The Mean Streets of Miami

The Mean Streets of Miami

 

As the song so eloquently goes:

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Miami, uh, uh
Southbeach, bringin’ the heat, uh
Haha, can y’all feel that
Can y’all feel that
Jig it out, uh

Okaaaay, so Will Smith isn’t exactly Chaucer.  But we’ve decided to tack a couple of days onto Spring break and head for Miami, where VP has some meetings scheduled. I’m excited to visit a city with such a rich history.

That is, I assume it has a rich history. I have not researched Miami. My knowledge is limited to the one Will Smith song, plus Bugs Bunny popping out of his hole with a beach chair and umbrella, yelling, “Miami Beach at last!” Also that to get there you are supposed to turn left at Albuquerque.   Note: I probably should have researched it.

Take traffic, for example. A bit of research would have yielded the fact that every single driver in Miami is not at the pool or beach and is therefore angry and wants you dead. 

Water so clear you can see to the bottom
Hundred thousand dollar cars, e’ybody got ‘em

Well, not e’body,  Will Smith. After escaping the jaws of death on the highway, we arrive at the hotel. It is oceanside. It is fancy.  The cars in front are shiny and foreign. We, on the other hand are driving a ten year old mini-van that spills leftover Easter candy out the back the minute I open the trunk for the bellhop.  Jelly beans and chocolate eggs ping all over the driveway like a sticky pastel hailstorm. As I attempt to scoop up the errant candy, I see the bellhop’s gaze drift to the trash bags into which VP had stuffed the last load of clean laundry as we went out the door.

Yes, sir, nothing says class like using garbage bags for luggage. Cue banjo music.

I’m not sure how you say “Beverly Hillbillies” in Spanish but I have a suspicion that’s what the bellhop is muttering as walks away quickly, taking his cart with him. We are on our own.

Undaunted, we head for the front desk. Due to VP’s business travel he has some sort of Double Secret Plutonium Status, so we can always count on a room upgrade.  Which is important for a family of five, lest someone have to sleep in the bathtub.  But the front desk Nazi didn’t get that memo, and tells VP, “No upgrades.” Ditto when he asks if we can have a rollaway. “No,” she barks.

Something has gone terribly wrong.  First off, we have apparently forgotten to “bring the heat”. I mean, I thought my husband brought the heat, and he was positive I had grabbed it before we left the house, you know how that goes.  Also I’m not sure what “jig” means, except as it relates to cheerful leprechauns. And we definitely hadn’t peppered our room request with enough “Uh, uh’s” and “yeah, yeah’s”.   Or any, for that matter.

But we soldier on. After we stow our mélange of luggage -n- trash bags in our wee li’l room (by the size of it, it looks as if Keebler Elves are a big demographic for this particular hotel chain), it’s time for lunch.

VP decides we should go to a famous hotel he has heard about.  Apparently Frank Sinatra used to stay there. As you do, I make sure my son has on a collared shirt and that all of the children have their hair combed. I’m picturing white linen table cloths, and sipping iced tea with a view of the ocean.  Perhaps some tinkling piano music playing in the background. The hotel is called the Fontainebleau. I’ve never heard of it, but it must be fancy because it has a French name that you have to say with a cheesy French accent. (It’s like a law or something.) On the walk over, I start to worry that we are underdressed.  Again, a bit of research would have helped.

Because I soon discover that we’re overdressed in that we’re wearing clothes. The restaurant is between the pool and the ocean, so to get there we have to wade through six security guards, a record company party, and a sea of white cabanas, poolside beds, thong bikinis and stilettos.  I cannot hear over the pounding techno music. The clientele is more Kim Kardashian than Ava Gardner; plus it looks like someone accidentally fed Justin Bieber and his entourage after midnight, and now they have multiplied and are all bobbing around in the pool like some sort of baggy-pantsed evil mogwai.   In our preppy attire, we stand out like Mennonites at a rave. And my children just look frightened. 

So we sip a little somethin’, lay to rest the spill
Me an’ Charlie at the bar runnin up a high bill

VP goes to get drinks from the bar, and our hostess points us to a white faux-leather banquette where we can sit while we wait for the table. My eyes dart back and forth between the thong bikini clad patrons of the restaurant  and the leather banquette and I wonder if it would be prudent to request a bottle of bleach spray before we sit down.

"Sure, I may have to take out a second mortgage on the house, but this margarita is totally worth it."

“Sure, I may have to take out a second mortgage on the house, but this margarita is totally worth it.”

Right when our table is ready, VP returns with our drinks, a Margarita for me and a Mojito for him.   Then he leans in to me and whispers the words every woman wants to hear.

“You’re not gonna believe how much these drinks cost.”

