Category Archives: 5 Minute Read

A Magic City Grown From the Garden of a Female Visionary

“On February 6th 1895, Florida was visited by the most devastating freeze in the state’s history. Virtually all of the state’s citrus groves were wiped out. Coconut palms as far south as Palm Beach were killed. The freezing temperatures did not reach Miami, however, and Mrs. Tuttle, who lived at Fort Dallas, site of onetime fort on the Miami River during the Seminole Indian wars, was quick to seize the advantage. Snapping a twig of green leaves and fragrant, white blossoms from an orange tree in her garden, she sent it to Flagler, then in St Augustine, together with a renewal of the offer she had made earlier.” – Nixon Smiley, Yesterday’s Miami

In 1893, Julia Tuttle asked Henry Flagler to extend his railway down to Miami from Palm Beach. He declined at the time, as there wasn’t much in Miami aside from primitive landscapes and wilderness. But Mrs. Tuttle had a vision for Miami that was far greater than an old fort. 

Luckily for us, Mother Nature intervened in 1895. Even though she had already heard the word ‘no’ from Henry Flagler years earlier, Julia Tuttle persisted. The simple act of sending Mr. Flagler clippings from her garden in Dallas Park (photographed below) was the birth of the Magic City. It wasn’t as simple as that, though. 

Dallas Park, home of Mrs. Julia Tuttle, originally stood between Southeast Second and Miami Avenue facing the Miami River. (Public Domain Photo)

As part of their deal, Mrs. Tuttle gave Flagler part of her land on the north bank of the Miami river so that he could bring his railroad and the Royal Palm Hotel into the budding city. She died just a couple years later in 1898, so she wasn’t able to see her vision for the city come to fruition.

Even though she was friends with the famous Rockefellers and a true visionary, most of the credit of Miami’s founding is given to the men that she had to convince of its potential. The city was almost named after Henry Flagler, but the name Miami won by a slim margin when put to a vote. 

Why was there never a vote to name Miami after Julia Tuttle? Probably because she was a woman. After all, she didn’t even have the right to vote at the time. 

The north bank of the Miami River circa 1890 (Public Domain Photo)

Miami is the only major American city founded by a woman. Many of our would-be historic sites have been lost to industrialization and development, so we seem to overlook our own history. However, if there’s any color that represents our city, it’s green. After all, it was the green clippings from Julia Tuttle’s garden that convinced Henry Flagler that Miami was a gem hidden behind the mangroves between Palm Beach and Key West.

If you think about it, taking a selfie on Miami Beach in the middle of winter has some historical significance. Is it really that different from what Mrs. Tuttle did in 1896 to show the advantages of living in an American city with a tropical climate?

It’s important for us to remember that Mother Nature played a role in the birth of the City of Miami, because she can just as easily play a part in the city’s demise if we’re not careful. This city wouldn’t be recognizable to the mother that gave birth to it. What was once a crystal clear river with an old fort on its banks is now a murky waterway filled with plastic and human waste.

Miami is still a beautiful place that we are lucky to call home. But we have to bring the city back to nature, as it was before steam engines, cocaine cowboys and high rises took over the landscape.

An aerial view of the Julia Tuttle Causeway in 1960 (Public Domain Photo)

Every Miamian owes Julia Tuttle a debt of gratitude for seeing the potential of our city before anyone else. More importantly, though, for seizing the opportunity that Mother Nature presented her to make her persistent vision a reality.

You can pay your respects to the Mother of Miami at her final resting place in the Miami City Cemetery at 1800 Southeast Second Avenue. She might appreciate some fresh clippings from your garden or a shout out as you drive over the Julia Tuttle Causeway on your way to Miami Beach.


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Houseplants: An Affordable Way to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

At the beginning of the year, we want to detoxify our lives after the excesses of the holidays. We eat clean, exercise and focus on our health more than any other time of year. But one aspect of our overall health is often overlooked: the indoor air quality in our homes.

Indoor Air Quality and Why It’s Important

As we’ve seen in Flint and countless other places around the world, the quality of the water we drink is directly related to our overall health. That’s why we invest in water filtration systems from companies like Brita and PUR. But what can we do to filter the air we breathe every day?

