A stroll and a Cruise (Homes of the rich and famous, Miami style)

After having to head into the city to do some business: targetless wanderings through Miami’s downtown area, musings on her public transit system, and cruise …

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Today I had some errands to run in Miami proper that required I drag my ass out of bed obscenely early (for me) and get into town by 9:30 am. I wasn’t able to do what I needed (I showed up to the office without an appointment) but I was able to get a promise that they’d deal with me on Friday at 10am… so I’ll be heading there again then. However, since I was already downtown, I took to wandering.

First, I walked to the seashore (a block away), and then south along the coast; and, for the first time in my life saw a dolphin in the wild! Till now I’ve only ever seen them either in aquariums, or in caged up “swim with the dolphins” type things, which I find horrific, as they’re good for us and definitely not so great for them. This dolphin was getting jiggy with a seagull, they seemed to be almost playing with each other, and the dolphin practically swam right up to the walkway in the process. I was so stunned that I was slow to pull out my iPhone, and missed the interplay, but was able to get some pics of the dolphin as it swam away.

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Because of the recently concluded Art Basel Miami, essentially a viewing forum/event that lasts about a week where the world’s top art galleries can present their best wares to potential buyers (essentially the top 1% of income earners, and museums, etc.)  — it began shortly after I arrived on Nov. 28th and was pretty much over by Dec. 4th, there are still a whole slew of temporary outdoor art available for viewing along Miami’s ocean front.

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I had not known about the event before I arrived (the timing was completely coincidental) but I learned about it from my host, because a German couple (both artists) who were renting one of the downstairs rooms were both working it. (They both worked for one of the galleries that was showing work, although he’s apparently somewhat successful as a struggling painter in his own right — I don’t remember his name. When I went, it was mostly because I was in town that day anyway — more paperwork, although in sum it was rather like going to a very good but insanely expensive museum … $45 for one day’s entry — and there wasn’t even free wine and cheese.)

The next thing I discovered was that the downtown train system in Miami is free (BOGGLE!!). I had taken a Lyft/Uber type taxi into town, so I figured I would try out the rapid transit system which I had heard was pretty decent by US standards (in other words, lousy). I entered the system looking for where I was supposed to pay… kept looking, and still not finding, and then when the doors of a train opened I stuck my head in thinking “maybe there’s a conductor?” (the Metra system in Chicago still has old fashioned conductors)…  but there wasn’t. So I asked a woman siting on one of the few seats (only four per car), “is this free?” and she responded, “yup.” So I got in and road around, and… I’ll admit, I was using the ride to pick up some much needed balls from Pokémon stops — yup, still addicted to the game.

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After a while the train came to a halt at a station, and the loudspeaker informed us the system had broken down and please be patient… so I waited, and waited… and finally decided to just get out and walk. I found myself at what the city intends to be a museum park (like what we’ve already got in Chicago). They have an Modern Art museum … and they are in the process of building a (what I later learned was a new home for a) science museum — that had formerly been located in Coconut Grove across the street from Vizcaya Museum & Gardens; apparently, when it’s done, it is ultimately going to house the world largest shark tank (I have some thoughts on that, but they’re particularly cynical).

I had not yet had lunch (or any coffee for that matter), and according to my Yelp app, the Pérez Art Museum — which has very modern art, not really to my taste so I didn’t go in) also had fairly highly rated cafe, described as good enough so as to be worth eating at even if you weren’t going to see the art…I had Ceviche with pomegranate seeds, and iced coffee — and they were nice enough to give me a large plastic to-go cup of the iced coffee for my ‘refill’.

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Not long after, as I was walking along the shore line… one of my best friends, Carmi, who lives in Florida, called to chat, and when I told him about the train he said that it was considered by many Floridians to be an economic debacle. According to him, it cost so much and so few people actually ever use it, that the city could have instead offered free taxi fares within the same covered area – for life – to anyone who wanted one, and it would have been cheaper (and more likely to be utilized).

In fact, the city also put up a bicycle rental system scattered around the city, which is NOT free, and cost them a pittance by comparison to set up… which IS from what I could see taken full advantage of.

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Although I’ve seen similar systems in other places where the bikes are less to do with tourists and more to do lowering traffic on the roads and/or smog levels (China for instance)… and in those cases the first 15 or 20 minutes are usually free — like the train — only better because if you plan it right you have free access to a bike 24/hours a day with no worries about it being stolen.