“Um, how much?” I ask, though I suspect I don’t want to know. He mumbles something that is hard to hear over the ear splitting techno music.

“What’d you say? Fifteen? Well, that doesn’t seem so bad for…”

But he interrupts me. “Fifty! I said Fifty!”

Fifty dollars for two drinks. Who knew Will Smith was practically a prophet? Sure, they are sizable. Sure, at this place Patron is  considered bottom shelf. But even so, sheesh. I make sure to drink every last drop.

But all is not lost. Because it turns out when it’s five hundred degrees out, you know what’s awesome? Taking a loooonnnng afternoon nap in the air conditioning, and who cares about the size of the room after you’ve consumed a Margarita the size of a Big Gulp?

Now that’s more my speed. I like to think Bugs Bunny would be proud.  Bienvenido a Miami, indeed, Mr. Will Smith.

All the Pioneers Really Needed Was a Good Cabernet

View of the lake

 

There was a book written a few years back called The Last Child in the Woods. I haven’t read it yet, but I love the title. It speaks to me. And anyway, I’m happy to say the last children  in the woods just may be mine. Okay, that came out wrong. Anyone else picturing my kids as Hansel and Gretel? Just me? Okay.  As I’ve mentioned, our kids are outdoorsy types already. They play outside way more than inside. And every summer, for two weeks, we’re “unplugged”, so to speak.

Our vacation destination each summer is a cabin deep in the north woods of Michigan. Kind of like camping, except with electricity and indoor plumbing. If you know me, you know I don’t “rough it”, so this is as close to camping as I get. Which is to say not at all.  Anyhow, the place has no TV reception,  and no internet connection.  I’ll let that sink in for a minute. No. Internet. Connection.  It’s never bothered me much before. There’s something calming and transformative about disconnecting from everything going on in the world.

I know, I know, two weeks doesn’t sound like much. But for us, it’s a step in the right direction. It lets our kids know that they can live without the electronics, that the world isn’t going to come to an end if they haven’t seen the latest Instagram of someone making a duckface or Youtube video of a kitten sneezing.

Ever gone on a vacation to a place where you’re disconnected to the outside world? It’s strange to re-emerge after a couple of weeks  and hear about things that happened two weeks ago that are already old news to everyone else, but are new to you. “You didn’t hear about that? Have you been living under a rock?” Well, as a matter of fact I have, in a way. Not under a rock, but in a log cabin in the woods, Thoreau-style except with killer iced coffee and some fabulous wine and cheese that we picked up from Zingermans on the way. Please. I’m not a heathen.

And I usually don’t have a problem being away from the internet. But wait… I’m doing this blogging thing now. Don’t I need to be connected? What if I miss something? And there’s a royal baby on the way! A babieeeee! I’m gonna miss the 24/7 news coverage of the birthin’ ! And Lindsay Lohan is probably gonna be  released from rehab early, upon which she is going to… drumroll please…  attend her own birthday party.  Oh, the shenanigans  that will ensue!  If anyone needs to pre-emptively get the lawyers on retainer, it’s her.  Amanda Bynes has been sort of quiet as of late, so she’s primed for another round of Bonkers Pong  any minute!  And I’ll probably  miss all of it. Well, at least I got to have access to the interwebs for the birth of the Spawn of Kim and Douchebucket Kanye. So that was fun.  Okay not really.

Speaking of which, I kind of sort of think the name “North” is cool. And by that I mean it could be worse. But with “West” as a last name? Goes from cool to cruel before you can say “Imma let you finish”.  What the hell were they thinking? Oh, right, I forgot who we’re talking about. Idiots. 

Anyway, the cabin. My great-grandfather built it in the 1920s.  I’ve been going there all my life. My mom has been going there her whole life. My grandfather grew up going there. You get the picture.

It is my rest. It is my sanctuary. It is my place to unplug and disconnect from the world, including celebrity train-wrecks.  And since I fully expect my kids to unplug as well, I’m going to have to set a good example. Probably.  Which means no sneaking peeks at celebrity gossip websites on our rare trips into town. Goodbye Gawker. Ta-ta TMZ. What? This People magazine peeking out from under the cushion? Oh, I bought that back in Ohio before we even crossed the border, so it totally doesn’t count. Shut up.

The rule is the kids aren’t allowed to bring any of their electronic devices. That means no DS, no iPod touch. The adults will have non-functioning  cell phones (no reception in that part of the woods.) The adults will also have laptops, but until we make the twenty minute drive to town (the closest internet connection) the laptops will mostly  function as expensive paperweights.

So yes, my kids will be completely disconnected from computers, TV, and electronics for two weeks. But they’ve been going to the cabin every summer  since they were born. They’re used to it. And they’re not complaining.