We love our electronics and household products, but they emit chemicals that can be hazardous to our health. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) come from many unlikely sources, including air fresheners, cleansers and disinfectants. Exposure can cause short term and long term health effects as listed on the EPA’s website.

“EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.”

The quality of the air we breathe directly impacts our quality of life. And we spend most of our time at home.  The Florida Department of Health recommends several companies that can check the quality of your indoor air. But most of us don’t have a budget for fancy air purifiers or new AC units. Luckily, NASA offers a more practical solution: add houseplants to the environment to process VOCs and pump out fresh oxygen.

A post shared by NASA (@nasa) on

NASA’s Clean Air Study

In the 1980s, NASA conducted several studies to find an efficient way to remove VOCs from indoor air. They concluded that root systems of certain houseplants do a good job of cycling the chemicals in the air and pumping out clean air naturally.

Thanks to NASA’s research, we now have an affordable (and aesthetically pleasing) way to purify our indoor air. Most houseplants cost as little as lunch at a fast food restaurant. Just one small plant can help purify the air in 100 square feet. They’re also pretty easy to take care of. How’s that for a value proposition?

Best Affordable Houseplants to Purify Your Indoor Air

NASA studied many different types of houseplants and determined that some do a better job than others. Among the top performers for air purification are the Peace Lily, Boston Fern, Spider Plant, Dracaena Janet Craig and Snake Plant.

Golden Pothos, Dracaena Marginata and Fiddle Leaf Figs are also great plants for air purification. These are used a lot by interior decorators, so adding them to your space will also bring some contemporary style to your home decor. You can find most of these houseplants at the garden center at your local Home Depot or Lowes.

If you’re in Miami, check out Midtown Garden Center in Wynwood. They offer a beautifully curated selection of affordably priced plants for inside and outside your home. It has a cool local vibe, with food trucks, classes and entertainment. Many of the plants listed by NASA to purify your indoor air can be found there.


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How to Fight Climate Change Using Social Media

I’m sick of hearing grim statistics about the oceans dying and biodiversity declining without doing anything about it. I figure social media is a good place to start since it won’t cost me much. Plus, I can reach more people there than I can anywhere else.

What Can I Actually Do to Help Protect the Planet?

Watching documentaries and hearing news reports about the effects of climate change can be disheartening. The oceans are becoming less and less hospitable to life. Sea levels are rising. We’re already experiencing super storms and record temperatures. 

As a Miami Beach resident, climate change is more than just a scientific theory to me. It’s a call to action. Most of this city will be underwater soon without a dramatic change in how we live our lives. Like most Miamians, I don’t want the city that holds all of my memories to be washed away with the rising tides.  

Mother Nature gave birth to the City of Miami and we owe it to her to pay it forward.

But what can I actually do to fight climate change? Being upset about the Paris Climate Agreement isn’t enough. The 2018 elections are still months away. What can I do now to help save Miami from being lost forever?

The CLEO Institute: Miami’s Only Climate Change Non-Profit

The mission of The CLEO Institute is climate change education, information and advocacy. It’s the only 501(c)(3) in Miami that is focused solely on climate change. Caroline Lewis, the organization’s Founder and Executive Director, introduces us to The CLEO Institute’s work in the short video embedded above. 

We all have our own reasons to care about the planet. For me, it’s to protect the beauty and the bounty of nature. The Industrial Revolution has allowed us to advance as a civilization, but it has also had an adverse effect on the environment. This needs to be addressed by our elected officials and business leaders.

I don’t want the coral reefs I saw when I went snorkeling as a kid to disappear forever. I want to be able to buy a home in Miami without worrying about its value plummeting or flood insurance costs rising. I want to live a sustainable life in Miami and have something to hand down to the next generation. 

My Social Media Initiative to Fight Climate Change in Miami

I decided to put up or shut up after watching The CLEO Institute’s YouTube video. Since it’s January and most people are paying off holiday debt, I came up with a social media initiative to help support the organization this month.

