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Friday, February 2, 2018


Francesca and I make our own salad dressings.  I gave a bottle of my "miso" to friends in Georgia last week and today, they asked me for the
 I don't have one. I make it up each batch based on my feeble memory and momentary instincts.  I tried putting it on paper and here is what I came up with:

-Start with a third of a pint (about 5 oz.) of miso paste
in your blender (Whole Foods has it)
-Add 1/4 water to that, then toss in
-a cup of oil (olive, safflower, whatever).
-1/4-1/2 of a med. onion

-Fresh ginger, the size of a peach pit.
-2 cloves of crushed garlic (or more! Garlic is as
good as ten mothers)
-a peeled and seeded lemon (or lime)
-tea spoon of fish sauce and a
 -tea spoon of honey (more if you've a sweet tooth!)

-Now pour in 1/3 cup vinegar
-tspn of mustard (takes too long to include vowels sometimes)
   Once in a while I will add a dash of Tabasco sauce just
for the hell of it.
Turn on the blender for 20-30 seconds.

If there are herbs growing in the front yard I will throw in
some leaves of cilantro, parsley, chives, and  Jamaican hibiscus
at this point. I run the blender then just one or two seconds
for these so I can see the herb bits suspended in the liquid.
Give it a taste.
If it seems to lack something, add that.

Again, it's a guessing game writing "my recipe".  Maybe the oil part is 1 1/2 cups.
It fills up 2/3 of our Waring blender and two salad dressing

Have fun with it.  It's hard to go wrong. Whatever you make will be twice as good as the store bought stuff.


Saturday, January 27, 2018


         Our neighbor, artist Mette Tommerup, paints  big and blue. We we were there for the opening of her show last night at the Emerson-Dorsch Gallery in Little Haiti.

    Ocean blue is the dominant color as Mette's Danish veins run with Viking, sea-loving blood.

"Ocean Loop"

Mette, thrilled to see neighbor Davey show up

                     Gallery owners, Brook and Tyler Dorsch
Brook suggested that we climb the staircase to the roof deck.  We did and relaxed on huge pillows as poofy clouds drifting across our town. That was a wonderful but what really got my roof-top attention was the circus tiger cage. 

The owners explained that they have a problem with air conditioners being stolen.  Adding tigers
could make them even more safe.

You too can enjoy Mette's show, at 5900 NW 2d Ave., from now until February 24th.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


       Wouldn't it be great to have a reunion inviting all of your far-flung friends?  I did the next best thing last week. I headed up Florida's east coast for my Old Acquaintances Tour.  In seven days I saw eight friends trading stories along the way. 
Here are some of them.

       My first stop was visiting Polly in West Palm Beach. I had not seen the retired attorney in years. She now volunteers at a fancy thrift shop where I scored this colorful Betty Boop bobble-head.

       Where do people with money go to die? I found one place last Wednesday when I visited Kim and Carol. Last year they shocked me with their news, "We've sold our house and are moving to a retirement facility".  They are the first of my friends to take this step. They now live in "The Waterford", an up-scale old folks home in Juno Beach. I stopped to visit.
       I've known Kim since we were twelve and now, at 71, he and his wife share a beautiful garden bungalow. Every room has a string switch on wall. If you fall (and can't get up), you crawl over to the string, give it a tug, and someone comes to help. They signed a contract that says they will be taken care of "until the end".  
For now I'm taking my chances, no strings attached.

     Pierre and I were  fraternity brothers at the University of Florida fifty years ago. He never left Gainesville choosing to pursue photography and raise a family there. Unfortunately he contracted diabetes and has dealt with it for decades. Despite two liver transplants and failing vision, Pierre soldiers on with a smile on his face and hope in his heart.
      He moved back to the family home in New Smyrna Beach recently where we caught up on a very cold day. Kept warm by his electric fire place, we traded stories then strolled six blocks to greet the roaring Atlantic. With limited vision, he likes living within walking distance to the bars and restaurants of this funky beach town still undiscovered by the Disney crowd.

      Another college buddy, Chuck, is giving a similar seaside town a try.  There is no funk on St. Simons Island, Georgia. He and his wife enjoy a perfectly maintained, historic seaside village surrounded by gated communities, golf courses, and former slave cabins.  Still, they admit, it can be boring at times. They are considering their next move.

