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Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Sometimes people ask me what I love about Coconut Grove. One thing that comes to mind is that we don't have lawns, we have jungles! The noisy, polluting grass cutting chore is replaced by picking up the occasional fallen palm frond.

I enjoyed seeing this illustrated in the magazine I picked up at the Fairchild Ramble last weekend.

On the left you see neighbors not having fun.  They mow, water, and spray their lawns with pesticides. 
On the Grove side the yards are planted with native trees, bushes, and ground cover plants which attract birds, butterflies and bees. Kids are planting an edible garden while mom and dad enjoy their natural habitat with Margaritas in hand.  
That's the Grove style and one more reason to love this bayside village.

PS:  Of course anyone with a lawn -anywhere- can do the same thing.

Friday, November 10, 2017


     King Mango made one of his rare appearances today. He rode his Ruckus in  Coconut Grove's Veteran's Day Parade. 

 It was great little paseo that included politicians, beauty queens, and a good number of former members of our armed services.  They were carried along in 22 vintage Corvettes and a few rugged Jeeps. 
    Some people actually walked the mile in the sun. These hardy groups including the Coral Gables High School Band of Distinction, the Grove's Village Council and energetic booty-shakin' dancers.
                      BAND OF DISTINCTION

    In King Mango Strut Parades past I have performed as Sylvester Stallone, OJ Simpson's manager, and Anderson Cooper reporting from the middle of a hurricane. On Veterans Day I had it easy, just a happy mango king saluting our veterans from the seat of my scooter. 

     And what a strange snappy salute it was. It wasn't until after the parade -when I saw someone's photo- that I realized I had done it  wrong.  
    When I was saluting with my hand over my right eye, it looked like King Mango was placing his hand under his nose.  Let's hope this new gesture wasn't taken the wrong way.  It may mean
"screw you" in Bezoania.
      The Grove's American Legion post, along with City Commissioner Ken Russell and his staff, did a fine job of putting this event together. While there may have been more people in it than watching it, everyone had a good time honoring those who served.


Friday, November 3, 2017


    It was quite a scene on the 3600 block of Loquat Avenue yesterday. There were five police cars with lights flashing and several neighbors smiling as an old house was torn down. 

    This one had to go as its owner, a feisty old hippie, had refused to be nice to his neighbors.  For years he collected junk and down-and-out roommates. 

    The yard looked like it had been designed by rats. The owner created an eyesore that drove his neighbors nuts.

  The former library

    Finally, his house was officially declared a nuisance last week, unfit for habitation. The police officer in charge told me the owner had been given a 48-hour notice of the tear down.

    Apparently his five roommates were not made aware of this.  The officer added, "His house was so filled with crap you could barely walk through it, a hoarder's dream". 

   Yesterday morning tenants woke up to a loud knock on the door. A police officer announced they had fifteen minutes to vacate the place before a huge steel claw would to tear it to shreds. 
 An older musician, "Ivan", pleaded for more time to retrieve his belongings. When the police refused he ran back in followed by the boys in blue.  They took him away in handcuffs. 

   In jail he might have been the only roommate that had a place to stay last night. 

 A lone pea-fowl (who some like the former house, also consider a nuisance) watched from across the street.

    When I was there the other roommates were camped across the street amidst piles of their possessions. The cops assured me they were doing their best to find them shelter. "Melanie" pleaded for a place that allowed pets. Fittingly, her dog "Charlie" sat in a trash basket.  He seemed to be wondering where he'd be spending the night.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017


   We had a Halloween party in our new neighborhood park yesterday. Over 80 kids and their parents, along with "kids at heart",

dunked for apples,


played Wrap A Mummy,

 Monster Mouth Toss, 

carved pumpkins,


and explored Charlie's Haunted Woods.

Music was provided by DJ Death,

and Hillary made a brief stop on her book tour.

The former presidential candidate with her body guard, DJ Kool
     Davey manned the grill for our pot-luck dinner and when it got dark we paraded over to Irvington Avenue.                                    There we ate 

at Janice and Alyn's Road Kill Cafe 

and watched Julia and her daughter enact the dinner scene from "Eraserhead".  It was a glorious Halloween and I hope yours went well too.

    It's November now and they say there may be a big dinner coming up. Let's hope it is more appetizing then the ones Julia and the "Road Kill" put out last night. 

 Oh yeah, Blue the dog came as a peacock


  Last Saturday I attended the second of two workshops put on by the City of Miami planning department. They had nine people wearing blue uniforms telling us what developers want to hear, 'We need less trees and more people".  
    I learned why the trees are coming down and the big white boxes are spreading like cancer. One city planner told us the City now allows developers to build on 77% of a residential lot so it looks like this,

Concrete covers 77%. The thin green perimeter is the other 23%, probably a ficus hedge.  Two small token trees sit out front.  Allowing this kind of density insures that,
 1) developers will make the most money and that
 2) Coconut Grove is screwed.

In the past, houses have taken up about 40% a residential lot.  This ratio allowed our tree canopy to flourish.

That's what the city allows and at the meeting they made it clear that they want to make it worse allowing bigger buildings  (increase the density further) and add more commercial space to our village.  This is great for developers and bad for Grove residents.  
    95% of the people attending were residents who said "No"  to this and the vocal five percent,  developer's reps, were all smiles. It is a shame that our Grove commissioner, Ken Russell, will not stand up for the community he lives in.  Now that he's running for Congress who knows where his head will be.
   Grove 2030's Dave Villano summed up the meeting very nicely in his Grapevine opinion piece yesterday:

     Will taller condo towers, more commercial building sites, and  increasing residential density help preserve the unique character of Coconut Grove? 
    As puzzling as it sounds, that’s the recommendation of the City of Miami’s Planning Department .  That's their reaction  to the growing concerns over lot splitting, mega-home construction, destruction of the tree canopy, and the loss of the Grove’s historic character.
“This will be an uncomfortable conversation,” warned City Planner Sue Trone, as she welcomed a hundred or so village residents and others to the second of two community zoning workshops last Saturday. She was right.

