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Sunday, November 25, 2012

BURNING THE MAN

Last month we burned a mango for The President. 
       

Last night we burned a man for ourselves. 
Thirty-five of us set up camp so we could feast, frolic, and have our own version of Nevada's Burning Man Festival.  Dave built a 9-foot stick man then we tied dead branches to it.

      When we put a match to it flames roared 14-feet high.   As his "bones" weakened the man peaked out of the fire and eased down in a slow goodbye. 

 When someone shouted out, "What does it mean?" Dave answered, "If you have to ask you'll never know". 
 Some of the girls complained about his gender.   Next time we'll burn a woman.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

BIG NIGHT IN LITTLE HAITI

    Last night's Boukman Eksperyans concert at the Haitain Cultural Center was fantastic.  We danced, we sang, we wore ourselves out.    When getting the energy to drive home seemed difficult, we heard new music. It was coming from a rara band in the street.  
  
 Raras are small groups of musicians who lead dancing, chanting, processions through the streets of Haiti.  They play the simplest of instruments, two-note horns, drums, whistles, and cow-bells.
When they get a beat goin', you must follow.
   
As the concert was breaking up most of the 600 attending took to street to follow this Miami rara band.  What fun it was!   They led us out onto NE 2 Avenue and we danced through the long line of stopped traffic.   

 
We rara'd into a Little Haiti neighborhood and boogied past dark houses.
The residents apparently had seen it before.  At 10:30 p.m. some came out, waved, and smiled.

            Taking over the street




   One Haitian man watching warned our light-skinned group, "Be careful.  You never know where the raras will take you".  They took us for a great time for ten blocks.  After that we peeled off.  As we returned to our cars, the rhythmic procession was still heading south. 
  Who knows?  They may still be marching.
   We were amazed by this heaping helping of Caribbean culture.  I still can't believe we got to strut through Little Haiti in a rara parade.  
Only in Miami.
video 
  Hundreds follow our rara band as it marches through Little Haiti.

Friday, November 16, 2012

TOO MANY COPS

   Last summer we had too much crime in my South Grove neighborhood.  Now we have too many cops.   It started a couple of months ago when we noticed police cars driving slowly past our house at night with lights flashing.  We thought, "Are these some odd-hour funeral processions?"
   A week later my son, Dylan, came over for dinner.  As he parked in the driveway a cop pulled in behind him with his lights flashing.  The officer jumped out of his car and asked him, "Why are you here?".  I was just coming out of the house and I told him he was my son.  The cop told me, being unfamiliar with Dylan's car, he wanted to make sure I was "okay".
  A week later I went for a night time walk.  A cop drove up next to me, our eyes met for a few seconds, then he drove on.  A few days later Francesca told me the same thing happened to her.  When she asked the policeman, "Can I help you?", he replied, "Can I help you?".  Aren't those lines from  "Being There?".
    Twice officers have stopped as we arrived home at night.  They said they wanted to make sure we got inside our house safely.
   A cop often parks in the empty lot at the end of our street now.  This makes more sense since we got a letter from The Coconut Grove Neighborhood Association.  It invites us to join their group. Members pay $1100 dollars a year to have an off-duty police officer patrol our streets in marked cruisers.  
   Of course, our taxes already pay for on-duty cops to do just that.  But there's more;  the letter goes onto say,

Members can contact our special officers via cell phone to "be there" when you arrive home.  If you wish they will follow you when you are walking around the streets of the neighborhood.  If you don't want to be followed you can ask them to drive with their police lights flashing to clear your walking route five minutes before you embark.  

   Maybe if you tip them they'll throw in a siren as well.
Francesca and I are quietly amazed by this.  We never argue with people wearing guns.  
  Three bucks a day may be a good deal for this type of service.  Trouble is, we still enjoy walking through the the night without the flashing lights. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RATS IN MY ROOM



   I live in a zoo.  Many mornings I wake up, wander into the living room, and see small creatures slithering across the carpet.  Blame it on our hunting cats, they have their own door.
   Today it was a 16-inch Cuban Anole lizard, its wide mouth hissing.  When we returned from errands hours later, it had been replaced by the mouse you see here.
    The good news is that the cat door is small, it would be hard for them to drag in anything as large as a wild pig.  What we have found are a variety of snakes, birds, lizards and frogs.  The cat that used to rip the heads off is gone.  The two that remain bring in their catches half-dead.  They are more fun to play with that way.
  Our dog, Pi, is perplexed by all this.  She does not attack but being the size of a small wild pig, she keeps the critters cornered while I grab the oven mitts, dust pan, and boxes.  This is a regular morning routine.

   The creepiest catch had us hearing eerie "Please, don't kill me!" warbles at 2 am.  We laid in bed, totally creeped, neither  of us wanting to face the blood-sucking chupacabra that was obviously in our living room.  The sound was like nothing else we'd ever heard, totally alien, hard to describe. 
  

