Monday, August 3, 2015

A slice of South Florida's boating culture

With the recent disappearance of two Jupiter boys who went fishing on their own in a 19-foot boat, a lot of people have been surprised that kids in South Florida navigate boats alone, unsupervised.  I wrote a story explaining this aspect of South Florida boating culture where kids who are raised on the water are trusted by their parents to motor boats solo.

Monday, July 27, 2015

'South Beach' comes to South Beach

Add the new Hulu series "South Beach'' to the long-list of shows rooted in South Florida home. This one is about two rival music labels and stars Miami native Ana Villafane as Carmen Suarez, a rising bilingual pop singer a la Shakira-meets-Rhianna.  Although it's called 'South Beach', the series features a lot of Miami backdrops such as Calle Ocho, midtown and the penthouse suite at the W Fort Lauderdale.

I wrote an article about the new series and interviewed some cast members.  A fun Miami pop factoid:  Ana Villafane will play Gloria Estefan in the upcoming Broadway musical "On Your Feet'' which tells the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and their music dynasty.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mucho espanol on English-language TV shows

Tune into Power on Starz, Graceland on USA, Devious Maids on Lifetime, Bloodline on Netflix and Jane the Virgin on the CW and chances are, you'll  hear some Spanish. Some cable, broadcast and online shows are adding Spanish to their scenes to make the settings more realistic as well as the characters' back stories. Others do it to tap into the actors' bilingual skills. But overall, the added Spanish is a nod to the growing Hispanic TV audience. La verdad!

I wrote an article exploring on how more and more shows sprinkle espanol into their episodes. See if you notice this on the above shows or when you watch reruns of Law and Order: SVU and Modern Family this summer.

(Photo to the right is a screen grab from Starz series Power which regularly features the actors using Spanish in New York. The scene shown here was from an episode that was shot in Miami for season 2)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Latina versus canine

Every now and then, when I read a book I like (or when I have time), I write a review. Here's what I thought about the new memoir Stepdog  by Mireya Navarro.

In the Sterngold/Navarro household, who is top dog? Two married successful journalists? Or a quirky spotted dog named Eddie?

That’s the theme in the memoir “Stepdog” where New York Times reporter Mireya Navarro recounts her adventures (more like misadventures ) with her husband’s dog Eddie, a passive-aggressive pooch with the grey markings of an Australian cattle dog.

As Mireya tries to blend in with her dreamboat’s family as a stepmom (or madastra) to two children, she finds a nemesis in Eddie who does his best to push her out and keep Jim Sterngold for himself.  Mireya tells her story in a light, breezy way. The writing flows and keeps the reader on a loose leash so you stick around for the ride.

The story starts off quickly in introducing us to Eddie who pees outside their bedroom door. But then the book begins to drag like an English bulldog on a sidewalk during a hot summer day as she explains how she met Jim, moved to LA and began to adapt (or fight) with the dog.

But despite the title, I don’t think the book is so much about the dog. It’s more about stepping into a new family situation and finding your place. In Mireya’s case,  it’s about balancing the roles of wife and stepmom and how she fit into those designations after being single and independent  for so long.

From reading her experiences with the dog, Eddie didn’t sound that bad. (Food is always the best way to a dog’s heart which she learns toward the end.)  Or perhaps the author left out the really really bad stuff. But could the dog have been picking up on Mireya’s uneasiness in the new household and projected that back to her? I always believed that the energy you put out comes back to you.

Although I enjoyed reading the book and I appreciated learning about the author’s Puerto Rican background and her rise at the NYT newsroom, I cringed (almost growled...Grrrr.) while reading some moments of meanness toward Eddie.

In one scene, she refers to him as “Edweirdo.”  When the couple consider moving back to New York from Los Angeles and thinks the dog won’t be able to adapt to the city, she says “I saw my chance to get rid of Eddie. I needed to just plant the idea.”

Once they finally move to New York and split their time between Montclair, New Jersey where Eddie stayed, she recounts how “I felt like a mistress” every time Jim left her New York City early on the weekends to walk and feed Eddie back in Jersey.  I applaud the author for being so honest but scenes like this made me want to root for Jim and Eddie more. (Sorry chica.)

