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Friday, December 30, 2016


      WE TOLD BOB BRENNAN GOODBYE yesterday as we gathered under the trees he loved at Fairchild Gardens.  He passed, at the age of 63, on Christmas Eve.
    Hundreds of friends and neighbors listened to his three children recount why their father was admired by so many. 

 "Our dad had an endless love for our mom, for us, and the rest of our extended family", said daughter Talia who added, "but it didn't end there.  He loved all of our neighbors and our friends. But it continued as he loved our friends' parents, their friends, and all of their dogs."  Her brother, Louis, added that his father remembered their names too and had bear-like "Bob hugs" for everyone.

     Endless love and a willingness to help, that's how all of the speakers described our departed friend.  And as they did, Florida snow  (falling leaves) sparkled in streaks of sunlight.  At one point, a flock of white ibis took off behind the speaker, their wings taking them up to a place where we imagine Bob might be.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


        Paris is so special. It's rich with art and history, part of its recent history being me, taking a knee, to propose to my wife on the Eiffel Tower. When we learned the new musical, "An American in Paris" was opening at the Arsht Center last night, we had to be there.

      The show has early origins. In 1928 George Gershwin wrote the original "An American in Paris" orchestral piece which reflected the images he saw and heard strolling about the city. He even brought back French taxi horns to be used by his musicians.
     Adding a few more popular Gershwin tunes, this became the classic 1951 musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. In 2005 the music inspired a popular "An American in Paris" ballet. All three versions are incorporated in the latest incarnation which made its debut on Broadway recently.

An American in Paris Tickets - Broadway Shows -
   I expected the City of Light to be the star but it was just a beautiful backdrop for the story and its song and dance performances.  "Song & dance" is putting it lightly.  The music was, of course, the Gershwin brothers at their best but the dancing was even better. 
    Even the dance-jaded Grove Guy was mesmerized by seeing incredible ballet incorporated into this high-powered production. The main characters were highly-trained dancers who could also sing and act. 
     The show's story begins with a soldier with artist dreams, lingering in Paris after WWII. The city is still is shell-shocked by four years of Nazi occupation. The young American soon falls in love with an unattainable French girl as the plot unfolds. The show was nearly 3-hours long but its ending seemed too soon. We had a great time,

and so will you.
  "An America in Paris" plays through January 1st.  For tickets (prices start at just $19) contact .

Saturday, December 24, 2016


      AND ON THE THIRD DAY, God said, "Let the Earth bring forth grass, plants and trees of each kind, And so it was". The Bible doesn't mention there being trees in Heaven but if there are, Bob Brennan is taking care of them now.
     Coconut Grove's favorite arborist left us on Christmas Eve after a five-month bout with cancer. 
  Every time I stopped by his North Grove house last week Bob was surrounded by an glowing aura of love. It was continuously being fed by his wife, Eileen, their three kids, and the other visiting friends. 

    Two days ago our tree guru was rolled out to enjoy a perfect afternoon in his verdant back yard. Bob couldn't speak so he gestured to a friend to move a bit so he could admire a thriving beehive. He marveled at all things natural and the mounds of love heaped upon him by visiting friends and family these last few months.

      December was always special. With his bushy white beard, Mr. B charmed thousands as Santa every Christmas. 
    He left last night so he could help St. Nick with his annual rounds. When the last gift was delivered, Bob went straight to Heaven.  God's trees need him, just like the Grove's always did.

     Keeping Coconut Grove green and his family and friends happy were huge priorities in Bob's life. He did both exceptionally well.  Yesterday the love was flowing like the tide into Sailboat Bay as he bid farewell to his family, the bees, and the trees with his final breath.  
   Now, when you want to find Bob just look up. He'll always be smiling in the trees he so loved.

A public memorial service will be held in Fairchild Garden's arboretum on Thursday at 1 pm.  Free admission.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

SIGNS OF THE TIMES, Our March on Washington next month.

    The words, "President Trump", continue to horrify most Americans. As the election's shock slacks off we make plans to resist almost everything that he represents.  You can be a part of that resistance. Our first mass protest, "The Women's March on Washington", will occur on January 21st ( DJT's first full-day in office).  
    Are you going?  We're expecting over 200,000 to gather in our nation's capital. If you can't be there, come to one of the rallies taking place in over forty other cities at the same time.  There's a place for everyone at the Trump Resistance Table.

