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Friday, January 31, 2014

JABBA IN LOVE- The Final Chapter

        For six weeks we had a gruff, angry sweet potato living with us.  He fancied himself as another "Jabba the Hut" as he resembled the Star Wars character.
      Playing the role didn't win him any friends and last week he got very quiet and quite depressed.  I thought he might find solace in the garden from whence he came.  When I took him there we saw a small red hand reaching out of the dirt.
    Digging carefully,  we brought this cute little red spud to the surface.  She promptly looked at Jabba and announced, "Hi, my name's Patti.  What's yours?"

         The usually self-assured Jabba was flustered but finally got out, "Jab- aaa...Larry".  

   They just stared and smiled for the longest time, like Tony and Maria in "West Side Story".  

   The two new friends then went for a walk.


When they returned Jabba (a/k/a
"Larry") asked me to fire up the hot tub.

The two were inseparable. With so much in common  - both lonely, red potatoes with thin withered arms- they fell madly in love.

      Jabba and Patti spent hours having quiet talks in their rocking chair.

Last Sunday afternoon they came into the kitchen and asked Francesca, "What cha' cookin'? 

   Without thinking she answered, "Potato soup".  
That... was a game changer. 

  Their tater faces turned white.

     Jabba asked, "People... eat... potatoes?  I nodded while making it clear we would never eat them. 
  Patti Potato shouted, "That is so wrong. I'm outta here!". 

  She scurried back to the garden from whence she came and Jabba followed.

Back in their element they started to squiggle and wiggle.   

Slowly the two  began to sink  into the ground.

I remember seeing their smiles disappear as the last bits of dirt covered them up.

We haven't heard from them since.  

   I think we can assume that they're out in the garden, under six inches of soil, where Jabba and Patti Potato are living happily ever after.

Monday, January 27, 2014


        A potato with an attitude.  Who needs that?   We had a gnarly red root living with us for six weeks.  Nothing was good enough for Jabba Potato.


If you read the last chapter you know he perched on our Christmas tree for a month.

When he came down we tried to make a place for him.  We thought he'd enjoy 

sleeping with our dog.   As you can see, neither of them were happy and Jabba's  complaints just got louder. 

    To shut him up I agreed to let him bunk with me.
Bad idea. He snored.

      In the morning I told him I was leaving for a Mango Republic photo shoot. Spudnik insisted on coming along.  
    Once we got there he began badgering me about letting him model.   I thought it was a dumb idea until he added, "How many of your competitors use potatoes in their catalogs?"
   He had a point.
   I'll try anything so I agreed to let him join the cast. He was actually quite good at it and, as you can see, looked great on camera.

This was his "action" pose.

When I put his pix on the website ( we expected sales to soar.  Yes, we did sell a few in Idaho but total shirt sales unfortunately took a nosedive.

   Jabba and I were shocked. We  thought this would be his ticket to stardom and garner big profits for the Mango Republic t-shirt company. 

I really thought I was living with the next Mr. Potato Head.
    I could handle the disappointment  (I have a day job) but  Jabba took it very, very hard.  For days he sat in the corner, eyes closed, saying nothing.

    He was still asleep last Friday when I took him grocery store.  I set him gently in the potato bin hoping he'd wake up happy, surrounded by friends.   
   Suddenly, he woke up, looked around and screamed, 

"Get me outta this potato graveyard!".

I apologized and whisked him home.  I tried putting him by our fish pond next to our meditating chunk of granite.
Jabba didn't like his new companion either, "He might be round and red but this guy is bor-ing.  He's got the personality of a rock".

    I scooped him up once more and carried him to the garden where this all began.  It was then we noticed another little red hand poking up from the dirt.

(Stay tuned for the final chapter, 
 "Jabba Falls in Love")

Saturday, January 25, 2014


      Last month I found a talking potato in our garden.  Incredibly, he was the spittin' image of Star War's Jabba the Hut.  I was going to to leave him with the lettuce but he insisted on coming inside.   In the days that followed, we got to know this silly spud much too well.