 I mustered the courage to face the evil lurking in the dark and discovered a wailing victim. It was a small, distressed, tree frog.  We saved the little guy and all the others who still had a pulse.
   It's still hard to believe I entered our big room two years to see our orange cat looking up.  When I did too I noticed a small burrowing owl perched on a ceiling fan blade.  Like most of the others, I guess he had feigned death in hopes of a later escape.   Like most of the others, I was able to get her into a box and set her free.
   

 The cat door has a lock.  I suppose we could stop these gifts in the night... but what fun would that be? 


Monday, November 12, 2012

STRUTTING THEIR STUFF

   It was hard to tell it was Veteran's Day in Coconut Grove.  It seemed like your average Saturday  then I heard the cadence of distant drums.  I jumped on my bike and headed their way.

   I came upon the annual West Grove parade honoring our country's soldiers.  It is an unusual procession as there are always more people marching (sixty or so) than watching.  I waved at the two politicians, the army guys on the firetruck, and the twenty kids in the Richmond Heights Middle School Marching Band.   
That was it,  a small but important gesture on Grand Avenue today. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

LONG LINES LAST TUESDAY

Say it, "Flori-duh". The last syllable is the sound  bouncing around the brain of our state's governor, Rick Scott. One of the most unpopular politicians in the country, he led the southernmost state to a new low this week with another wacky presidential election. The darn thing took place four days ago and we're still counting votes. Our Republican-controlled legislature did everything it could to discourage and intimidate voters.   They worked overtime to earn the latest "duh".

Duh governor knew we had a ballot that was twice as long as most. A good leader would have responded by doubling the early voting days. It's simple arithmetic.  Our Tea-Party poster-boy cut them in half. And he's not the only one.

Before Tuesday's election, Dade County had seemingly endless early voting lines.  When a local official tried to help by allowing voting last Sunday, our mayor shut it down.  People outside were pounding on windows and shouting, "Let us vote!".
  Why all the craziness?   We really aren't that stupid down here. Corruption is another matter.  These problems were created by the people in power for their own benefit. Either that or they are utterly incompetent. Probably both.
   Francesca and I were in the thick of it last Tuesday afternoon (we're in the Miami Herald photo above).  We had gone to a precinct at a Brickell condominium with our friend, Erin, to pass out Democratic Party recommendation lists.  
   The three of us were amazed to find 6-hour lines winding around the posh neighborhood. Most lining up were young, in a good mood, and prepared to stick it out.  We put our lists away and tried to ease their pain.  
   A woman approached my wife and asked, "Can you help me?  I waited for six-hours only to be told I am not on 'the list'.  I have to pick up my kids and this place is about to close!".  Francesca told her she'd try and the distraught woman hurried off. 
  A half-hour later my wife had straightened things out and she called the woman.  "Anna" returned with her children, cast her vote, and thanked Francesca profusely.  
  My job was easier, passing out water, and directing needy people to bathrooms.  After doing these things some asked, "So who are you voting for?" and we'd have a conversation.  
   I saw two older men collapsed. They were taken away in ambulances. You probably can't vote in emergency rooms.  Just before seven our county mayor, Carlos Gimenez, arrived, apologized, and was booed by many.   
   At 7 pm the polls closed but there were still about 500 people in line.  They were told if they hung in there they could eventually cast ballots.  Some left but most crowded into the condo's parking lot as its gates were shut. They stood like cattle awaiting their turn. 
   Three hours later we had a re-elected president and a half-hour after that, the last person at the polling place voted.  Other precincts had it worse, some were voting after Romney had given his 1 am concession speech.   
  That's how it was in South Florida election night;  the Florida results were never sent in and became irrelevant. As I write this, officials continue to peruse ballots in the Sunshine State.  Hopefully they will complete their task before the next presidential election.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

BOUKMAN IS COMING!

 
   Heading for Oregon last year we stumbled upon a major music festival in Butte, Montana.   There were many stars  on stage but the one we loved most was the Haitian band, Boukman Eksperyans.  Seeing them live was terrific, we could not stop dancing.  Since then we've been dreaming about Boukman coming to Miami and now they will be here next week! 
    The "Big Night in Little Haiti" series will present  Boukman Eksperyans in an outdoor concert on Friday Nov. 16 at The Haitian Cultural Center in Little Haiti.  It is located at 212 NE 59 Terrace.  There is free parking along NE 2d Ave.
  Jazz band, The Blue Stones", will play at 6 and Boukman, at 8.   This is will be a great, memorable event, plus... it's free!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

MITT'S MAGIC PANTS

    In a few hours Mitt Romney could become the next President.  For months I've asked myself, "How could this be?" but today I think I found the answer.  My dentist told me the Republican nominee wears magical underwear.
  It is way beyond Fruit-of-the- Loom.  It is the fruit of his church, The Latter Day Saints.  His under garments are manufactured by his Mormon brethren and sold to church members.
   The craziest thing is that I'm not making this up.  If Dave Barry still had a column this would be in it.
  The church's website explains that when Mormons join the church, they promise to wear special undergarments to remind them of their sacred vows.  There are even little symbols embroidered or marked on t-shirts and undies to remind wearers to "do the right thing".
   So we're having an election today and I hear some people are making their decision based on birth certificates and gas prices.    Maybe considering sacred underwear isn't so strange.