Friday, August 28, 2015

Find Me at The New Tropic


It may sound like The New Tropic is a snazzy hotel in South Beach but it's actually a breath of fresh air in the local digital publishing scene, dished up by talented locals. "Live like you live here" is the slogan, which may sound ironic  -- how can you not live like you live here? -- but that irony rings true for many old school Miamians who know there's more to the city than what you find in a tourism brochure.

Some Miamians may be old enough to remember the Miami Herald's Sunday magazine Tropic, which ceased publication in 1998. Like Tropic, which created a popular scavenger hunt that gathered together thousands from the community, The New Tropic produces events on a smaller scale. (I wouldn't put it past them to create a new version of the hunt. What say you?)

So what's the big deal? Another Miami blog? Not quite. The New Tropic is a daily dose of all things South Florida and much more.  In their own words, from the launch letter titled "A Miami Love Letter," published in January of this year:
Miami’s already got some great news organizations that provide critical day-to-day reporting. We’re focused on something a little different: helping Miamians become better locals by making sense of, and finding new ways to explore, the constantly expanding universe of news, issues, people and places in a growing city like ours. We want to help you live like you live here. Where traditional journalism emphasizes a sort of arm’s-length objectivity, The New Tropic is proudly local and thoughtfully optimistic about Miami’s future. We have opinions. We are involved. And we’ll always be clear about that.
I love The New Tropic's curated daily digest of local news and the fresh spontaneity of all this, which feels more like the impetus behind a movement rather than just another locally-focused blog. Even better, you won't find any cheesy Asian massage or escort ads here; this publication is supported, in part, by the Knight Foundation, which is all about journalism, media innovation, engaged communities and the arts. The New Tropic is the first product from WhereBy.Us, which helps "people become better locals" through experiential media.

Pretty groovy, huh? Now go over and read my first article about getting around in Miami. If you really want to live like you live here, you've got to pick which Miami you want to live in and earn your Miami cred by doing the Miami schlep.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ditch the Beach and Grab a Brush in Islamorada

A lion fish in watercolor. Photo courtesy of artist Michelle Nicole Lowe.

Inclement weather in the Sunshine State couldn’t keep us from enjoying ourselves in Islamorada.

In winter, Floridians get more than snow birds. Cold fronts from the jet stream sometimes assault our sunny days with chilly, squally weather, interrupting what water babies love to do -- in our case it was a day of snorkeling and sailing. But no matter, in the Florida Keys, you can still enjoy the area's marine life even if you're like a fish out of water.

I was traveling with a group of bloggers and although I really hankered to don my snorkel gear and to end the day with a sunset sail, I’m glad we spent the afternoon indoors at Michelle Nicole Lowe’s art gallery. Located in a small, non-descript strip mall on the overseas highway at mile marker 81, Lowe’s gallery bursts with bright, colorful creatures of the sea that come to life on canvas.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
Lowe also paints birds who call the Keys ecosystem home.

Lowe, who grew up in South Florida, has been painting since childhood but worked for a spell in corporate IT after earning a degree in finance. She followed her passion for art, furthered her studies in Italy and returned home, where she’s painting vibrant watercolors with striking realistic detail.

The love of the land’s natural splendor runs in her bloodlines. Lowe’s family traces some of its roots back several generations in the Keys and the Bahamas. She gathers inspiration for her watercolors by exploring the land above and under the water. Currently, Lowe is also working on a series of botanical watercolors.

During our visit, the friendly artist taught us how to paint a turtle swimming up to the water’s surface. We spent about three hours working with acrylic paints on a small canvas. The meditative nature of the process made for a relaxing afternoon and a refreshing change of pace from the surf. I didn’t miss the ocean at all and would return in a heartbeat to repeat this experience.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
The set up included a small blank canvas.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
Lowe taught us some rudimentary painting skills to create the turtle's shell.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
First, the background. We enjoyed some wine while painting the ocean in different shades of blue.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
Soon, a turtle appeared on my canvas. This wasn't easy to paint, but definitely fun.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
My little turtle. I kept him and took him home.

Michelle Nicole Lowe Art Gallery, Islamorada
Our final output. Painting together for an afternoon helped us nurture a jovial camaraderie.

Lowe’s gallery is situated just down the road from Morada Way Cultural and Arts District, which features additional galleries run by artists who welcome visitors warmly like old friends -- there’s no snobbery here.

You can see Lowe’s work at the gallery or at scheduled shows. Although Lowe doesn’t advertise classes, call her and ask for a customized, private session. A few hours painting with friends becomes a respite from the daily grind in an already marvelously relaxing destination. Islamorada’s proximity to Miami makes for an ideal staycation.

For more information, visit Michelle Nicole Lowe Gallery.


My participation in this outing was part of a press trip. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day of School


Every day is first day of school. When I was a kid, I was so eager to grow up because I felt it would "mean something" to be a grown up, as if being a child wasn't enough, as if life was postponed, a recursive symphony.

If I could talk to my inner child as that impatient imp she was then, I would tell her to exist fully in the present moment. And she was, for the most part, when playing with her toys, but always, always she played with a gut feeling that something else -- something better, something luminous and exciting that would "change everything" -- was lingering around the corner. She was infinitely curious. And because of this, she felt there was always something lacking.

That's probably why I became a writer. I already had a story to tell. The blank page of life presented itself before me with overwhelming plenitude. Writers wouldn't practice their craft if they felt there was nothing left to say.

