By now, many of us have heard the news about Amendment Four, aka the constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to ex-felons. What I really want to write is: that restores voting rights to people, in an effort to humanize people with felony convictions. So I’m going go with that — restores voting rights to people.
The Florida Supreme Court sided with a GOP-backed bill that deems “all terms of sentence” to include fines, fees, and court costs. I once heard a clerk describe the criminal justice system as a “pay to play” system, and nothing could be more true. It’s a point of interest for me that even if a judge doesn’t impose a punitive fine or there is no restitution to be paid to the victim, the criminal defendant will always get stuck with court costs.
You can read the full advisory opinion here. It is an instructive opinion if you want to learn about statutory construction, which can be one of the most tedious and elegant parts of practicing law. My law review tryout was based on an exercise in statutory construction and it brought me to literal tears, but I believe it can be summarized as follows: “if it looks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.” Basically, the plain language controls; if it’s ambiguous, break out the fancy latin phrases.
Although the Florida Supreme Court has spoken on this issue, The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups will continue litigation in federal court. The ACLU and others argue the requirement to pay back fines, fees and costs amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax. Per their press release:
Florida cannot violate the U.S. Constitution’s protections. The right to vote cannot be contingent on the ability to pay. We will continue fighting in federal court for our clients and the hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights that SB7066 seeks to unconstitutionally and permanently eliminate.
My firm belief is that litigation has its rightful place in the justice toolbox. It is vital that courts determine federal constitutional questions. Ours is a system of checks and balances, and the role of courts is important in protecting freedom.
At the same time (not in opposition to), I also believe we must remain vigilant as citizens of a democracy. We cannot rely solely on courts to protect our freedom. In a way, I think we (myself included) can get kind of lazy about it because we know the Professional Activists will handle it. So here are four suggestions to support the restoration of voting rights to people:
1. Help Florida’s Returning Citizens Pay Fines & Fees
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is fundraising to help returning citizens pay back their fees and costs. Every bit counts. Your donation is tax deductible. Simply put — I work hard for my money and it is really hard to give it away, but I believe in putting my money where my mouth is and I just donated prior to posting.
2. Speaking of the FRRC, Sign Up to Volunteer
You can canvas, make calls, or volunteer at an event. I have on many occasions been that annoying person with a clipboard and I promise you that if my shy, introverted self can do it, you can too. Sign up here.
3. Stay Engaged – Subscribe to a Criminal Justice Newsletter
Out of sight, out of mind, right? When human beings are incarcerated or disenfranchised it’s easy to ignore them. Put your hear to the underground and stay conscious of ongoing issues involving criminal justice. My personal go-to is the Marshall Project’s Newsletter; you can subscribe here. For my fellow podcast people, I’m a big fan of Life Inside.
4. Find an Organization That Utilizes Your Gifts
So far I’ve proposed some one-size fits all avenues, but I want to challenge you, dear reader, to use your gifts and find a way to lift others up. For me, I am a person who is not bothered by jail and I am a woman of sincere faith, so my most recent endeavor is volunteering with a jail ministry to be there for women inside. Maybe you don’t want to canvas and gather signatures for a petition, but you are really good at soccer. Find an after-school program with a consciousness of the school-to-prison pipeline! Ya know what I mean? Use your noggin, use your gifts, find an organization or activity that calls to you.
Ah Miami, the Magic City! A sunny playground paradise for the rich and famous, its sparkling coastline bedecked with some of the hottest hotels, restaurants and clubs in the world. And for those who find themselves desperately searching for an excuse when that one friend texts you on Friday ready to take on every club on Collins Ave., even though you’ve already planned a chill night at home with your perfectly curated Netflix watchlist and the 5 face masks you bought at ULTA on your lunch break, keeping up with this seaside social scene can sometimes feel exhausting. Luckily, there’s no shortage of beautiful and diverse spots to explore in the Miami-area. Here are 10 great places to recharge and get lost in your own delightful musings:
1. Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
Located in Downtown Miami’s Museum Park and overlooking Biscayne Bay, the PAMM features contemporary art collections of the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s also famous for it’s lush hanging gardens and sustainable building design. The PAMM offers great programming, daily tours, and a steady calendar of events. Most importantly, admission is free on every second Saturday of the month. If you live in the area, plan to stick around for a visit to the Frost Museum of Science next door. Don’t spend your lunch money on parking fees; you can arrive via the Metromover’s Omni Loop at the Museum Park Station.
2. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
With over 3,400 different plant species, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a true plant lover’s dream! This flora wonderland blossomed in the 1930’s from the shared vision of notable Florida figures Dr. David Fairchild, Col. Robert H. Montgomery, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Charles Crandon and William Lyman Phillips. (Seriously you guys, learn your Florida landscape history!) Today, this 83-acre botanic garden is recognized both locally and internationally for its conservation efforts. Make sure to stop by the Wings of the Tropics butterfly exhibit, explore the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House and break for lunch at the Glasshouse Café. Fairchild also offers guided walking tours, tram rides and a series of special events throughout the year. Check out the latest blooms here.
3. Books & Books in Coral Gables
Wait, bookstores still exist in 2019? Yes! — and, in my opinion, this is one of the best you’re going to find here in Miami. With a great collection of authors stacked tightly from floor to ceiling, a vegan/vegetarian friendly café, well-curated calendar of readings and live music on weekends, this is a cozy spot to nurse a glass of wine and lose all sense of time. For a post- book binge treat, grab a red velvet cupcake at Mischa’s and a Midnight Haiku B-10 tea at Small Tea just a few doors down.
4. Greynolds Park
Once a former rock quarry in the 30’s and a popular site for the peace movement of the 60’s, this beautiful 250-acre public park, filled with its mangrove forests and tropical hardwood hammocks, is today considered a historic site and the county’s second oldest park in its system. Greynolds Park is most famous for its iconic observation tower and mound, known as “The Castle”, as well as the old stone boathouse and bridges along its lagoon. This park also features trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, kayaking/canoeing, nature tours and a nine-hole golf course. Whether you’re looking for a great place to get active and explore natural habitats, catch up on journal entries under a lush tree canopy, or simply turn off your phone and disconnect after a long work week, Greynolds Park is a treasured escape from the busy world just outside its walls.
5. Wynwood Art Walk (Second Saturdays)
Alright, this one can be a bit overwhelming, but still worth it. Once a working-class warehouse and garment district, Wynwood is now known as one of the trendiest neighborhoods and arts destinations in Miami. While recent years have seen the addition of more high-end retail, restaurants and residential developments, this district is a great place to explore some unique art, especially during Art Walk (Second Saturdays). Check out the vibrant and stunningly elaborate murals featured inside Wynwood Walls and wander through art galleries like GGA Gallery and Area 23 for an after-hours peak at exhibits. Try not to spend your entire paycheck on the local market vendors and delicious food trucks stationed throughout the event. Grab a drink at some of Wynwood’s less pretentious bars like Gramps or Wynwood Brewing Company (their La Rubia blonde ale is a local favorite), and end at Coyo Taco for a late-night snack. There are lots of unique restaurants and shops in the area to explore outside of Second Saturdays, many of which are on the high end, so you’ll definitely want to budget and reserve ahead before your next visit.
6. Everglades National Park
Here in South Florida, we’re lucky to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural areas and unique ecosystems in the world, the largest of which is Everglades National Park. If you’re looking for an all day or overnight escape and aren’t afraid of losing cell service, then you’ll absolutely love this national park. The best time for a visit is during dry season (roughly November to March) and there are several entrances and visitors centers to explore. Set out on a 15-mile bike ride at Shark Valley and make sure to stop at the Observation Tower halfway through the trail loop for some incredible views. Spend a night camping under a starry sky at the Flamingo Campground or, if you’re even more adventurous, the backcountry sites only accessible by water. Plan a day full of bird watching, kayak/canoe trails, guided tours, programs and more. Just make sure to check the website or contact the park for daily alerts and always remember — don’t feed the gators!
