Stuff one finds on the beach.

As my faithful readers know, my community service this year was cleaning the beach every Sunday afternoon. It was extremely rewarding to help, and at the same time to walk for an hour and to meditate while enjoying the beautiful beach and weather. A three in one: community service, meditation, and exercise.

During the Winter months, the strong winds (I guess) blew in all kinds of trash, sometimes in the course of an hour I had to empty my big bucket (you know, the 5-gallon blue buckets) up to three times! Now in the warmer months there was remarkably less trash. Anyway, that was my highly scientific (not) guess.

Fortunately, I am not the only one on beach cleaning duty, I do bump occasionally into other people cleaning up. The town also has 4 buckets available at the entrance to the beach if you want to grab one and clean up.

On top of all that there is a bit of a treasure hunter thrill, and a fun component to what you find or might find. Here is an incomplete list of things I have found:

  • Bottle tops – this is the most popular trash on the beach ☹
  • Plastic forks and spoons – really people?
  • Bottles – mostly plastic but also glass. All sorts of bottles: drinks, shampoo, oil, you name it…
  • Bits of plastic – from tiny to huge and in all colors. You cannot even tell what they used to be a part of.
  • Flip flops – every Sunday at least one! Usually, barnacle incrusted.
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Deflated balloon
  • Hammerhead shark – dead
  • Comb – I picked it up, not because I needed it.
  • Eyeglasses – no glass and broken, but I do not need them.
  • Lure – with a massive hook I gave it to a dude fishing.
  • Dog Tag – Palm Beach.
  • Part of a propeller – someone surely missed it…
  • Etc. Etc.

Oh, and make sure you do not step on the Portuguese Man-O-War… or their deadly, long tentacles.

The Walker Cup

Once in a while, on Friday after school a few elements will align and I actually stop at the Smoke Inn, my cigar lounge for a celebratory cigar, a “Happy Hour” as it were, a necessary attitude adjustment hour.

So there I am, enjoying a cigar and a libation, out on the porch, reading my book, and the TV is showing the opening ceremony of the Walker Cup, which happens to be at the Seminole Country Club which is a couple of blocks away from my friend Manuel’s house in Juno Beach. Since he is a golf fan and I am a good friend, I send him a photo telling him about it.

Sunday comes around and Manuel sends me a message that he is at the tournament and that I should go. I do, and we had a great time!

The Walker Cup is a competition between US and English (and Irish) amateur players i.e.: university guys (and it is only guys). We enjoyed watching a few holes, we savored a refreshment and overall, just had a good time! (Oh, and the Yanks won)

First year back Stateside

A year ago I was locked up in Madrid, teaching a few classes on line, obviously Tonxo Tours was paused indefinitely. So I started looking for gigs around the world. As fate would have it, I ended up back in my beloved (not) Florida. Well at least the East coast of Florida which, having a bit more history than the West coast is a bit more diverse…

So, as I review the year, what are my main observations and conclusions:

I love my school! Saint Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. We get students from North Carolina down to the Caribbean, and I get to teach them Spanish and English in a beautiful campus with great colleagues!

Despite Covid issues like having to wear a mask to class, it still beat Zoom classes where students are sitting on their beds, getting up to brew a cup of tea…

I have worked hard at building my community by building relationships at school, volunteering as an usher at my church (wait for a blog post on that), and trying to socialize –although that boils down to me going to my cigar lounge once in a while.

Speaking of fate, I was lucky to find out that my friend from my schooldays in London, Manuel Andrés lives a couple of towns North of me in Juno Beach! We basically saw each other every week-end for pizza, barbecue, or trips to Ikea. Last weekend we crashed the Walker Cup which took place next door to him (watch for another blog post on that).

I have moved so many times –about 20- in my life, that I now have a fairly established routine: find a nearby church, gym, and yoga studio, bar, coffee shop, cigar shop/lounge, community service, breakfast restaurant, Trader Joe’s, etc. Of course it is tricky to check all the boxes, so there is a bit of give and take. For example, I do not really go to the bar much anymore, but I do have the beach to go running, swimming and walking/meditating, so it compensates.

All in all, it has been a positive year and it has flown by! Now I only have a handful of meetings, some paperwork and I am off to Spain, stay tuned!

On grilling

It might be our reptilian brains, our primal instincts, but few things taste as good as grilled foods. It does make sense: fire + food, no middleman, no fancy sauce, no nothing.

Now, I got the secret to buying great secondhand stuff from Spencer, a brilliant and wise old student of mine: You have to watch Craigslist like a hawk. And I did, patiently waiting and searching for the right barbeque. When it popped up, I snatched it up.

