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Sunday, October 4, 2015


     I was face-to-face with a three-hundred pound gorilla last week with just a window separating us. Description Eyes of gorilla.jpg  I've been having many amazing moments lately because someone keeps giving us free tickets to cool stuff.

    It's my librarian.  Go to the check-out counter of any public library in Miami-Dade County.  Ask, "What passes do you have?".
     The librarian will show you a list of a dozen or so local attractions.  If you show her a library card she will give you a ticket for four, good for a week.
The zoo deal alone saved us $72.

"Family of four" usually means four adults. At some places they interpret it to be two adults and two kids.  
We have used library passes for admission to the zoo, the Perez and Lowe art museums, and the Fruit and Spice Park lately.  If you want to try this call your local library first.  They can only give one 4-person pass to one attraction per week.  If they don't have what you want, call another one or ask, "When will the (zoo) pass be available again?". 

     There are three libraries within two miles of our house.  We usually use Coconut Grove's. Having less traffic than others, it always had a few of them available.
    It's a great opportunity and who knows? While you're there you just might want to check out a book.  They're free too.

Window in the Lowe's glass collection

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ANOTHER DAY IN COCONUT GROVE- Tonight's Candidate Debate

     I drove away from tonight's District 2 debate thinking, "There wasn't much to put on my blog".  We heard each city commission candidate telling us why he/she was the best but not much else. There are nine seeking office -too many- so we only heard fragments, bits and pieces.
   It was great to be in the Grove Women's Club again. It's been a village treasure for over a hundred years. The club and the North Grove Homeowner's Association did a terrific job of producing the show.  The turnout was good despite the rain.
    I do recall that half of the candidates had memorable things to say. Ken Russell got a good round of applause when he stressed the Grove's uniqueness and and it's "soul". We need someone who will help preserve it. 
    Javier Gonzalez said, "I've been in retail and real estate for 35 years.  I know BS and will do my best to keep it out of City Hall".  
Grace Solares told us she has been fighting for Miami's citizens for over 20 years. She promises "transparency and greater public participation in government" (good applause as well). 
   The candidate sitting next to Teresa Sarnoff  said, "Miami can't take any more Sarnoffs in City Hall" (applause). When it was Teresa's turn she reminded us in her monotone, "I am  proud to be a Sarnoff". She added that she had once operated heavy equipment for her family's road construction business.  Being a lover of tools, that got my attention.

    That was it, short, polite speeches, no  one actually debating each other, none of the fireworks we have come to enjoy watching Republican candidates tear each other apart.  It wasn't allowed. 
   But five weeks from now each of us will vote for one of those folks on stage tonight.  That person will decide much of the future of Coconut Grove.  Tonight's "debate" will help many of us make that decision.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


   It  took twenty years but today, we finally replaced the Grove's decrepit convention center with grass and trees.  For now, they're calling it "Regatta Park", seven expansive acres on Dinner Key. It should be cause for celebration but few attended today's grand opening event.
   There should have been a thousand people enjoying the meandering paths, children's play

 and butterfly garden.    

Heck, even with a live band and free barbecue only 150 showed up.  But those people got to marvel at our beautiful, new, green space.  
They also got to hear our city commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, brag about himself, the park and and his wife. You gotta take the good with the bad.

     Our new public space should be on the water but it is separated from the bay by a parking lot and a huge, ugly building. The $3 million Dock Master's Office is big, condo-big.  We went inside and found the dock master, Steven Bogner, relaxing in the "penthouse suite" (on the upper left of the photo). 

    I asked him why his building was three times the larger than my house. He was very nice in explaining that some of the boaters need a place to shower and to do their laundry.  There was going to be a swimming pool but it got cut from the budget two years ago.

  The spikes outside Steve's office keep the seagulls at bay.
  You can't always get what you want but we spent twenty years trying to create a big, green space at Dinner Key. We have one now.  Stop by and enjoy it.

Postscript:  The new park is still "undiscovered". I went by a week later on a perfect Sunday afternoon.  There were nine people and a dog enjoying the seven acres of trees and grass.


        Remember when Dorothy closed her eyes, clicked her heels and chanted, "There's no bed like home"?  She was feeling it. 
      Francesca and I missed our mattress last summer.  
Beds are a big deal, we spend more time in the bedroom than anywhere else.  
  Above is our bedroom at Brigitte Kavenaugh's house in Josselin, France. It is available on Air B&B.  The bed was a bit..firm but she assured us that she replaced the mattress after we left. 

