracted drivers doing their work or social media in the middle of those traffic jams. The list of possible thank yous is endless in our fragmented frantic society. They are the reasons you come to Greater Fort Lauderdale and employ 168,000 folks and spend $11.4 billion. We are your warm, inviting, sunny tropical getaway from all of that. And you know what? When you think about that list, all the weather and bosses and Internet and traffic and the rest of it ... well, $11.4 billion doesn't sound like such an extravagant sum to spend on vacations. Actually, it sounds like a bargain.

May 4: Fragrant Florida

Posted on May 4, 2015 8:42AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They are in season now - not something special to eat, but something special to sniff. If you're near that something special any time in the next few weeks, you'll know it. Locally we call this "frangipani," though the plant has more than one name. Other folks call it plumeria or even the Hawaiian Lei Flower. Yep, they do often make leis out of frangipani flowers. The trees are so pretty in bloom and so remarkably fragrant that they're worth scouting out for a look. And a good close sniff. You see, South Florida has a thing for frangipani trees. You find them in many gardens, both residential gardens and commercial gardens. Around houses, around apartment and condo buildings. Around office complexes and hotels.

The frangipani is a peculiar plant, despite its popularity. Much of the year, this smallish spindly tree looks anything but lovely. Devoid of leaves, it kind of just sits in your lawn doing nothing at all, more dead-seeming than alive. But it's not dead. It's amazing.

That's the surprising appeal of the frangipani. About this time of spring each year, it explodes to life. First, the green leaves followed soon after by the flowers, those small white and yellow blossoms tinged in a delicate pink. They're gorgeous. And as you stop to admire the blooms, you begin to notice the scent too. Sweet and powerful as a stick of incense, the trees give off a delightful aroma that draws you toward it. If I pass a nearby frangipani tree when out for a walk, I usually can't resist pausing to sniff a flower or two. I carefully pull a branch down toward my nose and inhale directly from the blossom, literally stopping to smell the flowers. I highly recommend it. Because these remarkable trees don't stay remarkable-looking and remarkable-smelling for long. I've read online information about frangipani that says the flowers last all summer but that's not my experience. They always seem to be around for a month or so in South Florida, a relatively brief moment before the leaves fall and the blossoms disappear and the bare branches sit doing nothing again. Other trees and bushes bloom at various times throughout the year in South Florida, of course, turning our landscape into a perpetual tropical garden. The name, "Florida," actually comes from the Spanish word for flowers. But somehow, the frangipani stands out for me. Every spring it's a reminder, proving how patience pays and how concealed real beauty often can be. I think the frangipani is like many things in life - something special is there, hidden within. To find it, all you really have to do is wait.

Apr 29: You, VIP

Posted on April 29, 2015 1:14PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You deserve it. The best, the finest. The VIP treatment. Because you work hard all year long and you take care of things and you take care of people too. Because you are responsible and reliable, paying attention to small details and trying to make things the best they can be. At work, at home. And because you care about your friends and your family and because you try to give to them more often than you take. Admit it. You really do work at life pretty hard - harder than anyone knows, probably. Sounds like you, right? Yes, I'm guessing that it does. Fortunately, there's something in the way of a reward waiting for you starting this Friday.

Oh yeah ... From May 1 all the way through October 12, you can vacation like a VIP in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Which is why the annual promotion is called, "Vacation Like a VIP." And it allows you all sorts of feel-good upgrades and high-end stuff appropriate to your VIP status.

Vacation Like a VIP means you can stay at some of the top hotels in South Florida with a free room upgrade and free parking. And a $100 resort credit for things such as golf or a spa treatment or food and beverage. Even kids activities, assuming your kids qualify as VIPs of course. Heh-heh, just kidding ... As far as Vacation Like a VIP is concerned, you and your whole family qualify for the next few months. In addition to the resort niceties, you also get a $25 American Express gift card, complimentary valet parking at the upscale The Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills along with a complimentary glass of Prosecco for two at Villagio Ristorante. Besides all this, Vacation Like a VIP hands you a Summer Savings 2-for-1 card worth $200. All you have to do is stay for at least two nights at one of these 10 amazing resorts. For instance, the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale or W Fort Lauderdale. Or maybe Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six or the Pillars Hotel. Or ... Well, you can check out the full list at this link: Any of them would be worthy of your exalted stature. You know, being the VIP you are. Or the VIP you should be anyway. Folks like you simply don't get the appreciation you're entitled to, with all that hard working and attention paying and care taking throughout the year. Vacation Like a VIP is a chance to take matters into your own hands, finally getting some of the proper respect. The world may not give you what you deserve very often. But that doesn't mean you can't give it to yourself.