I just donated $25 (the cost of my average takeout order) to The CLEO Institute. It’s not much, but it’s an amount that most people can afford, even after the holidays. I’ve asked my friends on social media to match my donation.  And if money is tight, I’ve asked them to be generous with social media shares and likes. This is another form of currency that can be just as valuable to the mission of the organization.

The CLEO institute’s social media accounts are linked below. Please take a moment to like and share their content with anyone that wants to fight climate change in Miami and beyond!

Follow The CLEO Institute on Social Media

Thank you for liking and sharing! Click here to match my $25 donation to The CLEO Institute!


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16 Signs You Might Be Super Miami

We’ve all wondered it at some point. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or moved here recently, the question will inevitably pop into your head: am I being super Miami right now? Millions of people call Miami home, but some of us are way more Miamian than others. These 16 signs will help you identify just how Miami you are.

16. You Use the Word Super for Everything

Many outsiders characterize Miamians by overusing the words bro and like, but like, seriously –  the word that really gives us away is super. In Miami, nobody’s gonna tell you you’re being wicked or hella loud. Here, you’re being super loud. Or super rude. You can pretty much be super anything here.   

15. You’ve Made It Through a Hurricane

Part of the deal that comes with living in Miami is coping with hurricane stress. It starts with local news stations go into 24-hour coverage mode while we all race to fill up our gas tanks and stock up on drinking water. And then, as soon as the winds die down, the real struggle begins – waiting for your electricity to come back on. This year Hurricane Irma ushered in a new group of locals that have weathered a storm together. And for those who evacuated – bro, what happened to ‘305 till I die?’

14. You Love Publix Subs

There’s a new staple of Miamian cuisine that the natives have an abnormal obsession with: Publix subs. There’s such a hunger for these cold cut sandwiches that you might even become a victim of online order theft if you don’t get to the deli quick enough to pick yours up.

A post shared by #Power96 📻 Miami (@power965) on

13. You’ve Made a Power 96 Mixtape

If you were listening to music in Miami before iPods and Spotify, you probably made at least one mixtape of your favorite songs on Power 96, 99 Jamz or 94.9 Zeta. Back in the day, you had to hold down the record and play buttons on the cassette deck at just the right time to add a song to your playlist. It’s probably why downloading songs on Limewire and burning CDRs as your computer was infected with a trojan virus seemed like a good idea in the early 2000s.  

12. You Once Loved Going to Sunset Place

If you lived here at the turn of the century, you witnessed South Miami become the epicenter of suburban entertainment. The Bakery Center, a mall that was torn down in the 90s, was replaced with the Shops at Sunset Place in 1999. With a Rainforest Cafe, a Virgin Megastore and a movie theater with stadium seating, it was a magical place to spend your Friday night as a teen.  

11. You Know What a Fifteens Is

Another interesting part of being a teen in Miami was dancing fifteens. No, this isn’t a drinking game. It’s how teenagers referred to taking salsa lessons on the weekends to dance a rueda at a friend’s Quinces – ‘I’m dancing a fifteens.’ Another way to celebrate turning 15 as a Miami girl back in the day was by booking a fifteens cruise. They became a big part of the teenage social calendar after school let out for the summer.

10. You’ve Gone to the Youth Fair

Nothing unites Miamian youth more than their excitement over going to the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition. You may have had a school project that won you a blue ribbon at the Youth Fair. Or maybe you just went for the elephant ears and carnival rides. Whatever the reason, it was the fair – be there. Extra points if you’ve spent a good amount of time at Santa’s Enchanted Forest – at Tropical Park, on Palmetto and Bird Road.

9. When Someone Says “The Bar” You Think “The Bar”

For tourists, checking out the local bar scene usually only takes them as far as Miami Beach and Downtown. If you ask a Miamian for a bar recommendation, chances are they will mention places like Bougainvillea’s in South Miami, The Bar in Coral Gables and Tavern in the Grove.

8. The Keys Are Still The Keys

DJ Khaled has put Miami back on the map when it comes to music megastars in residence. But when a Miamian hears you speak of keys, the first question we ask ourselves is: Elliot Key, Key Biscayne or the Keys, keys?

