Monday, December 31, 2012

Miami's Best of 2012



  1. Pulse Art Fair, Miami Project, Art Asia during Art Basel
  2. Critical Mass Bicycle Rides (on the last Friday of every month)
  3. Miami Heat becoming NBA Champs and Lebron doing his magnificent dance
  4. The Artist being held over for several weeks at the Coral Gables Art Cinema 
  5. Marley, 144 minutes of reggae rapture and respect screened at the O Cinema 
  6. Black Violin laying low at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
  7. Miami Book Fair International: Miami Dade College keeping it literary for 29 years
  8. Zak the Baker, Panther Coffee, Lagniappe: art, craft, eating, and drinking
  9. ULTRA musicfestival: massive electronic music bacchanal in Bayfront Park
  10. Miami Made Festival at the Arsht: free, local, and creative


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Critical Mass November



If the best things in life are free, the Critical Mass is the gift that keeps on giving. One good thing about cities like Miami, like LA, and like New York is the idea that anyone -- even the rich and famous, can go about their business without getting mobbed. Perhaps going to the mall may be a bad idea, but I've been driving through Coconut Grove and seen Lebron floating the black, convertible, sports car with the big grin on his face, so it's no surprise that he, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, and friends have gotten involved with street culture in the city.



I've been dedicated to Critical Mass since the beginning. It's an international movement, but the MIA has fallen in love with it. Lots of people deserve credit for this here. Rydel Deed deserves big local love.

When I first rode, there were about 150 people. Since then, I have seen nearly 2000. Every month, the same corkers show up, the same leaders, the same announcers of the rules, the same brothers with sound systems blaring, and of course, the usual bunch of nuts. It is, however, an absolutely splendid, transcendent affair.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Art Basel: Miami Heat, Invader, Banksy, Graffiti


I just read that Art Basel Miami is the largest Art Fair in our hemisphere. I read that hotel occupancies for the week are through the roof with the average room rate in its highest, high season mode. Rooms are harder to get during Basel than any other event of the year, especially the upper end. In other words, good luck finding a bargain. The predicted local windfall: over 500 million. Naturally everyone is getting in the act. Aside from all the major events which trickle down from the main one, expect that many places will  feature a DJ, sponsor a party, and produce a show this coming week. Everybody, everywhere!

Even the Heat are involved. There is a mural on NE 29th Street painted last year and retouched last weekend by Serge Toussaint featuring the Miami Heat NBA champs from 2012. Also last year, local artist NFN Kalyan created a glass sculpture of Lebron featuring what amounted to King James being frozen and illuminated. Kalyan's work appeared at Red Dot in 2011. ESPN’s Jared Zwerling has been talking up the Art of Basketball: Heat Wave, in which street artists capture various images of the Heat’s run to the title last year. The NBA, of course, has given its stamp of approval.



Miami takes on outer space courtesy of Paris’ Space Invader. Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of 20 or so tile installations lurking mysteriously throughout the city recently? Invader’s contribution to Art Basel will be the exhibition of his latest takeover: Miami. Art4 Space will present the documentation of the spacecraft he launched here last summer. This will take place in a booth with the Jonathon Levine Gallery at Pulse in Midtown. Invader will distribute a map during the fair if you want to go see everything subsequently.



In 2001, Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards. Though it did not win the Oscar, the film wove a tale in which a filmaker tried to follow British stencil artist Banksy but to no avail. Banksy Out of Context at Art Miami will reveal 5 massively heavy, representative pieces rescued and now privately owned. Never will salvage be so valuable. There will be those who argue about whether this should have been saved or not. Street art, like Buddhist sand paintings, may be made to be destroyed.



Though the highly hyped UR1 festival fell through -- sorry Kanye, sorry Lenny Kravitz -- big time musicians will also play here, like popular, Amer-Chilean Nicolas Jaar who will appear in Wynwood at Bardot. Listen to Mi Mujer for the vibe. On December 6th at the Gusman, Former Sonic Youth guitarist (born in coral Gables) Thurston Moore will be here to reminisce about Kurt Kobain at KURT, a multimedia art, dance, and film fest. Flying Lotus will appear at Grand Central. Canadian band Metric will play the Scoop kickoff party. Food will also play a role, with a comeback by pop-up Vietnamese Phuc Yea! and Phuc Mei! -- no kidding -- holding court at Scope. Expect to see our ubiquitous food trucks clogging local arteries in a new way; traffic should be dreadful.



