I think every writer has a Parisian fantasy that revolves around Shakespeare and Company. Opposite of Notre-Dame in the heart of Paris, there is no greater setting. Adding to the romance, this is the bookstore where James Baldwin hung out, where William Burroughs researched medical books for Naked Lunch, where Anaïs Nin drank Bordeaux straight out of the bottle, where Ernest Hemingway often showed up drunk, and where Allen Ginsberg howled naked.
Pumpkin and cinnamon are my least favorite flavors, so I never had a taste for fall…until I got lost in a field of sunflowers, rolled a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins and stood over a waterfall — all in one 70-degree day.
The same way you can’t not notice this building, you can’t not be moved by the collection. The National Museum of African American History and Culture feels like a sacred space. A Sunday school dedicated to celebrating the richness and diversity, as well as educating and preserving the hard truths, of the African American experience.
In January, I remember skimming over a news article that mentioned certain airports were screening for a new virus. Fast-forward to mid-March when coronavirus officially became the travel boogeyman and the U.S. State Department directed all citizens to avoid all international travel. Five months later, State has lifted the global Level 4 ban on certain countries. See if your next destination made it off the Level 4 list:
In the late nineties I cashed in a savings bond gifted to me by my godmother and used the $80 to pay for my first-ever flight. The trip was full of firsts: the first time I saw snow on the ground; the first time I got kicked out of a bar; the first time I saw the lights be turned on in a club to signal the end of the night. It was a thrill ride from the moment my cab drove on the sidewalk to when I stumbled into a comedy show headlined by Wendy Liebman to the simplest of delights of buying tulips at a corner shop.
After two decades, I returned to Boston. And in the span of a day, I rekindled my love for the City on a Hill. If you can spare 23 hours here, she may be able to charm you as well.
“How much do you weigh?”
To be safe, I added a couple of dozen pounds or so to the real number. This is an answer I often lie about in the opposite direction, but because it was being used to calculate the flight-worthiness of a seaplane holding six people currently indulging night after night on a cruise vacation, I was content with bulking up.
Good company, good wine, good welcome,
Can make good people.(Henry VIII, 1.4.6-7)
I boarded a small van with a group of strangers. We exchanged pleasantries and discovered that we were all in Tenerife for different reasons, some for pleasure others for business and me for a little of both. But it was our shared love of wine that was the reason for our paths crossing on this impromptu tour.
Public transportation in Miami is lackluster to say the least. And with long distances between points of interest, your best bet is to rent a car. I compiled a few tips on how to drive like a local, whether you’re landing in MIA or FLL.
Illustration by Explore Magazine
We were about to start our dinner when the notion of love at first sight was brought up. Our group went around the kitchen and shared their views, which ranged from a resounding rejection of the entire theory to a sweet and serendipitous how-we-met story.
Listen to Accent on Stonehenge:
His English accent thick with disdain for the way my Miami accent shortcuts words with too many consonants. To his refined ear, it sounded like I said ‘stonehetch,’ but I assure you, I know there’s a letter ‘n’ in there somewhere.
Listen to Penguins on Parade:
On Christmas Day in 2013 I was wheeled out of the Georgia Aquarium by two very nice people. One was a man named Met, as in I “met” you today, the day your back spasmed so intensely that it numbed your leg and rendered you paraplegic. The other was a woman named Halle who insisted on offering me an entrance voucher for a future visit, as I had only seen two exhibitions before my visit was cut short.
Between winces, I let her know that I had no plans to return. Ever. And she nodded her head and smiled even though I was being unreasonable.
Spread appeared in Explore Magazine
It was a familiar sensation. The feeling of complete surrender, the incessant giggling, and the particular sound that skating over pavement makes. It wasn’t until my toboggan reached the bottom of the five-kilometer hill that I remembered why. I had recreated my favorite childhood pastime (to the detriment of my mother’s nerves): riding a skateboard while being towed by a friend on a bicycle.
Cover photo courtesy of PBS
While Macchu Pichu is the more obvious attraction in Peru (and rightly so), I’ve always leaned toward forgoing the trek to the city in the clouds for an actual flight above the World Heritage-listed rectangles, triangles and swirls. And no, my fascination with this site does not involve a belief in the popular lore that these shapes somehow relate to alien life. I think it’s more amazing that human beings were able to accomplish this extraordinary feat.