7. You Know Where To Cheat on Your Diet

You can find just about every fast food chain in Miami. There’s a McDonald’s and Taco Bell in pretty much every neighborhood. But if you’re looking for a Miamian eating a cheat meal, check Arbetter’s Hot Dogs, Taco Rico or The Big Cheese. These are the places you go when you want to indulge in local comfort food.

6. Kendall Is a Part of Your Life

For many Miamians, life begins and ends in Kendall. And if you’ve lived in this city long enough, chances are you’ve had at least one family member or one doctor’s appointment in the most Miami neighborhood of them all. Just like any other American suburb, it’s abundant in strip malls, hospitals and chain restaurants. What truly sets Kendall apart is the ridiculous traffic and attitude you have to deal with to visit any of these places.

5. Croquetas Come Before Cafecito

A cafecito from a Cuban bakery is as synonymous with Miami as the beach is. But the one thing Miamians long for more than sweet espresso is the deliciousness of a ham croqueta. Whether you prefer the ones from Gilbert’s, Versailles or Islas Canarias, you can’t deny that there’s nothing like a freshly fried croquetica.

4. You’ve Rented In the Beach

Miami Beach is a tourist destination for visitors from around the world – including mainland Miami. Our staycations, or renting as we call it, usually mark an occasion like prom, homecoming, a birthday, or any activity that seems like much more fun when you’re on vacation.

3. You Know Where Joe Robbie Stadium Is

You don’t have to know exactly who Joe Robbie was to consider yourself a true Miamian. But if you’ve never heard of the Orange Bowl or Joe Robbie Stadium, you haven’t lived in Miami long enough. These stadiums are a big part of Hurricanes, Dolphins and Marlins history before Marlins Park and Hard Rock Stadium.

2. You Have a Miami Accent

You can pass someone on the street here city and not really know where they are from. That is, until they open their mouth to speak. Like being from Brooklyn or the Valley, being from Miami is most easily distinguishable by the native dialect. So, if you want to know if someone’s from here, get them to say a word with the letters A and L in it. It’s a dead giveaway for someone with a Miami accent. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s pretty contagious.

1. Miami Traffic Is Terrible, But You Put Up With It

As Miamians, we’re usually proud to say we’re from here. Some would argue we say it too much. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a native that hasn’t had a meltdown while sitting in traffic on the Palmetto, US1, 836 or I-95. Miami traffic spares no one. No matter what app you use or how much you love living here, you will fantasize about moving to a city with better public transportation if you’re stuck in your car during rush hour. But as soon as you get home, you forget all about your empty threats to leave because you just can’t quit this Magic city.  

Being super Miami is something that most of us wear as a badge of honor. But if for some crazy reason you’re ashamed of how Miamian you are, stick a croqueta in your mouth. Nobody can hear your Miami accent if your mouth’s full of deep-fried deliciousness.


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Timex Weekender with Olive Nylon Strap

Timex Weekender with Olive Slip-Thru Strap Watch Review

Model number: T2N651
Analog Quartz Watch
38mm Case Diameter
20mm Lug Width
Olive Nylon Slip-Thru Strap
Round Cream Dial
Full Arabic Numerals & 24-Hour Military Time
Polished Silver-Tone 38mm Case
Indiglo Light-Up Watch Dial
Water resistant to 30m (100ft)

Pros
Well Priced
Stylish Color Combination
Indiglo Luminescent Display

Cons
Overly Polished Case
Pin Holes, Strap Show Wear
Not Submersible in Water

Timex Weekender Lume Shot

Timex Weekender Lume Shot

The Timex Weekender T2N651 with olive-colored nylon strap is designed for someone with classic style that is looking for an inexpensive, but stylish, quartz watch with an interchangeable strap. Even though you can’t go swimming with it on your wrist, it’s still worth the price. You can order a set of NATO-style straps and just replace the original once its pin holes look worn. The Indiglo lume really sells it because other watches at this price point are no good in the dark.

This is the type of watch you wear with denim and rolled-up sleeves. Its design is military-themed, with a highly legible 24-hour display. The red seconds hand perfectly balances out the coloring of this watch against the neutral, cream-colored dial. The shine on the polished case is the only thing that detracts from this model’s overall style. A matted case with a similar silver tone would make it look twice as expensive.

