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Sunday, March 27, 2011


Barn dances are rare in Miami but we had one last night.

Coconut Grove's Shell Lumber & Hardware opened its warehouse so 400 folks could frolic inside.

It was the second annual "Big Howl in the Wood". For the first two hours people chatted over barbecue and beer surrounded by stacks of pine, oak, and mahogany.

On the outer edge. fifteen artists displayed their wares, from fine paintings to painted rocks.

Artists Dan Bondroff and Fred Hunt and on the right, Artist Uta with Teresa Rodriguez.

All the while our favorite band, "Men With Hats" (a/k/a "The Solar Dogs"), played. They call their music "half-ass blue grass" and it suited us fine. By 9:30 many of us were dancing. The others watching seemed to be having almost as much fun.

Life seems better when you get to move to music. Said one gleeful South Miami resident, "This is great! How often do you get a chance to dance?"


Earlier this month we attended an art performance that included lumber but it was not held in a lumberyard. It took place in an unusual part of town, Little River. The gallery owner , "Larry", set the tone for the event by wearing a small pistol on his hip.

Performance artists Meatball and Justin Long presented "That's Not a Knife", a display of home-grown firepower. The duo often performs in the King Mango Strut.

The two used their engineering skills to make creative cannons. It's every thing that a fire cracker-loving boy dreams of. The two made one that used compressed air to fire 8-foot fluorescent bulbs at a wall. The shattering glass was spectacular.

Young Justin carefully spooned gunpowder into a breach of his cannon. Seconds after he lit its fuse it fired a full can of Budweiser at a distant target. Boom! Splat! My wife muttered, "This is definitely a guy thing".

Meatball cranked back the metal cable attached to a huge metallic crossbow, its groove loaded with a long piece of 2x4 lumber. Only a taunt rope kept it from firing at the distant deer target. When the Meatball whacked the rope with his machete, "ZOOM!", the stick zapped though the deer's privates.

Meatball prepares his crossbow to fire another 2x4. On the right is the beer cannon.

You had to be there but my wife would differ.


Sometimes you'd like to be a kid again and sometimes you don't.

In two weeks kids in Florida public schools will be taking the annual FCAT and SAT tests. If our new governor has his way, much of teachers' salaries will be determined by their students' test scores. I teach art at a West Kendall K-8 school. All around me are students getting drilled for the upcoming tests.

Last Friday I was helping a teacher with a bulletin board in a first grade room. At the same time another teacher was giving eighteen 6-year old students a practice math test to prepare them. As she read each question I listened in amazement and then started writing a few of them down. Here are several:

A. How many vertices does an equilateral triangle have?

B. How many squares do you need to make a rectangle?

C. How many triangles make a rhombus? and

D. How many trapezoids can you make from a hexagon?

Two squares can make a rectangle but so can three. I left the room feeling thankful for being born long ago.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Everyone wants to go to Florida for spring break and lucky us, we were already here!
Last week Francesca, Pi, and I headed up the west coast of Florida hoping to see a few new things like,


In Tampa, we visited our friend, Cheryl Davidson. She lives in an older part of town called Hyde Park.

The restored houses were amazing, the kind the Grove used to have many more of.
Cheryl's house and garden were works of art as well. I'll be writing about them next week.

She told us the world's longest sidewalk separates her neighborhood from Tampa Bay.

It's unfortunate that more cities don't preserve water views like Tampa has.

At the sidewalk's southern end the three of us posed for our next album cover in Jules Verne Park. Why the peculiar name?

Back in 1865, the French science fiction writer launched a manned rocket from "Tampa town" in his novel, "From the Earth To the Moon". The are many similarities between the Verne's version of the moon shot and the real thing that happened a hundred miles away, 104 years later, at Cape Canaveral.

Our next stop was Manatee Springs. We took to the clear, cool water just like the sea cows we saw in the distance.

Francesca and I think Florida's fifty springs are the best part of the Sunshine State. We visit them often.


Imagine Key West without its ten-thousand tourists or t-shirt shops.

That's Cedar Key, ninety miles north of Jules Verne's launch pad.

When we asked Cedar Key Police Officer McMillan for a good place to camp he suggested the lot in front of his police station. We felt safe there and unlike our recent camping experience in the southernmost city, drunks and loud music did not keep us up.

(Sunrise at the Cedar Key dock, a half a block from the police station)

After the sun popped up we drove an hour NE to Gainesville. There, we saw more friends and the University of Florida's terrific museums.

It was easy to imagine dancing with this Senegalese costume or being eaten by what's left of this prehistoric Megaloden shark.

Pi spied Rainbow Springs before the rest of us.

It used to be a tourist attraction featuring not only the beautiful springs but the longest fake waterfall
in Florida. It falls an impressive fifty- feet off a man-made hill.

Now it is a state park and a wonderful place to visit.
If they had let us, we would have camped on the water's edge. There's something enchanting about those
four million gallons of water bubbling up everyday.


Just as we were about to leave, Francesca snapped
a rare photo of a diving manatee.

You probably know that manatees can't read.
This one paid no attention to the "No Diving" sign in the distance.

It's hard to top an experience like that so after our swim in the springs we happily headed home.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Heading for a sunset swim yesterday, we found the beach's parking lot packed with people. "It's the moon," a man told us, "The paper said it's gonna be huge!" We found our friend, Mike McFall, who added, "I was here four hours ago and the big moon had drawn the tide so far out to sea you could almost walk to China!".

Forget about swimming. We joined the hundreds gathered to see the largest moonrise since 1993. Mike said it had something to do with the expansion and contraction of lunar cheese.

When the moon began to rise at 7:44 it looked dark red and ....'bout the same.
Still, every moonrise is spectacular, especially when you are surrounded by hundreds of excited people. Most of them had to set down their wine glasses before they could applaud the rising orb.
I was expecting this, ____O_____ , but it seemed more like.... _._
What the heck, we had fun. Some clever person later said, "Maybe it was a little bigger but its like comparing a fourteen-inch and a fifteen-inch pizza.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Our friend, Kit Pancoast, grew up in the Grove but now resides in Tokyo, Japan. She was heading to work yesterday morning when the earthquake hit. She wrote,

"I was late to work, so I grabbed a cab. At a stoplight, the cab started flippin' back and forth. I asked the cabbie why he was dancing about, and he said he thought it was me having a fit in the back! We started to laugh but then the highway overhead started--kid you not--groaning and swaying, and light posts swung back and forth, wires clacking. From the police station next to my company cops streaked out like their suspenders were on fire, and people got down on all fours."

Kit went on to report that everyone in her family is okay. The big problems, she said, are to the north.

Maybe we're lucky to have only hurricanes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


So much has happened lately.

A few weeks ago I was run down by the shadow of a very large jet. It happened fast as it hurtled towards Nassau.

(the photo at right is a re-creation)

A few days later I was exiting a hospital parking lot. For some reason I glanced down at the odometer to see the right digit turning to 50,000 miles. I was wishing I had someone to share the rare moment with.

The next weekend my wife and I went camping in Everglades National Park. The park's Anhinga Trail is one of our favorite stops. Its boardwalk crosses ponds filled with exotic birds and large, black reptiles. The parking lot is clearly marked with "Danger: Alligators, No Pets Allowed" signs. Despite this, we learned a man had taken his dog for a walk there the day before we visited.
With so many camera toting tourists, the "Alligator Has Dog for Lunch" video will probab
ly turn up on YouTube soon.

Last week were invited to our friend's (Theo's) birthday at Stiltsville. This house is one of several perched in the middle of Biscayne Bay.

Half of it's walls disappear when you open the doors and shutters. As a breeze blew through we watched a magnificent sunset.

We agreed it was better than the one at Mallory Square. There were no circus cats or escape artists to distract us.

Last week's Coconut Grove Art Festival was more crowded than a Key West sunset. So many people packed the place that Francesca and I could not see the art. We had to settle for the Johnny Rockets line-dancers and kids bobbing around in large plastic balls.

It made us think, "Wouldn't it be great to have a little Grove art festival, one for Grove artists without the Tokyo subway crush?"

Well, that's just what this weekend's
Gifford Lane Art Stroll will be.

On Sunday, March 6, you can enjoy local artisans selling their wares from noon until 5 pm. The mini-fest also has food and live music. Our friends, The Solar Dogs, play at 3:30. Unlike last week's subway crush, it is non-commercial and there is no admission charge . Unfortunately there will probably not be any children scrambling inside large plastic balls.

The Stroll is one tree-lined block long. It is located just east of SW 37 Avenue and two blocks north of Grand Avenue (downtown Grove). Signs will point the way.
Come visit Francesca and me. Check out our hand-made hula hoops, didjeridoos, and other odd creations. We'll be camping next to our old VW bus.

We hope to see you. The Gifford Lane Art Stroll will be a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon.