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It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Musical Appreciation ► Woody Guthrie's Centennial

If 'Merka ever had a national troubadour, it would have been Woody Guthrie. Among his legacy of hundreds -- some say thousands -- of songs include "This Land Is Your Land," considered by many to be an alternate 'Merkin National Anthem. However, he also wrote "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On," considered the Folk song of the state of Washington.

Those who cite Woody Guthrie as an influence include every Folk singer who ever plucked a string, along with a whole raft of Rockers. Consequently, anyone citing those musicians are just further links in the chain that start with Woody, considered one of 'Merka's first singer-songwriters.

In the early '30s Guthrie joined the Dust Bowl migration to California, where he first became known singing Hillbilly music. It was here he first met Socialists and began his political journey farther and farther to the left. After leaving California he rarely stopped moving. Wandering troubadours go back to ancient times, but few traveled as extensively as Guthrie. At one time he bragged to have been in 45 of the (then) 48 states.

According to the official Woody Guthrie web site:
The late 1940's and early 1950's saw a rise in anti-Communist sentiments. Leftist and progressive-minded Americans were subjected to Red-scare tactics such as "blacklisting." Many people, particularly in the arts and entertainment fields, either lost their jobs or were prevented from working in their chosen careers. The Weavers, along with Woody, Pete Seger, and others from their circle, were targeted for their activist stances on such issues as the right to unionize, equal rights, and free speech.
Isn't it telling that leftists and progressives are still fighting the same battles? Woody Guthrie believed in the power of music to transform (as do I). And that's why on his guitar was the slogan THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.

However, AS ALWAYS, it's the music that endures. Here's a Woody Guthrie Jukebox:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Musical Appreciation ► Live Aid

He was a member of The Boomtown Rats, an Irish Punk band from the late '70s. At the time no one could have predicted that Bob Geldolf, writer of everyone's favourite work anthem "I Don't Like Mondays," would be elevated to a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for his charity work on Live Aid, the biggest fundraising Rock Concert ever mounted. It took place on two continents at two separate venues, Wembley and JFK stadiums in London and Phildelphia respectively. The simultaneous concerts were broadcast around the world and, in the final accounting, raised an estimated £150,000,000 for famine relief 27 years ago today.

However, it was the music that kept people in front of their tee vee sets. Here are just a few of the performances. [Full list of performers at below]

The Coldstream Guards set the tone for the day with the Royal Salute and God Save The Queen. Speaking of Queen; their performance is considered one of the best of the day and one of the best live performances of their career. Freddie Mercury was at the top of his game, belting out all the high notes. Here is their full performance:

Although they were never billed as such that day, here was the much anticipated reunion of Led Zeppelin, performing their biggest hit:

The Material Girl had a set:

As did Paul McCartney, whose opening was marred by a faulty microphone when he was brought out as the show closer:

David Bowie turned in an electrifying performance of Heroes:

Phil Collins performed "In The Air Tonight" in Philadelphia after a set in London earlier in the day. He's the only artist to appear at both concerts.

This came after a hurried Concorde flight from London, where he accompanied Sting on such songs as Roxanne and Every Breath You Take:

Sting also performed with Dire Straits, recreating his performance from the Money For Nothing.

Guitar God Eric Clapton blasted out a searing Layla (with Phil Collins, who seemed to be everywhere that day, on drums):

The concerts lasted 16 hours but, with sets occurring at both venues simultaneously, the actual running time of the music was much longer. Here is the rundown for both venues with the songs performed (as listed on the WikiWackyWoo):

