stat counter

Friday, August 23, 2019

AND YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD IT BAD


 The Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco

     You probably know a police blotter is a public record of local criminal or problematic activities. It represents the work of the people we hire to protect us. In small communities the weekly newspapers print them, summaries of "what happened in our town last week".
   Francesca and I are now relaxing in the Bay Area. We are far from South Florida where The Miami Herald -if it had a police blotter- would be filled with sad, horrific, stories. In quiet Point Reyes, California, it's different. The affluent town an hour northwest of San Francisco reported last week in the Point Reyes Light, 

-Friday, a wallet was lost, young cow was standing by the road, and someone heard a woman cry out, "Put me down. You're making it worse!"
-Saturday, Homeless people were sleeping on the public tennis courts and a car lost a wheel.
-Sunday, A man was seen sitting at a roadside with his head in his hands.
-Monday, Three bicycles needed attention and a burglar broke into a house to steal a jar of change.
-Tuesday, A car was poorly parked on Terrace Street.
-Wednesday, Deputies questioned a man who said he was writing a letter to his deceased father.
-Friday,  Someone reported a distressed, barking dog and another who growled when anyone approached him.

    This paper's police reports seem like a poetic rendition of Our Town
   I'm going to a most unusual town in northwest Nevada tomorrow with my son's, Ian and Dylan. We look forward to the week-long grand party called "Burning Man".  Francesca is passing again on the dust-driven fantasy. She will be exploring the exotic Point Reyes National Seashore with her older sister, Carmen.  They are calling their week together, "Burning Sisters".
                  ________________________


You meet all kinds of burning sisters in the Nevada desert

 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

HE MADE US LAUGH

        Miraculously, Mike McFall did not die in the demolition derby five years ago. He was with us until this morning when an angry case of cancer took our surfing fireman friend on his final ride.

       We met Mike at the King Mango Strut Parade many years ago. He and his wife, Gina, were wearing the first of the parade costumes that they soon became famous for. While the New York native was employed as a fireman, his life outside the firehouse was more like that of a jazz-loving beatnik, a finger-snapping off-beat daddy-o artist. 
       Below:  Mike in one of his original costumes for our "Love Parade" at the Grassroots Music Festival, 2014.


      

He often shared original jokes that were truly "out there". When he stopped chasing fires a few years ago he told me he wanted to do two things, find work as a comedian and to participate in a demolition derby. When he later shared his car-smashing experience I told him, "That's it. Tell that story on stage and you'll have them rolling in the aisles!". He added he had done it "to get in touch with my inner whiplash", a typical Mike joke.

        Always an original, he showed up at last March's Gifford Land Art Stroll with a table and a bag. "What's your thing today?" I asked.  "I'm selling pot holders", he replied showing me his two creative lines, one that held hot cookware and hot (well... lit) pot. He spent the day telling jokes and sold quite a few of his wife's creations.

      He and Gina raised two fine sons, Jesse and Mario. Often the family would go surfing in Costa Ricaor on other incredible adventures. Their vintage Toyota camper was covered with murals and poetry.

     Mike was the ultimate Grove Guy. Born in '47, he grew up to be wild, crazy, and unpredictable; he and Gina were in over thirty King Mango Strut parades. Besides the Strut he loved dancing, drinking, Conan O'Brien and most of all, the Cleveland Indians.
 
Gina modelling one of her outstanding creations.
  
    As the parade's director, I could always depend on the McFalls to help with anything and to march in outlandishly original costumes.  I remember him best as "Aquaman". He filled out the colorful skin-tight outfit his artist-wife had created perfectly with his muscular, lean physique.  Dancing up Main Highway he did "The Swim".

      While Mike did many admirable things in his life he was proudest of his family. On visits to his art-filled home he'd tell us about his kids and show off the latest McFall creations. These could include their honor-system roadside mango stand, sleek surfboards and Gina's bicycle that looked like a rolling dolphin.

      For this Critical Mass Bike Ride the McFalls had us wearing their fish helmets.  Always hilarious,  he kept us grinning (like Francesca in the blue fish helmet).

