Home Sweet Home, Miami


Easter is over and hopefully, all traveling is over for me for a while. This is kind of sacrilegious for me to utter, but between all the places I visited in March and April, I’m exhausted.

We went to San Francisco for Lauren’s birthday in March; I’d barely come home when it was time to head to Saint Augustine, to watch Phoenix while A.J. and Justin checked out neighborhoods and schools with Wyatt.

And then, I caught my breathe for a moment before we headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to visit Doug and Heidi- friends who moved there over a year ago. We bookended that trip with stops in Tallahassee, to see Chris, Courtney and Liam and The Villages, where Zeke played golf with Brooks and I caught up with Sharon.

And, we finally got our condo back in Key Largo last weekend. The three months went by quickly and our tenants left the unit in good shape. A glitch occurred with the housekeepers, so I spent the weekend cleaning tubs, toilets and doing laundry. We did get a chance to go out on ‘Bout Time and even saw some (lucky) dolphins. I’m ready to be at home, eating healthy food, getting back into an exercise regime and some kind of a normal schedule.

We came home from San Francisco to find our new neighbor had removed all the landscaping that was on her property. This was expected, but to see the reality of our cleared-out yard was a major jolt. No privacy and, worse, when she pulled up the fence she cut our AT&T cable. So we returned on a Monday to find NO TV, NO INTERNET, NO LAND LINE. A real nice welcome home gift, indeed. And worse yet, it was The Bachelor’s Fantasy Suite night on TV, which I had to miss, and went to bed grumbling and cursing my new neighbor.

Zeke called AT&T and they said they’d be out Thursday (this was Tuesday), so he waited around all morning only to find out they’d meant the FOLLOWING Thursday, which would have left us without cable, TV and Internet for TWO WEEKS!!! Luckily they came and fixed it the next day. The AT&T guy said it looked like someone mutilated the cable- that it was in a thousand shreds.

From my bedroom window one morning, I spotted a guy in the neighbor’s yard, dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks. I ran outside to confront him. I told him how hard it had been as a writer who values peace and quiet, to be living by a noisy construction site for a year and a half. I told him when I first met the owner she told me, our property was on HER property, with no apology for the construction and chaos. I told him our cable had been cut and babbled on in outrage for about five minutes when it occurred to me to ask this guy who he was. He was the landscaper and a very nice guy. He said he’d told his client if they pulled out the fence it would cut our cable, as well as another neighbor’s.

What did she say?

I asked.

Apparently, she didn’t care. What a way to make an entry into a neighborhood! Needless to say, I won’t be dropping off any welcome-to-the-neighborhood Banana Bread to her in the near future.

Upon my return from Alabama, I found little black grasshoppers had decimated the Milkweed plants I’d just planted, leaving limp, bare stumps. Roaming peacocks also made a dent in my herb and vegetable garden and lastly, I discovered weevils had infested my pantry. This led to a major Spring Cleaning Event, tossing rice, pasta and crackers along the way. There isn’t much left.

I then noticed they’d migrated to my Spice Drawer, but honestly it’s hard to tell a weevil from a black sesame seed until they move. Then you know. So now my spice drawer is cleaned out. The culprit there were some spices I’d brought from Bulgaria years ago, so they got pitched. Spices don’t really last over a year. They won’t kill you, but the flavor will be gone, so toss, toss, toss.

It feels good to be home again, even with the grasshoppers, peacocks, weevils and soon-to-be new neighbors.

In sad news, The Last Chance Saloon may be closing as the land was purchased for affordable housing, which is desperately needed in the Keys. This is a bar located right before you get on the Overseas Highway. I always contended that if you need to get a last drink to hold you over the 20-minute stretch to the next bar in Key Largo, you may have a drinking problem, but they do have excellent Bloody Marys.

In even sadder news, iconic Biker Hangout and true Dive Bar Alabama Jacks is closing. Frequented by locals, tourists and bikers alike, this rustic spot on the water was a great place to come, have a drink and listen to some music while on your way to, or from, the Florida Keys. My Dad would bring us there and I remember one time (after my divorce) him scouring the crowd trying to pick out a guy, among the biker dudes, for me to date. This was a joke, of course, but my Dad was all about the “local color” and Alabama Jacks is full of it!

It was featured on Bloodline (for it’s rotten fish tacos that don’t exist on the menu) and Kathie Lee Gifford raved about their Conch Fritters on Regis and Kathie, but I love their Lima Bean Soup– an unexpected find in a seafood restaurant. Mostly, it was a fun atmosphere to eat and drink by the water, although they have seem understaffed lately. I’m not sure if the staffing was the problem and I’m honestly not even positive it’s closing, since I can’t find anything about it online. It was information passed along to me by a Sanctuary neighbor.

But, the point is, we do need to support these South Florida and Miami institutions while they’re still around or they won’t be anymore. On the home front, after visiting a couple houses for sale recently in Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay, we’ve gotten totally discouraged about moving. I didn’t like anything we saw as much as I like my house, and everything is (still) so expensive! So for now, it’s Home Sweet Home (but not in Alabama).

When all else fails, cleaning house is the perfect antidote to most of life’s ills.

Sue Grafton

Coming up in Foodie in Miami: Finally trying to index my recipes, Whipped Feta Dip, Grilled Lamb Chops with Gorgonzola Butter and Easy Roasted Asparagus.

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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