  •     Coldstream Guards – "Royal Salute", "God Save The Queen" (W 12:00);
  •     Status Quo – "Rockin' All Over the World", "Caroline", "Don't Waste My Time" (W 12:02);
  •     The Style Council – "You're the Best Thing", "Big Boss Groove", "Internationalists", "Walls Come Tumbling Down" (W 12:19);
  •     The Boomtown Rats – "I Don't Like Mondays", "Drag Me Down", "Rat Trap", "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" (sung by the audience) (W 12:44);
  •     Adam Ant – "Vive Le Rock" (W 13:00);
  •     Ultravox – "Reap The Wild Wind", "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes", "One Small Day", "Vienna" (W 13:16);
  •     Spandau Ballet – "Only When You Leave", "Virgin", "True" (W 13:47);
  •     Elvis Costello – "All You Need Is Love" (W 14:07);
  •     Nik Kershaw – "Wide Boy", "Don Quixote", "The Riddle", "Wouldn't It Be Good" (W 14:22);
  •     Sade – "Why Can't We Live Together", "Your Love Is King", "Is It A Crime" (W 14:55);
  •     Sting and Phil Collins (with Branford Marsalis) – "Roxanne", "Driven To Tears", "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)", "Message In A Bottle", "In the Air Tonight", "Long Long Way To Go", "Every Breath You Take" (W 15:18);
  •     Howard Jones – "Hide And Seek" (W 15:50)
  •     Bryan Ferry (with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on guitar) – "Sensation", "Boys And Girls", "Slave To Love", "Jealous Guy" (W 16:07);
  •     Paul Young – "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (intro), "Come Back and Stay", "That's The Way Love Is" (with Alison Moyet), "Every Time You Go Away" (W 16:38);
  •     U2 (introduced by Jack Nicholson)– "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Bad" (with snippets of "Satellite Of Love", "Ruby Tuesday", "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Walk On The Wild Side") (W 17:20);
  •     Dire Straits – "Money for Nothing" (with Sting), "Sultans Of Swing" (W 18:00);
  •     Queen (introduced by comedians Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones) – "Bohemian Rhapsody"/"Radio Ga-Ga", "Hammer to Fall", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions" (W 18:44);
  •     David Bowie (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) – "TVC 15", "Rebel Rebel", "Modern Love", "Heroes" (W 19:22);
  •     The Who (introduced by Jack Nicholson) – "My Generation"/"Pinball Wizard", "Love, Reign O'er Me", "Won't Get Fooled Again" (W 20:00);
  •     Elton John (introduced by Billy Connolly) – "I'm Still Standing", "Bennie and the Jets", "Rocket Man", "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (with Kiki Dee), "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (with George Michael and backing vocals by Andrew Ridgeley), "Can I Get a Witness" (W 20:50);
  •     Finale at Wembley Stadium:
  •     a) Freddie Mercury and Brian May (Queen) – "Is This The World We Created?" (W 21:48),
  •     b) Paul McCartney – "Let It Be" (W 21:51),
  •     c) Band Aid (led by Bob Geldof) – "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (W 21:54);

JFK Stadium

  •     Bernard Watson – "All I Really Want to Do", "Interview" (JFK 13:51);
  •     Joan Baez (introduced by Jack Nicholson) – "Amazing Grace"/"We Are the World" (JFK 14:02);
  •     The Hooters – "And We Danced", "All You Zombies" (JFK 14:12);
  •     Four Tops – "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", "Bernadette", "It's The Same Old Song", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (JFK 14:33);
  •     Billy Ocean – "Caribbean Queen", "Loverboy" (JFK 14:45);
  •     Black Sabbath (introduced by Chevy Chase) – "Children of the Grave", "Iron Man", "Paranoid" (JFK 14:52);
  •     Run–D.M.C. – "Jam Master Jay", "King Of Rock" (JFK 15:12);
  •     Rick Springfield – "Love Somebody", "State of the Heart", "Human Touch" (JFK 15:30);
  •     REO Speedwagon – "Can't Fight This Feeling", "Roll With The Changes" (JFK 15:47);
  •     Crosby, Stills and Nash – "Southern Cross", "Teach Your Children", "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (JFK 16:15);
  •     Judas Priest – "Living After Midnight", "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)", "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" (JFK 16:26);
  •     Bryan Adams (introduced by Jack Nicholson) – "Kids Wanna Rock", "Summer Of '69", "Tears Are Not Enough", "Cuts Like a Knife" (JFK 17:02);
  •     The Beach Boys (introduced by Marilyn McCoo) – "California Girls", "Help Me, Rhonda", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "Good Vibrations", "Surfin' USA" (JFK 17:40);
  •     George Thorogood and the Destroyers – "Who Do You Love" (with Bo Diddley), "The Sky Is Crying", "Madison Blues" (with Albert Collins) (JFK 18:26);
  •     Simple Minds – "Ghost Dancing", "Don't You (Forget About Me)", "Promised You A Miracle" (JFK 19:07);
  •     The Pretenders – "Time The Avenger", "Message Of Love", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Back On The Chain Gang", "Middle of the Road" (JFK 19:41);
  •     Santana and Pat Metheny – "Brotherhood", "Primera Invasion", "Open Invitation", "By The Pool"/"Right Now" (JFK 20:21);
  •     Ashford & Simpson – "Solid", "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (with Teddy Pendergrass) (JFK 20:57);
  •     Madonna (introduced by Bette Midler) – "Holiday", "Into The Groove", "Love Makes The World Go Round" (JFK 21:27);
  •     Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (introduced by Don Johnson) – "American Girl", "The Waiting", "Rebels", "Refugee" (JFK 22:14);
  •     Kenny Loggins – "Footloose" (JFK 22:30);
  •     The Cars – "You Might Think", "Drive", "Just What I Needed", "Heartbeat City" (JFK 22:49);
  •     Neil Young – "Sugar Mountain", "The Needle and the Damage Done", "Helpless", "Nothing Is Perfect (In God's Perfect Plan)", "Powderfinger" (JFK 23:07);
  •     Power Station – "Murderess", "Get It On" (JFK 23:43);
  •     Thompson Twins – "Hold Me Now", "Revolution" (with Madonna, Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers) (JFK 00:21);
  •     Eric Clapton (with Phil Collins) – "White Room", "She's Waiting", "Layla" (JFK 00:39);
  •     Phil Collins (having flown Concorde from UK to US) – "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)", "In The Air Tonight" (JFK 01:04);
  •     Led Zeppelin Reunion – (with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Tony Thompson, Paul Martinez, and Phil Collins) – "Rock and Roll", "Whole Lotta Love", "Stairway To Heaven" (JFK 01:10);
  •     Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", "Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom" (JFK 01:40);
  •     Duran Duran – "A View to a Kill", "Union Of The Snake", "Save A Prayer", "The Reflex" (JFK 01:45);
  •     Patti LaBelle – "New Attitude", "Imagine", "Forever Young", "Stir It Up", "Over The Rainbow", "Why Can't I Get It Over" (JFK 02:20);
  •     Hall & Oates – "Out Of Touch", "Maneater", "Get Ready" (with Eddie Kendricks), "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" (with David Ruffin), "The Way You Do The Things You Do", "My Girl" (with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin) (JFK 02:50);
  •     Mick Jagger (with Hall & Oates / Eddie Kendricks / David Ruffin) – "Lonely At The Top", "Just Another Night", "Miss You", "State Of Shock"/"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It) (reprise)" (with Tina Turner) (JFK 03:15);
  •     Finale at JFK Stadium:
  •     a) Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood – "Ballad of Hollis Brown", "When the Ship Comes In", Blowin' In The Wind" (JFK 03:39),
  •     b) USA for Africa (led by Lionel Richie) – "We Are the World" (JFK 3:55)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 2.1 ► Today in The Grove