Toward the end of the book after two health scares (one with Jim, the other with the dog),  Mireya finally caves in and accepts Eddie because “Eddie was an extension of the husband. So were the children. I surrendered,” she writes.  “But I couldn’t help loving him for loving Eddie…there he was, smitten with this strange creature.”

The book was my end-of-the-day bedtime literary snack and Mireya’s new attitude toward Eddie was welcomed and sweet as a doggie treat. So were the pictures of Eddie at the beginning of each chapter and the ones with Eddie and Mireya together.  How could she not love that spotted face?

Disclosure, I was a little more partial toward Eddie in most of the book because I love dogs even though I don't have one. (I'm a sort of a stepdad or godfather (dogfather?) to this little Fox terrier pictured below who likes to lick me a lot, toss a tennis ball my way while I watch the news/Netflix and sleep on my head.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Cuban Peter Pans

Between 1960 and 1962, 14,000 children fled Cuba to the US as part of an exodus known as Operation Pedro Pan.   The kids arrived in Miami and then were sent to stay with relatives, foster families and orphanages until their parents could reunite with them.

There's a new exhibit at the HistoryMiami Museum that explores their stories. I wrote an article about the exhibit and interviewed a Pedro Pan alum who arrived by a ferry to Palm Beach.

The photo on the left is a display at the exhibit that represents the shoes of the children who landed in Miami on Pan Am flights.

Photo below is of a Miami Herald article about the exodus written by Gene Miller. The article is also on display at the museum.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Cuban Jaws

For all you land sharks out there in front of the TV, Discovery channel's Shark Week heads to Cuba to explore the story of El Monstruo. That's the 21-foot Great White shark that was captured off the Cuban fishing village of Cojimar in 1945. I wrote an article about the episode and how it marks the first time that the network travels to Cuba for its Shark Week.  A team of Florida shark scientists work with their Cuban counterparts for the expedition that also looks at why the island nation draws big sharks. At an estimated 7,000 pounds, maybe El Monstruo was the Cuban Jaws?  

Photo above is of El Monstruo featured in the episode.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Operation Makeover

The whirring of electric saws and drills spills out from the inside of the Ronald McDonald House in Fort Lauderdale. That's because Operation Build, a TV home improvement reality series on the History Channel, has been renovating the charity house just outside downtown Fort Lauderdale.  I wrote an article about the renovation and I got to hang out with the crew and meet some of the workers and families there.

Photo to the left, the show's design team led by Alexi Panos prepare to apply new wallpaper in the dining area.

I couldn't resist having our photographer Taimy snap a photo of me with the lifesize  Ronald McDonald figurine that sits on a bench at the entrance of the residential complex.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer reads

Since publishing my first novel Boston Boys Club in 2007, my books have been associated with summer. They're light, fun and breezy reads, perfect for the beach or pool (and they make for good towel weights too.)

As I set my sights on finishing my next novel (working title is Six Neckties because it's my sixth book and the theme revolves around New England and Miami weddings), I hope you or one of your friends may consider one of my five novels for your summer travels.

The books are available on Amazon, at some Barnes and Noble stores, Books and Books in Coral Gables and Calamus Books in downtown Boston.  Happy summer and happy reading!

Below is a sweet review of the Spanish version of Take the Lead or Tomar La Iniciativa.  Gracias Gaby Franz por leer mi libro. :)

Debo reconocer que cuando leí el resumen de esta novela no me llamó mucho la atención. Pero como Johnny Diaz era un autor que nunca había leído le di una oportunidad. Y sólo puedo decirles que amé esta novela.

Ha llegado a mis manos en un momento en mi vida en el que me hizo revivir muchas cosas pasadas con mi padre. Desafortunadamente falleció hace casi dos meses y sentí en carne propia muchas de las vivencias de Gabriel, el protagonista de esta fantástica historia.

Un relato muy humano, muy real, creíble hasta la médula.

Ha pasado a ser una de mis historias favoritas.

Me enamoré de la forma de escribir de Johnny, de su forma de sentir, de su forma de expresar tanto sentimiento contenido.

Quiero darle las gracias al autor. Sé que sólo es una única palabra para tantas que me ha dado, para tantos recuerdos que me ha hecho revivir y volver a sentir y reír y llorar al mismo tiempo.

Esta tal vez es una reseña algo extraña, pero sólo me sale escribir qué sentía mientras leía y cómo me sentí al llegar al final: paz, esperanza, dolor liberado, entendimiento.