Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Che Guevara: turning in his unmarked grave!

Che must be turning in his unmarked grave at the knowledge that the hurricane/storm called after him should turn out to be such a flop. It also seems like tempting fate to call a storm aimed at Miami, Ernesto.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Our Ernesto [the alternate 'Motorcycle Diaries']

We awoke Moday with butterflies. Our apprehension grew as it appeared that Ernesto wanted to visit us directly.

I went for a walk with intentions of strolling up the boardwalk along by the ocean and pondering the storm brewing a few hundred miles away. My intentions were thwarted however, by the heat. It was a beautiful day - perfect blue sky with glorious sunshine and very little humidity, but hot. Apparently what happens before a storm you have a beautiful day with greatly reduced humidity because the approaching storm sucks in all the moisture. It also causes it to be hotter. I feel that I have definitely been adjusting to Miami heat but I could only muster going round the block!!

Dazza came home from work loaded with a flashlight ('torch' in UK terms) that also glows in the dark, batteries for our fan and radio, and masking tape for the windows. I went to town taping up the windows - although I fully appreciate that I was probably going overboard as we actually have hurricane strength glass but it made me feel better and I'd rather be ridiculously over prepared than under. And anyhow I quite like the new look of our latticed windows!!

Dazza was eager to go for a stroll to the beach, his earlier anticipation having given way to adventurous excitement. The calm before the storm is beautiful and the strong breeze in the evening had dissapated the unbearable heat of the day. the hummidity gone from the atmosphere, we could see the stars over the beach and watch the puffs of clouds racing along with the wind.

When we went to bed, the news reports were stating that Ernesto was likely to arrive in Miami as a tropical storm, not a hurricane. This was very welcome news, however they were also saying that they were expecting winds of 70mph, only 5mph below hurricane category one. Basically, we can predict a great deal when it come to hurricanes but nothing is certain until Ernesto arrives. After all only three days ago Ernesto looked like he wanted to visit Mexico instead of Florida.

We woke to my Mum calling just to see how we were doing and what out plans were. Dazza finished putting all our things off the floor in case of flooding - I particularly like the trainers on the bookshelves! Then we loaded the car with things we can't do without and drove to Dazza's boss's place to leave our stuff. The drive was quite beautiful - the sky was pink and orange with puffy white clouds.

Dazza then went to work and I went to Starbucks armed with a New York Times, magazines and my journal.

12.30 pm Tuesday August 29th
The sky has an ominous dark cloud threatening in the distance and the wind is testing its strength, getting prepared for its big show, by tusselling some obliging palm trees.

1.45 pm Tuesday August 29th
The rain has begun thrashing the tarmac. The wind has taken a break. Its like two warriors taking turns to warm up for battle.

Time passed and the internet (slow) at Dazza's work was reporting that Ernesto was tired and didn't seem to want to pick up steam. We also must have done something to offend him because he was deciding to make a path more towards the west coast and the retired folks in Naples.

By the way Borders closed at 12 noon and I had to abandon my wandering amoungst books. Then my peaceful sipping of coffee was aborted when Starbucks closed at 4. Dazza's work was still open and looked like they'd not close, now that the storm was less threatening.

Dazza and I decided we'd be OK going home to South Beach - we'd rather sleep in our own bed (well, futon...). So after dinner we picked our stuff up from his boss's place and headed home. There was rain and wind but nothing too bad. It was novel to be driving with such little traffic. I pictured everyone in Miami sitting at home sipping mohitos while the rain pounded the windows.

Once home we turned on the local news to hear that Ernesto was indeed tired and would arrive as a weak tropical storm in the middle of the night. So we went to bed.

I woke a couple of times around 1am to some rain and howling wind but I have to admit I've experienced much much worse in the north of Scotland. We are very grateful that our first Miami hurricane experience shoul be gentle and that we still have all our possesions.

Until next time..........

Hurricane and Cockroach: FUN!!!

Hurricane Ernesto is looming over Cuba and threatening Southern Florida - and Miami in particular!! I can't believe after two weeks of being here AND it being the FIRST hurricane of this year's season that it is headed straight for us!!!!
South Beach will more than likely be evacuated - so we are going to have to find one of Dazza's work colleagues who can put us up. So we'll make some friends! :)

Hopefully we will return to South Beach and our stuff will be OK (you can't get renters insurance on South Beach). The major threat is flooding - we are on the first floor but about 6 feet above the road. Fingers crossed!!!

On top of this we discovered our first cockroach running about our apartment this morning - yuech we squished him and squished him good!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hulk Hogan; and Creole in the Morning

Wow, yeeeeaa, squeeeel - I saw my first famous person on South Beach today!!! I was strolling up Alton Road (sweating profusely of course!!) and low and behold this BIG guy gets out of an SUV and crosses the street. He had BIG tanned muscles (not unusual for SB) and almost white blonde hair with a handlebar mustache. It was HULK HOGAN!! And there were two guys - roadsweepers I think - calling on their cell phones, giggling and pointing - I guess they were thinking the same thing.

