LauderBlog

Mar 4: Foxy Lady

Posted on March 4, 2015 10:27AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

South Florida is a charming mix of urban and wild. Another reminder of this came to us recently with news that the long-absent gray fox had returned to a local park. A park that bumps up against the very heart of the famous Fort Lauderdale beach. This beach attracts tens of thousands of people, tourists and locals alike. Lots of cars also pass by all day every day as they tool up and down A1A to gawk at the ocean. Major hotels funnel guests in and out near the park - there's even a fire station just around the corner. Despite it all, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park remains a welcoming oasis of native plants and wildlife. Look for it at the corner of A1A and Sunrise Boulevard, stretching north from there.

So it was lovely to read a newspaper report about the gray fox. The last gray fox before now at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park was seen some eight years ago. Park rangers thought it was gone for good.

But no, it wasn't. In recent days, a maintenance worker spotted a gray fox and snapped a photo for proof. Since then, a few more turned up including one pregnant female. Pretty cool. Rangers caution us to keep away from any gray fox we may notice at the park - they're skittish around people. And please don't feed them either. They're doing just fine on their regular diet of tasty rabbits and rats and mice, perhaps supplemented by a course of crabs and lizards and iguana eggs now and then. When you visit the park, also look around for those mama and papa iguanas. You're likely to see wading birds or ducks or hawks too. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park has more than 200 species of them. Other creatures within the park boundaries are opossums and turtles, gray squirrels and gopher tortoises and indigo snakes. No worries - indigo snakes aren't poisonous, though they can grow fairly big. Personally, I've never seen one during many trips to the park. I've always found that Birch State Park serves nicely as a refuge from all those tourists and locals, all those cars and hotels and fire trucks. It's a throwback to South Florida as South Florida once was, a subtropical jungle. Today's South Florida looks very different, of course. For many excellent reasons we're a popular vacation destination, offering sunshine and warmth and sea and sand along with wonderful restaurants, unique attractions, top hotels. But I think it's nice to learn we're also still popular among gray foxes. Like the people, they know a good thing when they see one.

Mar 3: Roaming

Posted on March 3, 2015 9:22AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The nice thing about Florida is that it's so close to Fort Lauderdale. You know, easy access and all. By which I mean to say a few things: First, that Greater Fort Lauderdale is a distinct region in a large state made up of many other distinct regions. Second, that we're located nicely for roaming around a bit, should you feel so inclined when you visit us. Third, that some roaming is well worth doing. Naturally, all of us in Greater Fort Lauderdale prefer that you come as a tourist and spend all your money within our county's boundaries. Many folks do exactly that. Thank you. But for others, a trip to the Fort Lauderdale area also includes side trips out and about, here and there, hither and yon. You get the idea. From Fort Lauderdale, Florida beckons these people.

Such wanderings are on my mind today because last week I did some wandering of my own, venturing well beyond my Dania Beach condo for a few days. I did this for a very specific reason. Ever since I was seven-years-old growing up in suburban Detroit, I've wanted to visit Lakeland, Florida to watch my Detroit Tigers in spring training. After nearly 26 years as a Greater Fort Lauderdale resident, I finally decided 2015 was the year.

My goal was to see my baseball team fielding their grounders, shagging their fly balls, smacking a few in batting practice - and, I sincerely hoped, to meet my all-time baseball idol. The great Hall of Fame Detroit Tiger, Al Kaline. So I hopped on I-595 near the airport and headed west, out to the expansive Everglades only a half hour from downtown Fort Lauderdale. Still in Broward County, I slid on to U.S. 27 north and drove for the next five hours. I passed miles and miles of more Everglades before motoring into sugar cane country as I approached central Florida, then through endless acres of orange groves and still more acres of cattle ranches not far from the pretty lakes around Sebring. On the way, I spotted two bald eagles nesting high on a power pole. I stopped at a funky roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere for barbecue beef. I rolled slowly through small towns and large farms until at last I landed in Lakeland. The weather was much colder than in Fort Lauderdale but I did my thing, watching my guys field their grounders, shag their fly balls, smack a few in batting practice. And yes, I actually met and briefly chatted with Al Kaline, who graciously posed with me for a selfie despite the bitter wind. I'm back in Dania Beach now and I'm very glad to be here. It's warm and sunny, my windows are open and I'm wearing a t-shirt instead of a heavy sweater and leather jacket. But my getaway was a reminder that tourists also may enjoy exploring during their time in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Exploring within Broward County, perhaps exploring some outside it too. Florida is a uniquely beautiful state - so come to Greater Fort Lauderdale, stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale and consider taking a short trip beyond. You'll discover that Florida really is only a short drive away.

