Sept 2: Storied Art

Posted on September 2, 2015 12:38PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The best art tells a story. And next month, Broward's story takes shape through art in many forms. The big three-day countywide event called Duende will include an original Broadway-style show about our community. Titled "WE ...the passion and rhythm of the people," the production will bring celebrity artists onstage together with more than 100 top local musicians, dancers, poets and other creative folks to celebrate Broward's 100th birthday. That show is one of Duende's main events, but the music and dance and general art-making will fill up the October 2 - 4 weekend. On Friday, you can head over to SW 2nd Street in Fort Lauderdale any time from 8 pm to 3 am for live performances by jazz and rock and hip hop musicians. You can catch the drum battle, the flash mobs, the street art and light shows.

Saturday night brings the "WE" production to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Saturday also brings a daylong festival to Fort Lauderdale's Esplanade Park for what planners modestly have dubbed the "Party of the Century." Who am I to argue? I do know this much: It should be one heckuva party for sure. Everything from hip hop dancers to children's ballet, from a costume tent to edible art stations. From something called an Egg Time Capsule to something called the Musical Instrument Petting Zoo. Along with music that will include reggae and dance and house and salsa. And more ...

On Sunday, the art scene moves to Pompano Beach for the finale from 3 to 10 pm, the Duende A.M.P. Festival. You'll find a local band competition for the Most Amped Performance, then famed percussionist Sammy Figueroa takes over. And so does Otis Cadillac, the R&B musician. The show will include poetry and dance too. Oh, and a contest among 12 visual artists, an event that organizers have named ARTwar. For more info, just go to this link: All of this, the whole Duende weekend, will focus on Broward County - our 100 year past and our present as well as our future. It is our story told through works created by artists of all kinds. Yes, the best art always tells a story, somehow. Great symphonies do that: Just listen to Beethoven's 5th Symphony if you want a perfect example. Great paintings do that too: Look again at Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" or Munch's "The Scream." Of course quality poems and books tell stories, but so do fine performances by improvisational musicians. Check out the solos of John Coltrane, for instance, and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Next month, art will express the story of a place as that place looks toward the decades ahead. Our place, Broward County. In the end, Duende will be more than a good time. It's also a good sign that those approaching decades should be even better than those we've left behind.

Aug 31: Local Weather

Posted on August 31, 2015 11:13AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

I woke up this morning, looked outside and laughed. Sunshine, blue sky, bone dry ground. And so it goes in South Florida. Because I was ready for some rain - almost looked forward to it. I'd made extra coffee to hunker down on Monday morning and sit on my covered patio and soak up the sights and sounds of a good soaking. Didn't happen. I mean, I'm not complaining about the good weather. Just pointing out something you may not know unless you live in South Florida. Local weather here is very very local. It's different than anything I've experienced when living in other regions of the United States. It wasn't this way in Michigan or Ohio, not when I was a kid there anyway. Not this way in New Jersey or California or Vermont either. Florida's weather is as special as the state itself.

Here's what I mean. You may have heard or read something about a tropical weather system that caused some real damage in the Caribbean last week. Lots and lots of rain. Supposedly it was heading Florida's way, which turned out to be true. And supposedly it was bringing us lots and lots of rain. Which turned out to be more or less true for some, not true at all for others. Others, like me.

We get more rain in Dania Beach on a typical summer afternoon than we had from that tropical system. Other local communities had some flooding, mostly to my south in Miami-Dade County. And that's exactly my point. Our weather can differ dramatically in a short distance. It's common for me in the evening to call my girlfriend, Gwen, only to hear about the big thunderstorm she managed to dodge. And for me to respond, "What thunderstorm? It's been dry at my place all day." She lives about 16 miles from me. When I first moved to Greater Fort Lauderdale, I lived in Plantation. Many days, I would leave my apartment with an open umbrella, drive through the rain - and see downtown Fort Lauderdale directly ahead of me under a blue sky. I've actually stood on one side of a residential street where it was dry, looking at lawns across the road where it was pouring. See what I'm saying? Local weather for sure. So if you call a friend in Pompano Beach who tells you it's raining, don't assume your vacation resort in Hollywood has experienced anything other than perfect conditions. That's how it is in South Florida. Special, like I said. And okay, sure, some folks might characterize our weather with another word ... something like "wacky" perhaps. But I think "special" sounds nicer.


