Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time to Blog

Where have a been these 7 month of silence? The answer - Miami FL, Little Harbour BH, Charleston SC, South West Harbor ME, Camden ME, Sag Harbor NY, West Palm Beach, Abaco, and currently in Manzanillo Mexico.

Yes that is a lot of ground to cover and recap. I have some excerpts and thoughts I plan to post in the next few weeks, as well as commitment to check in here more often. Again I have learned and experiences characters as varied as the landscapes where I find them. My mind is turning and my life is in motion. Time and a mental space to write has not been a priority but after 2 weeks on the beach in Mexico with family I have found some clarity to turn jumbled thoughts into sentences.

I will be returning to Florida on Friday to begin another season in South Beach. I returning to the land of excess and Botox with apprehension, but a plan of attack. I know I have changed and grown into myself since I left Florida six months ago and am trying to attack the beach and it’s people with an open mind. I know my time on land will be broken up with trips on Magic and weekends in Abaco to keep me sain. So I’d like to step back and look at the wacky and strange Miami dichotomy as a cultural and character study. Plus I plan to have a really good time in the process. I’m trying to wash away some of my cynical and judgmental tendencies toward all things, but especially Miami.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shrimp and Sauce

I sit awkwardly on the edge of a large plastic pot with a five foot crooked palm tree perturbing from it. My posture can not look comfortable or very lady like, but the funny tree provides some much needed shade after a day on the beach that turned my stomach and chest lobster red. The palm tree is on the center pier at Miami Beach Marina next to an impressive looking stainless steel prep table with inlaid cutting boards. It’s Saturday afternoon and the sun and humidity are blazing, but a slight breeze from the water offers some relief and makes my hot arms bubble with goosebumps. It’s the second day of the the Miami Beach Billfish tournament and the Winter Music festival has brought a spectrum of freaks, geeks, and ravers to Miami for the weekend. The dock holds a mixed crowd of sports fishermen in logoed long-sleeved T-shirts and visors, pre-teens in too small bikinis, wondering hipsters from multiple eras, platform heeled leggy women, and the standard salty marina cast of characters that are far from standard in their own right. I sit sipping from a can of beer and watch Dre, a friend and chef, work a few pieces of fresh caught calamari into thin rings with a very sharp knife. As quickly as they appear the squid slip into a stainless steel bowl stashed within a red cooler full of ice sitting at my feet. Dre stirs the bowl of ceviche already chocked full of shrimp, lime juice, onions, and a mess of herbs and secrets. He has been cooking for five hours and shrimped for another three the last night to harvest the meal. The lid slams closed and spoon in hand he waves and mumbles, “one more hour one more hour don’t touch!” To appease our appetites and my fellow vaulters roaming around Dre’s seemingly legendary cook top he sets a tupperware container of orange creamy dip with dozens of whole peeled shrimp on the dock box across the way. This gesture is no doubt partially to taunt some of the spectators away from the cook space and into the sun. It works on me. I sit right next to the dip and spoon a heap onto a cracker. It is delightfully heavy and the freshness of the small shrimp caught a few peirs away as they “ran“ the night before burst in your mouth. I take another and then retreat back to the shade thankful, happy to be among friends and food, and excited for more to appear.

Meanwhile Dre joggs 30 yards down the dock to a hot plate set up on another dock box with a bubbling pot of alfrado sauce. He adds cheese and milk sets it to simmer and hikes back to the prep table. I’m chatting with Bob, the captain of the yacht two slips down the dock. His blonde hair is shaved short and his face is only slightly pink. Through out the afternoon passers bye cut into the circle of conversation to make cracks about New Jersey, Bobs home and heritage which he is very willing to defend. The dock feels like it is a day being played over again. It is obvious that this community knows each other very well and everyone has their roll in this boys world. The same stories and jokes roll off tongs as if rehearsed. This ore of casual relaxation, approaching summer, and Saturday settle over all of us. There are no more fish to be caught, boats to be cleaned, or dilemmas to dance with. I don’t say much, I smile a lot, and make a few cracks about the ravers infiltrating the beach. The whole thing makes me miss Little Harbour and being a part of a revolving cast of characters and quirky community.

