In what part of town do you live?
How long have you lived in Kendall?
My whole life. There were periods of college and living on my own in Coral Gables and Broward. I worked in Central Florida for three years for their fire department. Now, we live 10 avenues down from where I grew up.
What keeps you busy during the week?
Norka and I have the baby now, and we are both arguably a little later in life than your average parents. Monday through Thursday, I work on the house a lot. I like working on my house. I could pay somebody, but I don’t need to. It keeps me out of trouble and I like knowing exactly how everything is built. If something breaks, I know how to fix it. On the weekends, we have a lot of things going on, skydiving, going on on the boat, we like to surf, paddle board, spear fishing. We really have a lot of hobbies.
You mentioned you’re also on duty today. What are you doing?
I work for the fire department. I’ve worked for Miami Dade now for 18 years.
What is your role there?
My title is firefighter paramedic. You typically start off on the rescue. When you call 911, because you’re not feeling well or because you’re injured, the rescue will take you to the hospital. As you gain seniority, you move up the ladder to the fire truck. Then if you haven’t been promoted to Lieutenant or captain, you become a driver of the firetruck. I’ve gone through all of those steps. Two years ago, there was an opening at the Port of Miami. I’m at the Port right now. It’s a slower station than what I was used to.
Are you handling fires on ships as well as on the dock?
Yes, we handle anything that goes on on the port, whether it be a fire on a cruise ship, or if a longshoreman got hurt or doesn’t feel well. There’s another station here as well, that’s the fireboat station. I’ll work there on overtime, or if they need a guy.
What lessons have you learned through all your years at the fire department that you apply in other places of your life?
Oh, wow. I became a fireman when I was 24 years old, so the list is really long. Mostly, I’ve learned how to deal with people and different personalities. You’re living with seven other people, every third day. Whether you like it or not, they become your family. Guys on the fire department are super interesting. They’re from all walks of life. Some guys are really good financially, some guys are really good with building. I met a girl the other day who worked at Dunkin Donuts before the fire department. There’s just such a large spectrum of personalities and backgrounds that you learn a lot.
Could you give an example of how you learned to deal with people differently?
I’ve never been told that I have a great amount of patience. You learn to tune things out a little bit. When there’s something that you don’t agree with, instead of jumping in and giving your opinion, you learn how to read the room a little better. Sometimes I feel that is a lost art.
You mentioned Sky Diving. How did you start skydiving?
I was talking with a girl at the fire department and a commercial came on of some guy sky jumping and I said, ‘that must be so cool. I’ve always wanted to do that.’ She said, ‘my brother is a diving instructor in Michigan. He could teach you how to do that.’ I said, ‘but he’s in Michigan.’ She said he’s kind of a hippie. He said, yeah, I’ll drive to Florida in my car and make a vacation out of it for a couple months. You give me $3,000 and I’ll teach you how to skydive. I took off a week of work and met him in Central Florida. Halfway through, if I hadn’t paid the guy all the money, I would have quit. I was so nervous.
Now it’s something you do as a couple?
Norka saw how much fun I was having, and that it was relatively safe. Of course, there’s still an element of danger. She said, I want to get my license and do it with you guys. Once you have your license and can pack your own parachute and have all your own gear, it’s only 25 bucks. Norka and I will jump three or four times a day. Now, with the baby, logistically things get a little difficult. We easily get to do it once a month.
What are the emotions like during a day of skydiving?
When I first learned, it was very nerve wracking. But now, it’s the most relaxing, and greatest thing, man. There’s an element of butterflies, because you’re still jumping out of a freaking airplane. For the most part, it’s a relaxing thing that you’re doing with your friend that a very small percentage of people in the world can share this emotion with you. You’re flying like Superman, having a big old smile, going 120 miles an hour.
Has getting over your fears in sky diving giving you strength in other areas?
I never thought about that. I don’t know if it’s skydiving or that I’m getting older, but I’ve learned to chill out and not take life too seriously. Make something of every day, learn something or have a really nice time or spend it with your loved ones each day. When you’re skydiving, whatever was bothering you is not going to bother you for a little while. You’re not going to think about it.
How did you discover LNB Grovestand?
I was at Carl’s place, Hate Mondays, having lunch. If I’m going to put something in my mouth, I want it to be good. I don’t want it to be Burger King. You know what I’m saying? Carl makes good food. Somebody came up to us, I don’t know what triggered him to this day to come up to me and my wife and Carl and say, Hey, you guys should check out LNB Grovestand, it’s down the street and they make smoothies and granola and he told us about you. Anytime I hear that, I have to try it.
What is the experience like when you come by the drive through?
The second time I went, you guys already knew our names. I hate to get all sappy, but something I’ve learned is that you get back what you put out there. Asking people how their day is and genuinely caring comes back, for sure.
What do you get when you come?
I always get two Rainbow Smoothies. If you guys have granola, I get it, and whatever you suggest, I’ll try it.
What other restaurants and places might you recommend?
Hate Mondays. I just ask Carl every time I go there, ‘what do you think I should get today?’ He gives me a recommendation, and if it doesn’t sound appealing to me, he says how he can switch it up with this or that. He really goes the extra mile to make sure you’re eating what you like. I like Kampai on Sunset and 87th avenue. Even their Thai food is amazing.
But, The Biltmore brunch is hands down my number one recommendation. It’s not your regular buffet.
What’s Miami’s Best kept secret?
It used to be Jimbos. I want to say the story dates back to the fifties or sixties. If you’re going to turn onto Virginia Key, right before the turn, there’s another road where the people cycle and you can go all the way down. If you go left, you go to the water sewage plant. There’s a little hidden bay and there was a guy named Jimbo that had a shrimp boat and he found this little cove that smelled like the water sewer plant. But, he basically had his own waterfront property. He would sell dollar beers and fish sandwiches. You would have millionaires from the Key talking with some of the homeless guys that lived there. In the nineties, they tried to kick him out, but he fell under the squatter’s law because he was there over 25 years. About 10 years ago, he passed away.
That reminds me of another secret that’s open called Wetlab. There’s no sign. You have to know where it is. It’s on the water, overlooking the bay. It’s run by UM.
What for you is a worthy splurge?
The Biltmore and anything sushi. I’ve tried to make it but I can’t get the rice just right.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(CN) Do have a plan for these interviews? Are you thinking of doing something with them?
(W) I’m in the slow process of archiving them so that we can search them for favorite restaurants and suggestions. I am not sure if this is something others will enjoy as much as I am, but I look forward to sharing it soon.
(CN) How did you and Adena meet?
(W) When we were kids, the Ellenby’s were in our congregation. My dad was the rabbi, and they were the farmers. I remember growing up having boxes delivered of Ellenby lychees, canistel, or whatever fruit was in season. Adena and I met again, 10 years ago, at my dad’s 70th birthday. My mom asked Adena to help cook, and I was in town from New York for the weekend. I moved back to Miami about year later.
What question, challenge, or words of advice would you like to pose to the community?
Let’s not just listen to CNN or Fox news, Let’s think a little bit about what’s going on here on both ends of the spectrum. I think we have to start thinking critically a little bit more.
What have I not asked you that I should have?
I was super nervous about being interviewed and this was extremely enjoyable. I wish there was a little more time, so I could find out about you. I really appreciate it. You have to interview Norka next!