Aug 26: Rainlight

Posted on August 26, 2015 12:55PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The next time it rains, take a good look. In South Florida, something very lovely may follow all that precipitation. I call it rainlight. This happens when sunlight immediately follows the rainfall. And it occurs often in our area of the country. You see, this subtropical climate of ours sometimes generates rapid changes of weather. That's especially true in the summer, our so-called rainy season. In July and August, it's common for a clear sky to rapidly give way to indigo cloudbanks that build into high muscular masses before beginning their rumble. The thunder soon brings the rains, many times those intense storms that come and go in an hour. And that's when you need to look for the sunshine. Doesn't always happen, of course. But sometimes. Sometimes ...

And when it does, the sight of it is worth the wait. Each palm frond drips in the rain's remnants. Each branch is speckled in droplets. The coconuts are drenched in their wet coating. The grass too is covered.

When the sunlight emerges right after all that rain, everything in sight glistens. South Florida literally sparkles. The dripping palm fronds, the speckled branches, the drenched coconuts and covered blades of grass - all of it a-glimmer under the warm rays of the sun. But only for a time ... Rainlight doesn't last long. Like so many of nature's majestic moments, the twinkling world that is visible in South Florida only after a rainstorm is fleeting. Brief enough that you may miss it altogether. It's also oddly subtle in some way. Even as a writer who tries to observe the things around me carefully, I hadn't fully noticed the rainlight until just the other day. Yes, I realize now that I'd seen it many many times before. After more than 26 years in Greater Fort Lauderdale, I'd have to be fairly oblivious to have paid it no attention at all. But I hadn't really and truly seen it, not with a deeper awareness of what was in front of me. Not until sometime earlier this month. Then it struck me. This was the tropical counterpart to something I'd experienced in Vermont during the winter, when storms occasionally coat each twig and branch of the trees in ice. Whenever the sun comes out after an ice storm, it's gorgeous. That doesn't happen often up there. But the rainlight - that's much more commonplace down here. As August ambles toward its end this year, South Florida seems likely to get some good rains. If we're lucky, we'll get some good suns just after those good rains. And for a few instants, the world will sparkle again.

Aug 24: Selfie Opp

Posted on August 24, 2015 1:42PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You may be missing a great opportunity for selfies. Go ahead - admit how much you love taking those pics of your beautiful self, right? Oh, definitely. I'm going to tell you today about a don't-miss chance to snap selfies that will have your friends wearing blisters on their fingertips from liking your social media posts. Ah yes, the beloved selfie, something that didn't exist until very recent years. But don't be embarrassed. Hey, we all do it. And we also see it all over Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and the rest of them. "Here I am at the Taj Mahal!" "Here I am at the Grand Canyon!" "Here I am in the Everglades!" "Here I am eating scrambled eggs and bacon!" Unfortunately, I see a bunch more pics of the eggs-and-bacon variety than the Taj Mahal variety.

Nonetheless, the selfie is real and we're stuck with it for the time being. So why fight the tide? Why not embrace the selfie - if you can pose in front of something truly interesting in the background. Which brings us back to the beginning of this blog, at last: selfie opps in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Though we have many enticing selfie possibilities, I want to talk about the selfies you can snap only on a boat. You may have noticed that boats are, uhm, a pretty big deal around these parts. Home of the world's largest boat show and all. You also may have noticed that we have a whole lot of water around these same parts. Canals, lakes, the Everglades, the Intracoastal Waterway. Oh yeah, and the Atlantic Ocean. What you may not know is that we offer a whole lot of boat rides too, allowing you to explore those waters with your iPhone or whatever. It's a win-win proposition for sure. One of the best ways to experience Greater Fort Lauderdale is from the water. You get to see mansions and megayachts, marinas and waterside cafes from a perspective that makes our community shimmer. We look our very best from the angle of a boat. And so will you. So check out something like our Water Taxi or the Jungle Queen, or the Carrie B or one of the many other boatride options. You'll find them at this link: Then make sure your phone is all charged up, head on over to the dock and jump aboard. Wherever you tour, you're likely to snag some beautiful views to post online - views that will be partly hidden, of course, by that beautiful image of your smiling beautiful self. Because why would anyone want to see views of a tropical paradise unless you were in those photos, right? Oh, definitely.

