Another December, another Miami Art Week

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Another Art Basel/Art Miami behind us, well almost, Sunday is the last day of the yearly event. It’s a thing called Miami Art Week where art is all over the city and tourists pour out of the woodwork.

The big thing this year was the $120,000 banana. Surely a publicity gimmick, but supposedly some artists sold a banana that was duct taped to the wall for that amount. It was the talk of the city, at our usual Friday night family night, everyone knew about it. I looked for it at the shows, but it got eaten by the time we arrived!

The one interesting and sad thing is that a couple of the Art Shows – Art Miami and Context are on the former site of The Miami Herald. The Herald moved out to western Miami-Dade County a few years ago and the site is now empty. So they put down pavement platforms and huge tents, larger than football fields, and the art shows go on once a year.

The view out back is spectacular because as was the case years ago, newspapers and factories and such were on the water for easy access by water and they occupied prime land. Now that land is open and spectacular and the Herald is on the other side of the airport somewhere. Long Island City, Queens and Brooklyn New York are like this, the old waterfront which was occupied by factories and such are now open to parks, restaurants and expensive condos. Society is reclaiming the waterfront, which was a dark, spooky place for so many years.

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A perfect day in Central Park

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We spent yesterday in Central Park and it was perfect – 60 degrees and sunny, you almost didn’t need a jacket.

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After a little searching, I came across my favorite piece of 1887 graffiti. It’s above the Bethesda Fountain, up the big flight of steps. I’m sort of hesitant to share it but I know you guys will protect it. As you can see here, a few jerks put graffiti near it and almost toughing it. It’s almost 133 years old, you can’t have anything nice. That “L” or whatever it is to the left is not part of the original 1887 thing and neither is the PJE below it.

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Fall in Central Park

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I have been busy, pumping out Hal and High Water strips. I’m almost ready to send them in to the syndicate. I’m going to NY at the end of the week for Thanksgiving week, so I hope to have the strips submitted by then.

I found this photo from last year. It’s the Bow Bridge in Central Park. You can’t see him him very well, but at the very end of the bridge is a guy playing an instrument. He’s all in black, see him just before you enter the bridge? I think it was a flute or a saxophone, I can’t remember. What I do remember is that I was trying to take a short video of him to put on Instagram and he kept turning his back to me. At first I thought it was coincidence, but then I realized, he didn’t want to be taped.

I usually tip these street/park musicians, especially when I take pictures or tape them, but I didn’t in this instance. So I never got him playing, but you can imagine being on the other side of the bridge and hearing his music in the distance, which brings me to this next photo.

This is incredible; the photo, but the experience.

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It was November 2015. I was in Central Park and saw this view in front of me. Amazing. As I sat there on a park bench, I heard Adele singing “Hello” faintly in the distance. It almost sounded like angels! I looked around and didn’t see anyone. “Hello” was released a month before, in October 2015, so it was played all over. So to hear it in the park was strange, but not so strange, but the strange part was hearing it in the distance on a cool Autumn day, with this beautiful scene before me, with no other people around.

After I took the picture and was leaving, as I turned a bend on the path, there was a hot dog vendor with his radio blaring “Hello.” That’s where it was coming from, wafting through the park. Sort of disappointing at that moment, knowing where Adele was coming from!

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Pumpkin and apple picking in the Hudson Valley

Earlier this month, I think on October 5, a couple of my cousins and I drove upstate from New York City. We went to Poughkeepsie and Highland, which are on either side of the Hudson River. It was the 10th anniversary of the Walkway Over the Hudson. It was originally a train bridge during World War II and 10 years ago, it was turned into a walking bridge, which spans the Hudson River and connects Highland and Poughkeepsie. The walkway is the world’s longest pedestrian bridge.

It’s an incredible walk, the walk itself, but I mean the view. We had hoped to see fall leaves, which I believe are red and yellow now, but October 5 it was still warm and the leaves hadn’t turned yet. But it was a beautiful day. So nice, so peaceful and it’s gorgeous up there.

We had lunch at a place on the river, drove over the other bridge, the Mid-Hudson Bridge, which takes car traffic, to get there.

The best part, or maybe just as great as the walkway was a stop at DuBois Farms, where we went pumpkin and apple picking. It’s a real farm with animals and so many other features like prepared food and drinks, weekend BBQ’s, a tavern on site and so much more – so beautiful, check them out here: duboisfarms.com.

This was the same week as NY Comic Con, so we went from that hectic scene, to the serene scene of the Hudson Valley. A perfect fall week.

