Category Archives: Nonfiction

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.

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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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How to Outlast, Outwit and Outplay Cable News

I’ve been streaming my television content since I moved to Miami Beach in 2013, mainly because I don’t watch enough channels to get any value out of a cable package. In 2016, I decided to download the CNN Go app to follow the election because I felt like I was missing out on important coverage during such a monumental shift in American politics. I tuned out after election night, though, because I felt bamboozled with the election results and placed the blame on my reliance on cable news as a primary source of information.

I will admit that, at first, I tuned out in an attempt to bury my head in the sand and live in denial about our current political leadership. But then months passed and I didn’t feel any desire to check in with New Day or AC360, the programs I watched the most last year. Instead, I subscribed to The New Yorker and went back to reading The Economist and The Guardian to stay informed.

Current events seemed so heavy at the time that I frequently read pieces from The New Yorker’s archives to take a step back and gain perspective on the issues of the present. It was there that I came across a piece written by E.B. White in 1960, another election year, that helped illuminate my problem with cable news and television programming in general.

“If you open a copy of the Times to a page that has in one column a Macy ad displaying a set of china and in an adjoining column a news story about China itself, your eye makes a choice; you read about Macy’s china or about Mao’s China, according to your whim. It’s a free selection. But if you turn your TV set to a channel, only one image appears, and after you have watched for a few moments, an advertiser buttonholes you and says his piece in a loud voice while you listen or try not to listen, as the case may be. Thus, your attention is not just invited by the commercial, it is to a large extent preempted. Preemption of this sort does not occur in periodicals. It cannot occur. There, advertising matter competes with editorial matter for the reader’s attention, and it is fair competition,” wrote White in “How Television Has Changed Us“.

Reading his words, which could have been written last year without losing their effect, made me realize that my problem wasn’t with one television journalist or cable network, but with the business of television programming in general. While cable subscribers enjoy a sense of choice by being able to switch channels from one network to another, they still experience the effect that programming and advertisers have on the information they are consuming.

If there’s anything the 2016 election taught me, its the power of television networks to create and inflate celebrity. Gone are the days when we knew nothing about our trusted news anchors. These days, journalists and pundits make their careers based on Q Scores, not the validity of the information they are sharing. This issue was exacerbated when Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States.

While most of us were fixated on all of his gaffes and blunders on the campaign trail, Trump was fixated on the television ratings his candidacy generated (a fixation that has followed him into the Oval Office). He was the most covered candidate from the primaries through the general election and cable news has benefitted from his political ascent, even though neither networks executives nor Trump himself want to admit to their symbiotic relationship.

These days, I stream episodes of Survivor in lieu of tuning into cable news in my free time. I find the skills necessary to win a game like like that far more useful in my daily life than what I learned from watching pundits vie for a chance to shine on CNN.

On Survivor, you get blindsided if you’re too altruistic. You get voted out of the game if people see your leadership qualities as a threat early on. At the end, it is a jury of your peers that decides if you deserve to win $1 Million, usually based on your ability to make friends and gain influence while playing the game. I wish I had been exposed to these ideas before the 2016 election.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but maybe I wouldn’t have been blindsided by the election results and would have been better equipped to help my candidate win if I had tuned out of cable news earlier and focused my attention on how to outlast, outwit and outplay the competition.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity (photo: William White)

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity (photo: William White)

I noticed something funny on my way home from the Grove the other night. I found myself jamming to a Justin Timberlake song and it made me stop and think.

Would I be listening to this song and even singing along to it if I weren’t alone in the car? My question was answered when I rolled down my window to pay a toll. I turned the music down as to not be ridiculed for blasting the musical endeavors of an ex-Mickey Mouse Club Member.

This little incident made me think back to conversations I have had concerning music as a form of art versus music as a product. Most people who say they are music savvy consider a pop song a product spoon-fed to pre-teens through radio stations as well as music television. By no means is it considered ‘real music.’

