Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dude, Where’s My Muse?

So I just checked my blog and realized that I haven’t written a story in over three months. Three months! That is easily the longest time between stories since I started the blog over five years ago. I have written 157 stories, which works out to about 30 a year, or about one every two weeks.

And of course, my thoughts are not that linear. It goes in spurts. There was one month where I wrote thirteen stories. I guess I just had a lot on my mind that month.

Which is not to say I haven’t had much on my mind these past three months. Certainly there have been many times in this period where I have thought, ‘that would make a good blog story,’ but I can never seem to form it into a cogent, cohesive story.

I believe this is what they call Writer’s Block.

So here I am writing a story about not being able to write a story.

But it goes a bit deeper than that. It’s not that I cannot seem to cobble thoughts together. It’s more a matter of, well shit, I’ve said what I wanted to say. 157 times. Certainly I have had material to opine on, but they are subjects which I already done. Politics? Y’all know where I stand on that, and even though Conservatives have given me much to lambaste them on; after all, they did shut down the government over not liking a law, but that subject has been done.

I’ve written seven stories on Miami, my new home. A half dozen on my mom’s passing. At least a dozen on rock and roll. And y’all don’t really care about my golf game.

So what else is there? I just described my life in its current state. I love Miami, I miss my mom, the job is great and I hate the Tea Party. And I shot 81 today with two birdies. I am NOT going to talk about the Cleveland Browns. They have already sucked enough life out of me.

So I hope I have only hit a dry patch of topics and the imagination will be rekindled. But what I fear is something more insidious:

I fear I've lost my muse.

Writers need an inspiritive spark. When I wrote my novel last summer, that spark turned into a five-alarm fire, and I could not write fast enough. I would dash home from work and write until I would look up to see it was midnight. It was a frenetic time where I was amazingly alive; thoughts flowed like Niagara Falls.

So I am thankful to my muse for that period. And maybe this is how she works – she gives and then she takes away. I mean, no writer is inspired all the time. So how do I get her back? Burnt offerings? Chanting? Meditation? Virginal sacrifices?

Where did she go? Did I piss her off? Did I bore her to death? Is she saying "Jerry, you’ve told the world what you needed to tell. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to give Stephen King yet another way to scare the crap out of people.”

Please come back, muse. I need you. I miss you.

I need to write. Please fill my head with something.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mahogany Row

I am a mama’s boy. Always have been. Many of my childhood memories centered around things I did with my mother. I am the youngest, and for whatever reasons, it seemed like her and me were together often. Just the two of us.

I am blessed in many ways, but this may the topper. Because I was influenced, shaped and molded by the most selfless person I have even known. Which is kind of funny since I grew up to be a pretty selfish person. However, I have a very soft and caring side, and the last thing I ever want to do to anyone is hurt them. I have not always succeeded in this goal, but my heart has always been in the right place.

That’s just one of the countless lessons I learned from my mom. Treat people like you want to be treated.

I remember when I was a young adult, about twenty years old and in college. Like most people that age, the future seemed very exciting…and scary. And like most, I truly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life; I had no idea where it would take me or what I would do to make a living. Oh sure, I wanted to be the successor to Jack Nicklaus, but my drive and desire to master the game of golf never ran to Tiger-like levels. I played a decent game…but I was not going to be a PGA Tour golfer.

So what was I going to be? I had no clue.

So I asked my mom.

At the time mom was still working as, as she put it, a Bookkeeper. But she was just being humble. She was the Accountant for one of the largest construction companies in Akron, the confidante to the big boss, and the person who knew where all the bodies were buried. She was plugged in to the corporate scene. She knew people. And they loved her because she did her job expertly and could be trusted with anything.

So when I asked her this question, “Mom, what am I going to be?,”  she gave me that warm smile she reactively gave, looked me in the eye and said, “Son, you are headed to Mahogany Row.”

Mahogany Row. I had no idea what that meant. But it sounded nice.

She elaborated. “Son, you are going places. You will one day have a large corner office with people reporting to you. The term comes from the desk you will sit behind. It will be made of mahogany. That’s what bosses sit behind.”

Now. This could, and likely was, encouraging motherly talk. But that did not matter to me. My mom always spoke the truth.

I am honing in on thirty years in my chosen career. Earlier this year I took a job in Miami, which is the best job I have had yet. The money is very good, I am a ‘boss’ to 23 people, and I have a corner window office. But the desk isn’t mahogany…that was the one detail she did not quite get right.

I accepted that position on February 6th of this year. At that time my mom was in a hospice care unit with advanced stages of dementia. I debated whether to even tell her the news, as I am sure she would not have been able to process it. I was so proud of my accomplishment that, finally, I could not help myself. I had to tell her. So I called her at the facility. She did not answer. Two days later she passed away.

At the calling hours that Friday I had a few minutes alone with mom at her casket.

It was made of mahogany.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Confessions of a Tired Fan

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right at the top – I am a Cleveland Browns fan.

I will wait for the snickering to stop.

Still waiting.


