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Monday, December 30, 2013

The 32nd Annual King Mango Strut

Fake Ford, Fake Francis
The IM came from a functionary of the King Mango Strut: "Can we go off the record?" 

This can be a trap for a journalist. Answer "Yes" and anything you're told cannot be reported. Answer "No" and you may lose a good tip. What to do? What to do?

After thinking it over for 10 seconds -- and remembering how an anonymous tip led to all my reporting on Trolleygate -- I agreed to go "off the record."

"The Rob Ford that will be Grand Marshall at tomorrow's King Mango Strut is not the real Rob Ford. He's a lookalike."


Oh, great!!! I now have the Scoop of the Century and I can only report it if I can get 2 independent sources to go on the record. But why would I even want to?

The King Mango Strut is one of those Coconut Grove events I've made fun of in the past. I've compared the yearly Strut whoop dee doo negatively with the total lack of concern and awareness for the E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, the truth of the matter is, I have never attended one myself. I just made fun of it from a distance. This would be the year I would change all of that. I was determined to make fun of it close up.

However, before I ever made fun of the King Mango Strut in the past, I did look at hundreds of online pictures from various previous King Mango Struts. One of the things that struck me looking at all those pics is how many of the participants and observers are White. Like 98.4%.

Okay, I plead guilty to looking at everything in Coconut Grove as two societies divided by The Colour Line. The truth is that whenever I look at pictures of any Coconut Grove event, I tend to see a sea of White faces. Believe me, I obsessively look for the people who stand out, because so few do.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House is marked, with
Commodore Plaza where the blue dots stop
I hope you don't get the impression that West Grove -- Black Grove -- is on the other side of town, or anything. The King Mango Strut marshals on Commodore Plaza, the next street over from Charles Avenue, just on the other side of The Colour Line. Commodore Plaza is White Coconut Grove. Just behind it is Black Coconut Grove. It's a slow 3-minute saunter from the historic 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House, currently undergoing Demolition by Neglect, to the middle of Commodore Plaza.

The King Mango Strut also [in all those pics] had the faint whiff of alcohol on the breath. From the pics it just seemed like an excuse for a drunken party. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The whole thing, in all the pics I viewed over the years, just seemed like one big goof. People didn't take themselves, or the parade, very seriously.

In fact the whole thing started as a big Eff You to the Orange Bowl Parade years ago when King Orange put so many conditions on entering a float (No kazoos? That's crazy!!!) that some intrepid Grovites pulled a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland and started their own damned parade. Hence King Mango. King Orange got kicked to the curb in 2002, but King Mango lives on. The WikiWhackyWoo gets it:
The spirit of the King Mango Strut is significantly tongue-in-cheek. Participants are willing to poke fun at anything and everything. Most of the parade consists of satire of events that have happened in the last year, from world events to state to local. Nothing is off-limits, and the boundaries of good taste are often pushed or broken in the name of irreverent comedy. For example, co-founder Bill Dobson died from cancer in October 2004, but made an appearance in the 2004 Mango Strut, in the form of an urn, with ashes being strewn along the parade route. A group followed with brooms and vacuums followed, trying to "get Bill out of the road." Organizers do have some humility, however; the ashes were not actually Bill's remains but regular fireplace ash mixed with kitty litter. However, a sign rode along with Bill's urn, proclaiming "Hey, I may be dead, but I can still vote in Miami." Governor Rick Scott, Giant Snails, Global Warming and whatever is current are also "fodder for fun" skits.
When I heard early in the week that Rob Ford, the Crack Smoking Mayor of the town I call home, was going to be Grand Marshall of the 32nd Annual King Mango Strut, I had to see if I could score an interview and put Not Now Silly on the map.

I decided my best bet for doing that would be to latch onto the Coconut Grove Drum Circle. A few weeks ago I mentioned to one of the CGDC organizers that a visit to the Grove coincided with one of their evening get-togethers and I would drop by when I was finished. However, best laid plans, and all that, and I had to skip it. Having now told the drum circle that I would be coming, I decided that it would be impolite to not show up again -- just because the real Rob Ford decided not to go. Which is why bright and early Sunday I was driving the 35 miles to Coconut Grove.

MEA CULPA: I misjudged the King Mango Strut entirely. While it's still 98.4% White, or thereabouts, it's not the crazy drunken bacchanal as the pictures made it appear. Oh, sure there was a lot of public drinking by both participants and observers, but I didn't see anyone who was drunk. Except maybe for the fake Rob Ford. It's hard to tell with that guy.

Something else that I didn't quite get from all the pics I've viewed over the years is the overall vibe of the King Mango Strut, man.

While I've written considerably about the Bahamian history of Coconut Grove, I've barely touched upon the Bohemian history of Coconut Grove. As long as people have been coming to the Grove, it's been known as an artists' colony. From Bohemians to Hippies, The Grove has always had an alternative bent and The King Mango Strut is one of the last vestiges of that Hippie ethos that, I am told, once thrived in the small shops where Cocowalk now is and in Peacock Park. That part of the King Mango Strut actually spoke to me, since I am an unreconstructed Hippie at heart.


And, the drums!!! The incessant drums!!! The beating of the drums!!! 

The CGDC gave off more energy than any of the other floats, and it also fed off the energy of the participants who got up to dance as they passed. Experiencing the parade vicariously through the Coconut Grove Drum Circle took me back through the years to Kebo, the African name the original Bahamians gave to the neighbourhood -- just the other side of The Colour Line, just the other side of the last century. It made me wonder how long the sound of drums have echoed through this area. The Coconut Grove Drum Circle is keeping a tradition alive that is as old as sticks and logs. All music starts with the rhythm.



A big THANK YOU to the Coconut Grove Drum Circle for allowing me to document up close their participation -- from start to finish -- in the 32nd King Mango Strut. There's a much larger facebook gallery of pics here and a playlist of videos at my YouTubery channel.

And, clearly I didn't insult anyone because the Coconut Grove Drum Circle has invited me back.