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Thursday, April 21, 2016


   Our dear friend, Coconut Grove's Lucienne Sanchez-Resnick, has created a new expression, "Ninety is the new fifty".  

She's the lady you saw making bicycle-powered smoothies at a recent Grove gathering...or maybe the one who helped you park your Schwinn as the art festival's bike valet.  Or, You might have bumped into her on a dance floor.  That's Lucienne.

   After forty-four years of marriage, her husband Hank can not praise her enough. He is throwing a series of birthday parties to celebrate the 90th year of his adorable wife. 

   Hank and Lucienne had the first one with friends in Berkeley last month.  We attended the third one in the Biltmore hotel's penthouse suite last night. 
   Ever imagine what it might be like to stay in the top-floor room in this magnificent edifice, the one Al Capone use to call his second home?  The one with 360-degree views of Miami?  The place where  presidents crash?

   We were partying in the Presidential Suite last night and it was amazing. Lucienne was her usual adorable self, beaming in an elegant gray evening dress. 
After we sang her song she cut the cake and handed out slices.

     Hank invited us to stay the night ("We have an extra bedroom") and we seriously considered it.  "Oh, it'd be like taking friends on a honeymoon, tempting but not quite right", said Francesca.  The place rents for the price of a Subaru so we can always go  back.

    Hank tells us the birthday celebrations will continue.  The next one is at their summer home in Paris and the last?  They've booked passage with Carnival for a September cruise to Cuba.  
   Who knew hitting the Big 9-0 could be this much fun?
Note:  Since I published this a couple of days ago, two female friends have written to me to say they
spent some of their teenage years partying in the Presidential Suite.  "It was empty, a ghost hotel back then. It was easy to break in and climb the stairs. Once we even fueled a party with champagne we found in the closed restaurant".  The other told me she and a friend, once they got to the top floor, tried to climb up on the roof from a balcony.  Happily, both survived and are doing well today. Sadly, the Grove Guy was behaving himself, more or less, during those ghost hotel years.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


      It sounds like a headline from "The Onion", but the City of Miami -which controls Coconut Grove- no longer allows coconut palms to be planted in public spaces.     What's next, rip them out of our yards like they did with citrus trees fifteen years ago?

   Thursday's Miami Herald told us Miami resident, Elvis Cruz, has been cited for planting the popular tree next to a road. "I was dumbfounded", said Cruz, who is threatened $500 fine.

    Even though they symbolize South Florida and all things tropical, the City has decided that coconut trees are not worthy.  City planner, Francisco Garcia, was quoted as saying that fruit trees were no longer welcome on public property. Someone might get hit by a falling coconut, grapefruit, or sapodilla. I think this should happen to Francisco, it may knock some sense into him.
     What the Grove needs is a thriving coconut grove. Designate some public space and fill is with these sensuous, curving trees. Invite Mr. Garcia to visit and see what happens.

       "Let's keep the coconut in Coconut Grove!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016


   I drive to West Kendall five days a week. The monotonous journey is thankfully, against traffic.

This is my view heading west on Kendal Drive.
Kendall Drive, heading east, is just the opposite, horribly clogged with cars. 
It can takes an hour to drive ten miles.                Heading east
    What breaks up the monotony on my idyllic journey are the occasional emergency vehicles going east. They often drive on the wrong side of the divided highway because,

 1) the clogged cars on their side of the road aren't moving,  2) it might be legal and, 3) it's got to be exciting, threatening to collide head-on with people like me.
     So far, their flashing lights and sirens have gotten my attention. I pull over every time to avoid a fatal collision.  
    Last Friday one of my fellow westbound travelers wasn't so lucky.  A huge lime-colored firetruck plowed into her Toyota. The firemen were extracting the woman from pillowing airbags when I slowly passed. Thankfully, she seemed surprisingly alive having glanced off the truck's left bumper.
     Forty-five years of commuting ends next month for me.  Hopefully, 'til then, I'll be able to steer clear of wrong-way fire trucks

Get photos
Genevieve Block
     Have you been to the Panorama Restaurant at the Grove Sonesta Hotel?  Francesca and I went there for dinner last week. We were blown away by our seats, on the edge of an outdoor deck overlooking Biscayne Bay. 
   They even threw in a sunset.
   The place has room for a hundred but only five tables (for two) have "the big view". The food was great (plus, your get a 10% discount if you live
in the Grove). My mojito could have used more alcohol, but I wasn't complaining.  
   Two kids stopped by our table asking for autographs. Adorable. They were asking everyone  to sign their coloring books. When I drew a Mickey Mouse the young blond she told me, "That's nice but I still want your autograph."
The Grove Guy complied.

  Our bill came to $60 and I thought. taking in the view, "I'd pay that just to sit here for a hour".