Last shout goes out to the muralists. Last week, San Francisco’s Chor Boogie, South Africa’s Faith 47, her Chinese Beloved Dal, and Puerto Rico/Miami based La Pandilla were among those out and about painting walls in the city. The big remaining question is what will painted in the empty space where Shepard Fairey’s iconic Aang San Suu Kyi once sat.




So now that we are up to our necks in articles, in paint, in murals, in music, and in food -- all in -- it’s time to take the plunge before Art Basel becomes too big too enjoy forevermore.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Definitive Beginner’s Guide to Art Basel 2012

Once again, Miami’s ultimate event is upon us. Sorry Super Bowl lovers and other deniers. Had Sinead O’Connor been sunbathing instead of Irish, she would have sung Nothing Compares 2 Basel.


The primary, official venue for this event is the Miami Beach Convention Center. Public show days are Thursday December 6 to Saturday December 8, noon to 8pm and Sunday December 9 from noon to 6pm. I am among a number of folks who are hopelessly addicted to this event and have been for years, but full disclosure -- I have never actually attended it. Instead, I am one of the satellite participants. For me every winter, two roads diverge in the MIA, and I -- I take the one less traveled by, and this makes all the difference. Here are some basic basics about the things going on in the city proper.

During Art Basel week, jumbo white tents rise throughout the city, mostly in the Midtown area. These tents move a bit like Three Card Monte – one year they are here, another they are there, but if you keep your eyes open and don’t gamble, you will be powerfully entertained and find what you are looking for, and what you don’t.



Let’s cut through the hype! Scope in Midtown, Art Asia in Midtown and Pulse at the Ice Palace remain the best of the numerous events that have sprung up over the years. Opinions are not facts, but no matter what you hear, these four are the fairs to cover, the fairs to hang out in, and ultimately, the fairs to gush over – the big dogs. The percentage of pieces that shock, stun, mortify, inspire, turn heads, drop jaws, and create laughs at Scope, Art Asia, and Pulse is likely to register most highly in the polling -- you can trust these polls. Add Art Miami, the most traditional, and no criticism implied, most easily comprehended by those who ever say, “That’s not art!” These four fairs absorb what’s best in art -- never the lowest common denominator. If “Awesome,” and “Omigod,” ever come out of your mouth, skip these fairs and let others battle over the elusive parking spots -- this is over your head plus it’s already far too crowded. Other locales -- Red Dot, and NADA (on the Beach) also register on our wow-of-the-month-club. However, no one needs to go to the Beach to get an easel on.

There are always new things popping up during this week. One seems to be another edition of Tribal Art Miami in the Red Dot tent. New to the scene is Miami Project, which will showcase a number of emerging talents from American galleries; this will be located next to Art Miami. Also new is Context which will feature 65 contemporary galleries plus seven from Berlin with names like Franziska, Christine, and Eva. Overture in Midtown will show some Warhol. Just Mad Miami is a Madrid-based crew promising to link Anglo and Latino concepts -- sounds right at home. Artexpo Miami and the Miami River Art Fair are other potential must sees. Rumor has it the Heat are also getting involved in something.



If you decide to go, it can be a challenge to navigate it all. There are shuttles from the Beach for our beloved tourists, but for those of us dug in locally, you gotta somehow get there right? If you are a Wynwood goer, you can stop reading for a spell. Otherwise, pay attention.

There is going to be a lot of traffic. As a local, perhaps you’ve got the maneuverability skillz you need to navigate. If so, there is reasonably abundant free parking on side streets nearby which is far less dodgy than it may feel to one whose amygdala is an intracoastal of fear. However, you may have to search for this parking. Plan B, the easiest route, means getting on 95 North, going to I-195 East, then exiting on Miami Avenue going south. If you don’t know the territory, this is the easiest route. If driving is not your thing, there are new trolleys which may go straight on from the Omni MetroMover. None of these will get you to the Ice Palace though. For Pulse, you are on your own, but it is deeply worth the trouble.