I love Google alerts. While not everything below belongs to Miami's Coconut Grove, most of it does. And, what's there has all the appearance of bling in the Florida sun: ritzy hotels, bed races, show biz, outdoor cafes, wine tasting, high fashion, and high end real estate. Imagine how much money is exchanging hands today in The Grove, just in food and drink service.

To hell with Coconut Grove's history when there's money to be made.

News8 new results for Coconut Grove
Newton assault victim on suicide watch
Herald Sun
Miami trial lawyer Michael Seth Cohen has filed a complaint on behalf of Ariel Vargas, 42, who was working the graveyard shift in the Coconut Grove Courtyard Marriott on April 17 when Newton launched an attack that was captured on CCTV. Mr Cohen said ...
See all stories on this topic »
Magic and more: Singers, comedians, performers to showcase talent in variety ...
Cherokee Tribune
... and more: Singers comedians performers to showcase talent in variety show - CANTON — The Canton Theatre hopes to bring some laughs to downtown Canton with two nights of a variety show. The Coconut Grove Players which consists of six perform...
See all stories on this topic »
Man ordered to stand trial for murder of parents
ABC Online
Thomas Bradley, 40, is charged murdering his parents, Bill and Hilary Bradley, in their Coconut Grove townhouse in March. An autopsy showed both were killed by stabbing. Bradley was today committed to stand trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
See all stories on this topic »
Matthew Newton 'sued over hotel assault'
Yahoo!7 News
Ariel Vargas was doing the graveyard shift just before 5am on April 17 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Miami's Coconut Grove. Video surveillance at the hotel appears to show Newton punch the 42-year-old in the face. The 35-year-old Underbelly star ...
See all stories on this topic »

Yahoo!7 News
New Providence Police investigate alleged drowning - Mobile division make ...
A 17 year old male of 2nd Street, Coconut Grove is in police custody after being found in possession of a handgun and ammunition. According to police reports around 11:23 pm on Monday 9th July, 2012 police received information of gunshots being heard ...
See all stories on this topic »

