Miami is an Aviation Geek’s Dream

Lufthansa A380 at MIA. Photo courtesy of Aero Icarus via Flickr.

Lufthansa A380 from Frankfurt landing at MIA

Despite its setting amid a flat, wildly sprawling car-topia, Miami International Airport is an aviation geek’s dream. Airliners from places as far away as Moscow and Buenos Aires or as close as Key West and Nassau, cargo planes all the way from China, the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft – riding heavy over Biscayne Bay on its way across the Atlantic; if you look in the sky long enough, you’ll see it all. And unlike most big-city airports relegated to the boondocks, MIA is right in the heart of town.

TAM departing for Brazil

TAM departing for Brazil

Vantage points are everywhere: you can catch the afternoon arrivals from Europe at the LA Fitness on Northwest 12th Street, the planes so low you can almost touch them – Iberia, Alitalia, Virgin, Swiss, and British all in a row. Commuters on the Dolphin Expressway course alongside the south runway, sometimes racing TAM to Brazil, LAN to Chile, or Copa to Panama. Delta and United and Avianca and TACA and FedEx and UPS skirt the towers of downtown Miami throughout the day. But all-day, everyday, it’s American – old American, new American, big American, small American – it could be to Tallahassee or Tegucigalpa, somebody’s going somewhere on American.

AA dominates MIA

AA dominates MIA. They’ve been slow at repainting with the new logo.

Nearby Fort Lauderdale might have the most dramatic landings in the region, jets just barely missing the tops of the semis speeding up and down I-95. But Miami’s got the most diverse range of aircraft, airlines, landing patterns, and striking silhouettes of any city I’ve ever lived in.

Swiss airliner at MIA

Swiss prepping for the return to Zurich

So if you’re driving past the airport and see someone creeping along on the expressway at 5 miles an hour trying to snap a shot of a departing AirBerlin jet on their phone, it’s probably me. I really have to stop that; it’s just not safe.

Terminal J at MIA from Dolphin Expressway

Terminal J at MIA from Dolphin Expressway

Oh…and is anybody else but me excited that Qatar Airways will be flying here come next June?! Nobody? Bueller?

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Moving to Miami Beach and Why I Disagree with the Florida Boycott

Hanging out on Virginia Key, Miami's main beach for black residents during segregation

Hanging out at Virginia Key, Miami’s main beach for black residents during segregation

After six months of living in western Broward County – in a neighborhood with at least two Confederate flags on permanent display – I’m moving to Miami Beach (pending apartment association approval). The place isn’t fancy and the rent is a little more than I’d like to be paying, but the place is two blocks from the ocean. Did I mention that my new apartment is two blocks from the ocean?

The neighborhood offers up Brazilian and Cuban and Haitian and Colombian cuisine, gourmet burger joints and mom-and-pop coffee shops, two or three one-off gyms, a locksmith and a bail bondsman, a couple of t-shirt shops, an IHOP within walking distance, and the beach. I already feel connected to the place, even though I’m not moving until after the first of the month, if only because the area has a great plurality of people from all over the world. To me, its diversity is the single greatest thing about the United States these days.

Most of the residents in the area are working class. Most are brown or black. Most toil in hotels as cleaning staff or porters or maintenance crew, in restaurants as cooks and servers and dishwashers, in bars as bartenders and barbacks and security guards. Most depend on tourism for their livelihoods. Most would be the first to be laid off as the result of a boycott of Florida that supporters think will cause the repeal a law that disproportionately affects those same people (and me).

I understand the anger directed at the state because of the Zimmerman verdict and share in the desire for a change in the law. But, the gun lobby in Tallahassee is ruthless and relentless. It will take more than a general and unfocused boycott of products and services in Florida to overturn the heinous Stand Your Ground law. It will take pressure on the governor and the state legislature, who are the only people with the power – if not willingness – to do something. You can make your voice heard by contacting their offices directly (Florida House; Florida Senate).

Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that there are 21 other states with Stand-Your-Ground laws on the books. And with the flags of all 50 states soaked in the blood of injustice and bigotry, shouldn’t boycotts be called for the other 49, too? In New York (Amadou Diallo) and California (Oscar Grant) and Georgia (Troy Davis) and Illinois (Jamaal Moore)? What about the people of color who live here, who have always lived here? I’ve seen commenters on other blogs brush away the concerns of black Floridians with quips like “casualties are a part of war” and “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.” I wonder if those people would be saying the same things if Zimmerman had been found not guilty in their state. As if that’s unlikely or something. Just yesterday, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the city council’s ban on racial profiling by police. It ain’t just Florida.