Mar 2: Women of Power Impact Greater Fort Lauderdale

Posted on March 2, 2015 10:27AM

Posted by Kitty Oliver - guest blogger

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is gearing up to salute Black women in March with a lineup of events featuring some of the top movers and shakers in the U.S. today.

Black Enterprise magazine is predicting a record-breaking attendance of close to 1,000 participants for its 10th Annual Women of Power Summit March 2-5, convening for the first time on Fort Lauderdale beach with the CVB as host/sponsor. This year's event features a high-powered roster of top-level African American women in global finance, leadership development and training, business management, and mental health as well as women who have played pioneering roles in sports corporations, the military, diversity, and education.
Panelists, keynote speakers and award honorees include Susan Taylor, activist and change agent and editor-in-chief emeritus of Essence magazine; iconic film star Pam Grier; award-winning NPR journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Spelman College president Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum; "Good Morning America" financial contributor Mellody Hobson; and crisis communication expert Judy Smith, inspiration for the lead character in the TV series "Scandal."

"Each year we look for a warm place - since most people come from the Northeast and cold weather - and Fort Lauderdale certainly has it. And, we were attracted by the amenities and beauty of the area," said Renau Daniels, Senior Director Multimedia and Events Sponsorship and Sales at Black Enterprise.

The CVB is also partnering with the City of Miami Gardens this year for the Women's Impact Conference on March 20 preceding the 10th annual Jazz in the Gardens concerts March 21-22. The conference focuses on issues facing women in the workforce and community and will be held at the Miramar Cultural Center.

The women's conferences are in line with the CVB's tourism and economic development initiative which promotes innovative partnership opportunities for numerous upscale multicultural groups who visit the area. Participants vacation like VIPs while also interacting with and impacting the local community.

When the National Urban League brings its national conference to Greater Fort Lauderdale area in July for the first time, the focus will be on setting a national agenda for areas of concern in the Black community as well as conducting a job fair, health screenings, and projects for local youth.

Black Enterprise magazine has become a media partner with the American Tennis Association, the country's oldest Black sports organization, which attracts players from around the country to its annual championships each August in Fort Lauderdale. The ATA has plans to make the Greater Fort Lauderdale area its permanent home and nurture the education of young male players through partnerships with Black Greek organizations and HBCUs.

Organizations such as the National Black Accountants, the Sickle Cell Conference and the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) continue to flock to the area. "We are always supportive of events and conferences that bring affluent, high-powered African Americans to the area who can see all the wonderful things we have to offer and keep coming back,' said Albert Tucker, Vice President for Multicultural Business Development for the CVB.

Feb 25: Indian Summer

Posted on February 25, 2015 10:22AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The warm sounds of Indian music are coming to Fort Lauderdale. As March brings us even more summer-like temperatures, it also will bring along one of the greatest classical sitar players on the planet. Our own Indian summer, if you like. Of course, you may not recognize his name unless you're a true aficionado of Indian classical music. To those folks who are in the know, though, Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan is renowned, a man acclaimed worldwide as among the very best on his instrument. Performing with great tabla player, Gourisankar Karmakar, Khan comes on March 7 to the Broward County Main Library Auditorium. Buy your tickets online: http://www.apaiart.com. Without any hesitation, I very highly recommend this concert if you have any interest at all in Indian music.

I happen to love it - and listen to it often at home. Like many of us, I owe my interest in Indian music to the Beatles. George Harrison especially. Thank you, George ... He introduced the distinctive sounds of the sitar in several Beatles songs - and he told us to listen to someone named Ravi Shankar. Harrison regarded him as the finest musician on earth.

Shankar is gone now. But Khan is among today's sitarists who ignite concert halls with technical brilliance and passionate improvisation. That's the extraordinary thing about Indian music of this type - it's all improvised. In that way, you can think of it as similar to serious jazz. So when you attend an Indian concert, you hear musicians reacting to each other, feeling the rhythmic pulse of the other players, taking something from them and giving something back to them. Typically, the pieces are long and begin slowly. You may even wonder if the tabla player ever is going to use those drums in front of him. But he will, believe me. And when the tablas at last begin to sound, the music's pace soon quickens until, by the end, they may be playing at an almost frenzied tempo. It's thrilling to hear in person. No recorded performance can equal the experience of listening live to great classical Indian music. So yes, please consider joining me for this special concert. And no, nobody asked me to pitch you this performance, no one offered me free tickets or whatever. I paid for my two tickets just like everyone else. I'm writing this blog because I've attended many Indian concerts in Fort Lauderdale, all of them excellent, some of them among the highlights in my musical memory. This promises to be one of the best - and I thought you should know about it. If it's not your cup o' tea, fine - no worries. But if it is, you won't want to miss it.

