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Saturday, May 16, 2015

TED HENDRICKS, OUR OWN GREEN GIANT




     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.

 

OTHER SPORTS HEROES

      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

THE GROVE GUY TOUR

         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

REELING THROUGH THE YEARS

    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.

Friday, April 24, 2015

DOES MIAMI NEED A 600-FOOT JUMBOTRON?

      On Monday, bad taste may reach new heights in the City of Miami, 633- feet, to be exact.
That's how tall "Innovation Tower" will be, the proposed skyscraper/billboard for downtown Miami near I-95 and NW 10th Street.
Last Monday the city commission were slated to cast their votes for this towering television disguised as a building.
      The entire structure will function as a billboard covered with 85,000 bright, little lights to create animated ads.  It will be a 600-foot, 24/7 Jumbotron.  
 Simkin's tower, sans Jumbotron, looks like a paintbrush.

Imagine watching an  Depends commercial from twenty miles away. 

   I wish I was making this up.

    But we saw the tower  thrusting up from last Friday's Miami Herald. This was the first time the public learned of this hair-brained idea. The article had its developer, Michael Simkins touting, "it will elevate the city's brand on a global scale". 
   If our brand is "Greedy, Ugly, and Stupid" he's right. Global too, the whole world will be laughing at us (again). 
   Miami had class when it banned billboards a few years ago. Aesthetics began to rule the roads. Then the billboards and banners slowly started rising as Miami's commissioners lowered their standards.

   The Herald pointed out that Simkins has been quietly pushing this project for over a year.  He's hired one commissioner's aunt to lobby for the project and has stuffed $5000 into the pockets of another commissioner's wife (this being Teresa, wife of Marc Sarnoff, who's "pocket" holds her city commission campaign fund).  I'm pretty sure how she'd vote on this one.

    When I told a female friend of Simkin's proposal she grew irate saying, "I'm so sick of men running this town with their concrete erections."  Maybe she's right, perhaps we need a commissioner of the fairer sex. Four are running for Sarnoff's seat, along with five men.

    Two-acres of television in the sky will give Miami another black eye.  Anyone with half-a-brain knows that. But what of our city commissioners who have less than half-a-brain? 
Call them.  Send them e-mails today.  Let them know you don't want Miami's skyline mucked-up by a 600-foot Jumbotron.  
  
   Miami can do better than "greedy, ugly, and stupid".
                            ___________
 Note, 4-30-15:
  At last Monday's meeting, the commissioners faced a roomful of people opposing the glowing monster (they were not allowed to speak).   The commissioners decided to postpone their decision until the summer (June 28th).  There will be less people in town then to oppose their greedy, hair-brained, nightmare-of-a-tower.
 
                                 ______________________________________________

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MARJORY'S HOUSE, Our New National Landmark in Coconut Grove!


         Sometimes you win and today, we won one for Coconut Grove legend, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.Marjory Stoneman Douglas's Home

     Six hours ago, President Obama visited South Florida's Everglades National Park. In his Earth Day speech he announced that the Park Service will designate Ms. Douglas' South Grove cottage as a national historic landmark. 
     
    This is great news. Her former Coconut Grove home (3744 Stewart Avenue) has been ignored for years.The feisty writer led the Save the Everglades movement during her long lifetime. The President's speech delighted everyone who cares about the South Florida's environment, historic preservation and Ms. Douglas' legacy.  

    
A color photograph of Marjory Stoneman Douglas late in her life. She is shown in profile, seated, with a cat on her lap. She is white-haired tanned and wrinkled. She wears a lapelled jacket and low-brimmed straw hat. She and the cat gaze at each other lovingly.    The journalist/ environmentalist/ feminist died in 1998 at the age of 109. She left her house to the State of Florida so it could be used to carry on her work. Unfortunately, our Tallahassee leaders did nothing, leaving it unmarked and unloved. Eight years ago they began allowing a park ranger to live there. 
    Marjory's friends have spent almost two decades trying to preserve the house and open it to the public. Ten years ago the state and some angry neighbors tried to have it cut up and moved south to Fairchild Gardens. 
    What an awful idea that was.
We stopped it with vigorous protests led by the "Marching Marjorys". 25 of us, dressed as our big-hatted environmental saint, raised hell in that year's King Mango Strut parade.