On the Road Again
New York Times
One long-haired owner hops on his ride, fires her up and smoothly navigates her into a well-to-do avenue of Coconut Grove. The loud, wet growl of her pipes instantly stops all talk in the open-air cafes and along the crowded sidewalks down which women ...
See all stories on this topic »
Filming in Miami
Miami Today
Newspaper; Filming; Fashion Photography; Photography; Commercials; Videos; Miami, Florida; Miami Today; MiamiTodayNews; Miami-Today; South Florida; Coral Gables; Coconut Grove; Aventura; Miami Beach; Ocean Drive; Lincoln Road; South Beach; ...
See all stories on this topic »
Miami-Dade way ahead of state in spending rebound
“On average, we're still about 10 or 15 percent behind that pace” hit in 2007 and 2008, said Robert Finvarb, owner of several Marriott hotels in Miami-Dade, including a 196-room Courtyard by Marriott along the Coconut Grove waterfront. “We're getting ...
See all stories on this topic »

Blogs3 new results for Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove Grapevine: Great Grove Bed Race registration is ...
By Grapevine
Good, cause the sign-up form is now open for the 2012 Great Grove Bed Race, which will take over the streets of Coconut Grove on Sunday, September 2. This is one of the Grove's big signature event, thousands of people crowd the village to ...
Coconut Grove Grapevine
New Wine tasting series at the Ritz Carlton 7/12/12 « Soul Of Miami
By soulofmiami
Guests' palates will be greeted with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, while sipping on carefully selected winesthemed by varietal type, region or country of origin, for an educational wine tasting at The Ritz-Carlton-Coconut Grove in Miami's ...
Soul Of Miami
Destination Miami | Fashion News, The latest trends, Catwalk - Motilo
By CressidaMeale
Districts such as Coral Gables, Little Havana and Coconut Grove offer the kind of sultry indulgences their names suggest, but it is South Beach (SoBe) that's the heart of the party scene in a city that takes its hedonism, ostentation and ...
Fashion News, The latest trends,...

Web6 new results for Coconut Grove
3400 27 Avenue UNIT 401, Coconut Grove, FL 33133. MLS ...
3400 27 Avenue UNIT 401, Coconut Grove, FL 33133. RITZ CARLTON. MLS# A1663109.
Sonesta New Orleans, Boston, Miami, St. Maarten, Brazil, Peru, Egypt
... Cruises and Beach Resorts. Discover the distinctive Sonesta resorts and hotels in New Orleans, Maho Beach, Boston / Cambridge, Coconut Grove, and more.
Miami planning board to consider proposed school on July 18 ...
IF YOU GO What: Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Where: Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Coconut Grove When: 6:30 p.m. on July 18 ...
Coconut Grove-$900 Mostly Furnished with Parking & Utilities ...
This is a great housing opportunity for a responsible male or female in the center of Coconut Grove! $900 per month includes room (180 sq ft), garage parking, ...
ESL Jobs in Coconut Grove Florida | ESLemployment
Job search for ESL jobs in Coconut Grove Florida at ESLemployment.com.
Buyer Representation For Coconut Grove Commercial Retail ...
3340 GRAND AV - Coconut Grove, FL 33133. Beds: 0 Baths: 0; Type: Commercial/Industrial; MLS ID: D1369668; Sq Ft: 4500. on grand ave one block from the ...

Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part Two ► E.W.F. Stirrup House

Standing proud. The beautiful E.W.F. Stirrup House.
The E.W.F. Stirrup House (left) at 3242 Charles Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, is reportedly one of the last wood frame homes in Miami-Dade County. It is almost certainly one of the oldest houses, built in the late 19th century, as Caribbean Blacks started arriving in lower Florida to work at the Peacock Inn. The house sticks out on Charles Avenue, but also in Florida. Homes don't look like this anywhere else. According to a report looking in to designating the E.W.F. Stirrup House a Miami historical site:
The key elements that reflect its nineteenth century origins are its extremely narrow proportions, the size and shape of the fenestration, and its L-shaped plan. This design is based on a builder’s tradition, and was especially popular throughout America in the last half of the nineteenth century.
There is more than one way to describe this property type. In their book A Field Guide to American Houses, Virginia and Lee McAlester describe it as a “front gable folk house.” In a more detailed article, Barbara Wyatt of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin described it as a “Gabled Ell.” Wyatt explains that this type was especially common in late–nineteenth century America, and was almost exclusively a residential type. The Gabled Ell takes the form of two gabled wings that are perpendicular to one another, and that are frequently of different heights.

The longitudinal face parallel to the street almost always had the lower height. The result was typically an L-shaped plan. Ms. Wyatt explains that the form allowed for outdoor living space (the porch) and a sheltered entrance. Entry is always via the porch at the “ell,” or junction of the two wings.
My latest panorama of the E.W.F. Stirrup House and the historical marker that started my journey.