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The yellow building is called The Freedom Tower (and should not be confused with the one in New York City which replaced the Twin Towers that were destroyed on 9/11) because it was used, at one point, as the processing facility for refugees from Castro‘s Cuba. Before that it was the offices of a newspaper, and now.. since we’re opening up normal relations with Cuba, it has become a museum — but ironically, not a history museum — instead it’s yet another modern art museum.

Next I headed towards the Bayside Marketplace, which my tripadvisor app was listing it as #12 of the best things to do in Miami (it’s sad how for a lot of towns in the USA the best thing to do is to go to the mall).  And as I walked through the stores that were NOT national chains — most of them were — I was like, “HEY, the 1970’s are back!”

Back when I was a kid my dad (a professor) had this one graduate student who was the consummate Hippie type. He and his wife were both these laid back granola types, and I used to love hanging out at their house. They loved, but couldn’t have, any kids of their own (this was before in vitro fertilization) and they weren’t stable enough economically to be allowed to to adopt —  back then they didn’t allow cross ethnic adoptions… so they set up their place up so that all the kids on their street would want come over there to hang out there. They had all these board games, and toys and cool stuff (like door handles with roses embedded in them). At one point, he and my dad were both presenting a paper at an academic conference in London, and the wife’s sister (who was her exact opposite) had flown over to hang out in London with us. Unlike the wife, who had married a Hippie, this sister had married a VERY rich guy from Beverly Hills, and was living THAT 70’s lifestyle; firstly, her husband apparently had NEVER seen her without her full face makeup applied, and — even in the cold of winter (or London summers) — she wore outfits so low cut that at least 1/2 of each breast was always exposed. My English male cousins, goggle eyed, would just stared at her with their jaws hanging open waiting for something to fall out. Walking around the Marketplace, half of the dresses there (in the locally owned shops) had neck lines that cut a deep V all the way down to the belly button, just like her outfits all used to do, so that if your wore them you’d risk your breasts being are completely exposed. Since then, the only time I’ve seen this sort of thing were on formal dresses at… like the Oscars, being worn by stars like JLo who are very proud of their bodies, but apparently in Miami these are now considered appropriate for daily wear.

However, one of the good things I found at the Market place was that there were like a few different cruise companies offering hour and a half tours of the bay for the VERY affordable price of $20 (I’m guessing this may have been due to it being a weekday during the off season) and 10% off of any drink from the bar.

So, I got myself a diet breaking virgin Mojito (normally I’m very careful to only drink black coffee or water) because this is Miami and I haven’t had once since I arrived…

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………….and then I’m went to go on a Bay side-cruise of the Port of Miami….

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…………that included what’s was described as a tour of millionaires row.

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This is apparently the Miami home of the singer Enrique Martín Morales, formerly of the boy band Menudo —  better known as, Ricky Martin

img_7614According to the tour guide, this rental property is popular with rappers and other stars who don’t already own homes in the area, as a place to throw parties.
—– It rents out for the low, low price of $30,000……. a WEEK!!!

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A great view of the Miami coastline, described by some as the third nicest in the U.S.A.  (after NYC and Chicago, of course) … we were all instructed to grab our camera’s for it

Then They took us to tour around Star Island.

img_7627And this is the home, supposedly (Wikipedia claims that some of the tour guides, including possibly my own, fib about who does or does not live in these homes) of one of the best selling artists of all time,  a singer/songwriter who with over 120 million records to his name worldwide; he has recorded in 14 languages, and has more than 400 gold and platinum records…..  Julio José Iglesias de la Cueva, better known as Julio Iglesias.

img_7631This estate is over 6 acres with a reported 31,615 sq ft of house and is lined with imported (and VERY erect) African Palm Trees is worth $122,000,000 and is (actually) the home of Dr Phillip Frost, who is on the Forbes wealthiest humans lists.
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Born of an observant Jewish family and served as the lieutenant commander for the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Cancer Institute, from 1963 to 1965… …..who, according to our tour guide used to own Pfizer — she called it the house Viagra built

img_7644And this comparatively modest home, apparently, belongs to Beckham’s David and Victoria… he being considered one of the greatest soccer players in the world, and she a former member of the Spice Girls.

