However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

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.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 2.3 ► The Charles Avenue Rabbit Hole Leads To Canada

The historical marker with the
E.W.F. Stirrup House.
The more I learn about Charles Avenue, the more bizarre it all gets and the farther away from Coconut Grove it takes me. There are times it feels as if I am Alice chasing a White Rabbit, the historical marker I discovered years ago. From that moment on my research on the E.W.F. Stirrup House has sent me down many weird and interesting paths, none of which could have been anticipated when I started. My newest problem, based on the last 24 hours of research, is I don't know whether I should chase down The Mad Hatter or the Cheshire Cat first (although both will have to be contacted eventually). However, it feels as if synchronicity is working overtime on me again. My newest threads of inquiry are now causing me to look into the 'Merkin Immigration and Naturalization Service about undocumented foreign workers from Canada, restaurant bankruptcies in Canada, and a proposal to build a casino in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Canada? HEY! I know people there.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House on July 17, 2012 after a recent landscaping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela ► Dance Music To Change The World

Set your non-violent revolution to dance rhythms
and you can change the world.

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!!!

As always, crank it up!!!

Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 2.2 ► The Neighbourhood Around The E.W.F. Stirrup House

The open gate with the condo complex in the distance.
On a visit to Charles Avenue yesterday the gate was open on the E.W.F. Stirrup property, so I walked right in. I was able to take some interesting close up pictures of wood rot and other damage that normally can't be seen from the sidewalk or the bank parking lot. It revealed how much damage has been caused by simple neglect of this house that stands as a testament to one of Florida's first Black millionaires, a man who once owned most of Coconut Grove and helped build the early Bahamian community of The Grove, literally with his own hands.

The last time I found the gate left open it was because the landscaping crew had unlocked it, but were working on the empty lot across the street. So I wandered onto the property and started taking pictures. The landscaping crew noticed and started yelling at me, waving frantically. I waved back as if to say, "Hello!" One of the guys got on his cell phone and within minutes a Security Guard from the condo complex behind the Stirrup House (see below) showed up to shoo me off the property. I was able to engage him in conversation for a while and he revealed a few clues about what may have happened to stall all work on the Stirrup House, which had apparently been promised as a gift of sorts to the neighbourhood as a historical community center of some sort. Unfortunately, it's not something I have been able to confirm as of yet, so I dare not repeat it.

The front door of the E.W.F. Stirrup House taken from
outside the fence. Ferns now grow on the concrete.
Synchronicity may have been at work again yesterday when I spoke to another gentleman who just happened to be riding past on a bicycle. He's lived in the Grove 50 years and seems to know where all the bodies are buried. We had a good conversation and would be talking still, I imagine, if not for the lightening and thunder of an approaching storm. He wanted to pedal home before he got soaked. Unless he lived a block away, he got drenched. The sky opened up in a deluge, with barely a drop or two to give final warning.

When I told him I was a journalist investigating the E.W.F. Stirrup House, he told me some wonderful stories concerning 'interesting' real estate deals in The Grove, including some about the 3 lots that were assembled to build the condo complex behind the Stirrup House. During this conversation he dropped one important name -- one I had not heard before -- and a cursory investigation of that name reveals that he is actually the guy that might have piled up all the bodies needing burying.

All of this -- what the security guard told me, what this bicyclist told me, the gentleman who appears to have assembled the 3 lots -- are just more unconfirmed threads for me to pull to see how this story unravels. However, now I have the name of someone who knows all the players and may no longer have an axe to grind. Or, in the alternative, may have a very large axe to grind. Either way, if I can connect with this gentleman I might be able to solve the riddle of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Meanwhile, nothing really changes on Charles Avenue as long as you don't consider continued deterioration as no change. This is why I am calling this DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT, because nothing else makes any sense. Why would such a beautiful example of a 19th Century house, a house that has survived on that spot for more than 100 years be allowed to rot? Nothing in Florida, it seems, is allowed to get much older than 20 years. In the many decades I've been visiting (and 7 years living here) I have seen buildings go up and down and up and down and up and down on the same piece of land. Who cares? They're usually gas stations or banks or were gas stations and became banks, or vice-versa. There's no sense of age -- of history -- in Southern Florida, except for a few small pockets. Most of those have been preserved, restored with love, and maintained as historical sites or museums.

The clock is ticking as the E.W.F. Stirrup House rots.

Take a look at the rest of my photo essay below and please read the previous chapters of Unpacking Coconut Grove, Florida, 33133 ► Part OnePart 1.1Part Two: E.W.F Stirrup, His House and All His Other HousesPart 2.1

Wood rot under the window frame on the side of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Wood rot at the side door, which is now being invaded by vines.

A pile of wood behind the house, under a huge bower that developed from all the vegetation. It's where trash is
hidden from the prying eyes of Miami by-law inspectors because it's against the law to pile up trash on your property.

This pile of landscaping clippings is also under the bower. It also (allegedly) breaks the law.
It doesn't look like much in this pic, but it's about 3 feet tall. That's a nine foot palm frond on top.
The extent of the wood pile under the bower. It's several feet high. This is the opening of the bower.

What kid wouldn't want to play in a bower this size?
While it was impossible to tell from any vantage point, these plants must be invading the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

The plants are clearly invading the house through a side window.

The side door with the other window, open to the elements. The bower is on the left.

The condition at the bottom of the side door.

