Oct 20: Harvest Time

Posted on October 20, 2014 10:50AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Palm trees in Fort LauderdaleYes, it's coconut harvest season again in South Florida. Have you heard about this? Each autumn, skilled coconut workers come to our region from all over the Caribbean, with some harvesters imported from as far away as Thailand and Vietnam and other major coconut countries. Then when the weather begins to turn drier and cooler, the frenzied three-week coconut harvest begins. It's something to see. Oh yeah. I blogged about this a few years back, when coconut harvest technology was still in its more primitive stage. At that time, "coconut harvest technology" basically meant "two hands." The harvesters shinnied up the tall trunks of the coconut palms, using traditional methods learned as young children in their homelands.

One coconut at a time, they plucked and dropped the coconuts to the soft earth below, where other workers collected them into large piles for still other workers to husk and ship away to coconut shredding factories. As you can imagine, this was dangerous labor, especially for the coconut-collectors on the ground who wore specially made hard hats against the possibility of an accidental bonk from above.

How things have changed in just three or four years. Now you can expect to see the new "coconut thrashers" popping up all around Greater Fort Lauderdale over the coming weeks. The weather is perfect for the harvest and the thrasher technology speeds the gathering immensely. Basically, these cutting-edge thrashers are Transformer-like machines that reach up with great claws, grab the palm tree trunk like hands and shake the tree vigorously ... until every ripened coconut has fallen off. No more tree-shinnying for the coconut workers, though they still wear their special hard hats when collecting coconuts from the ground - you know, in case. Can't be too careful around a palm tree full of coconuts. And the most amazing thing about all of it is that, well, this story might even be true. Uh ... but it's not - haha! Nope, it's only another product of my fevered imagination on a lovely South Florida Monday, offered up for a couple of reasons. First, to give you a smile, I hope. Second, because late October is officially more than halfway to April Fool's Day and we always post a funny April Fool blog each year. Consider this an early start, created not to make anyone feel foolish but rather for something a little different and fun to begin your week. It also goes to show just how amazingly wacky South Florida life truly is. I mean, there might really be an annual coconut harvest, right? Hey, I could believe it. In the midst of our major autumn events such as the Dine Out Lauderdale promotion and the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, why not a big harvest season to go with it? We sure do have lots of coconuts, with many of them turning up in our food and cocktails and décor and everywhere else. The coconut is an important part of South Florida's tropical culture. And if this blog inspires you to harvest one or two of your own, please feel free. There are plenty to go around. Only, remember this important tip: Make sure you wear a hard hat. That part is no joke.

Oct 15: The Big Boats

Posted on October 15, 2014 9:00AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They are coming. Call them mega or super. Or just plain big. Whatever their name, these massive yachts soon will return in force to Fort Lauderdale. Not that they ever really go away, of course. But during the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show they come in huge numbers, like a flotilla of extravagance. We are invaded by the Ultraluxe Armada. The 55th edition of the world's largest boat show opens on October 30 and runs through November 3. This time around, that display of all things nautical is expected to feature some $3 billion in super-yachts alone. Notice, that's billion with a "b." Luckily, you do not need to qualify as a 1 Percenter to attend the show and ogle the yachts.

Believe me when I tell you that I don't approach the 1% category of wealth myself - nor, probably, the 61% category for that matter. But I've done my share of boat show ogling over the years. It's a hoot. And, well, kind of jaw-dropping too. "You mean, human beings really can afford to buy those things?" That's how the boat show feels to me.

Yes, they can afford to buy those things. Quite a lot of human beings can afford to do this, as it turns out. Some of them are humans of fame, including the director Steven Spielberg. His super-yacht called "Seven Seas" was in town for many weeks only last year. I've seen that yacht up close and, wow. It's nice to know all the money I've spent on flicks like Indiana Jones or E.T. went for a good cause. Spielberg's boat is not a boat. It's more like a mini-cruise ship, tying up at Fort Lauderdale's Pier 66 marina in 2013. I noticed that this same marina is going through a major renovation, by the way, work that should be complete just before the boat show starts. The Pier 66 resort will be an official part of the boat show again this year, now with room for 10 more super yachts. That means 16 of them can dock at Pier 66 and hold a 1 Percenter Party, if they like. I would welcome an invitation to that party, though I won't hold my breath. Still, it's nice to know that these folks will have even more room for their luxurious brand of fun in 2014. Those of us not in their economic category can have our own brand of fun during the boat show. Go to this link for more details about the event: As for me, I can plan on buying my boat show tickets and maybe snagging a beer and burger while there. As I saunter past the super-yachts I may wave a beer cup in their general direction to say hello. If they're in the proper mood, perhaps they'll wave their champagne glasses back at me.

