I learned this while preparing for yesterday's "Spirit of the Grove" happening at our 27th Avenue Metro station. It was a part of a larger event,"Bike the Underline" that encouraged folks to get out to envision the future linear park there.
My wife, Francesca, encouraged kids to make and sail boats made of vegetables. When we discovered that the carrot boats sank, we put them out for snacks.
Lucienne and Hank Resnik gave out smoothies that they churned up with a bicycle. Lucy has that Grove spirit and will be celebrating her 90th next week! Later Frank Busta was volunteering to pedal the mixer. He often plays his jazz violin on Main Highway.
Grove legend, Alan "Jellyfish" Aunapu was our special guest. "Jelly" is Coconut Grove's last hippie.
Later he posed with our second to the last Grove hippie, Dr. John.
The pretty woman in the middle is Irvington Avenue resident, Madison Levine. She taught our yoga classes.
UM architecture students contributed their sculpture, "Slow Ride", one-thousand coconut air-fresheners on sticks.
I was in charge of our group effort, the"Spirit of the Grove" painting. Everyone was invited to add to it. After it was completed, we taped it to a Metrorail support column. It can now be seen by everyone driving south on U.S. 1 (until April 30 or until it is stolen).
Afterwards, Dr. John, Jellyfish, and I headed out for our next Saturday adventure, a tour of the Miccosukee Embassy.
I had seen the building before, bounded on two sides by a Miami River tributary.
Tall, glassy, and surrounded by tight-faced security guards, I took it to be some drug lord's den.
On Saturday I was told the over-the-top palace is the Miami headquarters of the Miccosukee tribe (the one with all the casinos).
It's worlds away from chickee huts and cypress canoes.
Stepping inside we admired it's opulence and 40-foot ceiling.
A water sculpture served as the focus of officiant, Reverend Houston Cypress' water ceremony (the tour was a part of Miami's current Water Festival).
Later he took us outside to see the grounds.
Rev. Houston said he would be showing us what I had come to see, the legendary (and sacred) Miami River Caves, the ones I had only heard about for years.
Finally there were
the caves, nestled beneath
tons of concrete, glass and and steel.
Thirty of is walked in amazed at what we were seeing, caves in Miami!
As we headed home, I said, "It'll be hard to top this" and Dr. John suggested, "We could drop in on Ismael". I had heard of the man who lives in the last little wooden house remaining inside Brickell's condo canyons.
He was in the Miami Herald last week for turning down a developer's $1.8 million offer to buy his place. None of us had been there but we knew it was just next to the Brickell Metro station. John had met him last week on an 80-mile Everglades holy pilgrimage.
Ismael is not one for doorbells. We yelled his name repeatedly over his locked gate. Finally, an energetic little man trotted out to greet us.
I could write a whole blog about the afternoon we spent with Ishmael, "The Man Who Said "No" to the Developers". Next week I will.
It's been one amazing weekend. I had a great time and I didn't get arrested ( See "South Beach Sharks" below).
Ishmael, his house, and his neighbors.
( The Night Before Wasn't Nearly as Much Fun )
SOUTH BEACH SHARKS (WITH BADGES)
A horrible thing happened to us last Friday night. Francesca and I went to South Beach.
We had no choice, old friends were gathering there for a long-planned reunion. Fortunately, after only a twenty-minute search, we were able to find a parking space just four blocks from our Ocean Drive destination. On our walk to the restaurant
we passed hundreds of young people who's scant clothing and tattoos shouted, "Look at me!".
It was great to reunite with out-of-town friends but the restaurant's music shouted too; we could barely converse. We complained to no avail. The food? Edible but expensive. So were the foo-foo drinks. My buddies ordered mega-mojitos the size of fish-bowls.
Tourists do things like that. Francesca and I drank water.
At nine p.m. we began our drive home, anxious to leave "SoBe". As we turned west on Fifth Street I told my wife, "In three blocks, we'll be out of this creepy place". Then we spotted the electronic sign, "Sobriety Test Ahead".
Traffic was being funneled into a single lane surrounded by cops. Blue lights were flashing as we were ushered to a Michigan Avenue parking area lit like a stage. Paddy wagons and lab trucks abounded. I felt we'd just been caught trying to sneak into Syria.
One of the grim men ordered me to stop and roll down my window. He checked to see if all of my exterior lights were working. He looked in to see if my seat belt was fastened and he finally told us,
"You're screwed. I'm a gun-totin' cop here to make your evening miserable. You're an old man in a young neighborhood (I had to agree). You got no business bein' in South Beach. I'm gonna check you out 'til I find somethin' wrong, and when I do, I'll either write you a ticket, arrest you, or worse. You're gonna pay and how much depends on your attitude. I hope you're not carryin' 'cause if you are, you're surrounded by enough firepower to turn you, your wife, and your Honda into Swiss cheese."
Okay, He actually didn't say these things but I was upset; I imagined such a speech.
What he did say, after staring at me for a long time, was
"How ya doin'?".
Other cops were peering into our CRV as well. What was wrong? Is drinking water a crime? Was my trunk area too messy? My hair the wrong color (gray)? Was my hair too messy?
After a long silence I lied to him. I said,
He asked for my license and I handed it to him. He asked if I had moved since it had been issued. Maybe that could be grounds for arrest but thankfully, I have stayed put.
Next was a grilling about car insurance then I produced the required card. He asked who owned the car and I told him that I did.
He told me to prove it so I asked my wife to slowly open the glove compartment. There was nothing in it but papers. Francesca went through them in the dim light and came up with a car registration form. He looked at it for a minute then told us some terrible news, "This paper expired a month ago".
I pointed out that as I had a current tag on my license plate, I had received a 2016 registration form a month earlier. He had a computer in his hand with access of all of the information he was asking for.
For most police officers, this would have been enough. It wasn't for Officer Asepano. He had no probable to cause to stop me in the first place.
But Asepano went on, "If you can not produce a current automobile registration form, you are violating the law". He proceeded to write me a $129 ticket.
I'm sure it could have been worse. Imagine if I had been black. Afro-American friends tell me this happens to them quite often. Maybe we were two white folks chosen to create "racial balance".
As the officer wrote my ticket Francesca whispered a joke that I didn't want to hear, "Hey, I don't think he's going to arrest us!".
I didn't want to hear anything. I just wanted to get the hell out of South Beach.
Finally he handed me the ticket and said, "all you need to do is to pay a fine, and then go to the county clerk's office to wait 'til Hell freezes over to get a duplicate car registration" (okay, he didn't say the "Hell" part but the wait will probably be longer than that). "When you receive it, you'll be legal to drive this car again. That's it".
After a long pause I asked, "May I leave"? It wasn't a dumb question. I was stopped by a City of Miami cop once for having a tag on my motorcycle that had expired a week earlier. I was quiet and courteous then too. Four ridiculous tickets later, he told me I could push my bike home; riding off with a lapsed tag could be grounds for arrest.
Cops can be like that. Fortunately most are not. Just remember to,
1) be kind and courteous to people carrying weapons and, 2) Never, ever, consider going to Syria or South Beach.