Monday, December 31, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
In Bal Harbour (one of the wealthiest areas of Miami if you didn't already know, definitely home to the best Neimans) baby Jesus took off for parts unknown from the Nativity display in the Bal Harbour's Founders Circle. A $500. reward was posted for his safe return and local radio stations along with the Bal Harbour police urged his return. But nobody stepped forward.
Thanks not to the Three Wise Men tracking a star in the east, but to the efforts of a Jewish lawyer, a new baby Jesus was found, one that is now equipped with a GPS tracking device. In addition Jesus comes with a plexiglass shield (is it bulletproof too one might wonder) that makes it harder to reach into the manager and kidnap him.
Merry Christmas South Florida, for helping bring the meaning to the season as only you could. God Bless each and every one, even the crazies. Now I will go and make some eggnog with way too much rum. If there is such a thing.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Rapes, armed robbery, car theft, car break ins, child abductions, pick pocketing....these are only a few of the more garden variety of crimes at your local shopping outlet. I won't even begin to talk about the crazy sniper shootings that recently made the news. But when I checked back even my old Malls had quite a history. A security guard was shot at the Broward Mall by someone trying to shoplift, a woman was raped in the Galleria Mall shopping lot, a man robbed the Polo outlet at Sawgrass and ran shooting through the Cheesecake Factory. Sawgrass Mills was sued & paid out a $325,000 settlement a few years back for negligence in failing to provide adequate security after a woman was assaulted in the parking lot and evidence in the case revealed that the Sawgrass Mall, which is one the largest malls in the country as well as Florida's largest retail & entertainment center and a major tourist attraction, had non-functioning security cameras, minimal security protection for their parking lots and inadequate lighting, all of which created a dangerous lure for criminal activity in its parking lot.
Nancy Bochicchio and her beautiful daughter Joey are paying the price along with the rest of us. Guns do not make us free, they are making us prisoners in our own country.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Yes, yes, I know you feel some Seminole blood bubbling through your veins. But it gets better. Should you be among the more select Tribal Council family members you would have been able to help spend more than 280 million (yes 280 million) on luxury homes & cars, basketball courts, plastic surgery & travel expenses. This doesn't quite jive with the Gaming Act which contends tribe profits must be used accordingly to support government services and the general welfare of the whole tribe. So it is really to no one's surprise that federal auditors are visiting the Seminoles this week, and it's not for love of alligator wrestling or to learn how to make homes out of palmetto and cypress.
No, those days are long gone for the original Florida natives whose Hard Rock International Hotel and restaurant chain purchase cost them a recent 1 billion. Just a few weeks ago the state of Florida came to an agreement with the Seminoles in a 25 year compact to allow Class III Las Vegas style slot machines, banked card gaming at Tribal facilities and on Tribal lands...that would be the 7 Tribe casinos throughout the state. See for yourself Tribe Rep Max Osceola Hr. beaming with our Governor Crist as he promises the revenue (95%) will be used for Florida education.
And you were wondering why this is called HavanaBananaLand....
Monday, December 10, 2007
Personally I recommend emailing the White House just to remind George that when he's done chasing down terrorists and buried nukes, Burma is dying a slow death.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Recently floated here from Haiti? Moved down from New York with a suspended license? On the run from Georgia police for marrying your 11 year old cousin? Not problema papi. We have just the solution for you and yours.
This thanks to Homeland Security which since 911 ironically makes it extra difficult for illegal immigrants and felons to get driver's licenses, giving birth to a new kind of crime.....market fronts and on line sites that allow just about anyone to get an international driver's license. The real thing is indistinguishable from the bogus, even to traffic cops. The police have no way to check out foreign driver's licenses and can only go through the International Criminal Police Organization. So they rely on pictures of licenses from different countries distributed (I swear to God) by beer companies. God bless coronas once again for their contribution to Florida society.
But back to the advice column... if you are dodging INS or the FBI, don't stress yourself out by standing in line at the local DMV where they might expect you to take a sign test at the very least. Here's all you do....
Head for Palm Beach county where certain Delray Beach stores are selling the "international driver's licenses". If you missed the $99 "international driver's license" sale, advertised in Spanish just across the street from the Lake Worth Police Department, don't worry. You can bet a certain Check Cashing Stop will be have their annual holiday driver's license discount sale.