A window on the east side of the house open to the elements. The house appears to store construction debris.
Any thunderstorm coming in from the ocean will blow water right into this window.
Close up of the porch of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Other side of same post.

She's a beauty, ain't she?

Just a reminder of what this is all about.

The condo complex behind the Stirrup House sits on the corner of Franklin and Main Highway. It includes unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay from the upper floors, 2 high-end restaurants, a recreation of a former venerated neighbourhood bar called The Taurus, and valet parking. I have been told there was a "Save the Taurus" campaign when the possibility of its demise was announced years ago. I'll be writing more about this complex in Part Three of Unpacking Coconut Grove, Florida.

This is one of the gated communities on the opposite side of Main Highway. At one time it was the extension of Franklin Avenue to Biscayne Bay. Now it's gated and inaccessible, even to the Google Street View Car.

This is another of the gated communities on the other side of Main Highway. Camp Biscayne, which is also closed to Google Street View, has a long and rich history going back 109 years. Camp Biscayne is so exclusive that even though it's only a short block away from gated Franklin, there is no access from Franklin, or vice-versa.

Picture of the abandoned Coconut Grove Playhouse, taken from Camp Biscayne entrance where the gentleman and I spoke.

Detail of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Detail of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Picture of the Coconut Grove Playhouse sign taken from inside the car after the skies opened up.
If you want to help me save the E.W.F. Stirrup House you could provide no greater service than sharing this with people you think may care.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perry Mason and Me ► The Case of the Growing Child

Erle Stanley Gardiner (L) with Luther S. Cressman,
"father of Oregon archaeology" in 1966
Perry Mason transformed me from a child into a young adult. Let me explain. A Perry Mason novel was the first adult book I ever read. I was about 10 years old and found it while rummaging around the basement among Pops' books. I was attracted to the pulp paperback by its lurid cover, but I already knew the name Perry Mason. I read it quickly -- all the Mason books are quick reads -- and loved it!!! I could identify with it in a way I could not other books because Perry Mason was a character on my tee vee!!! I soon found another Mason. Then another one. After 3 books I was hooked. I became a lifelong fan of author Erle Stanley Gardner, who would have celebrated his 123rd birthday today, had he not had the misfortune of dying in 1970.

After exhausting all of Pops' Perry Mason books (he had 5 or 6) I found another detective paperback called "Fish Or Cut Bait," by A. A Fair that I also loved. It concerned the Cool and Lam Detective Agency, Donald Lam and Bertha Cool. It wasn't until years later that I discovered A. A. Fair was just one of Erle Stanley Gardner's nom de plumes, not unlike Aunty Em Ericann. Some of the other names used by Gardiner over the years include Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr. As I grew older I started collecting Perry Mason books in both hardcover and paperback. The original idea was to collect every title. However, that changed when I started seeing other printings of the same novels with different lurid pulp cover graphics. That's when I started collecting every different edition of every Erle Stanley Gardner novel I could find. While there are only 82 Perry Mason novels, I have HUNDREDS of Perry Mason books, packed away in boxes because I have no place to display them in the condo.

However, as acquisitive as I was about Perry Mason books, I knew nothing about the author. That all changed one day in a thrift shop when I discovered "Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason," a biography by Dorothy B. Hughes. It was then I discovered the man behind the books; I learned that Gardiner really was a lawyer, as well as an avid rock hound, inveterate traveler and, most importantly, the impetus behind The Court of Last Resort, a place where the wrongly convicted might find justice.

Gardner's rudimentary recreational vehicle
While Gardiner will always be known for his Perry Mason books, I also highly recommend his travel writings. Early in his writing career Gardiner set a goal of putting down 66,000 words a day. However, he didn't want to stop traveling. He created what he called a writing factory and had built a rudimentary RV, which he drove all over the western United States and, especially, Baja, Califoria. Whenever he would find an interesting place, he'd pull over and make it the latest location of his writing factory. He maintained his voluminous output on his trusty typewriter and, over the years, he became an expert in the history and geology of the peninsula.

Over the years, I've seen fewer and fewer Erle Stanley Gardner novels in bookstores, often just a title or two. Yesterday at my local Barnes and Noble I could find NOT A SINGLE PERRY MASON BOOK. That made me incredibly sad.


The Erle Stanley Gardiner collection can be found at the Harry Ranson Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Full episodes of Perry Mason can be found on the CBS web site.



Monday, July 16, 2012

Desmond Dekker ► A Musical Appreciation

Desmond Dekker, who passed away just 6 years ago, had the prettiest voice in all of Reggae music. On what would have been his 71st birthday, let's take a moment to honour one of the pioneers of Reggae music. Everyone knows his most famous song, Israelites, his only U.S. hit. Watch him lip sync it in the late '60s:

However, there are far more songs in the Desmond Dekker canon that you might not even know you know and, even if you don't know them, you should. For your continued Reggae education, I present a Desmond Dekker Jukebox.

How Jamaica Conquered The World ► The Day I Met Bob Marley

The latest episode of the excellent podcast-documentary How Jamaica Conquered The World is now online. Episode Eleven is the second part of the story of Bob Marley: Recollections and Legacy. It includes an edited version of my "Meeting Bob Marley" story. The story takes place backstage at Convocation Hall, Toronto.

Here's the first part of the Bob Marley story:

Some of my recollections are also featured in Episode 3: The Story of Dub Music:

I highly recommend How Jamaica Conquered The World, and not just because I'm in it. It is a high quality documentary on Jamaica's influence around the world in the past 50 years.