The main corse is on it’s way. Dre is laying out paper plates on the work top and then shuffling down the dock with a big pot of pasta. Next comes the sauce, chopped mushrooms, and whole pan sauté prawns. It all goes onto the plate plus some parsley on top. A plate is handed off to me. It is rich, good, and flavorful. After seeing the man at work I’m not surprised he can put it all together on the dock. Dre is smiling and his latin hospitality is in full force, “you’ve got to eat something man.” After a few more beers we dig into the ceviche and I’m reminded how much I love lime and fish. The night and my sunburn ware on me until I say my good byes and leave early. I’m happy to be given a little window into this world. This is only one of the many moments over the last month that slowly shift my opinion of Miami. Most of it isn’t even my own doing. I’ve resisted digging beneath the ugly exterior for a long time, but new friends are getting me out and opening my eyes. For that I’m thankful.

Amanda Mar
Miami Beach, FL

Saturday, February 20, 2010

South Beach Cynic : What is your obsession?

Is miami beach a cultural void? No, it would be ignorant to make this statement. But on the surface it sure feels like it. I saw a free standing bill board on Lincoln Mall today that asked, "What is your obsession?" inferring to what areas of the female, or male for that matter, body you'd like to laser hair remove. I once met someone from the area who routinely had his "back patch" laser removed on his lunch break. The ad was accompanied by a topless women with arms crossed and a bikini bottom. Her skin was olive oily and her eyes were heavy with makeup. It's not surprising that the citizens of this South Beach jungle have been pushed to this point of fine tuning. I sat on the beach silently observing the speedos and topless women all tanned and oiled like starving Thanksgiving turkeys. But it's hard for a bill board even to be affective or put the twinge of self doubt into the self conscious passer by. Everyone is so tuned in to their iphones and their over papered pint-sized puppies in strollers to be bothered with something as archaic as print behind glass. These people are among the wealthiest in the world, but where are their heads? Image obsessed and being trained into neuralgic hibernation by the latest application.

Sorry for the rant and I'm sure there are more to come,
Amanda Mar
Miami Beach

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life Happens in the Kitchen

Today I've been thinking about kitchens. Memories attached to places so warm and filled with possibility and positivity. Rooms where we come together and at times fall completely to pieces like spilled milk on black and white checked linoleum. My job places me in the galley for a large part of my day. For the most part I watch Jade cook as I put dishes away and daydream. Today my daydreams began to transport me back to kitchens and people I've loved coming together around food. Its natural for the kitchen to be the heart of the home. House, apartment, boat, mansion or trailer we all find our way to the kitchen for conversation, comfort, and food.

The counter of Casa Mar's kitchen felt never ending as a child. I would sit in a retain stool peeking over the counter as my mother went around in circles baking or cooking meal after meal. Wood carvings of fish and an eel hang from the rafters. Shelves with books, food, and life's artifacts take over one wall. An oblong teak table and side board consume half the room. I can almost picture her now- brown curls behind a peach colored bandana, an oversized t-shirt and shorts covering her short frame. Thick recognizable hands kneading dough and covering it with a red checked cloth. The Joy of Cooking is open and her face is covered with flour. Suddenly I'm older in the same kitchen years later with my hands in a dish pan as guitars play, dads voice beats, and the party continues on the deck. I am sneaking a glass of wine as I make my way though the mountain of dishes. That moment of great relief comes when every surface is restored and clean awaiting tomorrows day. Still years later I in this space alone listening to NPR XM radio reminding myself that somewhere outside my Little Harbour a world exists. I sip tea and try to decide how I will be a part of it. I feed Tilly and sketch silly drawings and pros onto white sheets of paper. Now I am surrounded by new friends around a single light bulb as they bring old time music into my home. I'm making fish tacos for breakfast as Amos tunes his fiddle. I am barefoot and dancing to Yonder as I apply sunscreen and pack a bag for a day on Bookies. All these memories flood so easily into my mind.