Feb 23: Black, Blue & Yellow

Posted on February 23, 2015 12:04PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

History comes in colors. Black history in South Florida surely can be looked at in this way. Once, not too long ago, to be black anywhere in the south was also to be blue. That's an idea I lifted from a great old jazz song, famously recorded in 1955 by Louis Armstrong: "What did I do to be so black and blue?" The music sums up the reality of life in a racially divided society. Black then was blue. And today? I would hope the dominate color in South Florida for blacks and whites and people of every color skin would be the same: sunshine yellow, emanating from a warm, welcoming and sunny tropical community available to anyone with the means to enjoy it. I believe that's the case in 2015.

But of course it does take money to savor the best a city can offer, especially true in a tourist mecca such as Greater Fort Lauderdale. We're affordable but, hey, no one is giving away hotel rooms on the beach. And as we celebrate Black History Month, we also realize that lots of people still struggle economically, particularly true of many minorities. We have a long way to go to make every city's best available to everyone.

So my use of yellow in this blog isn't meant to suggest there's no room for improvement. There is, as we all know. Even this week's Oscar ceremony included a musical tribute to the civil rights battles of Dr. King and legions of other courageous people - and two Oscar winners pointed out that those battles aren't entirely over yet. My sunshine yellow, then, is merely intended as a timely reminder that life in Fort Lauderdale for blacks is very different now than it was not too long ago ... In my own lifetime, black people couldn't swim freely on any beach in the city. No, they were restricted to a single remote beach accessible for many years only by a ferry ride. Blacks couldn't find medical care wherever and whenever they needed it. From 1938 to the mid-1960s, Provident Hospital on Sistrunk Boulevard was their only choice. There's a worthwhile piece posted on this website, written by my colleague Kitty Oliver, talking about local black history in more detail. I recommend the article, which you'll find at this link: http://www.sunny.org/multicultural/history/. We can't forget our past - and we shouldn't. Because looking backwards sometimes is the most helpful way to figure out just where we are now. And where we want to go next.

Feb 18: Hot & Cold

Posted on February 18, 2015 10:25AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

If you live up north, I hope this blog makes you feel better. Because I feel your pain. I've been through it myself during 14 years in Vermont, and many more years in places such as Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hang in there - spring will I arrive, I promise. Eventually ... And if it makes you feel any better, Florida is having its own cold spell. Well, I probably should say "cold spell." This morning I was thinking about our different perceptions of what's cold and what's hot, all depending on where we call home. For instance, I just sat on my patio having coffee, watching an anhinga stretch its wings to dry after he went fishing in the small lake at my condo. I was wearing a t-shirt under a longsleeve shirt and a lined Dockers jacket. The temp was 63 degrees. And it felt, yes, cold.

Where you are in the north country, forget 63 degrees. Even 40 degrees today would inspire you to throw on some baggy shorts and a tank top. And if there also was some sunshine you'd feel like taking a swim or lying on a blanket in the grass. Not here, not in South Florida. When it gets into the lower 60s, I take out my turtleneck shirt for the day. Brrrr.

See what I mean? It's all relative to what seems normal, isn't it? Normal February high temp in Fort Lauderdale is 77. In Boston, the norm is 39. Though right now Google tells me Boston is shivering in 25 degree weather. And I know there's lots and lots of snow piled up everywhere, judging from the news reports. Yikes. As I said, been there, done that. I know how it feels, having lived through my own record-breaking blizzards and cold spells. I recall one stretch in Vermont when the thermometer never climbed above zero for two weeks. I've felt real temps, not wind chill, of minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. That's seriously cold. And here I am in South Florida now, wearing three layers when it's in the 60s. What does that tell me? That I've become a weather wuss, most definitely. And it tells me that I've become accustomed to warmth and sunshine and humidity. People are remarkably adaptable. We get comfortable with any weather we experience habitually. So yeah, really, please do hang in a while longer and get through this brutal northern winter. You're tough enough to hack it. And for my part, I'll do my best to endure these 60-something degree highs. Besides, relief is well in sight: Saturday's predicted high in South Florida is 73 degrees. Now that's a February temperature even I can get used to.

