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Sunday, May 31, 2015


    In Miami we're experiencing Mango Madness. It's when our favorite fruit begins to fall like huge, delicious drops of rain. In just a few days we go from longing to loathing the task of,"What do I do with the excess?".
    We're sending each other pictures to prove our bounty.  I saw one on Facebook yesterday, a young woman caressing the sea of mangos she had just collected.
      Just a week ago I was still eating "squirrels", the first ones that fall because they've been gnawed by furry rodents (I cut out the bad and eat the good).
      The squirrel mangos get left on the ground now like so many rotten apples.  There's too many perfect ones to pick.  
      We've filled our freezer and the dehydrator whirs on, turning juicy slices into dry slivers to enjoy in the fall.
       We can't give the extras to friends.  They have too many. We'll soon be leaving them on the steps of strangers and filling "Free" roadside boxes.

     Three years ago a lost tour bus came barreling down our narrow street.  The driver screeched to a halt and I heard his loud announcement, "Look, someone is giving away mangos.  Does anyone-" but by then I was bounding up the steps with my box, passing them out to people who had never seen a fresh mango.
     It's a wonderful time of the year.  Enjoy your own version of mango madness.

PS:  Don't judge a book by its cover.  I saw this "perfect mango" 
smiling up at me from a West Grove sidewalk yesterday.  
It turned out to be a squirrel.

Monday, May 25, 2015


     It might be fine to practice medicine in a white, boxy building but would you want to live in one?


 Apparently many high-end home buyers do.
That's what the new residential construction looks like in Coconut Grove now.

     "Houses that look like doctors offices, it's the latest thing", a realtor explained, "It's what the new home buyers want.

It used to be the Mediterranean look but now it's gone modern. We now sell white boxes".

    Looking around the South Grove I suppose he's right. Most of them max out their lots saving just enough room for a postage stamp-size swimming pool.

    Houses like this 

get torn down 

to get replaced 

by buildings 

that you'd usually visit

to to get treated for skin cancer.

     A neighbor is now building two of them nearby for re-sale.  When I asked him why he explained that he's following his realtor's advice.  The high volume, no-yard boxes give him the most bang for his bucks.  
    We've seen the modernist movement in the Grove before.  Maybe it was Miami Vice. In the 1980's downtown buildings were replaced by modernist's monstrosities.  I responded with the "Coconut Grove's Ugliest Building Contest".  Many were nominated but

   the Sushi Thai Building won.

    Coconut Grove Realty ran a close second.  Cardboard versions of them marched in the 1986 King Mango Strut parade.

    Things change and these white boxes keep popping up.  Realtor-driven designs scare me.
So do visits to doctor's offices.  Living in colorless cube defies my imagination.  
     We need to do more to preserve our old houses.  They're one of the reasons we love Coconut Grove.
     If we don't, a future tourism campaign may be, "Coconut Grove, like going to your next medical procedure".

   We went to the opening of Panther Coffee this morning and it was wonderful.  Arriving just after eight there was one person in line.  By the time we were sipping our thick cafe lattes it had grown to twenty. 
    Panther Coffee is located on Main Highway, a half block north of the Grove's ugliest building. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015


     Two weeks ago we gathered for the Hialeah High School fifty-year reunion.  The tallest t-bred (6' 7") was easy to spot, sports legend Ted Hendricks. I had not seen him since he came to Coconut Grove to be the grand marshal of the1992 King Mango Strut parade. 
     Everyone knows Ted's amazing football career as an all-pro linebacker. He played in 215 consecutive NFL games that included four Superbowls and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.
     What few know is the role the Grove Guy played in supporting Ted's career.  I was on the stork's first football team.  (Back Row: Ted Hendricks, David Reese, and the Grove Guy.  Bottom Row: Bill Moore, David Kluthe, and Alan Barnette.

     Six of us represented Ms. Howell's sixth grade class in the Miami Springs Elementary School Football Classic.  It wasn't the Super Bowl but it seemed like it at the time.
     Six years later Ted was the best player on our high school team. The coaches called him "The Green Giant" (a cartoon figure in the 1960's who sold vegetables).  He went on to be an all-American at the University of Miami. Tall and thin, they called him "The Stork".  After that, when he began tearing apart quarterbacks for the Oakland Raiders, he became "The Mad Stork".
   Ted retired from football in 1983. He now has his own the charitable foundation and bequeaths The Hendricks Award annually upon college football's most outstanding linebacker. He also sponsors annual sports celebrity golf and bowling tournaments.  They raise thousands of dollars for charity.  As if that's not enough, Ted is an accomplished artist.  The paintings I've seen are surrealistic landscapes.
     I played a minor role on Ted's high school team. I only saw action in practices and kept the bench warm during games.  I tell my kids I did catch a few passes in the Orange Bowl but it was during the pre-game warm up.
    I did have one shining moment in our senior year.  It was in the third-quarter of our post-season game, "The Menenac Bowl" in Tampa, Florida.
     Ted ripped his pants badly making it difficult for him to play.  Our coach turned to the bench and spoke to me for the first time asking, "What's your pant size, son?".  When I answered "34" he ordered me to switch with Ted.  Wearing my clean britches Ted re-entered the game and helped our team win.    
     While I never got to play in games, I did get to see them for free.  
      I also got to hang out with jocks like Ted who were smart and funny. He has always treated me with warmth and respect. Despite his years as a ferocious football warrior, he treats everyone this way.  

