Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Avoid Packing and Yet Still Spend Time Wisely

14 December 2008

So, I’m moving out of my house in a week from tomorrow. In order to make the experience as painful as possible, I have of course found interesting ways to avoid the actual business of packing not least among them a renewed love of the sartorial arts.

Regard my latest projects:

A pair of gator p.j. pants for Jon. I learned how to do button holes for these. I also learned that when dealing with a one-way pattern, one should not cut the pieces out two at a time. That’s okay- Jon didn’t even notice that one side of his jammies is upside down!

A hanging bag. I made this for a friend (who shall remain nameless as she reads this blog of mine) who is the only person I know with a clothesline. I mean a real, outdoor, I’m hanging my clothes on the line, clothesline. We were shopping and saw a really cute bag for clothespins but it cost like 50 bucks!! I told her I could make one for her, so I did. Except… I think it’s too cute to keep on the line outside! So, I made her another one out of a tea towel (much sturdier and easier to clean) and am keeping this one to put unmentionables in.

That’s it. I had to pack the sewing machine. Maybe I’ll find a friend in Paris with a penchant for handcrafts. If not, I’ll just deal with it. I’ll live. I guess.

Max, The Anarchist

13 December 2008

Now for another pre-adventure adventure. Jon and I moseyed (Wow! I just learned how to spell this word) on down to St. Augustine yesterday to celebrate his birthday (better late than never, I always say). We started out in the late afternoon at our favorite bar, The Milltop, where we enjoyed a nice pint of lager. Even though it was quite chilly, we sat outside, because we love the view of the Old Fort lawn at sunset. I wasn’t really feeling the beer vibe though, so we moved on to Stogies, a wine and cigar bar down on Charlotte Street. It is very dark in there. It smells of a humidor (not a bad scent). It is not unpleasant in the least, especially since we made the acquaintance of the barkeep, Max, a young man baring a striking resemblance to Jonny Depp (in his skuzzy days; although having to point this out is probably unnecessary because when has the man not been skuzzy?). We ordered our wine, which Max poured from a new bottle (huge pour) and took a seat on the cozy leather couch in the corner. Upon ordering our second glass of wine, we began chatting with Max, as he was the only other person in the place. Boy, are we glad we did!

There are many things I learned in the two hours we spent in Stogies. First, Max is not a stingy bartender- he had to open a new bottle to fill up both of our glasses the second time! Next, I do not like being in an establishment that allows smoking, something I realize I will have to get over pretty darn quick what with moving to Paris where anyone who doesn’t smoke is regarded as a complete social incompetent (I’m doomed). Next, contrary to previous thought, I like fancy beer. I learned this because our friend, Max, began to chat about brew with Jon. Now Jon knows a thing or two about beer. Realizing this, Max offered to share with us a bottle of Unibreu’s 16th anniversary vintage. When poured into a glass, it had a red color and the taste… sublime. I actually liked it!!

The next thing I learned was that our new friend, Max, is quite the character. He is 21 and completely off the grid, so to speak. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, a t.v., or a phone. He grew up in the Arizona desert. He’s a philanthropist and, did I mention, an anarchist? He told us he spent several months in New Orleans helping to gut houses after Katrina hit. Doesn’t that seem like an oxymoron? A philanthropic anarchist? He had some crazy stories, many of which centered on the interesting things that happened to him because of his association with this anarchist group for whom he was volunteering. For instance, he was not supposed to show any ID to the cops because under the martial law in force at the time they could arrest him just for working with these people! Needless to say, our conversation with Max was the most interesting one we’ve had in quite a while.

In the end, I learned from Max that meeting new people is going to be one of the great experiences of our adventure. So, here’s to Max, the anarchist. Thanks for teaching me a thing or two.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What To Do In Miami When It's Cold.

And thus the European Adventure begins! And what better place than in a city that feels so international as to cause one to wonder if she is still in the US when walking its streets? Miami. Jon and I made the trek down to Neverneverland on Monday in order to brave the great bureaucratic process known as “Applying for a Visa.” We thought we were in for a great deal of heartache and hair pulling, and thus had put this part of our preparations off for as long as possible. But, seeing as how the entire year abroad thing hinges on this one particular detail, we really needed to go. So we did.

Monday, Dec 1. The drive down was uneventful (other than almost dying, twice, on I-95). Thanks to our trusty Garmin GPS device (we like the Australian accented computer voice lady), we were able to find the French consulate quite easily. Because of my infinite, almost OCD desires, I felt this was necessary to do. I didn’t want Jon wandering around downtown Miami the next morning when he was supposed to be waiting in line for his visa. Upon spying the HUGE tower in which resides the consulate, we went to the hotel, threw our stuff down, and headed over to South Beach.

