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