Archive for December 2018

DEnny’s–IHOP–Sweet Tomatoes–JMarks   1 comment

Inline imagerestaurants 4 December 2018
For the last 10 years before going to the Adrienne Arsht Center we would usually get a bite to eat at the Quarterdeck or Lester’s until this year. In  May when we went to see the touring company of “Chicago” instead of 40-50 minutes it took us 1 hour and 30 minutes. In November when we went to see “Hello Dolly” we decided to go down to Miami first and then eat. The two restaurants connected with the theatre are outrageously expensive  and where we get off at 36th Avenue there are a group of restaurants and we decided to go to Denny’s but that didn’t work out as there was construction  at the exit from the  off-ramp so we ended up getting a bag of candy for $10!!
On Wednesday December 26 we had tickets for the stage version of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” and decided to leave  3 hours before curtain time giving us 2 hours to get to downtown Miami, have a quick bite at Denny’s and make the curtain with some time to spare.
Any time you go on I-95 between 4-7 PM you are getting into bumper to bumper traffic. and I really can understand the stress commuters have. Both train systems aren’t good because their schedules don’t allow for coming back.
We left my place at 5 PM and got down to Denny’s around 6:45.  I worked at Denny’s on 17th & Federal and before that when it was called Wag’s. Denny’s has always had a bad reputation for service and it being very slow–of course, not when I was working there!
From what I can tell this particular Denny’s does more take-out and delivery than in-store dining. They own a really huge piece of property on 36th and Brickell with a parking lot twice as big as the restaurant so I am inclined to think, like most of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it may soon become another hi-rise.
In any case they had 3 servers on the floor and we were the 4th party to come in. We had no problem with service and though it is not gourmet dining Allen had the double cheeseburger and I had the Philly prime rib. Both were tasty but—sorry, I can’t get used to this–just for the 2 sandwiches (we had water to drink) with tax, the check came to $22.35 plus a $5 tip. Our next show there, which is February 5, “Les Miserables” we are thinking of leaving 2 in the afternoon, go  via Miami Beach, have a snack there, if we have time go to the museum, and then, if the road work is done on the McCarthur Causeway we will get to the theatre with plenty of time.

IHOP–at Federal and Sunrise–went there Saturday for a light lunch –usually I have their cheese omelet with hash browns but this time, since I started my New Year’s resolution early, I had a plain turkey sandwich of rye —no bacon, cheese or mayo–with tomato and onion, a side of fresh fruit and black coffee. (When dieting I use mustard instead of mayo.) My friend had a chicken and avocado salad. Service was good though there was only 1 waiter on the floor and he was also the busboy and he had 6 parties to wait on, I got what I wanted, my friend picked up the check and I left a $5 tip.

Sweet Tomatoes–I posted about this place before–I love it for their 8 different soups,  pastas and breads. Anytime I/we go to the Regal Theatre we either go there, to the diner in the same center of to Cabo Blanco less than a mile away.. All have good discount coupons on either their websites or on

JMarks–went there Thursday December 27 after Dollar Tree and before Winn-Dixie–they are still running their $13.99 coupon special of a NY Strip, Chicken Parm or Salmon. John, the server, was excellent with a good sense of humor,. Allen had the Salmon and raved about it. I usually have the steak but this time I had the Parm which was a mistake. The breading fell off the Parm each time I cut it and the  sauce on the pasta was almost glue-like. Back to the steak the next time. Without the coupon I find the prices almost doubled and certainly not worth it but with the coupon it certainly is a good deal.

Oh yes, I didn’t have the carrot cake for dessert which is excellent because for the holidays someone bought me a 5 pound carrot cake! (What resolutions?!?!!?)

Posted December 31, 2018 by greatmartin in FOOD, RESTAURANT REVIEWS, Uncategorized

December?????????   1 comment

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If I didn’t know better I would think we were ‘Down Under’—come on, it is winter here summer there but today we are having a high temperature of 83 degrees, sunny, a beach day.

Yep, no climate change going on in the world–just here!!

