Fear and Loathing in Miami

I woke up with a slight headache and sore throat the other day. My first thought was “What if it’s…?” YOU KNOW WHAT, as I reviewed the risks I’d taken the week before. Because, I more than dipped a little toe in last week; I went to three restaurants and had my hair blow dried at a Blow Dry Bar! My week of living dangerously.

Ruth Chris, where we went to celebrate our anniversary, was my first indoor dining experience since the Pandemic lockdown. We always celebrate our anniversary with another couple (Jay and Catherine) who got married the same year, one day earlier. When I asked if they wanted to go out to dinner this year and they said yes, I was a little surprised, but happy. Ruth Chris was, as usual, very good and it seemed a safe dining experience for us celebratory dare-devils. “Don’t forget, we have a curfew,” reminded Catherine. Oh yes, the curfew. Can’t we just have one crisis at a time? We left before it began at 9 p.m.

Friday night, in the Keys, we celebrated our actual anniversary in a more casual manner, at Sharkey’s in Key Largo. We were seated, with Doug and Heidi, upstairs at a table outside by ourselves. Doug was the best man at both of Zeke’s weddings and they’ve been friends forever. Doug and Heidi were celebrating 30 years of marriage, to our 16. Seared tuna, fish tacos, wings, sliders, beer, wine and multiple shots later, we left. Again, this felt like a safe bet- outside, by the water with no viral load to contaminate us.

On Saturday, we went out on Doug and Heidi’s boat. Their gift to each other for their anniversary had been new engines for their boat, so they wanted to break them in. We were thrilled to be out on the water for the second weekend in a row. We motored to the Tiki Bar at Postcard Inn to have a drink and some lunch. The only table alone was one in the sun, so we sat at a high top with some completely random couple from Boca. The guy seemed like a coronavirus-hoaxer, asking: “Do you know one person who has had it?” Before I could answer, he said, “Because I don’t.” “Actually, I know four,” I said.

The couple was recently engaged and, as he passed around his phone to view a photo of the smallish diamond ring, I reluctantly took it to look, just to be polite. I immediately (hopefully discreetly) squirted my hands with hand sanitizer. Phones are the germiest devices around! I sat next to this guy for at least an hour, so when I woke up with a sore throat, I immediately thought of him. Imagine the insult it would be to get coronavirus from some guy that doesn’t even believe in it!

I’m tired of living in fear. Tired of thinking a tiny sore throat or stray cough is the coronavirus, come to roost. I vacillate between trying to avoid it at all costs and wanting to dive in, head first, into a coronavirus-filled pool, to just get the damn thing over with. Like a convict on the run, I’m tired of always looking over my shoulder, thinking it’s eventually going to catch up with me. Come and get me! I surrender.

As a nurse in my bookclub said:

It almost would be better if we all could just get it, if we were sure we would handle it well and recuperate.

Nurse Vicki

But, of course, we don’t know that. It seems there is so much about this virus we don’t know about. On the good news front, doctors are making progress in understanding the disease and apparently it’s hard for asymptomatic carriers to spread it. On the bad news front, according to Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Edinburgh University: “Essentially we are six months into a lifelong relationship” with the Pandemic. I don’t want to be into a lifelong relationship with the coronavirus! I want to break up.

And… the vaccine, the vaccine everyone’s anxiously waiting for (and over 100 drug companies are working on) is apparently not going to be the magic bullet we’re praying for. Once it’s available (and the thoughts on when are all over the place) there’s that pesky little matter of manufacturing and delivering it to the billion people on earth. Health Care workers and elderly are first in line, so don’t hold your breath.

On my daily walks lately, instead of the normal trash of Tito’s mini bottles, Red Bull cans and fast food wrappers, I’ve been seeing masks and gloves. I’m trying to understand the mindset of people who discard their PPE in the middle of the sidewalk, on the street or in the grass. Like, your’e walking down the street and can’t breathe? Or can’t stand the feel of gloves on your hands anymore? A pandemic doesn’t give us license to litter! Wait till you get home and throw your s**t in the trash, people!