Federal Trade Commission reports a fake license sells for $65 to $350 and despite their best efforts, remain available in hometown storefronts or on the Internet. Check out the International Automobile Driver's Center which offers "international driving documents" including a photo, and $75 for next-day delivery, according to the application. Tallahassee could learn from this.
Almost as easy as terrorists getting their pilot's license in Florida... and you don't even have to pass a road test.
Monday, November 19, 2007
But be encouraged, if you are a Gator fan you can climb the stairway to heaven directly to the Swamp. For some time University of Florida has allowed die hard (no pun intended) fans and alumni to spend all of their eternity in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. What's next...Gator Nation orange and blue urns? Who knows they probably already sell them in the book store.
But for those who want a truly unique farewell, there is always the eternal call of the sea. Maritime funeral services provide for a number of memorial arrangements to include biodegradable urns, wreaths, eulogies. One of the most favorite sites for disposal of ashes in Florida, is the Christ of the Abyss located 6 miles east-northeast of Key Largo, Florida. It is a 9 foot statue of Jesus Christ standing on the bottom in approximately 25 feet of water in John Pennecamp State Park, the only underwater park in the world.
Now why on earth would scuba divers want to jump in that?
But it gets better. The next time you lay on South Beach sands you may want to think about this eerie scenario before you take a carefree topless dip in the waves, or go deep sea fishing.
I would be referring to "Direct Sea Burial option for Uncremated Remains", offered by the Navy as well as certain private maritime funeral businesses. Coffins must be made of metal, extra sand weighted to go down feet first so as to sink rapidly and permanently. Where exactly do they do this? They dispose three miles out from land, in water no less than 600 feet deep, the Gulf Stream...a fisherman's trolling grounds. Yet I am expected to recycle to keep our water safe and clean?
Not to mention this information should lead us all to have certain dismaying second thoughts when strolling the beach to see what the tide has brought in....for that unusual shell just might belong to somebody's mother.
Sigh, somehow Mahi Mahi for dinner just does not sound quite so enticing tonight.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Alas, I may have spoken too soon. It appears that for what is probably the only time in Weston's history a police officer was forced not only to draw a gun, but fired twice, striking the subject, who was seriously injured and is now hospitalized. You might wonder if this was done to halt a run away armed burglar, murderer or rapist....certainly all of which might justify such deadly force. But no, the culprit had not robbed a bank or broken into a home.The perpetrator, otherwise known as Fred, had been barking at the ducks in his backyard. Yep, ducks. Not too horrific a crime unless you happen to live in Weston where the police get called at the slightest Westonite complaint, and dog barking happens to rank up there with seriously overgrown ficus hedges. When the police officer investigated by going around back the home, Fred ran out an open screen door "lunging" at the officer, resulting in the officer shooting the 11 year old (yes, 11) epileptic dalmatian twice.
Fred underwent surgery, remains in guarded condition. His owners are not thrilled, and are planning on filing a law suit. Hopefully, if indeed he survives, Fred will have learned his lesson about violating dog etiquette standards in Weston. But I am a little worried about my yapping chihuahua, which is probably silly because he is too small to be shot.
They probably would just taser him to death.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I had so wanted to share my new recipe for garlic chicken with you, stolen from my favorite Cuban restaurant Don Arturos in Ft. Lauderdale, but changed my mind, as well you just might after checking out the chicken crisis in Key West.
I've always loved the Keys, accompanying my parents there every other weekend so my father could fish out in the Gulf while my mother taught me how to steal lobsters out of season. It wasn't until I was an adult that I had a chance to check out Key West, a nation by itself. Definitely a lot more fun cruising the bars than just trolling for dolphin. (I don't mean the Flipper variety so please don't start sending me hate mail). Although I usually reserve my energy for writing our legislators and current administration about human rights violations, the Keys hold a special place in my heart. Actually, this is about animal rights.