If indeed the music itself can be considered a product, then business forces come into play. These products wouldn’t be successful if people didn’t want them. With no demand, a product will pretty much go nowhere. So the idea of the public being pushed to like certain songs, and therefore buy certain albums, can only be true to an extent.

What is true about the radio and music television is that they choose the songs that people hear on a daily basis, some by popular request, but the rest based on other factors.

Exposure is key for the success of many songs, so those songs that do not get rotation on the radio or TV are left to fend for themselves. However, a good song can still become popular without such initial exposure.

Take Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why’ as an example. Music that is well marketed and widely accepted is automatically discarded, I feel, without proper justification.

Pop music is different from artsy music. Different genres satisfy different cravings. Sometimes people don’t want to listen to poetic rhymes and intricate instrumentation. They just want to zone out for three and a half minutes.

Also, I think that popular music is an accessory to some people. It’s nothing on its own, but it’s a nice touch, like a baseball cap or a watch. It’s just like a supplemental soundtrack to the drama of everyday life.

No, why is it taboo for a music lover to listen to Justin and friends? I mean, let’s face it: Pop music is catchy. While some would compare its catchiness to the flu, I think the best analogy would be to compare pop to sugar.

Pop music is to ‘real music’ as sugar is to coffee. Music in general is a cup of Joe and pop music is a packet of Equal.

I have seen some kids (and a few adults) eat sugar right out of the packet. There are people with a sweet tooth. No harm, no foul.

Music aficionados, like coffee buffs, prefer their coffee black. They are insulted with the suggestion of tainting their music collection with a Sum 41 album.

I take my coffee sweet. I balance my affinity for music with the charm of pop music. Some like bitter coffee, some add sugar for extra punch.

I rarely hear people get persecuted for taking sugar in their coffee, so why should I be scolded for liking Christina Aguilera’s new album?

The way I see it, if I refuse to give pop songs a listen, I am being a hypocrite. I like music of all types, whether fashionable to detestable, I choose different songs for different moods and refuse to feel impotent in musical discussions for having Stripped in heavy rotation at home.

In the end, who really cares if Christina is a ‘Fighter’ and Justin wants to ‘Rock Your Body?’ I do. Will I be sent to music hell for even remembering the names of these songs? I think not.

If you want meaningful music/lyrics you may have to embark on the arduous journey of finding a Björk fan on campus (they do exist) or maybe check out a Metallica album.

However, if you want to turn the radio up on the way home from school or work and jam to a pop record, by all means, do so without feeling persecuted.

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Time is Running Out, Oil on Canvas by Gramatges Jordan

Questions About Becoming an Artist in Miami

How do you decide to become an artist?

My first exposure to oil painting came when I was a child. My mom had taken it up as a hobby and I used to watch her paint in the kitchen of my childhood home in Kendall, a suburb of South Florida.

My most vivid recollection is of walking in and seeing her paint a row of colorful daisies. I remember them clearly because when I went back into the kitchen a few minutes later, they had disappeared.

The canvas had been covered in a thick coat of violet paint with a bit of ultramarine blue splattered across it and some white highlights. It was the same canvas, but another painting entirely.

At that point I became mesmerized by the power of the artist to alter the fate of a painting.

It wasn’t for another twenty years that I would have my first experience with oil painting.

I had just moved back into my parent’s house after deciding against climbing the corporate ladder in financial services and moving out of my condo in Coral Gables. I was in my late twenties and I decided that I had to make the most of my time at home so that I didn’t feel like moving back was a step in the wrong direction.

To that point, the only thing that I had figured out was that stressing over financial figures, client meetings and performance reviews was not something that I wanted to do in the long term.

Where do you start your creative journey?

I started my creative journey years before that while I was writing for the FIU Beacon, my college newspaper.

I reviewed books, movies and music at first, then ventured into humor and anecdotal nonfiction – all the while discovering new characters and stories in the pages of my short fiction and poetry. My creative work never saw the light of day, though. I was too insecure to put them out there at the time.

I had attempted to make a career out of writing after college, but the type of work that it required to be successful in publishing in Miami was not the type of work that I was interested in doing by the time I was in my mid-twenties.