It is a baby gas Weber grill (Spirit II E-210), but it is all I need, and it fit my teacher’s budget. I know, of course the charcoal ones are far better, but to cook for one person, it is a bit of a production, so I confess to falling for the convenience of pressing a button and presto!

I invited my friend Manuel to dinner in order to properly inaugurate (for me) the grill. I rarely eat red meat, so when I do it is a treat. I went to the butcher in town, The Butcher and the Bar, and bought a pound of filet mignon from grass fed, Florida cows.

Of course, I washed and cleaned the grill as the obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive Virgo that I am, and we were ready to fire her up!

It did not disappoint. The steaks (and the asparagus we threw with them) came out perfectly. My main concern was that being a small grill it was not going to have the heat to sear the meat, but I was wrong (as usual) (see the photos). Since then, I have also done swordfish, and it has also been delicioso!

So, if you are in SW Florida and want to put some shrimp on the barbie, hit me up!

Where are you on your journey? Richard Rohr (continued)

Spirituality and cigars, why not?

Where are you on your journey of self-fulfillment? Where are you on your journey of peace, inner and outer? Where are you on your journey of finding the real you? Not your things, your mind, or your TikTok likes, but your soul.

If you are on this journey, and I hope you are, and it is a journey, I hope that you pay attention to yourself, that you spend time alone cultivating, discovering yourself, call it what you will, your spirit, your soul. The first step on this long road usually comes about due to failure, breakage: a failed relationship, financial struggle, accidents, whatever. Without this fall, why would you need to rebuild? To re-calibrate? To question anything? Just go on your merry way with your ego, enjoy.

Otherwise, with every so-called failure, you release your ego; you embrace peace, you let go, you become more aware of your inner self. You rebuild and grow –and here is the catch- not necessarily stronger in the selfish way of thinking, but more vulnerable, wiser.

Why are you on such a metaphysical rant, Antonio? You might ask, and I am happy that you ask. You see, I have just read Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water and my mind has been expanded.

In his book, Rohr studies Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps from a spiritual perspective and re-frames your pre-conceived ideas of alcoholics!

The book is epigraphed by three quotes from three of my favorite guides:

“I did not come for the healthy, but for those who need a doctor.”

Jesus (Luke 5:31-32)

“Alcohol in Latin is “spiritus” and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison.”

Carl Jung, letter to Bill Wilson (1961)

And

“These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.”

José Ortega y Gasset

The first step is the hardest to take: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Most of the time our ego blinds us to our problems. This is why many times only a violent awakening will make us reach for much needed help. That is the first step, realizing you have a problem, it is much easier to dismiss it than to deal with it, and its roots…

Rohr analyzes every step in detail weaving spirituality into each rung of the ladder. It is an illuminating book that everybody should read. Yes, you too.

We all have our addictions our sins, it does not have to be alcohol or drugs –although many times it is. Rohr sees how “breakage” and coming out of it is deeply healing and spiritual. In Japan, when they break a plate or a bowl many times they glue it back together with gold covered adhesive, making the piece much more valuable. They call it Kintsugi, and it makes for beautiful, unique pieces!

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Enjoying mi reading

A good cup of coffee (continued)

Yes, I talk about coffee a lot, and not because I am addicted to the stimulants, in fact during recent fasts, (for colonoscopy prep and for Lenten Fridays) I lived fine without it. And I only normally only have one cup a day. A standard 16oz size, not the Big Gulp Americans drown in. Well, lucky for me I have found a great coffee place in my neighborhood in what is otherwise the suburban wasteland of Southern Florida.

Common Grounds is a great little place despite its common name. The grounds are not Common, since they are single origin, fair trade, organic, all the feel-good stuff, but it makes for a tasty cup. The place is cute with real vintage furniture, a piano you can write on -it gets painted over when it is full-, and friendly, skilled staff. I have yet to try their pastries, but they do look tasty!!

Just as important as the coffee, the time you take to enjoy it, the space, the ceremony, your relationship with the barista, all make up your sensory and spiritual experience. Something that is normally mostly lacking in the big chain coffee shops.

The best company I can find nowadays here is a good book, as you can appreciate from the photos.

So, there you have it, if you are ever around Boynton Beach, hit me up, otherwise head over to Common Grounds!

Tacos

Strangely enough, I rarely write about food, which happens to be one of my favorite things! Well, we’ll try to fix it…

As an old family member used to say: “I will eat anything that does not eat me first”, so I´ll eat pretty much anything – except maybe that Corsican cheese with the maggots (it does explain Napoleon being Corsican, though). At any rate, one of life’s simple pleasures is street food.