The Stirrup House mailbox in 2010
While the E.W.F. Stirrup House certainly deserves to be preserved for its age and architecture, it also needs to be preserved as a standing monument to Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, one of the people who built Coconut Grove with his bare hands.

E.W.F. Stirrup arrived in Coconut Grove in 1899 at the age of 25. Like a lot of Bahamians, he first migrated to Key West. There he apprenticed with an uncle as a carpenter, a trade he would utilize later. After 10 years, and unhappy with the financial arrangement with his uncle, Stirrup first moved to Cutler, Florida, working in pineapple fields and clearing lots for houses. Occasionally, instead of cash, Stirrup was paid in land, which began his real estate holdings that at one time included most of downtown Coconut Grove. That's what made him one of Florida's first Black millionaires. However, that's not what made him extraordinary, especially for his times.

As his landholdings increased Stirrup began building houses which he rented and sold to other Bahamians who had emigrated up through Key West to take the jobs offered by Coconut Grove's growing tourist industry. According to Kate Stirrup Dean, Stirrup's oldest daughter:

Father believed in every family having a house, a yard and a garden, so you would feel like you had a home. He felt that people became better citizens when they owned their own homes.

The Mariah Brown House with its marker and No Trespassing sign.
Stirrup apparently built more than 100 houses, often at night after a full day's work. Because of this Coconut Grove had a greater percent of Black home ownership than any other 'Merkin city I have studied. Most other cities had a higher percentage of rental properties and absentee landlords as a result of the neighbourhoods once belonging to other ethnic types who moved up and out, a natural progression. Coconut Grove was an area settled almost entirely by Blacks when there was nothing but swamp and wilderness surrounding it. They didn't inherit the neighbourhood, they built it and owned it themselves.

Stirrup was obviously a proud man because his house, which once dominated a large lot at the east end of Charles Avenue overlooking his estate, is a showpiece. It looks nothing like the simple Bahamian style homes he built for his neighbours. One of the last surviving examples of the Bahamian style is The Mariah Brown House, which pre-dates Stirrup's arrival by nine years. It is thought to be the first house owned by a Black person in the area. A report was also prepared to designate the Brown House a Miami historical property. The report declares the Brown House:

[O]ne of the most important remaining sites from this early black Bahamian settlement in Coconut Grove. The house is also a good example of the type of architecture of the nineteenth century frame vernacular architecture that was inspired by the houses of the Bahamas and Key West.

The importance of the contributions made by African Bahamians to the develoment [sic] of Coconut Grove and the City of Miami has long been overlooked. Although recent studies show that by 1920 West Indian blacks made up over 16 percent of Miami's population, information about their community and lifestyle has been basically undocumented.

Undocumented? Overlooked? Yes!!! Researching the Bahamian phase of Coconut Grove has been a monumental task. I have it through 2nd and 3rd hand information that in the '20s, or '30s, or '40s, and well into the '60s according to some, Coconut Grove was an artists' community. It attracted a certain type of Bohemian Beatnik hipster, the archetype of which had little problem mixing with Blacks, listening to Jazz, and smoking reefer. That's where my novel is going.

However that's not where my research keeps taking me. My research keeps taking me to the E.W.F. Stirrup House, the Mariah Brown House, and the Coconut Grove Playhouse [another boondoggle I have yet to write about, but which I believe is just one more piece in the giant corruption jigsaw puzzle I find myself investigating] . Yet, the more I find out, the less I know. A little over a year ago the local NBC affiliate and CBS affiliate both filed reports which filled in some more of the blanks of the Stirrup House:

What has happened since then? Aside from someone straightening the historical marker? Nothing. I have now been documenting Charles Avenue in photos and essays for three years. In that time there has been no change to the Mariah Brown House or the E.W.F Stirrup House. Aside from more weather damage they stand in the EXACT same state of disrepair as they were the day I discovered them. My research confirms that each of them were vacant for years before I stumbled across them.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2009.
In April of this year a "Give It Back!!! Give It Back!!!" campaign fired up to save the Coconut Grove Playhouse. However, it appears to have sputtered out almost as quickly as it flared up. More importantly, it was only concentrated on the Playhouse. What's clearly needed is a comprehensive plan for a specially designated historical district from the Charlotte Jane Memorial Cemetery (named after Stirrup's wife and childhood sweetheart and once the only place Blacks could be buried in the area because it was owned by Mr. Stirrup) to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, which could be the jewel in the rich tapestry of historical preservation of a Black neighbourhood unique in this country.