The kitchen I grew up in is crumbling around the edges. The salt has gotten to the particle board in the cabinets. Salt water concrete walls crack across the roof line. Stainless pots begin to rust. The vent on the opened beamed roof refuses to spin and lets in the rain. Most of the chairs around that big table have broken and hurricanes have stolen some of the art and sense of possibility. But most of it is still so familiar. The place I'm most comfortable in the entire world. It doesn't matter who is with me in this space. Over the years I've been joined by family, drunks, Norwegians, musicians, Kewies, lovers, and friends. I've painted the walls and rafters. Bleached the counters and woken to sticky bugs after all night parties. I've made the best and most low meals. We've strung fresh pasta across clothes lines. For a time a bug zapper hung from a beam and caught fire to flying roaches. I've danced, eaten sushi until I couldn't breath, laughed, philosophized, drank and smoked myself stupid, and listened to the rain in this space. Our lives happen in kitchens. In spaces that bring us the most comfort and security. Spaces that produce sustenance, normalcy, and peace. I can close my eyes and the physical space comes so clearly it brings a flood of memories easily played among the same backdrop.

Now as I work and wonder I make new memories in dozens of other kitchens. Of coarse I've smiled, laughed, and cried in other kitchens. But in person or memory I go to Casa Mar for comfort and a reminder of all that I am.

Amanda Mar
Miami Beach, FL

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's time to wonder

Lately it's felt like some metaphoric umbilical cord has kept me close to the boat. Work and life meld together into routine. After dinner the crew and I melt into sofas in front of movies and bad television. Then sleep comes followed by another morning and another day of cleaning. It's easy to forget that a city thrives, wakes, and moves around us. The yacht club becomes an easy bubble where everything we need is at reach. A grocery across the street, the same three bars, some fellow yachties to share drinks with on the dock. In this way the day to day doesn't inspire much. A reprieve is public radio, the news and some opinions to make my mind turn a little as I in hail rubbing alcohol and vinegar mixtures over miles of marble and wood. All I need to break the cycle is a walk in any direction to get my mind working again. I love to wonder. Taking the roll as the observer, an anthropologist without credentials in the wild unknown urbana. In Brussels I took twisted cobblestone ally ways and navigated by pubs, coca-cola signs, and cartoon murals. Sights, sounds, culture came from every corner. It was easy to be a students and an interested mind in a place so foreign and so beautifully romantic to me. In St. Louis I'd take the metro downtown or to the Central West end in search of something I'd missed as a student living in the University bubble. More often then not I found myself in Forest park walking and watching people observe Olmsted gift to the city. In Charleston the architecture and bitter romance in the air captured me so quickly. Gas lights outside town houses and the sent of tulip trees are enough to capture your soul for an hour or two. There I walked and walked in every direction and the city unveiled it's racial and class divides abruptly. Camden was about simplicity and friendly people teaching me how to be myself again.

Now I find myself in Miami Beach with an easy place to hide and a long list of preconceptions about this place. But I must walk and become that observer again. I know it's good for my writing and my sanity. I can only hide on 130 feet for so long. I have the weekend off and am dedicating most of it to people watching, eating street food, and maybe even meeting a stranger or two. Other things on the agenda are kayaking in the bay and possible seeing the Norman Rockwell exhibit in Ft. Lauderdale. I need culture and I need to wonder. I refuse to be complacent in the land of laundry and polish.

In other news I am happy. We were in the Bahamas last week and had a very nice trip fishing and enjoying the sun and exodus to Chub Cay. Chub is a bankrupt paradise with few boats, beaches, water, and fish. A failure in the eyes of capitalism and development, but a victory that preserved the beauty of the islands. We are in Miami without trips for the entire month of February so I'm concentrating on a few different articles and finding some sanctuary amongst the alien nation of South Beach.

Amanda Mar
Miami Beach, FL