I would be talking about Chicken Rights y'all, specifically the Key West variety of chicks and roosters, otherwise known as the infamous Gypsy Chickens. Apparently these poultry terrorists have made themselves so unwelcome to some of the residents to the point that the city has had to relocate hundreds (poultry, not people), causing opposing human camps to take sides in the battle of the chicken. Leading the rooster army would definitely be The Chicken Store, a shelter providing care and rehabilitation for chickens, even arranges adoptions. Check out their gallery of feathered adoptables....hey, they don't bark and couldn't be as difficulty to housebreak as a chihuahua.... and you don't want to miss the bumper stickers which I didn't have the nerve to put in this post, but loved them none the less. Truly the Chicken Store folk of Key West have led the battle which may never be won as you can see from their petition circulated in an effort to put a halt to the chick haters.
To: the City Commission, City of Key West
We, the undersigned, hold dear the heart-stoppingly beautiful wild chickens of the City of Key West and ask they be preserved here forever.
Not only are they an established 175-year-old historical feature of this island city, but also they perform a valuable service by eating scorpions, ticks, cockroaches, termites, snails and other pests.
We respect and honor Gallus gallus, the Chicken, for its many gifts to humanity, which include: the Salk polio vaccine and other life-saving serums, life-sustaining foods not only for us and our children but also for our pets, and sentinel service to forewarn people against the threat of mosquito-borne diseases such as encephalitis, dengue and malaria.
Truly, the City of Key West would not be the same if its streets were silent and devoid of the proud Conch cocks and their beautiful feathered ladies with chicks in tow. Please hold them fast in your hearts, and let there be one place in the world where the deserving Chicken may live safe and free - in the amazing, unique, unparalleled City of Key West.***************************************************************************************
It couldn't be said anymore eloquently than the Society for Chicken Love put it, "The chicken has suffered an un-measurable amount of injustice. .... Has a chicken ever attacked a man? Has a chicken ever locked a human in a wire cage? Has a chicken ever forced abortion on a woman and then ate the aborted fetus? Has a chicken ever defrocked a human, basted him with barbecue sauce and thrown him on flaming coals? .....No one should have to live like a slave or prisoner food object just because they were born a chicken. Chicken oppression must stop!"
I spoke to Kathy of the Chicken Store just recently, and sad to say that the Chicken Store is presently looking for a new dwelling for their poultry orphanage. If you get a chance to travel down A1A make sure you put Kathy and her gypsies on your list of places to visit...only don't go in there smelling of chicken fingers.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I want one, I really do....a vespa, not a Mickey.
Ever since I saw one in Roman Holiday, I have wanted my own vespa scooter. There's a Vespa store off Federal Highway that always has the most adorable scooters parked outside, all in the pastel colors of your choice, of course. I wonder if that's where Mickey bought his mean green machine but he probably went to the one off Alton Road in Miami Beach. I don't know how safe they are (vespas not actors), especially when driven under the influence, something a certain green vespa driver has probably done a zillion times before.
It's even said Mr. Rourke drives with his chihuahuas... who knows, maybe they are drunk too. My chihuahua justs acts like he's drunk...chasing the squirrels on my screen saver, attacking t.v. canines on the Dog Whisperer.
Back to vespas....they drive vespas if you go over to the west coast to Sanibel or Captiva Island but I can't imagine negotiating one on I-75 or the Palmetto. Not with the way South Florida drivers attack the roadways with the same gusto Bush showed invading Iraq, cruising while simultaneously polishing fingernails, reading the paper, or finishing a bottle of Captain Morgan, a la Mr. Rourke.
My favorite hated roads to take note of, with the kraziest baddest ass drivers in Dade & Broward county are as follows:
1. First place goes to The Palmetto Expressway (826) for having the most seriously deranged roadsters on the planet, with close seconds to 49th street in Hialeah, and anywhere on Flagler Street. These are my people, do I need to say more....
2. Second place would be 595 in West Broward for the rudest, most aggressive, own the road mentality idiots. I do believe they live in my Stepford hometown development otherwise known as Weston, although I do not include myself in that group, of course.
3. Third place is I-95 in Dade or Broward for the wildest ride to be had if you enjoy being tailgated, cut off or flipped off, and where you will sit for a full day if there is an kind of any accident. Bring your portable potty and food supplies if you travel on this sucka.
Feel free to send in your own personal favorites. Or just take the little poll off to the side, hope you can find it in my messy side post closet.
