Island of Theseus

A few months ago I was lucky enough to visit the island my family fled as political refugees more than 50 years ago. “Bring me back some sand,” said my grandmother who left the country sure she’d return once the political environment had changed. So as I sat on the beach and funneled sand into a tiny plastic bag designed to hold a little kid’s lunch-time grapes, I wondered at what point she realized she would spend more of her life in her new home country than her old. “This isn’t enough sand,” I thought. So I emptied my walkman-sized makeup bag and filled it with more sand and as many colorful beach rocks as it would fit.

Maybe it was the sun, or the heat, or the fact that I was sitting on a beach for the first time in years, but I was reminded of the paradox of the Ship of Theseus. It raises the question of whether an object, having had all of it’s component parts replaced one by one, remains the same object. I first learned about it in a Philosophy class I took while in high school – a class my friends would at some point get in trouble for skipping to go to Barnes & Nobles.

At what point does a country whose progress stops because of revolution and almost ten percent of its population fleeing become a different place in every way but its name? And what about the place that the refugees flee to? It too is permanently changed.

Even if all of the people fled one at a time, and all of the sand below their feet went with them, it would never be enough. But maybe I can bring enough sand that my grandmother will appreciate that my purse weighed 25 lbs more than it normally did, and she would realize that I appreciate her packing up and leaving her home, so that her family, and their offspring could live a better life. To a country where teenagers can skip school and to go to a great big book store full of constitutionally protected speech.

“That’s still not enough sand” I thought, troubled, as I looked down at my sand covered hands. I could hire some company to dredge the beach, take the sand to Miami, build a house on top of it, but it still wouldn’t be enough. It would never be enough sand.

 

Island

Comfort Music

As a belated way to celebrate Valentine’s Day Charlie and I recently went to see the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis play at the Kennedy Center.  It was great and I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. Here is their touring schedule.

Jazz is sometimes scattered and complicated but the highlight of the night was when they played the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’  The crowd, which could best have been described as DC’s oldest most educated, ate it up!  Maybe because it was refreshing to listen to jazz and find yourself thinking, “OH, I know this one!”  Or maybe we all need to be reminded that when the rain has washed us out, eventually the sun will come out and dry up all the rain so we can go up the spout again.

The stage

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Kennedy Center

Good Times Never Seemed So Good

Going through all of the paperwork related to the wedding I found the set list the band director gave me after the wedding.  The wedding reception seemed to last all of 25 seconds, but the set list is proof that there was indeed a reception, and a lot of “caballos viejos” on the dance floor.  The band we hired was called Orquesta America and working with them was a wonderful experience.  Especially when our pre-wedding meetings would turn into two-hour affairs listening to old Cuban music with the band director, Ruben, and Charlie’s dad, Carlos.

Orquesta America and Lucy La Voz

Orquesta America and Lucy La Voz

In fact, Charlie’s dad even played conga drums with the band for a few sets.

Dale!

Dale!

On our RSVP cards we had asked people to write down their favorite song to dance to so we mixed in those songs between the band sets.  So here is the set list mixed with the songs we played while the band took breaks for anyone who wants to re-live the moments.

Tanda 1/ Dinner set:

1. You are the sunshine of my life

2. Besame Mucho

3. Lagrimas Negras

4. Dos Gardenias

5. Caballo Viejo

6. Almendra

7. Stand by me

8. Cha cha party (medley)

 

Band Break 1 (Dinner):

1. A Kiss to Build a Dream On

2. So Nice (Summer Samba)

3. The Way I Am

4. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

5. You Are the Best Thing

6. Night Time Is the Right Time

7. I’m Yours

8. You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

9. Desafinado

10. Feeling Good

11. I’ve got You Under My Skin

12. Fly Me to the Mood

13. Fever

14. Ain’t That a Kick in the Head

15. A La Bahia de Manzanillo

16. Come Live With Me

 

Tanda 2:

1. No me acostumbro

2. Mentiroso

3. I feel Good/Mambo #5

4. Colgando en Tus Manos

5. Lloraras

6. Como Fue

7. Gran Combo Medley

8. Duena del Swing

9. Quimbara

 

Band Break 2:

1. Magalenha

2. Hello

3. Party Rock Anthem (of course)

4. Single Ladies

5. We found love

6. Where them girls at

7. Sweet Caroline (by far the biggest hit of the night from the songs not played by the band!)

Sweet Caroline

Sweet - Ca - Ro - Line... Pa-Pa-Pa! Good times never seemed so good...