So, I figured that I had no other choice but to pursue some form of art – a choice I had been intimidated by since I was an adolescent.

How do you develop and discover your artistic talents?

By my late twenties I had collaborated on digital photo collage work and editorials for local publications, but my main focus had been on writing.

Once I decided that I was not going to take the traditional corporate track to find my success, I wanted to build my skill set as a visual artist so that I could eventually focus on art and design as a career.

As fate would have it, my mom was taking oil painting classes from an older Cuban couple when I moved back home.

I joined her for a couple of classes out of a desire to try something outside of my comfort zone.

The studio was on the second story of a strip mall on Calle Ocho and the bohemian instructors were kind and welcoming. The smell of linseed oil and the diversity in the colorful student work displayed on the walls immediately drew me in.

Applying a coat of wet paint to a blank canvas felt very sensual to me – it still does. It can be tedious, time consuming and frustrating, but I now understand the immediate gratification and long term value in painting.

Outside of oil painting, I found myself drawn to painting the furniture we had in the house that nobody was using at the time. I would stare at these vintage pieces and carefully figure out how a coat of paint could bring new life to an otherwise forgotten furniture piece.

What happens after you identify your talents and passions?

Once I realized that I had something to express with paint, I decided that I needed to do more than just paint in order to make it a career.

I began The New Miamian as a literary and visual art studio to share my work and the works of other artists that I encounter along my artistic journey, with a focus on Miamian Art.

And instead of shutting off the part of my brain that craves analysis and written communication, i’m going to use my words to create a dialogue about art and how impossible it seems to be able to make fine art a career choice in the twenty-first century.

The way it works now, only artists that appeal to collectors and curators have any chance of living as a professional artist.

My concern with this system is that it doesn’t encourage artists to experiment or to produce work that may not have a market at this moment in time.

What do you say to the Vincent van Goghs of the world, who will never sell a painting in their lifetimes, only to have them hang in the most important museums of the world a century later?

We should encourage everyone who is passionate about art to produce it, not just those with the possibility of appealing to those who hold the purse strings of society.

Is art a profession?

The true artist refuses to assimilate to a lifestyle that ignores the realities of society.

A rejection of the status quo and a divestment of the trappings of contemporary life are necessary to be able to view the world with the objectivity necessary to create honest art.

It’s hard enough to overcome the insecurity of looking at a wet canvas with odd shapes and colors on it without wondering if you’re losing your mind. Adding to that society’s dismissal of art as a profession only makes it sound more insane to want to become an artist.

Only recently did it occur to me that it doesn’t sound like a career choice for a reason: the role of the artist goes beyond commerce. The artist is meant to ask society the questions that we don’t have answers to yet – and these questions are usually met with resistance.

Where are we going as a civilization?

Technology has added a lot of noise to our daily lives and it’s hard to live without, but what happens next?

Will we end up in another nuclear war that will devastate our already deteriorating environment?

Will our children be able to witness nature in the multitude and splendor that the last few generations have been lucky enough to experience?

Will religious wars overshadow their doctrines, creating the first generation on the planet that does not worship a deity?

More importantly, though, who is asking these questions – and to whom?

Gramatges Jordan, Artist


Fiona Apple Is Wiser Than the Singers On the Radio and Listening to Her Will Serve You More Than Radio Will Ever Do

You’re vulnerable but still scrappy, philosophical but direct with your words.

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.

Valentine is my favorite song on this album with Anything We Want coming in at a close second and Hot Knife in a league of its own. And, of course, there’s Every Single Night, which is cursed by being the first single. Yes, it’s amazing, but it’s I’ve listened to it for so long that I need some time apart from it before I can acknowledge its genius.

These songs are beautiful and brilliantly written like Bacharach, performed from the gut like Janis Joplin and peppered with words and witticisms that most people can’t define.

You opt for real instruments over ever-familiar studio sounds for this album, adding a performance aspect to the recordings that infuses it with the true spirit of music.

