Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Totally Unplanned Last Day In Florida

[blogging from up in the air. I’m above the border of Texas and Lousiana]

So I spent my last full day in Florida being spontaneous and to the max! And what a great way to end the middle part of my trip.

Yesterday in the morning, my uncle drove me south to Miami because as they say “if you haven’t seen Miami you haven’t reached Florida.” Then lunchtime flew by, but we spent some time driving around several blocks because finding a reasonable parking space downtown is almost impossible. Anyways, it was during the drive-by that a building sign caught my eye: The Jewish Museum of Florida. I just couldn’t pass that up, so after we finally got parking and found a place to eat, I walked a block to the museum.

Just for your information, the museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach. The building actually used to be a synagogue, so the structure itself is much to admire. There are beautiful stained glass windows, a sloped hardwood floor, the original pews, a marble terrace-looking stage in the front… I spent about 2 hours there. They let you take pictures of everything! Say you are a student and you get senior admission: $5. But trust me, the experience is totally worth more than 5 bucks. I was lucky enough to catch the museum tour too. Our guide was a sweet old Jewish lady. She was so adorable and had so much to share about her culture.  I liked it when just went on her tangents; it just makes the facts a little more personal and interesting. 

Everything in the museum passes two requirements: related to Jewish culture and related to Florida. The museum also has its seasonal exhibitions, and the one I was in for revolves around the case of Leo Frank, which happened in 1913. To summarize the incident, it is a story of prejudice and injustice against Jews in America (deep south). Leo Frank was a young Jewish man who was wrongly accused of raping and murdering a girl and eventually lynched by the racists in his town. The collection of the actual news stories from the day is astonishingly  comprehensive and well-preserved. I was told that the room had to be kept a certain temperature to ensure that artifacts stay protected from worn.

The rest of the museum displays various evidences of Jewish life, dating from the BCE's all the way to modern era. As you should expect there are features on the Holocaust and Jewish persecution, but ultimately the museum is about how the Jews overcame their hardships and rebuilt their lives… in Florida. Just something that will blow your mind - did you know that the creators behind Superman were all Jewish and that Superman was meant to be a symbol of the Jews triumphing over the Nazis?
1. Notable Jewish athletic accomplishments
2. Jewish pride
3. Star of David mosaic artwork
4. Costume worn by a Jewish girl in Florida in 1918 for the 'Purim' festival
5. The actual Torah that was famously transported to Florida from Russia in 1903 by Marcus Weinkle

Originally I had planned to drive back down to Miami at night because as they say “Miami in the morning and Miami at night are two different places,” but I was invited to dinner at a Benihanas near where I was staying at.
At dinner I made a new friend. We got along so well she spontaneously invited me to go to her house at midnight (dinner was very late) to play wii… And I spontaneously accepted.

And so my last day in Florida ended about 3 in the morning today after I got home from my new friend's house and finished packing... I told you – spontaneous and to the max. =]
Bye-bye, Florida!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

LA: Dark Art, Used Records, and Arnold Palmer

          I am now sitting in a multi-gate lobby at LAX’s domestic terminal waiting to get a planeseat to Fort Lauderale, Florida. I missed my flight last night and have lost 12 hours. Isn’t that lovely? Anyways I’m taking this opportunity of free time to update you on what I’ve experienced this past week.
          Since Monday I’ve been scrambling around LA trying to spend time with as many relatives as possible. My exhaustion comes with realization of how big of a family I have here and how little of time in the city I gave myself. The reason I missed my flight last night is because I was too determined to meet an uncle I’ve never met at last minute. 

Quick fact: my last name actually means "big family".
But enough of my family issues, time for your visitors’ guide on the city of LA:

1. The Tim Burton's Museum

The Tim Burton’s museum is in town at LACMA, (Los Angeles County Musuem of Art) until October 31st. I’m sure you’re all familiar with many of Burton’s films  - Edward Scissorhands (my favorite), Sweeney Todd, A Nightmare before Christmas, Alice in Wonderland, and all those other creepy films starring Johnny Depp - but what you probably aren't familiar with is that the man is also a talented illustrator, painter, photographer, poet, model-maker… artist. His distinct, dark style is reflected in every strange curve and corner of the exhibition. The walls display any of his work from quick character sketches on cafĂ© napkins to gigantic polaroids of Burton’s animation models. There is a glow-in-the-dark room illuminating bizarre creatures. The museum also features other artists who collaborated with Burton, most of them scene and character developers of the movies we've seen. Actual movie props are on display too. No touching though! My favorite thing in the entire museum however was a poem by Burton entitled 'Robot Boy' - very twisted, very Burtonesque. You can read it here if you're really curious.

1. The genius himself
2. Polaroid films (20x24), shot by Tim Burton
3. One of Burton's sketches of Edward Scissorhands
4. Handmade models of Jack's (The Nightmare Before Christmas) face
*These images are not mine.

2. Amoeba

On the same day, I visited Amoeba in Hollywood. It's a famous music store located at only three places in the world: Hollywood, Berkeley, and San Francisco. Yep, all three in California. (Sorry, music-lovers everywhere else.) At Amoeba, you can find albums from just about every genre. There are new records and CDs, as well as used ones, which can be very fun to buy. You can also get music merchandise, like posters. I imagine I must have looked  like a kid in a candystore. When I was there I suddenly forgot the names of all the musicians I listen to and roamed wide-eyed and aimlessly among the aisles. So... if you ever go to Amoeba here's what I recommend doing:
  1. know the albums you want beforehand
  2. look at both the used and new
  3. and don't be afraid to buy something you've never heard of before.
Makes sense that some go to Amoeba to be introduced to something new too. I actually got the chance to recommend a Radiohead album to a stranger that day. He really bought the CD. =]

Photography by: Philip Apichatskol
Entitled: "Mika Going Crazy"

3. Shop Spots

Now for you shoppaholics out there, I recommend Fashion Island, the South Coast Plaza Mall, and the Americana at Glendale. All of them are very highso, but they all have my favorite store, Forever 21. In other words, the scene is classy, but you can always find affordable. These two, as most malls here are, are outdoor malls (like K-Village but bigger). And when you're shopping here, be sure to take a break and sip some Arnold Palmers (half-lemonade, half-iced tea) at a cafe. 

1. Americana
2. an Arnold Palmer
3. Fashion Island (outside)
4. Fashion Island ("inside")
5. Look closely... It's Forever 21 (at Americana)

This is all I'll write for now. The next post will probably be from Florida. Talk to you then. Bye.