And what better example of street food than tacos? Of course, there is street food everywhere there are streets, so I remember fish and chips growing up in London, crêpes in France during my summer internships, hot dogs and pretzels in New York, churros in Madrid, Dholl Puri (curried yellow split-pea flatbreads) in Mauritius, etc. etc.

My first visit to Mexico was for work in 1993, and I can testify that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Many tacos later, in Naples I was blessed (a word I hate to use because we are all blessed, we just don’t see it or do not want to see it) to have Taquería San Julian. While not a stand, but a “real” -if humble- sit down joint, it made exceptional tacos. In fact I took my students there to order their lunch in Spanish as the oral component of their final exams!

Florida, unfortunately, does not have a rich heritage of street food. In fact, it does not have much heritage at all. The native Seminole population is limited to a handful of casinos, and until the late 18th C. nothing much happened here. What about fried alligator? A handful of “native” Floridians will shout. Well, when was the last time you saw a fried alligator stand on a street corner? Fortunately, enterprising Mexican immigrants have filled that vacuum with delicious tacos!

In a providential twist, there is a great taco trailer that parks -literally- around the corner from my house. So, guess where I end up when I am in a rush, or feeling lazy, or just craving tacos?

Although I have had tacos at Michelin starred restaurants (Punto MX in Madrid) and they were delicious (and expensive), tacos are meant to be eaten on the street (Florida does not really have sidewalks so one must eat in the car).

In conclusion: Thank God for tacos!

Downtown Miami

I have been to Miami many times, but I had never been a tourist in Miami. That changed on Presidents Day. My goal is to discover Miami from a historical, chronological viewpoint. This meant starting from the mouth of Mayaimi river (now obviously Miami) where the Tequesta tribe lived. Nowadays that is the heart of old downtown, a gritty area dominated by 80’s vintage office and apartment buildings.

An oasis in this concrete jungle is the Gesú church. This beautiful Jesuit church sits where the original Jesuit mission was. It is the oldest in South Florida and is certainly worth the visit. Other spots to explore are Freedom tower, modeled after the Giralda, the old minaret, now bell tower of Seville’s Cathedral. It used to house the Miami News, but is now part of Miami-Dade College.

The main tourist trap, I mean attraction, is the Bayside Marina, mall, restaurants, etc. It is a sprawling, generic, commercial area, full of tourists, obviously. This is the spot to have a mediocre, overpriced meal, to go on a celebrity homes cruise, a motorboat cruise, or just a regular old “booze” cruise.

The American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, is also downtown, as is the Perez Art Museum if you are into Contemporary Art, the History Miami Museum, etc. Stay tuned for more chapters as we continue to explore Miami, layer by layer!

Nature in my Southern Florida neighborhood

If you have at all followed this blog, you know how important nature is for me. Although I am a city boy, I grew up spending every weekend and Summer in the country. I still crave nature and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I have written before about the benefits of “forest bathing”, “Shinrin Yoku”. Although Boynton Beach is a suburban wasteland, there are a few great places to connect with nature.

The first and most obvious is the beach! I am lucky to live close enough to the beach that I can go for a run or if conditions are right, an open water swim about once a week. It makes my workout into a meditation; the sea clears your mind! I also go to the beach for my weekly “volunteering” shift where I walk and clean, mostly plastics, but also papers, old flip flops, etc. from the shore.

On the opposite, Western edge of town is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge which consist of two parts, a mile boardwalk in Florida subtropical forest, and massive swamp that you can walk next to, or canoe on. Here you can see a lot of Florida wildlife: gators, deer, and plenty of birds.

Finally, a few blocks from home I have the Seacrest Scrub Natural Area which is a small park mostly hosting Gopher turtles. This little park is perfect for a quick walk to clear your mind, meditate or just wander.

So I can’t complain as far as outdoor venues is concerned.

10 years (almost), 200 posts, 100 likes

This was the start of a beautiful friendship (with Rocinante, not with the salesguy)

Time flies when you are having fun, as the saying goes. This blog, that started as a travel log for my motorcycle trip visiting grad schools for my PhD is hitting some important milestones:

First, we have posted over 200 posts, so that is something. That coincides with our upcoming 10th anniversary (it will be on July 31, but still, I am ahead of my time on everything except the rent), which translates to 20 posts a year, so about one every couple of weeks on average. Sorry I am a bit of a nerd.

100 likes means that every other one of my posts gets a like. Hey, I will take it!

My tops posts are the one on Don Quixote and his influence on Existentialist philosophy, and my dad’s eulogy.

Thank you to my readers for making this possible.

Enjoy my first and most recent photos posted on AntonioyRocinante