Lessons in Letting Go.

I’ve always been a control freak. I’m not sure why that is, but i’ve always just enjoyed having complete control over as many things that go on in my life as possible. Maybe it all began with my deep love of making lists as a child. Or maybe it was when I began to run my life obsessively with a scheduler/organizer in high school. Holidays, parties, club meetings and activities, exams, birthdays. It all got jotted down. And when things didn’t go to plan, as would often happen, I would have to scratch things out with my pen, leaving a big ugly stain on the paper and a bad taste in my mouth as a result. Like I said – control freak.

The funny thing is that some of the greatest moments of my life, some of the most fantastic things that have happened to me, were completely and totally unexpected. It seems that more often than not, when I let go, I allow the universe to throw me some awesome bones. My most memorable adventures came about at times when I decided not to plan ahead, and to just say fuck it and go with the flow. And then there’s my life now – wife and mom-to-be, roles I would have never written down into any $15 planner, and yet these are some of the coolest things i’ve gotten to be yet.

Back in ’05 when I first began practicing yoga, my instructor had a saying she would always end class with: Let Go and Let God. She always made sure to remind us she didn’t mean that toward any particular denomination. It had nothing to do with a specific religious belief. It was more about letting go and giving in to whatever forces might exist. Whether you believe in a god or goddess, or maybe you’re pantheistic, or an atheist, or a satisfied agnostic like myself, it just means that in order to live a good life, you should submit yourself to the random bits of chaos and the possibility of something other than ourselves controlling what happens next.

I was watching a movie with JB today and it reminded me of how much I love him and how grateful I am about everything that’s happened and everything that will happen. It reminded me about how far i’ve gotten when i’ve finally learned to relax and let go. It’s not always easy and I’ve been holding on tight lately to any control I have over my life. But it felt good to relax again, good to give in, good to let myself think less and feel more. So good to let go.

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5 Things to Love and Loathe About Living on South Beach

Note: This was written shortly before I moved off of SoBe. Opinions still stand and I think if/when I return to Miami, i’ll be opting to live a bit further inland – say, Coconut Grove?

This building was down the road from me. I saw it every day. (Yanked from flickr.com/photos/mrclean/)

I’ve been an unintentional, sometimes unwilling, unofficial resident of South Beach for the past 5 months. The first of those 4.75 months were spent living inside a cramped hotel room with my soon-to-be husband and his cat – but more on that later. As a lifelong Miamian, i’ve had the opportunity of living and hanging out in several of our city’s fine (and not so great) neighborhoods, including Sweetwater, Kendall, Pinecrest, and Coconut Grove. In younger years, I often dreamt of packing my things, getting a room mate, and testing out some beach front living, but it never really panned out – until now. South Beach, a conglomeration of too much bass, khaki shorted tourists, and sun tans in every possible shade of bronze, wooed me for a few weeks and has subsequently left a foul taste in my mouth. Like the salt water that burns your nostrils after a dip in the Atlantic, i’ve learned that perhaps I, too, am not a fish. Still, sometimes it has its’ moments…

5 Things to Love

24 Hour Eateries

Coming from the suburbs, there’s nothing quite like moving to a place where your midnight craving for falafel can be (fairly) easily fulfilled. SoBe is the closest thing Miami has to NYC eating habits. There are plenty of bodegas open late, lots of 24 hour pharmacies, and you can basically find a pizza or a burger well into the evening. I discovered one of my favorite pizza joints, Primo’s, when I was starved for a slice at 2am, and my god is it phenomenal pizza. There’s also Crazy Mexican for when you’ve got the taco itch, 8oz Burger Bar when you need some meat (they also have 2 vegetarian patty options!) with a craft beer, and Chow Down Grill if you’re drunk and not very picky about your fried rice.

Walkability

I wouldn’t exactly say that South Beach is pedestrian friendly, because we’ve got more drunken asshole driving around per square mile than the majority of Dade County. What I would say, though, is that walking the streets of SoBe is much more entertaining than attempting to hike around in most other parts of Miami. From my current apartment, I can very easily walk to a number of gas stations and pharmacies and bodegas, 2 laundromats, a yoga studio, a bank, a few restaurants, and oh yeah, the ocean. My old place in Kendall would have me walking for at least 35 minutes until I reached any center of commerce. Plus, walking around here, you’re sure to see something at least remotely interesting.

