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Friday, July 23, 2010


First light comes early. By 5 am you can read a book. My wife and I have come to Maine to enjoy long, cool summer days with Coconut Grove friends.
Two of them have a boat in Camden Harbor. Last Wednesday we took it twenty miles north to the village of Belfast. The next morning something came up and we needed to retrieve our car, still in Camden.
These are small towns. There is no bus service. Belfast's lone cabbie told us,"I already have a morning fare". We were stumped until a cop joked, "You could always hitchhike". Despite Maine being the home of Stephen King I thought it was worth a try.
Francesca did not agree saying, "I haven't done that sinced I was 17 and even then it seemed like a bad idea". As I headed for the highway she joined me anyway.
Bless her heart.
As we held out our thumbs I began feeling a little stupid and a lot of vulnerable. I tried to rationalize the novel situation by thinking, "These are strangers passing us by. I'll never see them again".

Twelve minutes later a dry-wall hanger named Wayne slowed down. His smile invited us into his van.
As we drove south he mentioned, "I rarely do this but you two don't look like ax murderers". It got me thinking he could possibly pass for one.
But Wayne could not have been nicer, he went out of his way to drop us off at our car. He did allude to a darker side but added that he had been "off the bad stuff" for over fifteen years.
As he drove off Francesca asked, "Do you think we would have done the same thing for him". I paused then answered, "Probably not... but there are other Waynes in the world. Maybe one of them would help".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Four days ago Francesca, Pi, and I were heading to the Florida Keys in our old VW camper. A beachfront site awaited at one of our favorite places, Bahia Honda State Park. As we drove through Long Key our engine went "kablooey" as the fan belts flew off.
The van drifted into a restaurant parking lot. It was obvious that we'd be there for some time. Despite it being a Sunday we were able to find the local mechanic, Bruce. He told us he could fix it in the morning.
The island's only motel, Lime Tree Bay, didn't allow dogs. We resigned ourselves to camping under a blistering sun next to a busy highway.
Sheez. Could it get any worse?

We sat under a tree waiting for the heat to slack off. I thought of Thomas McGuane's novel, "92 Degrees in the Shade". We sipped cool drinks and thanked the Lord for ice chests. When the shadows got longer I took Francesca and the dog on a town tour. Primrose Lane was just five blocks away. That's where my dad had lived 30years earlier.
When we got to "116" I admired my family's former vacation home. It had new paint and still had the numbers I'd carved in driftwood in '78.
The latest owners happened to step out. We waved hello and after introductions they told us how much they loved the house my dad had built.
An hour and a house tour later we had been invited by these gracious retirees to stay in the downstairs apartment. Pi was welcome too.

Suddenly we were trading hotter-than-hell for ice-cold air-conditioning. My wife and I slept where my dad had slept. At 3 a.m. I woke up and glanced around for his ghost.
In the morning I stared at Dad's favorite spot more than once. I had captured his image there as he sat waiting for the ambulance, the one that took him away for the last time.
Breakfast was followed by a swim in the backyard canal. We called it "the pool" back then. As I dried off Bruce called to say, "You're good to go". We cranked up the van, waved goodbye, and continued our journey.
Sometimes bad things become good, one window closes and another opens. It happened to us four days ago thanks to Anna and Richie Carlsbrand of Allentown, Pa.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Forty years ago he was producing Coconut Grove concerts. In the 90's we both wrote for community newspapers. Three years ago I discovered Charlie Brown sleeping in the drive-through at Regions Bank.

The Grove's brick sidewalks have always been his favorite place. He'd say with a smile, "You never know who you'll meet". For years I enjoyed conversations with him there as he enjoyed his usual cigarette and beer. He told my sons how it was, growing up with Elvis sixty-five years ago. He always had stories to share and now his hangout had become his home.

I offered help that morning but he assured me, "I'll be okay". Two years ago a stranger hit him in the face with a brick. Charlie spent over a year in hospitals and rehab facilities. I wondered if I'd ever see him again.


Thinner than ever, he nearly ran me over in his new, electric wheelchair last week . We were both shopping in CVS. He joked that he was "buying breakfast", a six-pack of Bud and a carton of cigarettes.

