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Friday, October 13, 2017

KITTY''S GOOD NEWS


   We always want to hear good news. Kitty Roedel gives us the latest at our monthly Progressive Miami meetings. Here’s her Top Ten from Wednesday night:

1. We’re still here. Our country is not yet engaged in a nuclear war with North Korea..
2. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the President “a fucking moron” after #45 suggested
that we increase
our county’s huge nuclear arsenal ten-fold.
3. Pro-life representative, Tim Murphy (Penn.) resigned after he asked his pregnant mistress to get an abortion.


4. The Republican’s third attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed.

5. The group of prominent rabbis who visit the President annually cancelled
after his Charlottesville remarks.
6. The mother of Heather Heyer (who was killed at Charlottesville) refused to speak
to #45 after he called to wish her his warm condolences.

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7. Steve Bannon no longer haunts the White House.

8. Many states are removing their Confederate monuments.
9. Every week more football players take a knee despite #45’s threats.
10. Tennesee’s Bob Corker became to first Senator to take on the President directly saying he ran the Presidency as if it were “reality show” and that the White House has become “an adult daycare center”.

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Thank you, Kitty.  We needed that.

Friday, October 6, 2017

THE FULL MONTY'S







         Last week Miami voters received huge post cards telling them to "Vote YES on Monty's".

    What's that about?  We know that Monty's has been a popular Coconut Grove waterfront restaurant for 48 years. The original owner, Monty Trainer, sold it to developers long ago.

    When I arrived in the mid-70's it was a funky beer shack serving fish sandwiches much like Scotty's Landing does today.                     Dining by the bay at Scotty's

  It was what locals needed, a casual place to relax, have dinner and stare out at Biscayne Bay. Monty's was very "Coconut Grove".

    That changed when the developers took over. It was re-built into a small mall and the  restaurant expanded to 800 seats. The bay view was blocked with a super-sized marina crammed with expensive boats. Tourists took over and the locals stopped going there.

   
    Every twenty years or so the property's lease comes up for renewal and the City of Miami, who owns it, decides what happens next. The present owners, a group of developers led by Jose Hevia, wants their lease extended 52 years (32 years plus options for 20 more). This extension requires voter approval. That's why we're getting post cards. That's why Hevia & Co. are asking us to vote YES.
    They want another 52 years so they can get make gobs of money -which is good business- but what are we getting in return? The answers are hazy.

    How should you vote? I have no idea. Maybe it is a good deal or maybe it stinks. 
I do know voters are being kept in the dark.  The post cards tell us next to nothing about the issues. They assume we are stupid, which sadly, we are. Look who's tossing paper towels in Puerto Rico.
 
 After every hurricane we get a water view returns to Monty's for a month.  After that, it goes away when the boats return.


    Monty's sits on public property. We own the land. Why wasn't the public invited to the discuss it's future when the City saw the lease term ending?  Why didn't the City consider knocking Monty's down and turning into a public park?  It's not a crazy idea, just one alternative that I happen to like. I guess citizen input isn't important to our city's leaders.

    When it comes to leasing public land, the City of Miami has a black eye. The one we remember best came from a baseball, the city's tarnished lease of the Marlins' stadium property. We got screwed big time on that.

     Last July 17th, the Miami city commission approved a resolution that waived a discussion of the Grove property's future, eliminated competitive bidding by other developers, and allowed the present owners to put their 52-year proposed lease extension up for a Nov. 7th vote.

       This insures that the developers will win. Why?  They have $millions and the Miami city commission in their pockets. This deal is going down quickly before any discussion can take place and any opposition can form.
   Only the developers have the money to buy TV and radio ads. Their PR people will continue to stuff our mailboxes with their  annoying postcards. The ads will make the half-century extension sound like a gift from God.

   That's how the City and their developer friends pushed the Grove Bay Mall through -another public waterfront property 150 yards south of Monty's- four years ago. Grove Bay is now replacing Scotty's Landing and everything around it with a Don Shula's Steakhouse, mega-parking garage, and all other sorts of mall-like splendor.

A CENTURY OF 
    
    Why didn't the city propose another twenty year lease?  Maybe we'll have a better use for this property in 2037.  It seems like a bad idea, putting it private hands for another 52 years.  With the 48 already accumulated, in the year 2069 we can celebrate the grand centennial of Monty's fish sandwich.

      Is that what you want?  If most voters approve the proposal the developers will control the land until we  are all dead and our children are living in nursing homes.

 WHAT TO WE GET OUT OF IT?


     In exchange for the lease extension the developers will spend $7.5 million to improve the property (the price of a small bayfront house ) and give the City $200,000 a year (the cost of renting one). Does that seem adequate?  The proposal also says Hevia & Friends will contribute $50,000 a year for affordable housing.  Wha? What does that have to do with the price of fish sandwiches? 

     The silly post cards tug at our heartstrings as well (why not? We really are stupid) by saying Monty's owners need this extension to rebuild its hurricane-damaged marina.  Are you serious? That's what their property insurance is for.  
    Is anyone talking about Monty's being underwater fifty years from now?  Irma washed it our pretty well last month.  The complexwill be inundated by sea-level rise before the lease ends. Should the lease consider how this problem will be addressed?  No one likes conch fritters dipped in seawater.
 


     Before the City decided the property's fate last July, voters should have been told details of the developers' planned renovations.  Will we be getting another Grove Bay?  Will our limited access to the bay be decreased?  We can barely see the water now but the post card promises "improved waterfront views". What does that mean? Will they build a stairway going up to the renovated restaurant's roof? Will that allow us to peer out to sea over the renovated marina that will protrude even further into what once was a marine sanctuary?