After almost a year of wearing it about once a week, the only signs of age are the loose threads on the pin holes and at the end of the strap. It ticks a little loudly, but you can’t really hear it unless you hold the watch close to your ear. Overall, it’s accurate and stylish enough to look like it’s worth more that you bought it for.

Follow the link below to shop this style now on Amazon:

Timex Weekender Olive Nylon Slip-Thru Strap Watch

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

Cara Barret, A Voice for Women in Horology

In a recent interview with The New York Times for their Men’s Style section, Hodinkee writer Cara Barrett answers questions about what it’s like being a woman in the world of wristwatches. With the website’s readership almost exclusively male, it presents an interesting question about why watch collecting seems to be a male-dominated activity.

In the interview, Barrett shares the experience of receiving backlash for referring to a 36 millimeter Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece as a woman’s watch based on its case size. The idea that anyone would take offense to an inanimate object being labeled as such sounds archaic, especially considering the fact that blog readers tend to be younger and ostensibly more nuanced than those who read the paper. However, it seems that the views of these blog commenters fall more in line with baby boomers than millennials.

It is no secret that watchmakers cater their sales and marketing toward men. Most of their offerings for women are shiny jewelry pieces with limited complications and maximum bling. While they hire female brand ambassadors, like Lindsey Vonn shown above wearing a blinged-out yellow gold Day-Date, they are always outnumbered by their male counterparts. You may see one of these women wearing a wristwatch model marketed to men, but even that can cause rumblings on forums and comment threads from men dubbing the model too feminine.

Barrett also comments about the lack of female executives in the watchmaking industry, something that I can attest to after reviewing annual reports from leaders in the Swiss watchmaking industry. This is something that is true across many industries, though, even those that sell products designed and marketed for women. The same can be said about minorities represented on these executive boards, too.

The conclusion I have come to about the lack of women represented in the world of horology is that it is simply a matter of positioning. There is no incentive for these companies to strive for gender equality in their advertising campaigns because doing so will alienate the part of their current customer base that doesn’t believe that women are in fact equal to men.

With the industry trying to recover from a steep decline in sales over the past few years, these companies will likely continue to only make room for sexy supermodels and female athletes that act as little more than cheerleaders for their brands because giving their products macho appeal will result in a higher return on investment. However, watch geeks like Cara Barrett make the future of watch collecting more inclusive by the simple virtue of establishing a voice for women in the industry.

thanks for the help, motherfucker

Thanks for the Help, Motherfucker

American actor, writer, director and stand up comic Louis C.K. appeared on Conan recently wearing what looks like a Rolex Explorer Reference 1016, a departure from the Submariner he usually wears for television appearances. As the story goes, the Submariner was a gift from fellow comedian Chris Rock for C.K.’s help with comedy writing. The story was told to Jerry Seinfeld on an episode his show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Louis C.K. was born in Washington DC, then moved with his family to Mexico before returning to the US at age seven to settle down in Boston with his family. His parents would eventually divorce and he and his three sisters were raised by his single mother. His career in standup started in Boston in 1985, when he bombed for the first time. He wouldn’t take the stage again for another two years, but by 1989 he was opening for Jerry Seinfeld and living in Manhattan. His comedy career took off in the nineties and by the end of the decade he was writing for television and directing independent films.

In 2006 his show Lucky Louie premiered on HBO. A sitcom based on a realistic approach to family drama filmed before a live studio audience, the series was canceled after only one season. In 2009, he developed Louie for FX. He wrote, directed, edited and starred in this series, cutting pieces of his standup into hilarious scenes written to reflect the events of his actual life as a divorced father living and working in Manhattan. Louie ran through 2015, with no decision as to whether it will come back after a hiatus. C.K. has also worked to develop other comedy series for television, including the Zach Galifianakis led comedy, Baskets.

As far as watches go, C.K. has been seen wearing the Chris Rock Submariner Date for his show and photo shoots. It is said that the watch is inscribed with the words “Thanks for the help, Motherfucker” as a hilarious token of gratitude from Rock. C.K. has also been seen wearing other watches, most recently the 1016 Rolex Explorer. His appearance on Conan, a show he used to write for, has garnered attention due to the political nature of his comments. It has also piqued the interest of watch collectors due to the Explorer model on his wrist.

