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Tuesday, February 26, 2019


       Nothing beats coming home to a happy dog unless of course, you have a sparkle tree.


     I got mine by connecting two ideas last year. 
     Nights are dark on Palmetto Avenue. We've got street lights but half the time they're broken. My wife and I remedied this by installing flood lights flipped on by motion detectors. This means when you stepped inside the front gate the yard lit up so you could easily make your way to the front door. 
Now, let's go back forty years for the second idea.
     In the late 70's the Chinese began sending us strings of tiny lights to illuminate our Christmas trees. Unlike the former fat bulbs, these twinkle lights smiled, reminding us of the stars above.

     How wonderful they were. Thirty years ago we began decorating our houses, hedges, and trees with them. Soon, the restaurant districts followed suit. These, small sparkling lights evoked charm until, inevitably, there were too many of them. They're up year-round now, in over-kill mode. These sparks of light have lost their holiday flair. 
      It's the American way I suppose. We discover something wonderfully new, commercialize and expand it until it's not so special.
    But we don't over-do it on Palmetto Avenue. The Christmas lights on our street are up and down in less than a month. The twinkle thing is not overdone.
    It got me thinking about the flood lights out front. When they popped on I was uncomfortable. It reminded me of a scene from a prison break-out movie. Here I was pounded by bright lights, caught in the act of coming home. 
    What if there was a gentler way to momentarily illuminate a yard? That's when I came up with the Sparkle Tree.
    I created mine by stringing a small Barbados Cherry tree with 200 mini-lights. I  plugged them into a socket that once held a floodlight (which  included a motion detector).   

    Lastly, I incorporated the former floodlight set into a fanciful mask complete with air plants.

   Now, when we arrive our sparkle tree lights up to say, "Welcome home!" After we've made it inside, the tree goes dark until the next time needed. And, as an extra bonus, just inside the front door, there's a happy dog waiting to greet us.




And in the Nevada desert,
Sparkle Tree, Burning Man, 2017.



    I am constantly amazed by our Miami-based book emporium, Books and Books.  Yes, they now have a charming branch in the Grove but the Coral Gables original shines above the other with bar, full-service restaurant, and...books!
    And what's more, there are events there almost every night.  On Thursday, you can hear from the author of "Parkland" and ask questions like, "Why can't our country take the necessary measures to keep our children safe?".  The answer will be scary and as disheartening as the Border Wall "emergency", I suppose.  It's good to be face-to-face with the experts like Dave Cullen.

    On Friday, Iko-Iko will be playing in the patio and at 7 p.m. Manny Hernandez will discuss his
new book on photographing Miami celebrities.  I met Manny a few years ago as he was a close friend of neighbor, Charlie Cinnamon.
   There's always something happening at Books and Books.  Here's info on Thursday's affair,

Dave Cullen

February 27

8:00 pm
Books & Books in Coral Gables
265 Aragon Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33134 United States


Tuesday, February 19, 2019


         Incredible things happen in Coconut Grove. We returned from another road trip yesterday. The
annual mega-art festival was winding down so I quickly took it in then returned home to make my own art (the Gifford Land Art Stroll is just two weeks away!).

    I turn on NPR and started  paint another fish sculpture. A moment later the guy behind us began blasting what sounded like a Maria Callas recording.  It was much better than Car Talk so I clicked off my radio to enjoy a familiar aria.  Maria sounded terrific.
    Then, as it ended, I heard one man clapping. I rush to the fence, pushed aside the  fronds and saw an opera singer beginning her next song fifty-feet away.  I thought, "She must be preparing for a performance tonight!"

   I rushed to the house and shouted at my bread-baking wife, "Quick, come with me!". As Francesca and I reached the fence and the next piece was ending we were both clapping.  The lovely artist turned to us, smiled, and took a bow. Her host, a neighbor I had never met, invited us to join them.

 Five minutes later we were in Dodo's living room enjoying a sublime operatic performance by our new friend, Joya. I suppose this will never happen again but it did, yesterday, in Coconut Grove.



A Gift From England,

Someone asked "Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?"
Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England, wrote this magnificent response:

"A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing - not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility - for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is - his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults - he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.
Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff - the Queensberry rules of basic decency - and he breaks them all. He punches downwards - which a gentleman should, would, could never do - and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless - and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority - perhaps a third - of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think 'Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
* You don't need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.
After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws - he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:
'My God… what… have… I… created?
If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set."

Saturday, February 2, 2019


      Years ago I wrote articles and drew cartoons for Coconut Grove's newspapers.  In 2005 I got a call from The Miami Herald. They wanted me to do they same for them and for five years, my "Grove Guy" column (and illustrative cartoons) appeared in their "Neighbors" section.

       Cleaning out old files last week I found my original drawings.  Each relates to a subject I was
writing about that week.  
    Here are a few examples,

 Our Grove convention center was having an anniversary and I suggested that we put up a historical marker to remind folks of The Doors infamous concert there.

From an article about the dangers of walking in Coconut Grove.    

From a rant about how our schools stopped teaching cursive writing. This conversation actually happened between me and my son, Ian, twelve years ago.

The one below went with a story about how we got our dog, Pi.  We had gone to Petsmart intending to buy a fish and ended up adopting a small, brown, puppy.

   Our neighborhood hero, Bob, had a habit of picking up random dog poop. I suppose one word was changed before this one hit the news stands.

I found it hilarious that an astronaut had let his tool bag drift off beyond reach.  If I had been a rocket man, it seemed like something I might have done. 



A developer asked the City to allow him to build two McMansions on a lot designed for one. My neighbors and I fought it and lost. Now behold the 13-foot "Twiggy House" that stands at the corner of Loquat and Douglas.

This one refers to the family feud we had within the King Mango Strut organization back in 2009.  I lost that one also and haven't gone since. 

We have a lot of these
magnificent birds in the Grove...


Our French neighbor was always
talking about her own way of reducing the peacock population.

Sometimes I lead historic tours in Coconut Grove and sometimes I embellish my spiel a bit. 
And finally,

Miami receives many accolades. Nine years ago they started a list of which cities had the most obese people and guess who won?

Cartooning is great fun and even better when you get paid for it. I appreciate The Herald for giving me the opportunity draw out a few laughs.