Oct 14: Out & About

Posted on October 7, 2014 7:12AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Oh yeah. It's that time again. Fine dining at prices you'd normally pay at more modest restaurants. Dine Out Lauderdale is back. From now through November 6, you can score three-course meals at some of Greater Fort Lauderdale's best eateries for a fairly amazing $35 per person. Plus tax and tip, of course. Compare that to the cost of a meal at those top spots any other time. Not only that. These are specially created meals, put together exclusively for the Dine Out menus all around town. This year, more than 35 restaurants are taking part too. It's one of those, "So many choices, so little time" things. But if you start now, hey, you could sample each of the restaurants at a one-a-day clip ... with just enough days left to return to your personal faves. Well, it's a thought anyway.

But whether you check out all 35-plus places or only one in the next few weeks, your dining experience should be memorable. Because just look at some of the options. There's 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa as well as Via Luna at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. And Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale. For openers ...

The list goes on. Including such well-known restaurants as The Capital Grille, Johnny V, the Melting Pot, Morton's The Steakhouse, Le Bistro, Café Maxx. And the venerable 15th Street Fisheries, which was among the spots I enjoyed during last year's Dine Out promo. Gwen and I settled in to eat at a perfect waterside table, where we could see a lovely sweeping section of the Intracoastal Waterway. Our dinner portions were very generous and the food perfectly prepared - fish for her, steak for me. Luscious desserts for us both. We had a terrific meal ... and took home leftovers. Not sure yet where we'll end up this time around. Like I said, so many choices. Such as Rivals at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa or Nanking Asian Grill at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina. Or Eduardo de San Angel or Sunfish Grill or Sky Thai Sushi or ... You get the idea. Look over the full list by clicking here: The complete line-up is there, each linked to its own page that includes location, contact info and their own special Dine Out menu. That should make those choices a little easier anyway. Dine Out Lauderdale is one of South Florida's best bargains of the year. Some great restaurants, some low prices, all happening just as our weather typically starts to cool down a bit. Yep, it's that time again. Oh yeah.

Oct 6: Beautiful Day

Posted on October 6, 2014 9:40AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

What can you say about the first fresh breath of autumn? Even in South Florida, it's something we all anticipate. It happened this past weekend, on a delightful Sunday. And it was worth the wait. I began the day at my girlfriend's place, where Gwen made us fresh fruit smoothies and espresso. She opened up the sliding glass door and called out to me, "It is cooler!" I walked outside on her patio, looked up at the sky and smelled the air. "Wow, this is great," I said. We sat on the patio to sip our drinks before I toddled off in my Mini Cooper, sunroof open and windows down. I found myself actually singing some old songs out loud in my car as I motored south on A1A, where I noticed an unusually perky collection of walkers and runners. It felt to me as if everyone wanted to be outside.


I stopped in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea for my first pumpkin doughnut of the season, along with a small coffee and cream. Not only did the air feel cooler and far less humid than any time since April, the sky also was a shade more blue. That's what happens when the haze of summer lifts in South Florida. The sky literally turns bluer.


My next stop was at a beach in north Fort Lauderdale. I climbed out to simply stand and gaze at the sea and the people and the boats and at that lovely sky. The Atlantic Ocean was gorgeous. Gentle white foam breakers rolled in over clear water that appeared light brown from the sand underneath. Then the light brown changed to brown-green as the sea deepened a bit, then shifted again into a broad band of vivid jade. Farther out, the water became teal and farther still a rich dark sapphire. I didn't want to leave. But at last I drove on home, immediately pulled open my own sliding glass door and felt the seabreeze blowing pleasantly through my patio. "I'm opening up," I said to myself. They are magic words in this part of the world. Those three words mean the A.C. is switched off and all the windows are raised or cranked or slid or propped open to the wind. It's the Florida equivalent of that springtime feeling northerners savor after a hard winter, our tropical version of relief from cabin fever. Start to last, Sunday was indeed a beautiful day. My windows are open as I write this blog on Monday morning, though realistically I know the weather won't stay. Not yet. We'll be back into the heat and humidity for a while longer. But not too much longer, if things go as usual with our climate. That's ok, I can wait. This delicious first taste of our autumn season was enough for now.


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.