MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Two Days of Music and Family in Southern Florida

My quick trip to Florida started out like almost every other trip I have taken the last few years – with a plane delay. In fact, I schedule for them now. They are inevitable. Only this time, the delay worked in my favor… as I wandered Newark Airport’s terminal C, stretching my legs, I turned a corner to see Donnie Wahlberg coming out of security. For those not in the “know”, Donnie is the captain (yes, captain) of my favorite boyband, New Kids on the Block… and there he was getting readjusted after security. And as cool as a cucumber, I walk up and say, “Donnie, where you going?” Yes, I have met him before, but I hold no illusions that he remembers me… but I do know that he is one of the nicest men, let alone mega-stars, you could meet. And as I had hoped, he looked up, smiled and we started a quick airport/traveling conversation. I got pictures, I made him laugh and I got to tell him I will be on that cruise in October. It was an amazing interaction. And it would have been better had I actually taken him up on his offer of a ride… what was I thinking? I had 2.5 hours to kill in the airport, I could have gone anywhere in that facility and still made my gate with time to spare. I was so cool, calm and collected I missed my opportunity to talk more! Even he was confused, “you sure”. Idiot!!!

Well, that two and a half hours was quickly occupied when Donnie promptly retweeted my message: “Why are all my picture with Donnie Wahlberg without makeup. You’d think mom never taught me to look nice at all times…” That little ditty resulted in hundreds of messages from friends and fellow blockheads about the great makeup debate. I definitely would not have posted the picture if I was not comfortable with it on some level… but all that love was sweet. My trip was starting out on a strong note!

I landed in Florida all smiles and was picked up by my mother and my adorable niece, Valentina. Because she lives so far away and my brother shares custody with his exwife, I really have only seen her once for a few hours. Mom has put her on the phone a few time and shared pictures I sent, but this was my opportunity to meet her and make a real impression. I came armed and ready – not only was I taking her and her mom and my mom to the Lion King, I brought her a stuffed Nala cub. Present or not – it didn’t matter because she wanted to play immediately. The three of us got late night pancakes and laughed it up before we headed to my brother’s new mansion for a sleepover.

My first full day there was the real reason I visited… I was taking mom to see Frankie Valli at the Hard Rock in Hollywood. Who doesn’t love Frankie Valli and the Four Season’s music. But before we headed out to the casino complex, mom took Valentina and I to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek. She was excited… I was thrilled! I love this kind of stuff and want a fun way to start sharing some ecological knowledge with her. Only, that did not work. Turns out that in spite of my very insightful comparison of a butterfly proboscis to a crazy straw, she was not buying it! She was completely freaked by the amount of butterflies flying around and wanted to leave. I tried showing her one up close drinking from a flower – nope! I tried showing her one on my hand – nope! I tried showing her one eating from a rotten banana – nope! I tried showing her the owl eyes on the winds of the Blue Morpho – cool but still nope! The facility had gorgeous tropical birds, like the colorful Lady Gouldian Finch – nope to the birds too. We didn’t last long in ButterflyWrld for many reasons… I know I want to go back!

That night was all about the classic crooner… Frankie. I was so excited about this concert, I even told Donnie Wahlberg about it. It was like a glimpse into the future, when the New Kids are touring into their 80’s … Frankie is still selling out concert halls… Donnie, Jordan, Joey, Jonathan and Danny will too. The Hard Rock complex was pack to the gills with people of all ages that turned out for the show! And since we were celebrating mom’s birthday, we went to dinner and I had the place wish her a happy one. Who doesn’t love a sundae, a candle and hundreds of strangers screaming Happy Birthday… hahaha! Mom always celebrated our birthdays as real holidays – they were a big deal in my family. And I try to celebrate hers accordingly. Hey, if I could have gotten Frankie to sing it – I would have… I know Donnie would have done it for me! Didn’t matter in the end, because Frankie sang his heart out. Opened with Grease, covered the classics, did a few covers, sang my mom’s 70’s favorite “Swearin to God,” and closed with “Can’t take My Eyes Off Of You” and “Working My Way Back to You.” It has been a week and I am still singing “Who Loves You” and “My Eyes Adored You.” He sounded amazing. I love this music. Some reminds me of roller skating; some reminds me of dad playing the golden oldies; some reminds me of playing my dad’s old 45’s at Grandma’s house; and for my mom, it is a part of her youth… this is what New Kids will be to me. Music of my adolescent and formative years. Those years are important and music connects us to it. So to Frankie and Donnie – thank you for this gift!

The music theme was not over. I bought tickets to see The Lion King for a fun girl’s day out. Mom, Natalia, Valentina and I headed to the theatre. Sure, I may have seen this show 4 times, but it did not matter, it was my niece’s first broadway show… and she loved it. I don’t know if I was more entertained watching her dance to the music, conduct the orchestra, and hide her face at scary parts or by the show. If you have never seen The Lion King, go! It is an amazing production! The costumes and staging alone is worth it, but that Elton John’ score soars throughout that classic story. Once my niece got a hang of who the characters were and the pacing of a stage show, she was a golden. And she was relieved that she got to see Mufasa again, that he woke up! She understood that Scar was bad, but was convinced that Simba’s dad had to be only sleeping. That final bow saved the day! It was a lot to take in. After the show she exclaimed, “see Aunt Janine, I told you it was a movie.” That got chuckles from everyone all around us! And yes, Valentina, the theatre is like a live action movie!

After the matinee, we first held an impromptu photo session outside the theatre. I got lots of pics of my gorgeous family by the flowers smiling blowing kisses and taking the Lion King attach stance. Valentina is a natural (and you can see her in a few magazine spreads). We then headed to Las Olas to eat and relax. It was a crazy 2 days. A lovely dinner was on order… and after we dropped the munchkin and her mom back home, mom and I returned to Las Olas to walk around a little. I was leaving early in the morning and wanted to milk the warm weather (and mother-daughter time) for all it was worth. These visits go quickly… but mom knows I will be back in south Florida in October for that New Kids cruise!

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