In the meantime I will explore timeshares on Captiva where one day soon my cute aqua blue vespa waits for me.... where if I indulge the call of the Captain (or a nice merlot) I would at least have the sense to leave my scooter sans chihuahua leaning against a shady palm.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Just this morning on my way to work in my little town of Stepford, I joined a few cars pulled off the road as we drivers stopped to stare at a most peculiar site. Across the lake, easily covering the backyard of an entire home was an assortment of ducks, egrets, ibises, snake birds, each standing in formation with his own group, all with heads craned left, focusing on the exact same spot in the horizon. Not one of them moved so much as a feather, and whatever mesmerized this feathered flock was not visible to any human one of us. There were about one hundred birds in this strange assembly which seemed to increase until they ran out of room on the land, standing in the shallow water... all standing, waiting, and watching.
After giving up trying to use my cell phone camera which works only when it wants to, I drove off wondering and praying it was not some kind of omen. I had always heard birds represent spirits in the life or death process, often seen as the guiders of souls into the world, as well as out of it. Interestingly enough, in one of the oldest cemeteries in Ft. Lauderdale, Evergreen Cemetery, there was a recent sighting of a rare bird exciting all the bird watchers in the county.
When I read the story I had laughed a little uneasily, for I knew that cemetery well, having at one time enjoyed driving past it...the peace, the trees, and the silence on a side road off the 17th Street Causeway in east Ft. Lauderdale. It has beautiful giant trees, and looks as if it has been there forever. People are always taking quiet walks or biking alongside the big iron fence on the one way road. One afternoon I was midway down the road when suddenly a man in a suit walking his dog caught me by surprise, seemingly appearing in front of my car from nowhere. I slowed when veering away, thinking I had better pay more attention to the road and not my CDs, when he turned and deliberately gave me a strange look. When I looked back in my rear view mirror, muttering about idiots who don't look where they're going, he was gone. I assumed he must have somehow walked very quickly inside the gates.
But the next day, when I came to that exact same spot, I was spooked to find there was no gate there; it was much further down. I never felt quite the same about the cemetery again, always wanting to look, but yet afraid to. Ghosts?
Who knows... but I can't stop thinking about those birds watching and waiting....
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Operation set in the men's room at Sears By Ludmilla Lelis The Orlando Sentinel
- November 3, 2007
You can get arrested for engaging in excessive zipper noise? After laughing hysterically, I picked myself up off the floor to seriously wonder if this was even possible. In an era in which O.J. Simpson walks around freely just down the road in Dade county, a few counties up the road in Volusia county there are men being arrested for unzipping too loudly, or too frequently, or perhaps too suspiciously. At Sears no less.
Imagine ten cops staking out a bathroom, presumably on a witch hunt for gay guys in a store bathroom... and at a store with the ugliest ass jeans on the planet. Not likely gay guys would so much as buy their jockeys there; certainly I would not.
But then I remembered something that happened in Ft. Lauderdale just this summer, when the mayor, Jim Naugle proposed the city spend $250,000 on a specialized timed men's Robo John which would automatically open after a specified time. All this to rid Ft. Lauderdale Beach of its many "gay men cruising for sex in public bathrooms, scaring away tourists" (Naugle's words, not mine). Even though the police pointed out that there were less than five bathroom beach arrests in the last few years, and some included women, Naugle stubbornly insisted the numbers were wrong. Eventually Naugle was removed from the Broward Tourism Development Council after inflammatory comments that included blaming gays for the rising number of AIDs cases in the county. But he is still mayor, and he has his supporters. Certainly not I.
In a state where crime is through the roof, and just last month alone a record number of murders and rapes occurred in South Florida, how paranoia can be raised to the point of insanity by elected or appointed officials is frightening. The voiced concerns have far less to do with the dangers lurking in men's bathrooms and more to do with intolerance for the gay lifestyle, infused into a hatred that blames them for any perversion. That could be my father, your son, brother or boyfriend in those bathrooms....and that could be their lives being torn apart all because they tapped the foot of the man next to them or played with a zipper, demonstrating a total lack of male bathroom etiquette.
If I were a gay guy I think I would head for the women's bathroom because you probably stand less chance of being arrested in there.
Speaking of gay people, check out the Florida Gay Men's Chorus which sounds pretty good. Their holiday performance is almost sold out. Sounds amazing doesn't it... considering they spend all that time cruising in the men's room at Sears...or down at Ft. Lauderdale Beach trying to corrupt tourists.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I have just managed to do the impossible. Get my aviation license? Climb my first mountain? Nope, better than that.
