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Sunday, September 30, 2012


Last night I learned how difficult it is to set a fruit afire.

Some of you know if you put a match to an old Christmas tree it soon becomes an amazing blazing inferno.  A neighbor once called the cops when I torched one in my front yard.
I figured if I built a paper-mache mango over a small pine tree I could easily stage the world's first Burning Mango event  (announced in my previous blog entry).   As it turned out, it wasn't so easy.
The flaming fruit was scheduled to be the grand finale of a garden party to raise funds for President Obama and our friend, Jose Javier Rodriguez (who is running for state house representative).
The party went very well.  Speeches were given by candidate Jose and Phil Stoddard (the mayor of South Miami) and we sang Happy Birthday to Gray (the one on the right in the "Singing Soul Sisters" group).

After the speeches, people wrote down their wishes for the next four years on strips of paper.  They were then stuffed into the giant mango as it was passed around.
As a full moon was rising I placed the giant mango atop a bamboo stick.  The 90 attendees chanted "Four more years!", I put a torch to it, then,

Nothing happened.

Apparently the glue and house paint that I had used to make it resist fire quite well.     

As the chanting changed to, "Four more minutes!",  I stabbed the darn thing with a kitchen knife.  Squirted lighter fluid into the gaping wound helped a lot. 
There was now a fire inside and the orb began to glow.   Soon flames were climbing to the heavens taking our wishes with them.

A minute later only skeletal embers remained.

There were still many bottles of wine so the party continued.  By the end of the night we had collected over $4600.  It may sound like money to burn but we'll be using it to make wishes come true.
A BIG THANKS to Theo, John, Teresa, Thorn, Francesca, Paul, AJ, Bob H., Edith, Jose, Phil, Bob D., Lynn, Cecilia, and everyone else who attended or helped make last night's affair such a success.   
Note:  This party was a little different.  Besides being the first to burn a mango, it was very green.  Using glasses and small napkins, instead of paper cups and plates, the garbage we generated could have fit inside a large purse.  Lacking one, we put it in a garbage can.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert is one of our country's premiere (and weirdest) cultural events.  At the end of a week of creative madness a 40-foot wooden figure is set on fire.
     Wouldn't it be great to have something like this in Miami?    I'm going to experiment with the idea when I will stage the world's first Burning Mango event this weekend.   For sure, it will be smaller than the Nevada totem (my mango is 3-feet tall but that's BIG for a fruit!)  As you can see  it is so heavy it takes two robots to lift it.

    The crowd  will be limited, just a few dozen friends, but that's how things get started.  Back when we staged the first King Mango Strut Parade in 1982, we had about 110 participants and not many more watching.
     Perhaps this weekend's folly will start somethin'!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


When the skies were clearing last Sunday afternoon there were few folks out. Walking downtown I noticed a homeless man checking every parking machine for change. 
I found a quarter once.
Across the street an attractive woman in her late thirties carried something strange and pink, an inflatable sex doll.  Twenty-feet in front of her was a ten-year-old boy.  He kept looking back with a giggling smile.
I like to take pictures of unusual things but had no camera (hence the sketch above).   After half a block the woman and the boy crossed the street and I could see we were about to meet.  
How could I ignore the obvious?  What could I say?
She was now six feet behind me with the boy, seemingly embarrassed, running ahead .  I turned, smiled and said, "So, you won the door prize!".  
"I feel so stupid but it's for my son", she explained as she glanced at him ahead, "He made me do it".
A moment later they stopped at their Lexus.  I assume the three of them drove away.  I couldn't bear to look any longer.

Grove cops sometimes park their police cars in the middle of Main Highway, the Grove's busiest street.  Usually there is an officer inside doing who knows what.  Yesterday I saw two cars doing this in early morning traffic, side-by-side.   I wanted to ask them to move their cars but have almost been arrested for doing less.
When cops started parking in the road a couple of years ago I reported the problem to City Hall.  I was told it was not a problem. A city official told me, "We do this regularly so as to create a presence".
I wish they had the presence of mind to get the hell out of the road.