Tanda 3:

1. Canto a la Habana

2. Juan Luis Guerra Medley

3. KC Medley

4. Angelito Medley

5. Pa Mayte

6. Bonito y Sabroso

7. Proud Mary

8. Rebellion

9. Conga (of course)

 

Then the Rusty Pelican made the band stop. So as the band packed up and the house lights came on we snuck in a few more songs:

1. Baby Got Back

2. Give me Everything

3. Sexy and I Know It

 

Little Did We Know

Four weeks ago, when we were on our honeymoon aboard our fancy Italian-style Meditteranean cruise, I thought about this post and how I would call it something like “Where we learn the real meaning of Christmas” and talk about how we spent Christmas aboard the ship and missed our families, but were happy to be with each other.  Or I’d call it, “Sheesh, Italians,” after one yelled at me for bumping into him. Or maybe I’d call it “Constipation Nation” where I’d talk about procuring laxatives in a foreign country as a result of 9 days of cruiseship food.

And then a couple Friday nights ago I saw a tweet from NPR that said that our ship had sunk.  The Costa Concordia had run aground off Italy, and deaths were reported.  Same ship. Same route. Same captain. Same crew.

Wowe, wowe, wowe, wowe.

Costa Concordia, two weeks after we disembarked.

So, there’s that.  It’s impossible to tell any kind of story about our honeymoon without acknowledging that any mild complaints we had are now completely quelled by the fact that we didn’t have to fight anyone for a life boat, didn’t have to swim to shore, didn’t have to spend the night in an Italian town while our families in the US woke up to the news with no way to communicate with us, didn’t have to get on a 15 hour flight fresh off a shipwreck. And our only interaction with the man at the center of the tragedy, Captain Francesco Schettino, was an amusing one where he gave us the opportunity to renew our vows a mere 6 days after uttering them for the first time.

Charlie and I with the most hated man in Italy. Ooof.

Little did we know.

We did it!

We’re married!  We just got back from the honeymoon so we will post more soon.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

To those of you invited to the wedding, the time has come to discuss the crucial issue of our wedding guest book.  Upon arriving at the reception at approximately 1800 hours you will find several tables in the “cocktail hour” room. One of the tables will be manned by a bartender dispensing alcohol, go to that table first unless you are under 21.  Then you will see a table with a guest book on it and an instant print camera looking like this:

Fujifilm Instax Mini

Pick up the camera and take your picture!

In the event that the camera runs out of film, spare film cartridges will be provided.  Here is a video on how to operate the camera and change the film.

Fujifilm Instax Mini How-To

So grab your nearest loved one, or maybe someone you met while waiting at the bar, and take your picture. Then, place it in an appropriate spot in the guest book and then write your name and a message to us if you’d like.

If you’re feeling aspirant, visit the table with the guest book and camera again at the end of the night after you’ve visited the bar a few more times, and have wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggled on the dance floor.

Godspeed.

 

It’s almost winter, people!

Winter will probably punish me for saying this, but fall doesn’t really impress me.  It tries hard with its pretty leaf action and moderate temperatures, but I know what’s coming.  It’s always the same pattern with fall. First the time changes and then fall is all like, “Look over here, forget that the sun is setting at 5pm, look at these pretty leaves everywhere, don’t you like how they crunch under your feet as you walk? Look. Look at me. Don’t you think I’m pretty!?”

Coco chills out

Coco keeps an eye on her kingdom (the back yard) from a throne of dead leaves.

Luckily this year there is a bright shining light, a month from now, that burns for us in sunny, Miami… our wedding! And that makes the changing of seasons more tolerable!  Even when every bush in the yard is shedding little tiny spiky seeds, and Coco cleans them all up in her hair!

