Winter break, January 2018. Husband #1 and I are taking a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk in Miami Beach. The weather is beautiful, the sun has set, the Vikings have lost, son #3 has left us for his friends, and we have decided that we had to stay awake past 8 p.m. Together. A rare occurrence, but who knew that what we were to experience would be even more unique?
As we are walking down the boardwalk, it is around 9:30 to 10 p.m. There are hundreds of black-hatted, bekeshe-wearing men. Payis curled to perfection, beards gently waving in the wind. They’re with their wives. Some wives are in their sheital/pillbox hat finest. Some in snoods. Some in chupkas. Housecoats. Stockings with seams in the back. Some with strollers. Some with walkers. All ages. All sizes. All speaking Yiddish.
Have they been in hiding all day? Do they not come out because of the heat? Do they not come out so they won’t be exposed to the women running in bikinis? Husband #1 would not let me ask, and I don’t speak Yiddish, but it was quite the sight!
The next night, it was the same scene. I had to find out what was going on. Husband #1 had gone upstairs a few minutes earlier and I found myself in the elevator, with two chasidic couples. “Excuse me,” I asked hesitantly. “Why do you go out only at night? Is it the heat or the bikinis?” One of the husbands looked at his wife, she looked back at him and nodded. “It’s the bikinis,” they responded together. I knew it!!! Shmeerat ayenayim. Simple translation? The guarding of the eyes (from something immodest). Apparently, my very religious sons had not made that expression up! So this is musing #1. chasidim on the boardwalk. I think it could be a new type of Twilight Series. Discuss amongst yourselves. Vampires that dine only on blood with kosher certification…
And then we have the restaurants. Now, husband #1 and son #3 are not foodies. I eat everything that doesn’t eat me first, but that is another story. Apparently, there is no kosher food in the tristate area (well, the Five Towns and Teaneck, because I do not think that anyone visiting Miami Beach was from anywhere else). People felt the need to make reservations for their Florida dining experiences, weeks in advance. Nope, you cannot make this stuff up.
Fortunately for me, I know that my family has no desire to eat in a restaurant that requires a reservation, so we did the “Ganchrow method” of eating dinner in Miami Beach, with all of the Jews. What’s the method, you ask? Well, husband #1 and son #3 attend the afternoon and evening prayer service at the local synagogue, while I read a little and then change my already stylish outfit for the exciting evening out. And you know me, ball gown, Manolos, hair and make up….ya, so three minutes later, I was ready. I walked from the hotel, they walked from the synagogue, and we scoped out which restaurants had no or very little line. I have got to say, it worked out pretty well. And we didn’t have to book it months ago! (And you people wonder why I think people are nuts.)
We tried to do something touristy each night. One night, we went to Wynwood Walls, which is a new art district. Amazing murals painted on warehouse walls, sculptures, and two galleries with incredible exhibits. I was having the best time, because I love stuff like that. I was texting my sister pictures and really enjoying the culture. Unfortunately, I was with two boys who could spend four hours at the college basketball hall of fame, but couldn’t last very long at this cultural hotspot. Oh well, guess I should have brought them some toys and snacks to keep them busy. I will know for next time. (And, to be clear, the boys were 47 and 17, respectively.)
But in the end, what makes a good vacation? Being able to look at the ocean and not have anyone ask you to take them to the bathroom — but I miss that stage too. Tune in next week, when we explore why you always have to be nice to people and if you aren’t when you are younger, you will have to fake it when you are older….That is Part II…
Banji Ganchrow would like to move to Miami Beach. The boardwalk is her new happy place, during the day with the bikinis and at night with the chasidim. It’s all good….