Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rasta, Papa'

Miami has been called a melting pot. I like to think of it as an Ajiaco.

Ajiaco is a Cuban/Colombian/Latin American vegetable and meat soup, choc-full-o viandas (a Spanish word for a variety of different vegetables we Cuban kids grew up eating, like yucca, boniato, potatoes. Vianda is one of those words heard as children, spoken in the background while watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island, that made us wonder, "what the heck is a vianda?")

Miami is like a big pot full of exotic vegetables; hot, spicy at times, but always full of flavor.

A few days ago, I had lunch at my new favorite Lebanese lunch spot, Shawarma. Shawarma is owned by a South American family, migrants to SA from the middle east at some point in their family history. The restaurant is run by the family, and the owner's children help cook and attend the register.
The children speak perfect English. Their Spanish, like mine, is not as refined, but inteligible. They make a mean Shawarma (kind of like a Greek Gyro, but for some reason I like the Shawarma more). They also represent what Miami is, and continues to evolve into.

My new Latino/Lebanese friends prepare their food while listening to a group from Puerto Rico called Cultura Profetica, a roots-Reggae band. The video-album playing is a tribute concert to Bob Marley. The guy singing the lead is a Boricua who sounds, almost identically (but not in a comical or unnatural way) like Bob Marley.

So as this Cuban-American sat in a Lebanese restaurant owned by a South American family with Americanized kids, listening to a Puerto-Rican group performing in "Queen's English" excellent renditions of Marley tunes in the background, it dawned on me that Miami is a special place.

NY and Chicago are great cities, and are melting pots of many of these same cultures. LA is.... a melting pot. San Francisco is a beautiful city, also a melting pot. But I believe only Miami should have the honor of being dubbed, an Ajiaco.

Miami hasn't always been an Ajiaco. It was a flavorless place for many years, at least for me. But lately, it's been a pretty cool place to be. Flavor is coming back. Life is not as plastic and superficial as it once was; so stayed and uptight. There is color (and not those cheesy fake pastels; real color). There is vibrancy.

There is a sense of place; of culture being redefined into something of substance.

The Ajiaco has not finished cooking. It needs a little more time. But it's getting there.

"I'll have the 'mojito chicken'." - My friend Katie Kerestes,' Americana', ordering at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, pronouncing the 'j' as a 'j' instead of an 'h', and not smiling while she did it.
"I figure marriage is kind of like Miami: it's hot and stormy, and occasionally a little dangerous... but if it's really so awful, why is there still so much traffic?" - Gwynn Marcus, Miami Rhapsody

Sunday, August 19, 2007



Miami. the Magic City. The place where I was born; back in the day.

When people north of the border (that is north of the Miami-Dade County and Broward County line) think Miami, they see... well, this guy. Others see Tony Montana blasting off an Uzi Sub-Machine Gun. And still others see... well, this guy.

This is my hometown. I can honestly say that like many of Miami's children over the years, I grew weary of my home. The reasons and excuses were many, and many of those were valid. By way of revelation, however (whether divine or self-perpetuated by a love for arroz con frijoles negros, I'm not sure), I am slowly finding myself falling in love with my hometown.

Anyone who has known me for the past 10 years would say to that, 'Err... What?', but yes it's true. I love Miami.

This is what's on my mind now, so as my English friend Randolph says, "Brace yourself b_____'s!" Here comes a new series of thoughts -- only I could care about of course -- on Miami.

Miami Beach is where neon goes to die. - Lenny Bruce

Man, I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds. - "Rico" Tubbs on Miami Vice

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sadducee - Part 1.... Just Kidding.

I read this quote from a study on the book of Galatians. I thought I'd share it:

“If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious and pleased with us, or if we
presumptuously expect to please Him through our works, then all [our compliance
with the law] is pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up
self as a false [savior]… Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are:
keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with
inward [justifying faith]. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other
only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth…”
-Martin Luther, Treatise Concerning Good Works, 1520

Some questions to ask (yourself):

Do you believe that God is gracious and pleased with you?

Do you expect to please Him through your works?

Are you deceiving yourself, and those around you?

Are you outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting yourself up as a self-savior?

I've thought about it this week a little more; this whole Grace thing. I have once again concluded that there is nothing to add to it, nothing to expect from it, nothing to do for it, now or in eternity. I want my motivation for anything noble that I desire to do -- for living rightly, for honoring God, family, country, and obeying the golden rule -- to be the fact that God loves me, and is pleased with me.

If it is not that, it is not the Gospel. If that is not enough for me, then I need to pray that it would be sufficient motivation; the only motivation.

Just blogging; just thinking.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Revisionist Thinking

"That's right, Mr. Garrison. Christopher Columbus discovered America and was the Indians' best friend. He helped the Indians win their war against Frederick Douglass and freed the Hebrews from Napoleon and discovered France." -- Mr. Garrison's hand puppet Mr. Hat
Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pharisee Part 10 - In Closing...

The Pharisee series is dedicated to someone very close to me; that person being... well, me. It is an analysis of myself and the Pharisee who is always peeking his head out, trying to take away the joy and freedom I have in Christ.

If while reading this series you saw a bit of the Pharisee in you as well, then welcome to the club. If you didn't; well then, I am sorry for you. You are delusional and need to re-evaluate the "magnificence" that is you.

The Pharisee is not partial to the white Christian fundamentalist Baptist, reformed Presbyterian, or other white polyester suit wearing male of your main-line denominational choosing. The Pharisee also likes to show up in those who feel hurt or marginalized by the church. He especially likes those who say, "We're not like those other 'denominations'...", mostly because there he finds the heavily fertilized (yes, I do mean "shat" upon) ground of discontent, anger and self-righteousness hidden in the cloak of "deeper" spirituality.

Tim Keller, in his study of the book of Galatians, says "The gospel teaches us to say:

'I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe'

'I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope' "

Yes my friends it is true; sexual deviance is a horrible and hurtful sin, but so is moralism and judgementalism. Either way, you are a sinner. Either way, you are contributing to your own self-destruction and causing division and strife.

At the same time the grace and love that God extends to one, he also extends to the other.

There is hope for the silly little bearded Jewish man in us all.

I leave you with this great song by Steve Taylor from back in the day:


Strike this little pose
Chin up in the air
Lips together tightly
Nostrils in a flare
Now look like you care
Very nice!

Practice in the mirror
Brushing back a tear
Very sincere
A promising career could begin right here at home
If you've got that smug...That smug...


Hey mama hey mama lookee what your little babies all have become
Hey mama hey mama don't it ever make you wish you'd been a nun?
Vain and fickle, were we weaned on a pickle?Is it in our blood?
Rome is burning
We're here turning smug

Strike another pose
Power politics
Swallow their conventions
Get your power fix
We love to mud wrestle
We love to be politically Koreshed

Practice that smug
Post it like a man
One part Master Limbaugh
Two parts Madame Streisand
Now pretend you're in a band
My, my, we're looking smug
Very very very very


All you smug-starved millions in the thick of the search
Welcome to our church
Whatcha wanna solve?
We can help you evolve from merely self-righteous
To perfectly smug

Strike the proud pose of our country club brethren
Friendly as a tomb
Fragrant as the bottom of a locker-room broom
Now what's the matter?
Hey...get off your knees...that part don't come 'til later...
God will not be pleased...

Rome is cooking
My, we're looking smug