James Taylor came to the Hollywood, Florida, Obama campaign office last week to thank the local volunteers.   He brought his guitar and sang a few songs as well.  My cameraman friend, AJ Nichols was there, shot a great video, and he put it on YouTube.
Watching it is a remarkable, intimate,  37-minute experience....I guess, if you're over fifty and are rooting for The President.
Most of the people standing around Taylor  were campaign workers in their 20's.  Despite being just four-feet from one of the superstars of my generation many were transfixed on their cell phones.  Most were texting as Taylor sang "You've Got a Friend", "Carolina on my Mind,  and "Sweet Baby James".
What did they write, "An old man is singing next to me" in 500 words?
Maybe they never heard of JT.    Perhaps it'd be like me, in my 20's,  being face-to-face with Sinatra (If I had, geez, I'd have least had the courtesy to listened to the guy).  
I try to understand, I try to be positive.
At least they weren't sleeping. 
If you'd like to see Taylor's performance, google "James Taylor visits Hollywood FL Obama Campaign".   If you want to feel young again watch it with a smart phone in hand.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We wish we could take them home, those special things we encounter in our travels.  Wouldn't the Eiffel Tower look great in Peacock Park? 
My family visited Josselin, a small town in NW France, two months ago.  Here are photos of great things we wish we could bring to Coconut Grove...
Every year the villagers clear out their attics for the "Josselin Attic Sale".   Participating residents pay ten bucks and the proceeds go to the local animal shelter.

What fun it was.  I bought an antique can opener for one Euro ($1.25).   A week later it was confiscated by an airport security guard. 
There's an identical one on E-bay for  $85.

My son, Ian, picked up this ivory cigarette holder.

Brittany was colder than  expected, in the 60's (at night) in July so Dylan picked up a sweater. 
Wouldn't it be terrific if we did this once a year in the Dinner Key parking lot?   Wouldn't it be great if City Hall said, "Yes!" to more good ideas?

We saw this wagon heading west on and Main Street. There were no tourists in the back, only potatoes.
None of the local $7 a gallon gas was required to make it move.

A town is indeed fortunate to have a river running through it or a bay beside it.  Of course, that's why people gather there in the first place.

The citizens of Josselin have the good sense to take advantage of this.

What do we do?
Coconut Grove blocks its public waterfront with trees, bushes, and the jumble of a thousand boats.   The City of Miami spent two years, five years ago, coming up with a plan to beautify and unify our waterfront.  The "Sasaki Plan" has gathered dust ever since.

 In Josselin the River Oust is easily seen and enjoyed.


 Where can you go in Coconut Grove to enjoy a picnic on the bay?   35 years ago one could use one of Peacock Park's picnic shelters.  They were on the water with nothing to block the view or the breeze.  The city knocked them down in the late 70's.   

    In Josselin last July, local British ex-pats invited us to the picnic you see above.   The food wasn't much but it was refreshing to be hearing English again. 
     One guy asked for my surname. When he heard "Terry" he replied, "Of course. All you Terrys are from Yorkshire.  We're your Lancashire neighbors and we fought against you in the War of the Roses 500 years ago."
His wife added, "We like to say you Yorkies are strong in the arm and light in the head".   

It seems like ever other camera shot includes Josselin's castle.  The Duke from the House of Rohan still lives there.  They say you can see him walking his Russian wolfhound by the river in the evening.

Should the Grove construct it's own castle?  It did a lot for Disney World.

Sadly, we have our own version of these edifices. They're called "condominiums".   In the Grove, people live in them so they can see over everything blocking the bay view.

Coconut Grove's waterfront is difficult to see or enjoy.   Have you every tried walking it?
We have something like a quarter-mile bay walk but it is so cluttered, zig-zagged, and threatened by boat-lugging  trucks,  you're better off at the beach.

Above, a family of four leaves the French village for a country stroll.  What delight it was to be in a place with no  cell phone coverage.  Our sons were force to talk with us.

