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Monday, March 23, 2015

SURROUNDED BY SNAKES

     We spent last weekend camping in the Florida Everglades. It was beautiful but we didn't see any of the marsh rabbits we enjoyed there years ago. Twenty-six of them were recently released in the national park fitted with radio tracking devices. 
    When scientists began hunting them down they found 17 of the devices beep-beeping inside Burmese pythons. The huge snakes have taken over Everglades National Park with a population exceeding 10,000.  

Burmese Python and Other Invasive Species Wrecking the Ecosystem
                                                                           It's a sobering thought, 95% of the small mammals have disappeared since people started setting their pet pythons free in  South Florida years ago.  We never see raccoons, possums, or rabbits  when we go there now.  
   We don't see snakes either. Last year the park superintendent told us, "They're all over but they know how to hide. Holding a tracking device, I can be standing four-feet from one and still not see it in the brush".   
    2014's much publicized  python hunt only yielded fifty.  Unfortunately there is no remedy in sight.
 
    Last Saturday we hiked through a dense hammock keeping the kids close. A 65-pound deer was found inside an 18-footer two years ago. The slithering creatures are ripping up the park's food chain and will soon head north. 
   What's next on python menu? Maybe Mickey Mouse.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

OUR BIG BLUE ELEPHANT (Go Home Kevin Spacey)

      Thanks Kevin Spacey... but the Coconut Grove Playhouse doesn't need your celebrity to save it.

It died seven years ago. Too large for the times, financial problems forced it to shut down. The big, blue elephant is now a city block of rot on the Grove's main thoroughfare.

    Once a symbol of our village's popularity and creative spirit, it is now an icon of failed politicians, leaders who take us nowhere while the elephant decays.

      We finally saw light last year. Working with Florida International University, local theater company, GablesStage, offered a well thought-out plan to build a smaller regional theater to replace the shuttered hulk that shames our town center.  Their ultra-talented artistic director, Joe Adler, lead this effort. 

     I like the idea of Joe's 300-seat theater. It fits the scale of the Grove, a "small town in a big city". It does not bring with it the traffic/parking problems that a larger theater would.
    I have known Mr. Adler since the late 70's. He is an outstanding leader, a dynamo of creative energy. Unlike most of our politicians, he gets things done.


 AND THEN ALONG COMES KEVIN   
     Just when it seemed we had a realistic plan to get us out of this mess, a few local leaders screwed it up. One of them contacted actor Kevin Spacey who was here last December basking in the Art Basel sun. When asked, "Can you offer suggestions on how to revive our Grove Playhouse?", Spacey unfortunately said, "Yes".
    
 He said, "Build it bigger!" (something more "spacey"), as if he knew what our community needs.  As a result, people with clout are now ga-ga over the possibility that Kevin might visit us occasionally and offer suggestions. This will happen only if we build a bigger playhouse, one that will accommodate his considerable talent and ego.
     At an important County Hall meeting last Thursday, our leaders heard two hours of discussion on whether we should go ahead with the sensible GablesStage plan or pump it up to create a Kevin Spacey R Us 700-seat venue.

      Rather than give the Grove what it sorely needs, the County Commission voted to consider both plans, one that would give us (I'm not making this up) two theaters.  Our leaders stand mesmerized by Kevin while the elephant rots. 
 

      
     We don't need two theaters. We don't need Spacey's big bundle that will be hard to fill and make the Grove's traffic worse. We don't need the influence of a Hollywood star that has said he is "interested" in our dilemma but has committed to nothing. 
    Remember when Madonna and Sylvester Stallone moved to the Grove? All we got from their two-year visits were "Stallonegate" and  the material girl posing naked on the bay in her book,"Sex".

     Wipe the stars from your eyes Coconut Grove.  Here's a chance to create something outstanding for our ailing artistic community. Send Kevin back to his house of cards and support the hometown boy.  Joe Adler and his group offer us the best chance to revive the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

IT ONLY HAPPENS ONCE EVERY HUNDRED YEARS

Our dog, 3.1415 (a/k/a "Pi")  wishes you the best on this The Ultimate Pi Day, 3.14.15 .

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stop By the Art Show on Sunday

        A Colorado friend asked what I'll be showing at Sunday's Gifford Lane art show.  Here's a sample, I put a few things on the blog two days ago (the entry below) and I've added more to this'n.
     Francesca and I will be manning booth #1. It's on a corner just across from the tennis courts.
The little festival is a lot of fun and we hope to see you there (noon to 5 pm).  There's lots of interesting things to see under the shading oaks along with live music,  food, and free cucumber punch!

    This year I made many milk jug masks, the usual fish, and a few paintings. 
     Here are some of the art works you'll find on our corner...


