Miami with the Schweids!

When we went back in January for Larry’s funeral, one of the first things I talked about with family back there was I’d like to go to Miami for the annual Burger Bash.  I actually wasn’t sure if it was going to be too late to make this request, but it ended up not being the case.   Jamie, Brad, and the family all made it happen, and to them, I say thank you so much.   They hooked me up with a flight and hotel and admission to the Burger Bash, which was amazing.   I’m definitely going to break down the weekend with pictures, naturally, but just the fact that they were so kind and able to make this happen was wonderful.  Enough preamble, let’s talk about the weekend!

I flew out on Thursday afternoon from LAX, getting there in the evening.   Jamie and Rachel were already there as Jamie was part of helping get everything going as the Schweid & Sons company was helping present the Burger Bash event.   Brad and Tina were not in town yet and would be there Friday afternoon.   Unfortunately, my late request did mean I wasn’t able to stay at the same hotel as them, but I ended up at the Nautilus, a few blocks north of where they were at the Lowe’s.  It was fabulous, and the room was wonderful as well.

Rachel and Jamie already had dinner plans, so I was on my own the first night.   I didn’t know Miami and it was already 9:30 so I was content to just eat at the hotel, and so I went to the hotel restaurant which was closing at 10.  They were accommodating though, and after sitting at the bar, I was chatting up the bartender and the manager like some kind of chatty cathy.  It made the time go by and Evan, the bartender, gave me some intel on interesting places to visit in Miami outside of Miami Beach, which is basically their Times Square and meant for tourists.  That helped me on Saturday when I did go sightseeing!    Evan and the manager definitely had a DGAF attitude by the end of the night, and I may have paid for one glass of wine but they easily poured nearly a bottle’s worth of it in my glass, even letting me pour my own glass once.   Needless to say, I got a LOT o’ wine.

Anyway, the next day I wasn’t feeling as bad as expected, although a little dehydrated.  I went down to the restaurant again for breakfast, sitting in the outdoor area to enjoy the weather.   It wasn’t too warm which was appreciated, and comfortable enough for shorts.   Rachel walked over by the time I was finishing breakfast, and we then proceeded to walk north up the shore, with Rachel giving me a tour.  It was nice to catch up with her as we really don’t have a lot of time for that typically.  She’s also noticeably pregnant at this point, which is so exciting.  Here are some pics from that walk along Miami Beach:

It was around 1 or so when we had walked back to the Lowe’s to meet up with Jamie, as well as Brad, Tina, Zach and Jake, who had flown in and arrived by that point.  Always a joy to see them, and of course my Tina, and we all had some lunch in the Lowe’s restaurant, at which point Donna and David also arrived.  They live in Florida a big chunk of the year, so they’re about an hour away by car from Miami.  After lunch, we then wandered around the beach a little, and I took a fantastic pic of Brad & Tina’s family on the beach, and then we took a peek at the Burger Bash venue from the outside, although not allowed in just yet.  It was a good time.  Obviously what was missing was that Larry wasn’t here to celebrate, but I sincerely and truly hope that in some way, he was, whether it was mental or spiritual energy from us bringing him there.

The rest of the group was going to do other stuff after that, and while the Burger Bash wasn’t starting until 7 or so, Brad and I decided to walk around the famous part of Miami Beach that you always see on TV and movies.  Places you’ve definitely seen, like in The Birdcage, run up and down Collins Blvd.  It’s awesome.  Lots of eating, drinking, and merry making.  I never made it back to see it at night due to how things played out, but that would be fun one day.  Plus, it’d be fun to go back and see the gay scene once I’m in a bit better state.

After Brad and I got back, it was time to clean up and change for the Burger Bash.   I met up with Rachel and David to get our badges at the back entrance of the venue, and we were able to walk around a bit before the major crowds came in, and believe me, they did.   So what the Burger Bash is is basically a bunch of restaurants come to the event to show off their proud burger creation.  A panel of judges gets to sample all the entries, and after a few rounds of judging, one entrant is judged the best of the year.  It’s all very scientific!  🙂   I managed to try about 5 of the burgers before I was basically done.  I wish I had been able to get one of my friends to come as I think it would have been more fun, as the Schweids really had to work during this event.   I really missed Larry at this point as if he and I had been there together, we could laugh about it all or at least keep each other company.  So it did get a bit emotionally exhausting to be there after a while, and I did take off before possibly getting to see or meet Rachel Ray, the presenter of the winner (who turned out to be a place called Butter – I am pretty sure I tried their burger and it was great).  Here’s an article about it:

Here are my pics from around the event!