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Everglades National Park: Shark Valley area Tram

Because Miami is nice, but the EVERGLADES!!!! The Tram is the lazy way of traversing the 25 mile biking and walking path through the marshy freshwater slough. Apparently it’s called the shark valley because its where the Shark River begins it’s flow to the ocean… not because there are any sharks in the valley. However, when the river approaches the Bay of Ponce de Leon Bay and becomes brackish (mixture of fresh water and salt), that is where you will find the sharks.
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The drive from Miami to the tram ride is about an hour, in light traffic. A housemate of mine at the Airbnb warned me that he had gone there previously, during the Xmas vacation period (which begins this weekend) and he and his parents were stuck in traffic for much longer than that, which I can believe as the road, which is one of the main ones through the Everglades is in spite of that, only one lane in each direction.

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The cost to enter the park is $25.00 per car, $20.00 per motorcycle, or $8.00 per hiker/biker — and that gives you access to any of the Everglades entrances for a full week… or like me you just show your trusty $80 one year pass.

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The Tram however while sponsored by the parks, is a separate thing, and costs $24 for adults, $12.75 for kids (3-12), and $19 for seniors ($62+ with ID). You buy the ticket at the park office which is split into two sides, the private store and the park office, and you can’t pay for an item you picked up on one side on the other sides cash register. In the building you’ll find some food (snacks and cold sandwiches, nothing fancy) and there’s a drink machine that accepts credit cards as well as cash, and a bathroom… but no WiFi (although they said they were working on getting that brought in).

I sat right behind the woman narrating the tour, which I discovered was a strategic error; I should have sat behind the driver, who seems to be the one who determines when the tram slows down (go figure) …

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While clearly, there are equal numbers of animals on both sides, the tram stops — that allow you to take the best pictures — are based on what the driver sees, not the narrator… (who was facing us the whole time)…  and as such, I was forced to take most of my pictures over the laps of the other people in my row.

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In spite of that, every once in a while I got lucky….. but the tram never stopped for what was on my side

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The trail takes visitors out to a viewing tower, which is at about the 1/2 way mark, where we’re given about 20 minutes to do some exploring (and there are bathrooms there).

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and then we head back to the starting point.

One of the plants that the narrator pointed out to us was this tiny nondescript yellow flower on a bed of muddy green leaves that is very common in the waters. Apparently it EATS mosquitoes, as in actually eats them, and is part of what helps to control their population throughout the glades.

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When we finally got back to the starting point I was disconcertingly exhausted — I think it was all the sun and wind — so much so that I was staggering around a bit when I first stepped off the tram. Now as it turned out, this can be a bit dangerous because the alligators seem to LOVE hanging out there… it’s like they’re camera fiends. There are a lot of signs about not feeding them, and sharp eyed park staff to levy massive fines on you if you do, so it’s not that they’re expecting to be fed.

img_7778There were like 3 of them just laying out and not moving… a lot of people got way closer than I was willing to … … the lady who worked there said the only time in the whole history of the park that anyone got bit was a kid riding on a bicycle lost control, went right into the trench and landed right on top of one.

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This is not to say they’re safe, just if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone… She said it was kind of amazing considering the really stupid shit she’s seen people do… for example, one lady didn’t believe they were real and sat her 4 year old on top of one for a photo (according to the staffer)

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By the way, these photos have convinced me that tucking my shirt in just makes me look fatter… so I’ll stop… That, and I’m not a fan of how my hair is looking, the last dye job did not make me happy. When I get to Orlando I’ll probably change it again.

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Hello From Miami, FL

Am in Miami, have been here since Nov, 28th and will stay here through Dec., 22nd. I’m not going to bother you guys with pictures of the place much, because Miami is so well photographed (no end of TV shows and movies filmed here)… and it looks pretty much like you imagine. In fact the only impression I got was that it was far more run down looking than I had thought it would be, other than in places like Miami Beach where the ultra rich own homes.

I’m at an Airbnb in a neighborhood south of the city proper, walking distance from more than a few decent restaurants; that said, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to find a decent bit of fish. You’d think, since I’m maybe a 15 minute walk from the ocean the fish here would be really good, really fresh, and cheap … like it was in Victoria, B.C., but it’s not. Not only that, the fish here is really expensive. Honestly I don’t get it. … oh, and dolphin is a common dish on menus here. It’s a bit disturbing when you first see it, but relax, it isn’t Flipper, it’s Mahi-mahi (aka, the dolphin fish).

The only REALLY good fish I’ve had so far was after walking the length of Miami Beach Island I rewarded myself with a piece of Black Cod marinated in Miso from Nobu’s — but that’s been marinated is miso and sake for a full two days before it’s served, which is sort of cheating.

