the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

bienvenidos a miami

It's been a hectic couple of weeks since my last post. A project took me on short notice back to my old home: Miami. I had to get packed and make arrangements for the pets on the fly. I quickly called my local vet to see about boarding the cats since I wouldn't be able to leave a heater running to keep them warm while gone for several days. I'd be departing the next day, and the vet's office said they'd be open until 7PM, so I'd drop them on my way to the airport. Pup dog would stay with a friend. I didn't want to leave so much stuff visible in the car while it was parked at the airport, so I brought several items aboard, including a black ballistic duffel I planned to use on another upcoming trip.

I packed frantically, somehow fitting everything for five days in a little roll-aboard and satchel, with room to spare. I was running late, of course. As anyone with cats knows, catching them and putting them in carriers is an art. I managed to get them in their little black carriers, loaded my suitcases in the car first, and then went back to collect the cats. I set the carriers on the deck and locked up the boat. When I picked up one carrier I said to myself, "Gee, this is really big; how is the cat filling up this entire thing?" Then, "$hit, f*ck, f*uck, f*ck! It's a suitcase!" Yep, I left one cat carrier below and was about to drop off a black duffel bag at the vet. Of course the lock was a hassle to get back open and when you're in a hurry everything takes ten times longer or at least feels that way.

OK, cats in the car, on the way to the vet. Breathe. I'm running late but it'll be OK. Breathe. I race to the vet and pull up in front. I scramble out of the car and set the carriers down on the sidewalk. I look at the door and my heart sinks: Closed. Hours, Saturday 8AM to 1PM. It's 3:40PM. I have a 5PM flight. I now need to be at the airport in 20 minutes, but am a 30 minute drive away, have to then get from the parking to the terminal, and... I still have CATS!!! I started hyperventilating. The cats will freeze to death. I will miss my flight. Arrggghhhh! I call the friend who will be watching the dog. He agrees to feed the cats daily. I drop them back on the cold, unheated boat. I had a light bulb on top of of the engine block but plugged in some other lights for the cats to maybe let off a bit of warmth. I tell them I am so, so sorry.

I raced to the airport. My flight was departing at 5PM. I arrived at the parking lot at 4:22PM. I told the shuttle driver that I was having a panic attack, that my flight leaves at 5PM and I don't know what to do. He tried to keep me calm and rushed us to the terminal. I ran in frantically yelling to the gate agents to just tell me what gate I need. I run to the security line. Of course I forgot that this is BWI, not MIA. There are only about 3 people in line instead of 100. I get through security and run to my gate. I look at my watch: 4:30PM. Miraculous. People were just coming off the plane, so it'd still be 15 minutes before they even board. After an hour of heart palpitations I ended up being the first person on the plane; I relaxed in primera clase and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine.

On less than 24 hours notice my awesome friend Heather (pictured below) fetched me at the airport. We went to Catch of the Day for dinner and drinks. It's a great super-Latin spot with cheesey singers and people dancing on the outside deck. I had baby churrasco with chimichurri, black beans and rice, fried yuca, and some delicious tostones. I do miss Miami food.

I was back in my old stomping grounds in Coconut Grove, where I lived much of my many years in Miami. Breakfast on Sunday morning was right by my hotel at Berries in the Grove; I love the wraps there but somehow didn't end up having a wrap either time I went on this trip. Well, change is good; right? The Sunday afternoon crowded craziness in the Center Grove hadn't changed a bit since I left. Heather met me at Scotty's Landing, where I had a nice big Rum Runner, we watched the boats, and enjoyed the breeze. Scotty's is a nice locals spot right on the water. My one complaint is that they actually say on the menu that they aren't responsible for well done orders; so, I avoid the burgers there and stick with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and the like. (I refer to this style of food as "deep fried crap in a basket," but that's not to say it isn't good.) OK, my other complaint is that the live music was often Jimmy Buffet cover band stuff. I may be a boater, but I'd rather chew glass than listen to Jimmy Buffet. We saw a bunch of jellyfish at the adjacent fuel dock; I rarely saw jellyfish when I lived there, though they are abundant in Annapolis.  Scotty's is also next to City Hall, where I spent so much time my last several years in Miami. So, some interesting walks down memory lane.

I took a 4 mile run that felt like 6 because of the heat and humidity. But it was so beautiful running through the Grove and right by the water. A route I have run countless times before. Passing over a wooden foot bridge I looked down and saw lots of needlefish; they seem to be everywhere there. On my run I passed a cute floppy-haired guy walking his dog; maybe there's potential in Miami to find a floppy-haired sailor who wants to go adventure on the seas with me. We'll see.

One night I spoiled myself with dinner at Le Bouchon du Grove. I stuffed myself on a basket of amazing bread and drank half a bottle of rosé from Provence. When I asked the waiter to tell me about the Chicken Fricaseé he was clearly enthusiastic about it, saying it was the best item on the menu. But it has bones. I don't like to deal with bones. I asked about the filet mignon in a green peppercorn sauce. His reaction was lackluster. I know from personal experience if your server tells you to order something, trust them. They see what gets devoured and what gets left behind. So I "lived on the edge" and got the chicken. It was delicious, served with a creamy cheesy risotto. Easily enough for two to share. I tried my best to finish it but just couldn't. The waiter offered to wrap the rest to go. A while later he returned to my table and looked at me quizzically; where was my chicken? I said it never came back. He looked for it but it had disappeared. It really wasn't a big deal, (and turns out I did not have a mini fridge in my hotel room as I had convinced myself), but he gave me a complimentary glass of lovely dessert wine nonetheless.