 


Many masks made from plastic containers.  Here are the Elephant and Pelican. They can be worn. The others below are wall-mounted.




 













     A dozen palm tree fish.  These two are nearly 6-feet long.

 



I've done some painting.  I enjoy these wild abstracts.  They add excitement to a drab wall.



    Each of them is 4' x 2'
 

I made several driftwood frames and added prints like this one,

 

 
And finally, "Sailing Buddies", 12"x18" on wood.
 






Gifford Lane is one block east of SW 32 Ave and two blocks north of the Grove's main thoroughfare, Grand Ave.  Walk, ride a bike and if you drive, park where you can. There is are lots on the south side of Grand a block east of 32nd and at Oak and Mary St.
   We hope to see you manana. Let's hope for good weather and gathering of good friends.
                    ____________________

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A TALE OF TWO ART FESTIVALS

    In a span of two weeks Coconut Grove has two very different art festivals, the gigantic Coconut Grove Art Festival and the wonderfully diminutive Gifford Lane Art Stroll.


    The Big One blew through here 11 days ago.  Prior to its official opening on Friday there is always a V.I.P. preview.  In many ways, the preview is the fair because that's when wealthy buyers have the festival to themselves, the chance to snap 
up the best stuff.
 New Buicks for sale        After that, the Grove show becomes a pop-up museum where regular folks to pay 15 bucks to see the art that they can't afford (Did you buy anything there last week?).
We went early to avoid being herded like cattle.  

     The smaller Gifford Lane show will dazzle again on Sunday, March 1, from noon to five. 
It is free and much more fun than being on the Big One's cattle drive. Gifford Lane has another outstanding quality, people who don't run hedge funds can afford the art.
   Let's do a quick comparison,



At the Grove Festival you could have bought this  chromium dog for $2500.














 At the Gifford Lane Festival on Sunday you can purchase this outstanding red pig for $25.  

Goodness, that's a 99% savings!










Eleven days ago you could have bought this mask for $2200. 




At the Grove show I'll sell you this'n for $22. 


And the bargains don't stop,

At the Megafest we met a lovely jeweler who was offering this black pipe thing for $500.







On Sunday you can score a designer shark tooth necklace for five smackaroos.


  Is sculpture your thing?  We saw this fine figure last week for $1400.  










This gal will go at the Art Stroll for a mere $14.






Like paintings?  I saw this field on fire  ($1800) at the Giganto Show.  



You could  buy at least a dozen original paintings on Gifford Lane with all that cash.  No one needs this much art but you could give ten of them to friends next Christmas.


"Someday" from my re-directed thrift shop paintings series.  30" x 18".  $35 









"Dang!" 48" x 48"  $120.



The Too Big Festival was selling its ugly t-shirts
(and ugly posters) for $25.  

On Sunday you can wear a smiling mango for $15. 

You catch my drift. 


Even if you're house is too stuffed for more art come to Sunday's the show. 

                                  Two of the Grove Guy's Palm Tree Fish

You'll enjoy the food, music, and seeing your friends. The weather is going to be perfect and you'll go home saying, "I had a great time". 
                   _______________________

Gifford Lane is in the center Grove, one block east of SW 37 Ave. and two blocks north of Grand Ave.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

LOOPED IN THE SWAMP

   Last weekend four of us explored a place we had never been, Loop Road in the Great Cypress Swamp.  This 24 miles of gravel, just west of Miami, was once part of the Tamiami Trail. It takes you past the strange places you'd expect in a swamp... hunting camps, paths to nowhere, and the town of Pinecrest (population 6). 
  
     As we drifted in I thought I could hear the theme from Deliverance playing in the backgound. Pinecrest had a long-deserted gas station, a rusting '52 Dodge, and a purple pant-suited person who emerged from a trailer to question us. She asked me the year of my pickup (we were driving a sedan).  I asked her where the gators were. "All ova", she replied.
    
    When I told her we were looking for Lucky Cole she lightened up. I actually hadn't seen the guy for fifty years but we both grew up in Miami Springs.
   Several years ago I had read an article about him in New Times. It made him seem like a mountain man without the mountains, keenly interested in guns, gators, motorcycles, and swamp women. He had a weekend beer joint on this wilderness trail and was known for photographing biker mamas, naked, at his hunting camp.

    It was Valentines Day and I suggested that we mosey on over to Lucky's camp for valentine portraits.                                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                        Lucky's Place

Francesca and Kay thought I was joking.  Dave was not sure.
      A half-mile later, when Dave saw the "Lucky's Place" sign, he stopped the car.  I jumped out to peer over a locked gate. I yelled for the tall boy I had known in the fourth grade.  Lucky was either not there or he could not hear me. I recalled he was drafted by the Army in '67 then discharged from boot camp because he was half-deaf. Some would say this made him, indeed, lucky.
   When I returned to the car and told the girls I could not find him Francesca said, "Lucky for us".

