Welcome to Miami

Miami is fun. It is just that getting in and out is such a headache. But once you are there it is playful fun. The other day I had the chance to walk around, right before the Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend.

South Beach might be the first thing we think of when we think of Miami; the Art Deco architecture, the amazing beach, the people. I testify to all of them.

If I had to define Miami, I would talk about the vibe, the throbbing energy, the vibrancy. It is a bold, loud, colorful place. The food options are improving constantly, better representing the cultural melting pot it is (haha pun intended).

Sure, if you walk around South Beach most of the folks are turistas, but, and here is one of Miami’s tricks: it is difficult to separate the turista from the local, granted part of it is because of the general lack of clothing one sees, but it also speaks to the diversity of the locals and their hedonist lifestyle.

A fairly unique feature of Miami is the “Ventanita” a window on the side of a restaurant, shop, or bar where you can order a coffee “cafecito”, a fruit juice, and in some cases a shake or a smoothy. These ubiquitous “ventanitas” allow you to have a quick coffee “sportello” style on the sidewalk or sitting at a nearby bench -so long as it is in the shade!

Other areas of Miami are more touristy like Bayfront and Bayside, but the beauty of Miami Beach is the mingling of folks. Enjoy!

Spanish teaching hack #752: using songs to memorize verbs

Most of what I know about teaching Spanish I learnt from Tracy years ago, and I am eternally grateful for that. One of those things is the importance of music in the classroom as a teaching tool. Sure, we learn songs and watch YouTube videos, but a lesser-known quality of music is as a mnemonic tool.

It is a well-known fact that irregular verbs in any language are difficult to memorize; there are so many! They are so hard! So, one way of helping to learn and memorize them is with songs, even if they are silly, basic melodies.

Here are a couple of examples of using basic melodies to help memorize irregular verbs: one is for the past tense preterit, and the other one for affirmative “tú” commands. Enjoy.

West Palm Beach, a celebration

Within the suburban wasteland that is South Florida, Palm Beach stands out as a beacon of civilization. Developed in the early 20th century by rich northerners who were scaping the cold and snow, it soon became the place for really rich folks to build winter homes (think Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Mar-a-Lago). If you were not rich enough to own a home you could always spend a few days at the iconic Breakers hotel. Nowadays, the Palm Beaches boast the Norton Museum which I have talked about already, and great dining venues.

I recently had the chance to explore Palm Beach at night. A colleague’s birthday was all it took to get three guys to go explore, improvise, and enjoy some drinks and a great dinner. Sure, there was some shop talk and some philosophy talk (they are both professors of philosophy, I am just an amateur) but mostly we just chatted and shared and enjoyed breaking bread together.

Pre-dinner drinks were had at the great rooftop Spruzzo bar atop the Ben hotel. The views were amazing, the drinks chilly, and the vibe great!

From there we walked around Clematis Street checking out the fun atmosphere, before settling down for dinner at Elisabetta’s Ristorante for a great Italian meal.

Overall, a fun time was had by all. I must say I was impressed by the cosmopolitan and sophisticated feel of West Palm Beach, I’ll be back.

Don Quixote, Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene, and madness vs. Existentialism

A good book and a good cigar

There are books that I re-read with certain regularity: The Old Man and the Sea, Voltaire’s Candide, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (you can read about that one here), Don Quixote only three times.

But I recently came across a book I had read as a teenager in the 80s and decided to revisit: Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote.

As you can see from the title -I will try not to spoil anything- in a fictional meta-reality, Monsignor Quixote deals with the adventures of a descendant of Don Quixote. There is a Rocinante and a Sancho. Greene converted to Catholicism at 22 in 1926 (you can read his bio here) and this novel deals precisely with -no spoilers- with religion, theology, and the Church in early ‘80s, post Franco Spanish society (It was published in 1982). The book is an easy, quick read, and, since I am always on the lookout for the far reaching effects of Don Quixote, I re-borrowed Monsignor Quixote (thanks Sue) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

My more faithful readers know that one of my research interests is the influence of Don Quixote on Existentialist philosophy. So my antennae are always poised to pick up on this theme. Monsignor Quixote does not disappoint! The references to the links between Don Quixote and Existentialism might have been written unknowingly by Greene, which I doubt, but they are there either way:

There is a heartfelt reference to Miguel de Unamuno who was a big fan of Don Quixote and a proto-Existentialist (read San Manuel Bueno, Mártir). This is an indication that Greene understands Cervantes.

There are explicit mentions of Monsignor Quixote acknowledging his existence, which is a big step in understanding who one is.

The novel deals with our doubts and beliefs, the Existential anguish that drove Kierkegaard (but not in those words), the father of Existentialism -which would make Cervantes the great-grandfather of Existentialism (read about that here).

Finally, as any alert reader would expect of a novel with the name Quixote in it, it talks of madness. Of course, folks -specially those who have not read the novel- often confuse Don Quixote’s drive and purpose with madness (which drives me mad). I will not elaborate but Don Quixote knows who he is, it is just that nobody understands what he is doing, so they call him mad. This leads me to my first and hopefully last political statement ever on this blog: Former President Trump was often called Quixotic, for whatever reason, and the people who labeled Trump like that have obviously never read, and/or never understood Cervantes’ novel!! A similar point is seen in the film Easy Rider when Jack Nicholson as George Hanson says:

Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.

I guess I could have written a more academic article about this book, and maybe I will, but for the time being, enjoy.

A good book and a good coffee