     Although his English wasn't the best, "Jabba" had many questions... at our first meal, "Why you put food in mouths?".  He then proceeded to  suck up nutrients with his long left arm.

 The Christmas tree perplexed him.  He asked, "Why you kill tree for house?"   
We explained Christmas as best we could ending with the star topping the tree. 
      "But Jabba the star", he said, insisting that he be placed at the pinnacle.  We went along to humor him. 
   He perched there for weeks.  When friends stopped by, they took notice of the fat, red root and said things like, "Riiight, supa-bad Jabba with a sunburn".  Apparently, these comments went to his (potato) head.

        After New Year's we prepared to return to our teaching jobs.   Jabbacame down from the tree and insisted on visiting my school.  The students were enraptured by the talking tater.   At the end of his lecture, "Underworld Thug", they showed their appreciation.

        He got hooked on these new experiences saying  things like, "Jabba all-powerful; he do anything".  He tried riding my  my scooter.  His left arm was so short he could only go around in tight circles.  

 Jabba Potato wanted to try it all and we were along for the ride.

                   (Stay tuned for Part Three)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


       Other than the occasional lizard, it's unusual to see anything moving in the garden.  That's why I found it odd to see the little red hand.
    It was jutting out of the dirt, just next to the lettuce, waving ever so slightly.  When I probed the soil around it I heard a muffled voice say, "Ow! Stop that!".   That's when I first met Jabba Potato.
    I could see he was of a dark red variety as I carefully lifted him up from his underground lair.  I had never seen one quite like him and certainly never a vegetable with a voice. 
       When he asked in his gravelly potato patter, "Why you callin' me 'Jabba', my name is Larry", I told him his was the spittin' image of Star War's Jabba the Hut.
    I went on to explain that Jabba was a fictional crime boss on the planet Tatooine,
a big, bad guy with an insatiable appetite for food, slave girls, and torture.  In retrospect, that was a bad idea.

(Part Two Coming Soon) 

Monday, January 20, 2014


          Here's hoping you're having a mindful MLK Day.  Dr. King was quite a guy.

   King Mango is spending part of the day sorting out a new batch of t-shirts.  Hot off the press,
these feature slightly new designs tweeked a bit to make them better.
     All the sizes we didn't have for much of the Christmas season we now have again.   The women's mangohead shirts are now made of a thinner, softer cotton.  

You can get yours by visiting the Mango Republic store  ( or by stopping by the king's palace on Palmetto Avenue.

     And speaking of Christmas, don't you miss it?   We had a terrific holiday season and hope you did too.  I try to keep it going by holding on to our tree.   I love being greeted in the morning with twinkling lights and a wonderful whiff of pine.

      My wife, she's different.  It's like, "The new year's here.  Let's get rid of that needle dropper and move on".   
     While she's sweeping up pine needles I'm walking the dog.  As I pass each trash pile Christmas tree I happily inhale its faint mountain air and think, "The sad folks that tossed these are missing out".  Then I gloat a bit about our tree still standing.

     When I drive to work I make mental notes of  houses that, according to their trash piles, kept their houses the least and the longest.   Of course this hierarchy of fortune is promptly forgotten.

       Life is filled with compromises and last Friday my wife and I discussed when our tree would go.  Francesca argued for less needles and more room.  I told her we had a sweet smelling tree that was still green.  This only got me two more days.

    My argument for keeping it until February 14th and festooning it with valentines was not taken seriously. 

      When the two days ended I marched our dear skinny friend to the front corner of our property.  Having left the lights intact I plugged it in.   Glowing in our trash pile, it makes me happy still.   I'd like to think the neighbors, and my wife, feel the same way.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


    The Grove gets its first Jewish music festival on Tuesday.  The Avenue J Music Festival will  rock the Barnacle State Park on January 14 from 6:30 to 10:30 pm.  I think it is going to be outstanding.  Some of the world's best alternative Jewish musicians will perform including the Breslov Brothers (seen here kicking butt on Israel's version of "America's Got Talent").
    I heard one of the groups, 3 Distant Cousins, on the radio today and they were great, reminiscent of the The Avett Brothers.  One of the cousins said, "Its not a Jewish music festival but one with Jewish musicians". Think Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, or David Lee Roth.
    The event is sponsored by Chabad in the Grove.  Tickets are $25.  For more information go to .

