Southern Florida…Palms, Jews, Beaches and Bugs

We have been learning Argentine Tango where good shoes are crucial. I got a pair custom fit in Clearwater (near Tampa)…sexiest shoes I’ve ever owned! Hum Baby! We also went to a Ballroom Dance Supply store in Miami in search of men’s shoes. Wow! Dancing With The Stars! Amazing costumes!


Unfortunately, nothing for tangueros here as Argentine Tango has all the sizzle in the sensuousness of the close embrace dance itself. Women’s tango clothes tend toward black, formal, close fitted to show off the line of the body and the movement. A black skirt cut on the bias, a clingy top, and fabulous shoes are de rigueur.  One ballroom dance competitor arrived for a consultation with the 30+  years experienced staff members, former competitive ballroom dancers. She modeled her bright sequined, draped and with cut outs, high slit up the leg, amazing dress showing off her long fabulous gams; the consultants removed her necklace and replaced with big earrings, traded black tights for sheers, and began to construct a custom headpiece. We had been feeling guilty about spending $200 on each pair of Tango shoes, when we realized that the ballroom and latin dance folks have to bling up and fully costume. Ching-ching!


Miami Beach, Route A1A, took us past all the Trump Towers and designer stores lined up like Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. On Shabbat, the Lubovniks, Chabadniks, and other jews with proscribed clothing rituals, strolled after services with the double wides…strollers that is. I am impressed by their religious devotion to rules that require long frock coats and big fur hats on their heads in the Miami heat and humidity.  It felt like New York for a few blocks. I wondered if these were visiting snowbirds, or residents. My intellectual curiosity was dimmed however by the $20 minimum parking fees. The plethora of South Beach art deco architecture is visible from the van anyway, so we moved on.


Little Habana is like travel to a foreign nation. The local park is completely jammed with older domino players at the picnic tables. Tito Puente, The Mambo Kings, and other Cuban orchestral music is seeping out of each storefront.


The cuban food is muy Exquisito, just like the eponymous restaurant ( serving these shrimp filled, fried green plantain cups, Cuban black beans, and steak strips fried with lime and garlic…y muy barrato tanbien! We returned a week later to eat traditional cuban sandwiches (ham, pork roast, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles grilled on the planchon), only improved by thin egg bread, called the MediaNoche! Sweet, salty, melty, crunchy…what’s not to love about that combination?


We’ve also enjoyed the diversity of palm trees in Southern Florida. Fort Meyer was the 2nd home of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. The downtown historic river area was delightful with a river promenade, lots of outdoor restaurants and bars, and a pocket park with palm varieties identified. Edison imported a “Royal Palm” collection and lined the streets, starting a city tradition. He also investigated the potential for many tropical plants from this area to be used for industrial purpose including light bulb filaments and tire manufacture. This sculpture list in reverse all the plants he investigated, then at night the shadow spells out all the varieties.


Serendipity at work, we spent one of our rare nights in a motel at a cheap Days Inn, only to find it came with some unique features in the enormous rear garden. This was a site they drilled for oil and up bubbled a mineral spring (with alligators of course…no place to run the dog). This simple corporate motel had grecian temples, sculpture, fountains and pools for guests to enjoy the 82 degree mineral water….and the hottest little dive Tiki Bar in town, plus 2 free drinks with our stay. We hung out with the local Harley riding couples and had a blast except for the payment exacted later…tons of mosquito bites.


We went to Sanibel and Captiva Islands to bike the nice bike trails and the Ding Darling Reserve as it is one of the great birding areas of the South. However, traffic, crowds, heat and humidity, and parking were repulsive, so we drove it quickly, not seeing any birds we had not seen already. We zipped on to Naples which was entertaining looking at how the ultra-rich live; the median income here is….5th in the nation. There was no street parking allowed, no curbs, no sidewalks, just wide roads, beautiful landscaping, and mansions. We enjoyed the galleries here, with lots of abstract artists represented, including a wonderful gallery of Wolf Kahn’s work.


Our best bird sightings have been the new “pigeons” of the South, and like pigeons, they are everywhere in small herds. They survive from Key West to Newfoundland, Canada. This weird, ugly duck that was not in the bird book because it is a hybrid of a Muscovy Duck and a mallard, is pimply, fearless, awkward, and HUGE, as the Muscovy Duck is the heaviest of the duck family. Hmmm, that is a lot more meat than a pigeon…dinner, ya’ll?


Now to the bugs. Biting Gnats? Sand flies? Mosquitos? Sand Fleas? Ants? Many varieties of insects to feed on your sweet flesh.

Steven=1 itchy bite

Sal=45 oozing, itchy welts and bites

…Just not fair. Okay, not as bad as a case of small pox (as shown) but itchy and distracting, especially on warm, humid nights. You can imagine how nice my chewed on legs look in my Fabuous New Tango Shoes….NOT!


 For so many reasons, we are fleeing the swamps and bayous of Southern Florida for 5 days in the Florida Keys. Biking, swimming, 3 days of watercolor workshop for Steven, perhaps some Tango practice in my new HOT shoes! Did I tell you how gorgeous black suede and patent leather piping look together on a 4 inch heel? Oh-La-La!

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About Sally

A Studio Artist and painter trained at Stanford university, Sally has since then graduated from a long career as an Attorney with the Public Defender, and returned to painting. Living in Mexico with her son for a year, they adopted a feral dog, Lety. Sally's son left for college and their dog adopted her new best friend, Steven.

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