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February 2007
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Andrew Patner on Arts and Culture

Critical Thinking, Critical Thinking on Tour: Ft. Lauderdale (Part 1)

It’s rainy today, but that’s just fine. I’ve never traveled for weather and I am sure that this is one of the reasons I find visiting Florida somewhat disorienting. We sleep in a bit and then head for a walk in the light rain along Federal Highway/U.S. 1 towards and through Hollywood (Florida, that is!). We come across a great seafood shack called Tark’s and we can just tell from the combination of signage, crowd, newspaper clippings, and counter staff — two people doing *everything* — that this is the place. Although the counter only has about 14 seats, the place still manages to have white, Black, Cuban, Asian, young, old, straight, gay, and family clientele all bellying up for steamed and raw seafood and fish and shrimp grilled over impossibly high flames from the gas range. We try a bit of everything — raw bigneck clams (“We’re out of littles, sweet pea,” the counter gal apologizes), fried alligator tail, conch fritters, and a smoked seafood dip of marlin and mahi, followed up by a shared slice of real — and excellent — homemade key lime pie. The tab, with beverages, is about $30. I’m ready to move in.

Not too many people walk in this part of the world, but our pedestrianism enables us to spot some great signs — A hair cuttery in a trailer park called “Hairballs Hair Salon.” A sign in the same trailer park reading: “For Sale: Trailers.” A grocery called on one sign “Kahn’s” and on another “Khan’s.” We start to figure that there are a lot of Quebecois in the area from the signs at certain groceries, accents in the CVS pharmacy, and a “Je me souviens” license plate or two. Our favorite sign, though, is the handmade one in a discount store that has apparently recently added a bakery:

“Cefeteria — feetyouring

Spreso

Cafe Late

Capuchino”

We take note for tomorrow of a Dominican lunch counter with a $2.99 lunch special null.

The CSO will arrive this afternoon and so we take care of some other business before getting ready for the first concert tonight at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

This is the first tour — of, I believe, the last 16 of 18 total — I will be on since the CSO’s public relations director Synneve Carlino left Orchestra Hall after an even decade to take the same position at Carnegie Hall. Synneve was and is a one of a kind professional and watching her rise from a twenty-something new hire to the head of her department sought out as a national figure in his profession gave me great joy. We always respected each other’s professional duties and responsibilities but also grew to become fast friends. And due to various seating, travel, and eating arrangements were known in a number of countries and continents as being a couple. Something that certainly amused us and those who knew us but something that I think we also both enjoyed. “Are you ready to be my husband again?” was a common way that Synneve and I would start planning our tour assignments.

Although still quite young, Synneve is a terrific mentor and her right hand of the last several years, Julia Starzyk, is accompanying the tour (after getting a baptism of fire assisting Synneve with the last CSO Carnegie Hall tour this winter with Pierre Boulez) and very ably running the CSO’s p.r. office on an acting basis while her two colleagues, Mark Van Bree and Chris Slavik, stoke the coals back in Chicago. CSO President Deborah Card will be on the tour as wil operations v.p. Vanessa Moss and, for a god part of the trip, artistic v.p. Martha Gilmer. Day to day arrangements are coordinated by the unflappable Heidi Lukas from Vanessa’s office and by orchestra personnel manager John Deverman who has held a series of positions with the CSO in three separate stints in Chicago. John’s life ambition — and I am not making this up — was to have the job that he has now and when word began to get out that longtime personnel chief Carol Lee Iott was thinking of taking the same position with the Cleveland Orchestra closer to parts of her family, John was on a plane from his position as manager of a West Coast orchestra to talk about the post. I have never seen anyone so happy posting seating charts, coordinating schedules, and running through the backstage area of yet another hall shouting “Five minutes! Five minutes everybody!”