They’ll play in the woods, swim in the lake, kayak, fish, catch frogs, and look for wildlife. At night we’ll toast marshmallows, read, and play board games or cards.  Secure on the screened sleeping porch, we’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the forest. (“Did you hear that noise last night? What was that?” Is an oft repeated line in the a.m.). In the morning, we’ll wake up to the chill in the air, the call of the loons on the lake, to the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing.  After  the fog on the lake lifts, we’ll spend the rest of the day on the water or lounging lakeside. And our biggest decision will be what kind of sandwich to make for lunch.

I won’t even bring my Nook. I considered it, after all, the point of its purchase was so I wouldn’t have to lug so many books on vacation that they needed their own suitcase. But… there are games on the Nook. Game that my kids are going to want to play if it is available. And my kids all have advanced degrees in pestering.  So, guess what? The Nook will stay at home. I’ll be lugging a stack of good old-fashioned books with me like always. No charger needed.

Full disclosure, though: As I mentioned, I will have my laptop with me, since that’s where I write.  Posting will present a challenge, obviously.  I may have to coordinate posting with going into town for supplies, kind of like the pioneers did.  Er, like they would have done if they had blogs. What? I can compare myself to pioneers or to Laura Engalls Wilder or Thoreau if I want. Just because my clothes aren’t all scratchy doesn’t mean I don’t suffer hardship, too. Once when I was up there I ran out of French Vanilla coffee creamer. That was a rough day, my friends.

Quick favor, though. Can someone just, I don’t know,  send up smoke signals or something  if Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes has a surprise  kid and names it something like  “Scrambled Eggs Haiku”? Because I’m pretty sure even Thoreau would have come out of the woods for that. Happy summer!

 

 

 

Summer Reading List 2013

Morning Readers!

Warm weather is finally here, school is almost out, and for me, that signals the return of my Summer Book List.  Just to set the stage, I’m an obsessive reader. Book. Nerd. As in, I get panicky if I arrive at a vacation destination having neglected to bring a book. I will literally make my husband drive to a local bookstore before we check  into the hotel. (As I type this, I’m beginning to realize that his reasons for buying me a Nook weren’t entirely altruistic . Well played, husband. Well played.)

Before every summer, I spend a month or so researching what’s new-ish in the publishing world, and compiling my list so I am never at a loss for a book when warm weather hits. There’s just something about kicking back in a lounge chair with a book and a glass of iced tea while my kids play in the sprinkler that epitomizes summer. Also, our summer always includes a trip to a cabin on a lake, where there is no TV or internet. (I think last year I read eight books when I was up there.) This year I decided to share what’s on my list, because the next best thing to reading all of these great books is to recommend them to others.

My tastes lean heavily toward memoir, with some humor  and fiction thrown in as well.  So if you’re  like me, always on the hunt for an interesting read, maybe you’ll find something on this list that grabs you. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ll be reading this summer:

 

The Interestings The Interestings/Meg Wolitzer

 

 

 

 

WonderWonder/R. J. Palcio

 

 

 

The Burgess Boys The Burgess Boys: A Novel/Elizabeth Strout

 

 

 

 

The Astor Orphan The Astor Orphan: A Memoir/Alexandra Aldrich

 

 

 

 

Chanel Bonfire Chanel Bonfire: A Memoir/Wendy Lawless

 

 

 

 

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls/David Sedaris

 

 

 

 

A Spoonful of Sugar A Spoonful of Sugar: A Memoir/Brenda Ashford

 

 

 

 

Ladies Night Ladies Night/Mary Kay Andrews

 

 

 

 

The Tao of Martha The Tao of Martha/Jen Lancaster

 

 

 

 

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher/Sue Halpern

 

 

 

 

calling Me Home Calling Me Home/Julie Kibler

 

 

 

 

 At Least My Belly Hides My CanklesaAt Least My Belly Hides My Cankles/Paige Kellerman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of YouThinking of You/Jill Mansell

 

 

 

 

 

Time Flies Time Flies/Claire Cook

 

 

 

 

The Why of Things The Why of Things/Elizabeth Winthrop

 

 

 

 

 

The Engagements The Engagements: A Novel/J. Courtney Sullivan

 

 

 

 

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girlss The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls/Anton DiSclafani

 

 

 

 

Silver Star The Silver Star: A Novel/Jeannette Walls

 

 

 

 

Dad is Fat Dad is Fat/Jim Gaffigan

 

 

 

 

 

The Smart One The Smart One/Jennifer Close

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you a comfy spot in the shade and ice cubes that never melt. Happy reading everyone!

Lisa

button (1)