     I could always depend on Fireman Mike to make things happen. When we put on our Weird Wynwood parade eight years ago I asked him to lead it.  I was on the other end pushing it forward.      
    Five minutes after we stepped out two cops tried to stop our jovial procession for parading without a permit. While Mike jabbered endlessly about how we were not really a parade, two hundred of us paraded past them. Like every good fireman, he was dependable and got things done.
     Sudden pain sent him to Baptist Hospital last Sunday. On Monday, when cancer began taking him quickly, he let it be known known that he wanted no part of the cold, machine-laden scene.  Half-conscious he protested vigorously until all agreed it was time take Mike home.  An ambulance returned our friend to the hand-painted artist's lair on SW 59th Court.
    In the house guarded by coconut and mango trees he took his last breath this morning surrounded by art, his music, and those who loved him most. 
                  ________________________
 Inline image


Sunday, July 28, 2019

HANG GLIDING, DOUG, AND HIS FINAL FLIGHT


   In the late 70's hang gliding captured our imaginations. My buddies, Terry and Doug  (neighbors in the Grove) took the big step and bought a Seagull hang glider.  
   With no place to fly it we drove to Delray Beach which had some breezy little sand dunes.
   Below is a 1977 photo I took that day. Doug Barnette is giving Terry Ferrer a shove as he launches.  With a strong wind blowing in our faces, each of us got to fly it fifty feet. What a thrill; for a few seconds we were the Wright Brothers!
   The two of them got the bug so bad they moved to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, where they learned to soar for hours at a time. 
    Sadly, Doug "flew away" five days ago. He died from complications following knee surgery. 
   And you thought hang gliding was dangerous.
                              ____________






Terry & Doug training wSeagull.png


Saturday, July 6, 2019

SIT DOWN WITH A LEGEND

   
   


     Have you visited the South Grove's Four Corners Park lately?  It's the four lots where Palmetto Avenue crosses Plaza Street. It's been a dedicated public space since 1910 and a group of our neighbors has been trying to get the City of Miami to designate it as an official public park.  For some incomprehensible reasons they have not.
 

     To to make the place a little more welcoming we installed six benches there.  Each is dedicated to a Coconut Grove citizen who has made significant contributions to the Grove
community. Some are living and some are not. All have ties to our  neighborhood. The public is invited visit the benches and to learn more about the “Legends of The Grove”.  Here's how they are described in our brochure,


   
 
    - THELMA GIBSON, 1926-. Born in Coconut Grove, Ms. Gibson has been -and continues to be- an important West Grove leader. She
became a nurse in 1947 and went on to lead important public health initiatives
that continue to this day. Ms. Gibson lives on Franklin Avenue, three blocks north
of the park.



                                              - BOBBY INGRAM- 1937- .  Bobby is Coconut Grove’s legendary troubadour. The former U.S. Navy submariner began his musical career in the 1950’s and was,
at one time, David Crosby’s partner in a folk duo.  His latest album, “Postcards From Coconut Grove”, is a local treasure. His cottage is on the east end of Palmetto Avenue.


                                   - CHARLIE CINNAMON- 1922-2016. Charlie was South Florida’s premier publicist and a WW II veteran.  He brought Broadway shows to Miami and founded the Coconut Grove Art Festival. He lived in the 1919 historic bungalow adjacent to the
wooded area. His young nieces used to play in its dense foliage and they gave this
magical place its name, “Charlie’s Woods”.

- KING MANGO - 1982- ,
The Mango King is a mythical figure who leads the Grove’s annual holiday parade,“The King Mango Strut”. His bench is dedicated to the volunteers who have produced this zany affair since 1982.




                                 - EBENEZER STIRRUP- 1873-1957. Bahamian born, E.F. W. Stirrup was an early leader and philanthropist in the Grove’s African-American community. He built over 100 homes in our seaside village. His own 1897 home -at 3242 Charles Avenue-
has been fully restored and is now a bed and breakfast.  It is just west of Main Highway’s Regions Bank.


-  JANET RENO - 1938-2016. Ms. Reno was first woman to serve as our Country’s Attorney General. The Harvard law grad spent her early years in her family’s Avocado
Avenue home. Her honors include serving as our county’s State Attorney, and, as Grand Marshall of the 2002 King Mango Strut. She once told Palmetto Avenue's Glenn Terry,

 “I used to love riding my tricycle in this neighborhood”.

      The benches were financed by a grant from the Miami Foundation. We appreciate their help. Four Corners Park, official or not, is open for all to enjoy from sunrise to sunset.  
                                  _________________________________________________

PS:  This is probably my last Grove Guy blog written in Coconut Grove. We're moving to North Florida next week. Yesterday it was fitting -and very sad- to take out-of-town friends to lunch at the last Old Grove holdout, my favorite place, Scotty's Landing.  As we approached the seaside eatery, a security guard stopped us, "Sorry, this place closed down last week.  It's being replaced by a Shula's Steakhouse".  It brought to mind a Joni Mitchell song.
               



