Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I Love Miami...Ft. Liquordale, Too...
By Pablo Levine
I love Miami.
I love the local color, the Hispanic influence, the sense that you're not in Kansas--or even L.A.--anymore.
I love stone crabs and key lime pie at Joe's on Miami Beach. I love the fish tacos and grilled mahi-mahi at Paul Flanigan's Quarterdeck Lounge on Fort Liquordale Beach.
And I love the Miami Book Fair, a week-long extravaganza of 300 authors, several hundred thousand readers (some estimate close to half-a-million). Last week, I greatly enjoyed serving on a mystery panel with South Florida crime mavens James Grippando and Barbara Parker. Bob Williamson, head of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, kept the show running. The crowds at the street fair were sidewalk-to-sidewalk. The corn arepas were hot; the mojitos were cold; and as usual, I-95 was closed more than once with fatal accidents.
Lately, Renee and I have begun staying at hotels on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Clean, uncrowded, great for a five-mile walk as the sun comes up over the Atlantic. Water, a clear turquoise and warm enough for a morning swim. Try that in Santa Monica in November!
For serious lap swimming, I always jog down to the International Swimming Hall of Fame for its 50 meter lap pool. The locker room could use some work, but the public pools there are great.
There was a great party for all the "Miami Noir" authors at Scotty's Landing in Coconut Grove...except my flight got in too late...and I missed it!
Wonderful signings at Books & Books in Coral Gables and Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach. Standing room only. (Okay, they're small rooms). Old friends, new friends. Here's a question raised by a reader, a question that's close to my heart. "Why aren't young people reading?"
I looked around the bookstore. The median age of my audience was a suntanned 55. "Good point," I said. "But what about Harry Potter?"
"A one-time deal," the reader replied.
I decided to do a completely unscientific survey on the flight home. I roamed up and down the aisles on the American flight from MIA to LAX. Not very many children aboard...and NONE reading books, at least during my stroll. A three-year-old girl, who sat behind her parents, had a DVD player and watched movies continuously throughout the flight. At least, she stayed quiet.
I expanded my survey to adults. In one section of the plane, there were 63 occupied seats. Some people slept. A few leafed through magazines. Many watched the on-board movie, "You, Me, & Dupree." Lots worked or played on their computers. And two middle-aged men read books. Two out of sixty-three!
A few years ago, it seemed there was an FAA regulation requiring all passengers to carry a book by either John Grisham, Dan Brown, or Mitch Albom on all flights. They must have repealed the rule.
I hate to keep ranting that the sky is falling where reading is concerned. I take heart in all the people who show up at book and library events and who take part in these blogs. But still, I feel a sense of gloom about the future of reading. To paraphrase John D. MacDonald's famous essay on the importance of written word, "The person who does not read has no advantage over the person who cannot."