Finally, it is way above my language ability to describe what you might find during this week -- several steps beyond. Have no fear, be patient, wear your grooviest walking shoes, your blackest black jeans, a pair of Belgian architect’s specs, and you will be rewarded.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Antidote

Now that the bruising, 24-hour-a-day election madness of the last several months which has wreaked havoc on my sleep and ruined relationships from coast to coast is nearly finished, I’ve got good news -- a three part antidote is available immediately courtesy of our friends at the Arsht. Where I hail from, the drumline was an every Saturday event. Before my local Cougars would play football, the band would take the field and that was that. The high steppers, drum majors, flag twirlers, majorettes, baton twirlers, and horns would get down on it while the drummers -- bass, snare, tenor, and cymbol -- ruled the roost. All over the country, high school bands would take to the field and perform their version of the hits of the day. I remember hearing Kool and the Gang, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Earth Wind and Fire’s Celebrate. 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been at the forefront of this movement. Earlier this year in St. Louis, Show-Me Sound held its 3rd annual Drumline competition. Participating drum ensembles included Central State University’s “Invincible Marching Marauders,” Harris Stowe State University’s “Phunk,” Howard University’s “Thunder Machine,” Kentucky State University’s “Soul Section #1,” Langston University’s “DEN,” Lincoln University’s “Groove Dynasty” and North Carolina A&T University’s “Cold Steel.” I heard Cold Steel in Berlin playing with German rapper Peter Fox a few summers ago. This is big business with a long history, as evidenced by Honda’s sponsorship of the Battle of the Bands.On November 11 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, The Arsht Center will present Drumline Live at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Half of the cast contains local talent with roots related to Florida A & M’s famous (then infamous) Marching 100. Get ready to get down if you go. Tickets are $25 and $55 and may be purchased through the Arsht Center box office by calling 305 949-6722, or online at arshtcenter.org


Google Lagrimas Negras and Diego El Cigala and you will get treated to an assortment of fine, YouTube versions of the Spanish flamenco-gypsy singer doing it along with extraordinary Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés. Take 30 minutes then come back and read the rest of this.


El Cigala will visit us at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday November 10th at 8:30. Tickets start at $40. Like athletes and mobsters, flamenco singers have nicknames. El Cigala means Norway lobster; Diego -- well -- kinda looks like one. Spanish Romani people are known as Gitanos. The names Gypsy, Roma, Romani, Gitano all mean the same things and are used interchangably, dissatisfying those who frown on all the historical baggage attached to the names.


Finally, the Live at Knight Series at Miami’s Arsht Center will bring us Macy Gray’s soulful singing on November 8th at 8:30. Maybe you remember Ms. Gray, she of the smoky, scratchy voice and 2001 Grammy Award for “I Try.” After having made it, she went to work with a global coterie of stars -- Italian pop-star Zucchero, DJ/Producer Fatboy Slim, classic guitar idol Jeff Beck, and eccentric/cerebral Erykah Badu among others -- before toying with covers of Prince, Rod Stewart, and Radiohead. This led to her latest venture, Covered, where Ms. Gray has gone all in on the concept, reimagining Sublime, Mettalica, Eurythmics, and Arcade Fire. Just the material alone should be tempting.


The election is over. Turn off the TV. Calm down. Go out!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Talib Kweli: Idle Warship with RES at the Adrienne Arsht Center


There aren’t that many opportunities to use future perfect tense any more, but by the time you read this column, I will have seen Friday, October 19th’s Talib Kweli concert Live at the Knight at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. 

Inline image 1 Inline image 2



I had hoped that I might have the chance to interview Kweli and RES, but his people and my people -- well you know how it goes. Gino Campodonico from the Arsht Center went out of his way -- deeply out of his way -- to arrange an interview with Kweli and collaborator RES from their new duo Idle Warship. Now I owe everyone an apology because my work and home life got in the way -- I missed the email AND the phone call.

“In Moment of Clarity “ from Jay-Z’s splendid Black Album, J-Hova says, "If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.” In Kweli’s track "Ghetto Show" from the Beautiful Struggle, Kweli responds by stating "If lyrics sold then truth be told/I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay Z." 
So I’m left to describe what I would have asked had I had the esteemed young brother on the line.

Me: Sorry I missed the call.

Kweli: I should hang up now.

Me: Sorry, sorry, sorry. You have been doing your thing for a while now? Is this what you expected? What is happening with lyrics these days? 

Kweli: Well, kids change. They love poems, Sesame Street, Big Bird, and get into poetry slams. On the other hand, texting, Twitter, and Facebook are not the most grammatically accurate platforms. 

Me: How much credit does your mother get for you being a good lyricist? She’s an English professor right? Your father also has the academic/university background right?

Kweli: Are you talking about my momma? Truthfully, I was raised properly. 

Me: You’ve worked with everyone and they with you. Jay Z, Nas, Mos Def, Common, KRS, the Roots, Kanye, Mary J. Blige, the Neptunes. What’s the vibe like with so many successful people? Who is the boss when the talented get together?