WHAT'S BUGGIN' CHARLIE'S WOODS?

            We're building a new park on the west end of our block. It's four corners dedicated to the public in 1910 it's been a blank slate ever since.  Slowly, "Four Corners Park" is coming to be.  The coolest part is the wooded section.  We call it "Charlie's Woods" because the late Grove legend, Charlie Cinnamon, lived in a historic bungalow next door.
          Those heart-shaped leaves to the right?  Potato vines! 

    The woods is filled with invasive trees and plants.  Our mission is to eradicate them so we can replace them with natives.  One of the big pests is the potato vine.  They engulf everything every summer  blocking light, sucking up nutrients, and generally making it difficult for the "good plants" to grow.
    Months ago I attended a butterfly festival in Gainesville, Florida.  One booth had a sign reading, "We can eat your potato vines!"  In inquired and learned that the U.S. Dept. of agriculture was giving away "potato vine beetles", bugs that eat the invasive vine.
    I signed up for the program and last week an ag official came to Charlie's Woods to set 300 of these bugs free.  Now they are happily munching away turning the large heart-shaped leaves into lace. No, it won't kill them (you have to dig the potato-like seed out of the ground to do that) but it slows them down.  It's mother nature's way of tipping the scale.

  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

HOMES INSTEAD- Let's Shut Down Homestead's Child Detention Facility

      I saw them today, hundreds of kids marching single file in ninety-degree heat at Homestead's prison for kids. They were surrounded by blue-uniformed guards at the medium-security facility. These children committed no crime.  They walked to to our southern border to escape the hell our country created in Central America.

   There are about 1700 of them there now ages 13 to 17, far from their families. We stood outside waving hearts from far away,
the only thing we could think of to tell them, "We care". Many kids waved back. Their uniforms are t-shirts topped by bright orange caps. 
     Visiting the detention facility is important. You are  bearing witness to our country's broken immigration policies, and, showing concern for the lack of transparency and oversight of the sprawling detention facility.
    Stop by, as many did today, to stand on ladders and say, "I care about you guys".  The one-on-one's with the briefly smiling individuals will warm your heart.     It's not a summer camp. The kids are there 24/7 living in huge Art Basel-style tents. Each "room" has 140 beds. 
     It is suggested that you visit between 10 and 4 p.m., 920 Bouganville Blvd., Homestead, FL 33039.  There's a heart on a stick waiting for you. 
__________________________________________
Play Time


Sending love beyond the fence
                                                   _________________________________

NOTE:    It's sad that few locals show up to protest.  When we were there 90% of the protestors were out-of state, from places like Minnesota, New Orleans, and even Alaska.  Here's an newspaper article by David Nurenberg who traveled 1500 miles to spend Fathers Day at the prison.


A Somerville father joined a team of witnesses at the Homestead Detention Center in Florida on Father’s Day.
The following was submitted by Somerville’s David Nurenberg.