Coco look at your face!

Forgive her for she knows not what she does.

“]”]son of a female dog

son of a female dog

But then she goes and totally redeems herself by being cute.

OBSESSED.

Obsessed with Charlie.

She thinks I'm alright.

The honeymoon registry is live!

Instead of adding more housewares to our gift registry, we (Charlie) put together a Honeymoon Registry! Now if someone is so kind as to get us a wedding gift, it can be something exciting like a bicycle tour of a Mediterranean seaside town!

But wait, there’s more!  If you act now, we will send you a picture of us enjoying whatever Mediterranean tour activity you have gifted us with, together with our Thank You card!

Oh, me so hungry!

So you’re coming to our wedding in Miami from out-of-town and you want to know where you can go to get yourself fed for all of your meals that don’t involve our reception…   Here is a list of places that we recommend.  I’ll list the neighborhoods they’re in, just in case you haven’t rented a car and need to go somewhere close – or at least a taxi-able distance away.  If you’re staying on Miami Beach, most of the places I list below should be a walkable distance away. Also, cabs are easier to find on Miami Beach than any other part of Miami.

Garcia’s

Located: Near downtown Miami, on the Miami River at 398 NW North River Drive, Miami, FL

Good for families? Yes!

What do I order? Anything. The ceviche is good.

Safety issues: You might have to drive through the hood to get there depending on where you’re coming from.

Good for: Lunch or Dinner

BTW: This restaurant is located on the Miami River. They have tables both inside and outside. I recommend sitting outside unless the temperature is intolerable.  The fish they serve at Garcia’s is super fresh. In fact I think the restaurant people catch some of it themselves the night before. This restaurant is on the casual side.

Joe’s Stone Crabs

Located: On the south end of Miami Beach at 11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL

Good for families? Yes, but a little pricey.

What do I order? Stone crabs!

Safety issues: Just don’t leave your purse/bag in the car where any one can see it. This goes for everywhere in Miami.

Good for: Lunch or Dinner

BTW: Fancy shmancy seafood place on Miami Beach. Although, there IS a story about Charlie’s brother showing up in a t-shirt that I can’t quite remember. You’ll have to ask him. Anywho, the dress is a little more on the nice side and try to make reservations well before you go.

Puerto Sagua

Located: A few blocks from the ocean on Miami Beach at 700 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach

Good for families? Sure!

What do I order? Cuban Sandwich! Or anything else, I’ve never ordered anything other than the Cuban Sandwich, sorry….When in Rome!

Safety issues: None that I can think of.

Good for: Lunch

BTW: I have eaten at this place in a wet bathing suit and beach clothes, so the standards aren’t too high for dress, but their food is fantastic.  There is a parking garage on 7th street off of Washington you can park at if you aren’t staying at any of the hotels on South Beach.

Versailles

Located: In Little Havana at 3555 SW 8th Street

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? Bistec Empanizado (breaded flank steak), Picadillo (rice with Cuban style meat sauce) or a Cuban Sandwich. Also, croquetas are good and don’t forget your “cafe cubano.”

Safety Issues: Don’t leave anything visible in the car that someone might want to steal.

Good for: Lunch, Dinner

BTW: You might know “Calle Ocho (8th Street)” from a Pit Bull song, or maybe from news reports of Cubans celebrating Castro’s death in the streets. (Or not) Versailles is the place to go for cheap textbook Cuban food.

La Carretta

Located: There are a ton of these all over Miami. There is even one in Terminal A (American Airlines) of the Miami International Airport.

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? If breakfast – cafe con leche (cuban espresso shot with whole milk) and pan tostado (cuban bread toast[heaven] with butter [manna from heaven]) or a croqueta preparada (a croquette sandwich – I love a sandwich!). If lunch or dinner – Cuban sandwich, Picadillo, Bistec Empanizado, Shrimp Enchilado, anything really. It’s all good.

Safety Issues: None that I can think of.