Kweli: Bruce Springsteen is the Boss. 
  
Me: In 2004, you recorded The Beautiful Struggle:  Does the struggle remain beautiful? Do the inspirations remain?

Kweli: The struggle remains a struggle for millions. It was beautiful for me so I want to remain optimistic.
  
Me: How does the Yankee hat go over in LA? Have you been converted? Does your family prefer California? 

Kweli: In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. But look at that mountain. Look at that tree. I love LA. 

Me: Talk to me about the MIA. Isn’t the Knight a gorgeous facility?

Kweli: Lebron, Crockett, Tubbs, Anna Kournikova, Dwyane Wade, Gloria Estefan, Pitbull, Ricky Martin, sun, sand, graffiti -- hundred thousand dollar cars, e’rybody got ‘em. The Knight is a blessing. I know we don’t nee another hero, but Adrienne Arsht is a hero.

That’s what I would have asked Talib Kweli had I not been a working man with responsibilities. So by the time you read this, hopefully, I will have enjoyed last Friday’s concert immensely. Future perfect tense lives!

Hopefully, there’s always next time for an interview. Given the Arsht’s fine upcoming schedule, I am going to beg Gino to schedule a moment way in advance with bassist Esperanza Spalding, scheduled to play on April 19, 2013. Then, I will be able to write in present tense.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Critical Mass Miami


The intersection of many of my favorite things occurs during the last Friday of the month’s Critical Mass. There may be no raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but there are a few thousand people, a couple of hours of exercise, fleeting neighborhood visitations, and a number of baddass bikes to accompany the newly restored clunker some may have taken to Andres at the Miami Recycle Bicycle Shop or the good folks at the Magic City Bicycle Collective. 


photo from Jordan Melnick/beachedmiami.com

Every month. the word filters out to more folks looking to get in touch with their inner -- I don’t know -- hipster? The assembly begins shortly after 6:30 at the Metrorail’s Government Center. By the time the ride begins at 7:15, the entire block is festively thronged by colorful participants -- as Q-Tip might say, a vivrant thing. 

To channel another musical theme, in Miami, the Creator has a master plan and it includes bikes. While Miami isn’t Amsterdam, it’s safe to say that there are a fair number of aspiring originators, devisers, inventors, and masterminds adorning wheels with aplomb. Some of these skills extend to rolling sound systems; lots of people like to ride near one of the folks blasting reggae. Another rocks the 80’s. There is a Chinese Jamaican guy with his toddler on the bike seat pumping out straight, parental sticker hip-hop. As I said, it’s a colorful crowd.

The routes change monthly, but there are recurring motifs. From Government Center, everyone goes west, under 95, then over the Miami River. For those of you who like amusement parks and NASCAR crashes, this is the most thrilling part of the route. If you survive this, chances are, the only impending worry newcomers may have is some diaper rash. 

Then, one just pedals through the neighborhoods most have only encountered on the exploitative local newscasts at 11 -- East Little Havana, Overtown, Allapattah, Model City, Little Haiti, and Beverly Terrace. There, the masses outside the public housing, hair salons and fritangas come out to greet you. “Welcome to the hood,” one grandmother shouted last month. Of course, Calle Ocho, Miracle Mile, Brickell, and Biscayne also appear. Here, everyone in high heels seems to be using the iphone to record a video. Corkers politely block the intersections and make apologetic conversation. They are firm and respectful. Occasionally, a driver gets bold -- for a loud, angry moment at least. After a swarm of outraged bicyclists surround him, there is usually peace in numbers. 

From beginning to end, month after month, what one experiences on the ride is the art of the street. Critical Mass gauges the pulse of a city through a mass determined to enjoy the street, to share the street, to breathe the street, and to feel the neighborhoods that explain the streets. For thousands of people who dream of an urban-connected Miami, this is their favorite two hours of the month.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bread Lines

photo by Matt Degraff





photo by Matt Degreff

I owe a bunch of my friends an apology. They warn me that with the way that things are going, I shouldn't be surprised if people end up in bread lines again. I argue with them, hoping that things will not deteriorate so badly, but alas, they are right -- sort of.

Much to my surprise, I have seen this happen repeatedly at the Green Market in Pinecrest. For the last several months people have lined up patiently waiting for their bread. In a time where people fight desperately to claim and gain the status of victim, this is the ultimate irony: the bread is organic and the people lined up are from the -- forgive me -- upper crust. The cause of all this misery is a young fellow known as Zak the Baker.