Saturday, January 11, 2014


       Come see Cuba this weekend.  "Two Visions", an exhibit of Havana photographs, winds up its six-week run manana. It is the work of two fine photographers with local ties, Marice Cohn Band and Gary Monroe.   
 Their work is being exhibited at the Photography Gallery at Borders, 1601 SW 1st. St., 33135,  here in Miami.
The morning of the show's opening, November 23d, Gary was photographing the first Kid's King Mango Strut Parade in downtown Miami.  He told me, "This is great.  I shot the first King Mango parade 32 years ago and here we go again!".

       We attended the artist's reception that night.

Francesca and Gary

  It'll be up for the next two days.  Call the gallery at 305-649-0324 to get more specific information. 

     Gary and I go way back. He left Miami in the 80's to take a teaching position at central Florida college.  He and his wife, Theresa, now reside in Deland.  He swears, "It's the center of the universe".  You can see more of  Havana's universe and more of Gary's work at

    Here are more photographs from the show,


Saturday, January 4, 2014


   In the last week I've asked friends, "What changes did you you see in the Grove -good or bad- this past year?".  
I put their responses, and a few of my own, into my annual awards list, 2013's The Year That Was.   Let's kick it off with something good,


    After watching the Grove's huge convention center collect weeds for years, they're finally demolishing it.

 It looks so much larger when pulled apart.

City Hall tells us it's getting replaced by a park.  It is up to us to make sure the city's park plan makes sense.

The "new park" is getting off to a bad start as the City builds the
dockmaster's office in the east parking lot.  

The new Dinner Key Marina Dock Master's office with the existing one on the right.
 It looks like this four-story view-blocking monster will allow the master of the docks to throw huge parties. 

LAST YEAR'S "WINNERS"  could also be on this year's list.  The Coconut Grove Playhouse remains an empty eye sore, you still can't see the bay from seaside parks, and those cute but useless information booths continue to block downtown sidewalks.  

PEACOCK PARK actually got worse.  The community center (the "Glass House") has been abandoned for a year.  It could be an outstanding community center where we gather, play, share, and learn.   The south porch continues to be

 a campground for the homeless.   
 This colorful tile bench was installed in '13 and
six months later, removed.  I don't know why.

     I also don't know why the City gave part of Peacock to the private school next door.  

 The City of Miami let them build a fenced-in soccer court.  They use it for PE  in exchange for ... nothing.
   City officials announced the public would be allowed to use it after school hours.   They lied. 
  It is locked and only the school and the parks department has the keys.   Friends have tried on multiple occasions to use the court (or rent it) only to be turned away.   It has become the school's exclusive Peacock Park playground.
The only welcome improvement is the Commissioner Marc Sarnoff Rubber Pit. He had this 80 feet of fun built just west of the Glass House.  

 A couple of months ago I rolled around in the shreds to see how much fun it could be.
                                                                                 I hear its the first step in turning Peacock into a new eco-tourist attraction, "Garbage World".  In 2014 they will build "Marc's Crazy Maze" next to the pit, 2000 discarded pool noodles hanging from the oak trees nearby.  

The West Grove Gets Dumped On Again Award goes to the new Douglas Road Trolley Maintenance Facility.        The neighbors didn't want it but the developer and Comm. Sarnoff did so, it got built.  Courts now say it violates zoning laws.  As a result, it now sits empty and forlorn like so many other West Grove buildings.

Next to Biscayne Bay, Coconut Grove's greatest asset is its people. 
 Consider how many Grove citizens dress up on the second Wednesday of each month, for our new event, "Crazy Hat Afternoons". 

I can not get enough of these Groveites and their creative extremes!   I'll be strutting on Main Highway next Wednesday in my fluorescent fedora and I expect you to do the same!

Most of them are artists and they sell their wares at the BEST ART EVENT, the annual Gifford Lane Art Stroll.  Unlike February's mega art fest, this mini-fest features Grove artists and it costs nothing to attend.
   Come to the next one on Sunday, March 2.  Gifford Lane is one block NW of Coconut Grove Elementary School.