All right, that’s enough. Look, I had no choice in this matter. I was conceived in Akron and raised in Northeast Ohio. They are pretty rabid about their Beloved Brownies. And I embraced that rabid…, uh, ity, and proudly donned the seal brown and orange right about the time the team was in the last throes of yearly dominance while that team 125 miles away rose to prominence. That ushered in a reversal of fortunes for the two teams, as the Browns went into hibernation, occasionally coming out with seasons like the 1980 Kardiac Kids and the unfathomable teases of the late 1980s Bernie Kosar teams which always got slapped back in the AFC Championship by John Horseteeth. The 1990s brought us Bill Belichick before he was a genius followed by the unthinkable – the team was taken away.

A new team masquerading as the ‘Cleveland Browns’ resurfaced in 1999 pushing the envelope of putridity to depths never before experienced.

Meanwhile that team 125 miles away got six Lombardi trophies.

Oh, and the team that left Cleveland in 1995? They got two.

My God I’m tired.

Yes, training camp has just begun, and yes, I am reading every bit of information about how Paul Kruger is looking awesome, how Barkevious Mingo is ready to decapitate opposing quarterbacks and how Trent Richardson is ready to churn out twenty touchdowns this year. And I am really trying to get my ‘tude on and go toe to toe with fans of other teams, about how THIS year it is going to be different.

Here come those snickers again.

And they have every right to snicker. 1964. Nineteen-freekin-sixty-four. That was the last time the Browns were the champs of the NFL. Forty-nine years ago. Jim Brown. Frank Ryan. Gary Collins. Names I have read about, but since I was only six years old at the time, never got to see play. I have proof in black and white footage of Collins catching three TDs in the title game as the Browns laid the lumber on the Colts, 27-0. My dad said it was awesome.

But me? I got Earnest Byner’s fumble and Art Modell’s greed as my memories.

I give up. Y’all win. There is nothing left in the smack tank with me anymore. We suck. We have sucked for a long time. Point your fingers and laugh. You will get no retort from me. I got no room to talk. What, am I gonna say how good Derek Anderson looked for half a season in 2007? How I thought Lee Suggs was going to win the rushing title?

Laugh away.


Just because that’s the way things were doesn’t mean that’s the way things will be.

Remember that when we hoist that motherfucking Lombardi Trophy one day.

Then it will be my turn to laugh.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

America The...Salad?

I love my country.

But, as many know, this does not mean I love everything about it. I love the concept of our country – the idea of a government of, by and for the people. However, in practice, we fall well short of this ideal. More accurately, this country is of, by and for the powerful and connected. Money rules. And it always will.

But anyway. I want to talk about a phrase used to describe America, which I believe, is totally inaccurate. That we are a ‘Melting Pot.’ That somehow, people from all over the globe come here, become Americans, and get added into this purported roux with the rest of us resulting in an altered, refined mixture.


For starters, for that kind of alchemy to occur, those who are already here would have to accept and respect the cultures of those who recently arrived and, further, embrace them. This does not happen. It never has. Whether it were the Irish who came here in the mid-nineteenth century, the Europeans in the early twentieth century, the Cubans who came here in the early 1960s, or the Haitians soon thereafter, each was met with scorn and resentment. They were exploited, ridiculed, considered less than equal in the eyes who were here before. It was only after a long period of time, usually stretching to two or three generations later, did these groups gained acceptance. And that’s where our purported charity stopped – eventually their numbers became so large that people finally said oh all right. I guess you’re here to stay.

But never does the overall ‘mix’ of this country get adjusted due to their presence.

So, we are not a Melting Pot, so stop with that description.

So what are we? What is a more accurate description for this nation of people from somewhere else?

A fruit salad.

Think about a fruit salad. It is pieces of various, well, fruits, each individual in its taste, texture and color. Sharing the same container.

That is America. The blacks are over there, the Hispanics are down the street, and the whites are behind the guard gate. They each occupy a space in the overall container, and sometimes rub against each other, but a piece of pineapple remains a piece of pineapple. It is not overly affected by the piece of cantaloupe next to it, or the grape next door. We all go to Walmart to buy our stuff and see each other (and that’s where the overlaps occur – we all buy Walmart shit), but each gets back into their shiny metal box and heads back to their turf in the salad bowl.

So please. Let’s stop glamorizing a vision of America that does not exist. We are not tolerant people. New pieces of fruit appearing (What is that? What’s a kiwi fruit? Get it out of here!) are barely acknowledged until too many of them appear, at which point the established fruits rail against their existence in the bowl. They want them expelled for fear of contaminating the salad.

But…what makes a good quality fruit salad? Uniform pieces of melon? No, that would be a melon salad. What makes a great fruit salad is the variety of fruit.

And that’s what makes us a great country. New pieces of fruit, each with its own flavor, which adds to the overall awesomeness of the salad.

But each piece still separate. Grapes taste like grapes, melons like melons. You never get a hybrid Grapelonapple. There’s no ‘melting together’ going on.

Maybe I should conduct diversity training. Because that’s what diversity is.

And that’s what our country is.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dancing With Myself

I have a pretty good life. Good job, live in a nice place, I have my health. When I take an inventory of how I am, what I have and how I interact with people, and the world in general, it comes out on the positive side. Most know me as a somewhat intelligent, friendly person. On the minus side, I can be overconfident to the point of being arrogant. I have a strong personality that turns off some people.