If such a designation can be done for a DAMNED DESIGN DISTRICT, then Miami can certainly see to it that this stretch of Charles Avenue be saved, and preserved. What physically remains of Coconut Grove's rich history has been neglected and allowed to rot. I believe this has always been the original intent, ever since these three properties went vacant. Ask yourselves this question? In the middle of one of the most exclusive Zip Codes in the country, why has Miami allowed this to happen? Have you ever heard of Demolition by Neglect?

I believe the fix was in a long time ago. Therefore the question has always been, in my mind, who would benefit from from these properties being razed to the ground?

Coming soon: Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part Three ► Who has a financial stake in the east end of Charles Avenue?

Previous entries:
Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part One
Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 1.1

Monday, July 9, 2012

Colour Me Shocked!!! A Revolution In Condo World

In my world this is earthshaking news. It's hard to describe in mere words just how shocking this is (which is why I also have pictures), but I'll try because I'm a writer, dammit!!! This is the equivalent of discovering, late in life, that not only were you adopted, but so were both of your parents, and your parents' parents. Nothing you ever believed makes any sense any more. It's that shocking. Really. Trust me.

My parents' condo complex was built 35-40 years ago; some 240 buildings of 30 units each, with almost no variation from building to building. Del Boca Vista, the Florida condo complex where Jerry Seinfeld's tee vee parents retired, had to have been based on this community. However, the writers toned down the craziness because they knew how unbelievable it would be, even in a show about nothing. I moved in here after my Mom died to take care of Pops. Within weeks I had run afoul of the Condo Board President. At the next board meeting the bitch moved a motion to have me ejected from the complex. It was seconded and passed with nary a discussion, in contravention of condo by-laws, and I was ordered to leave within 10 days. That was 7 years ago and is a long, involved, Kafkaesque story I don't care to get into here. However, it is indicative of how conformity is a way of life in this condo complex.

And, that includes the colours. Especially the colours. Oh, those colours!!!

Panorama showing 4 buildings in my complex. There are 236 other buildings just like them. Click to enlarge.

The pink wasn't quite flamingo pink, nor was it Milk of Magnesia pink. It was a tedious and uninteresting pink. The brown accent was also dull and joyless, not quite chocolate or tan, but somewhere uncomfortably in the middle without having to make a declaration. And this is how it's been for the past 4 decades. The incorporating documents of the complex stipulate that all the buildings will be the exact same colour. Every so many years the complex gets painted top to bottom, one end to the other. Whenever they've painted they have tried to match the colours as close as possible. However, there have always been slight variations from one painting to the next, or from one end of the complex to the other. It must be hard matching that much paint. It still amuses me to hear people complain about a paint job a few occasions back that came out far too pink and not quite brown enough. People were forced to live with it until the next painting. Let's face it: The people here don't like change, unless it's to make a new condo by-law.

And then...suddenly...without warning...without any changes to the condo by-laws...without seemingly a whole lot of discussion...without our previous knowledge...a number of new colours have appeared on my building, and my building alone. And, just on my floor. And, just on my wing. Get a load of this:

No longer in the pink. My front door showing the bilious almost-yellow wall and not-quite-tan door.

My almost-yellow wall against my neighbour's somewhat greenish-blueish wall.
Where my condo touches my neighbour's condo. Note the old, not-really-pink in the foreground..
Close up detail of above. Four colours touch.

An intersection where the old colours (left) coexist with the new.

Several condo colour scemes: a slightly different almost-yellow and a slightly different greenish-blueish.

Several condo colour scemes.

Here's what I have managed to cobble together: A new committee (comprised of whom I do not know) is going to select a new colour scheme for the entire complex. A decision was made (by whom I do not know) to paint a few sample colour schemes (chosen by whom I do not know) and have people live with them a while before deciding (with what input from the owners I cannot determine) what colour to paint the complex in the fall.

I LOVE IT!!! Aside from the sheer anarchy of the whole enterprise, suddenly we look like a happy and colourful community, instead of one with a foot already in the grave. My first suggestion was to make all the buildings multi-coloured, just like my floor is now. It creates a really vibrant look to the building, although I would have stuck more to a pastel/ice-cream pallet, which looks good in the Florida sunshine. However, I was told that that would be impossible because of the incorporating documents. My next suggestion was to choose several colour schemes and dot them around the complex, so that no two buildings next to each other were the same colour. Again, the incorporating documents make that impossible and the cost to change the incorporating documents, ie: the condo by-laws, is prohibitively expensive, according to someone in the know.