     Two weeks ago he was attending his first high school reunion with his long-time partner, Lynda Babi. Many asked him to pose for pictures and he kindly obliged.



      Here he is with Francesca and our high school basketball mentor, Coach Mrazovich (Ted played b-ball as well).

      It was incredible to be visiting with one of our high school teachers this late in life. Fifty years had passed yet at 90, he was easily keeping up with us in the Hialeah banquet hall. The tall Croation, long retired, continues to play guitar in a band. He showed me photos of the cigar box ukuleles he makes.

      The reunion included a softball game.  Interesting, most of the former football players chose not to participate saying they were too  hobbled by sports injuries. 
      Coconut Grove's Terry Ferrer was not one of them. He told me last week, "I was on the football team for three days. When I got slammed by Richard Earie (twice my size), it was time to quit".

 Terry didn't quit on the softball field two weeks ago. Playing second base, he misjudged a speeding grounder and caught it with his right eye. He continued to play and got a hit (as opposed to "getting hit") in the next inning.  

      After the game he stopped by our place.  In two hours his injury had swollen into the ugliest  black eye I'd ever seen. He said he felt okay so we had fun with the camera.



   Good sport, that Terry.

Two weeks have passed and I just checked in with him.  He says all that remains of his injury is a star-shaped bruise over his eye. He's considering joining a Kiss tribute band.

       The reunion weekend allowed us to ponder  our formative teenage years. As it ended Saturday night we said goodbyes to friends we may never see again.  
   As tall Ted chatted with the last of his admirers I asked, "Can I see a Super Bowl ring?".  He smiled and held it up, his fist nearly as big as my head. 
    As I photographed it I asked why he wasn't wearing more of them, "Oh, he replied with a laugh, "I get kidded too much when I do that".    
     It was nice to be hanging out with old friends and our own green giant again. Four Super Bowl rings, no kidding. 

                                                 The Young Stork, 1959

Saturday, May 9, 2015


         Friends came to town last Saturday for our high school reunion.  Some stopped by our place for a  neighborhood tour.  They got to see what we love about Coconut Grove.
             Eight of us gathered at our 1930's cottage.  Our group included three artists, a movie producer,  university president,  museum director, and the former commander of a nuclear submarine.

   Our first stop was 50 yards east, the former cottage of singer/songwriter Fred Neil. He wrote "Everybody's Talkin', the theme from "Midnight Cowboy".  



A very Grove-y guy lives next to Fred's place.  He decorates his yard with magnificent golden dinosaurs.



Two minutes later we were in front of "El Jardin", a 20-acre mansion on Biscayne Bay. It is now a Catholic school decorated with young girls wearing identical plaid skirts and knee socks.  
   One morning I caught one trying to steal a dinosaur.
 Our haunted house is on the south of  El Jardin.  Hidden by trees and bushes, few know about this rotting gem festooned with strips of wind-ripped tarps.


 On the other side of the girl's school is the site this historic church named after former Grove resident, William Jennings Bryan. He was famous politician 100 years ago. His great-grandson, Graham Bryan, is a buddy of mine. The building was transformed into a synagogue, "Chabad in the Grove", eight years ago.

    Cati-corner is the church that I attend, Plymouth Congregational. The mission-style sanctuary was built in 1917. I showed my friends the wooden plug by the front entrance. It was once "the cat hole", allowing felines access for rat control.  It was covered long ago when  air-conditioning was installed and the cat population increased.


   A dozen cats (and several peacocks) now patrol the 9-acre property which includes "Admiral's Row".

These are the three old houses across from the sanctuary.  They were left to the church by the admirals who once lived there. Interestingly, a retired rear admiral was a member of our tour group.

      Morning light, Edsen Chapel, Plymouth Congregational Church. Glass design by Grove artist Sebastian Duncan Portuando.

   The church property also includes a former windmill, a sunken garden,

and the Grove's historic  one-room school house.