Bermuda conjures up images of beautiful homes with its unique white roofs, crystal clear waters, iconic shorts and, of course, the pink sands that make their beaches more idyllic than your average tropical paradise. These pretty-in-pink beaches are all found along the island’s south shore between Horseshoe Bay Beach (my personal favorite) and Warwick Long Bay Beach. But what gives the sand its rosy hue? It’s the result from the blending of crushed shells, coral and calcium carbonate called red foraminifera.
I spend a lot of time writing about not being home, but if there every was a place that feels as familiar as an old sweater, a college dorm, a pot of chicken soup, and 1970’s linoleum flooring all rolled into one it’s New Orleans.
Traveling to Alaska for many is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, yet I’ve been lucky enough to keep finding my way back. On my last adventure, I took a small boat out to Sitka Bay where I met the acquaintance of a very handsome humpback whale…unfortunately he had awful breath.
The trees are not tall enough to obscure the Atlanta skyline, but that’s part of the Botanical Garden’s charm. It’s not an oasis from the city, it is very much the city. One minute you’re in the heart of midtown with music blaring from cars and the next you’re under a lush trellis looking at a dragon-shaped topiary.
The Garden’s cornerstone event is Garden Lights, Holiday Lights, now in its tenth year. It’s the perfect pick-me-up if you’re looking for Christmas cheer. Countless bulbs light up the garden, bringing a smile to even the grinchiest among us.
If you go: 1345 Piedmont Ave NE. Click here for directions and parking instructions.
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights: The 2020 version of this annual event features new safety protocols, so tickets are extremely limited. Get complete pricing, safety information and more.
Is the Membership worth it? : If you’re spending considerable time in Atlanta, I say splurge on the membership. The perks are nice and the family membership pays for itself in two visits.
“It is a land of love and wondrous beautyfrom The Prettiest Flowers by Tim Surrett
Where fragrant flowers ever will grow”
No matter how much of a city person you are, there is something magical that happens when you surround yourself in a lush landscape and bathe in the extraordinary colors of flowers in bloom. Luckily, in the Caribbean, you are never too far from being surrounded by natural beauty. Beyond the sun, sea and sand, the region also offers exquisite flora in must-visit botanic gardens and parks. These are a few of my favorite places that feature some of the most unique and picturesque vegetation in the world.
As a tribute to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2020 World Series run, I recall the moment I fell in love with the Blue Crew.
By birthright, I was told to pledge allegiance to the Cuban League team of Los Almendares, never the Habana baseball club. Later in my youth I was instructed to support our Cuban prince, José Canseco, and cheer on the Oakland A’s, even though we took great offense when he didn’t show up to his own street naming in Miami. Then, when Florida got a team it was all Marlins, all the time. It was the congeniality of Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, the drama of Alex Fernandez’s torn rotator cuff, and the mantra of “I love Miami,” by Liván Hernández after the unlikely 1997 World Series win. They broke up the team and broke our collective hearts, but then in 2003, they brought back Conine and added Mike Lowell and a young pitcher named Josh Beckett and struck gold again, this time against the Yankees. I remember hitting pots and pans all night on 49th Street in Hialeah. And I remember the team and my heart being broken again. So, I gave up on baseball all together…until I moved to the City of Angels.
For as long as I’ve known my wife, she has asked me for one thing and one thing only: a monkey.
Today I was supposed to be driving through Wyoming as part of an elaborate, multi-state road trip. From Yellowstone, my next stop would have been Grand Teton National Park, followed by Shoshone Falls in Idaho. But we all know what this year has done to our travel plans.
In honor of Pride month and our fifth year of marriage, enjoy a retelling of the odyssey of our wedding day.
Everything went silent. I couldn’t hear the officiant. I couldn’t hear the waves. I couldn’t hear the seagulls. I was in a complete sound vacuum, as I watched her lips. I wanted to absorb the moment she said, “I do.”
Everything up to that point was chaotic. A whirlwind of ridiculousness, from a late start to a long drive caused by a disastrous manicure to a traffic delay due to weather and hunger. All of this compounded by an additional 25-minute tour of all of Key West’s dead-end streets in an effort find our hotel, which was outside of the purview of our GPS, but somehow still under the control of President Truman.
From the moment we finally set our bags down in our room, we had exactly 30 minutes to get ready. Thirty minutes. Two brides. One bathroom.
“I need the eyeliner,” she said
I looked in the monster make-up bag I had packed just 5 hours prior. But there was no use, I knew the moment she said eyeliner that I forgot to pack it.