The place where I work (that shall remain nameless and so too the folk that work there) for a part time job is a real eye opener into how different this place is from anything else I've every experienced. For a start I am definately in the minority both in the colour of my skin and the fact that I am not bilingual. All around me I hear several different languages. The predominant one doesn't seem to be English but Spanish and I want to start learning some asap so I don't feel so stupid - or cut off, or 'white colonial-esque'! I had a thought this morning as I was performing one of my many meanial tasks - I love the sound of French Creole in the morning. It is quite beautiful and god bless the Haitian woman who sings creole songs to herself as she works.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Scottish Exports

This is hilarious and only too true:
go to the link to hilarious first foot and click on the link "brit's abroad"!! It had me in tears - of laughter!!

Fish & Feathers

Fish and feathers as decorative emblems are all over south beach. I was particularly struck by this bird - with dancing naked figures on his wings.

South Beach certainly is a fishy sort of place.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

at the frog interface of cyberspace and reality

I look out my window and see something moving between the apartment blocks outside that are getting renovated. I presume it is a rat - a pretty sizable rat.

I look again.

Its not a rat nor a chipmonk, prairie dog or even large mouse.

Its a frog. A brown and cream speckily frog with big bulging brown eyes perched on the top corners of its head and he's sitting squarely on his hind legs looking at me.

I wonder if he's thinking is that a Cuban, a Columbian, a Mexican? No its a quine fae Scotland. Now that's exotic!

So he lumbers a few times between sitting squarely until he finally dives into a pile of wet leaves.

I get online to write this amphibian incident and the page that is open has an advert for a mortgage company or some such and that advert consists of a frog - much more conventional bright 'green' tree frog - lurching in an out of the frame.

I definitely feel that today is a frog kind of day - lots of rain and thunderstorms. I wonder if I'd be enjoying this day more if I were one.

Cuban Hospitality

So yesterday I had to get some new keys made for our tweeny apartment. I stumbled across a little hardware store on Alton Road. It must have been there for decades because the cluttered store was full of merchandise covered in serveral years of dust and grime. Matching the store was the man who runs it. He must be around my grandfather's age, in his eighties and had white hair and a matching handle-bar mustache. Even though he must've been there for so long, he spoke practically no english (Miami is known as the capital of Latin America afterall). I managed to let him know that I needed two sets of new keys made and he revved up his ancient key copying machine. After he produced the keys he asked - well mimed - whether I would like a shot of cuban coffee. I thought this was such a great gesture. However when I came to pay he didn't have enough money in his register to give me change of $20 - so I gave him all the change I had but I was short about a dollar and fifty cents. I tried to go back at 5.30pm but he had closed up shop. I felt bad because it seemed like it was possible I may have been his only customer of the day. So one of my aims in the next couple of days is to go back and give him a couple of dollars. And I have to admit I enjoyed the whole Cuban hospitality so much that I'm glad I've got an excuse to go back.

ps apologies - spell chk nut wurcin agin

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Just Like Tobermoray ...bit a wee bitty different

Went for our first excursion into the weird and wonderful world of south beach. The art deco buildings are stunning - like perfect cakes with fondant icing. They also, in a parallel universe sort of way, reminded me of Portree harbour or Tobermoray bay. Perhaps they could have the American version of ballamoray (sp?) in South Beach?? The heat wasn't too bad and there weren't too many people around (probably all still in bed on a Sunday afternoon recovering from partying on Saturday night).

We also went to the arts center on Lincoln Road. They have lots of artists studios and lots of artwork to see and, if you've got any money left over after rent in this place, buy. They have a particularly spectacular floor which swims in mosaic swirls of ceramic tiles. I am so excited to find out that they have art classes and in particular life drawing class for only $10!! And I can just walk a few blocks to get there!! It has been way too long since I had access to this stuff. They also have a public darkroom facility - perhaps I'll get around to getting a new lense for my SLR and take some black and whites and try to remember how to develop photos in the darkroom again.

Here are some more South Beach 'candy' pictures - all very sugary!! I especially like the prisoner transport van on the beach and the guys shooting a video!! Oh and by the way we passed the biggest blondest transvestite with the deepest voice strolling - or maybe I should say teetering - down Washington Ave. Things don't seem to get dull here although it would be a very scary day when seeing the myriad of weird characters around here became dull and common place.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Many different "America"s

Now we are up and running with our high speed internet we are back connected to the world. I had a great tiime catching up with friends and seeing lots of different "Americas" this summer.

New York was shining. It sparkled with energy. I felt like I was finally waking up from my midwest slumber. I always feel that that city is the gateway to the world. That things are happening. It was awesome.

Atlanta, Georgia, was hot and a shining new city (it got burned down in the civil war) but the disappointing thing was that the city is still very much segregated on racial lines - my friend stays in the white north of the city and I hardly saw any african americans the whole time (very sad for the hometown of Martin Luther King). I had a great time with my friend. She showed me every nook and cranny of her neighbourhood. The huge houses in the rich part boggled the mind!!!

