Monday, February 20, 2017
A Walk Along Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami, Florida, USA
I have long been interested from afar in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami but, until now, had never visited. Little Havana calls "Calle Ocho" (8th Street) the heart of it all. I've imagined old men playing dominoes in the park, a driving Latin beat spilling out of bars and restaurants and open windows, rapid-fire Spanish spoken widely, all-in-all a vibrant sense of "foreign" right here in the homeland.
I was not disappointed. At Maximo Gomez Park/Domino Park, there is a long tradition of domino playing and this day was no exception. Hands, eyes, and tiles - and mostly men of a certain age. I got exactly what I expected - a wonderfully transporting experience - old men playing dominoes as they have done for a lifetime together.
I should use this photo to stage a caption writing contest.........
I don't know the nuances of dominoes but, all four of these men seem taken aback by the opening two tiles.
Next door to Domino Park, at Old's Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina, these two musicians were creating a wonderful Latin sound for patrons and passersby. I got exactly what I expected - a wonderfully transporting experience - live music with a driving Latin beat. It requires you to move your feet and dance with a stranger on the sidewalk. (Yes, I did - and I'm afraid Amy will make the iPhone video available when I least expect it). Nothing like that smoky, sultry, life-affirming, driving tropical beat woven through the music.
When the place doesn't have live music, they can rely on the old time Wurlitzer jukebox behind the musicians. This duo's powerful and moving music had a crowd of people dancing and gathering on the sidewalk just outside the open doorway. Such a joyous sound!
A mural on a random building.
Construction work remodeling a pedestrian mall area opposite Domino Park.
I popped into another open air bar/restaurant, as this wonderful band was just starting their set. The band's pastel percussionist let me play his shaker (the little red barbell) for a few bars of music - I think much to the dismay of his fellow musicians.
I love to see musicians just oozing joy at creating their sound.
I don't think I could carry off the pastel look - his pants were the same color as his hat - but he sure did - he was rockin' it!
All that walking made for a hungry lunch time. Oddly, we popped into this happening hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant just before the line grew outside. Yes, Thai instead of Cuban. It was barely wide enough for the kitchen and a row of counter stools.
The man in the back, right corner in the black/white striped shirt filled a role sort of like the "Soup Nazi" of comedian Jerry Seinfeld's well-known creation - he directed all phases of the restaurant, the comings and goings of patrons, he assigned the seats, he took the orders, and he made clear to each patron that they were only permitted to order one time, no lingering, no second chances - eat and leave, others are waiting.
Of course, as expected, it was a wonderful culinary experience!
There is something special about being up close and personal with the kitchen when eating out. Everything is on display: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes a patron will violate the "fourth wall" and speak with the chef but mostly, it is performance art with delicious food as the result.
This ice cream store marquee sure made it look good but, I didn't eat any this time. (Ice cream is seldom vegan - although I sometimes give in - I'm not a perfect vegan but I try pretty hard).
This bar wasn't hoppin' just yet but, the bartender was getting everything ready for later when it will be.
And passing by another curbside chicken, we headed on to our next destination.
Ah, Miami - I am smitten by all your charms!