7. Coconut Grove (The Grove)
Just south of Downtown nestled against Biscayne Bay lives one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods. Coconut Grove, more commonly known as The Grove, is a great place for those who recharge best while casually shopping and brunching their way down cozy tree- lined streets. There are plenty of trendy boutiques in The Grove like Market and Golden Bar, and don’t forget to visit spots like Maya Hatcha, Celestial Treasures or This & That Shop for more unique finds. Grab a drink and bite to eat at favorites like Greenstreet Cafe, Peacock Garden Bistro, Glass & Vine and Ariete. You can even catch a performance by the Florida Shakespeare Theatre at The Barnacle Historic State Park or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a sailing class at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. Make sure to plan ahead for special events like the annual Arts Festival.
8. HistoryMiami Museum
Spend an afternoon deep diving into the area’s past at HistoryMiami Museum. Learn about the Tequesta natives, Flagler’s railway, the Cuban exodus and more at the museums permanent exhibit, Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida. Current and upcoming features include the Whitman Family Gallery, History & Ourselves interactive exhibit, and Embracing the Lens: The BlackFlorida Project. You can also browse the archive collection at the museum’s Research Center (by appointment only). Admission rates are reasonable and HistoryMiami offers Free Family Fun Days on the second Saturday of each month. If you’ve got time to spare, make your way a couple blocks east to Atlantis Cafe and treat yourself to a cortadito and medianoche.
9. Crandon Park
Operating as a coconut plantation in the 40’s, this land was donated by the family of William John Matheson on the promise that it would serve as a public park. Today, Crandon Park is a top destination for locals and tourists year round, offering two miles of sandy beach, pristine natural areas and world-class facilities. Grab that book you’ve been itching to open and spend a relaxing day laying out and picnicking in the sun. Bicycle, kayak, canoe and kiteboard rentals, as well and snorkeling and nature tours, are available for those looking to add more activity to their day. Embark on a leisurely walk or bike ride through the northern Bear Cut Nature Preserve and southern Crandon Gardens, former site of what is now Zoo Miami. Get a (literal) feel of local marine life exploring the touch tank at the Biscayne Nature Center and even take a ride on the historic carousel by the the sea. Crandon Park also offers a world-class tennis center, championship golf course and a wildly popular marina.
10. ARTECHOUSE Miami
ARTECHOUSE Miami first opened its doors in late 2018, one year after its birth in Washington, DC and preceding a third location in NYC’s Chelsea Market. This contemporary digital art gallery, with it’s techy interactive exhibits, is designed and curated for the Instagram age. LA- based Turkish artist Refik Anadol’s exhibit titled “Infinite Space” is currently on view and aims to explore “memories and dreams through the mind of a machine by using data sets ranging from human memories, photographs of Mars, cultural archives and sea surface activity as data sculptures and digital paintings.” Tickets are $25 a person for a pre-reserved time slot, which is just about what you’d expect to pay in South Beach for an hour’s worth of trendy social media content.
If you grew up in Florida, chances are at some point you had a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker, or poster, or set an AIM away message that read, “I live where you spring break.” As if to say to the rest of the world, suck a fat one loser, my life is a vacation! Which is all well and good until you wake up in a cold sweat one night (or a hot sweat, there’s no such thing as cold sweat in Florida) and realize, Oh my God, I live where they spring break.
I live where other people come once a year, for somewhere between four and seven days, and wreak absolute havoc both on themselves and their surroundings. Nowhere is safe because all these tourists are looking for is a beach. To align with public opinion, all of Florida is in fact a beach. Unless it is a swamp, which is honestly just a muddy beach. Whatever. Either way, I woke up one day and realized my home was in a place the vast majority of the country (the world?) considered to be a place most appropriate to inhabit for less than a week, necessitated by being at least partially, if not entirely, blacked out for a majority of the time.
