Category Archives: Race Where The Sidewalk Ends

New York Slave Revolt ► Throwback Thursday

We have to go all the way back to 1712, before this country was even a country, for this week’s Throwback Thursday.

At the time New York City was merely a small town, in a province of Britain, on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. The crown colony known as New York (as opposed to old York, of course) was much larger than the current state. It included “all of the present U.S. states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont, along with inland portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, as well as eastern Pennsylvania“, as the WikiWackyWoo tells us.

Slavery, on the other hand, had been around forever. According to the Smithsonian Institute:

Life was wretched for the slaves brought to New York. Many of the city’s early landmarks, from City Hall to the eponymous wall of Wall Street were built using slave labor. The city even constructed an official slave market in 1711, Jim O’Grady reported for WNYC News in 2015.

“It was a city-run slave market because they wanted to collect tax revenue on every person who was bought and sold there,” historian Chris Cobb told O’Grady. “And the city hired slaves to do work like building roads.”

It is generally agreed that the New York Slave Revolt probably could not have happened elsewhere.

In the bustling town of New York, with its population at about 6,000 people, it’s estimated that about 10-15% were slaves owned by others. These slaves worked and lived in close proximity to one another, unlike the plantations of the south where there might be great distances between small groups of slaves. That immediacy allowed the slaves to talk to each other, to make plans, to foment rebellion.

Further reading at Not Now Silly

Is Toussaint L’Overture Packing Heat? Again?

The Great Slave Auction

Nat Turner Sentenced To Be Hanged

Frederick Douglass Escapes

Official Stamp of Approval

No Skin In The Game
Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four

Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins
Part One; Part Two; Part Three

Rebellion or Revolt?

On the night of April 6, 1712, resentment reached a flashpoint. It began in, what was then, the middle of town, on Maiden Lane. There about 23 slaves met and began their rebellion. I’ll let Colonial New York’s Governor Robert Hunter pick up the story:

I must now give your Lordships an account of a bloody conspiracy of some of the slaves of this place, to destroy as many of the inhabitants as they could….when they had resolved to revenge themselves, for some hard usage they apprehended to have received from their masters (for I can find no other cause) they agreed to meet in the orchard of Mr. Crook in the middle of the town, some provided with fire arms, some with swords and others with knives and hatchets. This was the sixth day of April, the time of the meeting was about twelve or one clock in the night, when about three and twenty of them were got together. One…slave to one Vantilburgh set fire to [a shed] of his masters, and then repairing to his place where the rest were, they all sallyed out together with their arms and marched to the fire. By this time, the noise of the fire spreading through the town, the people began to flock to it. Upon the approach of several, the slaves fired and killed them. The noise of the guns gave the alarm, and some escaping, their shot soon published the cause of the fire, which was the reason that nine Christians were killed, and about five or six wounded. Upon the first notice, which was very against them, but the slaves made their retreat into the woods, by the favour of the night. Having ordered the day following, the militia of this town and the country of West Chester to drive [to] the Island, and by this means and strict searches in the town, we found all that put the design in execution, six of these having first laid violent hands upon themselves [committed suicide], the rest were forthwith brought to their tryal before ye Justices of this place….In that court were twenty seven condemned, whereof twenty one were executed, one being a woman with a child, her execution by than means suspended. Some were burnt, others hanged, one broke on the wheel, and one hung alive in chains in the town, so that there has been the most exemplary punishment inflicted that could be possibily [sic] thought of.

Not surprisingly conditions for slaves became worse following the rebellion. Laws were quickly passed that prevented slaves from gathering in groups of 4 or more. They could not carry firearms, nor could they gamble. Punishment for those crimes was a whipping. However, the new laws also demanded the Death Penalty for property crimes, rape, and conspiracy to kill. In addition, owners who wanted to set their slaves free would be required to pay a tax of £200, which was far more than they could get by selling the slave to someone else.

It wasn’t until 1799 that New York outlawed slavery, but “it remained an intrinsic part of city life until after the Civil War, as businessmen continued to profit off of the products of the slave trade like sugar and molasses imported from the Caribbean” not to mention the products from the south.

Slavery is ‘Merka’s original sin. The sin of Racism continues to this very day.

