Yambo in Little Havana

2011_0710_1524 a video by seannarae on Flickr.

We had just come from a hot sticky sangria-soaked day on Miami’s South Beach. All we wanted was some authentic Cuban food. Yelp kept sending us to places that I dont think would have been wise to introduce to an unseasoned body. We were all set to give up and drive back to Boca when we came across YAMBO. It was *so* over the top, we had to stop.

Not a word of english was spoken to us. There was no menu; nothing printed or posted (in any language). The lady behind the glass simply held things up for us to choose. We ended up eating what may well have been one of the top 3 meals we had all trip. Not sure precisely what part of the cow we ate, but it felt tri-tippy. The rice & beans were just a touch salty & sweet (aka: perfect). There must have been 4 lbs of food. The Nicaraguan beer was called Toña, and was like a sweet Corona.

All for $8.

Bangor 2 Boca


Bangor 2 Boca.

A road trip 20 years in the making. Renting a car in Bangor Maine and dropping it off in Boca Raton Florida over 2 weeks later. Traversing the spine of the Eastern Seaboard will take us thru 16 states, over 1800 miles, countless taverns, an epic birthday house party, the very last shuttle launch…

And no children.

I’ve lived and loved my whole life in the West. While I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast, it has never been for anything longer than a holiday, and only a small handful of locations. So my concept of the Eastern Seaboard is this vast historically significant stretch of many states. States that experience real winters, with cites that can claim proper vintage architectural treasures within their limits. I have read enough lately to realize that California is old in her own right, and was no mere bystander in the formative years of this country. But the entire right side of this country far more represents the age and foundry of America. So perhaps this is why early on in our lives together, we chose to tour the whole thing in one shot.

We both enjoyed not only one another’s company, but cherished life most when those moments were spent hurtling down any damned road. It confused many, for example, why we would elect to drive from San Francisco to Phoenix for Thanksgiving weekend when a full 1/2 of our time would be spent in the car. Or perhaps the 12 dozen times we’ve driven the SF/LA legs, with kids. Those who know understand. Nothing against air travel; it’s effective when necessary, despite the obscene markup. But for regional travel, you have to lather the equation from two axes: time & money.

With air travel, after you’ve factored in time spent in the air + time spent on the ground on either side, driving becomes not just a realistic alternative, but an attractive one. Time is the most valuable commodity in life, and however oxymoronic it may sound, spending all that time in the car is better precisely because of the company you keep. Ultimately: how much is your time worth?

The price of gas raises the bottom line for each option. Assume for a moment that your plane ticket represents the cost of fuel, for we need to compare it to the cost of driving, which DOES boil down to the cost of fuel. So long as you’re not driving a Hummer (if you *still* are, you’ve got bigger problems), if you look at just pure fuel costs, again for regional travel, driving vs flying still diffs out to little or zero delta. Excluding the crazy restriction-rich air deals, it costs about $80 to fly from SFO to LAX. At 320m give or take, that’s about 1.00 to 1.25 tanks of gas, or roughly $80. But wait, there’s more. Factor in cost of parking, shuttles, luggage fees (!), airport food, booze, rental cars or taxis, again: driving trumps. And this is all assuming one passenger. Add a family of 4 to the mix, and it’s really no contest.

But whatever the cost in either time or currency, there’s just something rich in Americana by taking the overland route.

Whatever was felt by Merriwether Lewis as he was heading BACK after the Corp of Discovery wintered at the mouth of the Columbia, I’m sure it was flecked with deep patriotic pride. That and a healthy schmear of holy shit there’s a lot to process. That’s kind of how I feel as I head into this road trip. Like Lewis, I have a rough idea how far I need to go to get to my Point B, as well as feeling the profound fortune I share for the opportunity.

But ours is a journey, being 200 years later, far less perilous and uncertain. We’re just driving from the northeast corner to the southeast.

Why Bangor? Why Boca?

Besides a light love for alliteration, it was just the cites that represented the top and bottom of the east coast for us. Remember this plan was hatched perhaps 20 years ago. Anna was still pathologically – albeit platonically – in love with Stephen King, who at one point and may still reside in Bangor. Since then, it seemed like every 3rd episode of The Sopranos had a Boca reference. And each time, if we didn’t say it, we felt it: we have to make that road trip happen. Someday.

Some day.

As you grow old, someday becomes more easily pushed out. Solid plans become tomorrow. Then next year. Then once we get out of debt. Then children enter the fray and your dream plans become quaint ideals from your childhood. The good dreams get mothballed for that first season the kids are off away at school.

And I have no screenplay or magical turn of events that resurrected this particular dream. I can tell you generous parents have a lot to do with it. But mostly, perhaps because it wasn’t ever really shelved. It just became crowded out by the din of life, a simple yet profound signal-to-noise thing. It’s loud out here what with 2 professional careers, aggressive debt-management, being a teacher & disciplinarian, being a lover & a partner, all the while living in an expensive city with no family members onto whom we could lean for babysitting.

But your 40s have a way of making things happen. And the components and mechanics of your dreams have shaped you in ways you only ever really comprehend until you’re acting on those dreams. Again, time plays a monumental role here. Perspective about how precious and limited it is. And at 40, well shit you’ve just made it 1/2 way. The signal you’ve been sending out your whole life up until now is finally starting to bounce back for you to receive and process. The full measure of which won’t be revealed until you’re at the other end of your life’s hemisphere. So cheers to those that realize this in their 20s or 30s but I am beginning to feel the deep distant rumblings of those dreams & desires that I paused and archived. And again it’s the mere acting upon those dreams that you feel alive and present.

So yea, Bangor 2 Boca is on.

It’s been idolized and coveted for so long, I’m barely able to make out that jazzy feeling you get before a proper holiday. It’s fantastic to the point where we can’t not consider this a second honeymoon. The majour difference now is perhaps the same gravity Lewis felt as winter gave way to spring on the coast of Oregon 200+ years ago: we get to do it all over again.