Monday, October 29, 2018

A Plea to Miami Drivers

Driving in Miami is like the Hunger Games. Everyone is trying to survive the treacherous arena that is our road network. Each one of us has a different weapon (er, car) and each one of us has a different, incongruous strategy for using it. Some of us use our turn signal, some of us don't. Some randomly stop and turn on their hazards, some turn them on amidst a downpour. It's a mixed bag of surprises, but one thing is for certain: everyone is in it to win it, others be damned.

Back in 2013 I narrowly avoided death. I was driving on I-195 eastbound where high-speed traffic from I-95, SR-112 and downtown merge, when a car on the left lane decided it had to exit stage right onto North Miami Avenue. (If you're not familiar with this area, there are four lanes you need to cross and less than 500 feet to do so.) In his haste, the driver nearly sideswiped my car on the driver side at 80mph. That is, the driver nearly sideswiped me at 80mph.

After that incident, my frustration with Miami drivers reached a fever pitch. It reached a tipping point at which I considered moving to a different, safer city where I was not letting Jesus take the wheel every time I had to go to a meeting or run an errand.  Instead of moving, I started this blog. I needed a positive place to remind me that Miami is much, much more than self-serving maniacs behind the wheel.

Example of why Miami drivers are the worst: they block the box.

The fact remains that we do have self-serving maniacs behind the wheel. Miami's driving privileges—because driving is a privilege, not a right and one most of us here do not deserve—are a mechanism for mutually-assured destruction. Alas, this is a wake-up call from me to us that we can't continue to live like this. We need a clear set of road rules and we need to agree to follow them...for all of our sakes. We need to recognize that, as cliché as it sounds, it is better to arrive late than not arrive at all.

So next time you want to scan Instagram while operating a moving vehicle or you want to make a hail Mary attempt from the left lane to make your exit, think about the fact that someone's daughter, sister, wife and friend (read, me) can be the collateral damage to making your life a tiny bit more convenient. (And, god forbid you are the victim of someone else's selfish driving decisions, make sure you get the best Miami medical and lawyer referral service to show the culprit the true cost of bad driving.)

Safe travels, Miami! And for Pete's sake, don't block the box.

This article was sponsored by

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Ode to Miami's Mythical Cultural Scene

Apparently "there is no culture in Miami." I have heard this apocryphal declaration made by many a Miami-an and certainly by every import from the Northeast. And, while I agree that we are not as institutionally cultured as cities like New York with its world renown museums, galleries and theaters, we definitely have a cultural scene. You just need to know where to mine beneath our glittery exterior of EDM, bandage dresses and champagne showers for those raw cultural nuggets.

For starters, our highly diverse community is brimming with culture by its very nature. As our contributor Celeste points out, "This flavorful melting pot has been brewing for decades. From mass Cuban emigrations to organized crime in the 70s, these hardships still echo and manifest themselves in the flavors and sounds of the city." You can't escape it, but you can definitely bask in it at the Tower Theater with a Cuban film, at the Little Haiti Cultural Center on Caribbean Market Day, at Libreri Mapou during a book reading. One of the most memorable experiences I have had as a writer in the last five years was taking a fiction writing workshop at the Coral Gables Museum led by award-winning novelist Anjanette Delgado, known for her Miami-inspired latina don't tell me "there is no culture in Miami".

I will concede that our definition of culture is different from other cities. That said, Miami also offers culture in the traditional, high society sense. Earlier this summer I went with a friend to see the NuDeco Ensemble featuring Ben Folds at the Arsht Center, which was perhaps on the avant garde side of the spectrum but was: a) incredible and b) in the end, still an orchestra performance. This year my mom also treated my family to the classical Chinese dance performance, Shen Yun, at the Arsht Center. 

There is culture in Miami. One of the local cultural offerings that Celeste and I both love is the Miami City Ballet, which puts on top-notch performances throughout South Florida from Fall through Spring. If you're looking for an "in," a place to meet Miami culture, we recommend starting at the ballet because everyone loves it and we have a world class ballet company in our very own backyard. Don’t just take my word for it—see for yourself! Their 2018/19 season is getting ready to kick-off on Friday, October 19 with Company B(Make sure you say hi to Celeste who will also be in the audience!)