Despite this post being filled with my gustatory conquests in Miami, I was there to work on a project and work I did. People have this image of Miami as a vacation hotspot where everyone is on island time and lazing by the pool. The reality is that people who would be "rich" in many American cities, the doctors, lawyers, and accountants, are the Miami middle class. And the hours they work are New York hours. Intense, fast-paced, long hours. Locals don't have tans because they spend their time running from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned glass office building, day in, day out. That Monday I worked from noon until 4:15AM. Got to sleep at 5AM. Back up at 8AM. Out the door to catch a train downtown at 9AM. When our meeting wrapped at 6:30PM it would have been nice to call one of my friends working on Brickell to grab drinks. But no chance any of them could slink out of the office before 8:30PM, so I didn't even try.

When I was walking from the Metrorail to the meeting that morning some guys were walking just behind me and I hear "Hey, fancy-dress lady, you erasing that tattoo?" "Yeah," I explained, "but it won't all come out." His friend says "Yeah, you can't have that now you're in the Brickell life." I looked at them and laughed, "Oh, no, I left all this bullshit behind," I said, waving at the skyline of awful glass towers. "All these people," I told them "they work too hard to buy shit they don't need." The friend says "Oh, you live off a lot of savings now." "No, no; I'm just poor." He seemed to think that's bad. "Being poor is good," I explained, "it keeps life simple."

Miami is so many things, so many contradictions. So fake. So focused on money. Everything is about shopping and conspicuous consumption. No one can ever have enough. But then there is all the natural beauty. The tree canopy. The water. The needle fish and wild peacocks and iguanas. When I lived there balance was impossible to find. Values become warped. I love Miami. Its beauty, its vibrancy, even its seamy underbelly. But it is a place one has to fight every minute to maintain balance, a grip on what is real and important.

These little Cars2Go are all over Coconut Grove
Tropichop and fried yuca from Pollo Tropical... yum!
I had been planning to crew on a major Pacific passage and had the opportunity while in Miami to catch All is Lost, about a singlehander lost at sea in the Indian Ocean. When the movie ended Heather grabbed my arm and said "Don't go!" The couple sitting next to us said, "We're not going sailing tomorrow." I enjoyed the movie and Redford, but there are 100 or more things any serious sailor would've done differently. We debriefed about the movie over eats and drinks at a new-to-me spot in the Grove that Heather recommended: Lokal. Definitely worth the trip. Burgers are their specialty, but the blue cheese wedge salad was amazing.

Sailboat Bay view from Coconut Grove Sailing Club
Sunset on Spa Creek
Totally unrelated to seeing the movie, I did pass on the Pacific trip. It's not the right trip right now. Other opportunities will arise. Nonetheless, I am likely casting off shortly. Despite the cold and blustery weather, I am trying to mentally, physically, and financially prepare myself to head south for a while. Trying to rustle up some crew to help me make the trip. Trying to get various equipment installed and little fixes taken care of. So now I am consumed with trying to figure out marinas, mooring, a reliable dinghy, moving, and boat insurance that will triple if I stay south of latitude 36 come June 1.

It doesn't have to be forever. I won't ever let myself be tied down, it defeats the purpose of living on a boat. And I can't go back to the Miami grind. But it's time for some adventures, a change of scenery. I feel ready to move on from Annapolis for a while. It was a necessary stop, a respite where I could heal and center myself. And there are so many things I love about Annapolis. But "home" will never be a metropolis or a village for me; home just means something very different to me now that I'm aboard; my boat is home, and so home is anywhere, and everywhere. My boat is this vast potential to call "home" wherever the wind and sea allow.

Annapolis sunset on Spa Creek
A chilly 22 degrees in Naptown
Hard aground
It was 45 degrees on the boat when I got home. Chilly, to be sure, but certainly survivable, particularly with cuddle cups to curl up in. But the cats wouldn't even look at me the first few hours I was back. Nonetheless, it wasn't long before they both crawled on my lap for a snuggle and all was forgiven. At least now I know I have someone who would stay aboard with them so I wouldn't have a repeat of the stress about whether they were OK.

Following up on my last post, kudos to my local True Value, which readily swapped the oil-filled radiator for a new one, despite my not having a receipt, box, et cetera. Unfortunately, the replacement heater died within 30 minutes. Rather than try for a third, I returned the replacement and used the credit toward a DeLonghi oil-filled radiator, which is keeping the boat toasty warm. (It actually got up to 75 last night and I had to turn it down because that is too warm for me!) The heated mattress pad continues to be fantastic; highly recommended for anyone wintering aboard. I have also been gifted a heated blanket, but haven't broken it out yet.

This past Saturday a fellow liveaboard on the other side of Eastport called me: "The pump out boat is running. It's heading under the Spa Creek bridge right now." I quickly got on the radio to hail them. The buildings between us made the connection spotty and they asked me to call on their cell. They put me on the list to visit as soon as they came to Back Creek. Yes, I clapped and jumped for joy because the pump out boat is running in winter! It's a liveaboard thing.

When I'm very stressed I tend to have these recurring nightmares that I'm surrounded by sharks. I've never actually seen one in the wild, but I have a paralyzing fear of them. I can't even swim in a swimming pool without looking behind me to make sure there aren't any. Seriously. Sometimes the sharks are circling and I have to get the cats, dog, and myself to shore from a sinking dinghy. Gratefully, I haven't had the shark nightmares in a while. But lately I'm having a new set of recurring nightmares. We're on the boat and awaken to find that someone has untied all our lines and set us adrift. It's too cold out to get the diesel engine started. I'm trying to navigate the boat adrift in a maze of a marina without colliding with anything. Who would be so cruel to us to set us adrift this way?

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Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.