    Then there was nothing...one long dreary decade until today. I am thrilled and hope you are too. Marjory deserves this and much more.

     Thank you Mr. President, for coming to South Florida. Your visit shines much-needed light on the world's environmental issues, our depleted Everglades, and the Grove's forgotten treasure on Stewart Avenue.
I just contacted all of the Marching Marjory's (including our three sons) to share the good news. 
We're ready to  march for you anytime.  
                _____________

Monday, April 20, 2015

DOCTOR ROGER- TRIAL BY FIRE

    Who can forget the image of the burning girl? In this June 8, 1972 photo, crying children, including Kim Phuc, center, run from a burning Vietnamese village after a napalm attack.She runs from her Vietnamese village after a 1972 napalm attack. Screaming, "Too hot, too hot!", her clothes and skin have been torn away by fire.  

     New York firemen couldn't forget it either.  They wanted to fly her here for help.  Unfortunately there was no place in New York City to properly treat her third-degree burns.
    The girl, Phan Kim Phuc, survived receiving treatment in Viet Nam from local and American physicians. The New York Firefighters Foundation began raising funds to created a local burn unit, a specialized facility to treat burn victims like nine-year-old Kim. They succeeded and it opened in 1977.
     Three weeks ago we were touring the facility at New York Presbyterian Hospital, the biggest and possibly the best in the country.  It is located on the upper-east side of Manhattan. Our guide was the unit's director and chief surgeon, Dr. Roger Yurt. He's been treating patients there since 1983.

    Dr. Yurt married my sister, Joan, many years ago and has put up with me ever since. I ask a lot of questions and after an hour with him I was ready to do a little surgery myself.                     Roger, Francesca, Joan and The Grove Guy

    Fortunately, that didn't happen.  I did learn that
the hospital's burn center treats over a thousand patients a year.  On our tour we visited the submarine-like hyperbaric chamber  (for treating smoke inhalation), saw many bandaged patients, and visited the debriding room. That's where new burn patients have their wounds washed and dead and contaminated skin is cut away.


     Brother Roger will retire in June.  Last fall he was feted at the Plaza as the hospital's "Doctor of the Year".  He is a hero to many, especially "the burned". He is praised in the several books written by his patients about their trials by fire. In the late 90's Time magazine featured Roger and his surgical team. 

   
 In my brother-in-law's office I saw a fireman's hat.  The burn surgeon told me it had been given to him by the Firemen's Foundation in appreciation for his helping survivors of the 9-11 tragedy. 

   9-11 letter of appreciation. One of many in the unit's hallway.  

    When the planes hit the World Trade Center a few miles south, Roger's 40-bed unit was expected to overflow with new patients.  On that horrific day only received 22 people were brought to the burn center.  One person told me,  "While there were thousands killed, there were a relatively low number of injuries. If you were in the towers you most likely escaped unscathed or did not survive".
    Dr. Yurt's hat bears the number "343", the number of firemen killed that day. 
  
     Kim Phuc, now 52, survived her injuries.  She is now a U.N. goodwill ambassador helping victims of war.  In 2009 she attended the World Burn Congress in New York City, speaking up for  people injured by fire.  While there, she took the time to thank Dr. Yurt and his unit for their important work.   

      The Terry clan thanks him as well.  Good luck,  Joan and Roger, in the golden years ahead.  
                   
                       _________________



More about burns,

       In New York learned that most burns are seasonal, caused by heaters in the winter and barbeques in the summer.  
       It doesn't take much. You will receive a third-degree burn if your skin is exposed to 155 degree heat for one second (your water heater is probably set at 140.  A couple of seconds of 140 degree heat will destroy your skin as well).

        The treatment of burns has greatly improved in the last forty years mainly due to improved early surgical procedures. In 1975 your chances of surviving third-degree burns were roughly calculated by adding your age to the percentage of your skin loss (a twenty-year-old with fifty-percent of his exterior receiving third-degree burns would have a 30 percent chance of surviving).  Now, it would be twice that, 60%.
    The biggest challenge is to prevent burns in the first place.  That can be done with improved parenting, fewer drunks falling into their grills and educating the public. Roger's burn unit has an extensive educational outreach program to help with that.
     We brought a few Don't Get Burned brochures home.

That's it from the Grove Guy.  Have a safe summer.
                                   ___________________