The iTunes version of the album comes with live footage of your SXSW performance of Anything We Want. You play the cow bell thing (don’t know what the instrument is called) while you sing and your face is priceless. It looks like you lost a bet and were forced soldier through the cow bell noise-making for the sake of the performance. Honestly, I’m just happy that I got to visualize the noise in the song – kind of amazing.

You know what else is amazing? Your ability and desire to express sentiments that people are very happy to ignore in their daily lives.
I don’t wanna talk about, I don’t wanna talk about anything.
And yet you do.

You’re an interesting mix of childhood innocence and the wisdom of old age. You have the sensitivity of a child and the insight of an octogenarian, which makes you a baby genius in my book.

When I was in high school I would listen to Tidal and When the Pawn and think that you were falling apart. Now that I’m somewhat grown up, I realize that you weren’t falling apart, but tearing things apart. You tear through the bullshit to get to the truth in the only way you know how – in a song.

Music is your truth. That’s what makes you a musician and me a fan.

For Immediate Release: Bob Gramatges is a Writer Again

I, Bob Gramatges, would like to consider myself a writer again. The reason that I have stopped using the word ‘writer’ to describe myself is simple: I haven’t been writing enough lately.

To remedy this, I have tasked myself to document my reality, express my feelings and share my truth on this blog in order to remain a card-carrying writer (and now, blogger, as it turns out).

Now, I’m certainly no authority on the subject, but I do feel that writers should write, painters should paint and poets should… well, poets should come up with a word to describe the act of writing poetry. But that’s beside the point.

What I really mean to say (or write, rather) is that creativity and self-expression are important enough to be prioritized on a daily basis.

I don’t encounter enough originality in my daily life to be happy with the status quo. And even though these words may not impact everyone I encounter, they will impact me when I encounter them.

So, in reality, what I am trying to express is that my writing is essentially meant to make others more interesting.

Humor aside, I truly believe that we create our own reality in life and that our reality dictates our destiny.

As someone who is constantly searching for purpose in life, I have come to the conclusion that I need to write in order to fulfill my destiny.

Therefore, in order for this blog to serve its purpose, I will only give myself one rule and that is to write – write often and write honestly.

Now all I have to do is keep following my own rule.

Okay, enough about rules. God knows there are enough of those to go around.

Goodbye Gay Bar, Hello Grindr?

I was watching an episode of Chelsea Lately the other night and the panel discussed a 2007 Entrepreneur Magazine article stating that gay bars were among businesses that were facing extinction over the next decade.

This made me laugh. Not just because Chelsea and her writers had come up with a few good one liners about Grindr, but because I was actually putting together a feature on Score’s 13th Anniversary Celebration.

I Googled the Entrepreneur article immediately to see what facts they had to back up this assertion. Suffice it to say that the evidence was weak – a newspaper article stating that a decline in gay bars could be attributed to a growing acceptance of gay people – not exactly the smoking gun I was looking for.

The article did not mention the recent rise of smartphone sex apps like Grindr and Radar, which I think would have made a stronger argument. But then again, I know better than to think that these apps would deter gay people from frequenting bars like Score, Twist or Palace.

As is usually the case when straight people make assumptions about gay men, they seem to have confused being social with being sexual. This article (and the theories about Grindr making the gay club obsolete) only furthers the stereotype that the gay scene is purely sexual, leaving out the social and emotional bonds that gay people form with each other in these environments.

For many gay men, going to a gay bar is the first step in coming out of the closet. For others, it’s somewhere they can feel safe rockin’ five inch stilettos on the dance floor. It’s also the best place to listen to the artists that don’t get a lot of play at the trendier South Beach night spots.

And although sex isn’t everything, there is still something about vibing with someone at a bar or club that is much more thrilling than sending a guy pictures of yourself in front of your bathroom mirror and asking if he is a top or a bottom.

I’m not against theory that acceptance of gay people will make it more acceptable us to party with our straight friends. However, I think there will always be a need for gay bars just as there will always be a need for biker bars, taverns and rooftop lounges.

And thank God for that!