His eyes brightened as he told me his future plans, "I'm movin' to California. Gonna grow dope with a buddy o'mine. It's legal there, y'know." I wished him luck . The doors parted for the future farmer as he made his way back to the sidewalks of Coconut Grove.


St. Augustine had its Museum of Death and Key West, The Torture Museum. Now Miami has its own venue for sub-human entertainment. Miami Dade College is now featuring "Instruments of Torture" at its downtown art gallery. You've probably seen it advertised in The Miami Herald and on lamp post banners.

The ad says, "The exhibition aims to be an accusation of torture rather than an explanation of the methods used by totalitarian systems thoughout history".

Does it includes Abu Gharib dog leashes or Dick Cheney's waterboards? You can find out by visiting The Horrible Things We've Done To Prisoners exhibit. It is located on the first floor of Miami's historic Freedom Tower. For tickets and information go to

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I went for a bike ride with camera in hand. I wanted to show you the peacocks I’ve been writing about. Two blocks away I saw nine grazing.
You can still find them occasionally in Grove neighborhoods. Rarely do you see a male with its feathers spread but when it happens, it’s amazing. They shake ‘em and dance to impress the girls. As a younger man, I used to do that myself.
When I took these pictures though there was no hanky-panky going on. They were simply poking through the grass for insects.

A few blocks north I began taking pictures of some of the statues that have taken up residence on our downtown sidewalks. Many were painted by friends.
Lebo’s welcomes you to the north entrance of Commodore Plaza .

This one, painted by Eileen Seitz, depicts the “Old Grove”.

Fred Hunt’s hangs out in front of The Shops of Mayfair.

This one, touched by many little hands, guards St. Stephens Church.

The back side of Eileen’s shows a flock of birds grazing in Peacock Park thirty years ago.
Back then you could still see the sailboats and Biscayne Bay.

In the early 80’s the State planted the line of mangrove trees that now block the view. Here is what that same spot looked like yesterday,

The entire park is in dire need of a makeover. As you can see, the trees block much of the view and the cooling breezes for this bayside sanctuary.

The Grove’s city commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, is working on a plan to “cut windows” in the trees so we can see the bay again.
Let’s hope he succeeds.
On a surprisingly cool Tuesday evening there was no one by the bay. The setting sun lit up the park’s poinciana tree just for me.

On the west end of the park a dozen young men played ball. They have pick up games there twice a week.
Just a jump shot away six kids enjoyed the tennis courts that became a skateboard park. Watching them was our homeless lady. As she laid out a few snacks on a table I noticed that with the exception of the few game-playing boys, she had the whole park to herself.

Heading home I thought, "I should take some pictures of Walt’s Barber Shop". This is the type of lonely little structure that could be bulldozed any time. I zipped up to the 3800 block of Grand Avenue and took these shots,

It seems to be in violation of being appreciated. Wouldn’t it be great if our historic preservationists saved this little blue gem?
Five years ago Walt moved his business two blocks east, to 3671 Grand Avenue,
When I took this shot I could see Walt working away though the window, a customer perched high in an elevated chair. It is a unique Grove business. Where else can you get a haircut, pants altered and shoes repaired all at the same time? Like the sign at the old store says,

Saturday, July 3, 2010


So now I’m a blogger, whatever that means. When I wrote for the Herald it was a column and a cartoon every other week. I got paid and my work was improved (usually) by a Herald editor. Now I’m writing for free at this address. I’m not sure how often I’ll add to it.

Wife Francesca is my new editor and she’s a darn good one.

Some of you have offered you own thoughts after my “first posting”, on the Grove’s peacock problem. Here are two of them. Tigertail Avenue’s Kitty Terry (a distant relative, maybe) shared her…


The Grove’s peacocks are so intriguing, so LOUD in mating season, at 3AM on my roof... so funny when they run or fly out of the nest in the oak tree. They ate my tomatoes in my garden AND the pink impatiens (but they left the lavender ones!).

I think they are really leftover dinosaurs with eyes in the back (like my mom used to say). Good or bad for real estate…who knows?

