Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Miami Book Fair III

The sightseeing component of the event...

I was looking forward to this weekend for a long time. I welcomed the opportunity to extend it to three days. ML arrived Thursday night which meant that we had all day Friday to relax and poke around close to home, before heading to Miami on Saturday and Sunday.

We planned a leisurely day and didn't try to leave the house early.

Mr. Bertocci has been working on some paintings for the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort and he wanted me to photograph them so we started there. The paintings are whimsical, colorful atmosphere creators for the pool area--parrots, manatees, monkeys and a Florida panther.

We walked over to the beach from there, passing Primanti Brothers' restaurant--ML was happy to see this familiar landmark that reminded her of her hometown--not Seattle, where she lives now, but Pittsburgh, where she grew up.

We walked along the shore for a while and then headed to Las Olas Riverfront.

No boat ride for ML and me--we are landlubbers. We strolled the riverside, then visited the library, including the art gallery on the 6th floor, and had fish sandwiches for lunch at the Ugly Tuna Cafe. Inside the cafe, a mural depicts anthropomorphic fish catching, cooking and eating people in a convivial fish restaurant. I was glad we chose to eat outside.

We went across the street, past the Performing Arts Center to the Museum of Science to meditate on the giant gravity clock. It's fun and somewhat mesmerizing to watch the balls travel along their tracks, stacking up at intersections until they reach a critical mass, then dumping to the next section.


We had some sightseeing opportunities after the book fair, too.

We walked through downtown Miami, which is mostly closed up on Sunday afternoon. Miami's historic business section is really struggling, in marked contrast to Bayside, the thriving shopping/dining/entertainment complex on the other side of Biscayne Boulevard.

"This store isn't empty. It's filled with OPPORTUNITY!"
Nice try, marketing geniuses.

After our walking tour we drove across the causeway to Miami Beach and embarked on a quest for the illusive South Beach Parking Space. Found one(!) and strolled over to the beach, dodging tourists and supermodels and eavesdropping on the beautiful people as they tried to hook up with each other.

South Beach is pretty cool, very art deco and cute--the public restroom on the beach is designed to look like a ship.

After dinner at a sidewalk cafe across from the beach, and one last look at the waves, we headed back to the hotel.

Here's the sunrise view from the hotel window, eleventh floor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Miami Book Fair II

After a day of politely listening to authors, pundits, commentators, and literary mavens, a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of book fair attendees feel the urge to gather for some heartfelt rock 'n' roll, and so they show up at the Student Life Pavilion to listen to the Rock Bottom Remainders.

Stephen King, who joins the band whenever his schedule permits, characterizes the RBR's sound as "hard listening music." They do have a good time, and it is contagious. The playlist ranges from 60s and 70s classics to novelty tunes like "The Tupperware Blues" and perennial book fair favorite, "I'm in Love With a Proofreading Woman." Kathi Goldmark, the band's founder, also has a great song; I think they call it "The Slut Song" and the essential lyrics are "I wonder if he'd care / if he knew I had underwear / older than him" -- of course Dave mentions that it really should be "older than he."

The band's roster is extremely fluid. This year's book fair edition included--in addition to Dave Barry and Kathi Goldmark--Scott Turow, Greg Iles, Roy Blount, Jr. , Ridley Pearson, Tananarive Due, and assorted vocalists such as Dave's son's girlfriend. (I'm sorry but I didn't get her name. ) Dave's brother, Sam ("the one who got all the musical talent in the Barry family") delighted the audience with a gospel number, "Nobody's Fault But Mine."

The most incredible addition to the band was real life musician Monte Montgomery, from Austin, Texas. Guitar Player magazine named him one of the fifty best guitar players of all time. This guy does not belong on the stage with the group whose recording contract is literally(!) with "Don't Quit Your Day Job Records, Inc." I'll tell you what it was like. If you make lemonade from powdered mix, it doesn't taste anything like fresh-squeezed lemonade. But if you mix the powdered lemonade with water and then squeeze one fresh lemon into it, you might be very surprised at how much it tastes like the real thing. Monte was the band's fresh lemon and his talent and professionalism turned a fun evening into a fun musical evening.

