Sunday, May 22, 2022

Graduation – Miami Style

We flew for the first time in many months for a long weekend with family. It was in celebration of a grandson’s graduation from the University of Miami. I don’t know how many students graduated that day, but the business school consisted of 720 students. Though they had a large indoor stadium we could not all get tickets, so we watched with my two sons on a laptop in our hotel room. This is the image our son Hunter took of the big moment of grandson, Matthew, with President of the University when the diploma was passed.

Our family clearly travels on its stomach and the graduate’s mother, my daughter Cathy, planned this weekend with plenty of great eating opportunities. When our family was together, we were at least 16 and there were friends of the graduate’s too, so our tables in restaurants were rather long.

The first dinner was at Grazianos in Coral Gables, where just walking in you were glad to be there as you were greeted by the sight and smell of amazing chunks of meat cooking on a huge open wood-burning grill. Every once in a while, a desert set on fire would pass by. There were clearly lots of celebrations going on. Another reason I am sure people come is for the incredible wine list which goes to over 20 pages. Every wall was covered with full wine bottles. Here is a tiny section.

The next night we went to a restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood where every “boite” (night spot) has a very loud band and sometimes a singer as well and lots of dancing. The open-top party busses with a bar at one end cruise the streets and the young people aboard dance and sing loudly to be heard over the music. It is definitely a young person’s scene.

The most incredible meal I have ever experienced was at the Japanese restaurant Zuma. A headline of the Miami New Times stated “Zuma Offers Bottomless Asian-Inspired Brunch All Weekend”. This experience alone is worth a trip! First you are invited to go to a bar which must be 15 feet long of hot hors d’oeuvres. Then there is another 10 feet of sushi bar.

Not only are the numerous cooks making food but there are waiters who are continuously replacing dishes for the long lines of customers. Of course, nobody can just take one small plate, so we all went back two or even three times. You think that’s enough? Not by a long shot. This was the full menu as well as a sample plate.

They then announced to our table, in a private room, that the meal was being served and plates to share arrived down the center of the table. These consisted of vegetable tempura, cooked salmon, chicken and filet mignon cut in small thin slices. Those of us who were uninitiated thought that this was the end of the meal, but we sat down again as trays of small, delicious pastries and frozen delicacies arrived. Throughout the meal beverages both alcoholic and not were served by the incredible disciplined staff.

Some of us took a break from eating on the balcony outside our dining room. It overlooked the Miami river where we had a view of pleasure boats and yachts of all sizes as they came through with sun bathers and crew. One boat was so large that I wondered if it belonged to a junior oligarch.

Our last unusual experience, other than our flights all being on time, was the drive back to Miami International Airport. Even though there had been plenty of taxis at the airport, we did not see them anywhere else. Some in our group had cars, but often we took Ubers which were very efficient and plentiful. Our Uber to the airport was particularly interesting. First of all, I was surprised when I saw that our driver, David, was picking us up in a black Tesla. Never had an Uber driver with a Tesla before! This sleek car with a tinted glass roof looked like it had come right out of the movies. It was new to us to the point where David had to show us how to open the doors. This, however, was not the most remarkable thing: David turned out to be an individual innovative enough to start a business and invest in it. He told us that he owned two long haul trucks, hired drivers, and had just about saved enough to buy a third truck. First, I asked, so why are you driving for Uber? He said he did it partime to make some money, to be able to stay near his family and not have to be away trucking across the country all the time. Prying some more, but trying to do it politely, I asked him if he had a business degree. His reply really surprised me: he said he learned by watching a year of YouTube. He thought this was more efficient (and probably less expensive) than spending his time in classes. I had so many more questions, but it only took 15 minutes to get to the airport. Someday, I believe I will see David’s Trucking Company … or maybe he is just going to write a great novel!

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