Waking Up in the Grove ► Unpacking Grand Avenue

Looking east along Grand Avenue with the sun rising over Biscayne Bay
This is Part Two of a series about Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove.

The car creeps west very slowly along Grand Avenue at well below the posted speed limit. It’s 5 in the morning. There are no cars to impede at this hour.

Very few people are even awake at this hour. In the Center Grove, those moving along Grand seem to be working folk. They’re either headed to work, or finishing an overnight shift. In several of the restaurants along this stretch, people are washing the floors, making them spick and span for the next seating at the next meal. At restaurants that serve breakfast the prep cooks are just starting to arrive.

Thirty, or so, bicyclists in tight spandex gather on McFarlane Road, just across from the narrow end of the triangle where it meets Grand and Main Highway at CocoWalk. Their flashing red tail lights make the scene other worldly at this time of the morning until, silently, they’re gone. At 5:30 the Starbucks in CocoWalk opens, which increases foot traffic as working people slowly trickle in for their ridiculously expensive lattes.

West of Margaret Street you’d be hard pressed to find a single place to buy a coffee — let alone a ridiculously expensive one — at any time of the day or night. That’s because after Margaret things change drastically. Grand Avenue goes from high end businesses and ritzy restaurants to a slum. The dividing line is the CVS Pharmacy.

CVS is the demarcation between East and West Grove

This is not a gradual transition, as it often is in other cities, where a boarded up building leads to a few more on the next block, then more on the next block, until you reach the epicenter of the blight.

Rather, the transition on Grand Avenue is instantaneous. Immediate. Sudden. The difference is so stark that it is noticeable and remarked upon by visitors who have never seen it before. Crossing Margaret is crossing Coconut Grove’s invisible Colour Line, from White Grove to Black Grove; from prosperous Grove to West Grove.

Beyond Margaret is what was once the prosperous main drag of the Black business district of Coconut Grove. Now it is one of the worst slums in all of Miami.

There is another noticeable difference, especially at 5:30 in the morning. The few people on the sidewalks along this stretch of Grand are, for the most part, down-and-out street folks like in all cities: some just homeless, some are addicts, and some are dealers.

Making an illegal U-turn at Douglas Road, the driver makes eye contact with as many of those solitary souls moving along Grand as possible. Sliding into the same parking space near Hibiscus Street week after week, the driver locks the car. Then he sits on a bench near a bus stop making notes, taking pictures, and talking to anyone who will talk back.

This has been my routine for the last many weeks running: observing how this part of Coconut Grove comes alive in the mornings. The advantage to sitting on the same bench week after week is that people get to know me. More of them are willing to talk to me, while others now call to me by name to join their conversations, to introduce me as a writer researching Coconut Grove.

People are starved to talk to anyone who will listen.

The life story I know best (because I’ve spent the most time with them) belongs to Rhonda and Nelson (all names in this story have been changed). Married, with 4 children and a dog, they are living in a building that was recently condemned. The evictions were put on hold while the city sues the owners, but many people have already left. Nelson says that there are only 7 families left in their building.

Rhonda and Nelson have been trying to leave for quite a while, but they have been unable to afford anything even close to the price they’re paying. What’s more is they have no reserve funds, living paycheque to paycheque like so many families in this country. Furthermore, just when it appears they have a small amout of money put aside, they’re hit with another unexpected bill. Just yesterday I heard how their car broke down and they had to put money they couldn’t spare into it.

Click to enlarge
I’ve written about that red line in Where the Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins

One recent morning I watched as a neighbour walked her little boy across Grand to their place. They take him to school, along with their own kids, while she heads off to work.

I ride with Nelson as he drops one child off at the designated school bus stop. As we talk, he tells me about the complex we are parked next to. It’s called The Kingway Apartments. Despite the fancy name it’s nothing more than a huge grouping of squat, one story cinder block duplexes. It was still dark, so it took me a while to realize we were parked at the west end of Charles Terrace. This is directly in front of The Colour Line witten about in Where the Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins.

The Kingsway is where Nelson and Rhonda are hoping to move. Every day they check with the landlord to see if a unit is coming open. For some reason there doesn’t appear to be a waiting list on which one can sign up. While The Kingsway is more than they’re paying now, it is almost just within their budget if they scrimp every single penny. However, it’s the only place around that’s remotely affordable.