  You probably have to get there by seven to get a great table. They take reservations and maybe you can reserve one of the "big view" tables. We had reservations but they tried to seat us only
near the edge. We asked for the front row seats and they were happy to comply. 

  You can go to the Panorama for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just drinks. They say the food is
"Peruvian",but it's barely that, more American than not. Good food.
  Francesca and I could look down at the restaurant guests below (the Peacock Cafe) and the new "Glass & Vine" south and think, "We're glad we're not down there tonight". Too crowded, noisy, and no blow-you-away view".

   Yes, this sounds like a commercial but so what? We had a great time and didn't know much about Panorama until a friend recommended it.
   On the bike ride home we stumbled upon another gem, Karaoke Night at the Panther Coffee House. Like the Panorama, it was an"all age" gathering, with The Big View replaced with smiles, laughter, and hilarious entertainment. Anyone can get up and sing. Some are pretty good. If you're lucky, you may get to hear my rendition of "Stairway to Heaven" next Saturday night.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


      Last Saturday we asked passing people help us paint a "Spirit of the Grove" mural.  It was part of the Bike the Underline event at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station at US 1 and 27th Ave.
      I created a bare outline and gave strangers paint and brushes to add details and fill in spaces.

    We were amazed by how well it turned out. Several of us carried it over to the one of the Metrorail support columns and taped it on.  

This is how it looks.
Whadda ya think?  
Should we make more?

   Wouldn't it be great if every Metrorail intersection included colorful art?  Producing it would be cheap and easy.

   Local groups, artists and schools could contribute their time and talent.  
Imagine seeing art, something exciting, on the gray columns we're been staring at for thirty years.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


         Like the good book says, "Never build your boat with carrots". They sink.
     I learned this while preparing for yesterday's "Spirit of the Grove" happening at our 27th Avenue Metro station.  It was a part of a larger event,"Bike the Underline" that encouraged folks to get out to envision the future linear park there.

     My wife, Francesca, encouraged kids to make and sail boats made of vegetables.  When we discovered that the carrot boats sank, we put them out for snacks.

     Lucienne and Hank Resnik gave out smoothies that they churned up with a bicycle.  Lucy has that Grove spirit and will be celebrating her 90th next week!      Later Frank Busta was volunteering to pedal the mixer.  He often plays his jazz violin on Main Highway.

     Grove legend, Alan "Jellyfish" Aunapu was our special guest.  "Jelly" is Coconut Grove's last hippie.

 Here he shoots the breeze with Grove activist, Dave Villano.

Later he posed with our second to the last Grove hippie, Dr. John.


The pretty woman in the middle is Irvington Avenue resident, Madison Levine. She taught our yoga classes.

UM architecture students contributed their sculpture, "Slow Ride", one-thousand coconut air-fresheners on sticks.
I was in charge of our group effort,  the"Spirit of the Grove" painting.  Everyone was invited to add to it. After it was completed, we taped it to a Metrorail support column. It can now be seen by everyone driving south on U.S. 1 (until April 30 or until it is stolen).

                It was an outstanding little event. We thank everyone who helped make it happen.

    Afterwards, Dr. John, Jellyfish, and I headed out for our next Saturday adventure, a tour of the Miccosukee Embassy.

    I had seen the building before, bounded on two sides by a Miami River tributary.  

   Tall, glassy, and surrounded by tight-faced security guards, I took it to be some drug lord's den. 
    On Saturday I was told the over-the-top palace is the Miami headquarters of the Miccosukee tribe (the one with all the casinos). 
It's worlds away from chickee huts and cypress canoes.


  Stepping inside we admired it's opulence and 40-foot ceiling. 
 A water sculpture served as the focus of officiant, Reverend Houston Cypress' water ceremony (the tour was a part of Miami's current Water Festival).  

    Later he took us outside to see the grounds.
Rev. Houston said he would be showing us what I had come to see, the legendary (and sacred) Miami River Caves, the ones I had only heard about for years.

      Walking around the embassy the ground dipped down past chickee huts to the water.  Just beyond, on the other side of the 836, was the marshmallow roof of the Marlins Stadium.

  Finally there were
the caves, nestled beneath
tons of concrete, glass and and steel. 

    Thirty of is walked in amazed at what we were seeing, caves in Miami!

 This entrance leads to the front yard.  We weren't allowed to use it as the steps can be dangerous.

    As we headed home, I said, "It'll be hard to top this" and Dr. John suggested, "We could drop in on Ismael".   I had heard of the man who lives in the last little wooden house remaining inside  Brickell's condo canyons.
   He was in the Miami Herald last week for turning down a developer's $1.8 million offer to buy his place. None of us had been there but we knew it was just next to the Brickell Metro station.  John had met him last week on an 80-mile Everglades holy pilgrimage.

