A Wedding in South Beach, Port Lucaya and Dancers from Finland
March 5, 2010
Richard J. Garfunkel
It was an uneventful flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Jet Blue to Fort Lauderdale. I alternated reading Dr. Steven Lamozow and Eric Fetterman’s book on FDR’s sickness and death and our personal television. Now that’s flying. We have rarely flown into Fort Lauderdale Airport, but it is much closer to Weston, our ultimate location, and we had to eventually return our rental car back to Fort Lauderdale, because we were going to fly to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island from there.
Meanwhile the airport was incredibly crowded with people returning from winter holidays and because some flights were starting to back up because of poor weather in the Midwest. This weather would eventually get to Tarrytown, our home town, and our neighborhood would receive over 21 inches of snow.
The lines for the rental car jitney, and the Avis counter were monumental, but Linda’s excellent planning included applying for an Avis Preferred Customer card. Did that come in handy! We not only got to the head of the line, but wound up getting a brand new Infinity. What a powerful car! We headed up to Weston on route I-595 and it wasn’t too long before we were comfortably ensconced in our suite at the Mizner Estates.
We were also able to attend the marriage of Barry and Jill Reed’s daughter Dahlia to Paul Levine, at the landmark Temple Emanu-El Synagogue on Washington Street in South Beach. It was a lovely ceremony and the bride looked beautiful and the groom was handsome and charming. The Reeds looked great and I was able to see their families once again. I had met Barry, who was originally from Mount Vernon, actually when I was in college. He was a good friend and neighbor of my old buddy Lew Perelman. But he had moved out of Mount Vernon to New City in our sophomore years at AB Davis High School, and I actually met one of his older brothers before I met him a few years later. The ceremony went well, the food was great and we were able to be home before 11 pm.
Through the next week we enjoyed some sunning, a lot of tennis at the great Weston municipal har-tru courts, and some beach time in Fort Lauderdale. We walked up and down Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard, along the windy boardwalk in Hollywood, where all the French-Canadians hang out, and a wonderful antique car museum in Fort Lauderdale. The late Arthur O. Stone, who died at age 89 a few weeks ago, assembled a great collection of 32 antique, pristine Packards. They were marvelous, and some are valued in hundreds of thousands of dollars. If one likes beautiful automotive works of art, go visit the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum at 1527 SW 1st Avenue. Arthur Stone, who started his collection in the 1940’s, also was an avid disciple of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and has a whole room devoted to memorabilia dedicated to the world’s greatest leader.
We spent some time with our friends Barbara and Roland Parent. Barbara and I have known each other since our days at ABDavis/MVHS where she was the top cheerleader and I was one of her great fans. Roland, a former merchant marine officer, and a partner of a consortium of ship’s pilots at Port Everglades, is retired these days, and builds exquisitely accurate models of maritime ships. They are museum quality, and he has created another career building ships for grateful clients.
We all went out to dinner at the St. Tropez, a French Bistro, on Las Olas Boulevard. We enjoyed wine, onion soup, salmon, casseroles, and steak. After the food and drink we were all satiated and tired, so we bid a fond farewell and headed back to Weston. We also went to the insanely large and crowed Saw Grass Mill Mall. If one is really bored, and the weather in Fort Lauderdale is not for the beach, go there once. That is all.
Eventually it was off to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Fort Lauderdale Airport was now crawling with travelers stranded with the storms that inundated the northeast. We made our way to our 40 seat, DeHaviland DHC-8, 2-engine BahamasAir prop plane. I hadn’t been on a turboprop plane since a Convair 440 flight to Buffalo, in March of 1967, from Boston with various stops along the way. It seems that BahamasAir got rid of its all-Boeing 737 jet fleet in 1991 and now concentrates on local service within the islands and to and from the United States. Freeport is only 27 minutes and 97 miles from Fort Lauderdale. The flight was a bit noisy, but the weather was quite clear, and the flight was smooth and uneventful. Grand Bahama is the fourth largest island in the 600 island nation. It has about 46,000, residents and its three major population centers; Freeport, Lucaya, and West End Town.
Our time sharing is at the Taino Beach Resort which is located in Port Lucaya. Lucaya is an important tourist destination on Grand Bahama Island. It has beautiful beaches and contains several big hotels including the most popular, five-star Our Lucaya hotel chain made up of the Reef Village and Radisson hotels and the Lanai Suites located at Lighthouse Point. Count Basie Square in Port Lucaya provides regular live entertainment targeted at cruise ship patrons. Unfortunately Taino Beach is separated from Lucaya by the Bell Channel waterway and to get to the other side of the channel one must take a ferry ride around the bay. It costs $5 for a roundtrip, but it runs all day on the hour.