And if Florida is not a place you grew up knowing as a college student’s week long escape, where they can buy wine coolers with their university ID as appropriate identification, then you probably knew it as somewhere people go to die. God’s Doorstep, perhaps. And if you don’t know it as either of those places, then perhaps you might recognize it as the place that continually f*cks up elections. Or the place where Anna Nicole Smith died. Or where that one dude ate that other dudes face off while he was on bath salts. Or where a woman was videoed shaving her legs in a public pool. Or where a dog once shot its owner in the leg with a .380 pistol.
What I’m trying to say I guess, is that Florida is an absolute, unbridled hellscape. But it’s my hellscape, and unless you grew up in Florida, you need to shut up about it right now.
Floridians share an unspoken and unbreakable bond, a uniting thread that tethers each of us together and offers us an invisible shoulder to lean on. That bond is the bond of survival. It’s knowing that against all odds, we made it. Despite literally everything, we live to see another day. We look our very state in the face and say, to quote legend, icon, and star Tiffany Pollard, “I’m here, bitch!”
Outing yourself as a Floridian might not win you much in social settings, (other than letting people know not to mess with you because chances are you’re indestructible) but it does earn you the right to talk smack about your home state, a right over which we have sole proprietorship.
If you’ve not walked but four feet in a pair of jean shorts only to have your thighs begin to chafe immediately, you need to shut up about the Florida Man. If you haven’t gone outside on a beautiful, cloudless sunny day, only to be caught in a literal monsoon moments later, zip it about Miami traffic. If you haven’t been desensitized to think of category three hurricanes as nothing more than a light drizzle, I don’t need your input on how ridiculous our state school rivalries are.
I know that our state doesn’t make any sense, but that’s for us to deal with, so mind your own business. Because for each bizarre headline you read about Florida, there are a million sticky fingers from melted ice cream cones, rubbing aloe on sunburned bodies wearing crowns of chlorinated pool water hair, weaving a tapestry of unbelievably strange communities in a state that is painfully shaped like a weird little penis. And you can’t appreciate the beauty of that unless you lived it, and unless you appreciate the beauty of Florida, you don’t get to talk sh*t about, because you haven’t earned your stripes.
So, until you’ve ridden reverse cowgirl on an alligator whist shooting roman candles off into the balmy night air drinking a Mikes Hard Lemonade, you keep your sweet ass mouth shut when it comes to the Sunshine State, ok? Because let’s face it, Florida will be the first place to sink into the ocean during the gradual heat death of the universe, and our funny anecdotes about survival will read less like headlines, and more like instruction manuals when we’ve figured out how to survive underwater. The state may sink, but Floridians are forever.
Hey world, whats up? I’ve been kind of getting ready for winter hibernation and this post is really going to show that. I started writing this whole essay, In Defense of Rest, but I figured I would just tell you about some Florida things I’ve done recently instead. Because 1000 words on rest, grieving, and gratitude at year’s end is just kind of tedious, right? Right. Let’s do a listicle instead.
1. Florida State Won its Last Home Game and We Are Really Going to Have to Savor That For a While
My friend Jon texts me on Monday – hey do you want to see Third Eye Blind this Saturday? I’m like yeah sure, that sounds ridiculous, let’s do it. Jon invites me to especially random stuff, for example, we once went to a balloon glow in Atlanta for no reason at all. I drove a collective 12 hours for a 30 second tethered hot air balloon ride. Who does that? But I also experienced a cool city and fell in love with his niece and nephew. What I’m saying is, when your friend invites you to some weird thing you’d normally never do, just do it. It’ll be fun for reasons you don’t expect.
When I got to Tallahassee on Friday, Jon’s like sorry dude, Third Eye Blind is playing RIGHT NOW. Do you want to go? I’m like no man, I just drove 4 hours to get here and I’m beat. He’s like yeah I feel that, let’s just go to the game tomorrow. We ended up binge-watching The Morning Show and now I want Apple TV and Jennifer Aniston’s luminous skin.
There is really nothing like being back at your alma mater, even if the football team is bad. Honestly I prefer it that way because now I can afford tickets. We played Alabama State University, an HBCU with a marching band that has a killer hype man.