There seem to be no breadlines for the privileged that I can recall, but Zak the Baker causes a ruckus among the gifted at this Farmer's Market. Every Sunday morning, a line begins forming before 9:30 near the caramel corn stand. One of Zak's apprentices cuts a loaf which, immediately after sampling, creates a sort of mysterious instant addiction, especially for those patrons who have ever visited Europe. Clearly, Zak is harming the community by offering addictive sourdough breads baked under the cover of darkness in a secret location somewhere west of US 1. He is an artisan, but witness the lines, and you make think he is a magician, shaman, or charlatan. 

Zak hypnotizes those who queue up by playing jazz on a little throwback phonograph. The daily offerings -- olive and za'ater, cranberry walnut, multigrain, and whole wheat -- are thoughfully carefully wrapped in plain brown paper. Returnees to the line looked hopelessly hooked and spaced out in the moist summer steam -- give us today our daily bread they seem to say.

Zak the Baker’s website (http://zakthebaker.com/) is a thing of beauty. Frankly, the video made by Matt Degreff is medal-worthy. With all the, forgive me, cheesy crap that passes us posing as art, these few minutes are aesthetic and inspiring. What you hear and see makes you feel, and what you feel makes you want to eat. It defines perfectly what Zak is doing, and it seems, what he is thinking. Please let me in on the longer length documentary, brothers! 

If you want go to the Green Market and avoid the bread lines because you somehow have come to feel guilty about the economics in America which now makes the wealthy have to stand in the sun just to get their favorite staple ingredient, the good news is that Zak is sold out, wrapped up, and on the road before your teenaged kids wake up. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Eye for Beauty Part 1


Miami has been endowed by its creator with some extraordinary beauty. The sky, the clouds, the sea -- as Wesley Snipes once said to Angela Bassett -- absolutely splendid. For me, there is nothing more lovely than a stand of oak trees. On the other hand ...

Miami's southern suburbs are a monument to bad taste. The monstrous mansions and spacious gardens are built and maintained by the very immigrants that the (Republican) voters who own the obscene spaces would like to evict from the country. I'm not sure how long one's string trimmer or hedge cutter has to be in order to reach Pinecrest from Mexico, but I suspect that local churches might want to avoid screening A Day Without a Mexican to avoid a widespread panic in the pews.




Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coral Gables Art Cinema


When it's hot, the Arts take a back seat to things like those one can do inside a nice cozy air-conditioned space. With this in mind, I thought I'd skip the August art walks and in order to fill my need for something creative, gave a shout out to the Coral Gables Art Cinema where the good people there hooked me up with tickets to see Woody Allen's To Rome With Love. To make a long story short -- good move.

I love this theater from top to bottom; considering that it is connected to a several story high parking garage, it is big from top to bottom. Most of what they screen is profoundly well-received by its devotees; this Woody Allen film was on its 6th week. In the art house world, this is an eternity. Big respect to the theater for extending it and extending it, because it was hilarious. I don't think I'm exaggerating; the audience madly loved this film. Furthermore, I would love to write about Woody Allen's latest venture; however, this is about the Coral Gables Art Cinema.

About two years ago, this theater opened, screening year-round, daily films unlike those found at the mall. The website says programs will be "vibrant, diverse, multicultural and multilingual." So far, so good. I've seen a handful of films there; it's a great place. Moreover, there are events held often -- lectures, discussions, wine tastings, etc. The Cinema is a non-profit, so you can contribute and become a member, and I suppose help raise funds like for WDNA and WLRN. Film, Jazz, NPR -- all good things to me.

Cinema Director Robert Rosenberg has good taste, and though I realize that this is both debatable and pithy, there are such things as quality and expertise. Chefs know more than kids about food. Eric Spoelsta knows more about basketball than fans. Democrats know more about birth certificates than Donald Trump. Robert Rosenberg knows more about good film than my son. 


Summer in Miami can be unforgiving. We all know this. Shallow as it sounds, as one whose "favorite" all-time film is Cinema Paradiso, I have had a long long love affair with film, art house in particular. Going to the movies is particularly enjoyable here in the rainy season. When it's hot, the Coral Gables Art Cinema always has something cool to offer.


If you don't agree and you would like this column to be yours, try a hostile takeover. 
















Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pawns Happy About Crumbs


It’s tax free shopping time in Florida, and as always, the people who are saving pennies on the dollar are unable to see the picture before them. One young lady proffered her receipt happily showing how her $83 receipt saved her $113. The Channel 7 reporter on duty at the Dolphin Mall let it slip by.
If I have my information correct, public schools are being sliced up like tomatoes on cable at 3 o’clock in the morning. Teachers are being laid off, class sizes grow like wastelines, and arts and sports programs are deemed unnecessary.
Lots of people complain about their taxes being too high. One party wants to extend the tax breaks -- the Bush tax cuts -- to the richest members of American society. Theoretically, taxes provide services. Parks, roads, the green strips west of my curb, FIU, Miami Dade College, Florida Memorial, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, police, firefighters, buses, Metrorail, the beach, garbage pickup, the US mail all depend upon tax revenues. So does my social security.

Ben Franklin talked about being penny wise and pound foolish. Being excited about saving $7 on the $100 may feel good for a spell as one gets to spend the spoils on Chick-fil-A or some other newsworthy place, but perhaps tax-free incentives like Florida’s are simply some sort of tricky gimmick aimed to deceive a foolish population.

In any case, what I think doesn't matter. All over the state, Florida citizens are ecstatic about the "savings" they have incurred this weekend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Riding High


From here in Berlin, yesterday I joined the Magic City Bicycle Collective  after having read the Miami Herald and beachedmiami.com articles. Of course, I had to chuckle a bit over the headline in which the beloved Herald pointed out how the group intends to "demystify" the bicycle. I don't know exactly what the mystery is -- two wheels and a bit of terror at age 6 seems to tell it all -- but if my city says it must be demystified, I'm all in. Plus, big respect to blogging Jordan Melnick who has been on his bike along with a hardcore number of us since the beginnings of Critical Mass well over a year ago now. He knows, as I know, that the real mystery in Miami is how messed up it got before the alarms went off. And we have to undignify ourselves by arguing with people who sit in daily traffic on the Palmetto; they tell us what's up. My only beef with bikers is the use of the word sharrows -- wtf?

I've talked often with Andres Barreda from Miami Recycle Bicycle Shop, another founding father (lest we forget to credit Rydel, Dario, EMERGE and the Miami Bike Scene among others please don't be offended if we left you out) moving the Miami movement and caring about it enough to do something more than I am. He returned from Spain, where riding needs not be demystified, and we admiringly talk about the culture in Amsterdam, in Paris, in Copenhagen, and in Berlin, where I road into a mammoth park last Sunday on a path by the autobahn and disappeared into woods with rope courses, lakes, swimming holes, farming plots, and hundreds of people using all of it. In Berlin, everybody seems to be riding, if not walking, and everybody everywhere is using public transportation -- DEEPLY SUPPORTED AND FUNDED BY REASONABLY GOOD GOVERNMENT. Please -- don't get me started.

It's going to take a lot more than the MCBC to change Miami's bicycle scene, but praise the chain and pass the tool kit: thanks for entering the fight. I am among the Critical Mass devoted to continuing to work for a better quality of life.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summertime


It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Mosquitoes are bitin’, and the grasses are high. Your daddy’s rich (in some cases), and your kids are good looking (or so we like to tell our friends). So hush little suburban baby. Don’t you cry.  One of these mornings, you’re going to wake up on holiday, then you’ll spread your wings, pump up your tires, and take to the streets. Until that morning, you can prepare for the sultry weather by dreaming of another ride through the green thicket that wraps its vines around us every summer, as you drip happily with sweat and pleasure.

Years ago when I first moved here, I complained to new friend and current Ransom Everglades Athletic Director Claude Grubair about summer’s oppressive humidity as he picked me up on a warm June evening with his windows rolled down. “Summer’s the best time of the year,” said Claude simply. After thinking about it – no kidding – I had been transformed and converted. Last week, I bumped into Claude while I was on my bike and he was running, and I reminded him of the story. I have loved the summers here ever since.

The earlier the better, but as long as one avoids the lightning, riding in summer is all good. You don’t need a plan, for residential streets in Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, South Miami, Cutler Bay, and Coral Gables overflow with things to look at. Yes some of it may not be what you might choose to see in front of homes if indeed you had the power of choice – a big pair of badly carved lions, gilded gates, stars and stripes on poles – but there is a feast for the vigilant eye. 



You can make a little checklist if you like. Pink flamingos in the flower beds – check. Ceramic dolphin above the garage door – check. Lighthouse mailbox – tick it off. Shells embedded on a wall – got ‘em. There is no end to the kitsch. For all who recoil at this, shall I call it art, just look at the giant, graceful Poinciana trees.