My husband has just gone to his first dance class with me, a beginning latin style dance class offered at the local middle school. So far we have covered the cha cha, rumba, and side step, and although I suspect my beloved would have preferred to stick pins in his eyes, he has agreed to attend the next class as well. He was surprised that there were not floor diagrams to assist with the intricate (his words, not mine) cha cha movements; if anyone knows where or even if, such a tool exists please let me know. Practice has been hell on my toes. We are just beginning, but the end result will be worth it.
What men don't realize, that women have always known (isn't that so typical with sooo many things by the way?) is that one of the sexiest things a man can do is to dance well. Up there in the top five. Check out this site for on line dance instruction.
Things were going so well, and it was so much fun we even discussed line dancing at Round Up here in Davie. My son enjoys dancing there, maybe not so much for love of country western as love of the many females who abound there (Wednesday night is Ladies night). He is at that happy hunting age.... I could say much more but it had better be from a continent or two away. Maybe if I ever move to Cuba I could write a tell all book.
The closest I have ever gotten to Cuba was to stand on that marker down in Key West, the one all the tourists take a picture by, saying "90 miles to Cuba". Actually if I think back to the 1970s, I do remember one time fishing in my father's boat way out in the Gulf stream when we approached by Cuban gun boats. My father grabbed his own gun (this is south Florida folks & he had a real permit not like the rubber stamping docs of today) , opened the throttle, and didn't stop until we were back in Marathon. That was probably my last shot at going to Cuba. I know there are illegal ways to travel to Cuba, like via Jamaica or the Bahamas.
But you have to think twice when you know what the U.S. State Department has to say about unauthorized travel to Cuba:
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, .....Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations will face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.
I'll wait for the day when I can legally take off from Ft. Lauderdale airport.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
It looked like we were not going to have any trick or treaters this year with the depression blowing wind and rain all day....I was getting a little depressed thinking this was the last Halloween ever. Here I had hung all kinds of goblins, ghosts, skeletons & set up lights, candles, even sound effects. I even dressed the poor chihuahua in his spiderman costume, no easy feat with him being a few pounds overweight. He actually ended up looking like a stuffed sausage waddling around. When the doorbell finally rang I was most relieved to actually get robbed by a group of 6 & 7 year olds who grabbed at half the candy in the basket.
There it goes again. I must leave you while I put on my witch's hat & let myself get robbed again. You know what they say... you can't stay young forever, but you can act as immature as you like. Well, that's what I say anyway.
Happy H. Night
Monday, October 29, 2007
I had planned to share with you the saga of my mother's avocado tree back in Hialeah in a vain effort to stay on the same topic for at least a week. But my attention span is short, the week is almost up, and besides something far more interesting than the avocado tree has transpired.
That something would be an alligator, and if you live in Florida gator stories go hand in hand with the palm trees. Myself, I've always been afraid of these sneaky reptiles. With their massive snapping jaws and whipping tails, visible only by two shiny eyeballs just under the surface of many lakes and canals in Florida they are just waiting for a human leg to dangle from a raft. They know they see us before we see them.
Every spring, at the onset of alligator mating season comes another hideous tale or two of a gator's encounter with an unsuspecting human. Old ladies last seen reading the National Enquirer on their lounge chairs under the shade of an oak by the lake are never seen again....a man trying to start his broken down honda disappears into the sunset from the side of a dark road near a canal.
from Golf Champ @ Zealous Golfer.com June 27, 2007
If you are planning to golf in Florida, it is important that you obey warning signs regarding alligators.
Although I do not golf, so paranoid do I find myself after the third gator dining review that I automatically check under the car before even approaching it in the dim light of morning, ever so careful to scrutinize the depth of the pool prior to a dip so as to avoid having to share the jacuzzi with such an undesirable companion. Even my casual evening walks down the jogging path in my Stepford-like community can result in heart palpitations if a twig so much as snaps or a bull frog grunts.