So where am I going with this?

Here. I am 54 years old and single. Not even in a relationship.

And I don’t know how I am supposed to feel about that. I know how I do feel about that, and that is, ninety-five percent of the time I am okay with it. The other five percent of the time is when I ponder the next ten to fifteen years of my life, when age will catch up to me, my looks will deteriorate (not that they’re all that at the present), and I might move into senior citizenship without a partner. I think about that scenario for a bit then fire up match.com and check out personals. After a few minutes of that I move back to the ninety-five percent mindset and go grab my golf clubs.

I like being single. Which may be simply a different way of saying I suck at relationships. Both are, undoubtedly, true statements. My track record speaks for itself – twice divorced, many ex-girlfriends some of whom have severed all contact with me. And it bears noting at this point that I have never laid a hand on a woman – I have never abused, either physically or emotionally, a mate. I’m just a difficult person to be with…I guess.

And as I get older that will just become more difficult, as I do what I want to do when I want to do it. Kind of goes with the territory of being alone. So when someone enters my life and suggests something I don’t want to do, I bristle. I simply am not used to sharing my life.

So this begs the question – what’s the problem, Jer? Are you saying you want to be in a relationship?

And here is the answer. I don’t fucking know. Societal-speaking, I am somewhat of an aberration – a mid-50’s guy alone. But I do not want to live my life based on what society expects of me. Shit, for that matter, I don’t live my life based on what anyone expects of me. I did that for too long, and it made me feel uneasy, uncomfortable with myself.

One of things I have realized about, well, life in general, is that it is unscripted. It’s weird. You cannot say ‘Okay, this is how it is going to be,’ and then it turns out that way. Further, past performance is no indication of future events. If you flip a coin fifty times and it comes up heads all fifty times, the odds of the fifty-first flip is still 50/50 of coming up heads. The point being, I try not to worry about what will come, and further, cannot control it. So why worry. I could meet the love of my life this afternoon.

It is those types of thoughts that get me back into my ninety-five percent comfort zone.

Then I grab my golf clubs.

So now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Gosh thanks for wasting five minutes of my life reading all that. Your point, Jer?’

Eh, nothing. Consider this one of the thoughts that hangs up in my brain…much like those cheese doodles in the snack machine.

And like those cheese doodles hanging there, it will remain until action is taken to move them. Or to let them hang. I guess that’s what I am dealing with, with this whole ‘lack of relationship’ issue I have.

But in the end, it’s only an issue if I wish it to be. Which gets back to my perception. And you know what? If I am okay ninety-five percent of the time, that’s a pretty damn good percentage. But I am also open to whatever life may toss at me in the future – I don’t ever want to get into a situation where I feel ‘compelled’ to get into a relationship so someone can call 911 if I keel over in my recliner. If I get into a relationship, it has to be organic.

Much like how I am now.

So, that’s all. Welcome to life inside my brain.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America.

Today we mark 237 years of existence. Nice run.

There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that we live in a country where we enjoy certain freedoms not available anywhere else in the world, and for that I am grateful. To think that I could have been born in, say, Iraq or North Korea, but instead was conceived in Akron , Ohio, and therefore by birth I am granted the benefits this country offers, is quite humbling of a thought.

If you feel a “but” coming, you’re right.

Those who know me know I tend to not only see the positives of a situation, but also what could be improved. And in today’s America, there is much that can be improved. But on this day, July 4, I will respect the country’s birthday and not go into what those areas of improvement are.

But (there it is), I will say this: I am no less an American for wishing for a better country than those who quickly slap back with the ‘Love it or leave it’ mantra. I don’t have to love America in order to stay here; that’s not a prerequisite to my citizenship. I don’t have to stay silent on issues such as veterans sleeping on the streets or children going hungry when the nearby grocery store bulges with food. We can do better, a lot better.

Which leads to my main point – Patriotism in not a political issue.

Yeah, well, tell that to the two main political parties.

My good friend, who is a veteran, just posted on his Facebook page the Lee Greenwood video ‘Proud to be an American,’ which I would certainly expect from him. What sickened me about it was Sarah Palin standing next to him smiling.

Yes. It is sickening to think some public figures use patriotism for political advantage, as if to say, I am more patriotic than those whiners over there. Vote for me.


Look, we are all Americans. By birth, therefore by default. And you would certainly think anyone running for political office simply wants what is best for this country, regardless of political affiliation. Some think that means government should get out of our lives. Some think that means government should help those too unfortunate to help themselves. Some think people should pick themselves by their bootstraps. Some want to offer boots to them first.

Whatever. That’s all in your political beliefs.

But none is ‘more American’ than the other.

We hear from certain groups that, if the policies of the other party are followed, the country will be ruined. I doubt that. Fortunately, we have a governmental structure which divides up power evenly such that no one person – or party – has too much power. In other words, no one group can screw things up.

What can screw us up? Simple.

We. The People.

How? Again, simple.

By turning on each other. By believing the hype and paranoia of elected officials who claim that ‘The Enemy” is people who don’t think like they do. You know, other Americans who are doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights.