Little did I know my younger self, the star student, would eventually have to unlearn quite a few things. I would have to let go of many things that I once thought would give life meaning, so long as I held on tightly to those things.

Things, stuff ... the detritus of life. All the shit we can spare because it just doesn't fucking matter. All the crap that makes us feel as if we're missing out on something, when, in reality, we wouldn't be missing anything if we simply let go of everything that holds us down.

Then, one fine day, you hit the wall. That future you dreamed of with such enthusiasm arrives when you hit that wall. The real schooling begins when you break it down and it crumbles to the floor. Humpty-Dumpty, the wall, the whole thing, boom. Gone.

The best lesson comes from a silent teacher. You. You tell fear and scarcity to go fuck itself.

What's left is the child's spirit in an adult body -- the innocence of forgiveness, the wisdom of unconditional love. That little girl still plays with her toys -- jobs, a roof over her head, money problems, books still unwritten -- but she knows better. The future came and went and then so what?

Our bodies our born and our bodies die. Everything else in between is a glimmer of the infinite. The now is that thing that is luminous and exciting, worth holding on to, even though it constantly slips through our fingers.

Everyday is the first day of school.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tropical Caribbean Delights Along Miami's Public Transportation Routes


There are several advantages to using Miami's public transportation and one of them has to do with your tummy. I'll be the first to tell you that living in Miami without a car is inconvenient. But if you schlep around in a car, you'll whiz by great little mom-and-pop places with humble storefronts.

B & M Market, now in business for over 3 decades, has nothing but. You can't miss its eye-popping facade on an otherwise drab urban street.

The tiny market and restaurant boasts bright colors on its exterior, bearing resemblance to the red, black, green and yellow colors of the Guyanese flag while hinting at the delicious Caribbean fare cooked and served home-style fresh inside this take-out eatery. The owners, a husband and wife team, hail from the South American nation and prepare traditional dishes from the region that pay homage to East and West Indian culinary influences.

Roti (a flatbread wrap with curry fillings) is my favorite. The vegetarian is quite filling and comes with a side of outrageously spicy hot sauce -- or as my old Trinidadian friend would say, "it's not Mickey Mouse sauce." Hot pepper lovers won't be disappointed. Other Caribbean staples include curry goat as well as jerk preparations.

My tummy is happy I didn't miss this mom-and-pop shop while riding on the L Bus to Hialeah. You'll find this inexpensive and piping-hot goodness on the corner of 2nd Avenue and NE 79th street.

Spots like B & M define the real Miami "trendy" for me. Stuff that's tried and true, not here today and gone tomorrow. With so many long-standing Miami establishments closing in the last year or two -- Jimbo's, Tobacco Road, Van Dyke, Fox's and now Scotty's -- it's refreshing to know that B & M hasn't been squashed by new development.

I enjoyed B & M's vegetarian roti so much, I recreated its flavor in my own kitchen for a curry fried rice: brown and red rice, chia seed and kale, tossed along with a vegetable stew (coconut oil, garlic, ginger, green and yellow bell pepper, red poivrons, chick peas, petite pois and tempeh). On the side: leftover burn-your-tongue hot sauce from B & M.


I've also feasted my eyes and taste buds on tropical delights riding Metrorail. I'm not sure what the schedule is for Miami train station farmer's markets, but they do occasionally pop up when I schlep on the above-ground rail. As seen today in downtown Miami at Government Center: a tent selling mountains of luscious tropical fruit. Rambutan, tamarind, dragon fruit and more, a sight for sore eyes amid the concrete. The smell of freshly chopped mango was a heavenly break from the heat.


Would I trade this experience for schlepping around in a car? Well, it sure beats parking at a crowded Publix. And it's definitely a lot quicker than flying to the Caribbean for these tasty delights.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Peach is a Peach is a Peach


She sat in a bookstore, surrounded by millions of words that were suffocating her in the coffin of writer-for-hire, someone else’s word monkey. She thought to herself, the true value of writing lies not in words, but in the intention of the writer.

She reminded herself that some people wanted to burn books. She wanted to burn words. She could already see the flames of those words rise to the sky and disappear into the dark ether. She wanted to feel the heat of that cleansing fire and spread the ashes over the cloth of the universe.

 She longed for a world of fewer words, of short alphabets, of languages spoken without sounds, a world of kind glances, lingering caresses and simple joys.

She saw words where words were unnecessary, in gestures, sunrises, musical harmonies, rustling leaves, orgasms, the color blue, the smell of rye bread, the taste of honey and the figures of cave paintings. She saw words in many things and could describe them very well but asked herself why there was ever any obligation.

She could not, however she might try, drink water without a glass. She still had to wield a sword against letters, nouns, adverbs and figures of speech in exchange for paltry paychecks, asking herself again why there was still any obligation.

She knew what many wordmongers did not know, that the word had always been made of flesh and earth, sea and air, blind and silent energy.

She desired only words for the sake of words and nothing more. She read the braille of the heart, where words have no shape, sound or form.

The meaning makers had it all wrong. The meaning makers drowned themselves in this sea of endless words where words lost their meaning. The meaning makers were the true assassins of words. The meaning makers plundered the soul from words, laying to waste the value of words with their intention. The meaning makers sold the earth's bounty with their words and died by killing their own form of sustenance.

She closed her eyes and craved a world without adjectives where her tongue could simply have a secret affair with a peach.

She remembered a broken bank does not mean a broken spirit and with that, she took a bite of a peach.