We also saw Jojo Rabbit, and now I’m obsessed with Rainer Maria Rilke. Before I left Jon said I should get Lucky Goat, the best coffee in Tallanasty. I wasn’t going to but as I was leaving, I realized I just had have a cute Lake Ella moment. It was really fun to buy presents at Quarter Moon Imports, a store I loved and hilariously could not afford in College. 10/10 would suggest going to your college town and hitting up your favorite store with adult money.
2. Burrow Press released Bright Lights, Medium-Sized City and I read 614 Pages in a Weekend
So my other friend Alex texts me, he’s like hey, want to write something for this magazine? I’m like yeah, sure, what should I write about? He’s like, whatever you want, as long as its arts and culture and involves Central Florida. I’m like great, I can write about Bright Lights, Medium-Sized City — it is apparently THE Orlando novel. But the deadline was super close, so I literally read this PORKER in a weekend. I don’t know where you can read my piece; Alex just said it was good and asked me what I wanted my byline to be. SR50 Mag is so cool I honestly don’t even know how to access it, but they have a lot of cool promos and skate videos on their instagram.
(A lot of people were also like, hey Nicole, why did you create such a stressful situation for yourself, i.e. having to read so much during your short, precious weekend? Look dude, if I had the answer to that question I could explain away all the stupid decisions I make.)
For those who don’t know, Burrow Press is an independent publisher located right here in Orlando. I found out about BP because I ran into We Can’t Help it if We’re From Florida at Park Ave CDs.
BP also has a monthly event at Lil Indies called It’s Lit. Just kidding, it’s called Loose Lips. Authors write about the events of the past 30 days. I went to the November edition, and it made me feel feelings. Everyone who read was mad talented and it was a very chill way to spend a Tuesday night. Plus, I famously love Lil Indies. Here’s info for the December edition.
3. My Mom Made Saturday Really Wholesome and Cute
My mom and I have had a really tough year in terms of what is going on in our lives. Fortunately, we have each other and we are best friends, like Lorelai and Rory in Gilmore Girls. Except we do not have old Connecticut money and do not talk that quickly. Actually the more I think about it, the less like Gilmore Girls we are, but we are best friends.
We had a VERY Orlando day, including the Fall Fiesta @ Lake Ella, brunch @ Maxine’s on Shine (which is not my favorite food but is definitely my favorite name), Christmas decoration shopping, yoga at Project 7, cooking dinner together (aw) and watching Dr. Thorne, because shows like that are just kind of our thing. She really wanted to help me write a blog post, so she insisted on taking pictures of everything because she is so adorable.
4. The Grasshopper and the Ant, aka Someone Drive Me to Saint Pete
So this one is actually just an art exhibit I really want to go to but haven’t actually been to yet, mostly because after that Tallahassee drive I do not have another road trip in me.
A neo-Victorian, a creator of unexpected experiences, and a visionary artist who twists the familiar into the unsettling, Jennifer Angus (b. 1961) challenges our perceptions and expectations by working in an unusual medium: dried, exotic insects. Her site-specific installations often incorporate large, brilliantly-colored insects into elaborate patterns inspired by Victorian wallpaper and 19th-century book illustration – always to dramatic and startlingly beautiful effect.
Museum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg
Sounds really cool, right? I want to see some bug art and think about Aesop’s fable and see how this artist turns it on its head. What is the role of the artist in society, how do we view it and why? What is productivity really? And aren’t we more than that?
Rest up this winter, my friends. It’s okay to hibernate. I’ll be taking a small hiatus from posting and have some awesome guest writers lined up. You will love them.
I’m a moody girl – that’s why I have a blog, hello. We know this.
But even for me, it’s hard to be upset when you’re having a Hot Girl Summer. Florida Summer for me is Babson Park (where? I know, I know), Orlando, Cocoa Beach, Hollyweird and Miami. It’s surfing at 7am. It’s dinner with a boy on south beach. It’s drinks with my girls at the lake house. It’s bike rides on the broadwalk with my mama. Even the moodiest of girls love Florida summer, right?