That’s our Achilles Heel. Those who would divide us, who would like us into ‘Us Versus Them’ camps. Who would then say, if you don’t think like we do, then you’re not as patriotic as us, and, therefore, not as American as us.

Those are the people who scare me.

So, on this birthday of the country of my birth, I wish us a future of common unity based on our founding principles – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And dissent.

Because people who don’t think like you are patriots too.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Miami Plus Three Months

I am a fan of symmetry. Maybe it’s my math background, I don’t know. But I find a certain beauty when things appear to fit.

Don’t worry; this is not a story about gay marriage.

In looking through the 151 stories I have written on this blog, I noticed some symmetry. Back in 2009 when I first moved to Orlando I wrote a story about how awestruck I was with the town. Then, three months later, I wrote a more grounded, yet still positive, story about where I was with the Orlando Experience. Earlier this year I moved to Miami and wrote a similar awestruck story. I have now been here three months.

Time to true up the symmetry.

Three months seems to be a good barometer. The initial excitement and confusion about living somewhere new should have subsided, replaced by familiarity and reality. This is definitely the case with my Miami Experience. So what have I learned about my new home during this time? Well…

Let’s start with the obvious. You do not hear a lot of English spoken here. Spanish is the default. You sometimes have to make a concerted effort to find someone who speaks English, especially in places like Little Havana or Westchester. My closest Walmart is in Westchester, and the last time I was there all I heard was a constant stream of Spanish. In fact, when I need assistance finding something and approach an employee, my first query is, “Habla Ingles?”

And as I mentioned in my last story about Miami, this does not offend me. I don’t grumble about the fact there is an American flag flying outside yet English is the secondary language. Because Miami is a young city; a hundred years ago it was little more than a swamp. About fifty years ago, Castro came into power in Cuba, which triggered the first exodus of Cubans to Miami. Thirty years ago the Mariel boatlift occurred, depositing 125,000 of Fidel’s Finest here. And since then, other Latin America countries have become noticeably represented here – Colombians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and so on. And what do they all have in common? Spanish.

So what is occurring here is a generational thing – the elderly speaks Spanish. Their offspring, folks around my age, are bilingual. Much like the Little Italy section of New York. And like New York, Miami is truly an international city. Which leads to my next observation –

The food here is outrageous. Whether it’s Ropa Vieja at Versailles on Calle Ocho or Arroz Con Pollo at Kokoriko in Brickell, it’s all good. Real good. Or, I should say, muy bueno. And the people here are proud of their heritage and are very friendly. As you can imagine, especially among the older Cubans, there is an inherent joy in being somewhere where speaking your mind does not land you in jail. As such, these folks like to celebrate.

But there are instances which makes me truly feel like the minority that, well, I am. For example, FM radio. It sucks. But then again, it reflects the demographics of the area. Ninety percent of the stations are Hispanic music. The other ten percent is classic rock or sports talk. So you choices are bonga-bonga-bonga arriba te amo, Led Zeppelin, or Dan Lebatard.

Well, I don’t care for salsa and I am burned out on Zep. Dan, by default, wins.

Which is a good segue to something Miami is also know for, its sports teams. I just worked the Miami Heat celebration parade. It was attended by 400,000 people. Now, being a native Ohioan, having been born in the same town as LeBron James, there is a personal grinding of my teeth to see the Heat win championships. As I have found out, this is a view held by most people who live outside of Miami. But in Miami? They don’t care. In fact they take it a step further – they don’t want to hear it. If you are upset about the Heat cherry-picking elite players from other teams, keep it to yourself. They know the rest of the world doesn’t like it, and that just gives them more resolve – hate us, as if we care. World champs, muthafucka.

There are a couple of other minor, yet infuriating aspects of living here. Why does it cost twenty freaking dollars to get my car washed? Where are the coin-op self wash places? Why does it cost SIX BUCKS to park at a county park?

But those are easily dismissed for the far more important positives of being here. I have assimilated into an international city where I am proudly a minority (and a 54 year old white boy from the Midwest is definitely a minority), the beaches are awesome, the women are beautiful (a product of mixed bloods), and I am happy.

And you likely would be too if you lived in Miami.

So if you want to only be around white people who speak English, stay in Iowa. If instead you want to experience how the rest of the world lives, c’mon down.

But download Rosetta Stone first.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Delayed…But Not Denied

So I just took a dip in the pool at my apartment. Sounds pretty boring, right?

Well, it was. Thank goodness.

I need a good dose of boring. The last three months were beyond crazy. I cannot recall a similar stretch in my life where more things happened in such a short period.

Let’s rewind to February 6th of this year. On that day I resigned from my position with a firm in Orlando to accept a similar position with a firm in Miami, knowing that would trigger a number of required activities like relocating.

At the same time, I knew my mother was in the advanced stages of dementia, so I was debating whether to even tell her this news, for fear of whether she could even wrap her atrophied mind around it. On Sunday February 17, I called her to tell her the news. She didn’t answer the phone.

Two days later, she passed away.