Instead of spending Father’s Day with my two young kids, I was standing on the third step of a rickety stepladder, peering over an eight foot tall perimeter fence to try and catch a glimpse of other people’s children.
I had joined a team of witnesses at the Homestead Detention Center in Florida, and it wasn’t long before I saw interned children being marched out to recreation time in the yard, flanked by blue-uniformed staffers. A makeshift soccer pitch and basketball hoop had been placed in the drab, dusty courtyard, and the kids kicked and tossed balls in the shadow of dilapidated military buildings repurposed as dorms. They shouted and laughed and for a moment, this seemed like recess at my own kids’ school.
But none of these kids high-fived each other after goals. None of them wandered or congregated beyond the patrolled limits of the play area. All of them took clear pains to make sure none of the adults were watching before furtively waving to us, then quickly turning away. After every few minutes, the adults marched them away in order to accommodate the next round of children coming outside.
The reason I told my own kids for why I had traveled 1,500 miles to watch this bizarre parody of childhood was, “when children are being hurt, especially by grown-ups, other grown-ups need to step up.” Literally standing on ladders, we waved giant cardboard hearts and shouted through megaphones: “no estan solos, estamos con ustedes” You are not alone, we are with you. Some of us occasionally misspoke, “no estamos solos” – we are not alone. A declaration, or a wish? In one very real sense, we were not alone: armed security, on foot and in trucks, followed us constantly, making sure we did not cross the side of the street that separated public roads from this “restricted facility.”
The majority of the 1,000-3,000 children interned at this facility were arrested at the US/Mexican border, either unaccompanied or (reports differ) forcibly separated from family members with whom they arrived. They are now interned indefinitely at a facility that, while paid for by $500,000 a day of our tax dollars, is managed by a for-profit company.
Contrary to what you might think, not everyone in our group was in favor of unrestricted migration. Most of us believe that rule of law needs to govern immigration. But the Homestead detention center is itself breaking the law; claiming exception by virtue of being an “emergency influx facility,” it violates the 1993 Flores Agreement requiring interned immigrant children be held no longer than twenty days (some of the kids here have been held for months). Worse, it is exempt from child safety regulations, including appropriate background checks for its employees. When an investigatory team from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law was finally granted access, they soon after filed a motion to enforce Flores, citing such depredations as:
* Children housed twelve to a room with few windows and no doors, staff members standing guard in each entranceway, or else housed on hundreds on beds packed into an airplane hangar.
*A cafeteria, medical unit and dormitories that are “unclean” and “smelled of mildew, with “disturbingly high” noise levels.
* Punishments for taking more than five minutes to shower, or not finishing their food.
* Delays of medical care of “up to several days” despite “repeated requests”
* Schooling that takes place in a subdivided tent holding over 2,000 children, often in “an unstructured and disorganized environment not suitable for nor conducive to learning.”
* Denying children access to visitors, family members and lawyers
* A practice of moving children who turn 18 into solitary confinement, sometimes for more than two days in a windowless, toilet-less room before being led in shackles to an ICE facility.
What upset my own children most was hearing that the interned kids are strictly forbidden to touch or hug, even their siblings, and are not allowed to talk to or even look at members of the opposite sex.
I told my kids that while we couldn’t stop it single-handedly, I could at least see as much of it as possible with my own eyes, testify that this is not “fake news” but revolting reality. I also listened to community members share stories from released internees, or from some of the brave workers who secretly turned whistleblowers.
We rallied outside the facility to demand its immediate shutdown, that the children be released to waiting sponsors or to nonprofit facilities operating under appropriate regulatory supervision. We argued the estimated $190 million in profit that Comprehensive Health Services (owned by Caliburn, International, upon whose board sits former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly) makes off this facility could be better invested in supporting legal, humane facilities. We demanded that President Trump end the policy of treating asylum seekers as criminals.
Contrary to Trump administration claims, numerous studies have shown that family separations and child detention do not deter immigration. Even if they did, what data could possibly justify cases like the mother who testified to being handcuffed as police literally tore her baby from her breast, or the father who committed suicide after his daughter was taken from him. This is not about Democrats, Republicans, or even immigration, but basic humanity that we should all agree on.
Some Homestead locals have been keeping vigil for over 125 days. One told us she had quit her job to do witnessing full time. When we asked her what prompted her to do this, she stared at us. “You climbed to that third step?” she asked, indicating the ladder. “Then you know.”
I had the luxury of returning Monday to a nice dinner with my family, after which we began drafting letters demanding our representatives support the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act and the Families Not Facilities Act. Although I missed Father’s Day, I did try to bring a present back to my kids: a model of what to do when, someday, they climb that third step themselves.
If you are interested in ways you can get involved with this issue, visit https://migrantjustice.afsc.org/ , http://investigate.afsc.org/ and https://floridaimmigrant.org/placemarks/wecount/
                             ___________________________



Monday, June 3, 2019

IF YOU BUILD IT SHE WILL COME

    Two years ago Francesca wanted an owl house for her birthday.  I recycled an ancient pine hurricane shutter into this high-rise home. The little house clings to our mango tree. We never saw it occupied until the other day.
     We were showing our home to a prospective buyer when she asked, "Does the owl come 

with the house?"



    THRILLED a does not adequately describe how we felt to see this little feller peering out. She's an Eastern Screech Owl now living in our back yard with her soulmate. 
    When its nearly dark they come out to perch on the Dr. Zeus tree. Then they begin flitting around  grabbing bugs, lizards, and anything else that looks tasty. 



    We sleep better now accompanied by our fluffy friends and their occasional trills. 
                          _____________