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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #198  (Vol. 5, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 5--11, 2004.

Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida - Part Four
 by Will Moriaty
"Big Fish"
 by Mike Smith
Introducing Oddservations .... The Year That Was: 2003
 by Andy Lalino
Farewell to Twenty-oh-three and "Hello" MMIV
 by Brandon Jones
Bill....Where Was Geddy?....Producing....Dr. Ono?....Awards And Stuff....Say It Ain't So, Pete
 by Mike Smith
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Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida- Part Four

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
A wonderfully warm Caribbean breeze swept through the main hallway of Marrero’s Guest Mansion (http://www.marreros.com/) in Key West as I sauntered down the steps from our second story room to the main lobby to have a continental breakfast. I took a complimentary copy of the Miami Herald, along with a bagel and crème cheese and cup of coffee, out to the verandah overlooking Fleming Street. It was a beautiful 81 degrees Fahrenheit as I was enjoying my breakfast and reading about an approaching cold front that would plunge the temperature in Key West down to a “freezing” 75 degrees.
Just upon entering the lobby of the National Hotel in Miami Beach, one cannot help but be impressed by the ornate art-deco style lamp fixtures and flower vases. Both the exterior and interior of this world-class structure bespeak of its art deco roots.
Our amiable host John was expressing his fears about this radical change - - ah, such is the life of a “Conch”! Karen was still in our room packing up our bags for our final vacation destination of the National Hotel in Miami Beach.

The Long Ride to Miami Beach
We retraced our steps back up the Overseas Highway on that beautiful Friday December 5th morning. We made Key Largo around noon thirty and stopped at a Taco Bell for lunch. By 2:00 P.M. we washed a rather filthy “Phooka” and headed from U.S. 1 in Naranja over to Old Cutler Road. For the first time in all of my trips to Miami it actually appeared temperate compared to somewhere else when I exclaimed south of Coral Gables to Karen, “Look a Live Oak grove with Saw Palmettos!”
The National’s 225 feet long heated pool was probably the warmest thing outdoors in Miami Beach as the temperature on Saturday December 6th hovered at a chilly 64 degrees.
A Brief Visit to the Fairchild Tropical Garden Gift Shop
As the check in time at the National was not until 4:30 P.M., we decided to stop by one of most incredible places on the planet earth, Fairchild Tropical Garden (http://www.fairchildgarden.org/) in Coral Gables. As we were tired from hours of driving, we opted to visit their wonderful gift shop and loaded up on goodies, including a coffee mug I acquired that has a photo of the palms growing along the Garden’s Royal Palm Lake. A wonderful reminder as I sip warm hot chocolate on cold Plant City winter nights of a wonderful place with wonderful warmer weather - - ah, the power to gather roses in the winter!

The National Hotel
The National Hotel (http://www.nationalhotel.com/) is located on Collins Avenue in the northern portion of the section of Miami Beach commonly referred to as the South Beach or “SoBe”. This portion of SoBe is slightly younger than points south hosting the larger sized art deco hotels built more in the forties. In addition to the National, such larger sized hotels include the Delano, the Sagamore, the Delido, the St. Moritz, the Victor, the New Yorker and the Ritz Plaza.

For the uninitiated, the South Beach of Miami contains the largest concentration of Tropical Streamline Art Deco in the world. In its one square mile limit, there are over 400 such structures in this wonderful beehive of life in America’s own version of the Riviera. Life pulsates here 24/7 and there is always something fascinating to see and do on this spit of land that Carl Fischer dredged up from mangrove fringed bay bottom nearly a century earlier. Needless to say Miami Beach, much like how Fairchild Tropical Garden, and now Key West and the southern Keys, is one of my favorite places on earth, as attested by several previous articles about it in the PCR (Issues 111 and 113 in 2002 come to mind).

My morning walk took me down along Ocean Drive where I got this shot of the Cavalier Hotel in Miami’s art deco South Beach or “Sobe” district.
The National Hotel was Miami Beach’s crown jewel when it opened in 1940. Just upon entering the lobby, one cannot help but be impressed by the ornate art deco style lamp fixtures and flower vases. In addition, the hotel has a world class Date Palm lined 225 feet long heated swimming pool situated between the hotel’s dining room and the public beach.

The Last $upper
The final dinner of our vacation was at The Forge, located on 41st Street (Arthur Godfrey Road) in Miami Beach. As driving Miami Beach is crazy on a Friday night, I opted to have a taxi take us to the Forge and back. For years (since 1984) I have wanted to visit the Forge, considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the United States.

Although the steak there was fabulous, Maison et Jardin in Altamonte Springs and Bern’s Steak House in Tampa are much less pretentious and a better bargain for the money than this South Florida epicurean landmark. Our return trip to Books and Books in the beautiful Lincoln Road Mall, an eight block long pedestrian mall similar to Tampa’s Franklin Street Mall but much more successful, more than made up for the last $upper, however (imagine book shopping at midnight in Miami Beach - - how cool is that?). After returning from Books and Books, I had a piece of the best chocolate (a free $ample no le$$!), and best vanilla malt I have ever had from the chocolatier Ghiradelli’s of San Francisco. We were served our goodies in an outdoors bistro portion on the Lincoln Road Mall beneath a cluster of Medjool Date Palms.

Designed by Harry Hohauser, the Cardozo Hotel at 1300 Ocean Drive opened in 1939. One of the notable features of the Cardozo is the extensive use of a material known as tinted keystone. Made from locally indigenous rock known as Miami Oolite, or Oolitic Limestone, this porous rock with its imprints of coral absorb color tints used for architectural features such as the balustrades on the building’s front porch.
A Change In the Weather and It’s Time To Go
The much heralded and feared cold front pushed through during the early morning plummeting the former 80-degree temperatures down to a crisp clear 64 degrees. I exited the main lobby of the National into the clear chill and immediately noticed a TAMPA Colombia DC-8-71 on approach to Runway 27 Left to Miami International Airport. I then roamed the South Beach past such cultural icons such as the currently refurbished Carlyle hotel at 13th Street and Ocean Drive (where “Sonny Crockett” was posed on the steps and dressed in his best white suit in the September 1984 premiere of NBC TV’s “Miami Vice”) and along Lummus Park in search of bagels and espresso. Instead I settled for a bagel and Jamaican coffee at News and Cafe along Ocean Drive - - fantastico!

In its blue-and-white glory, with three porthole windows above the lobby, the Park Central Hotel blends in well with its sand, sky and ocean environment.
My Miami Beach fix would have to last me until either Denis Lebrun and I make it back there this next April or whenever I may be in a mood to get away from it all, or boogie there on my next South Florida Airline Historical Society meeting in October.

The valets at the National retrieved a regal-looking “Phooka” and we were heading west on Alligator Alley back across a windy Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve back up Interstate 75 to a cold and freezing Plant City. We ended our wonderful South Florida vacation at Setser’s Car show with our Sun Coast F-Body Association (http://www.scfba.net/) brethren at the parking lot next to the checkers at Fletcher and Dale Mabry in Tampa's Carrollwood area. It was so butt cold that the club abandoned all hope and ended our evening with warm coffee and a late night breakfast at a nearby Perkin’s.

A most wonderful and memorable vacation. Many thanks to Karen for indulging me on this wondrous sojourn, which in a sense began a year earlier in a similarly freezing night in the mountains of Tennessee!

Even on a chilly and windy blue day brave souls venture onto the sandy white expanse that separates Lummus Park and Ocean Drive from the Atlantic Ocean. On the left are the buildings of Miami Beach to the right are the Bahamas and northern Africa.

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.