The next day, I wasn’t sure what the plan was, but I didn’t really have anything mapped out for most of the day except for at night when Jamie had invited me to dinner with Rachel and his friends. I didn’t want to just putt around at the pool or beach, as that’s not really my thing and also the weather wasn’t quite right for that.   So I remembered that Evan the bartender from my first night had recommended the Design District and the Wynwood Walls as places worth seeing, so I was like, let’s do that!   I downloaded some walking tours that helped me plot a route to go along, although it wasn’t Rick Steves quality with explanations of what I was looking at.   But that was okay – it was worth just going out and exploring.   So I took an Uber over the bridge back to the main Miami area and got dropped off in the Design District.   It has a lot of fabulous architecture mixed in with a Rodeo Drive caliber of retail, if that helps set the picture.   See for yourself:

I enjoyed walking around this area a lot.   There was an institute of contemporary art there with one floor open for visitors, and it was free, so that was great.   Sadly, much like every other big city, there is a long street of deserted gallery fronts covered in colorful paper to hide from the fact that this section of town is a ghost town.   It’s not a surprise, I guess, as likely the rents are insanely high and who the hell are the patrons of galleries anymore?   That seems very much like a 1980s thing.  Anyway, I wandered around and got my fill of the Design District, and then plotted my walk to the Wynwood Walls, which was only a half mile walk away, so there I went!   Of course, the rain started coming down, but it’s Florida, so you can likely just wait 30 minutes and it’ll go away.   So I spent some time getting lunch at a ramen restaurant.  Of course, the moment I step out, the rain comes back even harder.  But still, just wait 10 minutes, and it went away, and I was able to continue my walk.

The Wynwood Walls is an arts area where you can walk through this space of public art.  It’s not graffiti per se, as it’s literally art painted on the walls.  Maybe tomato/tomatoh, but it’s not just beautiful tagging – it’s full on art on the walls.  It’s gorgeous.   You walk through, with tons of other people/tourists, looking at a lot of installations.   There’s also small galleries mixed in along the way, which was great as the sun did come out and when it did, it would get hot.  One of the galleries was for Shepard Fairey, and I was this close to buying something before realizing it probably is something I could just buy online and delivered home.   Anyway, Wynwood Walls is definitely worth a look if you’re in Miami!

On the way back, I grabbed some pictures of the Nautilus as I really hadn’t gotten good shots of it when arriving or the day before.

Finally, that afternoon after I got back, I met up with Jamie and two of his friends, Michael and Abby, at the Lowe’s pool bar, who were in town for this event and are old friends of his.  They were fun as hell and we had a good couple of hours there before it was time to change into dinner clothes and meeting at Katsuya in the SLS Hotel.   Here’s where things get a bit hazy for me – as folks, I drank like a muthafuckin’ fish that night, and I really don’t think I ate that much at dinner.   Not that I don’t like sushi, that’s for sure, but I think just kept drinking sake instead of eating.   whoooooo boy, I left consciousness.   Like, I can remember things, but really, it’s just images and such.  I know we went to a different area (of the same hotel? not sure.   I think we walked to a different hotel too), and then I think there was conversations with strangers and dancing a little, and I’m not even sure I continued drinking.  I honestly don’t think I did?  LOL, the funniest part of this story is that I got to get a picture with Neil Patrick Harris because Jamie and Rachel are friendly with him and his husband, David.   I did not ask to get a picture but maybe Jamie thought I looked like I needed a random celebrity encounter, so guess what, there’s a picture of me and NPH below.  He looks thrilled, and it cracks me the hell up as I am clearly drunk.  Wow, haven’t been that drunk in a while – and I guess it still wasn’t technically blackout drunk, but certainly adjacent.  I remember walking up the street with Jamie’s friends and got to my hotel – really not sure how that happened that I got into my room and bed, but amusingly, I guess I left all my lights on overnight.  Like it mattered, as I passed the hell out.   Probably the best that the lights were on and the curtains were open as I did wake up with plenty of time to realize how hungover I was and that I had to pack and go to the airport in a few hours.   Folks, hangovers for a 5.5 hour flight are NOT GREAT.   I made it though with plenty of time.   I think I’m still fighting the sleep debt from this weekend, what with the jet lag and the hangover.

And that was the grand finale of the weekend.   The pictures following my decadent last night are from the plane leaving Miami and arriving in LA.   Getting home was bittersweet.   It’s always nice to be on home turf, but my home turf is no longer the same place with Larry dead.  I got very sad being home, and I guess it’s to be expected.  I’m doing better two nights later, but yeah, this weekend was a way to briefly not have it be all encompassing.  Life goes on though, and my grief continues.  But for one weekend, it was a different thing, one that made things quite interesting.

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