We checked in, had lunch, spent some time on the beach and we were eventually able to get into our rooms at 4:00 PM. We had a beautiful view of the resort, and the ocean from our balcony. We spent the week playing tennis, sitting at the pool and the ocean and meeting fellow tourists. We met people from all over the states and the world, including couples from South America, Canada, and Finland. We had a spate of cool weather, wind, and some rain, but generally the weather was good enough for tennis and soaking up rays on the beach. I was able to finish FDR’s Deadly Secret by Lomazow and Fetterman, which expostulates that FDR died of cancer and knew about it for years. They do an intensive medical review of FDR’s health, but their conclusions are speculation. I spoke to Dr. Steven Lomazow on the phone a number of months ago, and he denied that his book was politically motivated. But his co-author, Eric Fetterman is an editorial page editor for the New York Post, and I found their conclusions biased, politically slanted and in contradiction to almost all of the universally accepted evaluation of the last two years of FDR’s life and term in office. I also read an interesting book by Hal Vaughan, entitled, FDR’s 12 Apostles, about how FDR recruited Robert Murphy, and how Murphy assembled a staff of diplomatic spies that paved the way for our successful invasion of North Africa. It’s a good read, and it dovetails with one of my essays on General Mark W. Clark, who started his heroic WW II career by landing in North Africa in mufti (disguise) by submarine and small boat to meet with the Vichy French military leadership. It deals with Operation Torch, spies from all of the powers, internal French politics, the role of French Admiral Darlan, his assassination and our eventual landings in Morocco and Algeria. I also finished an interesting book, A Fine Romance, by David Lehman, which was given to me by my son Jon. It’s about popular Broadway and Tin Pan Alley music authored by Jewish song writers and lyricists from Irving Berlin to Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, and up to Lerner and Loewe and Leonard Bernstein.
He explores the history, personalities, the influence and the connection of their style of music to the popular culture and to other important musical giants like Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and Hoagy Carmichael amongst others.
We had loads of fun with a wonderful couple from, Heinola, Finland. We struck up a conversation on the beach and we learned that Jari and Sirkku Kovalainen were celebrating their 25th anniversary in Freeport. We learned all about Finland, and we found out that the Kovalainens were great amateur dancers who loved competition and looked for venues to dance everywhere they went. We both danced with them at the Count Basie Square in Port Lucaya and at the Wednesday Fish Fry along the beach. They were great to watch, and they received plaudits and huzzahs from all of our fellow tourists who got a chance to see them in action.
Jari and Sirkku are youth leaders in Finland, they have grown children, and their dancing has kept them in excellent shape. They, like us, are great fans of Dancing With the Stars. They love American movies, and I recommended that they see The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer, a 1948 cult film classic about ballet. We ate with them at the China Café and Pisces at Port Lucaya. I also introduced them to American-style egg salad, made with chopped onions and mayonnaise. I think they liked it. Jari is an avid stamp collector, and that has been an interest of mine for over 50 years. So we talked about the world-wide interest regarding postage stamps, and what we both collect. I gave him some of the American stamps, which I always carry with me and I promised to look for some of my old Scandinavian issues which I could part with and send to him in Heinola. All in all, we had much in common. By the way, they communicated quite well in English. I cannot say that I was able to retain any of the Finnish words I learned, but it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks. Coincidently we met a young woman who was wearing a Block Island sweat shirt, lived in White Plains and often shopped at our friend Becky Keating’s shop, the Beachcomer, on Block Island. She is also a former nurse at the White Plains Hospital, where the Keating’s son is an emergency room doctor.
So after two weeks of following the sun, we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed off to the airport with our driver. By the way, one of our drivers, Jayson Scott actually lived in Mount Vernon, and his daughter plays on the championship Mount Vernon women’s basketball team. What a small world. After a 20 minute ride to the airport, we went through security, customs, and eventually boarded a Delta twin engine medium sized jet for New York. The jet holds 76 passengers, was half full, and we were able to stretch out in the emergency row seats. It was a civilized 2 hour and 16 minute flight back to Kennedy. We landed a long way from the terminal, had to deplane on the tarmac, and entered the airport through a basement door, but our luggage slid into the carousel immediately, We found our ride, and our driver negotiated the Friday night rush hour traffic and we returned home to the deep snows that smothered Watch Hill the previous week. But it looks like an early spring, and our timing to Florida and the Bahamas enabled us to miss the worst of winter’s most recent blast.