But when Summer turns to Fall, Floridians have to do something truly inexplicable. On November 3rd, we had to “fall back” an hour and lose approximately seventeen hours of daylight (kidding, but that’s what it feels like). Couple that with Mercury Retrograde and I am straight up not having a good time anymore. Floridians are not immune to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): a type of depression that corresponds to the change of season. I think our friends in the north with all that snow have it far worse, but still.
I take mental health very seriously. Learn more about symptoms and treatment of S.A.D. here. According to UF Health, symptoms include hopelessness, weight gain, increased sleep, unhappiness, sluggishness, loss of interest in work or other activities, social withdrawal, and less energy and ability to concentrate. Treatment includes eating healthy, exercise, getting enough sleep, light therapy, and medicine with a provider. Per UF Health, you should seek medical help if you think you could be suffering from SAD, have thoughts of harming yourself or others.
I was first diagnosed with depression in 2013 (though I suspect I was depressed much longer) and in my experience, it’s just like any other illness. It comes and goes and I manage it; when it feels unmanageable, I get help. Don’t be ashamed of needing extra padding every once and a while. Life can be a bumpy ride.
But as for the time change, what gives? Why do we even do this?
Well, as it turns out Floridians across the state had the same question, and our 2018 state legislature passed a law to make daylight savings permanent (finally, I agree with our legislature about something). And in March 2019, Senator Little Marco and Senator Lord Voldemort re-introduced the Sunshine Protection Act in congress, which would make daylight savings permanent year round. I’m not sure why the legislation has to encompass the entire country; I could settle for Florida, but whatever. As our neighbors in Babson Park might say, just get ‘er done (I would like to personally apologize to all twenty-three residents of Babson Park. Not only do you deal with my presence year after year, but now this).
Are you also straight up not having a good time? Write Senator Rubio here, and write Senator Voldemort here to let them know what you think about the Sunshine Protection Act. See my template below for inspiration.
Dear Senator ________, I am straight up not having a good time. Please work on passing the Sunshine Protection Act. It’s way too dark at 6pm. Love, Your Constituent
Foxtail – I have yet to check out the Winter Park location but I frequent the one in The Glass District and I like the patio area on a not-so-sweltering day.
Lineage – Great coffee; the decor is a little too sparse for me personally but the hip kids love it and so will you, cool internet person.
Credo – The College Park location boasts a homey, cozy vibe, & you name your own price (there’s a whole ethic to that you can read about here).
Craft & Common – This one is my favorite; someone went absolutely plant and millennial pink crazy so of course I’m obsessed. The entire shop is insta-ready but it doesn’t feel pretentious (nothing in Orlando does – that’s the best part). True story: the first time I was here the Barista got a zip tie and jimmy-rigged the sagging bumper of my 2007 Honda Civic because he saw that it was dragging. What I’m saying is, there are many coffee shops in Orlando but I will die on this hill.
Plants (yes, plants, someone did ask me where I got my plants from the other day so there):
Palmer’s – Helpful salespeople will tell you which plants are hardest to kill (but don’t worry, you’ll still kill them).
The Heavy – Our local pot dealer housed in a lush, photo-friendly location that used to be a fish market! It doesn’t smell like fish, miraculously. Photos below.
Valhalla Bakery – Vegan baked goods. When you wonder whether or not you should get the cookie sandwich lookin’ thing called a YOLO – yeah bro, just do it.
The Backhaus – An authentic German bakery on the shores of Lake Ivanhoe.
Tori Tori – Panasian from the minds behind Domu. Try one of everything and don’t be afraid of the hip bartenders, they’re all super nice. As of date of publication, they’re still in soft opening.
Osprey Tavern – ~American~. Splurgey. Located in Famously Bougie Baldwin Park, right by the lake so you can take a stroll before or after.
