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.
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