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Thursday, September 4, 2014


      Do you know anyone that could jump on their bike, at the age of 81, and pedal it from Miami to Key West?  Our remarkable friend, travel writer Herb Hiller did just that two years ago.

    You may remember a piece I wrote about him in 2009.  Herb had left the Grove for North Florida.  We motor-boated through a passel of gators to visit his Lake George island home.  
     Last week Herb was visiting us.  He was here to do the groundwork for a major 2015 bicycling event, "WHEELS".  It was great to see him.

    Many people leave the Grove after they retire.  They'll say it's traffic, taxes, or the call of some retirement community (or island). 

     Charlie Cinnamon will have none of that.  Herb and I strolled down to his tree-draped cottage at the west end of the block. The two of them reminisced for a half-hour about  the half-century they've shared doing PR in South Florida.  

 Charlie noted, "Herb, you're always moving.  I suppose its the wanderlust in you" to which Herb replied thoughtfully, "Yes, I suppose it is".

      Mr. Cinnamon is busier than ever.  His projects include promoting the Arscht's Center's Broadway series and Cleveland Orchestra's performances in South Florida. I see his dog, Coalie, taking Charlie on walks several times a day.

    Francesca photographed us when we realized each of us Grove guys had started something. 

    Charlie invented the Coconut Grove Art Festival back in the early 60's.  Herb created the Grove's Goombay festival ('77) and I co-founded the King Mango Strut (1982).  We had some laughs about how our "babies" had grown up in surprising ways.

      The next day Herb jumped in his Toyota to head 700 miles north (his wanderlust telling him to  promote  bike trails in the Carolinas).   He left us a copy of his most recent book. If you want to wander up Florida's east coast, this is the one to read.

     I ran into another older friend a few days later after noticing a new wheel chair ramp leading up to Dave Garrett's door.  When I knocked on it Dave greeted me from his new wheelchair.  "My legs gave out",  explained my 91-year-old neighbor adding, "I'm doing okay but it makes it harder to sail and play the piano". 
     The WW II vet (Army Air Corps engineer) always has interesting stories.  We sat down and he told me another one.  
Dave visited Germany's Dachau concentration camp after it had been liberated in 1945.  "It was as horrible as you might expect", he recalled.   

    "I walked into the gas chamber that had been disguised as a large shower room.  Alone with thoughts of the thousands who had died there,  I looked up at one of the shower heads that had dispensed the lethal gas.  It could have fooled me too.
     I unscrewed it and shoved it in my pocket then thought, 'Do I really want do remember taking this for the rest of my  life?'   I returned it to its rightful place".

     It's good he can remember getting it right on that day 69 years in the past.  I stood there myself in '71 and my sons, two years ago.

    I thanked Dave for his service, his stories, and thought how nice it is that we still have a few elders enjoying the jungles of Coconut Grove.  


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