Now, the plan was for my last day at work in Orlando to be that Friday, February 22, to start work in Miami on March 11. Two weeks and two days. Plenty of time to find a place in Miami, get my stuff down there, relax a couple of days, then hit the ground running at my new job. With mom dying, that was all tossed out the window. Obviously I had to get to Ohio for the funeral…but that was my last week of employment. So on my way out the door to head north, I handed my employee badge, tears in my eyes, to my boss & told her, “I guess this is it.”

Fortunately, they extended my employment a week, to March 1, so I could take care of things in Ohio. That was extremely nice of them, but it did not change my start date in Miami. Now my two weeks between jobs was truncated into one. The result was my moving plans were scuttled and I ended up in a hotel in Homestead instead of a condo in Brickell. For my first two months of employment in Miami, my commute was a surreal combination of driving, bus ride & rail ride – over an hour each way. And this was on top of learning a new job with12-hour days. During the period I basically did three things – work, eat and sleep. There was no time for anything else.

In late April I was able to find a nice apartment in South Miami, with move- in mid-May. This triggered my moving activities, with multiple 500-mile round trips between Miami and Orlando to get my belongings. I finally finished that on May 19.


This whole time prevented me from normal activities related with losing someone’s mother. Like grieving. I was too busy. In one aspect, that’s good. I was perpetual motion, too many things on my plate to simply sit back and reflect.

But finally, last night, I did. I sat in that pool at my awesome new apartment in Miami, took a look around the beautifully landscaped area, let out a deep breath, and thought ‘I made it. I did it.’

I then thought about my mom.

And I cried my eyes out.

That was way overdue.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Way It Is

Having now lived in Miami for a couple of months, I have discovered that what a lot of people know about this area is true. You don’t hear a lot of English being spoken here.

And here’s my thought on that – so what?

I can hear the Bubbas now – “This is AMURRICA! We speak ENGLISH here!”

Well yeah, with a decisively ignorant accent.

Look. We are a nation of immigrants. And if you want to really get down to it, the ‘native’ language of this country is whatever the Sioux or Senecas were speaking 400 years ago. English was imported here from, well, England.

Yes you heard me. English is a foreign language.

But it is also what was taught to us as children. It is the accepted form of communicating in this country, and is certainly the dominant language of our nation.

But not in Miami.

And I realize this pisses off a lot of people. Many avoid this area as a result. Which is too bad for them, as this is an entrancing place loaded with local flavor and multiple cultures. Miami isn’t just a city with a bunch of Cubans. There are Venezuelans, Colombians, Brazilians, Puerto Ricans, Virgin Islanders, and so on.

But yet, the ignorant among us want to avoid them and decry their insistence on speaking in their native tongue. And I dare say, it is these same ignorant people who, when traveling to Europe, insist the French or Italians speak English to THEM. After all, we are Americans, and damn, we are full of ourselves. It’s almost as if we are saying, “We are armed to the teeth & can blow your little country back into the Stone Age so don’t tell me I have to learn your language.”

And we wonder why other countries hate us. They love America, but not crazy about the Americans inhabiting it.

But anyway. I took Spanish back in high school. Four years of it. But given that was 35 years ago, obviously I have forgotten much of it. My vocabulary is probably a hundred or so words, but I can fluently state to someone of Hispanic descent, “Yo hablo solamente un poquito de Espanol, porque yo aprendo en la escuela…many years ago.”

They then smile at me and we proceed to have a nice conversation…in English.

Because here is what the Bubbas don’t understand – these people know English too, at least the vast majority of them do, and the ones that don’t, you can still communicate with them.

See, here’s the lesson, kiddies. You can communicate without using words. Verbalizing sounds is but one way to communicate.

So here I am in Miami with very limited Spanish at my disposal, and I can tell you I am not at all at some kind of communicative disadvantage. I get along just find, gracias.

And I can tell you my Spanish vocabulary is, obviously, growing. It is inevitable in a place like Miami. But do I feel irritated by this? Do I feel resentful that I have to try to learn a language in a place where the stars and stripes flap on a flagpole?

Not at all.

And why not?

Because it’s fun. It’s what makes Miami Miami. And it exposes me to new cultures, new activities…not to mention some totally hawt Hispanic babes. And by speaking a little Spanish to them, you know what happens? Their faces light up and they smile.

See, I am more about trying to ingrain myself into the culture of a place instead of dogmatically insisting they conform to me. By having that attitude, new vistas open. And here, with over sixty percent of the population being of Hispanic descent, the city and all its charms open up to me.

But, if you want to insist everyone speaks English, stay in Iowa. Because no matter how many laws are passed, no matter what efforts are instituted to homogenify everyone into only one form of communication, it will never work. They will still speak Spanish in Miami.

And I have no problem with that.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home Sweet Home…stead?

They say home is where the heart is.

Lately, my heart’s been freekin’ everywhere. I was born and raised in northeast Ohio but have lived my adult life in Florida. For the past four years my residence was Orlando, which I became quite fond of, but I recently took a job in Miami. But I don’t yet have a permanent residence in Miami. Instead the temporary place I’ve been resting my head is Homestead, Florida, in an extended-stay hotel.

A hotel room. In Homestead.

So that’s where my body is. Where’s my heart? Hell if I know. I am still only two months removed from my mother passing away, so part of my heart is with her. Ohio will always be special to me, another piece is there. My son lives in Jupiter, he gets a chunk. And I left Orlando begrudgingly, as I became quite attached to a place most of the world knows for its mouse ears & overpriced buffets. So O-town owns a piece too.