The Explorer 1016 was manufactured from the 1960s through the 1980s and features a beautiful and legible display. This understated Rolex model is a favorite amongst collectors, based in part on its simplicity and classic 36 millimeter case diameter. While the watchmaker is known more for the bells and whistles on other models, like the Cerachrom bezel on the new Daytona or the innovative complication of the Sky-Dweller, the Explorer rounds out their professional collection as the least complicated and most symmetrical professional model.

For more information on the 1016 model, check out this report from Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer published in GQ a few years back. Check out the Rolex Submariner on the watchmaker’s official website.

apple wearables vs rolex

Will Apple Smartwatches Ever Overshadow Rolex Wristwatches?

Over the past few days I have come across several reports stating that Apple smartwatches brought in $1.5 Billion more revenue than Rolex wristwatches in their first year of sales. The reason for the comparison seems to be a response to those who consider the launch of the Apple Watch a failure in comparison to the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

While I consider the iPhone revolutionary and rely on Apple products in a personal and professional capacity, I don’t think Apple smartwatches have the potential to render mechanical wristwatches obsolete and I reject the premise of comparing Apple to Rolex.

The first time I heard the word ‘smartwatch’ I was immediately reminded of the watch Dick Tracy used as a two way radio in the comic and 1990 film staring Warren Beatty. The fictional character lived in a time with no mobile phones or Internet access, making the functionality of his watch seem futuristic and innovative. At Baselworld 2016, reality caught up with fiction, with many Swiss watchmakers featuring smartwatch models alongside their traditional mechanical watch models.

No smartwatch has permeated the watch market as much as the Apple Watch, though. This follows logic, as Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world with huge name recognition and a track record of innovation in the tech industry. The smartwatch was also their first product launch after the death of Steve Jobs, marking the beginning of a new era for the company under current CEO Tim Cook.

While haters will always be a part of the ecosystem, it is hard to argue that the Apple Watch is a failure. Aside from developing revolutionary tech innovations, Apple does an amazing job with marketing and advertising and this is evident in their financial success. However, the theory that the success of a product like the Apple Watch would affect the bottom line of a company like Rolex doesn’t hold water with me.

Like Apple, Rolex is a company founded by a visionary – Hans Wilsdorf in this case – that focuses on building upon its own success to bring the past into the future with innovations that fulfill both the needs and desires of their customers. Rolex has a long list of innovations in the mechanical watch industry going back a hundred years.

The main difference between the two companies is the nature of their products. Rolex is a company that manufactures luxury mechanical wristwatches and Apple’s focus is on consumer electronics. The Apple Watch is the first time the tech giant and the luxury watchmaker have seen any overlap in their product offerings. However, this overlap does not necessarily mean that the companies are competing for customers.

The customer profile for the Apple Watch differs greatly from that of a Rolex wristwatch. While the Apple Watch incorporates communications technology that may be enticing to someone who wants to stay connected at all times, it also deters those who find receiving a constant stream of updates and notifications distracting.

There are also those who are reluctant to look at yet another digital screen throughout the day. Those same customers would also have an issue with being forced to update their smartwatches every few years to access updated features and operating systems the same way they do with their smartphones.

What a Rolex customer is looking for is a classic luxury timepiece that is reliable, requires little maintenance, lasts for years and looks great on their wrist. The status associated with the Rolex brand is also a determining factor in the purchase decision. Rolex has been around longer than anyone who actually wears their watches and their legacy adds a value to their products that goes beyond technology and innovation.

A proper comparison for a Rolex would be another luxury watchmaker like Omega or Panerai. Likewise, the Apple Watch should be compared to other smartwatches on the market that compete at similar price points, like those manufactured by Samsung. It may be tempting to compare industry leaders like Apple and Rolex to prove a point about the legitimacy of smartwatches in the luxury watch market, but only time will tell if smartwatch sales figures are inflated by their novelty more so than their potential to decimate the mechanical watch industry.