    All the beaches I saw were beautiful but after you leave South Florida, the blue water turns  caramel.  It has something to do with churning sand. It limiting a shark's vision is the reason why New Smyrna is called "the shark bite capital of the world" (Pierre and his three children, surfers all, have never been attacked).

       Many of my friends are making their last move, retirees asking themselves, "Where should I spend my final years?".  There are fortunate people who say, "I don't need to go anywhere, where I am is just fine". I have not met many of them yet.        
    As much as I love Coconut Grove, it is not a place for the elderly.  On any walk you risk getting run down by a roaring Harley or electric skateboard. At some point,  Francesca and I will probably look for a final destination too.

        Leaving Georgia I returned to the northeast corner of our state to visit Sally and Morris. They chose Amelia Island after he retired from his university's presidency. They were attracted to its beach-front gated communities and members of their family already living there. It felt safe and pleasant (too cold for the usual no-see-ums when I visited). Most amenities are a golf cart ride away. 
    Miles of marsh lie beyond this sand trap.

  The three of us jumped into their Mini convertible and motored five miles north. After a town tour we stopped at the farmers market in historic Fernandina Beach.

 In forty-degree weather we had our choice of eight different pickles from this vendor.

 Sally, a ceramic artist, was my sixth-grade girlfriend. She stole my heart once more at our fifty-year high school reunion when she flashed the engraved silver necklace  ("GT & SW") that I gave her in 1959.

           American Beach is also on Amelia Island. Thirty years ago I read that is the only beach owned by African Americans in this country. It was a big deal from 1935 to the early 70's.  Now, it is a "ghost beach" waiting to be fixed up or torn down.

     New houses sit like vultures at its edges hungering for American Beach's valuable, forlorn land.  "Nana", at 35-feet Florida's tallest sand dune watches over it all.

      Front yard statues of black children flourished in southern white communities until the civil rights era.  I was shocked to see these two then realized their owners shared the same skin color, long-time residents of American Beach.


  Former Tastee Freeze, American Beach

  It was now time to head west. Gainesville is the home of old friends and the UF, my alma mater. Arriving early, I stopped at the ATO fraternity house I left 48 years ago.  Being the old man visiting my clean-cut, young "brothers" was a bit disconcerting but life, including fraternity life, goes on.

      My friends Ward and Tina love their college town and enjoy living near many, many, friends. Their house is a 1950's "modern" that's in the city but is surrounded by woods. A block away we hiked into a deep forest and found shark-teeth in the stream that ran through it. 

   It was cold but we jumped into Blue Springs anyway.  That's how much we love its clear, languid water that gurgle up north of Gainesville.

    Before I left town I toured one of my favorite places, The Florida Museum of Natural History. 
I marveled again at the Colombian Mastodon skeleton (13 ' high at the shoulder!) and the re-creations of Calusa village life. South Florida once belonged to them.
   I was reminded that our original people lived with Florida's "elephants" 10,000 years ago. Back then a local artist carefully incised this mastodon image into a bone.

     On my final leg south I visited Lake Wales, Florida. It has a Singing Tower and Spook Hill but the big draw is my sister, Donna. She and her husband, Bill, moved here years ago, preferring small town life over Miami.  Maybe coming here was their last move. I have to say their company- and inflatable hot tub- were quite relaxing.

     Just a few hours from Miami, I decided to take the long way home on Highway 27.  A mile down the road I stopped to visit my brother, Clay. Here he enjoys endless views of pastoral pastures. It's the spot he chose as his final destination.

     Long retired. Chairs at American Beach.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


        Last night we won for a change. Developer Andrew Raskin and his attorney came to Miami's City Hall asking for permission to tear down Charlie Cinnamon's historic cottage in South Coconut Grove. Charlie died there, at age 94, fourteen months ago. The city's zoning board voted "no".


    They pointed out that the City of Miami does a poor job of preserving its past. This house was occupied by one of Miami's most colorful and beloved public figures. Charles Cinnamon was South Florida's "Mr. Broadway".  His rich history included fighting in WW II, starting the Coconut Grove Art Festival, and, as a publicist, bringing live theater in South Florida for sixty years.
Everybody loved Charlie for his warm personality and his many good deeds. 

    After he passed, I helped his family sort out decades of awards, theater memorabilia, and the three tuxedos he wore to opening nights. They filled his charming, 1919 cottage which is nestled in a expansive park-like setting.
                         Charlie's front lawn

      The house was filled with beautiful art when Charlie died.