Posted December 29, 2018 by greatmartin in FLORIDA, FORT LAUDERDALE, WEATHER

“Mary Poppins Returns”–movie review   1 comment

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A bad sign watching a movie is thinking mostly negative thoughts and after an hour I was thinking: 1) This really isn’t a movie for kids as it is too dark and somber  2) This really isn’t a movie for adults as it doesn’t capture what made the first film memorable 3) Emily Blunt has talent but she isn’t a Julie Andrews or a Mary Poppins  4) Emily Mortimer has that certain smile and would make a better Mary Poppins 5) Will this film get any better? and 6) The songs are pretty lame.
There was one positive thought and that was Lin-Manual Miranda was continuing his place on the top of the hill after “In The Heights”, “Hamilton”, his score for “Moana”, being honored on The Kennedy Center Honors this week, plus winning an Emmy Award, A Tony Award, Grammy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, about to reprise his role as Hamilton opening the show in Puerto Rico and now doing a good job as Jack, the man who lights and shuts off the street lamps in the streets of London during  the Great Slump of the 1930s. Up to the hour and a half point–no pun intended–he is the only bright light.
Julie Walker, as the housekeeper, is almost an afterthought while Colin Firth should have been given a mustache to twirl as the villain to do something with the role. As the Banks children Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson they are given little more than they are expected to while Emily Mortimer, as their aunt, lights up the screen here and there and Ben Whishaw, as their father, really is wooden up to and in the last half hour of the film when he really comes through in a moving scene. Oh, yes, the less said about Meryl Streep, her song and her time on the screen the better.
The last half hour in no way makes up for the first 90-95 minutes but the screen does come alive with a song and dance by 93 year-old Dick Van Dyke up on a desk, with movie magic or not, reprising “Tripping The Light Fantastic” done earlier in the film by Miranda, along with 93 year-old Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady singing one of the better songs from the movie, “Nowhere To Go but Up” starting a full cast number.
Lin-Manuel Miranda always talks about watching the old song and dance movies and in “Mary Poppins Returns” he has two numbers, the first being “Tripping The Light Fantastic” and the second, “Race To Big Ben”, that fulfill any dreams he might have had and brings back the magic of “Mary Poppins”.
“Mary Poppins Returns” offers 30 minutes of entertainment in a film that is 130 minutes long and can probably watch Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury in their show shopping numbers on youtube!

Movie trailer

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”–theatre review   Leave a comment

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Last week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts we saw “Hamilton”, a musical for the 21st century, and this week we saw “White Christmas”, a musical that represents all that made theatre-going so much fun in the 20th century, at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Center in Miami.
Based on a 1954 movie musical it was adapted for the stage in 2000 with the book by David Ives and Paul Blake that makes all that was corny in the film fun on the stage. There is the ‘Let’s put on a show in the barn’ gimmick along with a misunderstanding between one of the lead couples not to mention jokes like, “We fight. We don’t have sex. It’s like we are married!”, which still gets laughs.
It has the music of Irving Berlin, 18 songs that have become classics, including the title tune which is the biggest selling record of all time. Just as important is that it has a cast that is looking as if they are having as much fun as the audience.
Listen to Kerry Conte sing a sultry “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” while Sean Montgomery counterpoints with “How Deep Is The Ocean”. Try not to tap your toes while Jeremy Benton and Kelly Sheehan dance and sing, along with the chorus, “I Love A Piano” and, if you are old enough, try to not think of Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly as they dance to the choreography of Randy Skinner.
Can you decide who does “Sisters” better first sung by Kelly Sheehan and Kerry Conte or the version by Sean Montgomery and Jeremy Benton subbing for them?
When the audience is invited to a sing-a-long of “White Christmas” you can tell they have been doing it under their breath because they just let it out with a sigh. When Karen Ziemba sings “Let Me Sing And I’m Happy”, those who know her, you are just waiting for her to break out dancing. More than one person had a tear in their eye during “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”.
The final curtain call number “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, with costume, scenic and lighting designs in harmony along with the cast, and ‘snow’ falling on stage and in the auditorium puts everyone in that Christmas card we all want to be a part of every Christmas.
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is a gift to us all and not too late to give it to others. Get lost in a musical from yesteryear, laugh at the old jokes, sit back and watch the cast of 27 along with the 16 musicians and imagine yourself on the stage and when you get outside waiting for your car smile as a group of theatergoers start singing “White Christmas” and others join them.
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs 2 hours plus a 15 minute intermission.