Apr 28: Broward 100

Posted on April 28, 2015 7:56AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

At 100 years old, some things remain youthful. Other things at that age seem ancient. And for still other things, the best days are only just getting started. If you're a redwood tree, the age of 100 is like infancy. For those people among us who live to that same ripe 100-year-old age, time presses down heavily. But as Broward County turns 100 this year, our part of Florida is really beginning to come into its prime. Yes, Broward County celebrates a centennial birthday in 2015. And the celebration will be a good one, with art projects and performances that showcase all this county has to offer - and a major party coming up in October. Oh yeah, and a contest about ice cream.

Ah-ha, that got your attention, right? Who doesn't love ice cream? I do. I most definitely love ice cream. So yep, my own attention was grabbed when I learned about this ice cream contest.

The idea is to help create a special ice cream recipe that reflects Broward County. You know, the flavors of Greater Fort Lauderdale ... The venerable Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant in Dania Beach is running the competition, which you can enter on Facebook at this link: All you have to do is write down the list of ingredients that would make up your own version of Broward 100 ice cream. My recipe might include things such as coconut and mango and oranges. Yours could get more creative with something like Florida avocado and tea from hibiscus flowers. Let your imagination go wild - chunks of fresh shrimp in vanilla ice cream anyone? Uhm, maybe not. Some recipes are best left untested. But you get the concept here. You can submit your own lip-licking collection of ingredients until June 5, so you've got time to give this some serious thought. Because, let's face it - ice cream is a serious subject for some of us. Speaking for myself, my personal fave flavors of mint chocolate chip ice cream and dark chocolate ice cream, scooped out side by side in a dish ... well, that seems like serious stuff indeed when I'm eating it. Aside from the ice cream contest, you'll also want to check out some of the other Broward 100 activities, which you'll find at this website: I'll be telling you more about those activities in blogs throughout the celebration. For now, though, you might want to focus mostly on this big ice cream contest business. The prize is a whole lot of Jaxson's ice cream for you and your three best pals. See what I mean? Serious stuff indeed ...

Apr 22: Only One

Posted on April 22, 2015 7:45AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

There's a good reason President Obama is celebrating Earth Day here. Because South Florida is home to a place that's unique on Planet Earth: the Everglades. And because the long effort to preserve this remarkable environment goes on - and is showing signs of success. The Everglades quite literally is like nowhere else. It is, for instance, the only spot on our globe where both alligators and crocodiles coexist. It is a sprawling area that extends far beyond South Florida, with a wide variety of animal and plant life. And if you've never experienced the Everglades for yourself, you should. For sure. A visit to this wilderness is alone worth the trip to our region, especially when you do it by airboat. It is a World Heritage Site, very deservedly so. And it is an unforgettable sight to behold.


A friend of mine operates tours for Scandinavians who come to Greater Fort Lauderdale - and she always must include an Everglades excursion for her guests. I had dinner with her just the other night, in fact, and yet another Everglades airboat adventure was on her agenda for early the next morning. That's how the Everglades should be regarded by anyone who visits South Florida. It is a must-see.


Apparently, even President Obama agrees. The leader of the free world has at his disposal pretty much anywhere in ... well, the free world. He picked the Everglades for his 2015 Earth Day. This should tell you something. It surely tells me something. It tells me that the so-called River of Grass remains a natural wonder, despite development and foreign species that have threatened it. And it tells me also that the Everglades indeed is making a comeback as a result of federal conservation work over the years, work that will continue for many years more. That's an achievement for the government to rightly brag about. Greater Fort Lauderdale can do its own bragging about the Everglades, of course, with those airboat rides only a half hour drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale. I'm always amazed at how quickly I get there with out-of-town guests. The Everglades isn't far from any doorstep in Broward County. I recall taking a hot air balloon ride in Pompano Beach, floating high above this area for an amazing hour or so - and that's when something struck me. With lots of time to gaze at the horizon, I could see clearly that only a relatively narrow strip of land is occupied by humans ... and how much of the Everglades is left. This Earth Day is a good chance to recognize the spare beauty of that one-of-a-kind environment, just as our president is doing. And to make our own plans to see it for the first time or to see it again, soon.