So while I am still sorting out the postal codes my blood-pumping organ resides, I want to talk a bit about where my carcass presently calls home. Homestead.

Look on a map. You will see that Homestead is waaaaay down south, right next to Florida City – the last two vestiges of civilization on mainland Florida, the gateway to the Florida Keys. To the west are the Everglades, to the east, Biscayne Bay. Ground Zero for Hurricane Andrew’s landfall in 1992.

And my temporary home. I took up residence here to get started with my job in downtown Miami, which is 35 miles away. Economics drove the decision – things are much cheaper down here than in Miami. In fact, about the only thing Homestead has in common with Miami is they share the same county.

But that’s it. Homestead ain’t Miami. At all.

Homestead is a cool amalgam of small town & old Florida. It’s primary sources of economy are agriculture and the nearby Turkey Point nuclear power plant. It seems to be a close-knit place, and the locals like where they live – they seems to reject the ‘big-ness’ of Miami and revel in the fact that they have nothing in common with their huge neighbor to their north.

The people. They’re an interesting bunch. Every Saturday morning I have breakfast at the local restaurant – the Royal Palm Grill on Krome Avenue. And you want an example of the old Florida I speak of? The Royal Palm Grill is embedded within a Rexall drug store. Yep, Rexall’s still exist, and this particular one has sundries on one side…and the local’s favorite restaurant on the other. Retro-cool.

The Royal Palm Grill is teeming with local character. Virtually every time I have breakfast at the counter, I engage in conversation with whoever is next to me. And I have received phone numbers from these folks who insist I call them for a quick trip to Key Largo (which is only 25 miles away) or a round of golf.

And then there’s Star – the aging, self described Hippie. Star is one of the servers at the Grill, and she is, most of the time, a blur of motion. I would guess her to be in her early 60s, and this morning, as she was racing past me, I said to her, “I bet when you get home you pass out.”

That stopped her in her tracks. She turned to me, walked over and whispered, “I have MS, and the way I figure, if I keep moving it can’t catch me.”

Rock on, Star.

She then sped on to fill a cup of coffee and deliver some toast.

When she returned to my vicinity, she decided she earned a five-second break and told me, “I treat my MS homeopathically. Acupuncture and herbs. I’m a Hippie! I was at Woodstock…I hitchhiked there!”

And off she went.

So after breakfast I decided to take a drive around town. Homestead actually has a downtown, a quaint five-block stretch of
Mexican restaurants and an old movie theater. To the west you can see the flat expanse of open farmland. Along Krome Avenue are old-school hotels. Things move slower here, and there is palpable feel of real community – something Miami sorely lacks.

I needed to run some errands, and one of the places I needed to stop at was the local U-Haul, as in two weeks I will be moving from my hotel room to my apartment in South Miami. My time in Homestead is nearing an end.

And that actually made me choke up for a moment.

Looks like Homestead now owns a piece of my heart too.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today, Random

Leave it to Facebook to provide me inspiration for a story.

A couple of days back I was perusing the ‘News Feed’ – posts from my Friends, and one bugged me – it was a pic of Shirley Temple and Honey Boo Boo side-by-side, with the caption “What has happened to this country?”

Setting aside whatever political statement the poster was trying to make (which I still don’t know and don’t really care), the inspirative thought hit me –

Why do people romanticize the past at the expense of the present?

Now sure. Some of it has to do with nostalgic recollection of days gone by. And certainly I have no problem with that line of musing. I do it all the time, especially when I see an old friend – “Hey remember when we were in high school and that night with those twins? Man, those were the days…”

Okay, there was no night with twins. Roll with me here.

What I am referring to are people who embellish the past at the expense of the present; people who think things – or they – are worse off now than then. Now add to it the future, and these people have some grave, apocalyptic Mad Max vision of how things will be, both for them and for society.

And some of my Facebook friends apparently can divine all this from pics of Shirley Temple and Honey Boo Boo side-by-side.

Well, here’s the truth. The past was not as great as you remember it, the present isn’t as bad as it appears and the future is not going to be a mega clusterfuck.


Because life is weird. It’s random. It is, literally, unpredictable in the most literal sense – nobody can predict what will occur based on what has occurred. And definitely not politicians, so remember that in the next election cycle.

Let’s take my friend’s Shirley Temple example. Apparently his message was that things were much better in the 1930’s than they are now.

Really? Millions of blacks who did not have the right to vote and could not attend schools with whites would beg to differ. Polio sufferers would have issue with that. And that guy in Germany who had visions of a ‘master race’ was plotting his plan.

Okay, I win that point you say. But what about on a personal level? “I miss the good old days!” you cry.

Well, cry all you want, but you are suffering from selective recall. You remember the good but conveniently forget the bad. Let me use the one subject I am an expert on, myself, as an example. It is very easy for me to sit here and talk about how ‘wonderful’ things were in, say, 1983. I was 24 years old, had just moved to Florida, I was meeting a lot of girls and living a very carefree lifestyle. But I was also dirt poor, my car broke down every other day, and was living with three other guys in a house with no privacy…and no air conditioning. In South Florida.