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That said, I got there at 5:30 pm only to discover that the restaurant wasn’t going to be open until 7pm, and did I want to make a reservation? Like I said, I’d walked the length of the island and I have a feeling the girl expected me to go to my hotel room, and shower and change before they’d seat me.  But, she also suggested that if I didn’t want to wait I could get a lot of the same food at the patio bar, whose menu includes the restaurants best sellers. So that’s what I did, sitting out by the back patio’s fountain.

Anyway, anytime I DO anything of note regarding Miami, I’ll post about it. So far I’ve just been walking around the neighborhood, getting situated, running erands, and escaping the 80 degree weather with 70% humidity… it’s supposed to cool down this week.

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Art Miami/Art Basel Weekend; Miami FL

A yearly gallery ‘convention (?)’ where the rich and famous can come together to buy art for their copious homes and offices. To my shock, it was $45 to enter for 1 day …. but once I saw what was actually going on inside I understood (actual ‘collectors’ were all comped VIP tickets, obviously).

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Source: http://www.artmiamifair.com  Dec

I came to Miami primarily in order to get some legal paperwork done at a consulate here. I had tried to do it back in Chicago but they had a month and a 1/2 wait for a reservation with no first come first serve option, while in Miami I could get reservations a few days in advance. The appointment I got was for 10:30 am (which is super early for me). After I completed my visit, and had FedEx’ed out the documents, I stopped at a random restaurant that looked cute (and had decent Yelp reviews) for lunch. When I asked for suggestions of what I should do, now that I was ‘in town’, the chef at the restaurant STRONGLY suggested that I come to this event (he had initially assumed it’s why I was in town). Also, according to my Airbnb host (although incorrectly) one his other guests was in town to show his own work at this thing (turns out he wasn’t, he just worked for a German gallery that whose art was available for sale) … so I came.

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I have to say that for the most part I was highly impressed. All the art on show were the “best of” pieces each of the individual galleries had for sale, and ranged from modern work, to pieces by famous artists whose style I could recognize from across a room (I was an art history minor as an undergrad)

One stall had a Calder, some Chagalls, a Picasso…. etc, as did the next, and the next (the galleries that were selling pieces from the ‘masters’ seemed to have been bunched together) and then after seeing a bunch of modern works that were clearly odes to Andy Warhol, I started seeing a bunch that looked suspiciously like the real thing… and sure enough they were…. there were also a bunch by Miró & Dali, etc., for sale… as well as no shortage of modern works that homages to classic ones:

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There is one piece that consisted of a Asian guy sitting in the hot tub, as an actual hot tub with an actual guy in it, and I was wondering, since the premise of the show was supposed to be art that people can buy…  “if you buy the piece do you get the guy?”

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You’ve got to love the fact that oriental carpets have gotten so cheap that artists are now willing to use them as canvas — I say this with a touch of sarcasm as I inherited 16 of these things (hand-made Persian carpets) from my dad when he died. To put this in perspective, one of his best rugs (which my brother called dibs on) had been appraised or about $10,000 back in the 1970’s, but was only worth about $1,500 after he died.

After having walked through two of the buildings (the ones in displayed in the image at the beginning of this post) I began to take issue with choices of the galleries… Now, granted, they had not coordinated this amongst themselves, but ultimately, there was a predominance of images that glorified violence against women, as well as the objectification of naked women.

Now I have nothing against the naked human form, but I had not seen even one penis so far to offer some balance…. At best I saw ONE solitary scrotum … Honestly, I THOUGHT we were past this! I’d have expected in this day an age at least parity of exploitation.

There were in fact a lot of “high tech” art pieces that had me fascinated as to how they were accomplished… I’ve clearly been out of the art scene a bit too long.

This one I could have seen having in my own home… its just pretty.

And then there were a whole mass of 2D & 3D sculptures utilizing alternative media that I found fascinating, including one artist who used only bullets in order to create almost life size images of wild animals (wrap your brain around that one).

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And then this artist’s work, where the shadow of the images is as if not more important than the images themselves…

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After seeing the two exhibitions located downtown I took the free shuttle to the exhibition that was supposed to be happening in Miami Beach (for those who don’t know, it’s effectively an Island along side Miami linked only by man made roadways) only to discover that it’s not open to the public today, just the VIPs (so my $45 ticket which was supposed to be good for all three shows was only good for two… BOO!!!)