I Literally Turned Into a Mermaid With Dragonfly Wings

I

Something about the the orange Creamsicle colored sky reflecting off the dark blue water made me want to go for a swim. It was like I was hypnotized. Without even thinking, I took off my dress and stepped into the crashing waves. The salt from the cool ocean spray hit my naked body, making my pores contract and my skin glisten.

I released my hair from the top knot I had it in and the smell of my gardenia perfume added a floral note to the smell of seaweed mixed with wet sand. The setting sun made it look more silver than platinum blonde and it was just long enough to graze my nipples. Once the water reached my thighs, I turned around to face the rocky shore and let myself fall into the surf.

The cold water enveloped my body and I became weightless. My hair took on a life of its own, moving with the current in a fluid motion. I stretched out my arms and my legs like a starfish, letting the water caress my thighs and flood my belly button. My face was the last part to go under. I took one last breath before my nose dipped below the surface.

I could hear the buzz of the ocean floor and the waves crashing into the sand when I was fully submerged. That’s when my body began to transform. As if prompted by the seawater, the skin below my hips turned into turquoise scales. My legs were fused together, becoming a tail that propelled me deeper into the ocean than I had ever been before.

Before I knew it, I was a mile offshore. I came up for a breath and the strength of my fin propelled me into the air. That’s when I realized that I had also grown emerald green dragonlfy wings. I flew high into the sky and dove back into the water at a velocity that shot me deep into the dark water. The vastness of the ocean was terrifying at first, but my eyes suddenly began to radiate golden light, illuminating my surroundings.

There wasn’t any life to be seen around me, but I could hear the conversation of a pod of humpback whales in the distance. I followed their calls until they were visible by the light of my golden eyes. It was a mother with her calf and three more family members swimming alongside one another. Before I knew it, the mother was swimming underneath me.

I was brought back up to the surface on her back as she continued her journey. I couldn’t see land anymore when I was riding on her slimy skin. I let my hand hang off her side, just behind one of her fins. My long, indigo-colored nails sliced into the water while we chased the last seconds of sun on the horizon.

If I were brave, I would have swam with them forever. I never felt more alive. The ocean always seemed lonely to me, but that’s only because I hadn’t experienced it like this before. It felt like I had been gone for hours before I decided to head back to shore.

I thanked my friends for the company and flew up to the darkening gray sky to find land. I enjoyed every minute that I was able to soar, with the wind flowing through my hair and between my bare breasts. I knew it wouldn’t last, though. Once I was close enough to see the green canopy of the island, lit with the incandescent lights of the seaside village, I went back underwater to conceal my transformed body.

I swam backwards, peeking my head up every once in a while to catch the final dance of the sun. As soon as I reached the shore, my body was back to normal again. I could feel the weight of gravity on my hips as I got back on my feet. It took me a while to find my dress, but I couldn’t bring myself to put it back on. I wanted to enjoy every last second of freedom before becoming part of civilization again.

II

“I found her!” Liz yells as she walks onto the rocky beach to find her friend Ally lying naked on the shore.

“What the fuck, Ally? We thought you drowned or got kidnapped or something,” she barks as she picks up her friend’s white linen dress, stained with sand and seawater.

Liz walks over to help Ally get dressed before the rest of their friends get to the beach.

“Where have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“You’re not gonna believe me if I tell you,” Ally says as Liz throws the dress over her head and tries to make her messy beach hair look somewhat presentable.

“Alright, get up and tell me on the way back to the hotel. We’re already late for dinner and you need to sober up.”

back to Short Fiction

Cynthia Smith and Her Boys Short Story (photo: Favour Omoruyi)

Cynthia Smith and Her Boys

It is just after sunset when Cynthia Smith and her boys walk into the efficiency she rents in El Portal, a neighborhood just east of Miami Shores in northeast Miami-Dade County. She immediately switches the air conditioning unit on high to get rid of the damp smell in the living area. Her sons, three and four years old, throw their book bags onto the old wood floors and jump onto the black canvas futon that sits in front of a large TV set that came with the place.

“What are we eating for dinner?” her eldest son asks as she sets her large black purse on the kitchen counter. She turns on the slow cooker and lets him know that they will be eating red beans as rice, same as last night. The kids groan at the prospect of eating leftovers of a meal they didn’t like to begin with.

