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Saturday, August 19, 2017

SOUTHERN STATUARY

                                                      TRYING TO FIND THE WORDS

Sometimes you read something that describes what you were thinking but could not quite put into words.  Here's self-described "southern white male" Rhett Mclaughlin writing about the current Confederate statuary controversy:


Revisionist and racist mindset fueled the erecting of Confederate memorials throughout the South. The vast majority of them were built between 1895 and World War I, a time of violent persecution of black people as well as the systemic and government-sanctioned oppression of Jim Crow laws. Some statues were put up during the civil rights movement. Their message was clear: the South belongs to whites.

In light of today’s controversy over these Confederate memorials, I keep hearing people say that their removal is an attempt to erase history. This misses the point entirely. The memorials themselves were an attempt to erase history. If these monuments were about history, we would see statues of slaves being whipped by their owners, black families being torn apart as they were sold to different places, and plantation owners with their black slave mistresses and children. If this was about history and not white supremacy, we’d see a statue of an innocent black man hanging from a tree and a group of happy white people posing for a picture with his lifeless body. This isn’t about history. This is about whitewashing history.

-An excerpt from his article in "Medium" .

And here's one more, from Frank Bruni's NYT column, 8-18-17:

 
Trump’s perverse response to a question that it’s hard to imagine another president being asked: 

Did he place the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., on the same “moral plane” as those who showed up to push back at them?

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump answered.

Indeed he wasn’t. And if you can’t put anybody on a moral plane, you can’t put yourself on Air Force One.

Friday, August 18, 2017

ROYAL ROAD, TRASH PILE WITH A VIEW

        Coconut Grove residents live on a beautiful bay that is difficult to see it. Poor city planning has allowed trees, boats, and buildings to block the view. Fortunately, a few streets still end on the Biscayne Bay.
Each culminates in an incredible display of water,  distant buildings, and boats.


     One of them is Royal Road, two blocks south of the Grove Playhouse. Most of these bay view streets end in park-like settings. They are tidy, tranquil places reflecting the expensive housing nearby.


    Royal is unique in that it is unloved and uncared for.  The end of Royal Road is a dump, it's been that way since I arrived forty years ago. Back then there were eight houses and a huge estate lining the two-block street.  The road's residents made sure their vista point was taken care of.
    Now, because there is  just one house, a Ransom School parking lot, and a long line of trees, there is little life left on Royal Road. It has the feel of a lonely back ally that  leads to a magnificent bay view.



   I enjoy glancing at it as I ride my bike up Main Highway. Royal's trees form a dark tunnel and at its end, you can see a tiny blue window, the size of your smallest fingernail. I feel lucky when, in rare brief moments, I see a white triangle on that blue, a distant sailboat passing by. I'm reminded that I live in a special place.


    A walk down Royal Road takes you past fenced buildings and parking lots.  One residence remains on the north side, an iconic Alfred Browning Parker design. The entire south side is taken up by a line of tall pines that hide a huge estate. 

    Where Royal ends on Biscayne Bay is most remarkable.  It looks like a dump, uncared for by the city that owns it. Where asphalt ends, dirt begins and the dusty ground is strewn with trash.


    Sometime someone ties trash bags to the rusting 8-foot fences on each side. They quickly fill then overflow. 





 


Small smaller piles of consumer litter lie here and there as if to gather them will make they go away. 
    It is such a mess, it's as if the city is, through neglect, trying to keep people from visiting.  

      There are unreadable "no parking" signs

 and graffiti covering every surface.

     
 

 
 I like this one as it depicts my angelic birth year and King Mango after he died 8 years ago.
 

    Despite all this and the City of Miami's apparent effort to turn people away, they still ever day. 

   "Park Trashmore" is not for everyone. Most visitors are  a lower income  mix of Miami. The Grove Guy fits right in.

     It is also the West Grove's connection to the bay. Visitors come for sunrise, sunset, and lunch in between. Chicken bones and beer cans often litter the ground.  