Architectural quirks lie just around every bend, decades of design shaped by the times and the shapes of our lives. We all know that homes keep getting bigger and bigger, c’est la construction. These days, you can still see the 50’s bungalow which George Jetson may have loved next to the new McMansion which the 1% love. This love of course, trickles down to contractors, real estate agents, tax collectors, and gardeners – I’ll leave it at that. If you are on a bike, the former is cool like Americana and the latter grand like Downton Abbey.


Depending on your route, a brain freezing smoothie is just a few revolutions away. Aside from all the knowledge dropped by the big guy at Smoothie King, the faded, grandfathered-in glory provided by the chatty staff at the Wayside Market, and the proximity to Whole Foods and Fresh Markets along the way, South Miami’s Sun Juice has been my favorite for years, keeping my hypochondria at bay with the Cold Curer.

More and more of us in South Florida have taken to the streets on our bikes, riding with friends and family, rolling back the years. It’s summertime, and the livin’ – as long as the hurricanes mind their manners – is easy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

It's Memorial Day in the United States, where we remember those soldiers who have fallen protecting our country.                                                              

Things have changed since Vietnam. Soldiers still fall, but the reasons why have become murkier.

                                   

As Muhammad Ali once said, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong ..." Years later, it's hard to imagine poor people, however well-intentioned, enlisting in the Armed Forces in order to protect us from some Iraqi invaders. Maybe terrorism poses a sort of threat, but really, most are signing on just to get a job.

Memorial Day also lets the Indianapolis 500 provide an opportunity for Honda, Izod, Cottonelle, Champion, Sherwin Williams, Gillette, Brita, TomTom, Energizer, GE, Vaseline, Oreo, AirWick, Bosch, Reese's, and other important patriots to emblazon their logos on a fast driver dressed like a 6 foot tall Target shopping bag.

Last night, PBS was supposed to broadcast a concert from Washington D.C. which featured dignitaries temporarily united in their superficial support for the country, but it was cancelled because President Obama was unable to prevent thunderstorms from occurring. 

Throughout the country, good loyal Americans were awakened to a serenade of string trimmers played by mariachis with lawnmowers who do not get the day off. 

After the noise dies down, many of us will reconvene at the Home Depot for hot dogs and Cokes as we all remember the fallen victims who sacrificed themselves for our freedom.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Critical Mass Miami May 2012

It must have been a year ago when I went on Miami Bike Scene's site and learned a bit about Critical Mass after Teo Castellanos told me about it. They were having something called a bike prom, and a few hundred people got dressed up in "prom clothing" and pedaled around Miami through Brickell with a sound system pumping out the finest 80's music.

Last month, on the final Friday of April, nearly 2000 people rode through Little Havana, Coral Gables, Brickell, and downtown on Critical Mass's latest ride. Tonight, weather permitting, the freaks will come out again, and ride through Little Havana, Allapattah, Wynwood, Midtown, Design District, Buena Vista, Little Haiti, Upper East Side, Edgewater, Omni, and Downtown.




Mostly everyone loves Critical Mass, despite a few outliers who can't control their testosterone -- usually males between 15-40. They unconsciously ride against the grain, hop curbs, seek confrontations, and find one every so often. The other 98% just ride, hoot, holler, and laugh. Drivers of the cars inconvenienced by this monthly event generally suck it up, with a few -- usually males between 15-50 -- attempting to bulldoze whatever is in their way. One against a hundred, even with superior weaponry like a car, is against all odds.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Goombay Miami


Judging from our recent rainy weekends, if no one has yet made it official, now is the time to admit to yourself that the season has changed. We are all slow to come to grips with a number of our shortcomings; we may need to exercise more, to eat differently, and to complain less,  but realizing these things and making the changes are two different things. Despite our desire to hold on to our glorious, dry, humid-free springtime, summer has awakened and you’d better find some shelter. However, before you lament the end of paradise, Coconut Grove will hold its 36th annual Goombay Festival on June 1-June 3, I suppose rain or shine.