    Two miles further we pulled into a trail parking lot. A family of four stood together smiling gleefully at the sky.  I thought they were experiencing the beginning of the Rapture but then heard what sounded like a swarm of bees.  I looked up and realized they were posing for a hovering camera-drone. Toys like that might put Lucky Cole out of business someday.

   We drove further west on the narrow passage  that's underwater four months of the year.  Suddenly it blocked by a brown animal with a billowing bushy tail. When we got out for a closer look it sat up on its haunches and stared us down. 
   
 "What is it?" Francesca asked, "A mongoose?"  "No," I replied, "it's a large squirrel like we've never seen before. I think he wants us to leave".       
As we prepared to he left himself. 
Later we learned it was a fox squirrel, a solitary animal that is quite rare.


      We drove on, enjoyed a picnic lunch, hiked through a dwarf cypress forest, and finally looped back to Miami 45 miles east. 
    
  We never saw any alligators. I think they were eaten by the squirrel.






______________________________________


                                                 
If you'd like to know more about Loop Road, follow this link:

http://www.nps.gov/bicy/planyourvisit/upload/BICY-Loop-Road-Scenic-Road-FINAL-2.pdf

   


Saturday, February 14, 2015

LIVING INSIDE THE EARTH


   I teach kids five days a week.  Wouldn't be interesting if I grabbed my classroom's globe, sliced it in half, and convinced my students that we live on the inside?  
  They're young and I could probably could do just that. 


    Dr. Cyrus Teed did it -teaching adults- 120 years ago.  He convinced hundreds of Chicagoans that we lived inside the earth, part of a new religion he invented, called Koreshanity. The "Koreshans" bought 300 acres south of Ft. Meyers to form a new utopia, an expanding city that would eventually have room for 10 million devotees.
    It didn't work out that way; the last Koreshan died 40 years ago.  Their "utopia" is now a state park.  
   Last week we toured the remains of their failed dreams.  Most of the their furnished buildings are still there, kept in great shape by park rangers and volunteers.
    This is my bicycle and the House of the Planetary Court. 
 
 Seven celibate women (there were seven known planets at the time) lived in the Court's seven bedrooms.  They governed the Koreshan Unity Society.

 
    


The Art Hall was used for concerts  and elaborate performances.  Below is a photo from one of them.


 
  Most of the devotees were well-educated, from middle and upper class backgrounds ( Isn't that Howard Stern in the back with the big hair?)
 
                  Koreshans made their own electricity



     I love stumbling upon these odd pieces of history.  I learned that Doc Teed, disappointed with practicing medicine and the horrors of the Civil War, turned to alchemy.  In 1869, while charging an experimental battery, he was nearly electrocuted.  He called this near-death experience "The Illumination" in which God revealed "the truth". The Big Guy told Cyrus that he was down with all things Christian he added that we were living in a shell, you could reincarnate through celibacy, and many other grand ideas including "You Cyrus, like Jesus, will be my new prophet".    
    This should be a lesson to all of us who like to fool around with large batteries.
 
   
     It took another 25 years to convince enough people to follow the inside of shell south to Florida, not unlike Brigham Young & company heading west. 
    Teed died in 1906 but his group hung in there for another fifty years.  In they end they cut a deal with the state, "We'll give you our property if you preserve it and let people know who we were".

   The Sunshine State has done just that. The many buildings are kept up and look like they did a century ago.   There are roomy campsites, hiking trails,  and canoes to rent on the Estero River.

     It's a beautiful place to visit. You too can be a Koreshan for a day, just two hours west of Miami.  





                                                       ____________________________

    This concludes my recollections of our recent trip North.  Now go make your true love a valentine.

If you're in Coconut Grove, consider leaving for awhile (we're heading for the Everglades). Why?
The Grove Art Festival has taken over our fair village. Many consider it a great time to depart. 
Ye gads, they've taken "Coconut Grove" out of the name.  I see it is now the "CGAF"  which sounds like a a boring corporate giant, which, in fact, it is.

Why does everything have to grow until we can't enjoy it anymore?
I know the answer and it fills the long groove in your wallet.
 
For the next three days local traffic will be horrible and the crowded art show?  Too big and commercial for many of us to enjoy. Tickets have been pumped up to $15 (there's a discount for Grove residents).   It was free for 48 years...but there's a wonderful, non-crowded, free art festival coming up.
Mark your calendar for Sunday, March 1.  
That's when the Grove has its one-day, non-commercial art festival, the Gifford Land Art Stroll
More on that next week.
                              _________________________