     They come to this trash pile with a view because they have few options. Here they can still look at a far blue horizon and imagine what lies beyond.  The hill leading to it is boy-on-a-bike's thrill.
And, it's probably the only place in Coconut Grove where fishing is still allowed.

   This poor person's park is creepy and dark at night.  Few people venture into the dead-end ally

after sunset.  If you yelled for help only the manatee would hear.



      Since the 1980's I have asked City of Miami officials to clean the place up.
They've done nothing. 
      Six months ago I had a meeting with the city's parks and public works directors. They liked my clean-it-up proposal, mentioned budget restrictions and it remains a dump. 
   The parks director added he use to enjoy going there as a teenager. 


    Teens still go and it's a wonder they don't get sliced by broken glass. Last Tuesday evening I stopped by to take a head count. 
I saw,

   -A skateboarder tracing curves down the hill,
    - two joggers.
    -A romantic young couple staring at each other more than the bay,

    - two laughing twelve-year-olds arriving on their bikes.
    
- Three friends fishing (they caught enough for dinner!) and,
    
 
 

-Five teens lost in conversation.


   All this in a park the size of a house. 


  The east end of Royal Road is a public place on the water enjoyed by many. It's time we cleaned it up.

   It may finally happen as a group of Grovites are applying for a grant with the Miami Foundation
to do just that.

 
 Grove 2030's proposal -a finalist in a public space improvement competition- says they want to,

"beautify and strengthen the 30-by-60-foot plot so it can adapt to the sea-level rise changes of the future.  Further, developed a plan to convert the neglected hangout into a mini-park with a bench, picnic table, bike rack, kayak launch, dock and garbage cans. The landscape design would include rain gardens to filter the stormwater that runs down the sloping road into the bay and salt-tolerant plants and trees that could survive flooding."

In short, they want to make it nice. 

If the $21,000 grant comes through, the city says it is willing to assist. The county may help as well.  
The Miami Herald is coming out with an article on 2030's Royal Road proposal.  Here is the link,

Dead end in Coconut Grove could be a park rather than a magnet for cans and condoms

Let's hope forty years of neglect ends this year and
we finally get the little park we deserve at end of Royal  Road. 
                     

                      _______________


Thursday, August 17, 2017

THE STRANGEST THING HAPPENED On My Way Home From the Jeff Sessions Protest

    There are so many reasons not to like Jeff Sessions (and the president he works for).  Yesterday I was privileged to stage a one-man protest as the Attorney General passed by in downtown Miami.

     He came here to praise our county mayor, Carlos Gimenez.  The former fireman was the first elected official say, "I support the President and will allow no sanctuary for undocumented aliens in Miami".  
   Most leaders of our nation's large cities did not cave in like Gimenez did.

     When Sessions announced plans to come to Miami to praise our mayor and 45's black-hearted immigration policies, a protest was planned. I decided to attend in my Trump outfit with silly signs saying things that might pour out of his fool-mouth.
 
      At 1:30 p.m. a hundred people showed up at the Torch of Friendship. Speeches were made by local leaders like Jose Javier Rodriguez and Ken Russell. At 2:30 the group began marching to the nearby Port of Miami where Sessions was speaking at a luncheon to praise Gimenez and our alt. right President. 
   Dozens of police cars, some marked,some not, followed our every move. A dark police helicopter hovered overhead.

       They stopped our group at the port. We were not allowed to go anywhere near Sessions or where his motorcade would soon be passing by. The protest leaders chose to march away from the police, stopping here and there to make more speeches.

       I stood to the side doing my Trump thing, flashing signs like this. 

      It was 94 degrees hot and I was sweltering inside my mask.  After my ten-minute show I put my mask, coat, and fat-man pillow back in my car. I walked a few blocks to chat with the marchers who had returned to the Torch of Friendship.
     It was over for me and I headed back to my Honda, Trump signs in hand. We had gotten nowhere near Sessions but had done our best and were well-covered by the media.