Good for: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

BTW: This is another place you can go for cheap textbook Cuban food. Their breakfast in particular is super cheap considering what you get.  If you want a real Miami experience, just go to any La Carreta store front window and order a cafe con leche and a croqueta to-go. If you want to practice your spanish you can say, “Un cafe con leche y una croqueta para llevarrr porrr favorrrr.”

News Cafe

Located: On Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive at 800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.

Good for families? Yes

What do I order? Whatever you like, it’s all good.

Safety Issues: None that I can think of. Although Gianni Versace was shot on his way home from News Cafe, but that was because he had a crazy stalker, not because News Cafe is unsafe. 🙂

Good for: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Fourth Meal.

BTW: It’s open 24 hours.

Shorty’s BBQ

Located: in Kendall near Dadeland Mall at 9200 South Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? Ribs!

Safety Issues: Over-stuffing your stomach and popping a button on your pants.

Good for: Dinner

BTW: If you’re craving the type of restaurant that has paper towel rolls on the tables this is your joint.

Big Pink

Located: On Miami Beach at 157 Collins Avenue

Good for families? Yes during the day

What do I order? It’s typical diner food, pick your own poison.

Safety Issues: None.

Good for: Breakfast, Fourth Meal

BTW: It’s open until 5am Fri & Sat. They serve breakfast all day, what’s not to love about that?

George’s Coconut Grove

Located: in Coconut Grove (walking distance for those of you staying at the Mayfair Hotel) at 3145 Commodore Plaza.

Good for families? Maybe if the kids are okay with disco balls and loud music occasionally.

What do I order? Brie and Prosciutto Burger is good but the whole menu is fantastic.

Safety Issues: None.

Good for: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner.

BTW: George’s has nice outdoor seating which is great for people watching. A free glass of champagne is served with brunch.  Also, if you tell them it’s your birthday they will turn the disco balls on for you. Woo woo! Make a reservation, just in case.

Sugarcane

 Located: in the newly gentrified “Midtown Miami” at 3250 NE 1st Ave.

Good for families? I have no idea.

What do I order? I don’t know, I have never been there but it comes highly recommended from every one in Miami that I asked for recommendations.

Safety Issues: You will probably have to drive through the hood to get there. You’ll need a car or taxi to get to this place.

Good for: Dinner, Happy Hour

BTW: The restaurant supports local farmers, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, make a reservation just in case.

In general any of the restaurants and bars on Lincoln Road on Miami Beach will be good, safe, options as well.

That’s all I’ve got for now! See you all soon!

 

What’s the exact opposite of luxury German engineering?

Swedish Crapcan

This. A 1994 Swedish Volvo Crapcan station wagon with the roof cut off.

 

A few weeks ago while I was in Miami doing girly things like bacheloretting and bridal dressing, Charlie was in Ohio doing equally masculine things at the ChumpCar Longer Longest Day race which takes place over a 25 hour, 25 minute, 25 seconds period of time.  It all seems to boil down to an all night race interrupted only by pouring fuel into the car every two hours.  Judging by the smell of Charlie’s belongings there is also a lot of fuel spilling and sweating involved.  Woof.

I know what you’re thinking, did Charlie bring a pig and a caja china? No, not this time.  One would assume the typical meals consumed at these races involve barbeque protein.  That isn’t too far off.  But since Charlie isn’t a man of averages, he takes his smoker (the size of a large mini-fridge) and a brisket and cooks that all day while they race. Once it’s time to eat, they indulge the way their paleolithic brethren would, except for with what appears to be plastic utensils and paper plates (cavemen didn’t have gasoline on their hands and under their nails).

 

Chef in racing gear

The chef dons his racing gear.

 

The way Charlie describes the race it’s an adrenaline-filled fantasy, but once you see all of the safety gear they wear you realize they aren’t racing fluffy clouds.  I choose to focus on the fact that the cars in the race sometimes don’t even finish the race let alone go very fast, and also the fact that their car is an antique Volvo station wagon – a tank for all intents and purposes.

 

Notice all of the gear?

 

In the end they finished in 13th place out of 74 cars that managed to finish the race, which is great.  Congratulations, gentlemen!

Major 'tude

The whole team with appropriate amounts of 'tude.

 

All pictures courtesy of Drew.