The 2013 ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR AWARD goes the South Grove's, Charles Corda. Mr. Corda is just what our city officials hate, citizens who question them, people who stand up to power.
While Francesca and I were away for the summer our city commissioner, Mark Sarnoff, came up with an awful idea, replacing one of our favorite restaurants, Scotty's Landing,

with a Don Shula's Steakhouse and a "Grove Bay" mini-mall.

   It was an absurd idea, a stupid idea, an idea that many of us first thought was a joke. 
   Scotty's represents what we love about Coconut Grove.  It sends a cool vibe that says, "Anyone can come here, listen to live music and have a beer by the bay".

     Charles immediately sprang into action with a petition that quickly garnered 3000 "Stop Grove Bay" signatures.  His efforts transformed into a coalition that fought Sarnoff's Grove Bay plans.
    There was a November election.  Most folks in the Grove voted against Sarnoff's proposal.  Unfortunately, the rest of the City of Miami was allowed to vote as well.  Outspent, 25 to 1,  the Grove lost to Sarnoff and his developer buddies.
We commend Mr. Corda & friends for their valiant effort.
The BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT Award goes to Scotty Wessel. After initially fighting to keep his rustic cafe, he was bought out by the Grove Bay developers.                        Money doesn't talk, it screams

Scotty's Landing was one of our main venues for live music.  They say they will build something like Scotty's away from the water but who knows what and when.

Music makes everything better.  The BRING ON THE SONG Award goes to our own Barnacle State Park.  Their monthly concert series continues to be one of our few outstanding community attractions.
     Bobby Ingram & Friends  will be playing there on Friday, January 10th.  500 hundred of us gathered there a year ago for great music and a great time.
Come next Friday. You'll be glad you did. 
    Runner-up awards go to the Grove churches 
( St. Hughes, Plymouth, and others) who present intimate concerts and, the Grove's own Alhambra Orchestra.  
   Their next concert will be on Sunday, January 26. The free event, "South Florida's Got Talent", will have some of our area's most outstanding young musicians performing backed by a full orchestra.
    It will take place at 7:30 pm in the Ransom-Everglades Auditorium, a block south of our haunted playhouse.

    The BIGGEST SCREW-UP OF COLOSSAL PROPORTIONS AWARD  goes to the City of Miami.  Their parks and sanitation departments conspired years ago to dump poisonous contaminants on public properties which later became public parks.         As we all know,  many of Coconut Grove's parks have been shut down and fenced off because of "the poisons below".    To add to this killer joke, the Center Grove's Blanche Park is now covered with Astroturf which we are told, "seals off the chemicals that could hurt you".
    Like Scotty's, this one also sounds too bad to be true which leads us to the final award, the  
IS THIS A GREAT CITY OR WHAT STRUT AWARD which goes to Coconut Grove's 2013 King Mango Strut parade.   The annual event has had a long reputation for making fun of the City of Miami, its annual problems, and its often-arrested officials.
    This year there was no mention of the City's problems because the City of Miami now controls much of the Grove parade.  This is because it decides who gets a parade permit and helps pay for the satirical event. As a result, the City now decides what you can laugh at.

  It still is a pretty good parade enjoyed by many but where were the,

-Park kids playing in hazmat suits?  
-The Funeral for Scotty's Landing?  and the
-Chorus singing "Crandon Bridges Falling Down"?  
    I know this parade and it was a shock to learn from friends (I didn't go) that these parts were missing. 

    That day I was visiting the winner of the BEST NEW COUNTRY Award, the Mango Republic.
If the Grove doesn't figure out how to get its act together, you can expect many people to move there.  

     Let's hope we can restore some of the faded glory of Coconut Grove in the coming year.  Maybe someone will finally do something with the playhouse, Peacock Park, and cart the park poisons away.   
     It's a new year.  Step up, speak your mind, and maybe the good guys will win a few in 2014. 
Signing out for another year,
Glenn Terry,
 The Grove Guy