RED DECEMBER – 1
New York, December 1, 2010. In North American seasons, it seems more appropriate to say ‘Red October’ as the leaves change colours. ‘White December’ would seem more apt since most of the north has received its first snowfall by then. But for this December, I feel like writing three posts with a ‘red’ theme in common – Red – the colour of cherry-red lips, the predominant colour of Christmas wrappings and stockings, but most of all the colour of blood, of the heart, of the glow in a fireplace, and of Love.
I just returned from a week in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, cities I lived in for 2 years in 2006 and 2007 for work. Moving from Montreal, Canada, with its cold northern winters, the two Floridian cities were escapes to sun and sand and sea……the stunning turquoise blue waters of their Atlantic shorelines obliterating all the other problems and urban – sprawl lifestyle. Greedy to soak in the waters, I lived on the high floor of a condo on Pompano Beach directly overlooking the vast endless ocean. After two years of filling my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the ocean waves that I woke up to every morning, I returned back north. On this visit, after nearly 3 years, I met again those who were dear to me, those who were my friends; and after the hellos, I said goodbye more as a closure once again to those with whom I had shared talks and walks and an occasional drink on patios and on white sand beaches or gone on boat and canoe rides in the picturesque waters of the Atlantic ocean and the Florida Keys. Some friends will remain so forever, no matter how far the distance in miles and years. Here’s to lovely Michelle and Gladys and Debbie and Sharolyn – four versatile, multi-dimensional, incredibly good-hearted women, and to four other straightforward male buddies. Thank you all for your senses and sensibilities!
It often takes a visit back as a traveler to appreciate what you left or find closure and peace for why you did. It IS true that familiarity breeds contempt and scarcity creates value. That is sadly a truth about human nature. The scorching sun and the serene waters that I’d begun to take for granted towards the end of my stay there in 2007, bogged by the lack of intellectual or ethical values that predominated much of flashy-car-and-silicon-boob-and-loud-showing-off South Florida, reminded me that the warmth of the sun can be appreciated only after experiencing the bitter northern winters, and the fakeness that used to affect me could disturb me only as long as I allowed it to – for if I chose to look beyond the noise, I could always find a quiet little bench in a hidden boardwalk on a marina where the boats docked where I could sit and enjoy fresh oysters I’d bought from Mr. Fish on Pompano, or find quiet beaches away from the crowds and choose to bicycle and canoe without giving a damn of ‘what car I drove or someone else drove’ (a predominant showiness of status that is found most in South Florida and Los Angeles-area-California when you live there.) And I discovered that beneath the surface, there were many authentic, happy, laid-back people and friends who did care about Florida’s fragile ecosystems and had a joyous relaxed attitude, sunnily different than the neurotic “Go-Go-Go” hustle of the Big Apple or the overtly-intellectually-competitive climate of Cambridge, MA, that I had grown more accustomed to.
When I transformed into a traveler again, I became more open to the charms of the city that a fresh revisit can bring back, (unlike the fear I’d experienced while getting lost driving in Overtown, the most crime-infested neighbourhood in Miami; or another time when I naively was walking into a dangerous trap while buying something off Craigslist and was saved by a friend.) This time, I let it all be, and just went along without fear, focussing more on all the far better memories I had of the city. Fort Lauderdale brought back its lovely beaches and my favourite hangs behind porches of lesser-known gems of restaurants that looked out into the ocean. Sadly I saw on this visit that many smaller cafes and shops which I’d frequent had closed down due to the economic hit this region took during the recession. Chatty business-owners told me tales of how the economic crash had affected their lives and those of others. Some of those stories were sad, some were funny and a few outright bizarre. In another honest talk, a good friend of mine (who is a self-made entrepreneur and a rising star in the building trade, with a residential project-in-construction even on the exclusive Star Island that he walked me through,) explained to me that he bought his Porsches truly for their engineering, not as any ‘symbols.’ He explained how given a chance, most men who liked cars would like to own a Porsche – more for its speed and amazing engineering, not necessarily for any ‘show.’ Thanks to him I can now say I have experienced what driving a 2009 Porsche Turbo feels like ;-) (Still, nothing beats flying a humble Cessna…but that’s just a personal preference.)
And this time, with a renewed perspective free from any past preconceived ponderosity, Miami brought back its Latin flavours, its predominant whiffs of delicious Cuban cooking, Spanish guitars and the heat of its warm sun-kissed Decembers.
I am no ethnic gypsy, just a metaphorical ‘gyspy’ due to my nomadic travels and the many cities I have lived and worked in, but what better way to start a Red December than the haunting strum of the musical mastery of a real gypsy group of Catalonian Romani gitanos who reside in Southern France – The Gipsy Kings? Though I had received training in classical dance for many years, for a couple of years later in my 20s I took a rigorous training in the style of dance known as Gypsy Flamenco. And it is hard to remain still when the Kings take off on their guitars and lively vocals. But for this post, I have attached one of their pure instrumental compositions – a sensuous Red rendition that stirs one’s inner passion, and reminds us once again of the poetry of love, of longing and long nights under an open sky, of the hopes and desires of timeless youth when hearts were open, and gazes held fire, and the flow of your blood pulsated against your skin with a Dionysian rhythm of an inspired frenzy surpassing the Apollonian mind……..