    Every third store you encounter is trying to sell you the perfect mattress. We were hoping to land on a few when we traveled last summer but it didn't happen. Most mornings we woke up saying, "Let's hope the next bed is better".                    
    Our gite on Isle de Groix had two bedrooms upstairs.  We had to walk through our roommate's to get to ours.  Like most places we visited, the furniture was by IKEA. 

   Our Barcelona bedroom was pie-shaped and had this silly platform in the middle.  Francesca said it looked like an architecture student's first effort. To the right of the hard mattress was the show and to the left, a washing machine.

   You could wash your feet or your clothes without getting out of bed.
  The jumble of cabinetry below got us so confused on our early morning departure we left many things in that bottom drawer.  They may be still there.

We loved our old Travestere apartment in Rome and the bed was pretty good.  The front door was about 20" wide so you had to enter sideways.

There was a gourmet fast food restaurant a minute away and we ate there often.  

 It's the place to go for squash blossom pizza.

 Hard but beautiful, our bed in Venice.  

This place was a mix of 19th century furniture in the bedroom and grandma's favorites in the living room.

      We spent about 24 hours on airplanes that were impossible to sleep in.  

The trip over was torture, I had to spread my legs to fit into my seat.  I was so thrilled to see space in front my knees on our flight From Venice to Paris I took a photo.

    Our apartment in Paris, we think, was a former large closet.  It did fit a bed but not much else.

     Our summer adventures then took us east to California.  My brother Bruce just down-sized from a house to a cottage in St. Luis Obispo.  He has not yet downsized his considerable collection of tools; they now fill his guest room.  The only sleeping space available was in his kitchen.  With our blow-up bed anchored there, refrigerator snacks were just an arm's length away.
Brother-in-law Mario rented a big sailboat for our visit. Once we hit the high seas off Santa Barbara I lost my lunch (as is my sea-going habit).  I then sought refuge on a galley bed.  Francesca took this photo of me sleeping.  The boat was bouncing along at such an angle my window was underwater.

    Our last stop was in the hills of Berkeley, at the home of Francesca's sister, Carmen. The guest room was the one we all dream of, tasteful, spacious, and a balcony looking out to San Francisco Bay.  And the bed? A little harder than we're used to but we didn't complain.

    When we finally got back to Coconut Grove we appreciated our nest more than ever. 
  We climbed in, looked up at the ceiling and said in unison, "Ahhhh". We still laugh when we contemplate "the beds of summer".  

Thursday, September 24, 2015


           We received a new  board game in the mail today, "Sarnoffopoly". It makes fun of the fact that Miami city commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, is trying to create a family dynasty in city hall. Our Coconut Grove representative is term limited so he asked his wife, Teresa, to replace him.
      She is running in the November 3 election  The Sarnoffs have collected almost $900,000 (75% from developers) to pay for their "Vote Teresa" campaign.  This is more than the total amount the other 8 candidates have collected.

    Marc Sarnoff is the same guy who -when he first ran for office nine years ago- was quoted in the The Miami Herald as saying, 

"When somebody gives you half a million dollars, they expect to get a return on their investment. And that return means large high-rise buildings in Miami. That's the bottom line".

    Do you want more high-rise buildings in Miami?  Having the Sarnoffs decide the future of Coconut Grove?

    The "game" was obviously sent out by a competitor who does not want Teresa to win. On the board she is surrounded by the businesses and special interest groups who have stocked her ample campaign war chest.

    The bottom line in this election is Ms. Sarnoff should not win. 

    I know her fairly well. She is a nice person but unqualified to serve our city. Teresa has never participated in politics or done anything significant to help our community.  
   Commissioners are supposed to be leaders and Teresa?  She has never led anything. Please don't tell me about the homeless group her supporters created last year to make her look good.  That doesn't count. Neither does being married to a commissioner.
    Again, I like Ms. Sarnoff but there must be 3000 people in District Two more qualified to serve. 
   If Teresa Sarnoff really wants to play the game she needs do more than give occasional speeches. She must get down in the trenches, get involved in politics and work with our community. Then, if she's lucky, she may be able to prove she is worthy to hold office.
      If people vote for the most qualified candidate  they won't be choosing Teresa Sarnoff.  She's a pleasant person but she hasn't done her homework.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


   We visit friends and family in the Golden State each summer.  Six weeks ago we were wandering between San Francisco and L.A.  

