New York-based writer/photographer Jenny Adams stayed with us a few weeks ago to cover Miami’s cocktail scene for Imbibe Magazine and ended up posting this piece about the city’s often-underrated Little Havana nabe on her blog Saltwater Cures Everything as well. We dug her offbeat, free-spirited approach and we wanted to get to know her better. Turns out the full-time freelancer’s written two books, backpacks Southeast Asia yearly, and she’s on a mission to prove that tiny, blond girls make top-notch solo travelers. Read on to learn more:
Freehand Miami: What sparked your passion for writing and photography?
Jenny Adams: My grandmother was a newspaper reporter, covering the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. She was reporting honestly on what was happening back in the day and in a place where it was very scary to do so. She had a darkroom in her hallway closet. My mother is an author. My aunt is an author. I guess writing has some pretty deep roots in the generations of women in our family. So, I suppose, I inherited the passion in a way.
I wasn’t really aware of my love of photography until I bought a camera and took a class about three years ago … but I like to think about my grandmother in that dark room, developing pictures of Klan rallies and photos of protests. While I report on pretty fluffy stuff like bars and drinks, I like to think that she inspired my passion for a good picture too.
FH: Your work has been featured in numerous magazine and newspapers. Which publication were you most excited to appear in? Why?
JA: Hands down Travel & Leisure. I haven’t been in the print version yet. Only online. But I’m working on that. T&L is something I read, and I love. I think they understand the balance of gorgeous photos and beautiful prose, and they are just so “classic.” To be honest – and I hope they don’t fire me for saying this – their print publication is a bit out of my budget where travel is concerned. It’s not really how I travel … spas and fancy hotels and whatnot. But every month that magazine still looks damn inviting sitting on top of my coffee table, waiting to be opened. That’s something every good magazine should do, right?
FH: Tell us about a travel experience that left a lasting impression.
JA: There are a lot. I think while some of the better ones definitely left an impression, the best one I’ve ever had was actually horrible at the time. I was traveling for the first time. Age 23. In Thailand. I’d never been to a developing country before. I was with this guy. Ahem. We’d been there about 10 days when things got ugly at about 3 am on the street in Bangkok. We had a huge, pretty unforgivable fight (yes, we were drunk) and he left. Packed all his shit and left me. All of a sudden I was alone in Bangkok, and the next day I considered packing up and going home two weeks early. Instead, I booked a train ticket north to Chiang Rai. That day was when I really came to understand that all those people who say things like “Oh, you are a tiny blonde girl. You need a guy if you are going there,” probably haven’t been there. People are lovely all around the world. People took me into their homes in Northern Thailand and took care of me that trip. It changed me as a traveler. I travel solo often now, and I’ve never found a place where a tiny, blonde girl couldn’t get along just fine.
FH: What are five nonessential items you always pack into your suitcase?
1. My favorite, lucky necklace. Of course, the plane hasn’t crashed yet … so maybe that’s an essential?
2. An extra pair of flip flops, in case I lose the first pair.
3. An extra pair of headphones, in case I lose the first pair.
4. Crayons and paper to give to street kids. It’s way better than candy and it invites some fun exchanges.
5. And an 8 x 10 photo of Kirk Cameron, naturally.
FH: How do you track down the best cuisine while backpacking or traveling in unfamiliar places? Any tips for newbies?
JA: I adore Afar magazine. They have this great social network on Afar.com that you can join. You can share photos and ask questions of other serious travelers. It’s become invaluable to me when planning a trip. Then while I’m actually in a country, I just like to ask locals who work random places. Not restaurant or hotel staff really, because sometimes in developing places they get kickbacks and have set answers they give any tourist. But I ask randoms … the lady who did my laundry when I was in Cambodia this past winter was a jackpot for great food suggestions.
FH: In a recent blog post you made us fall in love (all over again) with Little Havana. What other Miami neighborhood do you love? Why?
JA: My time in Miami this trip was such a furious 48-hour rush through all of the city’s cocktail bars. I would have liked to have spent more time in Wynwood and the Design District with someone who knew the area. I was just wandering around with my camera in the heat, and I didn’t feel like I cracked that area really. I love Gramps as a bar in that ‘hood and definitely think I would probably be a regular there if I lived in Miami.
FH: Generally speaking, where do you like to eat, drink and shop when you’re in town?
JA: For shopping advice, I’m lousy. I have tried to shop on South Beach. But I don’t think that works if you are a normal-sized human and/or you don’t want a $700 neon-orange fishnet swim suit. I wish someone would take me shopping in Miami and show me the ropes. As for food and drink – I adore PB Steak’s pop-up lunchtime taco joint called Taco Belly. They are only doing it for the summer. So get there now! I also really loved eating at Khong River House. Amazing food that really does Southeast Asian cuisine justice with great gin cocktails. Of course, The Broken Shaker has the best drinks in town (and no I’m not just saying that), and I had a lovely time at Cypress Room. It’s a cool spot to throw on something spiffy and go drink a nice aperitif with one of your girlfriends before a good dinner somewhere. Or … hell …. a good dinner there. I hear Michael Schwartz knows his way around a kitchen.
But by far my best meal this past trip was at Eating House. Unbelievable. We ordered pasta and steak and Brussels sprouts and heirloom tomatoes and sweet corn. Drool. That place is epic.
FH: If you could hang out with anyone, living or dead, real or imaginary at The Broken Shaker, who would it be?
JA: Tom Waits. I’ve been dying to have a drink with Tom Waits in a bar at some point in my life. It’s a big-time bucket list goal. He’s a real inspiration to me as a writer. His music is ridiculous and poignant and fun and painful – all at the same time. I have a weird, major work crush on him as a writer. We’d have one at the Broken Shaker and then we’d probably have to go to some dirty, dark and sleazy dive bar, right? Cause … it’s Tom Waits.