Saturday, January 4, 2014

One Sweet Move

Howdy, partners.  If you're looking for the Sweet life, I've made the move to Wordpress.

This wasn't exactly a banner year for my online presence.  What can I say?  I didn't picture myself as someone who would have a mid-life crises, but something happened inside when 40 loomed and I wasn't where I thought I'd be.  I definitely recommend contemplating the endless abyss with a partner; it makes the whole thing much more bearable (I'm half-kidding; this has been a rough time for Becky, but I can't imagine how I would have gotten through it without her).

With Becky's steady support, and some well-timed visits with family, I felt more and more like myself each day.  Eventually I pictured starting a new Sweet.

When Goodreads sold out to Amazon, I decided it would be mostly a book-related blog.  The thing is, I was so angry about the purchase that I deleted my Goodreads account immediately.  Losing all those years of reviews made the prospect of starting an all-book blog feel overwhelming, so I never got around to it.

The break has made me realize that the idea of a blog about one thing bores the shit out of me.  So the new Sweet will be much like the old sweet, with better analytics.  Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

5 Things That Make Kansas City (Missouri) Awesome

This year's Winter Institute took place in Kansas City, MO, a place I've never had reason to believe I'd visit.  Spending a few days there reminded me of what non-destination cities have on Miami; with so much to recommend it, The Magic City doesn't try all that had to impress.  When you've got hundreds of cities above you on the "must list" of places to visit, you work a little harder to move up that list.

In the few days I was there, this is Kansas City, putting in work.

5: Rainy Day Books

Rainy Day Books is in Fairway, a suburb of Kansas.  It's gorgeous inside; beautifully displayed, full, and well-mapped.  The staff knows what they're doing.  And what's a place to visit without a decent bookstore?

4 is for $4 Guinness

I don't know from whence you're reading but to a guy living in Miami, paying less than $6 for a beer is a revelation.  Most times, it's $7-$8 ($9 or $10 if you're stupid enough to go to a club).  At $4, I almost expected to see a wee shot glass.

I won't say every bartender knew how to pour it perfectly, but the search for a perfect Guinness pour is a rant for another time.

3: Cab Scholars

A cab ride in Kansas City is like a free history lecture.  You want to know which mob boss rode FBI bullets to the great beyond in front of what building?  You want to know where Lewis and Clark bought slaves for their journey?  You want to know not just the historic landmarks and the lay of the land, but how the landmarks became historic and why the land is laid out the way it is?  Take a cab.

2: This is Not the Library

It's the garage next to the Central Library, called the Community Bookshelf.  It's a solid indication of how Kansas City celebrates literacy and the arts.  Fountains, sculptures, galleries, bookstores; it's all happening.

With all the snow when we visited, tracks told us which books people posed in front of the most.  Least surprising?  Gabriel Garcia Marquez got no love.

1: Burnt Ends

You know the edge of the meat that got crisped up on the grill and captured all the flavor?  Smoky and delicious, charry-chewy on the outside and juicy-tender on the inside, Burnt Ends have all of that, and nothing else.  One bite and I wanted to move to Kansas City.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pura Vida: a Golden Birthday, big cats, and The Springs

We were in Costa Rica for Becky's Golden Birthday.  IE, she turned 29 on the 29th (don't worry, I'd never heard of that, either; but it's a thing).  We started the day by walking to a bridge some miles from the hotel.  I say we walked, but with the landscape down there it's really all hiking.

Becky and I wanted to find a local artist, a husband and wife team with a wood art shop just up the road from the  tree house hotel.  Of course, "just up the road" is relative.  It wasn't brutally hot compared to Miami, but we're not used to being under the sun for that long.  The sun and the bags we carried made us feel every step.

People kept stopping to offer us rides.  Much as in the US, some of the the locals are just being helpful.  Others offer you a free ride and then demand payment before they'll let you out.  A few want to drive you to a remote area and take everything you have.  We had been warned so we kept to walking.  There was plenty to see along the way.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pura Vida: Local Flavor

In an interview with Knight Arts, Miami poet Emma Trelles said "Anything can thrive down here. You could fling a tadpole into a gutter puddle and have a colony of frogs a week later. That kind of insistent life is inspiring."  This is true about Miami.  It's true in Costa Rica a hundred fold.