A Second Wave? In Miami-Dade, gyms, summer camps, AirBnbs and dog parks opened Monday. Bars and Movie theaters are not yet open in Miami. This is the new stage of opening in Florida, despite a rise in cases in the state. Since June 2nd, Florida has reported more than 1000 new cases every day; of course, the most cases are in Miami-Dade.

Some South Floridians rushed back to restaurants, businesses and beaches as soon as they reopened, possibly causing the rise in COVID-19 cases. Others, like my friend Ellen, are staying safe in the cocoon of their homes, venturing out only for the bare necessities. Everyone has to do what they feel comfortable with. I probably fall into the first category, but access what locations/activities feel safe to me and avoid the ones that don’t. Like the sign at an unmanned pool or beach says: “Swim at Your Own Risk.” Or stay ashore.

And, people are traveling again and planes (at least American Airlines) are not social distancing. My stepdaughter Lauren went to visit her boyfriend in California last week. The first leg of her flight was empty, but the second leg was packed with people.

Here are some tips if you are flying, that I passed along to Lauren:

  • The front of the airplane is the least germy, with the window seat being your best bet (least amount of contact with other passengers).
  • Wipe down the tray table, seat belt and armrest with disinfecting wipes, then toss the wipes and sanitize your hands.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, taking note of the passengers around you. If someone is coughing repeatedly, ask to be moved to another seat.
  • Avoid the bathroom, if possible. (This is good advice for any flight, pre-pandemic.)
  • Keep snacks and drinks to a minimum.

My Pinecrest Garden Club normally helps with the Pinecrest Pioneer Luncheon, serving meals to Pinecrest residents 80 and older. Since we couldn’t have the lunch this year, normally held at Evelyn Greer Park, we distributed lunches in a reusable bag instead last Friday. I went with my sister Kelley, Pinecrest Garden Club President, in her van to deliver meals and a potted plant to about twenty Seniors. It felt good to be contributing to the community, even in a small way, by delivering the meals and flowers. Most of the Seniors we encountered were very grateful for the deliveries, and maybe even more, for human contact. Of course, we wore masks and Social Distanced.

On a sad note, my daughter A.J., who owns Ashley Jordan Events, closed her office in the Gables this week. She had just opened the office on Coral Way, with a photo booth photographer, in November of last year, but obviously, with the Pandemic, there are no in-person events that can be planned in the near future. So, her office, which opened with balloons, food, Prosecco, photo booth photos and high hopes, ended with her quietly returning her key to her landlord. Luckily, she is working on a living wall and other projects to keep her afloat, as she works out of home. The New Normal.

Half my meals last week (Friday- Wed) were in the Keys. Zeke cooked for the girls here at home while I was gone, so by the time I got back, he was ready for me to take over the cooking reins. We had chicken breasts in the freezer, but wanted to do something other than grilling them (boring). Zeke found a really good recipe online for Chicken Breasts in Mustard Sauce that I made. I served it with pureed turnips, a green salad and French Bread to sop up the sauce.

“This is divine.”

said Zeke.

Zeke loved it. It has cream and butter, which is not the way I usually cook, but every now and then, it’s ok. Besides, boneless, skinless chicken breasts need all the help they can get. Alas, neither one of us can remember where the recipe came from, so I can’t pass it along.

A super easy meal you can make if you have leftover pasta is spaghetti pie; this is also a favorite of kids. Just mix a beaten egg and some parmesan cheese (add chopped fresh parsley if you want to get fancy) with your leftover pasta till it’s combined. This works best with plain pasta, or pasta with butter or olive oil, but I suppose you could do it with pasta with red sauce. Heat some olive oil in a skillet, cook till it’s brown on one side and flip to finish cooking on the other side. Slide onto a plate and cut into wedges.

Spaghetti pie made from Cacio e Pepe pasta with spinach.

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double.

So come and let me know.

The Clash

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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