Lots of super heroes at NY Comic Con

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I went back to NY Comic Con on Sunday, it was a bit gloomy on opening day, Thursday, I guess due to the rainy weather in NY, but on Sunday, it was really fun. There were thousands upon thousands of people there.

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And each year, the costumes and the co-play gets better and better. Spider-man seems to be the most popular and they all seem to congregate. This is only a few who were photographed together, before I took this photo, there were about a dozen or so.

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I try to capture the crowds, I posted videos on social media and it doesn’t do it justice, there are just so many people – all happy, all patient, you have to be in this crowd.

So another year has come to an end. Keep the NY Comic Con website handy and sign up for updates so you can get in on next year’s event: newyorkcomiccon.com. It comes up pretty fast.

NY Starbucks are a sitcom onto themselves

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There’s always something going on at Starbucks in New York. I guess it’s the same in Miami, at my Miami location, which is home, everyone knows everyone else, and sometimes there is one big conversation going on in the whole store, you know, sort of like an Andy Griffith episode. In New York it’s different, there are the regulars, but so many tourists pass through and there are so many stories.

It’s almost as if any Starbucks in New York could be a sitcom, or a comic strip!

The other night I went to Starbucks which is across the street from where I’m staying and I ended up drinking two wrong coffees! Why? Because there were three Toms there at the same time! There were only a handful of people there, so there weren’t many people to get confused with, but apparently there were three of us!

I ordered on the app as I usually do, I walked in and heard my name called so I took the coffee, but after I tasted it, it didn’t taste right, so they gave me another coffee named Tom; still wrong. Two Tom coffees, both wrong. I told the girl behind the counter what I had ordered – a cafe mocha with extra whipped cream, and she said, oh, this is for another Tom.

I said, “Another Tom? There are three Tom’s here ordering at this very moment?” She said, “Yes, we have a lot of Tom’s here tonight!”

This morning I went across the street for breakfast. I usually go to Pret A Manger every morning and get the same thing – coffee or green tea and oatmeal. But I ended up in Starbucks. And it was a madhouse, very crowded and crazy. I didn’t use the app because I don’t usually order green tea and oatmeal on the app so I thought it would be faster to order at the register rather than look for the items on the app. But it was quite confusing. There were three registers open with people yelling in orders from every direction.

I ordered and the lady handed me my tea. I guess I looked confused, but I was just wondering who was going to hand me the oatmeal. I must have really looked confused because a guy next to me waiting for his order said, “The milk and sugar is over there,” and he pointed behind us. I smiled and tapped him on the shoulder, you know, friendly-like, and I said, “I know, I’ve been here before,” meaning Starbucks, any Starbucks. He got a bit embarrassed and laughed but I explained to him I was just waiting for the oatmeal. It was a nice funny experience early in the morning.

I was handed my oatmeal, said goodbye to they guy who was still waiting, and left.

Beach life

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At the Bay side on Key Biscayne

Went to the beach today. According to my car, it was 105 degrees! You know for about 25 years, I went to the beach almost daily. When I was growing up, it never got past the mid 80s. Never.

I stopped by Key Biscayne today, which is/was one of my usual spots, along with Miami Beach. Usually I would go alone on weekdays and with my friends on weekends. Sometimes for an hour, sometimes for eight hours. Sometimes I would meet my friends and we would walk or run on the boardwalk on South Beach and then go drinking at Mac’s Club Deuce or places like that. Other times I would go to Crandon on Key Biscayne alone; sometimes Matheson Hammock. I have an alligator story about Matheson hammock that I’ll tell you some time.

There was a period where I would go to Key Biscayne alone and I made myself stay on the beach until I came up with two or three comic strip ideas, then I could go home.

I would stay until it got dark many times, then come home, shower, change and go to happy hour with my friends. Most of my life I lived as if I was on vacation or retired. I didn’t work many hours in a day, most days I worked an hour or two in the morning and was free the rest of the day. So many days I was done with work by 10 am. I want to go back to living like that again. Sometimes, when I stopped going daily, I would still go for maybe an hour once in awhile. I would grab lunch somewhere and sit at at picnic table at the shore and have lunch.

I now live near the beach, it’s a quick drive. Back then I had to drive sometimes long distances, but I would make that trek daily. Summer and winter. All times of the year.