Aug 19: C U Soon

Posted on August 19, 2015 1:01PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

If I could text each of you right now, this would be my message: "C U Soon!" Perhaps with an added emoji that grinned while winking. There's a reason for that grin and that wink. Because in this case, "soon" means September. And in Greater Fort Lauderdale, "September" means ... well, a great time to enjoy a vacation or staycation. All kinds of things are starting up in September this year, bargains and deals for sure. But also slightly cooler weather often begins in September - at least that's been the case during most of the past dozen years or so. I can't predict the weather, obviously, and September hardly qualifies as a season for wearing parkas. Likely it'll still be pretty darned hot. But typically I find the first hints of autumn temps and autumn skies during September. I look forward to that.


I'm also looking forward to Dine Out Lauderdale, one of those deals I mentioned. You can check out some top local restaurants offering superb meals for $35 per person. For the restaurants, it's a chance to introduce more folks to their fine food. For you, it's a chance to dine out for a song. Okay, maybe a song plus $35 each, plus tax and tip. But you get my drift. For more info, head on over to this link:


Dine Out Lauderdale is only the beginning. I mean, there's also all the twofers. As in, 2-for-1 bargains on spa treatments, which you can read about here. And there are the many other 2-for-1 offers as well, something you can learn more about with another mouse click here. Listen, it's wonderful to save money and everything - I'm a fan. But the reasons to do the September holiday thing go beyond bargains and even the weather. You'll find that our restaurants and bars and clubs and casinos aren't quite as packed as they'll be a couple of months later. There's a bit more elbow room and a bit less waiting. Our beaches aren't jammed either. Busy, yes. Jammed, no. Then there's all the stuff that September leads up to in October, including the amazing Duende celebration from October 2-4. Get more on that huge party here. As it happens, those September bargains and deals will still be going on during Duende. Right through October 12, in fact. So there you go ... my expanded version of the text message I'd send you if I could. "C U Soon!" True, the text would have been a lot quicker to read. But just think about all the good info you'd have missed with that brief text message. Even in today's world, longer sometimes still is better.

Aug 18: Only Natural

Posted on August 18, 2015 9:59AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

On the Fort Lauderdale beach, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has a simple sign about the sun and surf and sand. It hangs outdoors over their seaside bar, a reminder about why guests spend time and money in South Florida. I passed it again today while driving along A1A. Sun. Surf. Sand. But the sign got me thinking. Because it's not only sun and surf and sand that visitors come for, of course - it's for nature in general. That may sound surprising at first, suggesting our tourism is driven by the environment. And yet it's true. Yes, our top hotels and fine restaurants, our great spas and appealing attractions are key elements of the mix. No question. Except there are lots of other pleasant places in the country, and the world, with similar things. But they don't have them in the environment that Greater Fort Lauderdale can offer.

That's the big difference. Our culture and lifestyle are set among a landscape like no other. It's why I blog so often about nature. I'm hoping our readers can soak up some of this unique environment through my words. Feel that sun, hear that surf, relax in the sand. And rekindle a desire to experience it for yourself.

I hope that through my blogs you can imagine the iguanas plodding through the park and the alligators slithering through the sawgrass. I want you to enjoy lunch with me alongside a Fort Lauderdale canal. And to sit below my Mini Cooper's open sunroof as I motor by the ocean in December. I think it's important for folks who visit this website to remember that our trees bloom in the wintertime and that our backyards often are filled with fruit. Obviously, it's warm and sunny here in February when much of the country shivers. But we also can head out on a Sunday afternoon picnic in February if we like. Try that in Chicago or Detroit, Boston or New York. When we go on that picnic, we're likely to be greeted by the squawk of wild parrots. Or by flocks of ibis comically sticking their smudged snouts into the ground for insects as they lumber past our picnic spot. In South Florida, you don't have to tour the Everglades by airboat to observe nature. (Though that's a terrific thing to do ...) Nature is all around us in this region of the planet, with something still raw and real about it nearly everywhere you go. You'll notice curious lizards and exotic birds, you'll relax beneath intense sunshine by glistening water. If you live here, nature is why you love it. If you visit here, nature is what draws you back again and again. Our environment is the lifeblood of our crucial tourist industry. But it's more than that. Nature is the very essence of what South Florida is all about.