      We always drop in on our Santa Cruz buddy, Adam Steckley,
(That's Adam, me, and my 380 lb. son, Dylan, on a  catamaran. Note: Dylan's actually in great shape. When you stand closer to my camera, it doubles your weight)  Waving to the right is Francesca's brother, Antonio. He bought his house nearby for a dollar. More on that later.
  Adam left Miami a few years ago in search of adventure and  better surf.  He found it on Monterrey Bay and invited our family  to enjoy it on a 60-foot sailboat.

The next day we surfed Las Selva Beach.


 In my optimistic mind I thought I could still ride a wave. 

 (That's The Grove Guy with Dylan and Natalia)

When I paddled out into the the sixty degree water I learned the sad truth,  I'm not much of a surfer guy now. That's is me belly-boarding a four-foot monster.

In Santa Barbara, we ventured out to the Channel Islands with my brother-in-law, Mario. 

 We rowed ashore and explored the cave where they filmed a scene in "Peter Pan".

Two hours up the coast we found my beekeeping brother in St. Luis Obispo

Bruce has one dog, ten thousand bees and a few flies in the kitchen.

The three of us drove to Morro Bay for fish tacos.  This is the big rock that sits  offshore pretending to be a volcano.


   Resuming our coastal journey we watched 3000-pound elephant seals lolling on a warm beach.  They love flipping sand onto themselves.  I'm guessing it's their version of sun block, or, they love the way the wind blows it into tourists' faces.

     Most of coastal California has been protected from development.  You can drive for miles and miles and see nothing but the deep blue sea and incredible natural beauty. 
Don't try that in Florida.
We were on the Pacific Coast Highway heading to Big Sur.  I've been there a dozen times and I often think, "Why am I going there again? 


Then, I see this,

 You could go there ten dozen times and never fail to be amazed.  


We hiked past cows and down to the sea.  Humpback whales were breaching a half-mile out.

 When the 90-mile Big Sur spectacular ended we slipped past Monterey and into farm country. 
 At this produce stand I bought nine pink pumelos for three dollars. When you can find these delicacies in Miami, they're $4 each.



     Brother Antonio and his wife, Michelle, live in Watsonville, the town that produces most of our country's strawberries. The place is surrounded by berries, thousands of acres.    
Heading home from the farmers market


    When Antonio retired from teaching last year he found an even more demanding profession, grandfathering.

Here he is hanging out with grandson, Nicolas. 


   They are standing in front of the house he bought for a buck twenty years ago.
It used to be on the same street six blocks west, next to the Martinelli apple juice factory. 

  When the Martinelli plant needed to expand they had to either raze or move their family home.  They put a sign out front, "House for Sale, $1.00".  


Antonio and Michelle purchased it and moved it down the street.  Imagine finding that at a dollar store.

   Our next stop was a beach house south of Santa Cruz.  We soon discovered we were sharing it with mice.  We tried a "humane" trap that captures them alive. When that failed we went the old-fashioned way. Every time we heard a "thwack!" in the night we knew we had sent another mouse to heaven.


It's a lovely place.  The Pacific surf, just a quarter-mile away, lulled you to sleep at night.

 After a week on Monterey Bay we made our way back to San Francisco. 

 We toured Chinatown with Dylan, Natalia, and Grove friends, Terry and Cynthia.


 On Fisherman's Wharf we ran into more friends, Beyonce

and Johnny Depp.

   After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we made our way to Muir Woods.  We were humbled by huge trees.


   Back in Berkeley, we had to deal with a "family storage unit" in Francesca's sister's basement. We encountered a forest sculpture my dear wife had made in high school.  
   It was woodland wonderland complete with a tree, plants, and animals.  Delicate birds were still flying -hung by thread- forty years after they took wing.



    We took a nostalgic walk in Codornices Park, a block from where my wife grew up.  Entire families were zooming down its ancient concrete slide.  It's a shame we can't have one of these in Coconut Grove.  
    Shooting down is such a thrill.  It so simple, free, and so un-Disney but this time we past it up.  We enjoyed the smiles, the laughter, then headed home to Miami.

                                      You can slide there too.  Just pick up one of the
                                       cardboard "sliders", head up the stairs, and "whoosh"
                                        your way down. All ages are welcome.