Where as other parents might warn their teenage children about the dangers of drugs, I warn my kids not to leave their car if stranded, even if it means staying there all night... not because they could be robbed or assaulted (for certainly they are not tourists and have some street savy), but because they could be gobbled, ripped and noshed on as prized, tender human delicacies by any gourmet gator. Although they typically laugh at my comments with disdain, I do suspect a false levity, having found them checking under their own cars. Recently, most encouragingly, my daughter shared that she has had recurring nightmares of giant alligators chasing her down for dinner for years, and holds me directly responsible. That means only one thing; I have done my job.
Blame away, as children have blamed their mothers since the first birth of earth. But in the end I was right, as a mother usually is.
Just last year my gator warnings hit too close to home. For about a mile away from my home, just off the bike path along State Road 84 in west Ft. Lauderdale, a young woman was attacked and eaten by a large alligator. She had been jogging down the path, and it is still remains a mystery if she approached the bridge to rest in the cooler shadows underneath, or if the alligator stalked her as she walked along the path. They found her mutilated body floating in the canal the next morning. Eventually a nine-foot gator was caught with the poor girl's remains still in his stomach. Every time I drive along that same spot she was found it brings to mind the last horrific moments of her life. I do not pretend to imagine the anguish her family must feel every time they think of how she died. Pain that must only become inflamed when wildlife officials always try to present it from the alligator's point of view.
It was mating season; they no longer fear humans; people must have been feeding it; it was over ten feet; they were here before us; we'll move it to a safe location.
So what. We should apologize to reptiles now? I'm so sorry, Mr. G, let me drive you through the check out at McDonald's so we can appease that hunger of yours with a double Big Mac. You want more than just food...lonely and horny? Well let's just find you a girlfriend on Match. com, one with an amazing tail who can also sing opera. Just please don't eat me.
Since 1970 alligators have been on the endangered or protected species list which means you can't legally touch them even if they are swallowing your arm. As a result their numbers (up to 1 to 2 million in Florida alone) have grown dramatically, impacting their food sources and forcing them to shop for dinner anywhere they can find it. Apologize?
At the risk of incurring the wrath of animal lovers and fanatics everywhere, the response is absolutely and unequivocably, no way. Which is why when I heard what had happened to a close family friend who had recently moved up to a rural city along our east coast, I wanted to cheer.
You see it was one of us, meaning a human one of us, that got to the alligator before the alligator got to them. Would you like to hear the story? Of course, it might be just that...only a story, maybe it never even happened. But if it did, know that names were changed to protect the humans.
From what I was told, our friend Alicia, a young single mother with an adorable five year old son, little Jorge, found a most unwelcome guest in her garage one morning. No, it wasn't a cat burglar or her mother in law. It was a five foot gator that had somehow gained access. You might think that a five foot gator sounds small, but no gator can be deemed small enough to be safe around a small child. Especially a very curious, intelligent, and too precocious a child, one who could find anything you wouldn't want him to find; in other words, an alligator magnet.
Which is exactly what Alicia's father thought when he came to their rescue. After the grandparents' initial shrieks of "Oh my God! That monster could have eaten our grandchild," and hysteria over what to do with an alligator in the garage, Jorge's grandfather did not hesitate. Himself just recently released from the hospital after a heart attack, he nevertheless valiantly grabbed a pitchfork. The result was, of course, an over sized portion of a la ali'gator ka bob.
The trespassing alligator in the garage had met his match, his fate sealed from the minute those Cuban grandparents had first laid eyes on their precious Jorge. Hats off to Abuelo. That to me, is natural karma, eating it before it can eat you. The alligator ending up on the end of a fork so to speak, although I have no reason to believe they actually ended up roasting it.
But I would not be at all surprised. For although Alicia could not so much as boil water, her mother could serve up an excellent roast pig.
Of course you should feel free to explore your own preferences on the best way to serve gator. Send in your own grandmother's favorite recipe. I'm sure she has one.
Next time I will devote the post to the avocado tree, mama. I promise.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I would start at the beginning, growing up in South Florida in the years when Hialeah Race Track was an incredible array of pink flamingos and water gardens covered with gigantic water lilies. The smell of tobacco and wood in the bar filled the air as I would cling to my father's hand, staring wide eyed at the glass encased saddles of champions, and larger than life pictures of jockeys known around the world. Alas, the rest of my Hialeah neighborhood was not so glamorous as those memorable visits on family days to the track, every house on the block much like the one next to it. The smell of fresh tar clung to the blue air, and white sand was piled over hopeful blades of lawn above which sat shiny new swing sets. There were open air 7-11's, their dirty aisles littered with water bugs measuring at least 4 inches, mind you, not your common run of the mill cockroach.