Aug 12: Fascinatin' Rhythm

Posted on August 12, 2015 12:17PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

South Florida has a rhythm all its own. The sound is something you can hear sometimes, but can feel always. I say this because I'm just now passing into my 27th year as a South Florida resident. I moved here in August 1989 from Vermont, joining the South Florida Sun Sentinel as an investigative reporter. And believe me, I never imagined in 1989 that I'd still be here in 2015. But I've stayed because of that sound, that feeling. That rhythm. It continues to fascinate me. The rhythm of South Florida includes the obvious: Our music. Original local artists who've hit it big such as Pitbull and Gloria Estefan and many others And the top names of pop and country music who come to Fort Lauderdale for major outdoor festivals. And the small-time Margaritaville strummers who play our tiki bars for tourists. And the Caribbean steel drummers who entertain the crowds along the beach. And more. All of it, part of our special rhythm.

But it's the rhythm you can feel ... that's really what has kept me in South Florida for so long. With absolutely no plans to move any time soon. There's the seasonal rhythm of wet and dry, hot and cool blended with all the gradual natural changes that happen month to month. When you live here for any period of time, you begin to understand that we have much more than only two seasons.

And there's the rhythm that comes from being a tourist mecca too. The arrival and departure of the snowbirds and winter escapees, of course, but also the comings and goings of cruise ships and out-of-state drivers, of visitors from nations around the world. They help to give this place a pulsing beat all its own. Then there's the arrival and departure of other birds, the real ones such as the turkey vultures that float gracefully through our skies in cooler months. And other fauna as well, the manatees that come in winter and the iguanas that love our heat and humidity in the summertime. And the rhythm of our flora, the bougainvillea and mango trees, the royal poinciana and the frangipani and all the others that bloom and fade and bloom again. More than anything, though, I love the rhythm generated by our people. We are a diverse lot in South Florida, each of us contributing our own experiences and our own cultures to this region. Our customs, our clothes, our foods, our languages and, yes, our music - all of this helps to drive the sound that keeps me living here. I love it. After 26 years, quite honestly, I'm surprised how much I continue to love it. Enough that I hope for another 26 years, at least, to savor the music all around me.

Aug 10: Staycationing

Posted on August 10, 2015 12:14PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Yes, it is August. Amazing. And yes, there is still time for that vacation. You remember what the word means, don't you? In today's world, it can be very easy to forget. My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a vacation as, "A period of rest from work." Okay, fair enough. But surely a vacation is something more than this. More than rest, it is rejuvenation too. Vacation is a change of habit and a change of scenery. And with any luck, vacation also is relaxing. We have to put down our cellphones and tablets and laptops for that one. Sorry, but no one can really relax while checking sports scores or answering emails or posting social media pics every 15 minutes. Vacation time means downtime.

But vacation doesn't have to mean leaving town. Not if you live in a place that's a famous vacationland, anyway. Not here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Vacationing can mean staycationing.

Ah, the staycation. An unappealing word for a very appealing thing to do. I've experienced many staycations over the years, wonderful in-town outings for a week or even just a few days. I've staycationed at spots such as Pier 66 and the Marriott's BeachPlace Towers among others. Wow, they were great getaways, terrific vacations made more terrific because I didn't have to go away to get away. My period of rest from work, as it were, began just minutes from my own front door. And if you take a staycation soon, you still can cash in on the summertime bargains. You know, the local deals such as all the 2-for-1 specials and Vacation Like a VIP. If you can hold out until September, you'll find even more great ways to save some cash while having a fab time. Dine Out Lauderdale is one of these, with more than 35 restaurants offering some amazing meals for $35, plus tax and tip. So the summer isn't over yet, my friend, not by a long shot. You have the rest of August and all of September to get around to that staycation - or that vacation in Greater Fort Lauderdale, if you're not local (Check out See You in September). Whether you're a tourist or a resident, the bargains are the same. Same warm weather too, and same inviting beach. Same sunshine, same things to see and do. It makes no difference. Local or visitor, you'll enjoy your own period of rest from work. And more.