    Every state's action group has a Facebook page.  Florida’s group has a more than 25,000 active page users. Each major county has its own leader and subgroup under the state organizer. We are using our county FB page to organize our Washington effort.
     A separate group is producing our local solidarity march, the "South Florida Women's Rally". It has a FB page using that name and a website, the South Florida march . It is set to take place at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater from 1 to 5 p.m.   
     Of course, you don't have to be a woman to resist Trump's dark plans.  We are an equal opportunity Trump tumping team. Twenty of us gathered last weekend to make signs and banners for the Women's March.

We had a good time painting as well as expression post-election dismay along with hopes for the future. 

    If you want to do more that march resistance groups have formed all over South Florida. Coral Gables has its "Rise Up Florida" and the Grove, "Progressive Miami" groups. All offer ways to stand together to support women's rights, civil liberties, and to find a little shelter from the storm.

         Norma and Les, preparing to march
  Our huge gathering in Washington is just thirty-days away. There's still room on two of the local sleeper-buses. You can go north, see snow, and raise hell for 200 bucks. How could you not go?
Francesca and I look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


     I was speaking with a minister last Monday night. We were discussing the election when she pointed out that the President-elect is the antithesis of Jesus Christ and everything he represents. I had to agree but it seemed odd.
    Our country is called a "Christian nation" as it was created by men whose religion is reflected in its institutions. While the Constitution gave us freedom to worship anything- or nothing at all-  the Bible has been a guiding force in our country.
    Much of the Bible is about the life of Jesus, a man who preached love, peace, and compassion for his fellow man. Speaking truth to power got him killed.

   We're getting a President with none of those traits. He lies to his constituents and they love it. His followers equate truth with bad news which they don't want to hear.  
   Trump charms his audiences by ridiculing others, by being hateful and mean. The guy brings out the worst in us, the pre-human instinct to find an enemy and beat him down.
    It got me thinking, "Maybe it's time for a new religion led by a new Jesus, someone that fits the new mood of the electorate".  
    If so, who should that person be be?

     The obvious choice would be the President elect himself...or maybe his good friend Kanye West (or even South Florida nut-case, Alan West). All of them fit the same self-absorbed, power-hungry, loud-mouth bill that forty-eight million people voted for last month. Of course only one of them is a white male and those 48 mil don't want anything but.

    Trump would be a tremendous Jesus. For the last year he's sold himself as being our country's savior. The guy also loves to be worshiped, the center of attention, and having people chant his name. He certainly pulled off a miracle when won despite getting 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.

   Filled with religious fervor, 86% of the evangelicals voted for the guy. They're more-than-ready for a new Jesus. His ecstatic followers are already having rallies where they hail his name with stiff-arm salutes. They've found their new savior.

    The first new churches are already in place, huge crystal cathedrals. New Jesus' name is
already emblazoned on them in huge, golden letters. 

 Most other churches have a cross out front. By cutting off the top, they could could easily be converted into "T's", the symbol for The New Jesus.

    Should our future savior adopt a holy name?  He's already got a great, kick ass surname. The  middle one starts with a "J".  Just change Joe (or whatever it is) to "Jesus". Of course the new guy will need a gang, tough hombres to back him up.  
    A guy at my church scolded me two months ago for supporting Hillary. "What we need", he said emphatically, "is a warrior with balls".  I chalked him off for being crazy but two weeks later Crazy won the election.  While the president-elect is no guerrero con cojones, he's filled half of his cabinet with former Marine generals with names like "Mad Dog". The other half are corporate billionaires. Together they represent a love of guns and money that has no equal on the planet. 
   These will be The New Disciples. Soon "Mathew, Mark, and John" will be replaced by "Reince, Ric, and Mad Dog". We're getting a new Bible too.
Here are a few samples comparing the old with the new,

   Things are different now. We are scared and want to be protected from the truth. We chose a candidate who cares less for objective facts and more for emotional appeals, even if ignoring those facts hurt our nation. As our country's ideals have shifted so have its religious values. The South has risen again and with it, a New Jesus. He will lead a religion that reflects the mood of the electorate.  
    It's going to be quite a ride. The post-truth voters have spoken and their New Jesus transition team is ready to take over. They won't even have to burn crosses this time. They'll just cut off the tops.