Celeste and I are hoping this blog will be your go-to resource on your quest to uncover Miami's mythical cultural scene. If you need inspiration, we regularly post about our cultural musings here and on the #ThankYouMiami Instagram. We also want to hear from you. How do you take advantage of culture in Miami?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How The New Menu at The Anderson Improved My Chances of Running for Office

If you see me at The Anderson, I'm probably up to no good. You see, The Anderson is that spot where I end up during a night of debauchery when I'm past the point of making wise decisions. By the time I arrive, the place is packed, the band is jamming, and every third person is a familiar face I probably don't want as a witness. (Turns out, The Anderson is where everyone I know also goes for late-night fun and bad decisions—or, to gather blackmail for when I run for office.)

Last night was the first exception to that rule. When I arrived to The Anderson, Jamison in tow, not only was sunlight still pouring generously through the blinds but my intentions were also pure: to sample the new menu. The Anderson keeps it interesting by refreshing their food and cocktail selections every quarter and they're coming in hot with an 80s themed menu of deliciousness that launches tonight (August 16) with a party.

My typical late-night agenda at The Anderson has been so sacrosanct that I didn't even realize they offer food or that they had an entire outdoor section out back. (And here I thought I was living my best life...) The good news is yesterday I was finally indoctrinated into the good-good of the full Anderson experience and it can be more benign, more glorious than I could have ever imagined. Jamison and I drank, ate and thoroughly enjoyed all the things. Everything from the material and design of the new menu to the creativity and flavor options it offers is on point.

I'm not giving up my late-night habit at The Anderson by any means but let the record show that if you see me there from this day forward—especially if I have a plate of those fire Haitian style wings in one hand and a Jose's Day Off in the other—there is a 50-50 chance I'm behaving and my future prospective political career is in a better place.

Fall-of-the-bone Haitian style wings with pikliz aoili. My favorite thing on the menu.
The Animal House cocktail, like all the other cocktails, is named after 80s cult classics.
A cuban sandwich in quesadilla form is evidence that Chef Jimmy Lebron's culinary creativity knows no bounds (and that he's a Miami guy through and through).
If you hear Sloth's voice in your head when you read the name of this cocktail ("Hey you guys!"), we can be friends.
Don't forget to stop by the tiki hut for an obligatory night cap. Apparently that's where all the cool people have been hanging out all this time.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

It's A Sweltering Summer in South Florida, But IBKUL

Summers are brutal in South Florida. The weather goes from warm to unbearably hot and the sunshine is punctuated by afternoon storms that resemble trailers for an upcoming hurricane. The season consists of being constantly soaked, from sweat or rain, on a daily basis. Whenever I meet people who move to Miami during or right before the start of summer (like I did in 1999), I share words of encouragement about how they will love living here if they can just survive summer.

After nearly 20 years of living here, I have figured out many things about making it through South Florida summers. For example, I’ve learned that I should not turn on my hazards when driving through a downpour, rather I should turn on my lights and drive carefully. I’ve also learned to dress in layers so I can transition smoothly from the sauna outside to the A/C powered arctic indoors. And, I’ve certainly learned not to leave my car parked anywhere but the shade unless I want to burn my hands on the steering wheel.

Surprisingly, one summer situation I hadn’t solved until recently was the notion of exercising outdoors in this sweltering heat. Last year when I was training for the Paris Marathon I really struggled to log the miles I needed to keep up with my training plan without collapsing of a heat stroke after 6 miles, even when I brought a water belt. It is just too hot and too sunny from June through September. It is already hard enough to motivate myself into 12 mile runs without the added discomfort brought forth by 100-degree heat and the need to cake on sunscreen.

At the end of last year, I discovered an athletic clothing brand called IBKUL that has unlocked my outdoor exercising potential during summer. Not only do their clothes meet the discerning sartorial standards of my South Beach neighbors—seriously, I have to dress like I’m walking down an athleisure catwalk to fit my neighborhood’s exercising aesthetic—with their cute prints but they use a patented fabric that keeps the body cool, dry and protected from the sun. I own their floral print long sleeve polo (similar here) and solid crystal pleat skort and I love putting it on because it keeps me from becoming a hot, disgusting mess of sunscreen and sweat when I go outside and thereby is my secret weapon for surviving South Florida summers. (P.S. They just announced a new summer collection!)


Thursday, May 24, 2018

How A Tour of VEZA SUR Restored My Faith In Miami

These past few months I have been a Negative Nancy about Miami, but tonight that changed. You see, the thing that I love about living in Miami—that one thing that gets me out of the occasional funk of frustration—is finding our elusive feeling of community. It's that unadulterated excitement I felt the first time I walked into Under The Mango Tree and swapped stories with other South Beach locals over açaí bowls. Or, every time I run into a friendly face as I'm dancing down the aisles of Publix after my Vixen Workout class.