“Mary Queen of Scots”–movie review   2 comments

In 1933 in a play by Maxwell Anderson called “Mary of Scotland” he was first to imagine a meeting between Queen Elizabeth of England and Queen Mary that never took place. Three years later it was made into a movie starring Katherine Hepburn as Mary and Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth. In 1936 Bette Davis got an Oscar nomination playing Elizabeth in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” and that is the Elizabeth I remember 82 years later. She would do the role again in “The Virgin Queen” 1955 and Mary is only mentioned in passing. Through the years, on television, theatre and other movies both Mary and Elizabeth have been portrayed by other actresses but these I have mentioned immediately came to mind hearing this movie was opening up this week.
As fine a job as Saoirse Ronan does playing the lead in this 2018 movie, which probably will get her a fourth nomination, she is sabatoged by the dark, slow pace getting to the major scene. Her acting partner, Margot Robbie as Elizabeth, is not written as powerful a woman as Mary which unbalences the whole movie.
Beau Willimon wrote the screenplay, basing it on the book “Queen of Scots: The True LIfe of Mary Stuart” by John Guy and one doesn’t know which is fact or fiction or ‘Hollywood’s based on a true story’ or who invented the sex lives of some of the characters.
The movie is the screen debut of London’s Donmar Warehouse theatre companies artistic director Josie Rourke which may or may not explain the darkness and drab setting of most of the movie. Also, whether it is me or the accents or the soundtrack I had a hard time understanding at least half of the spoken language.
There are many actors as supporting players in roles supporting both queens in both good and evil ways. A standout is James McArdle as Mary’s brother, Simael Cruz Cordova as a gay man who whose a close confident of Mary, Jack Lowden as her gay husband, Joe Alwyn as Elizabeth’s lover and David Tennent as John Knox, a Scottish minister.
The only reason to see “Mary Queen of Scots” is for the performance of Saoirse Ronan but if you ever want to see the definite performance of Elizabeth look up that 1936 Bette Davis movie!


Movie trailer

Mary Queen of Scots – Int’l Trailer 1 (Universal Pictures) HD

Mary Queen of Scots – Int’l Trailer 1 (Universal Pictures) HD

Director: Josie Rourke Writer: Beau Willimon Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Gemma C…

He came!!!   1 comment

The old man in the red suit and the white beard came by last night! From a bottle of Zinfandel in a hand knitted sweater to 8 jars of Penzey’s spices from around the world to a 4 pound carrot cake, not to forget a tin basket filled with Almond Roca, Peppermint Bark, Cupcake cookies, Lindt Milk Chocolates, French Truffles among other goodies, a new camera plus a watch with a snowflake dial, 4 Poinsettia plants with additional ‘goodies’ looks like being a good boy paid off. I may try it for another year!

I was, pleasantly, surprised by how many snail mail cards I got this year as I thought they were a thing of the past but, obviously, some people still hold on to the old traditions which always bring a smile.

I hope he stopped by and said hello to you!

Posted December 25, 2018 by greatmartin in HOLIDAYS, Uncategorized

As I sit here….   1 comment

waiting for Santa I was thinking of this year and realized I didn’t have a negative thing happen to me physically, mentally and/or financially and what can a human being ask for more than that? I did meet some new people, had a lot of improvements made to my apartment and, possibly, met someone ‘special’. Don’t know what Santa is going to bring me but in any case, so far I am a winner.

Hope you can say the same! Merry Christmas to all.

Merry Christmas 2018


Posted December 24, 2018 by greatmartin in HOLIDAYS, Uncategorized

Christmas in New York Part 3   1 comment

To me the Nativity scene, Santa Claus, the Rockettes, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Carols, Jingle Bells, snow, cold weather, horse and carriage rides in Central Park, the skating rinks in Rockefeller Center and Central Park, decorated store windows, hot chestnuts, etc., just to name a few things–ALL make up Christmas.