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There was a period where I would go to 16th and Collins, right on the beach in front of the St. Moritz Hotel, the Loews Hotel is part of The St. Mortiz now and 16th Street is closed and part of the Loews property. The Loews wasn’t built then and 16th Street was open, so you could park there. It was so derelict that you would put money in any one of the parking meters and it would fall out at the bottom. It was just a regular street like the South Beach side streets are today. A street that ended at the edge of the sand/beach, on either side there were parking spaces and meter. Broken meters. My car got broken into there one time. It usually was only me at that beach and a few older people from the Charles Hotel which was nearby.

This old postcard above is how I remember the St. Moritz from the back, the beach side. It was desolate at the time, closed in the mid-80s. I don’t remember the pool, but I guess it was empty and covered. For some reason I just remember the hotel. I guess it was so far back from the shore that that is all I would see, the tall hotel. If you look at this second photo below, that is the same color blue I would see. This smaller image is from the front. I would park my car to the left of the front, which was 16th Street. Today it is closed and part of the Loews Hotel.

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My best friend Franco talked about buying the St. Moritz. It was just a dream of his. When I would lay at the beach at the shore but facing up at that hotel, I would notice that the two top windows had tinfoil on them, so I would imagine laying on the beach, looking up and seeing the tinfoil sparkle in the sun. That was Franco opening and closing the jalousies so that he could get my attention – sort of like a Bat signal, we didn’t have cell phones back then. That was my cue to come in from the beach to work my shift at the front desk. This of course all in my head, Franco never bought the hotel and I would just imagine it as I lay on the sand. If you look at the larger photo above, the one on the postcard, you can see the two top center windows I was speaking about.

One time as I was leaving the beach, I was in my car, and a traffic cop came up to me and said, “Do you want to be in a movie? If you do, drive naturally when the light changes.” They were filming the opening credits on Collins Avenue to the movie, “Making Mr. Right.” The movie came out in 1987, so this may have been one of my hey day years, 1986.

There really was no traffic in South Beach, which I don’t think was even called South Beach at that time, so they could just film a movie without really disturbing anything. It was the same with Miami Vice at the time. They would just shoot the show right there, mere feet from you. Even car chases on Ocean Drive were just a few feet away, I’m not sure how they got away with it.

One time they were filming at the Hare Krishna hotel, just off the boardwalk. I walked over with my friend jak and we were watching. I was leaning on a director’s chair watching, and my friend jak says, to me, “Isn’t that Karen Black?” I asked, “Where?” He said, “You’re leaning on her chair!” And it was Karen Black. It was that small of a town and homespun at that time period. Whenever I see the rerun of that episode I think of the Karen Black incident. It was an episode called, “Victims of Circumstance.”

If you look at the opening credits of Making Mr. Right you’ll see that car scene, that very day I was asked to be part of the traffic in the opening. I didn’t make the cut, but you can see that moment in time. The whole movie takes place during that period, so I like to watch it sometimes just for that. Speaking of credits, on the Miami Vice shot, it was the closing credits they were filming that time. At the very end, the Hare Krishnas come out from behind a wall as Crockett and Tubbs walk by them. When the last image is shown on tv, they literally froze the scene at the moment the Krishnas were coming out from behind the wall. The directors/producers whomever, screwed them out of their moment in the sun!

Crandon and Key Biscayne, was another world. It was like being on a tropical island. It was never busy during weekdays and the water was gin clear. There was hundreds, possibly thousands of palm trees. Key Biscayne or parts of it were a coconut plantation around the turn of the century, so it was paradise. I used to break open coconuts and rub the coconut milk on my body. Sometimes when I’m watching the tv shows Survivor or Naked and Afraid, it reminds me so much of that time and period.

South Beach, which wasn’t South Beach yet, was run down and old, just the way I loved it. We all knew each other before all the New Yorkers and party people came and overtook it in the 90s. Back in the 80s it was a small village, rundown and all ours, no tourists or wanna bes.

I was at a party once at the Versace mansion only it was not a mansion, it was a rundown apartment building. It was long before Gianni Versaci, there was an open courtyard surrounded by apartments where people lived. As you entered, there was a wrought iron spiral staircase where the big wooden door is now. There were no gates and no big door at the entrance, you would just enter the courtyard and go to the apartment you lived in.

I can go on and on, we had the run of Miami Beach, we were all over the place, we went to every dive bar on every side street, we hung out at the beach, Flamingo Park and everywhere in between. Lincoln Road was desolate then. You wouldn’t go there after dark, but during the day we hung out there. So many memories, I’m not sure why they are all flooding back now, but I’ll tell you more next time.

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