Archive | November, 2012

Public Transportation: Stop Judging, You Judger and Enjoy the Ride

26 Nov

I am a child of privilege.  Due to the backbreaking hard work of both of my parents, I only have the very vaguest of memories of their struggles.

I do have some memories of hard times:  dinners being sparse, my father working A LOT, poverty and violence right next door.  However, now I am so far removed from it, it sometimes seems as if it all could have happened to someone else.

I have spent the better part of my life living in the suburbs.  I’ve never had to take a bus because I’ve always had my own transportation.  Besides that, South Florida has the WORST public transit system in the United States, I am pretty sure.  We have a large population and a pretty crappy way to get from place to place if you don’t have a car.  Unreliable bus service means you may get fired because you’ll probably be late.  So having a car is a necessity for gainful employment.

Except that now the gas is almost $4 a gallon and I have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to make it 13 miles to get to work.  On top of that, I have to pay to park at a parking lot which is $5 a day.  My friends, this commute has begun to wear on me and the sheer cost of it all is driving me bananas.

Which is why I’ve decided to take the Metrorail.  The Metrorail is an elevated train system that I would describe as a half-assed L Train.  I call it half-assed because it only transfers people around the downtown Miami areas.  These are not the beautiful areas you see on TV (South Beach), no.  These areas are where REAL Miamians live and make a living.

This train system only covers about 1/5 of the county area.  On top of that they built a new station at the Airport that not only DOES NOT have a parking garage for those of us who live West (the city is East), it has no connection to the beach.

I ask you, if you were a tourist, would you want to stay where the people are – in the middle of a crowded city, or right on our gorgeous beaches?  Exactly.

Anyway, I’m getting off subject here.

Basically, what I am saying is that in an effort to save some money AND my sanity, I’m taking the train.  I’m telling you, it’s been pretty great.  I can read a book, catch up on the news, listen to music, and I only have a 20 minute drive at the end of my trip.  All in all, it’s worth it.

Also, the trip in and of itself is pretty interesting, if you take the time to look.  That’s because since the train is elevated, you can see a lot of Miami when you zoom by far above it.  It’s a pretty great perspective.

To begin with, there’s a LOT of poverty.  As I float by, a few dozen feet above, I am filled with gratitude.  I have a steady job and so does my husband, we live in a nice home and are wanting for nothing.  The people down below, well their plight is a different one.  You can see the the run down homes, buildings and shoddy schools with the peeling paint.  They’re not so lucky.

If you look out the window and not in your book, you can see how close we all are.  Everybody has a story and everything can change in an instant.  That was my family just 30 years ago.  Living paycheck to paycheck (if we could get one), trying to find a way to get food on the table, just trying to get by.  It’s a good reminder for me, to understand how good I have it and how quickly that can all change.

My companions on the train are from all walks of life, too.  There’s the nurse going to work, the TSA agent heading home from the airport, the young mother with three kids all stuffed into a stroller.  Everyone has someplace to be, and the train gives us an affordable way to get there.

It’s an interesting slice of life I get to observe as we clang along the metal tracks, and I like it.  We’re all in this together, us Miamians.  Trying to make it through day to day, whatever way we can.

What I’m saying is that by riding public transportation you’re not in your car isolated from the city and its people, you become a part of it all. And I’m enjoying that experience, so far.

Voting in Miami: Pastelitos con Votos

7 Nov

Pastelitos: Pastelitos are a common cuban pastry which can be savory or sweet. They are made with puff pastry and stuffed with meat (savory!), or guava with cheese and sometimes coconut (mi favorito!)

Voting in Miami is very tricky.  The lines are very long (I waited for 2 hours, hubby for 4!) and it can get very hot very quickly -I’m not talking about the weather, either.

If you know a Cuban, you probably know their politics.  It’s Red Republican, 100% and at high volume, but then again everything here is at an elevated decibel level.  So you learn not to take it personally.

But sometimes people can really surprise you.  In my voting precinct, it is VERY crowded and VERY Republican, yet somehow yesterday – I was not subjected to the angry tirades I’d experienced in the past.