It’s 79 degrees outside but I can walk into a South Florida mall and see a Christmas tree, a kid sitting on Santa’s lap, watch another kid throw a fake snowball, hear “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the loudspeaker and it is Christmas for me!!!

Now my Christmas may not acknowledge Christ or any religious aspect that a Christian may but I feel as warm, as moved, surrounded by cheers of “Merry Christmas” or seeing pins on women’s clothes of lit up Santa Clauses as anyone can. I look around and I think of “Peace on earth, goodwill to men” whether it is looking at a Christmas wreath or a Hanukah bush.


 I was 16 and saw myself as a sophisticated man of the world with my cashmere leather-trimmed, falling just below the knee, overcoat, leather gloves, brown fur earmuffs and a cashmere scarf thrown around my neck in cavalier fashion about to take my first horse and carriage ride through Central Park with someone I had just met in the Oak Room of the Plaza hotel. I can tell you every inch of that ride and the beauty of being in the park in the middle of Manhattan surrounded by towering buildings sparkling like many colored jewels on a dark, snowy night three days before Christmas but I couldn’t tell you a thing about the person I was with.


  I started this series off by saying I probably will never experience another Christmas season in New York but my memories of such magical times in my life will be with me forever. Whether I hear a choir singing carols or “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” or “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” heard on the speakers in a mall or see and/or smell holly, mistletoe, a pine tree or a nativity scene or a menorah or Santa Claus or watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” an unforgettable time will come rushing to me.

         It is never too early for

“Peace on earth and goodwill towards men”

I hope that each of you who have never experienced the magic, the wonder, the awe, the excitement, the meaning of the holiday, get at least one chance to have Christmas in New York City.

Posted December 23, 2018 by greatmartin in HOLIDAYS, Uncategorized

Christmas In New York Part 2   1 comment

The last time I was in New York City was in September 1985 and the last time I lived in New York City was 1969. I don’t see myself ever going back but there are certain times, certain memories I have of life in the city that will never go away and they all revolve around Christmas time, the week before, the day of and the week after. Nowhere in any city of the world is there the combination of magic in New York City especially if there are snow flurries or, maybe, an inch of snow blanketing the city and turning the lights into diamonds in the evening.

I still feel the cold nipping in my ears, my nose being red and my being on my butt more than on my feet, not to mention my mittens NOT keeping my hands warm but the wonder of ice skating in the Rockefeller Center, in the middle of Manhattan, under the glow and warmth of one of the tallest decorated Christmas (not holiday!!) trees standing in the shadow of one of New York’s most impressive buildings not to forget on the opposite side rows and rows of uncountable poinsettia plants. You are surrounded by people looking down at you from atop the perimeter of the rink plus all the people eating and drinking inside the restaurant that the rink is in the middle of and which you can’t wait to get a table, have a hot chocolate and look at the skaters falling on their butts and/or those gracefully doing spin after spin and all enjoying themselves as much as you did.

There is the afternoon you wait in line with thousands of other people to get into the cavernous and awe-inspiring Radio City Music Hall where you not only saw a movie like Doris Day in “I’ll See You In My Dreams” but an even more awe-inspiring stage show where there is the Christmas pageant featuring live camels, the Wise Men, a live reenactment of the Nativity that doesn’t fail to affect people of all religions or none at all. That is then followed by the amazing Rockettes who go from being wooden play soldiers to rocking to Jingle Bells and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus.

There is so much to do so what do you do next? Maybe buy a bag of roasted chestnuts and walk along Fifth Avenue looking in the store windows all decorated with to die for fashions and jewels? Oh, I know, I remember, walk down to Herald Square (I was able to walk in those days) where Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s try to outdo each other with season decorations and you relive “The Miracle on 34th Street” or wait, wouldn’t it be better to walk along Lexington and Madison avenues where you can buy flowers from outside stalls and look at the Christmas trees for sale while the cold goes through you and you stop for another hot chocolate? Hey, we can go to the New Hampshire bar on 57th Street (Is it still open?) and watch a ‘Northeasterner’ recreated behind the bar and stop by Carnegie Hall and see what/who is playing.