Sticky Rice – Self-described as Lao Street Food and that basically covers it; if you’re not adventurous read the descriptions in case you’re not into fermented crab. The lemongrass beef jerky is a crowd pleaser.
Pizza Bruno – Haven’t been personally but universally adored. Let me know when you’re going and I’ll come with. I am also eager to try the new Bagel Bruno (Foxtail/Pizza Bruno lovechild dream baby).
Anna’s Polish Restaurant – After a trip to Poland I was craving pierogi and this spot did not disappoint. Serves traditional Polish dishes like pierogi and goulash, and it has a mom-and-pop vibe so you know it’s good. (Technically Winter Park, close enough).
Se7en Bites – Favorite post-Church Sunday breakfast spot; this is a truly Southern comfort, biscuits-and-gravy, coma-inducing experience if you want it to be. It is always crowded but they keep it moving and there’s sweet art you can ‘gram pre- or post-feast.
Briarpatch – This is technically Winter Park, also, but oh well. It is the quintessential brunch spot. The raspberry lemon cream pancakes are a hot item; ya gotta try ‘em at least once.
Guavate – Traditional Puerto Rican food. If you haven’t tried Mofongo yet, this is the place to do it.
Whippoorwill – BEER. Representing the Milk District well. Relaxed and well-curated style, with delish food-pop ups every so often. They are really on top of their Instagram if you want to see what’s up for tonight.
Big Daddy’s – The best and most divey karaoke in town EVERY NIGHT.
Lil Indies/Will’s – These 2 separate but structurally connected bars were described by a friend of mine, in earnest, as having the appearance of “a house from a third world country.” I think that’s a harsh assessment to both the bar and developing countries at the same time. Regardless of the political correctness of that assessment, I love local shows here. Go on a school-night to enjoy slowly bopping along to legitimately groovy music with approximately 6 other people. You’ll feel good spending $7 on an indie band from Tampa because who knows, they could make it! The weekends are more lively, and their themed events never disappoint (hello, 90s Night and my introduction to Zima).
Guesthouse – For the grown ups who enjoy reasonably priced cocktails and well-placed plants.
Aku Aku – Tiki vibes and sugary cocktails for days. Grab “The Volcano” with a friend and if you live to tell the tale I’ll be very impressed. “Tiger F*cker” is a safer choice, despite the name.
Park Ave CDs – CDs are the new vinyl, right? You can cop both here, along with many other quirky goods including your favorite band merch and jokey socks.
The Lovely – Located in the same plaza as Park Ave, I love the vintage finds here. For Christmas one year I bought a good friend a vintage camera here (it worked!); the look on her face was priceless.
YAY – This tiny place packs a big punch; my coworker and I stumbled upon it during lunch break. We somehow dropped mad money in a store that can’t be more than 500 square feet. The owner is deeply knowledgeable about all of her wares, and there is nothing better than a piece of art with a story, especially if it’s from Florida.
Lou Gardens – Take in luxurious flora and fauna on a relaxed, lovely stroll. Did you know that roses smell better when they’re not from the grocery store?
Enzian – Local indie theater with an outdoor restaurant and bar; their halloween party is the go-to spot for true film nerds who sport the most thoughtful costumes.
Orlando Museum of Art – I took a boy here on a date and he sincerely asked me, “they had cameras during the civil war?” which tells us two things: 1) we seriously need to take a long, hard look at public education, and 2) this is a a fun and easy way to impress your witless dates! But seriously, their exhibits are well-curated and worth visiting.
Did y’all know Universal Studios is here? Oh, you did? Did you know the roller coasters are 1000x better than any in Disney and the annual pass is more affordable? I know, I know, you can’t really compete with the Disney brand but hey Harry Potter World amirite?? Just throwing it out there!!
Neighboring Apopka is home to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive – You have to be very enthused about nature to really enjoy this one, but if you have the patience to endure the 10 mph speed limit you could see over 360 species of bird, and gators. I personally did a little nature walk here and saw some gators up close and personal; it is truly wild to me how casually unsafe it is.