    Developer Raskin bought the cottage on its double lot knowing its rich history. He wants to  build an huge, 7,400 square-foot house there, a big white box that will be much larger than the houses around it (our 1930 cottage, four doors down, is 22%  the size of his proposed mega-structure). Raskin's plans included replacing Charlie's cottage with a swimming pool.
      A zoning board member pointed out, "You still have room for pool and your mansion while leaving Charlie's house intact".  Raskin's attorney responded by saying that the house was a a tear-down, an "old shack", and that hauling it away it will allow for more "green space". Most board members were not impressed. They knew it was occupied recently. Until two months ago, the developer had been using it for his office.

 TWO FOUNDERS -  Charlie posing in his front yard with Herb Hiller as they participated in 2014's King Mango Bike Parade.  Each of two founded great Grove events, the annual art festival and the West Grove's Goombay Festival.

       The zoning board pointed out that there was no public record of the City's preservation office considering the house's history.  Their "notes" only said that the property's trees should preserved.  No one from our city's commission was there to fight for the house.  
    Grove Attorney Tucker Gibbs made a great argument for saving the structure. Six of us neighbors backed him by asking the board, "Please help us save Charlie's house. It represents Miami's history and what we love about Coconut Grove".

      Most of the board members seemed to agree. After 90 minutes of testimony and discussion, they voted 5 to 3 save the old, wooden cottage.
     The developer may contest the decision in court.  If he does, we will be there to fight for Charlie and historic preservation again.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


       In the 70's you'd see sailors in uniform marching in a parking lot on South Bayshore Drive. They were training at Coconut Grove's Naval Reserve Center across from Shake-a-Leg.
    In the 80's the federal government closed it and gave the property to the City of Miami. For a couple years we argued about whether these three acres should become an art center or a homeless shelter. While we were arguing the city sold it to a developer. He built a huge condo there,
The Grosvenor House.  The public got nothing.


 The same thing could happen to the Grove Playhouse. While the State of Florida owns the closed facility, we spend years arguing about its future. 
     Who knows? Our state leaders may give up on us and sell the property to another condo king.  The county, who has promised $20 million in bond money for the project, could back out too.

     I am tired of this sad, hulking mass festering on Main Highway. When our playhouse failed for the umpteenth time, and closed eleven years ago, we expected something to happen. We thought our elected officials would come up with a plan to either fix it up or tear it down. 
     Their efforts have led to nothing.
   When I pointed this out to Ken Russell, our latest  Coconut Grove city commissioner, he smiled and said, "It takes time to get it right". 
    That's a lot of "hooey". He had a plan but was not sharing it with me. 

      It does take time but not eleven years. What you do is work with groups of talented, committed citizens. You ask them to  come up with detailed proposals, ones that are aesthetically pleasing and economically viable. You then  choose the best one and go with it.
     That's what we expected our leaders to do years ago.
     These proposals could range from restoring the original 1200-seat movie theater (it is a very old movie theater modified in the 1950's for live productions) or tear the damn thing down and build a spectacular park.  
   Our local leaders gathering at "The Grove"in 1946. The playhouse was a movie theater for its first thirty years.

     In the middle of these two extremes is a mixed-use theater development that addresses the realities of our times and the community's needs.
Two groups recently emerged with competing plans to revive the playhouse.  Let's call them "300" and "700" (based on their proposed theater seating).
      The "300" group wants to completely restore the building that fronts Main Highway, what most of us think of as "The Grove Playhouse" (above). 
  The huge auditorium behind the entrance building (below)

would be replaced with a modern 300-seat theater, multi-level parking garage, and retail space. Their plans to finance it are in place. Proponents have cleared up all the title problems. A leading regional regional theater, GablesStage, has agreed to operate the facility and FIU has offered a Master's program as a part of the plan. The 300 group has done its "homework"

    I like"300" design because it is well thought out and it has a theater size that is commercially viable. In addition, it will cause less traffic congestion than the other proposal.

      The "700" group wants to restore the entire building that exists now -including the auditorium in the back- what we call the "gray whale".
   The grey whale is the bulging auditorium behind the theater's historic entrance/office building that fronts Main Highway. 
       The whale is certainly historic, nearly 100-years old. The 700 group want to build two theaters. One inside with 700 seats and a smaller, separate 200-seat room. I like the fact that this group is attempting to preserve an old building. Unfortunately, this ancient, empty space can not pay its way. Their plan to sell tickets for the 900 seats is not based on reality.  

