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Friday, December 15, 2017


     After Hurricane Irma blew through two months ago some looked at the sad blanket of fallen trees and thought, "Will we ever get rid of this mess?".  Grovite Mel Meinhardt thought beyond the clean-up phase.  He came up with an plan to raise money to plant new trees. 
     It's the "Grove Trees Calendar", a project that's been in the works since October.  Locals were asked to submit photographs of their favorite local trees for consideration.  Here are the photos I sent them,

   It's a little dark but I love this old photograph. I took it in 1977 looking east from Peacock Park towards Sailboat Bay.  Not long afterwards these willowy coconut trees were cut down when a palm blight hit South Florida.  
    Unfortunately,  the City of Miami replaced them with the mangrove trees that have walled off Coconut Grove's best view for 35 years.

    There are several spectacular kapok trees in Coconut Grove. This one, at the entrance of The Moorings, was planted in 1929.


        Imagine what the Grove's shoreline looked like before the Anglos arrived. I see it at the end of St. Gaudens Road where one of our original mangrove forests still exists.


    This isn't a great photo but you can see the two outstanding banyan trees framing a classic house on St. Gaudens.  If you look closely you can see the homeowner standing in her tree to the left.

     Strangler fig attemping to choke a wall on Main Highway,

      A rare sight, sparkling coconut palms on  Biscayne Bay, Carrolton School of the Sacred Heart on Main Highway.


     Palm frond in front of Helene Pancoast's place on Poinciana.
   While they'd make great Christmas gifts, you can't buy the calendars yet. The project team is still figuring out which trees work best.  When they come up with something I'll let you know.
    In the mean time, I may organize a bike tour to introduce you to these old friends personally. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017


        Developers have been pushing artists out of Coconut Grove for decades. One of the few remaining is stone mason, Josh Billig. 
   Since 1978 Josh has been Miami's premiere builder of stone structures.I got to know Josh back then. We were learning the craft as we helped build the 400-foot wall across from the Grove Playhouse.

   (Whoops. the app I use to write this blog went nuts and made much of the rest tiny.  
Welcome to the world of seat-of-your pants journalism.
I tried to correct it but it won't let me.  Have you a magnifying glass?  I will try to fix it again, later)
      We learned from the pros, Bahamian masons like Renfrew Stewart and Alphonso Benebee.

   It's always a thrill to pass by my 50-foot section and see the rocks I pieced together forty years ago. There are mini-sculptures within in it that I'll show you sometime.

     Two weeks of stone masonry was enough for me but fortunately, Josh Billig is still at it with his successful business, "Rockers". His beautiful creations are all over South Florida. 

      Here are a few,

 Carrolton School on Main Highway

 The entrance to Fairchild Gardens' visitors center.

                            The Billig's mailbox



One of Josh's best works is still in progress. It's the entrance of The Moorings,the gated community on Main Highway.
     Six hundred and fifty feet long, Josh and his crew have been working on it for over a year (it took a year and a half just to get permits).

    Stop by and see this cut-stone beauty. The hardest part, building the columns, is almost done. Josh expects the wall to be completed in early February.


Each rock is carefully cut on this huge chop saw.

For more information on Josh's coral rock creations, visit his website, .
His business partner (and wife), Michelle, can explain everything.



To see how Josh and his crew assemble these stone sculptures stop by The Moorings. They're building their latest beautiful wall one rock at a time. 



Sunday, December 3, 2017


Appreciating your help,

Friday, December 1, 2017


         Jerry Wright would have turned 33 on Thanksgiving Day.  Unfortunately the Pinecrest native's life was cut short -along with 48 others- in Orlando's 2015 Pulse Nightclub tragedy. His parents, Maria and Fred Wright, met with a group of us last night. They told us about their son and their thoughts on gun control. 

    As mass-shootings like this play out again and again we become uncomfortably numb and wonder, "How can this be?".
     Our country has become a shoot-a-thon because we are led by spine-less politicians who love power and money more than the people they serve. The NRA has them in a death-grip that not even the sight of slaughtered children can't release.

     Last night people who care about the gun problem met in Coral Gables to ask, "What can we do?".  Political scientist, Matt Childers, led things off explaining why it is so difficult to change gun laws in our country.  He said there is hope if we can break past the "Don't take my guns" barrier and have meaningful gun safety dialogue with the other side.
     Maria and Fred Wright then took the stage bringing tears to our eyes as they described their loving son, Jerry. His death has put them on a road they ever expected, being national advocates for sensible gun laws.  
     They have become experts in the process and with Matt, handled the audiences many questions easily.
    The Wrights and the group they represent, Everytown For Gun Safety, gave us an opportunity to do something immediately, to protest the "Concealed Carry Reciprocity" proposal currently pending in Congress. This scary law will take away state's rights to control who is allowed to carry firearms.  The NRA, of course, is pushing it so we can "carry" like cowboys and regress 150 years.  "CCR" will also enrich gun manufacturers  as citizens suffer the consequences.

    All of us signed letters that were delivered to our U.S. congressional representatives' offices today. Let's hope they help.  Let's also hope the latest NRA effort fails along with all of their other foolish proposals to come.