I showed up at the polling location at 6 am, and I was the 50th person in line.  Not too bad, I thought.  I’ll be out of here by 7:30, the latest.   It was still dark out, but I was able to find a parking spot.  I had a book, a cup of coffee, and my trusty iPhone to keep me company.

Around 6:30, a gentleman in a black t-shirt began to walk down the line (which was now probably up to 100 people) and began passing out a tray of pastelitos.

“Pastelitos, gratis!” he exlaimed.  (“Free pastelitos!”)  He was smiling at each person, encouraging them to take a pastelito from his plate.  Everyone in line was laughing and smiling at each other – we were just so pleased to see someone be generous for no reason.  He wasn’t from a political party, he just wanted to do something nice for all the earlybirds who came out to make sure their vote was counted.

This encounter warmed our spirits so much, and through our sugar-infused giggles, I had a wonderful two hour conversation with two people in line behind me.  We discussed our families, where we were from (Ecuador for him, Nicaragua for her) and where we wanted to live eventually.  We were careful not to discuss politics and kept our conversation on firm middle ground.

I could gather which way each was leaning (him for Obama, she was for Romney), but for the most part I just really enjoyed their company and was heartened to spend the morning chatting with two American Citizens who had a real interest in their country.  And they were warm, friendly and respectful – I haven’t encountered that in a very long time.  It was a pleasure.

Senor Pastelitos did a good deed that morning, he reminded all of us that we can agree on something:   pastelitos are delicious and being an American is pretty great.

Halloween is my favorite holiday

2 Nov

When I was a little girl, we didn’t have much money.  More than anything I wanted a store bought Halloween costume.  The Tinkerbell costume with the plastic face mask that would get all sweaty and hot, I wanted that.  Actually, I wanted anything that could be bought at a store, but that was rarely the case.  Most of my clothes were hand me downs from my older cousins and my parents never took us out to eat – McDonald’s was a rare treat and not the cheap daily staple of most of my classmates.

In any case, my mother was two things:  1) mindful of the fact that most of the year her kids went without a lot of “extras” and 2) a fantastic seamstress.

My mother made all of our bathing suits, our Easter outfits, and a lot of our clothing.   So every Halloween we were allowed to pick one thing we wanted to be and my mother would get herself to the cloth store and make it happen.

My sisters were the really clever ones with their costumes, I always wanted to be something “cute” or “adorable.”  I so very much wanted to be the pretty sister, so I was very middle-of-the-road with my choices.  In other words I was the following:  Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie; Madonna; Harem Girl; Tinkerbell, etc.  So boring, right?  My youngest sister was the following:  a cockaroach; the family dog, a Rottweiler; a skunk.   She’s the weird, cool one of the group, for sure.

As I get older I am less concerned with being “beautiful” or “cute” when I choose my Halloween costume.  If anything, I just want to make a statement.  And more than that, I want everyone around me to enjoy my costume and get a kick out of Halloween.

This year was no different.  Hubby let me throw a ridiculous Halloween Party and we went with the theme of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  The front room was the “Castle,” and we transformed the hallway into the “Haunted Forest.”   And in keeping with my theme, my costume was the Evil Queen.

For the costume I pulled together several different costumes to create the dress, and adorned my tiara with red skulls, which looked like red apples upon first look.

As you can see, I am totally in the spirit of the holiday. 

We had a blast – our guests didn’t leave until almost 4 am, with some people crashing in the guest room.  In fact, our dog was exhausted for the next 48 hours which leaves me very tempted to throw another party this weekend just to tucker her out.

That is one tired pup!

The actual day of Halloween, I dressed up for an event at my office.   I wanted to do something fun and whimsical that would bring some laughs to the entire office.  Now think, what is the one thing that is always whimsical, funny and brings a smile?

The Muppets of course!  Specifically . . .

It was a great day, and I am going to quote my darling niece here when I say, “I wish Halloween was every day!”