The Goombay Festival pays respect to the first black Bahamians to arrive in South Florida. Originally craftsmen and laborers, they rooted themselves to an area near Douglas and Grand Avenue; perhaps you’ve seen the long, straight and narrow shotgun houses. 35 years ago, someone decided to propose passing along a bit of the culture, and here we are today giving some proper love to nearby islander history. Goombay celebrations are held throughout a number of places in the Caribbean; ours fills the Grove, makin’ lots of dancin,’ prancin’, and romancin’. It’s a slice of Mardi Gras, a piece of Mummers Parade, and a miniature Carnival, meaning sequined costumes, strutting marching bands, fancy floats, and curbside culinary opportunities. Oh yeah – if it’s not raining, there will be bicycles everywhere, too. There are always bikes in the Grove.

We all know, though it sometimes fails to register, that there is a different world near our shores, and it is not necessarily Atlantis. The beats of the islands, the simmering stews, the local crafts – all are so close but so far away. For a weekend in June, we can reacquaint ourselves. A colorful parade awaits all who partake. Percussion, whistles, bells, and beats will be rolling down the avenue Saturday and Sunday, warm vibes wafting through the community. Other events – a kickoff set, historical brunch, and gospel service are spelled out on the website. Like always, Junkanoo music – the above-mentioned instruments plus horns and scrapers – will be the festival’s constant chaperon, there whenever you need it. Over the years, appearances have been made by R&B acts like the Temptations, rappers, and NBA ballers, so if you are star-struck, you might want to make an appearance. Since it is June and the rainy season, just grab an umbrella and join in the festivities.

For more information, check http://www.goombayfestivalcoconutgrove.com/.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Time Out Miami: Time to Update Your Page

Just checking on what was up this weekend, and I found this! If I wish to partake in some  of what Time Out Miami calls Mediterranean flavours al fresco, all I have to do is this: http://www.timeout.com/miami/

Further searching gives me the deatails:
http://www.timeout.com/miami/miami/venue/1%3A2737/brosia

Next weekend, perhaps I'll go here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

¡Mira! To See or Not to See: That is the Question

This is the season when the snowbirds begin to hire those companies which will drive the beloved Camry up north. The sun is high, daylight extends till just before a baby’s bedtime, and those watering their lawns every morning are violating any program designed to sensibly conserve our precious resources. All this is enough to make one wonder where the winter has gone. Fortunately for those of us who live here year round, unlike the snowbirds, the direction we full-timers must travel on the weekend of Friday May 11-13th is south, in order to see Hamlet: Prince of Cuba, which will be performed by the Sarasota-based, Asola Repertory Theatre at the stunning South Dade Cultural Arts Center.
Blasphemous though this may appear, Australian-born artistic director Michael Donald Edwards, has by now learned that the meaning of life for us down here, as talkaholic Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen now finally realizes, must pay its respect to the beloved island properly. Conscious of the local sabor, the Asola production transforms icy Denmark to tropical Cuba. Perhaps imagining Hamlet as Cuban sounds like a bit of a stretch; then again, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark begins with a couple of dudes named Bernardo and Francisco. So who is to say the great one didn’t envision this? Moreover, for those in the know, tempers in Hamlet get quite steamy.

A bilingual adaptation does not mean that Cuban-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, who wrote the Spanish translation for this, owes Shakespeare some sort of apology; on the contrary, Edwards and Cruz are seeking and granting him multicultural props, given the rising reality of the numbers of those speaking the language, especially locally. Regarding the villains in the Bard’s original vision, one might wonder, against whom in Cuba might Hamlet want to extract revenge? Pragmatically, Edwards avoids the obvious villains; it’s set at the turn of the 19th century – 1898. Ozzie G. might have talked to Edwards a few weeks before the outburst about José Marti, a hero legitimately worth loving.

Hamlet deals with understanding the meaning of life. Knowing how Shakespeare has captivated audiences everywhere for centuries, Edwards and Cruz fuse two cultures and languages, endeavoring to make Shakespeare accessible to our local audience. Great idea! Perhaps the Asola Theatre is going to earn a rep.

Madness, both real and imagined, is central to the original story. Heartache, betrayal, vice, corruption, and fury are all themes presented which we who live in Miami are easily able to fathom historically, politically, and personally. For all who think they cannot comprehend, imagine driving to the airport on the Palmetto the day before Thanksgiving; you will soon begin to relate to all the boiling blood.

Two of the performances, Friday, May 11, (8pm) and Sunday, May 13 (3pm) are in Spanish, while both Saturday performances (3pm and 8pm) are in English. Tickets are $30, $20, $10, with $5 tickets available through CultureShockmiami.com with conditions. Cars will be parked, tickets will be purchased, and snacks at the theater will be bought and sold graciously in Spanglish, so everyone should be happy.