     I have watched the Grove Playhouse die again and again because they could not "fill seats". Obviously, the 700 plan requires a much larger parking garage and will result in greater traffic congestion in Coconut Grove.
       For the past two years, Plan 700 has gotten little traction. Their group has made a lot of noise but their ideas have never seemed grounded or well thought out.

In the morning light, the gray whale can look blue.

    On the other hand, the Plan 300 folks moved ahead with county-support and detailed plans. They would  restore the most important part of our beloved landmark while building a modern facility behind it to house the theater.  The 300 leaders had a number of community meetings to present and discuss these plans. Until two weeks ago their proposal was moving along nicely; it could have broken ground in the coming year.
      Then, at a late night meeting in mid-December, the Miami city commission decided to derail the project. They voted to undermine Plan 300 by requiring "certain conditions" before it could move ahead.  These conditions are unreasonable and difficult to meet. Were the commissioners doing this because they thought Plan 700 was better, or, for other reasons?  
They aren't saying.
         We do know Ken Russell, the Grove's commissioner, led the derailment. As he did he said nothing about Plan 700's leader, Mike Eidson, contributing $2,700 to Russell's latest political campaign. Eidson's wife gave him $2700 as well.  Our new Mayor, Francis Suarez, who supports  Russell and the 700 plan, received $500,000 that Mike Eidson raised for his recent mayoral campaign.

      Call me naive but why can't our politicians be open about how they are influenced by the money they rake it to further their own political ambitions?  Why can't they say -truthfully or not- "I'm supporting this guy's plan to restore the playhouse and it has nothing to do with the fat checks he keeps handing me"?  

    If our city commission had considered what is best for the Grove -and not what is best for themselves- they would be supporting the 300-seat playhouse plan that is both realistic and economically viable. I am confident that most knowledgeable Grove citizens support the 300 plan as well.   
     In the mean time I expect our leaders will sit back and count their contributions while the gray whale continues to rot. Hopefully, the stench will not continue for another eleven years.
      Don't be surprised if the State, smelling money, sells the property to a developer. We'll have a Grosvenor House where we once had a playhouse. That's how it goes in Coconut Grove.


A broken old air conditioner is the only thing smiling at the playhouse these days.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017


     Need to perk up your home? Got a hole in the living room wall?  Maybe you need a King Mango banner!
      For three decades I painted these signs for the Grove's King Mango Strut parade. They were the ones leading the groups as they marched.
Most were painted quickly on colored paper.  They only had to last an hour.
      I was cleaning out my attic yesterday and found a few. I asked my son-in-law, "What do I do with these?".  
     Carlos suggested that I sell them.  I then recalled a time when I was younger, renting funky old houses with wall space to spare.  I thought,
"Yeah, maybe someone wants these".
    So here they are, five original King Mango banners offered for sale at prices less than the cost of the paper and paint it took to make them.
   The one below led our Marching Oil Slick twelve years ago.  We've had about three slicks since the Strut started in 1982.  Every time  BP or its friends dumped millions of crude we follow up with some slick, Strut humor.
Paint on paper reminiscent of water, 30" x 70", $6.

Eight years ago we had a King Mango parade in South Miami.  This'n led our effort, $8.

   A big part of every Strut is the Little Miss Mango procession.  Usually a dozen or two young girls vie for the crown.  After the judges convene, and decide, all girls tie for first place. Every one gets a tiara and sash. Each has her dream come true, becoming Little Miss Mango. 
Pink paper, gold glitter,   $7
    A school from West Kendall had a rockin' rhythm band in one of our parades.  $3.

    Unfortunately the Strut has changed and I no longer attend. We used to have unique grand marshals like Austin Burke, Janet Reno, and in 2008, an exceptional white chicken, "Mr. Clucky". He became famous for riding around South Beach in his owner's bicycle basket. 

Eileen and Bob Brennan gave me a Mr. Clucky mug for Christmas nine years ago.
   This redhead was such a Strut celebrity we had a  funeral for him in the parade after he died two years later. This was the banner honoring our dear friend back then.  There will never be a rooster like Mr. Clucky so this one is going for serious money, $12.

    If you'd like to purchase a banner, I will be happy to deliver it to my front gate, rolled and wrapped with a 100% cotton string.

      I'm holding on to a few others. The one below will be displayed at Miami's historical museum in their "Street Miami" exhibit beginning in February, 2018.  The mask will be there too.