Websters New World Dictionary:
  "A person who stirs up feelings and prejudices of people to win them over quickly and use them to get power".

They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.

 Demagogues have been around since ancient Greece. In 1838 writer James Fenimore Cooper wrote a definition that still holds today. He identified four fundamental characteristics of a demagogue,
  1. They fashion themselves as a member of the common people, opposed to the elites.
  2. Their politics depends on a visceral connection with the people which greatly exceeds ordinary political popularity.
  3. They manipulate this connection, and the raging popularity it affords, for their own benefit and ambition.
  4. They threaten to break established rules of conduct, institutions, and even the law, to reach their own ends.
Wikipedia examples: Hitler, Mussolini, Huey Long,  and Joseph McCarthy (none of whom ever rose to become a US President-elect).

Friday, December 16, 2016


     Many spoke at Janet Reno's memorial service last Sunday. There was a sister, niece and a former President but none of them mentioned one of Janet's greatest accomplishments.  
Ms. Reno was the Grand Marshall of the 2002 King Mango Strut parade.

     We had tried to get her to join us a year before. She was interested and I put her on the  2001 poster leading our  patriotic parade.  
    Janet was running for governor at the time and I got a call from her campaign manager.  She asked why, on the poster, I had drawn a naked man marching next to her.  "Because its funny", I answered adding, "He's actually behind her but it's just a drawing anyway. There won't be  naked people in the parade". 

    The manager wasn't convinced. She advised her candidate to skip the Strut. Janet complied and told me, "Maybe next year". 
    Twelve months later, with the lost election behind her, Janet led our procession. It was a thrill to introduce her to the crowd.
    Ms. Reno, who spent her earliest years in the Grove, had a great time too.
 The crowd loved her and if there were any naked people in the parade, there were no votes lost.
The Strut marches for the 35th time in two weeks, on the last day of the year. I no longer attend but I am told if you drink enough beer it still tends to be funny. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

THE END OF A LIFE, THE END OF AN ERA Today's Memorial Service for Janet Reno


     Today we attended Janet Reno's memorial service. 500 friends, members of her family, and a US President gathered to pay tribute to her long, courageous life. 
 The ceremony took place in the MDC auditorium, just a half-mile from her childhood home.

 After the ceremony, kids were playing at her home in the woods as they have for seventy years.  Photo by Margaria Fichtner



  US border guards marched 
in bearing rifles and flags. Several ministers spoke, leaders who had advised Janet when she served as our state attorney. Of course, Ms. Reno went on to be our country's Attorney General, the first woman to serve in that capacity. 
  The present AG, 
Loretta Lynch, spoke glowingly of her former mentor and friend. She then read a letter from President Obama praising Janet for her dedication to justice, innovation, and public service.

     Our 42d President, Bill Clinton, then stepped to the podium to praise his former Attorney General.  Clinton charmed the audience with his usual wit, his wisdom and many Janet stories.  
The President and Janet's nieces greeting friends.  Photo by Hunter Reno
     We were hearing from three of our country's most outstanding public servants describing one of their own. The words "truth", "honesty", "justice, "honor", and "dedication to public service" were mentioned many times. 
     It struck me how these ideals have faded so quickly in the last election year, the one dominated by a short-tempered huckster with no capacity for truth, civility, or public service. We may be reaching the end of an era.

      I'm glad Janet Reno was spared the disappointment of seeing DJT win. If she were still with us I think she'd be reminding us that our country has faced difficult challenges before.
    Like our departed friend showed us, we must stand up and be unafraid. She would say, "Be strong and courageous".  Janet would not allow us to let the era of honor and civility end.
After the eulogies Ms. Reno's friend, Maryel Epps, sang Amazing Grace.  It included these words,

   Through many dangers, toils,  and snares
   I have already come, 
'Tis grace has brought me      
                              safe thus far,
                              and grace will lead me home.

     We're missing you, Ms. Reno.  May the grace be with you (and with us as well).  Thanks for exemplifying the ideals and skills we will need to get through the days ahead.

Friday, December 9, 2016


     Ten years ago the Coconut Grove Playhouse died. Our village's most popular landmark has been locked up and falling apart ever since.

    Last night, after a long decade, we learned it will rise again in two or three years. At a town hall meeting local officials told us about the theater's long history and plans renovate it. 