Geckos cover the streets of Miami, those little ones people up north buy at pet stores.  In Costa Rica, we saw these bad boys outside of a restaurant:  

That black triangle in the upper-left corner is the edge of the patio roof.

Iguanas like plaintains.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Blame My Family for My Big Mouth

I'm appropriating this meme.  Deal with it.

Back in the day, some nations (and I use that in the Native sense) found it extremely rude to ask someone's name.  It would be like shaking someone's hand and asking his age ("How old are you, like 35?  You look at least 35.")  Upon first meeting the native you're trying to get to know, one of his friends might say, "He's known for his tremendous singing voice."  This forces you to begin sentences with, "So... You with the Great Voice-" (and possibly end them with "how much farther over these hills before I find a tribe it's easier to talk to?").

See, you were supposed to know their name already.  If you admitted to not knowing it, it was like calling them beneath knowing ("Holy shit, you're 40?  That's fucking old, dude.").  A friendly greeting with a reasonable question on one side, cutting a fart during a funeral on the other.

Although we were known to change names several times over the course of our lives, Mohawks / Kanien'kehá:ka didn't observe that custom.  Meet a Mohawk, ask his name, and he'd tell you (maybe because it had just changed in a ceremony last week and he wanted you to understand where he was in life).  But we have our own quirk: we can't keep secrets.  That's the main complaint of people who marry into the family, anyway.  It's also a charge I've had leveled against me more than once.

It's not true.  If you tell me something is a secret, I will take it to the grave.  If you don't, well...

There was a complicated maze of mirrors involved in Mohawk communication, designed to minimize the emotional impact of hurtful information.  You wouldn't want to embarrass someone by telling him what an idiot he is ("Smith seems to think the Wampum belt we gave him is for holding his pants up.  It took my wife a month to make that, as a symbol of our friendship and mutual trust.  Dear Woods, talk to him for me, could you?").  You gave Smith the respect, the courtesy, of explaining what happened to your friend.  Your friend, impartial, level-headed, would approach the dumbass and tell him how he screwed up ("Smith, yeah, hey.  That wampum belt New Town gave you?  You keep it with your most prized possessions, like your Bible and that letter your wife wrote during the war.  It's not for keeping your britches in place.  No, don't apologize.  No one wants to see that.  Just take it off and pack it up until it's time to go home.").

Next time Smith met New Town, sans belt, the two might share a knowing nod.

The same way you'd shake hands with a Native today and not be surprised to hear him tell you his name is Bill, Mohawks don't use this process now.  Still, there's a cultural echo.  There is nothing sacred and nothing shared in my family that won't come out.  Add to that my status as the youngest in the family, the child who got laughs by repeating things he'd overheard but didn't understand, who got praise from adults for innocently sharing his siblings and cousins activities (read: narcing; informing), and you've got the recipe for a big mouth.

Side Note: this is not to be confused with loud mouth.  I'm generally a quiet person, but when I'm in a comfortable setting - among friends and family - I will talk.  Sometimes too much.

I don't relay your secret to gossip, I relay it because I think you want me to.  Why else would you tell me what an asshole that co-worker is?  How much this friend's words hurt?  You want me to go to that person and tell them how they've wronged you so that they can make it right.  Otherwise, what good does it serve?

Turns out, this is something people do.  They vent.  They blow off steam.  They voice their feelings so they can decide whether it's worth addressing the person head-on.  They talk shit and expect it not to get back to the person about whom they are talking it.

When I think of people judging the world based on how they see it, I think of small-minded individuals wondering if some person is going to steal because that's what they'd do if given the chance.  I don't think of me, sharing other people's words that were meant to be kept private.

So to everyone whose secrets I've spilled and embarrassed, I'm sorry.

I get it from my mom's side of the family.