And therein lies the big Catch 22: These sample colour schemes themselves seem to contravene the condo by-laws. I have yet to hear if there was a vote by the Board of Directors, but the condo board cannot overrule the incorporating documents.

Short HOA rant: 'Merkins willingly sign documents which give them almost no rights whatsoever. They allowed themselves to be ruled by capricious, mendacious, and sometimes criminal Boards of Directors. Here in "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" 'Merkins are legally prevented, and afraid, to paint their front door any colour they want, let alone add any other non-conforming element to the house or condo they think they own. Fun HOA trivia: HOAs were specifically invented to keep out Blacks and Jews. Eventually they lost that power (although it is still applied covertly by some condo boards; a charge that's hard to prove), but that's one of the few powers HOAs have lost over the years. Today condo boards are very powerful entities and can crush any dissent. Don't believe me? My treatment when I moved in is Exhibit A. I publicly called the Board President a bully and, ironically, she set out to prove how right I was.

Meanwhile, until further notice, here's my very colourful building in a very large panorama:

Colour my world. The 3 almost-yellows are not the same, nor are the two greenish-blueish.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Magical Tee Vee Moment ► Ernest Borgnine's Secret To Long Life ► R.I.P.

Those Foxy Friends at Fox and Friends have a way of bringing out the best in people. Here they get Ernest Borgnine to reveal his secret to longevity.


Unpacking Coconut Grove, Florida ► Part 1.1

Years of neglect. The front porch of the long-empty E.W.F. Stirrup House.
In researching Part Two of this series, I came across something that demonstrates in stark relief the disparity between the east side of Main Highway and the older Black neighbourhood on the other side, where the Charles Avenue historical marker is located. Just a mile from the E.W.F. Stirrup House is a property that recently hit the market at $22,000,000. An item describes it as:
Baymere, the five-acre former DuPont estate in Coconut Grove, has hit the market asking $22 million. The 33-room residence was built in 1964 and includes a man-made private cove, helicopter pad and putting green. The two-story, 26,981-square-foot house was designed by architect Scott Arnold and includes a full basement and third floor observation deck. Saddy Delgado and Toni Schrager of Avatar Real Estate Services have the listing, which is located at 3500 St. Gaudens Road. — Christopher Cameron
When houses in Coconut Grove are selling for $22 million dollars, why isn't there enough money to preserve the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the E.W.F. Stirrup House, and the rich history of Coconut Grove?

More neglect. This is the rear door of the E.W.F. Stirrup House, which appears untouched since vacant.

Unpacking Coconut Grove, Florida ► Part One

The marker that started my quest. Click to enlarge.
After a short hiatus, here's a fair warning for those who got tired of hearing me spout off about Charles Avenue and Coconut Grove: I got the bug all over again, so get used to hearing me spout off about Charles Avenue and Coconut Grove all over again.

At my old, former, moribund blog Aunty Em's Place (now overgrown with spammers and ivy) I started a series called The Shame of Coconut Grove™, which I continued on facebook on my old, former, moribund Aunty Em Ericann account. Before Aunty Em was kicked off facebook, she (me!) had unpacked quite a bit of Coconut Grove, both its history and internal politics, all because of an accidental encounter with a historical marker (at left).

A must read book on race
People who have known me a long time know I gravitate towards stories about race relations, a life-long interest. Had I really taken up that Black Studies Program when I first considered it, I'm sure I would be Black by now. Coincidentally on the day I discovered the Charles Avenue historical marker, as part of my independent study reading list, I was in the middle of "Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism," by James W. Loewen, which is the single greatest book on race relations I have ever read. It explained to me why every 'Merkin city looks the way it does and why the overt racism of days gone by led to the covert racism of today. It also explained, for me, how White Privilege was woven into the fabric of life as generations experienced it so that, today, it covers us like a warm blanket that is so comfy we don't even realize we're wrapped in it. The events and attitudes described in Loewen's book affect our lives every day, whether we stop to consider it or not.

There was just something about the Charles Street historical marker that spoke to me. The sign, the location, and the condition seemed to encapsulate the Black 'Merkin Experience: a rich history not only ignored and forgotten, but mistreated in its memory. The panorama below shows the condition of the marker and the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House across the street. [More about the house and Mr. Stirrup in later chapters.]

Panorama of the historical marker and the E.W.F. Stirrup House across the street. Click to enlarge.