What fun I had, finally with other children, so different from the little duplex down in Miami Shores with no one to play with. I ran carefree and barefoot everywhere, picking up cruel burr stickers, splinters in my feet, and bringing home dead duck eggs from nearby lakes. I brought home my first dog, a beautiful collie that was running on the streets as freely as I.
I was maybe no more than maybe five years old when asked my mother, what does spic mean? She told me not to worry, that even though she was Spanish, we were not from Puerto Rico. And besides, my father was not Spanish at all. So that would make me like every other American child born in Florida. Si? Do you understand? But in time, I came to understand all too well that although the other children played with me, when it came time to introduce me to their mothers and fathers, it was accompanied by the inevitable, she's the Spanish girl, see her earrings, they would explain. At first there would be silence, some whispers, this usually followed by kind offers of dinner, no doubt precipitated by one glance at my small, bony frame. Any silly fight would result in me running for my life while half the block yelled slurs.
I blamed my rejection on my mother. When my mother would cook pastelles my friendenemies would run out of my house gagging. For the longest time I believed this was why my mother was never spoken to very much at most school, or PTA functions. But there was a lot the smell of the pastelles could not explain. It could not explain my teachers' mispronouncing my name from the beginning, starting a snickering and taunting that was to continue for years. The pastelles did not explain why when Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs the other children in school blamed me for the ruckus. Who was Castro anyway? In time I understood all too well, I was being punished for being the child of a Spanish mother, the only one such child in all of Hialeah. I would become sick to my stomach before going to school, and prayed to God that I would somehow fit in to be an American like everyone else.
But still there were perks. When my mother's family visited the house came alive with the chatter of parrots even as I struggled to understand. Some were from Spain like my mother, some from Puerto Rico, some from Colombia. Everyone had wine at the table, even us kids, and the smell of roasted pork filled the house at Christmas and Three Kings Day. My mother loved pork more than she loved us, and to this day I have never tasted anything like that first bite of hard crisped skin that could break off a tooth if you weren't careful. Of course there were other perks, like my older cousins who taught me to dance latin style, and trained me in the fine art of applying black eyeliner at age ten, as well as how to put my hair in a exotic french twist. And when the other Hialeah kids were vacationing in the boring mountains of upstate New York, I was navigating around beggars in the streets of Barranquilla, rolling down a sand dune at Cartagena. I eventually came to know downtown old San Juan like I knew the back of my hand.
But in Hialeah, as I got older things got worse, before they got better. In junior high I was not just taunted, but threatened. So I carried a knife, a butter knife stolen from the kitchen drawer. I only showed my butter knife once and before I could protest my mother enrolled me in a Catholic school run by nuns on the other side of town. Much to my astonishment there were many other Spanish girls in my freshman class, in fact almost the entire school was Cuban. My new friends were now Cuban, and before long I learned some Spanglish, feeling I was almost Cuban.
In time, even the neighborhood I grew up in, slowly but surely changed so that I was no longer the only Spanish kid on the block. As the Cubans immigrated, I had my revenge on every cruel taunter that had tortured me for years. With the Cubans' freedom came my own.
The Cuban people opened the gate, and with them came the flux of the South American nations, the Argentinians, the Peruvians, the Colombians, the Panamanians, the El Salvadorians, the Venezuelans....everyone from everywhere else that makes up South Florida. So much has changed from those days I ran for my life. There are Sedanos where there were once Kwik Checks, Cuban bakeries with cakes so sweet they ooze, and coffee shops smaller than my closet. The barren Hialeah ranch homes of yesteryear have evolved into elaborate concrete jungles, thick rolled roofs, and intricate iron gates, with statues of the Virgin in the front yard, complete with bricked pits to roast whole pigs in the back yard on Christmas Eve. My mother would have cried with delight if she were still alive to see.
As for me, I am no longer a child scorned and rejected for being different. My culture confusion firmly behind me, I can chant along with my favorite radio station as it proclaims, Yo soy Latino, and proud.