     As I approached my car parked on Biscayne Boulevard a long line of police motorcyclists began roaring down the Port of Miami's exit ramp.  I realized, "This is it, the beginning of Jeff Sessions' motorcade!".  It was my chance to go one-on-one with Alabama's racist Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

      My signs were now out of context as I was not wearing my mask. Now I would look like a Sessions-hating Trump supporter.
 

   What the heck. I got to stand on a corner and address the fourth most powerful man in the country.

               ________________
    Note:  The photograph above was taken by a South African tourist who was waiting for a bus. He wasn't a Sessions fan either.           






____________________________
     

Thursday, August 10, 2017

OBVIOUSLY HAMMERED


SMALL TOWN STORIES, A Day in the Life of Point Reyes, California

    On Tuesday, at 12:07 a.m. it was reported that a man left his rental apartment “obviously hammered”.  At 4:27 a.m. a woman called to report that her husband was holding down an intruder who acted like he was high. By the time the police arrived the stranger was calm and sitting at a desk. At 10:16 a.m. a woman called to say her house  "smelled strange".
    At 1:35 p.m. a woman was reported living in a BMW, on a golf course, with her dog. At 3:42 a camper complained about loud talking. An hour later, a man trapped a skunk in his garage. He threatened to shoot it. Someone noted a Ford Fiesta had been parked by a road for a long time. At 6:56 p.m. a man was seen carrying green cylinders.  Two hours later a woman called the police to complain about he ex’s dog.  It had wandered over to her house looking for food.
     Just after 10 p.m. screams were heard from a nearby gated house. A young girl had experienced a bad dream. At 11:02 p.m., a man wearing a back pack kept talking about “the illumination” in in front of a bar in Point Reyes Station.  Just before midnight an Uber driver called to say he was lost, scared, and running low on gas.




 
   The incidents noted above above were in a  phone call log made by local police. They were reported in a small town newspaper, the “Point
Reyes Light”.




It's popular rag for the rural communities listed above on the Point Reyes Peninsula, 40 miles north of San Francisco. The paper reminds us that things do happen in small towns and, in truth, I left out the sad ones about “lost child in grocery store” and “dead body discovered while hiking”.

    Miami is too big and its newspapers, too understaffed to report the small events and many of the big ones. There could be a home invasion in my Coconut Grove neighborhood no one but the cops and victims would know about it. We're not that connected in South Florida.  How many of your Miami neighbors do you know?



  Photo from a story on Judy San, self-taught taxidermist

     For a few days we're in a community where everyone seem to know each other. They depend on and enjoy these communal relationships.
   And I enjoy reading their local police blotter as we wind up our summer sojourn.  
We're visiting relatives who live in Point Reye's rugged coastal wilderness.  

My cousin Terry and her husband, David,  live the town of Inverness. Their simple house was built in 1907.

Francesca's sister and her husband  (Carmen & Doug) built their house 110 years later in a meadow nearby. They moved in last January.
    
In the mornings we help them pull weeds from their "green roof".






In the afternoons we hike.


 










  At the end of the day we sip ginger tea as deer munch apples nearby. 

This won't last long.

     In a few hours we'll be back in Miami shooing rats from fallen papayas.  While the Miami Herald screams about the rise of local road rage incidents the Point Reyes Light reminds us that there are places where people still wave "hello" and drive courteously.  They share their lives, their stories in places where honking car horns are seldom heard. 

                          ________________

Sunday, August 6, 2017

LITTLE HOUSE ON A BIG LAKE

      We knew how to respond when asked, "Want to visit our  mountain cabin?" A few days later found us at 7400 feet above sea level on the shores of California's Echo Lake. It's in Desolation Valley just south of Lake Tahoe.

 





   You've got to be a tree hugger to go there. Three miles  from the closest road, you can only get to our relatives' hide-away by foot or boat. We opted for the water-taxi. 
   The cabin is blessed by off-the-grid basics that include no electrical, internet, garbage, water, or phone service. 
 
