With Phil and Jovani at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor. In a smaller, darker, more Moorish-looking room off the main dining area, a private party is watching flamingo dancers. As in Cuban flamenco. Gypsy Kings echo through the tiled corridors.
After Phil and Claudia's wedding in 2007, I flew back to San Francisco with memories of the Ft. Lauderdale lounge where the event was held, a desire to return to that little art deco tide pool of a room over and over again. And so, I painted my SF walls tiffany blue and avocado green.
Now, P and C live in Miami, with Penelope, age 14 months. I bemoan the fact that we did not move there, but maybe, someday. Some arts orgs that I have interviewed for here, in Tampa, look at me flatly and say, "Why didn't you go to Miami from SF?" (If you are reading this, arts Tampa people, and you sniff at the idea, be my friend--write to me!)
We dine on mussels and chorizo, paella and roast pork. My great-grandfather, Eugenio Morales, was a cook at the Columbia in the 40's. Phil says that the joke, in Miami, about Cuban coffee, has become: it is American beans, run through an Italian press and served by a Venezuelan waitress. I think about the waitress in Fiesta Plaza, at Montauro's, serving us ziti. She might've been Sicilian, but then she started calling my brother Papi and we knew she was Puerto Rican.
And somehow, Junot Diaz's stories about peeps from the DR, in the 90's, in New Jersey apartment complexes, help me think more clearly about local socio-culturla history. Despite the fact that I have only ever known one person from the DR. Altagracia, who I met in Sevilla, Span and traveled to an ice cream shop with on Siesta Key, in Sarasota, FL.