Category: "hometown"

summer Sunday

06/26/17 08:46

To brunch at Voo La Voo Café in Wilton Manors for real Breton crêpes (galettes de blé noir), then down to Miami to watch the Marlins play the Cubs. There were so many Cubs fans in attendance that when Giancarlo Stanton hit an insurance home run in the 8th I almost expected a fan to toss it back onto the field. After the game I drove downtown, stopping in Books & Books before heading over to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for evensong - possibly the most beautiful word in the English language. Because Sunday was the 250th anniversary of Georg Philipp Telemann's death - a fact that went unremarked upon at the ballpark - the service featured his music, sung by the Anglican Chorale. On the drive home I was serenaded by Gilberto Gil and Maria Bethania on WDNA’s Café Brasil.

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown

I recently read an article about a proposed makeover of Las Olas Boulevard designed to make our main street more attractive to pedestrians and people on bicycles. Apparently, it would involve reducing the number of traffic lanes, removing the median, and replanting the trees that now grace the median on the side.

Unfortunately, the problem with Las Olas has little to do with landscaping, though the sidewalks are too narrow, and the street (like most in the city) should be made safe for bicycles. The true problem with Las Olas is that the rents are so high that they keep out any business that is quirky, innovative, cutting edge, or, conversely, endearingly old school. Restaurants have to be expensive in order to survive there – I stopped going to Noodles & Panini years ago because I didn’t want to pay $14 for a chopped salad – and they have to follow a tested formula. Which is why it’s easy to find burgers and Italian food on the boulevard but impossible to find tapas or curries or even black beans. Don’t bother looking for a bookstore or a vinyl record shop.

 Las Olas, most of which is owned by The Las Olas Co., has a dubious distinction: It is a main street – a symbol of American small town values – that is not really for the people. One doesn’t find this exclusivity in other similarly sized Florida cities. The main street in Sarasota – a city perhaps more upscale than Fort Lauderdale – contains a number of affordable ethnic restaurants as well as two bookstores, one selling new books and the other dealing in secondhand ones. (None of these businesses could afford the rents that The Las Olas Co. demands.) West Palm Beach’s Clematis Street has the attractive and very popular Field of Greens, where downtown workers can grab a healthy lunch for under $10, something that is almost impossible to do on the leafy blocks of Las Olas west of SE 11th Avenue, the section that’s being considered for a facelift.  

 The best thing about Las Olas is that it has, by default, helped create interesting new neighborhoods like North Beach Village and FAT Village, where innovation is not only welcomed, it’s encouraged. But it would still be nice to have a main street that serves everyone, not just the well-heeled and tourists who, I suspect, can get burgers back home.   

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown

time to move?

03/29/17 07:28

I posted a message on Facebook addressed to "South Florida friends," and of the dozen or so people who 'liked' it, none were from South Florida.

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown

miami metropolis

03/13/17 09:58

For 27 years Hania and I have been driving down to Miami to catch a movie, browse in a bookstore, have dinner, watch people, savor the feeling of being in a big city. Though each place we go – Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Miami Beach – has more of the air of a village (leafy, Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco) than of a great metropolis. Even urban, gritty Wynwood, a recent addition to our Miami trinity, hardly reminds you of Manhattan or Tokyo.

 This past Saturday I got the feeling I'd been missing, ironically, in a place that is actually called a village: Brickell Village. Imposing towers – finished and unfinished – rose all around us as we made our way to 1111 Peruvian Bistro (where I ate the most delicious lomo saltado of my life). After dinner we made our way through another upstart canyon to Brickell Center, which was lively even though half of its businesses have not yet opened. A band played on the second floor, in the open-air concourse that spans S. Miami Avenue, and you got that big city thrill of finding life – people, music, the impromptu – in the middle of concrete and glass.

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown

A story in this morning's Herald tells of the death of Zoo Miami's "beloved Komodo dragon" (three words you rarely hear strung together) who appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. "He was," the zoo's Ron Magill is quoted as saying, "just a wonderfully laid-back lizard."

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown

beer savior

05/19/16 13:36

At Fresh Market this morning I came upon two young women speaking German in front of the refigerated beer case. One had her hand on a bottle of Bud Light.

"Are you from Germany?" I asked.

They told me they were, and that they were looking for an American beer.

"That's about the worst one," I told them, pointing to the Bud. Then I asked how long they were staying. They said till tomorrow. I directed them to Riverside Market, adding that they'd have the thrill of crossing a swing bridge on their way there.

Having done my good deed for the day, I'm off to Key West tomorrow, to do a reading at the new Books & Books, probably from the chapter on Key West.

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown