Is This Racist?

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I don’t know if this is a thing all over the country, or if it’s just a Miami-thing. It mainly takes place outside of small Cuban restaurants with tiny parking lots, and old medical/office buildings near Calle Ocho.

The other day, I visited a dentist office which was in one of these old medical buildings. The building only had about nine parking spots, in one of the tightest, most poorly-planned parking lots I’ve ever driven through. All of the parking spots were full when I arrived, so I waited a bit to see if any cars would leave. In only few seconds a new car showed up behind me and honked for me to get out of their way.

Of course, when that happened someone came down, got in their car, and left, in those few seconds and the dude behind me snaked my spot. It probably wasn’t some dude, it was probably a 90 year old hispanic lady, late for her appointment.

When I drove into the lot, I noticed an old Cuban man who was “guarding” the parking lot. He sat in his stool and would shoot the shit with whatever regulars and locals would come in and out of the building. I put down my window and asked where I could leave my car for just a few minutes while I quickly ran up to pick up some documents.

He asked me how long I was going to be there, a few times, like if he was trying to catch me in a lie. Once he realized I was truly just picking up some documents, he walked over to the VIP parking (probably where the buildings workers and tenants parked), unhooked the VIP chain that was blocking it and let me leave my car there.

When I came back down less than two minutes later the man undid the VIP chain once again for me to leave. He gave me multiple, very specific directions on how to get out, when all I had to do was back out, down a ramp. He made this process much more complicated than it had to be, but I made it out fine. Thanks old Cuban man!

After this experience I wondered if any other cities have these “parking attendant” security people. I’ve seen security in other places, but these old cuban men don’t really count as security. All they can do to stop any incidents is call the police on their flip phone, but any idiot on the street can do that.

After leaving the dentist building I went straight to Barnes & Noble, in Coral Gables. Where they also have a personal parking attendant, Tonto (as I call him). If you’ve ever parked behind Barnes & Noble in Coral Gables between the hours of 9AM and 5PM then you have definitely met Tonto. He’s the old man who looks like he was once an indian chief (or he used to look like that, until he cut his hair).

I think the reason he is there, working the parking lot at Barnes & Noble is because they built it on top of an ancient indian burial ground. I do not understand the point of him being there. Sure, it may scare away a few people trying to get free parking, but for the most part anyone can park there. You just have to be able to answer one simple question, “Where you going today?”

If you tell him you’re visiting Barnes & Noble or FedEx Kinkos, then guess what? You’ve won. And your prize is FREE PARKING in Coral Gables. Both stores have a front and back entrance. You can easily walk in one entrance and out the other and be on your way for hours of fun on Miracle Mile.

Also, don’t forget to get the stamp! When walking through Barnes & Noble or Fedex Kinkos you will find a stamp. Stamp your parking ticket or Tonto will be mad at you. His threat is that you will have to pay if you don’t get the stamp. But I have forgotten to get the stamp plenty of times and I’ve never had to pay.

I don’t even think he knows how much money to ask for. There is no sign that says, “Parking $_.00.” So, even if you don’t get the stamp, he will most likely let you off the hook, “This time!” (as he likes to say, but also every other time).

I also remember going to Cuban restaurants with my parents as a kid, and seeing the old Cuban parking lot guard. It was always an old man on a stool, doing crossword puzzles or some activity to let you know that he definitely wasn’t paying attention to your car. There was always a cone blocking the parking lot entrance, and after a quick stare down to make sure you were “OK,” the man would move the cone and let you park. Then he’d go back to his tall stool, and his game, not paying attention to anyone’s car. However, he would still get a dollar or a few dollars from each of the restaurant patrons.

 

If you don’t live in Miami and have seen this sort of thing, please comment below and tell me your stories. Also, what nationality are your parking attendants? Because 99% of ours are old Cuban men, I say Tonto is Native American, but I’m pretty sure he’s hispanic. He just has a nice tan from standing in a hot, sunny parking lot in Miami all day.

Cuban Food: It’s Out of this World!

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Being raised by and living with two real Cubans (my parents) for about 80% of my life, I’ve learned that most Cubans aren’t really into trying new food. They most definitely are not fans of anything spicy. And whenever it’s time for a birthday, graduation or a wake it’s always, “Let’s go to Versailles, La Carreta, Sergio’s, Havana Harry’s or any other Cuban restaurant.” Cuban food is magical and was invented to help us all deal with happiness, success and pain.

Another thing I’ve noticed, especially about my dad, is that anytime I do make him try a new place he always gives it the same review, “No es nada del otro mundo” (it’s nothing out of this world or nothing from another planet). I’ve heard this same review from plenty of other old Cubans in my family and some not in my family.

If you’re holding every new meal to that standard, then you’re never going to find something you like. I don’t know what they’re searching for, but whatever it is they probably won’t find it here on Earth. Where do Old Cubans think Cuban food comes from? A secret space station? The Millennium Falcon? Pandora?

Everything we have ever eaten so far has been “from this world.” None of the Old Cubans I know were ever astronauts, so I don’t know what kind of space cakes and moon pies they think they’ll find. I’m sure if we did try the cuisine from Mars or Venus it wouldn’t be very tasty. Did you see how much trouble Matt Damon went through just to grow plants on Mars (in The Martian)? An extraordinary amount of trouble.

I love Cuban food, especially croquetas and vaca frita and tres leches and flan and the bread is simply amazing (with and without butter, toasted and untoasted, it’s always great).

As a young whippersnapper I only ate hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. It wasn’t until I watched Good Burger in the theater that I thought, Hey, I should give hamburgers another try! We went straight to Burger King, where I learned what burgers should taste like (or that’s what I thought at the time). Now, I enjoy trying all types of new cuisine from all over the world. (I’m no Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain, but I’ll try some stuff at Epcot Food & ‘Lines’ Festival).

Attempting to take my parents to a new place is tough, they just want something familiar. Anything not Cuban “sounds weird” to them. They like sticking to old Cuban restaurants or famous chains that they already trust. I feel this may be common in most Cubans who were born on that island.

Maybe someone (aka the government) was trying to poison everyone on the island, so they only ate at places they already trusted. Now, since coming to Miami, they’ve found their few safe restaurants and will continue dining at those and only those few spots.

Another thing with this older generation is that they were brought up on the crappy food pyramid and they have no idea what’s healthy and what isn’t. You try to explain what’s bad and why it’s bad, but they listen to idiots like Dr. Oz, Wolf Blitzer and GMA instead.

I know what’s healthy and what I should be eating. However, I choose to eat what’s not healthy because I am still kind of young and the healthy food isn’t as delicious. In fact, the healthy food usually tastes like butt and life is too short to waste it eating gross, healthy food (like quinoa and kale). But by eating that healthy, crap food you may have a longer life. But it won’t be much longer, so eat what you want. Just make sure to try new things along the way.


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