Tonight I reveled in some serious community vibes at VEZA SUR and it quickly cast away that pesky cloud of negativity that had been lingering over me. I figured it would be a good night. After all, I was there for a tour of the brewery and to sample their new Gaucho Raucho beer. (Ain't nobody got time to be grouchy on a beer tour.)

Two factors made my night: the first was making new friends, the second was learning how the brewery is immersing itself into the community. We started our tour reveling in today's beautiful weather at VEZA SUR's outdoor patio. Over chopps of Latin Lager and Lulo Sours, we learned the story of the bar's eclectic but totally awesome décor and other fun facts. For example, did you know our fearless tour leader and VEZA SUR co-founder Marshall not only lived in Panama, but has also been to my favorite Panama destination: Cambutal?

Here are three other cool things I learned about VEZA SUR that made me smile:

1. The by-product of the brewing process can be reused as livestock feed so instead of dumping it in a landfill, they donate theirs to a farm in Homestead. It's a win-win for both parties and for our environment.

2. The team has tight connections to Latin America so it is a common theme throughout the brewery. It is present in the music, the décor, and even the beers which feature Latin American flavors, like tropical fruits or in the case of Arroz con Mango, rice, mango, habanero peppers and ginger.

3. They collaborate with other local vendors like Perla for their Perla Coffee Porter and Miami Smokers for the distinct bacon flavor in the newly-released Gaucho Raucho. There's nothing I love more than to see my favorite businesses working with and supporting each other. It's almost like every dollar I spend goes twice as far to boost our little corner of the world.

For weeks I have been dying to get out, like permanently, of this anti-Miami mood. I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry that it took a brewery tour to restore my faith in Miami. Either way, I had a great night, the kind I will reference in a few years at the beginning of a post when I want to describe what it is like to find Miami's elusive feeling of community and for that, I am grateful...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Three Secrets To Surviving Miami Traffic

Since March, I have been in an "I'm so over Miami" funk, which has made it hard to finish the several blog posts—on fashion, on travel, on culture, on food—I have half-drafted for this blog. Every day I wake up restless and go to bed restless. I blame it partially on my acute wanderlust and partially on the fact that driving in Miami is hell. Between avoiding reckless drivers, fighting through congestion, and being absolutely and utterly perplexed by our nonsensical transportation network, I have no time or energy left to enjoy the greatness that is our city. Sadly, based on the posts on my Facebook timeline, it sounds like many of us are on the same boat.

These past few weeks I've allowed myself to wallow—mostly in silence, but also on twitter—about my deteriorating relationship with Miami. Enough is enough. Today, like I did when I started this blog, I am choosing to pull myself out of the black hole of negativity and wander down Positivity Lane. And, because we're ride-or-die you and I, I'm bringing you along.

The first step to getting us out of this funk? Surviving Miami traffic. Below are the three secret strategies I employ when all hope is lost. Use these to eject yourself out of misery the next time you're slamming your fists on the steering wheel or letting out a primal scream in the car. (No? No one else does this?) With their help, we're going to make it through this. Have hope.

3. Use your local insider knowledge.
Often, out of convenience or laziness, I make the mistake of putting on my GPS and following it blindly. From time to time, it serves me well. Other times, like today, it takes me across the Brickell Bridge during rush hour. (Damn you, GPS!) Use your local insider knowledge to drive around traffic, through lesser known streets. In my case, the South Miami Avenue bridge or the SW 2nd Ave bridge or any of the residential roads through Little Havana and The Roads linking I-95 to Brickell offered potential, less-stressful alternatives.

2. Keep your brain occupied.
A big percentage of our misery is cooked inside of our brains, which are bored mindlessly in the car thanks to monotonous landscapes—have you ever noticed while driving that South Florida is like a backdrop rotating on a conveyor belt?—and traffic that moves like molasses. There, in the midst of boredomlandia, we find ourselves annoyed at other drivers, anxious to get to our destination, and contemplating why we choose to live in Miami at all. Keep your brain occupied to prevent it from going into that deep, dark rabbit hole with some good old fashioned learning courtesy of a podcast. Here are three podcasts I can't live without.

1. Curate a good soundtrack.
Music gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't hate their fellow drivers. They just don't. So, whether your go-to medium is Pandora, Spotify or iTunes, curate a good soundtrack to keep you company in the car. Today's survival story is brought to you by this playlist of my favorite songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Past trips have been deescalated by this Stiltsville-inspired reggae playlist and by this hodgepodge of music my sisters and I put together for our Joshua Tree trip last summer. It's all about music that I can sing and dance to violently, thereby releasing tension.