What a dream of pastel and neon is Ocean Drive! I loved all of the Art Deco buildings, and it really is fantastic the way the city planners (or whoever is in charge of this sort of thing) are holding true to the original feel of the place when renovating and restoring. We walked along the beach side of the street and then stopped at a hotel called The Tides for a pre-dinner cocktail. Let me just say that two glasses of bubbly and 5 ham croquettes should never cost 50 dollars. But they did. At least the people watching was stellar: complete with two members of the Wu-Tang Crew (Jon says I’m crazy, but I swear they were rap stars, or at least they thought they were), a very old man and his much younger lady friend (we’re talking George Burns old), and a young couple in bikini and swim shorts. It was no warmer than 60 degrees out. Perhaps they were from up north.

The first night in Miami culminated in a trip over to Coral Gables to sample the wares at Ortanique on the Mile, a restaurant we’d seen featured on the very cool show, “After Hours,” on the Mojo Network: The menu claims to be “an eclectic fusion of different nations and their natural bounties.” While the interior was beautiful, the service was mediocre and the food was so heavily spiced one lost track of its natural flavors. All in all, a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, Dec 2. And so we arrived at “Go Time.” Jon got up at 7 am, dressed well, took his fully appointed briefcase (The almost-OCD struck again: I made sure everything the French government could ever want to know about him was included in the contents of his visa application folder, down to when he learned to pee-pee in the potty and who his favorite action hero is. We’re dealing with the people who invented bureaucracy here! ) and walked himself down to the Consulate. He was there at 8:30 am. We had heard in our research of this whole visa process that the lines could be quite long. Jon got there before the employees did! There were no lines. There was no wait (other than the initial, wow there’s no one here yet, wait). There were no questions asked of my husband other than, “How would you like to pay?” It could not have gone more smoothly. He was out by 9 am and told to come back the next day after 2:30 pm to pick up his visa. Voila! Now the fun began… how to kill time in Miami Beach when it’s cold out. Hmmmmm.

So we did what any self-respecting young scamps do when there’s not enough sun for bathing, we went drinking! We drove down to the Lincoln shopping area (a real mall in the European sense, as in- strolling territory with outside shops, cafes, fountains, etc.), wandered around a bit, stopped at a café or two (or four) and had some cocktails. We also saw the movie “Australia”- we had HOURS to kill.

Around dinner we wandered back down to South Beach. It was COLD. Cold for Miami, cold for Florida, whatever. People were walking around in fur coats, for God’s sake! I think that was a little extreme, but I did see the necessity of purchasing a jaunty hat at Anthropologie to keep my noggin warm. Hat on head and husband in hand, we stopped at this place called News Café for a drink. All of a sudden, our lovely people-watching reverie (we sat at a table right on the sidewalk of Ocean Ave) was interrupted by loud music coming from the street next door. A woman was singing jazz standards with the help of a huge band. People were sipping champagne all around us. What the hell was going on? A street party! The 20th anniversary of this joint and they were celebrating with a party complete with live entertainment, fireworks, and free champagne all night long! The luck!!!! Needless to say, the sipping turned into swilling from all parties involved as the night wore on. I saw men stealing bottles of pink bubbly from underneath the service tables. I saw two drag queens: one who was at least 6’5” and another who was quite chunky with a huge blond beehive wig and looked a lot like Martin Sheen. I saw vagrants break-dancing. It was a veritable feast for the eyes. It was a hell of a good time. I dubbed it an auspicious start to our year of adventures.

Wednesday, Dec 3. Nursing champagne headaches, we decided to get some real food and drove over to Little Havana to Versailles Café, apparently a famous Cuban restaurant (although why they chose a name that hearkens to French fare is beyond me). Delicious!!!!! We wanted to order everything on the menu. But, we decided to be reasonable and settled for Navy Bean Soup and Cuban sandwiches. Oh, and the sampler appetizer with croquettes, fried yucca, plantains, and something else I couldn’t pronounce but that tasted incredible. Bellies full, we managed to wander over to the café where I had to buy guava pastries. I’m a sucker for guava anything. If I lived near this place, it would be a problem. Trust me.

It was time to pick up the visa, which we did. Then time to head on home, which we did as well. All in all, we had a great trip. The complete lack of any sort of nonsense or imposition of Donovan Law (think Murphy’s Law, only catered specifically to those of the Donovan Clan. Seriously. Ask my brother.), I think, bodes well for our entire year. Hopefully the adventure gods will continue to shine upon us as we continue down this path. Ole!