Friday, April 20, 2012

the familiar trail

It doesn’t take long to develop an ant track. You know how ants are – they follow their established trail and don’t stray from it. Into your kitchen they march, along that one preferred path. You have to use vinegar and other deceptive tricks to confuse and waylay them.

I’ve gotten my preferred trail working for me in Miami Beach. With variations, sure. But still, there are the basic repetitions.

Guava pastry and con leche in the morning.

DSC06475 - Version 2

I can’t walk up north – I have a workshop that starts at 9. So I take the bus. I look with longing at the skies outside, but I am not here for the skies, I’m here for workshops. Sigh. Goodbye beautiful skies.


...and beach umbrellas.


I know there is to be rain in the afternoon. So be it.

But as the sessions end, I step outside and see sunshine! The promised afternoon storms are stalled somewhere. Not at Miami Beach.

And here’s a little variation: if yesterday I walked on the upper beach, away from the water, today, I splashed my way south. All five miles of it rinsed by the wonderfully warm waters of the Atlantic.

DSC06495 - Version 2

Because it is a week-end, the beach is... well, not quite Coney Island packed, but close. All the more reason to do some serious people watching.


All ages, representing all localities, all there, enjoying beach life.


I imagined that the entire coast of Florida is on this day swelling with beach loafers.


Many people love to just stand in the water to cool off and that’s fun to watch too. Humankind, lusting for that refreshing moment when the waves gently tickle your legs or splash against your buttocks. Conversations in the water.


In France, they’d be unpacking their glorious foods and beverages. En famille! Not so here. We tend to like to plump down on a chair or a towel and feel the sun move from one point to the next. Or, in the inevitable quest for romance, we walk the shoreline, holding hands, thinking this is forever thoughts.


Or, we flirt with romance submerged. Or up in the air.


And so life plays itself out on the shore of the Atlantic.


Always with zest and color.


And energy.

DSC06530 - Version 2

Again, as yesterday, I feel hungry by the time I reach South Beach. I look at the lunch offerings – and there are many – but it seems somehow not right to sit down and spend money on yet another (perhaps indifferent?)  meal. 

But here’s a good deal: you don’t want to sit down and be fussed over? Go to Joe's, the Joe's. Order at the take out counter. Carry it to the bar, ask for a soda or, more appropriately, a glass of wine. And eat it there, out of the plastic container.

So, here’s my delicacy (also the cheapest item on the take out menu) – shrimp and scallop ceviche (which is very Floridian – in a Key West manner of speaking) and a glass of rosé.



And after? Remember, I’m on my ant trail. Back to Las Olas for a strong café con leche and a guava roll (their last one! What great luck!).

DSC06549 - Version 2

And I watch people come and go.


An afternoon well spent.

Assumptions. I spoke of them a while ago. Back in Gargnano. Today, I felt I dug a little beyond the guesswork and came up with interesting departures from initial impressions.

So the hotel? St Augustine. A good one. Stay here. Just be sure to ask for a room on the second floor.

The woman who is behind the counter? Not Cuban at all. She is from Argentina. Came here to be with son, stayed. But she knows the good Cuban coffees.

But here’s a guess that proved more than accurate: so many Cubans here have no good words to offer about their home country.

And so here’s an interesting scene: Friday evening at the St Augustine: the hotel throws a wine and cheese social hour for all guests. I’m there printing out boarding passes and somehow I hadn’t known of this but now here I am and so I take my place at the “bar.”

A couple comes over. Where is the wine and cheesecake? The man asks in broken English.
Here. Wine and cheese. Here. -- answers the very friendly, very helpful Cuban-American guy who works evenings at the hotel.
The couple sits down.
Where are you from? I ask. It's what you're supposed to do at these social hours, no?
The Ukraine. And so we start speaking Polish. Ukraine people are used to speaking Polish. It’s the only country that learns my home language because they feel they have to, what with the tourist traffic and all.
The minutes roll along.
I ask our server (and friendly host person) when he came from Cuba. 1999.
Ah. By boat?
No. A complicated story follows.
Have you been back?
The Ukrainians listen, but their chins are down.
Listen, he says emphatically. I know your history. Poland. You needed the Soviet state (I would not characterize us that way, but it’s fine, I understand what he’s trying to say), but in Cuba – it was different.

He’s bitter, indeed hostile about the Cuba of his childhood. The Ukrainians and I look at each other. We’re of a different history.

When we came to America, it was by chance. She won the green card lottery – the Ukrainian husband explains. At first we thought – what are we doing here? I was a professor of engineering in Lwow. I’m a machinist here. But, we’re fine. Our son is here. He's a doctor! (I detect pride.) Our daughter – she was too old, too established to want to move. She stayed.

The Cuban American person describes himself as moderately right of center, politically speaking. But he mentions Canada and the European Union as ideal types, leaving me a bit uncertain as to his classifications.

Suddenly, the Argentine woman is bringing out a lemon pie with a candle. Say what? Ah. Today is the Ukrainian gentleman’s birthday. He’s sixty. We sing, drink, cheer. I look their way. The Ukrainian wife smiles at me. She knows what I’m thinking. I know what she’s thinking.

And so it ends. One last meal – I go for a simple (indifferent) pizza up the street, and a request for a very early wake up call. My flight leaves before they even put out the continental breakfast here at my little hotel in South Beach. I’ll be older and wiser tomorrow. Or older anyway. And home. And that’s a good thing.


  1. Well, I've never wanted to visit Miami Beach and certainly do after seeing your pictures! Whomever designed the beaches knew a thing or two about color. Spectacular pictures, and even more interesting observations.

    And finally, happy birthday, Nina. I hope it's a great day for you. You deserve it!

  2. It's always so amazing whom we meet and the stories we hear when traveling...delightful afternoon that we spent with you. And happy birthday today! Definitely wiser but not older!!

  3. Don't want to miss it - HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINA. Meeting you here at your blog was one of the most fortunate things for me. I feel I have seen so much of the world, as you have presented to us, and therefore much wiser. I especially loved your trip into the hills in Poland to see the older couple who live on very little but seem quite happy. I want to go back and read more of them. There is so much here in your beautiful blog and so little time... but I will persevere! I will be getting older, also, only 7 days after you. A Taurus, too. No wonder I like you so much!


I welcome comments, but I will not publish submissions that insult or demean, or that are posted anonymously. I am sorry to lose commenting Ocean friends who are not registered, but I want to encourage readers to submit remarks only if they feel they can stand behind their words. I do not seek a free-for-all here. I like camaraderie far more than conflict.