   Ismael is not one for doorbells.  We yelled his name repeatedly over his locked gate. Finally, an energetic little man trotted out to greet us.

   I could write a whole blog about the afternoon we spent with Ishmael, "The Man Who Said "No" to the Developers".  Next week I will. 

            It's been one amazing weekend.  I had a great time and I didn't get arrested ( See  "South Beach Sharks" below).

          Ishmael, his house, and his neighbors.



  (  The Night Before Wasn't Nearly as Much Fun )


    A horrible thing happened to us last Friday night. Francesca and I went to South Beach.  
   We had no choice, old friends were gathering there for a long-planned reunion. Fortunately, after only a twenty-minute search, we were able to find a parking space just four blocks from our Ocean Drive destination. On our walk to the restaurant
we passed hundreds of young people who's scant clothing and tattoos shouted, "Look at me!".

    It was great to reunite with out-of-town friends but the restaurant's music shouted too; we could barely converse. We complained to no avail. The food? Edible but expensive. So were the foo-foo drinks. My buddies ordered mega-mojitos the size of fish-bowls. 
    Tourists do things like that. Francesca and I drank water.

    At nine p.m. we began our drive home, anxious to leave "SoBe".  As we turned west on Fifth Street I told my wife, "In three blocks, we'll be out of this creepy place". Then we spotted the electronic sign, "Sobriety Test Ahead". 
   Traffic was being funneled into a single lane surrounded by cops. Blue lights were flashing as we were ushered to a Michigan Avenue parking area lit like a stage. Paddy wagons and lab trucks abounded. I felt we'd just been caught trying to sneak into Syria.

    One of the grim men ordered me to stop and roll down my window. He checked to see if all of my exterior lights were working. He looked in to see if my seat belt was fastened and he finally told us,

     "You're screwed. I'm a gun-totin' cop here to make your evening miserable. You're an old man in a young neighborhood (I had to agree). You got no business bein' in South Beach.  I'm gonna check you out 'til I find somethin' wrong, and when I do, I'll either write you a ticket, arrest you, or worse. You're gonna pay and how much  depends on your attitude. I hope you're not carryin' 'cause if you are, you're surrounded by enough firepower to turn you, your wife, and your Honda into Swiss cheese."

     Okay, He actually didn't say these things but I was upset; I imagined such a speech. 
What he did say, after staring at me for a long time, was
"How ya doin'?"

     Other cops were peering into our CRV as well.  What was wrong?  Is drinking water a crime? Was my trunk area too messy?  My hair the wrong color (gray)?  Was my hair too messy?

     After a long silence I lied to him.  I said, 
"We're fine".  

    He asked for my license and I handed it to him.  He asked if I had moved since it had been issued. Maybe that could  be grounds for arrest but thankfully, I have stayed put.
      Next was a grilling about car insurance then I produced the required card. He asked who owned the car and I told him that I did.

     He told me to prove it so I asked my wife to slowly open the glove compartment. There was nothing in it but papers.  Francesca went through them in the dim light and came up with a car registration form.  He looked at it for a minute then told us some terrible news, "This paper expired a month ago".
      I pointed out that as I had a current tag on my license plate, I had received a 2016 registration form a month earlier.  He had a computer in his hand with access of all of the information he was asking for.
       For most police officers, this would have been enough. It wasn't for Officer Asepano. He had no probable to cause to stop me in  the first place. 
      But Asepano went on, "If you can not produce a current automobile registration form, you are violating the law".  He proceeded to write me a $129 ticket.  
      I'm sure it could have been worse.  Imagine if I had been black. Afro-American friends tell me this happens to them quite often.  Maybe we were two white folks chosen to create "racial balance".

       As the officer wrote my ticket Francesca whispered a joke that I didn't want to hear, "Hey, I don't think he's going to arrest us!". 
       I didn't want to hear anything.  I just wanted to get the hell out of South Beach. 

    Finally he handed me the ticket and said, "all you need to do is to pay a fine, and then go to the county clerk's office to wait 'til Hell freezes over to get a duplicate car registration" (okay, he didn't say the "Hell" part but the wait will probably be longer than that).  "When you receive it, you'll be legal to drive this car again.  That's it".

      After a long pause I asked, "May I leave"? It wasn't a dumb question. I was stopped by a City of Miami cop once for having a tag on my motorcycle that had expired a week earlier.  I was quiet and courteous then too.  Four ridiculous tickets later, he told me I could push my bike home; riding off with a lapsed tag could be grounds for arrest.

       Cops can be like that. Fortunately most are not. Just remember to,
 1) be kind and courteous to people carrying  weapons and, 2) Never, ever, consider going to Syria or South Beach.