By the way, my mama peahen nests every spring in the same staghorn fern, but still, no babies.

Could she be suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome? I’d like to let her know I still have the same issue. Maybe she is a soul sister in beautiful disguise, a commie-hippy out to ruin the neighborhood, or, Lucy in the Tree with (blue) Eyeballs.

Love them or not, our feathered prancers amaze.

Welcome back, Grove Guy. Keep it up.

My friend Harry Emilio Gottlieb had this to say…


We killed (or relocated) the Indians. Six years ago we celebrated them with a statue atop a Miami River bridge. The City is now moving many of our majestic peacocks out of the Grove as we honor them with their own statues. What’s next, public replicas of the people that can no longer afford to live in Coconut Grove?

Thursday, July 1, 2010


For five years I shared my life in the Miami Herald’s “Grove Guy” column. I don’t think my days are much different than anyone else’s. I just happen to write things down.

Since the Herald ended the column six months ago I’ve wondered what to write next…a blog? a screenplay? So far I’ve written nothing but I’m uncomfortable with that.

Someone needs to take notes.

So here I go again, the Grove Guy is back. I’ll e-mail what I write, some of you will forward to others, and it will appear in some blogs. It’ll be news of recent odd experiences, deep thoughts, and minor adventures. Like last week when I attended my 45th.............


Central Florida was a natural place for the Hialeah High School class of ‘65 to gather. The 1019 of us that aren’t dead are spread out and The Turners of Eustis were willing to throw a party for us aging “HHS Thoroughbreds”.

Some of us head Fortune 500 companies while others are too drunk to hold a job. It was a thrill to walk up to someone I hadn’t seen in 45 years and say, “What’s up, Becky?” Becky (a Mary Kay sales director) had no idea who I was.

I think of high school as that last time I was around such a wide variety of people. I spoke to a member of the Ku Klux Klan and another who told me he had once downed 18 beers in a row. I even talked to a Republican that thought Sarah Palin made sense.

How often does that happen? Last month I met a contractor who was painting the building where I work. In a leisurely moment he spied the flower I was holding and asked, “Are you a hippie?” After I assured him that I was he continued, “Tell me, did you actually vote for Obama?” When I told him that I had it seemed he was meeting an Obama voter (or an alien) for the first time.

“Don’t you know he is a communist, doing his best to bankrupt and ruin the country? He takes his orders directly from Moscow !” My new friend went on to say he gets all of his information from Fox News and Hate Radio. “You can’t trust anyone else” he added.

I was fairly nice as I refuted everything he had said. We both enjoyed the conversation, hearing new things from new people. Stimulating, thoughtful, surprising.

High school reunions can be like that.


Chicago started the trend in 1999 when it put 300 brightly-painted plastic cows all over The Windy City. Coconut Grove businesses just picked up on this by placing large plastic peacocks outside their doors. Painted by local artists, they are meant to inspire, impress, and to dress our village up.

They are interesting but what really impresses me are Coconut Grove’s real peacocks. Why don’t we promote them? Grove realtor Gary Hecht once pointed out, “When a prospective buyer sees one of these birds, they just reach for their checkbook”.

Why don’t we have a flock living in Peacock Park ? Even though they are one of the Grove’s great assets, the City of Miami has been working to decimate their numbers. Despite their efforts I found four feathers in my yard this week.


What’s up with your summer? We know it’s too hot to go outside in Miami . Better to leave. Head for the hills - Nome, Norway, or Niagara Falls - until it cools down to a comfortable 80 degrees in January.

My family has ventured out a bit. We’ve discovered that the Grand Canyon really is grand and while the Bahamas are beautiful, their beaches and coral reefs are not that different from the ones we enjoy here.

Have you been Bahia Honda lately? Get there before the oil does.


I visited an old friend recently. We have different approaches to weight loss. He prefers regimented programs while I prefer to “wing it”. His latest effort is one that includes the purchase of prepared food supplements. When he offered me a “Whey milkshake” I luxuriated in my replay, “No whey!”

So there you have it for June. I’m just way happy to be writing again.