    The bottom line is we have no clear idea what voting "yes" means. We have no independent body assessing the developer's proposal or what could be reasonable alternatives for the use of this public land.    

    Jose & Company's steamroller is comin' our way on a path paved with postcards. A month from now the whole city will vote on what's best for Coconut Grove. And sadly, they will do what the developers tell them to do. That's how it's done in Miami.
             __________________________

    

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HIPPIES JUST THE SAME

       It's difficult to describe Burning Man. It's an art and music festival plus so much more. The desert gathering is big and complicated, a two-mile wide city shaped like a clock.
     One afternoon, while attending a cocktail party  at the Toxic Disco Clam Camp, I saw a jet fighter roaring high overhead. Someone later sent me a silent video of what the pilot saw.  Here's the link,
https://gfycat.com/DismalBronzeHuemul . 

       It was enormous.
I doubt I saw more than 20% of it. BMan was like going to a festive neighborhood on Halloween night with each of it's 100 houses  having its own spooky show or haunted house. You'd be lucky to see a dozen of them.

A 12-foot pyramid glowed in the dark desert night.  It was made with 100,000 multi-colored gummy bears sandwiched inside plastic panels.

       Black Rock City had 68,000 people living in 800 separate encampments for a week. I loved their crazy names like "Habitat For Insanity", "Electric Kool- Aid Vision Quest" and the "Awkward & Tawdry Lounge".  Most of the camps had a bar (free drinks! Absinthe at the A&T) plus some kind of show or display.  It could be huge fire-spewing flowers, a Bob Dylan sing along, or an erotic puppet show. 

                                                                       




I brought two gloves and a ball.  At times I 'd go out and offer strangers a chance to play catch. 


       I took several forays into the "clock" to see what others were up to. At the Museum of the Weird I played in a black light-lit psychedelic sandbox. Two blocks east was a 120-foot trampoline. The warning sign admonished,
"Be careful. This was made by hippies. Smart hippies but hippies none the less..."  

 
    Young woman back flips along the endless trampoline

 The hippies did a great job creating this stretched out crowd pleaser. It allowed folks to bounce and flip for forty yards before diving into a sea of pillows. You'll never see that anywhere else.  
    You can get away with all kinds of things in the high desert.

      Besides hundreds of camps with their own entertainments, Nevada's Neverland had over 300 art installations. Many were too large to miss and others almost impossible to believe.  Let me tell you about a few,


A bicycle centipede pedals past the  
SINGING TESLA COILS-  Sextant Camp's scientists created two towering Tesla coils. At night they would thrust wicked bundles of energy at each other  producing ethereal thunder music. The hypnotic effect was so incredible it made you feel you were high on something even though you were not.
 (Hear them sing! Google Burning Man Tesla coils).

TREE OF LIFE (Official name, which no one quite understood, "Tree of Tenere")

    This 32-foot artificial oak was made for shade, climbing, and partying under its own pulsing light show.

 


It's 25,000 leaves contained almost 200,000 LED lights controlled by a Black Rock wizard. 

    
On Friday afternoon a San Francisco ballet troupe performed Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", accompanied by an orchestra, in its shade. The best seats at the crowded event were on the upper decks of the mutant vehicles parked nearby.

 
FLOWER TOWER-  Artist Kevin Clark (foreground) told us how a visit to Barcelona last fall had inspired his Gaudi-like design. The 70-foot tower was covered with meticulously-shaped metal flowers and spouted huge balls of flame when you least expected it.

 


 
EUTURPE, THE 25-FOOT WOMAN-  When I first saw her in the dusty distance
  

I thought, "Is there really a giant woman walking towards me?".  She was "Euturpe", a gigantic string puppet held up by a rolling crane.

   The big girl talked non-stop (a lot like the rest of us) marveling at the surroundings. The Big E changed costumes twice a day and at night would get horizontal in her own 28-foot bed.  The shapely cloud scraper was created by Spain's Carros de Foc Street Theater,           

And finally there was, 

CHARON, Peter Hudson's latest zoetrope (an animation device that creates the illusion of motion).
   Early one morning I rode my bike towards what looked like a 32-foot Ferris wheel. 
  Circling inside were 20 skeletons frozen in various phases of rowing.  


People could make the wheel turn by pulling  on thick ropes.  




   This was incredible but at night it got even better. An overhead light would blink at the rowers passing by creating the illusion of motion, that there was one skeletal figure before you rowing continuously.  He was "Charon", the mythological figure who carries the souls of the dead across the River Styx.  
    Charon and the others fit nicely into my little box of surprises that I never expected to see. One could say that Burning Man produces more of the unexpected than you'll ever have time to witness.

    Here's a link to a 90-second video that shows
you the incredible art described above, https://youtu.be/nqv8lYQSB8U .

     I could go but in a week I was only able to see a small part of the show. What I took from Burning Man was the totality of it. For eight days I got to be a part of a fantastic, intentional international community, one where you felt not just safe but comfortable being whoever you wanted to be.  The all-night carnival made you hesitate to sleep for fear you might miss something. A month ago it was our home where creativity reigned, giving replaced selling, and love connected us all.
    


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Monday, October 2, 2017

DESERT SILHOUETTES

   A month ago I was sleeping on a Nevada desert floor. At six in the morning, when Burning Man's all-night parties were ending, I'd crawl out of my tent to greet the rising sun. 

    There were always a few folks still up waiting to see it too.
 
  
  Like them I tried to witness that first jab of orange darting  over the mountains.   I never did. 
I'd get  too distracted by the photo opportunities around me. Here are some of my efforts,



























The desert was full of surprises. How often to you see a giant puppet going out for a morning walk?

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