“Alright guys, sit quietly and finish your homework while I take a shower. And don’t tell me you don’t have any because I spoke to your teachers today,” she says as the AC unit begins to make a rattling noise. Her lie about speaking to their teachers seems to do the trick, giving her at least a few minutes to unwind.

Once they have their workbooks open, Cynthia walks into the bedroom she shares with them and sets her smartphone on her white formica nightstand to charge. Under the dim light of a small bedside lamp, she takes off her white blouse and tosses it on the bed. Out of habit, she hits the home button on her phone to see if there’s a response from her estranged husband.

She had texted him while sitting in traffic on the way home from her office job about their children’s expenses. The only unread message she sees is one from the mobile phone company threatening to discontinue her service for lack of payment. Her heart sinks as she remembers the bills she’s behind on.The last thing she wants to focus on during her brief moment of solitude is the humiliation of having people call her mobile phone only to hear that it has been disconnected.

Sitting on the side of the messy bed, Cynthia throws her black pumps into the closet, then falls back onto the bed and rubs her eyes. Her next payday isn’t for another week, which means she may have to go a few days without a mobile phone before she can afford to get it reconnected. Even though her boy’s learning center has her office number on file for emergencies, she breaks into a cold sweat worrying about how her financial situation may affect her children’s well being in the long run.

Her worry quickly turns to anger when she imagines her kids’ father shacking up with his girlfriend in her Downtown Miami loft. She would love nothing more than to grab her phone and send him an angry text pointing out how his behavior is affecting their boys, but she knows that it will only make it harder for her to get him to co-parent in the future.

Frustrated and exhausted, she hangs up her black slacks, throws her bra and underwear in the laundry basket and steps onto the cold, cracked pink tiles of her small bathroom. She lets the shower run so that it isn’t freezing cold when she steps into the pink tub. The water in the efficiency never really gets hot, but it’s worth waiting a couple minutes for a luke-warm shower.

As the water runs, Cynthia pins her shoulder-length hair up and places a blue shower cap over it. She pulls a baby wipe out of the basket under the sink and begins to wipe off her makeup, revealing dark black circles under her eyes. The site of her tired face makes her feel even worse than she already does. The only thing she’s happy about is that she can’t see the stretch marks on her tummy from the same angle in the bathroom mirror.

Just as she pulls open the mildew-stained shower curtain, she can hear the television switch on. She knows that the boys’ homework is not done yet, but she isn’t in the mood to discipline them. The guilt of leaving them in daycare while she’s at work all day takes over as the water washes over her face. All she wants to do is clock out for a few minutes. Finally feeling a moment’s peace, she looks down at the shower caddy to grab the soap and nearly screams as a cockroach crawls out of the drain into the tub toward her feet.

Cynthia immediately jumps out of the shower and shuts the water off. As much as she wants to scream, she knows that it will be in vain. With nobody to help her get rid of it, she makes herself a glove out of toilet paper and flushes the roach down the toilet with it. Once she sees it go down, she sits on the toilet and begins to weep.

Not one to feel sorry for herself, she usually finds a way to talk herself through the difficult times, but she can’t help but feel hopeless and lost at the moment. She wishes she knew what to do to get out of this mess, but she barely has the energy to get through a normal day. The weeks just seem to meld together and her lack of sleep makes it hard for her to recharge her batteries and push through like she did in college.

Thinking about her goals and ideas for the future when she was completing her business degree makes her feel even worse in her current situation. Her parents are in similar economic circumstances, so she has nobody to call on when she’s in a bind. Taking care of her children by herself puts a strain on her low-paying job that makes it almost impossible to get a salary increase because she is always missing work to deal with sick kids and their disciplinary issues. 

After letting herself cry for a few minutes, an odd sense of relief comes over her. Even though she still feels helpless and alone, Cynthia decides to get up and keep going, not for herself, but for her boys. She uses a white hand towel to wipe her tears, then throws it over the drain in the shower and turns the water back on. She can taste the salt of her tears as the fresh water splashes on her face again. As she grabs the soap, she can hear her boys laughing at the TV and a smile finds its way to her face for the first time all day.