Nearly fourteen years of togetherness are all riding on getting through the next 19 minutes and counting. I was not about the let a shitty black crayon get in the way of marrying the woman I love. I contemplated a few options, like sticking one of her thin make-up brushes into the mascara tube or just handing her a pen.
“You’re not going to believe this,” I said, full knowing that she would believe it.
Profuse apologies followed and then her half-acceptance of them, but really, we didn’t have time to fight about eyeliner. We barely had time to look at each other. And every time we did, one of us would get teary-eyed, so I think it was a good thing we didn’t have the stupid eyeliner.
We made it to the beach exactly two minutes before our scheduled time, but our officiant was already there, which meant I didn’t have time to tell her all of the things I wanted to say. I couldn’t tell her that she looked more beautiful than ever. I couldn’t tell her that I loved her. I couldn’t thank her for planning this beach wedding because I was too much of a princess to get married in a courthouse where Alex Hanna was fighting traffic tickets at the next window. I couldn’t tell her that she made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I couldn’t apologize for forgetting to pack the eyeliner and all of the other countless stupid shit I do on an hourly basis. I couldn’t say a word. We were too busy making small talk and going over forms and making transactions.
And the more I desperately tried to slow down the moment, the faster it seemed to go. Before I could get my bearings we were under a palm tree holding each other’s hands. This was really happening. I was really marrying her. Officially. Legally. Forever.
I was asked to say, “I do” first. The words fell out of my head like the contents of a plastic Easter egg. Two words have never been said more clumsily. I could’ve as easily said, “Yeah, yeah.”
But now it was her turn. The person that swore marriage wasn’t for her. The person that argued the concept of marriage was antiquated and patriarchal. The person that even to this day feels like we are rushing into things when we make plans six months in advance. The most private person I know is now being asked to publicly affirm that she was completely cool with having a wife forever. For. Ever.
“I do,” she said in her softest, most graceful voice.
And with that my hearing returned. The roar of the ocean, the click of the camera, the officiant’s memorized speech about the significance of a ring. All of it came back and louder than ever.
Since then life has been just a little more bright and just a little more loud and just a little more perfect.
Here’s to another fourteen years…this time we get to be newlyweds.
“Your necklace may break, the fau tree may burst, but my tattooing is indestructible. It is an everlasting gem that you will take into your grave.” A verse from a traditional tattoo artist’s song
I was 19 when I got my first tattoo. I walked into a local shop, pointed to a design on a wall of renderings and unbuttoned my jeans. I wasn’t ready to show the world (let alone my parents) my skin art, so it was imperative to conceal my act of rebellion.
“What’s the corn dog one?”
It took me a few seconds to realize that my Anglo friend was referring to the picture of a croqueta.
Clearly, there’s a serious deficiency of ventanitas in Atlanta (and in L.A. for that matter) that pop out croquetas paired with cortaditos. That’s right, restaurants here do not have walk-up windows, which means there’s no such thing as having to elbow through a wall of viejos arguing about politics. That is a cultural experience exclusive to Miami…until now.
After much success with an adorable pink camper/food truck, Buena Gente is set to open their first brick and mortar Cuban bakery and sandwich shop in Decatur. While the pandemic has delayed their opening, you can already see their sign up over the location on Clairmont Road, in the same complex as the Po’Boy Shop and Ms. Icey’s Kitchen and Bar.
Last weekend I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Miami, so I reached out to them on a whim. They were kind enough to take my customized order of two boxes of twelve pastelitos — one for me and another for my “corn dog” friend. I thought it would be a good first step. A primer, if you will, before the lesson on croquetas.
The Power of Pastelitos
After surreptitiously picking up the pastelitos from behind the store (it was the most Miami thing I’ve ever done in Atlanta), I met up with my non-Cuban friends at the neighborhood park to make the drop (the second-most Miami thing I’ve ever done in Atlanta).
Extending the white box filled with goodies, through my mask I briefed them on the different shapes they were about to encounter:
“Circles are beef. Triangles are guava and cheese. The ones that look like cannoli are just cheese. And the squares are guava, but you’ll know that one because you can see it from the sides.”
I made them repeat it back to me like they were going to be quizzed on it for their Cuban citizenship exam. But just by merely having the box in their car they were already culturized, because we spent 45 minutes saying our good-byes. Muy cubichi.
Triangles Are My Favorite
The pastelitos are just the half of it. Once Buena Gente opens, the menu will include additional Cuban specialties like croquetas and empanadas as well as an expanded menu of Cuban sandwiches. Buena Gente will also serve Cuban-style coffee drinks and sodas. Hello, Jupiña!