Feb 17: My Oh Mai

Posted on February 17, 2015 8:30AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's nice to see good people get their due. Same for good places. The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has both - lots of good people all working as a kind of family at a good place. A good place that's been a good place for more than half a century, which by South Florida's everything-is-new standard makes the Mai-Kai an important piece of our history. Apparently, the National Park Service agrees. The Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant just won official federal designation as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It was among only seven spots in all of Florida to earn this recognition. So today I offer a hearty congrats to everyone at that delightful tiki-themed restaurant. The honor is well deserved.

If you're not familiar with this South Florida institution, let me fill you in. A night at the Mai-Kai feels like a trip to Polynesia, an escape from our everyday worries into a world of tropical waters and soft colored lighting and large fruity cocktails. Make sure to visit the Molokai Bar before dinner - it also makes a great Happy Hour destination.

Whatever you do, catch the Polynesian floor show with your dinner. It's one of those don't-miss things in Fort Lauderdale, as far as I'm concerned. A terrific live Polynesian band accompanies dancers performing traditional steps from the islands, including some amazing stuff with flaming batons. And the food? I've always found my Mai-Kai meals to be delicious, munching away on appetizers that have names like the Pupu Platter and Tahitian Cheese Tangs and entrees such as Panang Curry Chicken and Mai-Kai Orange Beef. You get the idea, I'm sure. What makes the Mai-Kai something charming rather than kitschy to me, though, are the people. I'm a longtime friend of Pia Dahlquist, the restaurant's director of sales and marketing, and through her I've heard nothing but good stories over the years about the Mai-Kai's ownership and staff. That's certainly been my personal experience as a customer as well. From the maître d' to the bartenders to the waitresses and waiters to the musicians who play in the Molokai Bar - folks there tend to be smiling, pleasant and eager to make customers happy. What's not to like about the Mai-Kai? For more information, visit their cool website: http://maikai.com. Or just call 954-563-3272 to make a reservation and check it out for yourself. The Mai-Kai is a charming throwback to the Mad Men era when it was built ... and a welcome getaway from the hassles of our tech-wired 21st Century. Turn your cellphone to silent, put it in your pocket and breathe in the relaxations of Polynesia, Fort Lauderdale-style. Trust me, you're likely to feel a lot better when you leave than when you arrived

Feb 11: Sunny Romance

Posted on February 11, 2015 10:53AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's hard to feel romantic in the snow. Sunshine is sexy. Think about it. When we look at Beyoncé do we say, "Wow, is she cold!" No, we say, "Wow, is she hot!" I rest my case. Hot is all sweaty and sensual, priming us for romance. Cold is all goosepimply and isolating, driving us into three layers of down clothes. Oh yeah - then add the rubber boots and floppy mittens and you have a look sure to entice. I bring this up today because, let's face it: a very big chunk of our nation is getting a very big dump of winter snow in 2015. And I also bring this up today because it's almost Valentine's Day. And because it's warm and sunny and lovely in South Florida now. And because I'm hoping this blog can encourage you to find some romantic heat over the weekend, wherever you happen to live.

So I say, Celebrate your sunny! You can do that here or there, in Greater Fort Lauderdale or somewhere else. I have to admit that "here" is the better choice in February. Let's begin with the local options, then, including a bunch of holiday events and activities.

Whether you're single or coupled up, you can attend the Blue Martini Valentine's Party in Fort Lauderdale, for instance. There's also Valentine fun around our town from special massages to special horseback riding to special fishing excursions and more. All of it special, I'm told. Even hotel specials that include at least one deal themed to coincide with the release of Fifty Shades of Grey. To find more info, check out this link: http://www.sunny.org/valentine. For out-of-towners reeling from the cold and snow, you may recall that I recently suggested calling up this website's live Beach Cams - worth remembering now as the next storm heads your way. You'll catch the cams here: http://www.sunny.org/webcam. Maybe the sight of our summery beaches will warm up your imagination. Like, what about turning the heat way up in your home, donning some shorts and t-shirts and having your own romantic beach party - minus the beach ... This is where the Beach Cam might come in handy, streaming the sunny feed to your laptop or tablet. That's only one suggestion as a starter but I'm sure you can come up with your own ways to summon some warm romance on a cold Valentine's Day. The folks in Chicago just had a visit from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, which operates this website ... Models in swimsuits were on hand and free sunglasses were passed out, helping Chicagoans feel in a warmer mood. Boston residents will get the same treatment in the days ahead. For everyone else up there, hang in and savor this Valentine's Day the best way you can. Snow usually isn't very romantic, true enough - but it's not snowing inside. If you can't be in the South Florida warmth, you'll just have to figure out some other way to generate heat.