It’s early evening and it is still light enough to walk in Central Park where the snow covers the din of the city and makes everything feel pure, soft and, yes, Christmas like. It’s magic time in a city that at times can be cruel, unfeeling and devoid of magic but for two weeks in late December it is as if Tinkerbell cast her spell and fairy dust over the city and its people. It is two weeks that EVERYONE should experience at least once in their lifetime and I was lucky to experience it many times as I reached adulthood.

Don’t even get me started about experiencing falling in love for the first time during Christmas in New York—oh, get me started–let’s talk about going to the Plaza for a drink, having dinner in the middle of Central Park, taking a carriage ride–let’s talk about it in Part 3.

Posted December 22, 2018 by greatmartin in HOLIDAYS, Uncategorized

Christmas in New York Part 1   1 comment

NY 1

I very seldom repeat past posts but I get so tired at this time of the year regarding “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy Kwanzaa”–I personally don’t care what you say as long as this time of the year means something to you for whatever reason. This is a 3 part series that I wrote for a paper years ago–hope you enjoy reading it again or reading it for the first time!


I LOVE Christmas and have since the days stores didn’t decorate for the holiday until Thanksgiving weekend when Santa appeared magically all over town and the Salvation Army went out in force and didn’t take credit cards and the men stood by their big, black kettles ringing bells. It was back in the days when there were Christmas, not holiday, trees and people gleefully yelled “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”.

I remember 73 years ago sneaking out to my front yard where we had a tall, huge fir tree and decorating it with balls and silver strips and my mother lamenting, & quote; “What will the neighbors think?” and I didn’t care. We lived on Bogart Avenue, between Lydig and Pelham Parkway, the dividing line between the Sharks and the Jets–for those who don’t get the reference it separated the Jews from the Italians and our block was made up of both.

I didn’t think of it as a religious holiday but as a time for peace towards all men. Way back then–in the ice age–you didn’t hear songs like “Jingle Bells”  until Thanksgiving weekend, certainly not in October as a theme song for a cruise line. The celebration of the Christmas feeling started when you heard Nat King Cole sing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” from The Christmas Song or Judy Garland’s sweet, sad voice sang “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas” and, of course, wherever you went you heard Der Bingle (Bing Crosby) sing “White Christmas”.

Christmas wasn’t a religious time for a Jewish boy in New York but a time of cold weather, snow flurries, people running here to there with a smile on their face and everyone carrying wrapped packages with bows and ribbons. Of course I had an unfair advantage over my Italian friends because I, also, got to celebrate Hanukkah where children were given geldt (money) and went to the houses (apartments) of their grandparents who had immigrated from Russia and England and were surrounded by very large families and ate and ate and ate, because that is what Jews did on holidays, though I was to learn so did Greeks, Italians, Filipinos, Germans, etc.

Again, it wasn’t the religion of the holiday that attracted me to attend Christmas midnight mass at St. Patrick’s cathedral but the pageantry, the voices of the choir ringing out and the sound of the Latin language, again this was many years ago, echoing through the cathedral. I must confess–hey, it’s a Catholic church–that years later, in the 60s, Ronnie, Joe and I use to go for ‘camp’ reasons–to see Cardinal Spellman all dressed up in his finery, his red robes looking like a gown and, we thought, in all probability, hiding his red, ruby slippers.

None of this is meant, or said, in disrespect of the Christmas holiday and its true meaning but looking at an aspect of it that was open to all children who had imagination and loved to see their world almost become magical for 4 weeks–not like now where by the time the holiday comes around you are ready to scream if you hear one more Christmas song because you have been hearing them since August when you started getting the catalogs and the stores were decorated with wreaths and holly even before Halloween.

NY 2



Posted December 22, 2018 by greatmartin in HOLIDAYS, Uncategorized

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