I was there with my new digital camera, not a fancy piece of equipment by any means. The photos I took didn't come out well. I borrowed this one from Dave's blog:

That's Brother Sam to Dave's right and Kathi Goldmark leading the clapping.

I more or less accidentally took some video of the opening act, a supremely talented juggler named John Nations, or as he says in Miami, "Juan PaĆ­ses." I don't know how to edit the video, and that is obvious. But you can get an idea of how good he is. Check it out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Miami Book Fair 2007

The 24th annual Miami Book Fair concluded yesterday. I'm still recovering. The fun of the book fair was greatly enhanced by the companionship of my blogfriend, the Imaginary Friend Known As Mostlylurking. She came in from Seattle, and that was very special. She'll be referred to as ML hereafter in this account.

Compared to last year's book fair, the weekend was more political, more educational, and less star-studded. All the events we attended were good, but all the high points somehow came back to Dave Barry.

Looking back on the weekend, trying to sort everything out, I got quite nostalgic about the role Dave Barry has played in my life since I came to south Florida in 1980. In Key West in the 80s, it was a regular ritual for my husband and me to take the Sunday paper to the beach, and for me to read Dave's column out loud to him. The couple who laughs together, as they say, might just still be married 26 years later.

The year our daughter was born, Dave's son Rob started kindergarten. The column he wrote on that occasion was not just funny, but could move a new parent from laughter to tears in the space of 15 seconds. I don't have a copy of it but I remember it very well.

When our baby was about six weeks old, we took her to the 4th annual Miami Book Fair. We walked the aisles of books and browsed the children's section, dreaming of the books we would read to our daughter as she grew older. We attended one author event: Dave Barry. The only specific thing I remember was he was making jokes about Robert Bork, who had been nominated for the Supreme Court. Dave was funny. I laughed, the audience laughed, it went on and on. The next day, our baby laughed for the very first time. I don't think it was a coincidence.

After all these years, all the humor, the Tropic Hunts and the book fairs, Dave seems like a member of our family or an old friend. Seeing his presentation this weekend was a priority. He did not disappoint.

He was presenting the book he wrote with Ridley Pearson, a prequel to Peter Pan--a children's book. But he knew who was there and why. "Are there any actual children in the room?" he asked, peering around the auditorium. There were--about four of them. So he obliged the rest of us with some classic humor. "I'm sixty!" he announced, and then dropped to the floor for a pushup demonstration. I couldn't see if they were real pushups, or one-handed or what. But it got a laugh. Then he talked about how when you get older you lose your nouns, which makes it difficult to speak coherently. The names of things and especially people, you know, you can think of the verbs and adjectives and even prepositions, but the nouns are elusive. He got his biggest laugh from the South Florida audience talking about hurricanes. He experienced Hurricane Andrew personally. He said after Andrew, the screen enclosure that had been at the back of his house was "orbiting the earth"--and he said, "you need screens in Florida, to keep the mosquitoes from stealing your patio furniture."

After the presentation, we lined up in the booksigning area. When we reached the head of the line, I said, "I bought the pre-autographed version of your book, so would you sign my book bag?"

Dave caught on right away, and there was a hint of envy in his voice when he said, "I didn't know Joel had..." (his voice trailed away, but the noun that was escaping him in his confusion was "merchandise.") [Reading his mind: I didn't know Joel had merchandise, hey what is up with this?] I told him, "Oh, he doesn't. These are Bootleg Boodle Bookbags™." He liked it.

Here we all are, kb, Ridley, Dave and ml:

Check back late tomorrow night: our next installment will be about the Rock Bottom Remainders, with VIDEO of the warmup act (really bad video of a very talented opening act.)