    Trone and a team of other City planners are charged with revising Coconut Grove’s Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) zoning overlay. The code is an extra layer of protection approved years ago as a legislative buffer from the development pressures that threatened the village. The document’s intent is clear: “to preserve the historic, heavily landscaped character of Coconut Grove’s residential areas.” 

 But on Saturday Trone offered a revised interpretation of the code’s statement of intent. Preservation is out; affordability is in. That, she believes, is the overwhelming concern of Grove residents. (Protecting tree canopy is number two). And the best policy solution to the affordable housing crunch is to add more housing units. With that, workshop participants were handed red pencils and asked to mark up large maps of Coconut Grove where they believed residential and commercial densities should and could be increased. “A developer’s wet dream,” whispered one miffed participant.

With that, the focus by City planners is now on revisions to the NCD zoning code that likely will bring more people to Coconut Grove, rather than on simple measures to protect our lush, historic character, such as a reduction in the size and scale of the mega-homes that are overwhelming our single-family neighborhoods.

There is no question that affordable housing remains one of our intractable challenges, especially in Village West where multi-million-dollar homes are now common. And increased densities, to be sure, should be among the policy tools we consider to help residents remain in their community. But promoting up zoning and other increased density measures as the guiding legislative remedy for protecting single-family neighborhoods from the onslaught of development is, at best, misguided. And at worst, such suggestions – intentionally or otherwise -- derail any reasonable efforts for other meaningful zoning reform.
Commissioner Ken Russell’s role is unclear. Upon election to office two years ago Russell seized on the NCD zoning code as a legislative vehicle for promoting the populist, grassroots agenda he promised, and he has repeatedly assured community groups that it remains a key priority. But in recent months he’s been silent on the issue, noting that City staff had a process that needed to play out. Russell did not attend the Workshop on Saturday. Exactly what he would have drawn with his red pencil remains anyone’s guess.

Davie Villano
Coconut Grove

Monday, October 30, 2017


   There is no need to shop for Halloween decorations in South Florida. They are already falling off our palm trees.
    All you need to do is pick up a fallen palm frond, cut off it's wide base, and get creative with paint. Suddenly you have 7-foot ghosts and little goblins greeting your trick o' treeters. 

    Here are some we made to decorate part of our neighborhood's new park, Charlie's Woods.

Come visit these tropical creatures at the corner of Palmetto Avenue and Plaza Street in the South Grove and
                    Have a Happy Halloween.


Sunday, October 29, 2017


     In 1982 hundreds of Miamians pitched in to help Christo create his Biscayne Bay sculpture, "Surrounded Islands". Thirty-five years later, you can volunteer to help the stick-bending sculptor, Patrick Dougherty, create something special for Art Basel.

    Doughterty has been built over 250 site specific sculptures on four continents over three decades.  His team is looking for fifty volunteers to help him bend and weave sticks into art at Pinecrest Gardens.  The work begins November 2 and continues for two weeks.  You can volunteer for a day or more.
   If you'd like to be a part of the team call the project coordinator, Alana Perez, at 305-588-5585.  
   See more of Doughterty's work at .


Saturday, October 28, 2017


      There is art, beauty, and power in the primal images of fantasy.   -Guillermo del Toro

     Twelve was my Monster Year. I worshiped Hollywood's movie creatures, subscribed to "Famous Monsters of Filmland", and even created my own makeup kit. That all ended one October afternoon when I turned myself into a five-foot Frankenstein.  
   Walking unsteadily up a sidewalk I encountered my neighbor, four-year-old Lanny Caesar, and gave chase. He thought I was the real thing and may still be having nightmares.  I was that good (or at least it seemed that way) but it was time to move on.

     Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro had the same boyhood bug  but he never stopped "chasing Lanny".  He found great success in pushing the monster envelope directing films which include fantastic, primal creatures.

   The director of "Pan's Labyrinth"  and many other successful movies has filled not just his films with monsters but his California home, "Bleak House", as well.

One room of Del Toro's house recreated in his museum exhibit. 

      Last year he agreed to share his fantasy art collection with the world.  It is now a traveling museum exhibition, "At Home With Monsters". It opened in Toronto earlier this month (the show runs through January). It originated at the Los Angeles' County Art Museum last year and my son and I were there see it.

    The show includes sculptures, books, prints, and film artifacts.  In addition, del Toro commissioned artists to create full-size scenes from classic movies

"The Bride of Frankenstein"

And characters from movies.    " Freaks"

and below, "Pan's Labyrinth".

 He also had artists create life-like sculptures of his heroes like animator Ray Harryhousen

 and author, H.P. Lovecraft.

      If you need some cheering up, you can visit a replica of the director's Rain Room. Special effects on its windows make it seem as if there is a perpetual thunderstorm outside.

   I suppose Bleak House is not for everyone. How would you like living with




   It might make me, like Lanny,  run away.


      Del Torro comes out with his next film in December, "The Shape of Water".  Unlike "Hellboy" and his other mega-monster hits, this one may have more adult appeal.
  Check out the trailer,   It look like an enticing Creature From the Black Lagoon love story. 
     The museum exhibit is just a part of del Toro's Bleak House collection.  Maybe you can see the rest of it if you stop by his Los Angeles home on Halloween night.  If you do, be kind,
don't bring Lanny.

Happy Halloween from the Grove Guy and his lovely wife, Francesca.