So yesterday was no picnic. Now, let’s go to today, and let’s stay on the personal level, because opening that discussion up to the global levels brings in politics and world events and all kinds of stuff that will get us off message. What is going on in your life right now can either be looked at positively or negatively. Your choice. There is good and bad going on – nobody has a shithole/no positives existence and no one has a utopian/everything is perfect one either. We are all in that muddled middle of good and bad.

But here’s the thing – it’s all temporary. None of it will last. So remember that when you are hitting a rough patch. It will pass. But, that also applies to the good times - those too shall pass.

So it’s all in how you look at it.

I hear you now – “Gosh thanks Dr. Phil.”

Whatever. But it truly is all about perception – your perception and your life.

Now, the future. This one is simple. Who the fuck knows? Nobody. And I caution you from drawing conclusions of the future based on current conditions. Why? Re-read that paragraph about it all being temporary.

So, what’s my point in all this? Simple. It’s all up to you. I’ve seen happy people who don’t have a pot to piss in, and I’ve seen unhappy people in mansions. It’s all about perception. And one of my favorite phrases is, if you have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow, you are pissing on today.

Carly Simon said it best. These are the good old days.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Those who are regular readers of my blog (both of you) surely recall a few years back when I waxed on about the city of Orlando after I took a job there. I wrote a couple of stories about how my preconceived notions of a town that I thought was all about Mickey Mouse were erroneous. I discovered a real city amidst the assumptions. And I thoroughly enjoyed my four years there.

Well, new job, new city. Bienvenidos a Miami, Gringo.

MIAMI? City of surly locals, riots, Pork and Beans, and optional English?

Well there you go. There were my assumptions about the place as I packed my car and headed to my extended stay hotel on March 10 to start my gig here. To hear tell, the first things I needed to do were to get my concealed weapon permit and a Spanish/English translator.


As it turned out, the first thing I needed to do was find a way to get to work without driving. Because the traffic is insane here. Fortunately for me, since my career is in public transit management and Miami has an excellent transit system, that was relatively easy to figure out – an express bus to Metrorail, then a 20-minute train ride to my office in Overtown.

OVERTOWN? Where they had the riots?

Yes. In 1989 some locals overturned some cars and set them on fire in response to a police officer being acquitted in the death of a black teenager. In 1989 we also still had the Berlin Wall and Wham was making records. Shit, for that matter, I was still married.

Ancient history.

‘Hey Jer, I watch the First 48. They’re always talking about the Pork & Beans area of Miami. Isn’t the city basically a huge ghetto?’

In a word. No. In two words, hell no. Does Miami have its ‘hoods? Of course. I would not dare venture to Liberty City (where P&B is located) after dark. But for that matter, nor would I go to East Cleveland, the Joy Park section of Akron or Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach after dark either. Point being, every city has ‘hoods. But for some reason Miami’s are somehow more notorious.

But for every Liberty City I give you Coconut Grove. For each Hialeah I give you Coral Gables. For each Overtown I give you South Beach. There are good and bad areas. And after two weeks and asking a bunch of questions of the locals, I am figuring out which is which.

The next assumption of Miami: Everyone speaks Spanish.

This, I will admit, is true. And not just because the Mariel boatlift in 1980 deposited 125,000 of Fidel’s finest in the city. But it’s really due to Miami being the Capital of the Caribbean. I have met many Cubans. But I have also met Venezuelans, Colombians, Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans. It is truly an international city, the gateway of the Americas.

But here’s the thing people won’t tell you – these same people SPEAK ENGLISH TOO. If one approaches you & starts spitting out Spanish at you, just say ‘No habla Espanol,’ and they will say ‘Oh…’ then will converse in English. Yes, the assumption is the default language is Spanish, but they know English. And for those xenophobes who decry, “This is AMURRICA!” realize these people know that. That’s why they learned English, Bubba. To date I have had no problems communicating with, well, anyone.

Even when I order my daily Cuban coffee from the diner downstairs. Or, Colada, as they call it. Let’s talk Cuban coffee for a moment. It will be a fast moment, for once the caffeine from the extremely strong, extremely sweet nectar hit your central nervous system, you will chatter out incomprehensible jibberish.

YOU will be speaking a foreign language too. Bienvenidos a Miami, caffeine junkie.

This is a very interesting, mesmerizing place. You can see anything here. Last week I took a drive to Miami Beach, to Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach. In the span of three city blocks I saw a beautiful young woman in a skin-tight neon bathing suit and a Hasidic Jew dressed in all black. You can see someone blatantly stealing a flat-screen from a house in Allapattah or a Frenchman selling baguettes on a street corner.

Yes, Miami is, to use a quickly-tiring phrase, off the chain. Sometimes it moves too fast. Which is easily rectified –

Drink a triple-shot Colada. That will get you up to speed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Crazy month.

Exactly one month ago today I was in my final week of employment in Orlando, having accepted a position with Miami-Dade Transit, scheduled to begin on March 11. So the “plan” was to resign effective February 22, with a two-week respite before cranking it up on South Beach. I had contacted realtors and had some money set aside to fund my move south.