Aug 6: Duende

Posted on August 6, 2015 1:27PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Duende. It's an unfamiliar word for something that means a very good time. Unfamiliar, at least, to those of us who aren't Spanish speakers. Perhaps you've already come across it, whether on this website or somewhere else. If you're in Greater Fort Lauderdale, you're going to be reading and hearing a lot about Duende in the coming months. So this seems a fine moment to learn a bit more about it, don't you think? Some background, if you will, for better appreciation of that very good time to come. Let's start with the pronunciation: Dah-WEN-day. Locally, Duende is the finale of the big ongoing Broward 100 Centennial celebration - yep, the 100th birthday of Broward County. From October 2-4, you can expect one major bash with bands and drum battles, street performers and children's ballet, light shows and hip hop dancers and tons more. Click here to get some details about Broward's Duende.

I'll be getting into those details here in this blog as the event approaches, of course. But for now ... well, the word's background is fascinating in itself. It's some info worth knowing for many reasons, including the perspective that a fuller understanding lends to the local Duende party.

In Spanish, duende is a fantasy creature - a goblin, a fairy. One good friend from Colombia explained the myth to me as bearing similarities to the legend of the Irish leprechaun. The duendes are part of the culture in Portugal as well as around Latin America and the Philippines. They can be good creatures - or bad. In Mexico and the American Southwest, duendes were believed to live in the bedroom walls of children. Yikes ... From this supernatural background, another meaning for the word "duende" evolved. Loosely defined, duende in this context is about having a feeling for art. It's about emotion, about the soul. One good explanation I came across was this sentence from Wikipedia: "It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive." That surely connects with me, as it may with many of us. I'm much more likely to be in tears listening to a symphony by Beethoven or Bruckner than I am in response to pain. A play by Shakespeare, say, or a film by David Lean or Stanley Kubrick easily can bring me to tears, and to chills and smiles. That's the notion behind Broward 100's Duende too. It's art that expresses the essence of Broward County in order to remember the first 100 years and launch us into the second 100 years of our history. It is a performance, it is a party. It is music and dance and visual art, it is history and it is culture. It is Greater Fort Lauderdale then and now ... and for the next century to come. Duende. It's enough to give you chills.

Aug 3: Skydust

Posted on August 3, 2015 1:16PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

South Florida and North Africa have at least one thing in common: the same dust. I mean that literally. Dust that starts its humble grainy life there sometimes ends up on our horizon here. I learned this amazing bit of science 10 years ago from a friend, who looked out at a rich red-and-orange sunrise with me one morning and commented as follows: "Beautiful! It's from the African dust, you know!" And in response I looked at her as if she'd gone crazy and replied as follows: "What? You mean dust all the way from ...? Ohhhh, come on!" It turned out she knew more science than I did about South Florida's summer skies. Indeed it was African dust coloring our sunrises and sunsets. And the same thing has happened many times since, including this year.

The local weather folks usually talk about this when it's taking place, pointing to their maps as the African dusts blow in and then blow through. It's not like the dust hangs around for long, naturally. But during summertime weeks when this well-traveled dust wafts our way, those small particles can make our mornings and evenings bigtime bright.

I offer up all this to emphasize an observation I make on occasion in these blogs: South Florida's environment is like no other. Anywhere. And that never ceases to amaze me. I think lots of us who live here, or visit often, feel that same way. We are astonished by the complexity and variety of this subtropical landscape. There's no sensible debate about our environmental uniqueness, of course, because the Everglades alone proves the point. Simply nowhere on this planet is the same as our Everglades. In many other ways too, flora and fauna combine with climate to create those astonishing things. Yes, the Caribbean also gets some of the African dust, but a Caribbean island won't give you those dramatic sunsets over a sprawling Everglades - or those dramatic sunrises during a quiet walk on the Fort Lauderdale beach either. Do you know this dust has to hitch a windy ride for at least 4,000 miles to get to us? And maybe as many as 6,000 miles? I recently learned it takes a full week for dust to reach South Florida from North Africa. The next time you witness an especially brilliant South Florida sky soon after dawn or just before twilight, you may want to explore online to find out if African dust is paying us another call. Chances are good that it is. That dust may have blown off the Pyramids or whirled up from the Temple of Karnak, or perhaps simply come from some barren stretch of the Sahara. It doesn't matter, really. The truly astonishing thing isn't where the dust began the journey. It's where the journey ends.