I’ve lived in the Gunshine State for 23 of my almost-36 years (gulp!) and I’ve never felt any less safe here than in Massachusetts, Maryland, or Mississippi. A boycott – especially if you already kinda sorta weren’t coming to Florida anyway – can be an easy way to feel good about being indignant without actually having to do very much. Hurting the hundreds of thousands of black and brown folk who depend directly or indirectly on tourism, services, or agriculture to make a living won’t make Florida  or the rest of the country  any safer for any of us.

If you are serious about effecting change in Florida, support the Trayvon Martin Foundation, then contact the state’s elected officials who support gun rights over human rights (half of whom I definitely didn’t vote for as a staunch Democrat, but such is the tyranny of the majority) and let them know that you feel the Stand Your Ground law is a travesty of justice.

Then come down and hang out at the beach house. We’ll be barbecuin’.

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Fly Brother’s New Hub: South Florida

Miami Skyline from West

I’m living in that flat, kinda boring part in the foreground.

“He’s baaaack!” Yes, good people: Fly Brother has emerged healthy and unscathed from that electronic limbo called “Taking A Break From The Internets.” After December’s quick and last-minute escape from Europe because of the 90-day tourist visa rule, I ended up back in Florida to await the processing for my student visa to Germany, where I’d be earning my PhD. Subsequently, I ended up helping a friend take care of her autistic 7-year-old and unexpectedly landing a full-time university teaching position in Miami, two situations that, along with my freelance writing commitments, demanded total and complete energy and attention. As a result, the blog suffered.

As much as I love traveling at moment’s notice, there’s much to be said for stability. Re-hubbing in South Florida, a cultural mishmash with amazing weather and hordes of cockroaches, means rebuilding my financial foundation, recommitting to an intense workout regimen, advancing professionally—which includes working on the PhD remotely—, and re-entering American society after seven years abroad. There is, indeed, a lot about the US that remains unattractive—race relations, consumerism, traffic—but it’s nice to be back on familiar soil as I reboot, regroup, reconnect with myself, my family and friends, and my country.

Right now, I’m sharing a house with my friend and her child in the sterile flats of Broward County, but I hope to move a few exits down into Miami, capital of Latin America, in a few months. The commute to work is shorter and I don’t get the suspicious looks in Miami the way I do up in the United States (by that, I mean Broward County). Make sure you all give me a shout whenever headed this way. In the meantime, I’ll be posting the travel- and culture-related musings you used to get regularly here at Fly Brother. So, as they say down here in “The Bottom:” Lehgo!

PS – Recently, I was asked what happened to my dream city of São Paulo. In a word: inflation. I still love that place more than any other on Earth, and I plan to always have a presence there. Right now, though, it’s more expensive than New York and it’s just not the time for us. One day, we shall be together again.

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Party on 8th Street: Calle Ocho in Miami

Yes, it really did have this many people.

Every March, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana throws the biggest pan-Latin/Caribbean bash in the country on Southwest 8th Street, the main street of Miami’s Cuban community, called “Calle Ocho” in Spanish because of the missing ordinal abbreviation (i.e. “th”) on the street signs. With a few million party people packing the street for almost 20 blocks, the festival features music, dancing, food, and foolishness from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, and Miami itself.

This year’s event was on March 11, and if you weren’t here, you gotta wait ’til next year. Meanwhile, here’s some footage to tide you over:


Learn more about the festivities at the official Carnaval Miami website.

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Global Juke Joint: Miami Sound Machines


Cruising around Miami for New Years in a rental car with no iPod dock meant much radio time. Thankfully, 93.9 (in spite of random and agonizing bursts of “I Gotta Feeling,” “Dancing Queen,” “Single Ladies,” and “I Will Survive”) took it back to 1980s Dade County, when no ethnic community was a true majority, South Beach was still gritty and vice-ridden, and everybody punched it down 95 South to locally-produced freestyle and bass music*. Here’s some of Miami’s finest (plus a little Crockett and Tubbs action) to carry you from MIA across Biscayne Bay:


*For my true booty music aficionados, check this classic 2 Live Crew performance on The Phil Donahue Show.

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