Then my mother passed away on February 19.

Whoops. So much for that plan.

An emergency trip to Ohio and a funeral on February 22 extended my stay in Orlando one week, which reduced my time between jobs to one week. In Orlando on March 1, be ready to rock in Miami on March 11. And the money I had set aside for the move? Had to use that to get me & my brother to Ohio to say goodbye to mom.

Money well spent.

But it also meant my plans for a killer bachelor pad in South Beach turned into an extended stay hotel room in Homestead. Ain’t gonna be rubbing elbows with LeBron any time in the near future. More like buying vegetables from Jesus on Krome Avenue.

But it’s all good. That’s what makes life fun. Remember, life is weird. And it cannot be predicted. Can’t really even be planned for. I had meticulous plans for this Orlando-to-Miami relo that got snuffed out when my mother took her last, long breath.

But I made it. I’m here in Miami, in my second week in my new job.

And I love it.

Not just the job and the people (which are both great), but the city. Miami is the shit, yo.

Now. I will let you in on a little secret. I am a closet Urbanista. When I took the job in Orlando, having moved there for Port St. Lucie, I had visions of being an uber urban hipster. I was going to get a place near my downtown office and either walk or take transit to work. As it turned out I found a place in Altamonte Springs and was essentially forced to drive to work. Well, I could have taken transit, but it would have taken 90 minutes to traverse 9 miles.

I ain’t that hardcore.

So. Back to Miami. As mentioned, I had to go to my fallback plan of living in Homestead instead of Brickell. But…Miami ain’t Orlando. Translation: traffic is insane down here. Yeah I know it’s bad in O-Town too, but this is a different world down here. Transit isn’t an alternate, green way to get in touch with your inner environmentalist around here. It’s a way to maintain your sanity.

And sane I am.

Every morning I catch an express bus that operates on a dedicated busway that parallels US 1 to the Dadeland Metrorail station for a 20-minute whisk into downtown. A 35-mile commute in just over an hour.

Let me repeat that: A 35-mile commute in just over an hour. To downtown Miami. You literally cannot drive it faster…let alone what you have to pay to park downtown.

Oh, and it’s free for me. Cuz I work for the transit system.

Jealous yet? No?

Then drive on with your bad self.

For me, it’s awesome. I have re-familiarized myself with my ipod & various websites as I peruse and rock out while someone else deals with traffic. My blood pressure is lower, my spirits higher.

And my wallet’s fatter.

I work in downtown Miami and live 35 miles away. And I never set foot in my car to make the trip. What about lunch, you say? What about needing my car during the work day?

Dude, we got Metrorail that runs every five fuckin’ minutes to take me to Brickell. And an automated People Mover that sallys around the downtown high-rises. Transit rules here. And I am taking advantage of all of it.

I am finally an Urbanista.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


It’s over.

My mother passed away last week, two day’s shy of her 86th birthday.

Those of you who knew my mom knew how she was. Those who didn’t were unfortunate. Now sure, that is an easy thing to say, but it’s also true. I have never met a more selfless person in my life. To the very end her concern was always about her children and others than herself. Whenever I asked her how she was doing, the most she would talk about herself was to say, “I’m tired, son,” and then would ask me how I was, or how my son was doing.

Mom had dementia, a disease I classified using the word fascinating. That seems a rather odd, clinical way of viewing what eventually took her life, but from my point of view it was accurate – a woman who humbly called herself a Bookkeeper but in truth she ran the fiscal aspects of million-dollar companies who could no longer manage paying her bills. It’s a heartbreaking disease, but I thought it fascinating.

So the suffering my mom went through is over. She’s rejoined with the love of her life, my father.

I wish that was where the suffering ended. Mine has just begun, as it has for my siblings. We are each in our own place with this, and our unfortunate reunion last week was far from nice and cordial. We each hurt, as we each are venting. Sometimes at each other. Feelings are very raw. Long-festering resentments exploded. Harsh things were said.

But I don’t care. That’s their shit. Our mother died – that’s what happened, and my purpose of writing this is not to call out my siblings. I have my way of coping and they have theirs. I wish them peace with this.

By my count this is the fourth story I’ve written about my mother. The first one was over four years ago when she was first diagnosed with dementia. At that time, in 2008, I said nah, she’s just getting old. Denial. Then next one was three years later when it was obvious she was fading into the black hole of dementia. We called in hospice and had her put into a facility – for her own safety. I mean, lighting her cigarette on the gas stove with her grey hair dangling way too close to the blue flame was proof enough for me that she could no longer care for herself.

So her final place of residence on this plane was a care facility in Kent. But last week, we took a nice step for her. On the funeral procession, from the church to the cemetery, we drove by her house. I know mom liked that.

How do I know that?

Because she spiritually re-entered that house.

How do I know that?

Because weird stuff started happening between that Friday afternoon and when I left Sunday morning. Things fell off shelves. The washing machine inexplicably started running. I heard voices. Now, before you think I’m starting to get dementia, I heard them – low mumblings, incomprehensible ‘chatter’, like a white-noise-like sound. But it was there. I heard it.

And I smiled. Dee was home.

And she can now leave whenever she damn well feels like it.