    UM professor, Jorge Hernandez, spoke about the theater's beginning as a 1200-seat movie house. It opened on January 1st, 1927, with the silent film, "The Sorrows of Satan". 
In the 30's my mom and her family enjoyed going there  (probably to see cartoons and non-Satanic features).  

       Hernandez praised the theater exterior's Mediterranean Revival design but the interior?  In his opinion it has little intrinsic value, especially since it was converted from a movie house to a playhouse in 1955.
      Sadly, this conversion modernized the exterior taking it from this,

to this (Notice the removal of the sidewalk arcades and rooftop ornamentation).

   This the "front" of the theater, the part that the public sees. If you've ever seen the it from the  parking lot, it looks like a fat gray, aging hippopotamus with its head stuck in the "front". This huge auditorium is too big, too old, and too funky to save. 

     Think of the existing building as being three parts as we were shown last night,


 I simplified this a bit by drawing on an envelope,

  "A" is the Front Building. the part the public sees.  For most, this is the Coconut Grove Playhouse.  The county's much thought-out plan will not only save this but restore it so it will look  like the 1927 original.
   "B" is the crescent-shaped lobby.  The plan will keep the footprint turning it into a lush, tropical courtyard. When the new playhouse is completed, you will pass through the garden to enter "C", the new theater.
     "C" is now a huge, dead whale.  There is no good reason to hang on to it. The plan will replace it with a smaller, 300-seat, state-of-the-art theater.
      In north parking lot, "D" will be a parking garage, residences, and retail shops. The county's plan was created by Architectonica, a world-class design firm with its home in the Grove. 

      Joe Adler, the director of the "GablesStage" theater, is leading the effort to revive the playhouse and live performances in Coconut Grove.  I strongly support this effort and I hope you will too.

   We live in a democracy (at least for the next six weeks) where all opinions are considered. Some people don't like the plan. They say 1) the old dead whale ("C") should be restored and others say that in addition to the plan's 300-seat theater, there should also be an additional 700-seat theater.   
   That's a bad idea, like saying, in addition to the Grove's intimate twenty-five restaurants, we need many more high-capacity eateries with the increased traffic that comes with them.
    The plan's 300-seat theater is just right for Coconut Grove.  


A few other highlights:
I learned that the original playhouse was designed by Richard Kiehnel, one of the premiere architects a century ago.  While he created beautiful buildings all over the country, three other of his designs are within a half-mile of the playhouse.  They are (heading south on Main Highway)   

  The Bryan Memorial Church (now the Chabad),


     El Jardin (now Carrolton School)
and the Christian Scientists Church (now a lovely, empty shell with more peacocks than scientists roaming the grounds).

We need to keep Kiehnel Row protected. It's one of the Grove's great treasures.

     These three are in pretty good shape but the playhouse?  It's time to bring it back from the dead. It's been kicked around too long.
   We need to support the county and the GablesStage proposal.  Support their efforts to give the Grove the outstanding theater complex that our village needs and deserves. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


    I got a call from journalist Brett Sokol last year. He wanted me to help identify people he'd seen in vintage 1980's Coconut Grove photographs. They are included in his new book, "We Are Everywhere and We Shall Be Free", a collection of incredible photographs taken by Charles Hashim on the streets of Miami between 1977 and 1983.

   Carl Hiaasen wrote, "Hashim's cool photographs are a wild, free-falling flashback to South Florida in the late 70's and early 80's".


   That's when the King Mango Strut began. Hashim was there to capture it 




in its early virginal, exuberance,









along with the Goombay parade (1979),



the Grove Cinema,





and the fun we had in 1980's Peacock Park (when you could still see the water). 



    Another fan wrote:

What emerges from Charles Hashim’s previously unseen photographs in this book — all lovingly transferred from his original 35mm negatives — is an intimate portrait of a city coming apart at the seams, with the old social order crumbling and everything up for grabs. Pioneering gay rights activists, outlaw bikers, and libertine punk rockers duke it out for room to breathe with the Ku Klux Klan and religious revivalists. A new Miami was being born, and here's the proof of its growing pains in all their over the top splendor.


Charles Hashim:  Motorcycle drag race, Opa-locka, circa 1979

The book is available now at Books & Books where it will be presented on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 7 pm. 

Please join Charles Hashim, as well as fellow Miami artists, who will discuss "We are Everywhere" and photography in Miami. Brett Sokol will moderate this free, public event.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 7pm

Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134