Humankind is obsessed with itself. Since the dawn of recorded time we have, as it were, recorded time. We insist on painting, drawing, singing and writing about the strange highs and lows of the human experience. As such, art has the ability to draw us in close. A good song or book or painting can dust off the cobwebs of your very soul. It’s almost like it’s reassuring us that there is meaning, we are understood.
Such is the way I experienced Tony Philippou’s Sthenos the Gorgon. When I turned into Pho Hoa Noodle Soup to start poking around at the local public art, I was immediately drawn to it. At the time, I didn’t understand what I was looking at 100%. She was, to be candid, a pretty snake lady on a bright purple background. Her face held a certain tension: yes, she drew me in but she also scared me. There was something foreboding behind her beautiful eyes.
Which makes sense because she is, as I later found out, a gorgon. Sthenos is the more lethal sister of Medusa; she is said to have killed more men than Medusa and Euryale combined (yeah, totally not worrisome at all that I was drawn to this image).
I wondered: why would anyone want to paint Sthenos, the lesser-known sister of Medusa? The creator of this work, Orlando-based artist Tony Philippou was kind enough to offer his insight on Sthenos in particular and public art in general (note: the following is an email Q&A edited for brevity and clarity).
Q: Did the city of Orlando or the state of Florida inform or influence Sthenos the Gorgon in any way?
A: No…The mural is on the side of PHO HOA, a Vietnamese restaurant, that curates the walls every year. So every year different people will do new murals on those walls. I was contacted to see if I would contribute something this year and Sthenos The Gorgon was my contribution.My inspiration for Sthenos is partially based around my heritage as I’m part Greek. I’ve always enjoyed using Greek Mythological characters and creatures in my work. They are some of the earliest examples of extremely imaginative and fantastical design.
Q: It might be said that historically, public or “street” art has been viewed as more counter cultural or democratic (its only more recently that you see arts districts with big murals becoming more and more popular; for example Rino in Denver or Wynwood in Miami). It has its pros (public exposure to and engagement with art) and cons (very generally speaking, critics might say it often accompanies gentrification). Do you have any comment on the rise of popularity in public / street art?
A: Public art from my own experience and knowledge has a tremendous ability to connect with the masses. The message of the artist or the effects of the design decisions they make are the important factors that allow for the viewer to enjoy or interpret what they are seeing in an impactful way. With that being said, I’d say that it’s as much the viewers responsibility to be educated in the aspects of visual communications if they want to enjoy or connect with it beyond face value.I believe a large part of the acceptance of art is how well the viewer connects with the final execution of the artists idea or concept for the piece they have created. I think the more public art the better. As long as it is successful and is in good taste. The best form of public art is one where the community is considered and possibly has some input in to the inspiration and concept of the work. This helps form an impactful and long lasting connection between the art and the community.
Q: What are some of the challenges and benefits as an artist when you’re asked to create a mural like this (whether it’s technically, artistically, etc.)?
A: My major challenge which I’m sure most outdoor muralists can relate to is working around the weather. A lot of outdoor murals are executed in spray paint which I use as well, but I also do a good portion of the murals work with brushes by hand. So when it rains it makes getting any forward progress really difficult.
Q: Finally, Sthenos—the violent sister of Medusa. She’s a very interesting subject. What inspired you to paint her? Why not her more popular sister?
A: I had wanted to do a piece based around a gorgon for a while now and this seemed like a great opportunity for it. Gorgons are fascinating and I was not really looking to do another version of Medusa but something a bit more abstract and design oriented. I do lots of digging in my research process and this usually leads me to things that can help influence or motivate my original idea.
A gorgon-sized thank you to Tony; he also provided the images for this post. You can check out more of his work here (spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous), and you can follow him on IG here.
I think the more public art the better.
& how fortuitous for folks in Orlando: If you’re ready for even more creativity and art, head over to Immerse (because you’re going to be immersed in art, see what they did there?), featuring over 1000 artists, performances, and experiences this weekend, October 18th and 19th. I always manage to miss it, but I finally got a ticket this year.