Architecture

SoBe is home to Miami’s infamous Art Deco Historic District. On top of that, even the not-so-Deco structures here have a personality all their own. I mean, just look:

We could see this one from our bedroom.

The Goddamn Ocean

I mean, have you seen the beach?! I always took it for granted when I was younger until I wound up taking a trip to New York’s Rockaway Beach (I was having a bit of a Ramones moment last year). Although not the most beautiful beaches i’ve been to (that title belongs to Pochomil, Montelimar, and San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua), South Beach definitely has much to offer. (Relatively) clean, long stretches of sand and cool, blue waters to splash around in without so many waves that i’d be afraid to go in, it’s pretty fantastic. Plus, it’s where my husband proposed to me. I can’t really argue with that.

Not engaged (or pregnant) here yet, but certainly falling heavier in love on the beach.

5 Things to Loathe

Parking, Parking, PARKING!!!

Mother. Of. GOD. Parking is fucking terrible on South Beach. Unless you are an official resident (I.D. and all) and are willing to shell out near $100 a month for a parking pass, you will be fucked on South Beach. I’m fairly certain that the Miami Beach Parking Department are in bed with Tremont Towing and Beach Towing, who have their hands beyond full on any given day. Let’s see… Public parking garages are few and far between, and anyone staying more than, say, 5 hours is destined to pay $20 not to have their car impounded. As for street parking, you might be lucky enough to get to a metered space but this means paying over $1 an hour and hoping the meter doesn’t run out before a meter maid comes by and writes you up. And by god will they write you up. Over and over and over again. I left my car for a day once at an unfortunate meter (never park on Meridian south of 5th!) and got 4 parking tickets in under 12 hours. That’s practically $100 – more so if i’d waited over 30 days to pay it off. Oh, oh. But always MAKE SURE TO PAY YOUR PARKING TICKETS. JB and I had the misfortune of finding my car missing right before dinner on Father’s Day, only to find out that my 5 outstanding tickets had granted Tremont Towing a free pass to hunt down and take my car and then rape me with a $300 fine (on top of the practically $400 I owed from overdue tickets). Lesson learned.

However, there are ways around the parking fiasco. When we lived on Ocean Drive, we came to realize that we would only get ticketed on weekends, and only once in a while. We cut our losses and decided not to pay meters, and still wound up only paying maybe $40-$60 a month on either car. Additionally, living on 5th street, we found certain meters don’t appear to EVER get ticketed – not even on weekends! If you can find one of these golden locations (and sorry, I won’t be telling you on the off chance I move back to SoBe and need it myself), you’re pretty much set for life.

High Cost of Living

SoBe living ain’t cheap. I’ve never been to a more expensive Publix in all of Miami ($6 for a small pack of string cheese? You fuckin kidding me?!). You have to pay for parking always (see above – or again, I had to PAY to use the Publix parking garage if I were staying longer than 2 hours. Granted, who shops for that long? But you never know!) Although some entertainment (people watching, swimming in the ocean) is free or cheap, plenty of other stuff (concerts, comedy shows, festival entrances, night clubs, bar tabs) are much more expensive around here. Unless you know your way around to the cheap joints (like Las Olas Cafe for the $4 breakfast special or Club Deuce for you seedy bar flies out there), you’ll end up overspending within a few hours of visiting the island.

Some girlfriends and I before an afternoon at the Deuce, back in my own bar fly days.

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

Hello, police state! I’d never actually been to SoBe on Memorial Day Weekend (a.k.a. “Urban Week”) until this year, and I can see why. Absurdly long lines to get in and out of the island. Checkpoints as far as the eye can see. More obnoxious party-going tourists than you can shake a glow stick at. And cops everywhere. Everywhere. All up and down the street. In cars, on bikes, on foot. In the fucking SKY! Seriously, helicopters were flying above our apartment for days on end. Luckily we knew our way around some of the annoyances (taking the Venetian instead of the Macarthur helped at times, as did living/using the streets south of 5th). We didn’t even go out to explore that weekend. We were better off indoors until the craziness passed.