 Francesca roughing it with her siblings


 Using the outhouse was a gleeful adventure. Propane fed the stove and our water came from a spring fed by melted snow.







     Francesca and I were strongly encouraged to join a daily ritual, "The Morning Dip". That's when everyone jumps off the dock into 60 degree water. It was so cold I was able to pogo out almost as quickly as I had pogo'd in. Sunday's dip was followed by  Bloody Marys at dockside.


   The Pacific Crest Trail passes by Echo Lake. Some of the hikers are there for the day. Others were spending seven months walking from Mexico to Canada on the  mountain crest thoroughfare.


 This young woman was with a group embarking on a week-long journey.


    For a few days we able to throw off the shackles of modern life breathing cool high-mountain air. 
There were still piles of snow here and there, great for keeping the beer cold. Such are the perils of primitive living.
                ______________________





 Reflection- Francesca in her kayak

Thursday, August 3, 2017

SHARING OUR HOUSE WITH A CORPSE

    Nothing's perfect, even in Paradise. 
Since Independence Day we've been living in a beach house

 that looks out on to California's Monterrey Bay. 

 
From the deck we often see thousands of circling sea birds.

 As they begin diving for fish, humpbackwhales zoom up with cavernous open mouths.
 
 
I wonder how many of those birds end up like Jonah or Pinocchio. 



    We see their spouts, their snouts, and sculptural tails slapping the water (part of a fishing routine, we read).  Being near them is a humbling experience. 

   A six-minute walk down the canyon takes you to the shore framed to the south by the city of Monterey and to the north by "Surf City", Santa Cruz.  We love going there for free concerts,

 

 Los Lobos performing last weekend


 
 "Dharma's" great food, and watching the action on Steamer's Lane. There you can watch surfers shooting past on 10-foot waves. Notice the hand shadow on the water?

   When beach walks get old we head south to hike Point Lobos. 


The state park is one of our country's prettiest places.  


 At the end of the day, 



we bundle up and climb the bluff for sunsets. The sun setting behind Santa Cruz six miles away.

    Bundling is required as it is always cool on the California coast. It's like there's a huge air conditioner outside always turned on.  Brrr.
We get some sun but San Francisco-like fog roles in most of the time. Locals complain but we think  cloud living is kind of cool...at least for a month. 
If you want more sun you head two-miles inland. That's where the strawberries grow and temperatures rise 20 degrees. 

     It's strange to by a beach with water too cold to touch (unless you are a whale, otter, or the seals we often see). If you want to get wet there's a heated public pool nearby. On the entry gate is a sign that says, "Do not swim here if you have diarrhea or have had it in the last fourteen days". Note: It's safe to swim with me.

 After all these swims, hikes, and concerts we head back to our cottage-by-the-sea and put clothespins on our noses again as life isn't perfect.

    When we arrived a month ago we made a list of things to fix in the south of Santa Cruz house shared by my wife's large family. A downstairs heating vent cover was missing so we replaced it.  A week later The Big Stink began.

   
I had seen a rat by the back door a few days before. The rat was too fast to photograph. What you see in its place is a toy chihuahua, which looks more like a rat than a rat does.

    My theory is that the rat came in, jumped through the vent hole before we screwed on the cover then proceeded to starve to death.  When we turn on the house's heating system the horrible smell got worse. I tried to locate his rotting body but could not. 

PUTRID IN PARADISE

    We went online and asked, "How long does it take for a dead rat to stop stinking?".  Estimates range from ten days until our vacation ends next week.
     We attempted to mummify it by turning the house heat on high.  Then, it really stunk!

     Better cold than stinky, we keep the windows open, dine on the deck, and dump "orange blossom" oil on chunks of driftwood placed around the house.
    Sure, there's cold sea breeze passing through the cottage but we keep bundled up. The house smells like waves crashing into an orange grove. We're  happy with that. Now we can use the clothespins to dry the laundry.
                _________________________