Down the path we discovered this mill and its 15th century adjoining bungalow.   The owner, a gracious New Yorker, gave us a tour of his home, one you'd only expect to see in a dream. 
Said he, "I found the perfect place, an island on lovely river.  With my little bridge, I can walk to the market in ten minutes." 
At the expense sounding like the late Andy Rooney, an easy walk for groceries sounds good to me.

The houses in town aren't too shabby either.  Little lights embedded in the street illuminate them at night.

In the Grove we have a rule, "If your house was built before Leave it to Beaver, it's goin' down".


 This old house was goin' down on its own terms.  The last of its thatch blew away years ago.
   The walls still looked strong.  I imagined someone coming along, binding combed straw to its rafters, and making it habitable again.

Oh my.  There's that castle again posing with a villager who's had her picture taken too many times.

Coconut has not had a real farmer's market in twenty years.  We had once a lively, weekly gathering where the CVS now stands.
Across the street we now have Stan's Saturday Market under a tent.   It's fun to visit but its only Stan selling produce for high prices along with a few of his soap-vendor friends.

To see what a real market can be visit  Josselin in the summer.   Their Saturday market puts others to shame.

Farmers sell carrots so fresh they still have dirt on them (most French people prefer this as they say it "keeps them fresher longer".

It was a thrill to see so much tempting  fruit, fish, and French lace (plus one man selling fifteen different types of sausages.  The "kangaroo" below, was next to the "donkey").

There's a lot of art in this small town too.
Unlike the Grove, the artists actually have places to work.
Their studios are usually next to their galleries.

This particular one caught my eye as the smiling little sculptures reminded me of my own creations.  We stepped inside, met the artist, and toured his multi-level studio/gallery/home.

Wouldn't the Grove would be a better place if we created more space for artists?  We saw so many creative things in this small town.  It is obvious that by promoting art they promote Josselin.

Even David (pronounced "Da-veed") of David's Hair Salon proudly displayed his creations in his front window.  

The town's artisans went all out when they built their cathedral  in the 1500's.   We followed signs to the church tower at its rear.  When we to started to climb the tower stairs huge bells above us started to toll.  

Too loud to continue,  we scurried outside.  I asked a young church guide why the bells were ringing (it wasn't "on the hour").  She told me in her limited English, "Someone has died".
     We learned the tolling of the bells marked the end of a memorial service being held inside.  Their sad song continued like a long goodbye that you never want to end.  I thought about the bell ringers pulling on long ropes just a few feet away, inside the tower's base.
Gradually they slowed and we wondered which would be the last. After a twelve-minute carillon the final bell rang and gradually faded away.
      Remembering our visit puts a smile on my face.  Why can't our own hometowns have more of the above?   I can do without kangaroo but maybe if we put our minds to it, we can all enjoy a little more French flair.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


      Francesca came home tonight bummed.  She had just finished a stint making calls from our local Obama for President office.  There were many good stories to share but one had upset her. 
      An angry man asked, "Obama?  Why would I vote for a Muslim?" 
When my wife pointed out that the President was a Christian he replied, "You have no idea of what it means to be a Christian!".  After Francesca let him know she was raised in the Catholic faith,  the angry guy told her -just before he hung up- "That's just as bad".
       I asked her if any of her of calls had left her feeling good and she said most had.  She mentioned one in particular.
A Spanish-speaking man told Francesca, "I am old and I am dying, but before I go, I'll be voting for President Obama again." 
       Thinking about this, and the other nice people she had talked to, made her feel better.