Feb 9: A Place Renewed

Posted on February 9, 2015 9:48AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

If you love Fort Lauderdale, you're not alone. Greater Fort Lauderdale, that is - areas from the Everglades to Deerfield Beach, from Hallandale Beach to Weston to Plantation to Pompano Beach. The entire county is more popular than ever with locals and tourists who can't get enough of the casual tropical chic that's become our own brand. We are different, very different from Miami to the south and Palm Beach to the north. Both lovely spots in their own right, of course ... and short jaunts from Greater Fort Lauderdale for those wanting a day trip. The distinction between the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale struck me again just yesterday as I was driving south on a busy A1A, beside a glistening turquoise sea along the Fort Lauderdale beach.

I rolled past the luxe hotels, existing and under construction, and thousands of visitors from around the country and around the world. I motored on near upscale sidewalk cafes packed with a brunch crowd and then past Port Everglades, where I counted at least six huge cruise ships docked in the second largest cruise port on earth.

Then I drove on farther south, looking over at the massively expanded airport with two runways operating at full tilt. And I remembered what Fort Lauderdale was like when I arrived in 1989 - and what Miami was like back then too. In those years Miami has evolved, yes, but Fort Lauderdale has been transformed. Without question, Miami has benefited from wonderful growth through construction of new condos and museums, the rise of South Beach and the Design District. And more. I love it ... in short bursts. During that same period, though, Fort Lauderdale has done more than evolve. This city has gone from being a place that was pleasant but lackluster in many respects to a world-class tourist destination ... a destination that also makes a delightful community for year-round residents such as me. We can justly boast about top quality entertainment at venues that include the Hard Rock complex, more fine restaurants and cafes than anyone possibly could sample, elegant hotels by major names such as Hilton and Ritz-Carlton. Condo and apartment buildings punctuate the skyline today. Las Olas is revitalized and the beachfront prettified. Miami still feels like Miami, the same community I've known for almost 26 years now. Fort Lauderdale feels like a community renewed, fresh made into something far better than before. In 2005, I had the chance to move to Miami and I seriously considered the switch. But I decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale. It's a choice that I've never once regretted. For me, Miami is one of those nice-place-to-visit spots. Fort Lauderdale is one of those less common nice-place-to-stay cities. I've enjoyed, greatly enjoyed, watching all the changes here and I'm looking forward very much to the many improvements already planned for the years just ahead. Things are happening in Fort Lauderdale, good things in the city and throughout much of Greater Fort Lauderdale, really. There are lots of reasons to love Fort Lauderdale in 2015. And lots of people who do.

Feb 5: In Celebration

Posted on February 5, 2015 3:08PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

February always brings ... fun. At least in South Florida. I recall my many many February experiences when I lived up north. In places such as Detroit and Cleveland, Philly and South Jersey. And Vermont. Back then, I did not see February as fun. I saw February as a month that prolonged the winter's lousy weather when all I really wanted was spring. Not so any more, not down here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Nope, in these parts February is fun. That's much easier to say, of course, when you look out the window in the morning and see sunshine - and feel a 74 degree temperature blowing in through that window. That's my February experience these days, I'm happy to report.

 

So over the years I have come around on the topic of February. Now I view this period as ... oh yeah, fun. Because February brings with it fun moments to celebrate. Valentine's Day. Chinese New Year. Mardi Gras. They come all in a row during 2015, landing one after another like planes at FLL. Planes full of people arriving in South Florida for some warm fun, no doubt.

 

I've always been big on celebrating holidays anyway. That's just me. I think that when life offers us a chance to get together with other folks for some smiles, we should grab it. I've always loved Valentine's Day, being the romantic type I am. Mardi Gras is a blast too, no matter how far from New Orleans I may be. And Chinese New Year also has become a delightful event for me in the past decade, ever since I had the chance to party on this holiday in Singapore and Hong Kong. I tell you all of this for a reason. To encourage you to do the same, partying hearty on each of February's major holidays. Valentine's Day is February 14, as always. Mardi Gras is February 17. Chinese New Year is February 19. I say go for it, regardless of where you are. And if you're down here with me in sunshiny South Florida, so much the better. The options are endless, from special holiday meals in traditional places - intimate restaurants, Cajun restaurants, Chinese restaurants. To something more original and elaborate - a sunset picnic on the beach for Valentine's Day; a jazz-and-oyster party for Mardi Gras; kite flying in the park for Chinese New Year. Or whatever. Use your imagination and do something ...fun. February really can bring us joy. If you're in South Florida, very little energy is required to have a fine time. If you're somewhere else, you may have to work at it a bit harder.