Detail of sign's base. Click to enlarge.
The sign was leaning backwards at an uncomfortable angle. If not for the fence behind it, it might have fallen down completely. The base (see right) was broken. The first time I visited (early 2009) I just thought the pole was bent. I didn't see the base due to the garbage bags piled up all around it. [I cannot seem to find the pics of my 1st visit, but have all the rest.] On my second visit, and subsequent visits, the garbage had changed, which meant that it was being used as a regular, accepted trash collection site. And, why not? The base had clearly been broken for quite a while to have sustained the damage I saw. The aluminum post, when new, had been filled with cement and steel rebar, which was in a dreadful state of disrepair having been exposed to the elements for...how long? I had no way to estimate, but it was clearly not recent. The sign had been sponsored by Eastern Airlines, a defunct company, in cooperation with The Historical Association of Southern Florida, an entity I could never find.

The location of the sign is no less significant. There's no way to whitewash this: Coconut Grove, Florida (incorporated into Miami in 1925) is considered one of the most exclusive addresses in all of 'Merka.

View Charles Avenue, Coconut Grove, Fl, 33133 in a larger map. Zoom out to see Coconut Grove in relation to Miami.

E.W.F. Stirrup House
Let's get oriented: Coconut Grove is nestled up against the western edge of Biscayne Bay, where the 3,000 mile long intercoastal waterway trails off into nothingness. The E.W.F. Stirrup House (pictured at left), the Coconut Grove Playhouse (pictured below) and the Charles Avenue historic marker are on the eastern end of Charles Avenue at Main Highway,  On the opposite, eastern side of Main Highway is a residential area I have been unable to breach. It is one of the most exclusive areas in 'Merka, so gated and secured even Google mapping cars aren't allowed inside. I once walked to the gate and started taking pictures and within a minute was shooed away by a security guard that appeared out of nowhere. These fuckers are serious.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse taken from
the more exclusive side of Main Highway.
I became obsessed with the Charles Avenue historical marker and Coconut Grove, to the point where I decided it was the perfect place to locate my favourite character in my novel-in-progress. That gave me another reason to research Coconut Grove. Work took me through the area every couple of weeks. I would always stop and take as many pictures as I could stand before the oppressive Florida heat got to me. I now have thousands of pictures of Charles Avenue and enough research to think I have uncovered a years old scandal in the village of Coconut Grove that could become a non-fiction book all on its own.

However, two years ago my circumstances changed and I no longer had any reason to drive the 35 miles to The Grove. When I was visiting it regularly, Aunty Em Ericann would come back and post dozens of pictures on facebook with a small essay describing the lack of changes on Charles Avenue from week to week. I became dejected. Aunty Em had spent a considerable amount of my time posting pictures, writing essays, and contacting community activists. However, I couldn't get any traction on my Save the Charles Avenue Sign campaign. Worse, I couldn't get anyone interested in what I (still) believe is a massive, multi-gajillion dollar real estate scandal.

Since I couldn't get anyone to listen, and I am no longer an investigative journalist with an editor to support and sponsor these expensive fishing expeditions into possible malfeasance, I gave up. However, I never forgot about Coconut Grove, especially since my novel character Adrian had moved there at the end of the '60s, after Detroit had started to become toxic.

Lately Charles Avenue has been nagging at me. Because it's 35 miles away -- all crazy Florida highway -- I have been putting off making the trip for the past few weeks. I knew I would need a minimum of 3 hours to do it justice; get there, take some pictures, check on recent developments, and come home. It was difficult to work into my schedule and the longer I tried, the guiltier I felt for having abandoned Charles Avenue. Last week I finally bit the bullet, gassed up the tank, and made the harrowing highway adventure. I returned more despondent than ever about Charles Avenue. I came back even more pissed off at what is clearly The Shame of Coconut Grove™. However, it also made me more determined than ever to do something about it. What? I do not know. I am still processing and writing about the trip, which will be Part Two in this series. Part One is long enough already, but I felt this background was needed.

However, before I sign off, there was one bit of good news on Charles Avenue. Someone (or a group of someones) have taken it upon themselves to attempt to straighten the Charles Street historical marker. They have also planted a drought-resistant flowering bush next to it. It will look nice when it fills in.

The sign, while still not true, no longer leans against the fence. The new plant is staked in the ground to the right of it.

The late afternoon sun streams down Charles Avenue in this recent panorama.

However, this small sliver of hope doesn't even begin to mitigate all the negative I saw. That's why I have decided to take up the cause of Charles Avenue once again. I am going to make Charles Avenue the most famous street in 'Merka, representing centuries of institutional racism. And, along the way, I just might expose a multi-gajillion dollar Coconut Grove boondoggle. Who's along for the ride?

Stay tuned for Part Two of Unpacking Coconut Grove.