Friday, September 14, 2012


 Tree snails have it so easy. 
  Every time a rotten papaya leaf hits the ground one of them yells in tiny snail voice,  "Par-tay!", and the rush is on. 
 I wish throwing a party, for us, could be so simple.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


 One of the strangest things in Europe is being overloaded with options, "Should I go to this place? that place?, or still?". 
 Last summer the Terrys were holed up in a tiny medieval town.  Our ten days in Brittaney, France offered numerous possibilities.  
 Every city has something to sell and Nantes has Jules Verne.  For years one could walk by his birthplace or visit a little museum, then several years ago, they rolled out the Big Guns.  Someone said,"Our dear science fiction writer imagined fantastic things.  Why don't we hire people to build them.  Maybe tourists could even ride them!"
And so it was.  Machines de I'ile was born.
 Who wouldn't want to ride a giant mechanical elephant (it can carry 40 people) or straddle a squid on the ultra-amazing Marine Carousel? 

 Five years in development, this under-the-sea extravaganza made its debut July 15.
 See it all by going to . 
 To see a video of the awesome elephant, google "video giant elephant, nantes".

  Sadly, by the time we learned about les machines we were making our way to our next destination.  (happily, that next destination was Venice, Italy... more on that later)

We'll have to ride the elephant, crabs, and tongue-flicking sea serpents some other time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Need a help with your teeth?  Our dentist, Dr. Gabriella Aran, has recently opened her own office in Coral Gables (she was with another Gables office for years).

She is cool, so cool that,
1) She went to Burning Man.
2) Francesca and I almost look forward to our visits, and 


3) After she works over your teeth, you have the option "play dentist" and work over hers!

(Okay, I made up #3 but wasn't she a good sport to pose for this silly picture?)


 Her new place is called "Gables Dental Care" and is located behind La Cassita Restaurant, 3815 SW 8th St.  Parking is easy and free.
 If your teeth need a talented jawsmith,  call her office at 305-443-7501.  We think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Last summer we were  invited to visit a friend in France.

Our Grove neighbor, Brigitte Kavanaugh, has summer home in Brittany, France.   Last July she asked us to stop by.

What a change it was from all things Miami.  For starters, her house is old, a 4-3 built in the early 1700's.  



People were shorter then.

 This oak ceiling beam (painted white) was cut away at some point to avoid repeated head bangings.  


I loved her house's old stairs.  It's hard to see in this photo but each step was worn, gently sloping away from the middle then rising up again.   Centuries of stair climbing do that.

Every morning we'd wake up to see these beams holding up the floor above us.

One day we all pitched in re-paint the house's trim and front door French Blue.

I am an unrepentant lover of hardware.  Locks like Brigitte's give me the shivers.  Many of them still use skeleton keys. Many French hardware stores
carry hundreds of them in stock.

Yes, I suppose you have to keep criminals on the other side of the front door but the French do it with style. 
They do everything with style. 

 The local butcher knows the cow your meat came from.
 The baker's fresh bread is incredible, indescribably delicious.  There were three patisseries withing three blocks of the house.  As the first one to wake up everyday, it was my job to go our for the morning baguette, croissants, and pastries.

  I loved everything about Europe.  It was so strange to come home and hear some goofball at the Republican convention saying, "We've got to stop President Obama before he turns the United States into another Europe!"

What could be better?


Carlos Montainer wrote a column in last Sunday's paper about how
Americans often boast, "We're Number One!"   
Are we?

Sure, we're got the best army. So what?  Our country feels like a sputtering macho car sporting a bumper sticker, "My kid can kick your honor student's a--".

Montainer's columns went on to say when experts rate countries with the best standards of living (health, happiness, income, safely, etc) the United States is not even in the top dozen.   Who leads the way?  European countries.

How did we get this way?   For starters, we are led by politicians  lost in partisan gridlock.  Little gets done in Washington.  
Yes, we now have "ObamaCare" but half of our politicians are hellbent on destroying it. 
On last summer's vacation, we were briefly in England.  Their people are twice as healthy as Americans and their health cost one-half of ours.  Go figure.  Better yet, go vote November 6th.

Marathon man, Paul Ryan, tells us the United States is an "exceptional country" that must not fall into "European decadence".
I don't agree.  We do some things well but there is much we can learn from European (and Asian) countries.
I hope we become more like Europe.  If we do fall into European decadence, I expect we'll be falling up.