Tourists

This is just me being a snob, but after a while, being around tourists just gets old. I figure this is what NYC people must feel like hanging out in most of Manhattan. Too many teenagers looking to “party” and trash my town and if it isn’t them, it’s old folks with too much sunblock, scared to cross the damn street and taking too long once they do to look up at the pretty buildings. If only life were more like Grand Theft Auto…

It Smells

Yeah, I said it. It’s possibly not the worst smelling part of town, but it is pretty funky. The mixture of sunblock and tanning oil sizzling off people’s sweaty bodies, homeless dudes in every possible state of cleanliness (fun fact: during “Hurricane” Isaac, JB caught a naked bum showering next to our trash bin), and more sweaty but probably not homeless folks walking around without caring about their personal B.O. (you’ve never been to a worse smelling Whole Foods – or maybe that’s just the overcrowded hot food bar – and I normally love WF!) makes the streets of SoBe the wild west of odors. But hey, it could always be worse!

All that being said, I miss the damn beach. Being landlocked in a town where you can’t walk to anything is insanely frustrating. I got spoiled having a 24 Hour CVS across the street as well as a variety of open-late amenities a few blocks away. South Beach, you will always have a place in my heart – you crazy fucking bitch, you.

Starting Off On The Right Foot.

Wouldn’t it be great if every morning could be like this?

There’s nothing particularly special about this morning, except for the incredibly zen state I’m in. So I guess that’s pretty special. Some mornings are hellish. The alarm clock rings like nails on a chalkboard. Your body aches and you wonder if you’ve been pro-wrestling in your sleep. It feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the night ever.

But some mornings are just right. I rolled over in bed and smiled at my husband who was smiling right back. Saying “I love you” in the mornings is definitely a great way to begin a day. I had a dream in the early AM about giving birth. I told JB about it and how I know I need to begin getting serious about preparing for the big event. “It’s like preparing for a marathon,” I said. And it’s true. This is going to be the single most exhausting and challenging physical experience of my life. I like being able to tell JB my dreams.

“I have to get ready for work,” he said, shortly after the alarm rang. I kissed him and nodded. Off he went to let Hobbes (the cat) in and into the shower next. My aching back told me I should do a little stretching. Some cat cow stretches and a few minutes in child’s pose got the blood circulating. Hunger pangs got me out of the room and I served myself some cereal and milk while Hobbes darted in between my legs, vying for my attention. Spoiled little brat. Pet, pet, pet.

And then, I wound up here. Like I said – nothing special. Except that i’m writing, and even if it’s not life altering prose, it’s still something. Sometimes writers get caught up in perfection, in wanting to produce this grand and epic work because everything else seems so mundane. But we forget that sometimes it’s just about working out. You don’t need to run the marathon every day, and you most certainly don’t need to win it each time. Before you ever get there, you just need to stretch, to move around, and get started off on the right foot.

Good morning to you all.

Find Some Magic.

My new apartment is a quiet mess. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags full of clutter are strewn about on the beige wall-to-wall carpeted floors. The air conditioner hums rhythmically and sometimes you can hear the patter of the vertical blinds softly crashing into one another. Our cat, Hobbes, adjusts himself into another curled position beside me on the futon. Outside, I hear nothing. So very different from the loud engines and horns and chatter of tourists below when we lived in our little South Beach sublet.

The first week here was an adjustment. I’d been spending every waking hour of the past almost 3 weeks with JB as he’d been on vacation, and then again as we moved. But then it was time for him to work again and for me to stay at home, within the confines of a city I know next to nothing about. We had yet to get our internet connected, so it was even quieter than usual. No chatting with friends. No checking of e-mail. No updating of blog. No reading up on other people’s lives. I couldn’t so much as look up where the local library was. Frustrating and lonely. It only made me realize how incredibly spoiled I am by technology and by my husband.

I’ve always lived in the city – even when I was so convinced I lived in the suburbs. It was not as suburban as this. It’s not the kind of small-town magical life that I envy from shows like Gilmore Girls. At least, I have yet to find the real magic here. But maybe magic is something created rather than found. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong. Or at the very least, it might be that it’s something that needs to be sought out. I might never find any magic sitting still in my living room. But maybe i’ll find something if I go for a walk. Or a drive. Or get lost.

Today’s assignment: find some magic. Because I want my daughter to live in a magical world, not a boring one. I don’t want her to look around and see the negatives like I sometimes do. I don’t want her to become so easily disillusioned. I can’t stand the thought of her in a world that’s less than wonderful and beautiful and special and perfect. So today, I will seek out just a little bit of magic so that I can have something to show her once she’s here.