    Our tour's final stop was the former home of Dr. John C. Lilly. He was a well-known neuroscientist who spent his life exploring human consciousness.  

He used psychedelic drugs, isolation tanks (his invention)  dolphins, and Coconut Grove to do this.  His buddies included Tim Leary and Alan Ginsberg.  Some neighbors still remember his efforts to communicate with the dolphin living in his backyard pool.   
    Despite his wild life, Doctor John made it to the age of 86, dying in 2001.  Sometimes we see his daughter puttering around the house. 

    As we turned away from its glowing ocher tones someone said, "Your neighborhood is so lovely. You're fortunate to live here".  
   I guess I am.  It was nice to be able to share it with friends last week.


Postscript:  I don't like to make these articles too long.  Here are a few houses that didn't make the cut,

Debby's dwelling, where Palmetto meets Hibiscus.

 Karen and Eliott's swinging pad "Casa Mamey", painted to match the fruit.

   The house where former attorney general Janet Reno lived when she was quite young.  She once told me how she enjoyed riding her tricycle Avocado Street.
All the houses you see here are unique and more than 8o years old.   Our cottage was built in the 1930's.

The Grove has newer houses too but most are big, boring boxes
like the McMansion just east of us.  It's like living next to a 25-foot wall. 
My tour ignores them.  

I choose to celebrate the charming, colorful and creative, like the home of our neighbor, Bobby Ingram.

Now that's Coconut Grove!

                          A poinciana tree explodes across from Plymouth Church

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


    I waited half a century for this. Last weekend I stepped back in time at my 50-yer high school reunion.
   Group portrait last Saturday night. 
    We were Hialeah High School's class of '65.  There were more than 4000 students  at our school and at times I felt lost in the crowd.

   I didn't know quite what to expect last weekend. Fifty years ago I had some friends and was happy enough but my head wasn't screwed on quite right. I let others choose my direction. I  tried to be a school politician, a young scientist, and a football player, not too successfully.  Art, writing and tennis appealed to me but I thought, "Who cares about those things?  They won't get me anywhere".
   It took years after high school to get it right, to cross over to my creative side. When I did, I became happier, the activist art educator that I am today.
                                             Reconnecting with my l tennis team  
Live and learn. High school helped us do that.
   The Hialeah High School crowd was much smaller than our senor class of 1300 at the three-day affair. Ten percent of us showed up, five sent their regrets, and another ten percent are pushing up daisies.  Cancer, booze, and all the other things ended any reunion dreams they might have had. 

    I learned that five of our group died in Viet Nam (half of the guys attending the reunion were veterans).  Marty Taber went down in his helicopter.  
   I can still can see ten-year-old Ronnie O'Roarke limping through the halls of Miami Springs Elementary. He was born with a "short leg". 
     After a long series of operations -and wearing Forrest Gump-like braces-  the leg was lengthened so could walk like the rest of us. He recovered so well he was able to enlist in the Army.  Ronald Patrick O'Roarke was killed by hostile ground fire in August, 1966. 

     High school was the last time we were with a wide-range of people. A member of our class started a Fortune 500 company (Genetech) while another played in four Super Bowls (go Raiders!).  
                                                    Once again, Ted towered over us all

   A few of the no-shows got knocked down in the interim. At least one is homeless and another, imprisoned. 
    Three-quarters of my high school class could not be found, lost in the cracks of life. The brilliant Judy Gokel, the odd Roger Christian, and the bull-like Danny Douglas (our powerhouse fullback). Where are they now?
   Maybe they didn't want to step foot in Hialeah again. It's not Florida's most popular destination. Our last reunion was held in Miami Beach. I thought it was great that our organizers shunned the bright lights for our old stomping grounds. You can actually find a place to park in Hialeah.

    The reunion got me wondering about all kinds of things  but mostly I enjoyed the company of old friends.
    Our former basketball coach was there. Coach Mrazevich just hit ninety so we didn't feel that old.  Hitting our late sixties didn't keep us off the dance floor.

      Over so much time amazing things can happen. Last Friday  I reconnected with my first girlfriend, Sally Wimsett.  Fifty-six years ago I asked her to "go steady".  She accepted and I remembered giving her a silver heart with our initials carved on it.  
   Sally surprised me by pulling it out of her purse. She said smiling, "I think I'll wear it now!".  Her husband, Morris, seemed okay with that adding, "After 46 years (of marriage) I think I'm safe".

    While most attendees have kids (and grand kids) I hardly heard them mentioned. There was too much of us to talk about.  We were trying to cram fifty years into a few hours, a daunting task that left us somewhat dizzy, and happy, being touched by old friends again.


PS  There's more to this story.  I'll add to it later.