You can help too.  Call your congressional representative today (probably Curbello or Ros-Lehtinen) by dialing the Congressional Switchboard number:  (202) 224-3121.
     Tell your representative that you oppose the CCR  (the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill).  It's that easy to speak up for sane gun laws.

    This country is reeling in a sea of  paranoia, hate, and lies spewed by our crazier-than-thou President. Last night, we were able to connect with one of our many problems, to understand it better, and to do something about it.

    Before I left I thanked the Wrights for joining us.  Fred tucked something in my pocket saying, "This is for you". When I got home I pulled out this photo of his handsome son, the one who called his parents most evenings to tell them "good night". It looks like he's walking though a riverbed out west.

    If this were a better county, Jerry would still be standing by the river.

Monday, November 27, 2017


    The Bahama's Goombay Festival spilled into Coconut Grove forty years ago. For two days every fall we'd have a Nassau parade on Grand Avenue surrounded by delightful island music and food.
The West Grove tradition has had its ups and downs but it last Saturday it was rockin'!
   The Grove's new pop-up celebration "Market Place on Goombay Plaza" was finally open for business.

    For a year our neighbors will be on this corner sharing their music,


and conch salad with us.

     The forlorn lot in the center of the Grove's Bahamian village has been dead since 1989. That's when an old man, Howard Johnson, set up
a little golf course.  He planted tin cups in the ground to enjoy playing the game there daily.
Between rounds he'd sit under these palms and tell people like me how much he loved sinking putts.

Now, Howard's mini-golf course is a vibrant  
mini-festival site for all to enjoy. It was funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation and produced by the City of Miami, the "U", and  West Grove citizenry. 

   These two smiling ladies were selling delicious conch fritters and bread pudding. 

   I drove by Saturday night and folks were still dancin' in the grass under sparkling holiday lights.  
   It doesn't get any Grove-ier is that.


   Saturday we had a workshop to teach people how to weave a stick sculpture, something like the one just created at Pinecrest Gardens.
   Among those attending were our city commissioner, Ken Russell and his family.
Here you see Ken and his son, August, learning the ins and outs of stick weaving.  We are a creating an 8-foot tall work of art that looks something like a modernist teepee.  It is located in the SW corner of our new people's park.  This public place is at the corner of Plaza St. and Palmetto Ave. in the
South Grove.
    Afterwards I gave the Russells a tour of Charlie's Woods on the NE corner of the four-part park.
   Stop by anytime and check out our creation.  There's work to be done and a pile of saplings next to our art work. Feel free to weave in a few sticks yourself. It's a "people's sculpture" in a people's park.

              Eva Russell (left) and her sister, Julia, with the park's historical marker.


    Our friend, Mitchell Kaplan keeps giving us  things we love, good books, great food, and now, a holiday movie.  The Books & Books owner teamed up with local writer, Les Standiford, to get this one in theaters.  It opened last Friday to good reviews.  
      The Miami author wrote "The Man Who Invented Christmas" nine years ago. It's about the difficulties Charles Dickens had getting someone to publish his holiday classic "A Christmas Carol".
Scrooge (played by Christopher Plummer) and all other Carol characters appear in this heart-warming mix of fact and fiction.

   Support your local artists and see "The Man Who Invented Christmas" soon.  It's a feel good movie that will make you forget The Orange Grinch Who Stole the County for a few hours. It's now playing at theaters everywhere.


Friday, November 24, 2017



Patrick Dougherty is a North Carolina artist who weaves tree saplings into fantastic sculptures. He just completed his latest one in Pinecrest Gardens. It will be a prominent part of next month's Art Basel. Forty of us have been helping him these last three weeks.

Patrick at work
    As we wove willow branches into winding  shapes Patrick told me about his past. Now a youthful 72, he  enjoyed playing with sticks as a kid. Later his interest in art, carpentry and nature inspired him to experiment with tree saplings and learn ancient stick building techniques. In 1982, he created his first work and over the last 35 years, has created over 250 “stick works” worldwide.

    For the Pinecrest Gardens sculpture (it will get an official name at a grand opening ceremony Thursday night) they imported three truckloads of young willows from New York.  I learned they grow there on "willow farms" as they do Christmas trees.
                                    Volunteer artist, landscape architect Sefora Chavarria 


                                   One of my jobs was to lop off ends.

   Patrick and his son, Sam, spend three out of four weeks on the road building these things. For
$35,000 (plus expenses) the Doughertys will create one for you. They move on to Austin, Texas, to begin their next piece in January. The will build it in the park where General Custer gathered his troops for their final trek.
                  Sam has gotten very good at this.
     These sculptures have their last stand after two years exposed to the elements. They begin to fall apart and often get recycled into tree mulch. I am going try to give one of the older ones "new life" by transporting it to Burning Man. 
     It would be a welcome addition to the other 300 art pieces that are exhibited at the annual desert festival. And when the big event ends, we wouldn't have to truck it home, we'd give it a Viking funeral!

    Patrick's South Florida stick sculpture, to which I have given the temporary name, "King Mango on Mushrooms", can be seen at Pinecrest Gardens until we set it on fire at Burning Man two years from now.