HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!

HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!


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, April 28, 2016

Coconut Grove in Black and White

Francisco J. Garcia of Miami's Department of Planning
and Zoning provided the answers to residents' questions
Community involvement was strong last night in Coconut Grove as more than 200 residents packed a meeting hall at Plymouth Church to vent and make plans. 

The homeowners of South Grove are up in arms and called this "Community Organizational Meeting," which was attended by Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell, Miami-Dade District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez, and Francisco J. Garcia, of Miami's Department of Planning and Zoning. Homeowners want to develop a strategy to put a stop to the division of large properties to build more homes; the demolition of old houses; the building of 'cookie-cutter' houses, derisively called White Boxes; and the continued destruction of the Grove's famous tree canopy.

Oddly enough, these are the exact same issues I've been quietly researching for the last several weeks, even before this story bubbled up to the surface. My interest began when a source suggested I attend a Planning and Zoning meeting about potential "up-zoning" of a certain property. Up-zoning is when a developer asks for more than is allowed by the Miami21 code and -- usually -- gets it. This piqued my curiosity. A few weeks later the same source took me around to show me the contemporary 'cookie-cutter' houses being built. These concrete White Boxes stick out like sore thumbs among the older homes that fit the neighbourhood.

Just some of the White Boxes being built all over Coconut Grove
However, all my research -- and all the houses we looked at -- was in West Grove, where the prevailing style of house are either one-story Shotgun Homes or Conch-style houses, both reflecting the neighbourhood's rich Bahamian history.

South Grove architecture, on the other hand, is distinctly different and all over the map, as it were. The houses there are more suburban in style, from the earliest one-story small cottages, to the more recent Monster Homes of the last few decades, and everything in between. Because this area was developed from the 1920s onward, the houses reflect nearly every kind of home architecture attempted since then. And, as people were told at last night's meeting, these White Boxes are what developers want to build because, they claim, it's what people want to buy.

This demolition on Charles Avenue has taken place
over the last 6 weeks. That is not a typo. This is how it
looked on April 27, 2016, the same day South Grove
residents complained about their precious tree canopy.
However, that's not the most glaring difference between West Grove and South Grove. In fact, as I've joked before, the difference is like Day and Night.

West Grove is the Black area of Coconut Grove. It can't be said any simpler than that. The area is blighted, and has been for decades, precisely because it's the Black area.


QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Unlike most Black neighbourhoods of its era, Coconut Grove is unique because the people owned their own homes. At one time Coconut Grove had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in the country. [Read: Happy Birthday Coconut Grove. Now Honour Your Past] This meant they couldn't be dislodged as they could in other U.S. cities where Black folk rented from absentee landlords. However, the same economic factors that kept Black neighbourhoods in poverty elsewhere also worked on West Grove: low wages, an inability to get home improvement loans, and systemic racism. However, the neighbourhood has remained predominately Black as folks passed their houses down to generation after generation, the way White people pass down the family jewels.
End of history lesson.


This is the same rooming house as above on April 2, 2016
Earlier in the day I met with a second anonymous source who has also been researching the White Boxes in West Grove. Oddly enough, before we went to look at them, they wanted to take me to see a house on Charles Avenue that I had already taken a number of pictures of.

This demolition has so far taken about 6 weeks. The site has never been secure, making it an attractive place to play for local kids. But the nails sticking out of the boards are the least of the problems. This house was filled with asbestos, from the roof shingles to the several layers of paint on the walls. The prevailing winds have scattered some of it to wherever prevailing winds blew for the last 6 weeks.

The woman who lives next door has asthma and was just getting sicker. She and her husband have gone to live with relatives up north, in Georgia. The rest of her neighbours will just keep breathing it in until something is done about it.

One kind of nondescript White Box being built in West Grove,
this one on William Avenue. That's actually the front of house.
People have complained to By-Law Enforcement about the unsafe demolition site and are still waiting for something to happen. There is, apparently, a promise for it to be cleaned up by the city in the morning. I sure hope they take into account the toxicity of some of the materials.


For more examples of these 'cookie cutter' homes go to The White Boxes.


Meanwhile, South Grove residents were told on Wednesday night if they see anything hinky happening in their neighbourhood -- from illegal tree-cutting to demolitions without a permit -- to call By-Law Enforcement. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that they respond a lot quicker than they have to this disaster on Charles Avenue in West Grove.

As South Grove meets with their elected representatives, West Grove is as ignored as ever. As South Grove begins the task of forming a Homeowners Association, West Grove is quietly gentrified without anyone noticing. When will West Grove get the same kind of attention from the City of Miami as South Grove?

Monday, April 25, 2016

The First Lady of Song ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Light up 99 candles because today we celebrate the birthday of the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald. 

Let's let her official website speak for her:
Dubbed "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. (Or rather, some might say all the jazz greats had the pleasure of working with Ella.)