What are your secrets to surviving Miami traffic? Leave them below or send me a tweet @thankyoumiamiBuena suerte, amigos! It's a jungle out there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I love Miami. I hate Miami.

Miami is awesome, but it also sucks. I don't know how it is possible—it just is. Watch this video of a Miami car accident and tell me you don't both love and hate Miami at the same time. That video perfectly captures how this city makes me feel ALL THE TIME. Miami's motto should be, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Miami's duality is why I named this blog #ThankYouMiami. The phrase can express unadulterated gratitude when the situation is deserving, i.e. "#ThankYouMiami for stunning sunsets." It can also be used to call out frustrating or perplexing moments, i.e. "#ThankYouMiami for having the world's worst drivers." See? Both work.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Easy Miami Day Trip: Biscayne National Park

South Florida's four national parks are our most valuable yet underrated assets. When I'm looking for something to do, I often forget that they're there. But they're there and they're majestic. For example, did you know Everglades National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? There's only 1073 of them on the planet and one of them is 50 miles from my front door. Similarly, Biscayne National Park, which is even closer, is the nation's largest marine national park and is home to some of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.

The South Florida National Parks Trust is a local non-profit that raises money to support the parks and works to better connect them with our community. Earlier this year, they selected young leaders in the Miami area as South Florida National Park Ambassadors and gave me the distinct honor of being among their inaugural class. As part of my "duties", I get to visit one national park a month to discover its riches and share them with you. Yesterday's visit took us to Biscayne National Park.

Biscayne National Park is unique in that most of us visit it on a pretty regular basis without knowing. The park is 95% water so it is hard to visualize its limits, particularly given that the visitor center is hidden all the way down in Homestead. Nevertheless, the park limits include all of Biscayne Bay south of Bill Baggs State Park to just north of Key Largo. If you've boated past Stiltsville or you've snorkeled Fowey Rocks, you've been inside Biscayne National Park. If you've ever gone from Miami to the Florida Keys by water, you've traveled through Biscayne National Park.

Another unique aspect of Biscayne National Park is that it's not just a sanctuary for natural resources, although it is comprised of four different types of habitat. It is also replete with culture and history. In addition to Stiltsville—I covered its place in Miami history ad nauseum when I announced the opening of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Sunset Harbour—the park's history also includes the remarkable story of the Joneses of Porgy Key, which we explored during my recent visit, and the shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail that I can't wait to dive next time.

If you're looking for something different to do, Biscayne National Park is an easy Miami day trip. For me, the biggest challenge has been finding a friend with a boat to take me. Luckily, the Biscayne National Park Institute has six boats and four more on the way that offer guided tours of Biscayne National Park from the visitor center. They are also working on partnerships with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and Bill Baggs State Park to launch guided tours from there. The best part? Unlike most other national parks, they don't have an admission fee. Ergo, visiting Biscayne National Park is a no-brainer.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Fresh Start

Hi stranger, it's good to talk with you again after so long! How have you been? On my end I have been busy working on new projects and tackling new challenges. For example, I took on new responsibilities at work (and started a corresponding career blog) and began training to run my very first marathon this April in Paris (and started a corresponding running blog).

I have also been traveling a lot. Since mid-December, I have spent four out the nine weeks abroad, which is why I haven't been writing here much—I have been very disconnected with everything going on at home. But, the next five weeks I have no trips planned so I'm going to use that time to reconnect with Miami and give this blog a fresh start.

Like before, my time in the 305 will be dedicated to sharing with you the best our city has to offer. Unlike before, I plan to bring you a more balanced offering of food, fashion, culture, travel, events, etc. I am particularly excited to highlight Miami's cultural programming because I have discovered that not many people know it exists. Meanwhile, Celeste and I have been relishing in the stellar performances of the Miami City Ballet—most recently she attended and loved the opening night of Program Three—and the Colony Theatre.

There are also entirely new worlds I have discovered that I am looking forward to introducing to you. Like, did you know Miami has an airsoft scene and hosts airsoft military simulation (or, MilSim) events? I didn't either until I went to Doomsday Airsoft's Operation Overwatch 4 last November and afterward joined an airsoft team. I also became a South Florida National Park Ambassador, a program through which I will be exploring one of our national parks each month and sharing stories of my visits, as well as cool, behind-the-scenes stories about each park.

After nearly seven years, this blog is turning a new leaf. I'm excited to bring you new stories and introduce you to a new, different version of Miami each week, starting with a story about Biscayne National Park next Sunday. Talk then!

Image via Joah Spearman
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