Indianapolis (Carmel really), Indiana was as scary as usual: every house looks the same and I swear the stepford wives club actually exists there. Time I found goes very very slowly there - maybe it is twilight zone - I am also convinced that there are little elves that come out in the middle of the night to cut every blade of grass to perfect exacting specified length.

Houston, Texas, was hot!! Not sit out hot - sit indoors because it is unbearable hot. The humidity there is unbelievable - you could slice it up and serve it with ice cream, the air is so thick. It is one of Americas big sprawling cities. I didn't have much time to see much but we went to a great place for BBQ which had a lot of character.

The Trip from Houston to Nashville was a hoot - Kristen, her sister Sara, and me in a rickety old van towing Kristen's car. It took us WAY too long but we had plenty of daft songs to sing on the way. We drove through lots of little Texan towns and some "dry" counties (ie no alcohol allowed!!). It is amazing when you see cliches unfolding before your eyes - the old man sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair.

We rolled into Nashville, Tennessee, at 4 am. We were exhausted. The next day we explored a bit after breakfast at Ihop - Ihop is an American institution - it stands for International house of Pancakes. It is a diner type chain restaurant which specializes in breakfast - lots of food and not much of it is good for you :) Nashville has a small town feel to it. We avoided the tourist strip downtown and explored a nice grungy neighborhood with an excellent coffee shop and used bookstore. There was evidence everywhere of cowboy hats and boots!!!

Miami. Florida. Our first impression was this is nuts we are moving here!! Palm trees abound. There is lots of brightly colored buildings and down town is a jungle of high rises with more being built. After a saga with apartment hunting we finally found our place in south beach with the reasoning that if we are going to live in a crazy place we may as well live in the craziest part of it for the full experience.

Salt Lake City. Utah. Wow, amazing mountains!!! The city nestles at the base of a mountain ridge of some of the most stunning mountains I have seen. The city however is weird. It is a mix of outdoor snow types, hippies and conservative straight laced mormons. We visited the mormon temple - scary in itself. The mormons believe the weirdest stuff - that a guy in upstate new york in 1832 had a sign from god to find 'golden tablets' in a hill on his farm, and that the ancient eqyptian writing on them could only be translated by this same man, Josh Smith; they beleive that prophets from biblical times came to America and had a civilisation here that died out and that Josh Smith and the subsequent 15 prophets after him are talking from God. I went with the attitude that I was open to anything and sort of wanted to see if they would/could try to convert me. I came away feeling more convinced of the craziness of their beliefs. I think the mormons are very like a cult - a cult of people who are very 'nice' and smile all the time - oh and don't drink alcohol, coffee, soda or condone homosexuality or equality for women.

Steamboat Springs. Colorado. The journey through the mountains to colorado was beautiful and we saw some odd things on the way - like prairie dogs eating road kill fearless of being knocked down by a car and a big giant plastic pink dinosaur on the side of the road. Steamboat is a typical colorado town with lots of wealthy people and outdoor types who have no money. The mountains are beautiful but to be honest they looked just like all the other colorado mountains I've seen. The Rodeo at night however was brilliant. It's amazing to see the cowboys at work and their skill. I wouldn't get on one of those bucking broncos or bulls for the world - definitely scary. The funny part was when they got all the kids between 6 and 12 to go down into the ring and then let a calf out into the ring with a ribbon tied to its tale. The first kid to catch the ribbon from the calf got a prize. You should have seen the petrified expression on the calf's face when it was faced with a crowd of kids running after it. They did the same thing with the under 6 year olds and a sheep - I think the sheep got the better deal. There was also a six year old who did barrel running - that is when they ride around three barrels in the stadium at a full gallop. The six year old was amazing on a big horse going full pelt.

Moab. Utah. The drive down from Steamboat to the dessert was astounding. The landscape slowly split and moved into being a wonderment of canyons and red red stone. It felt like going back in time. The rock formations were like the ruins of ancient castles. The heat was unbelievable. I actually felt like my brain was cooking. We were glad that the little hairdryer on wheels that Darren's work had hired us at least had air conditioning. Moab is a small town in the dessert with a big wide main street. The main industry there is definitely tourism. There are lots of shops to spend money on nothing. It is a bizarre place because it almost feels like it is incomplete due to the dry rock surrounding the place. I think if you lived there you would dream about trees and grass lawns. In the morning we went to Arches National Park. It was breathtaking. The rock formations were so varied and wonderful it was difficult to believe (I'm afraid that Mum's geology explanations of Arthur's Seat are going to fall a bit flat after this). This is a place unlike any other and somewhere everyone should see once if they can. Only do yourself a favour and don't go in the summer unless you wish to experience your brain frying - it got up to 115 degrees farenheit!!!

Now sitting in South Beach I am amazed by how many different Americas there are in this country. I feel very lucky to have seen so many of them. This country can never be pinned down. As soon as you think America is one thing something pops up to contradict it. There is lots of go get em enthusiasm in parts of America but there is also extreme conservative pessimism too. There is so much to explore in this one country that it is no wonder that so few leave to explore the rest of the world. I've had a rich and eye opening summer. I feel lucky to have had such opportunity.

Friday, August 18, 2006