She performed at top venues all over the world, and packed them to the hilt. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common - they all loved her.

A recent remix of one of Ella's most well known tunes proving her relevance to another generation

Biography picks up her story:
Born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, singer Ella Fitzgerald was the product of a common-law marriage between William Fitzgerald and Temperance "Tempie" Williams Fitzgerald. Ella experienced a troubled childhood that began with her parents separating shortly after her birth.
My meager Ella Fitzgerald collection, but I have the best stuff
With her mother, Fitzgerald moved to Yonkers, New York. They lived there with her mother's boyfriend, Joseph De Sailva. The family grew in 1923 with the arrival of Fitzgerald's half-sister Frances. Struggling financially, the young Fitzgerald helped her family out by working as a messenger "running numbers" and acting as a lookout for a brothel. Her first career aspiration was to become a dancer.

After her mother's death in 1932, Fitzgerald ended up moving in with an aunt. She started skipping school. Fitzgerald was then sent to a special reform school but didn't stay there long. By 1934, Ella was trying to make it on her own and living on the streets. Still harboring dreams of becoming an entertainer, she entered an amateur contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater. She sang the Hoagy Carmichael tune "Judy" as well as "The Object of My Affection," wowing the audience. Fitzgerald went on to win the contest's $25 first place prize.

That unexpected performance at the Apollo helped set Fitzgerald's career in motion. She soon met bandleader and drummer Chick Webb and eventually joined his group as a singer. Fitzgerald recorded "Love and Kisses" with Webb in 1935 and found herself playing regularly at one of Harlem's hottest clubs, the Savoy. Fitzgerald also put out her first No. 1 hit, 1938's "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," which she co-wrote. Later that year Ella recorded her second hit, "I Found My Yellow Basket."

When Chick Webb died in 1939, Ella Fitzgerald took over the band, renaming it Ella and Her Famous Orchestra. In 1942 she went solo staying with Decca Records, which had released the Chick Webb band recordings. The WikiWackyWoo fills in the next chapter:
With Decca's Milt Gabler as her manager, Fitzgerald began working regularly for the jazz impresario Norman Granz and appeared regularly in his Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) concerts. Her relationship with Granz was further cemented when he became her manager, although it would be nearly a decade before he could record her on one of his many record labels.

With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald recalled, "I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing."[14]




Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness."[6] Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady Be Good!" (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.[24]
It was during this latter period of Fitzgerald's career that she entered the pantheon of musical superstars to become the First Lady of Song.

I was lucky enough to see Ella Fitzgerald at Toronto's Imperial Room.  I thought it would be her last tour (but I believe she did one more after this) and I thought if I didn't see her then, I might never have the chance again.

It was my first time in the Imperial Room, even though it was not my first time wearing a tie, required at the Imperial Room. It was also very expensive. It cost $75.00 per person and, of course, I took a date. That was a pretty penny for me back then, but I could console myself that it came with dinner. The Imperial Room was a supper club.


The mediocre meal came and went and now it was time for Ella Fitzgerald. The orchestra started it's vamp, someone introduced her, and v e r y  , v e r y , v e r y  s l o w l y Ella Fitzgerald shuffled onto the stage with an anonymous attendant on her arm.

All I could see was my $150 going down the drain in the interminable time it took her to get to center stage where the microphone stood. 

Yet, the minute she started singing, all those years fell away. While I had never seen Ella Fitzgerald in her prime, and only had recordings and movies to rely upon, I was taken all the way back as she covered all the highlights of her career, joked with the audience, and giggled like a little girl.

It was one of the most memorable musical moments of my entire life!!!

The Wiki also details her last years:
In 1985, Fitzgerald was hospitalized briefly for respiratory problems,[45] in 1986 for congestive heart failure,[46] and in 1990 for exhaustion.[47] In March 1990 she appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England with the Count Basie Orchestra for the launch of Jazz FM, plus a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel at which she performed.[48] In 1993, she had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee due to the effects of diabetes.[49] Her eyesight was affected as well.[6]

In 1996, tired of being in the hospital, she wished to spend her last days at home. Confined to a wheelchair, she spent her final days in her backyard of her Beverly Hills mansion on Whittier, with her son Ray and 12-year-old granddaughter, Alice. "I just want to smell the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh," she reportedly said. On her last day, she was wheeled outside one last time, and sat there for about an hour. When she was taken back in, she looked up with a soft smile on her face and said, "I'm ready to go now." She died in her home on June 15, 1996 at the age of 79.[6] A few hours after her death, the Playboy Jazz Festival was launched at the Hollywood Bowl. In tribute, the marquee read: "Ella We Will Miss You."[50] Her funeral was private,[50] and she was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
As always it's all in the grooves. Here are some of my favourite Ella Fitzgerald recordings out of the hundreds that she has made.