When we return to his apartment, I let him attend to the rest of the family’s morning routine of getting the little ones dressed and off to school. I go back to sit on my bench and watch. Soon the sidewalks are coming alive with children carrying book bags and knapsacks. They come out of the concrete block buildings along Grand Avenue, and from houses along the residential streets running parallel, north and south of Grand. Some are accompanied by parents, Others travel in groups of two or more.

Morning peacocks on Franklin Avenue

I walk south on Hibiscus. There are a lot of kids walking to school now. When I get down to Franklin, just a few blocks south of Grand, I’m shocked.

Franklin at this time of day is a slow- moving, bumper-to-bumper, eastbound traffic jam from Plaza all the way to Main Highway. The small traffic circles — installed as a traffic calming device — are difficult to navigate with cars filling them.

These are also children going to school, but their rich White parents are taking them to Ransom Everglades School on Main Highway, not the public schools in the area. Each SUV seems to have a single parent and a single child inside. They are only using Franklin, which is still predominately Black owned, as a shunt to get from A to B. Otherwise they wouldn’t be caught dead in this part of West Grove, especially at night.

I walk back to Grand Avenue, the main street where — ironically — there is far less traffic, to get away from the car fumes. I’m back on my bench reviewing my notes about other people who also call this neighbourhood home.

There’s Bill. He was riding a bicycle as I slid into my usual parking spot at 5:30 AM. I nodded as he slowly rode past. When I got out of the car he said, “You okay?” This is street slang for “Would you like to buy some drugs?” Once again I have been racially profiled. The sad truth is that most of the White folk who show up on this end of Grand tend to be looking for drugs.

I told him I didn’t need anything, explained I was a writer, and asked if he’d sit and talk to me for a while. It was as simple as that. Bill and I sat there 25 minutes. I asked him intrusive questions about his business, his family, his home, life on Grand Avenue, and — most importantly — systemic racism in West Grove, where he has lived his entire life.

Bill was nervous every time a police car passed, as several did, and kept saying he should go. He admitted that he carried no drugs. Had we made a deal, it was something he had to retrieve. So I asked him why he was so nervous. A Black guy, known to the police, sitting with a White guy? That will attract undue attention. I kept telling him that we were just 2 men talking on a bench. I know my rights and would love a cop to show up and start asking questions.

Bill, who has been Black longer than I’ve been White (and older than the other bike salesmen in this part of town), was horrified at the thought that I might challenge a police officer. I explained to him how my White Privilege allows me to get away with stuff like that. That’s when Bill brought me up short. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow. Will you?”

Patrice is another of my early morning friends along Grand. She now introduces me to people as “Mr. Headly”, even though I have asked her not to call me Mister. The first time I met her she was with her friend Mary. At first I thought they were trying to hustle me and, maybe, they were. However, I made it clear pretty quickly that I was writing about Coconut Grove history. When they heard I was wrote about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, they were an open book. We went for a long walk along the residential streets where they showed me where there were hidden cameras in the trees in a vacant lot. There weren’t, but their drug paranoia was strong.

Mary is jonesing. She needs a pick me up. She needs to make money. She needs to pack because she’s being thrown out of her place today. She needs to go and take care of business. But she walked with us for another 15 minutes before she finally left, Patrice trying to convince her to stay the whole time.

Patrice and I walked further south to Marler Avenue, where I showed her another segment of the Miami-mandated and still visible Colour Line Wall, built to keep Black Grave and White Grove separate — and, incidentally, still doing a pretty good job of it. [Read Part Two of Where The Sidewak Ends, Racism Begins.]

As I explained to her why Marler is land-locked, I have rarely had a more attentive student on one of my walking history tours. However, while describing the chain link fence that went up across the footpath that connects Marler to Loquat Avenue, a friend of hers rode up on a bicycle. He said something to her that I didn’t hear. Patrice gave me a cute little shrug and went off with him.

The next time I see Patrice she’s sitting behind the wheel of a shiny brand new Mercedes. I don’t know it’s her at first. I was sitting on my customary bench a block away. Even at 5:30 in the morning it was hard not to miss that something was going on over there because the driver’s door was open and people kept walking over to the car to talk to the driver.

After an hour of note-taking, I got up and walked east. As I passed the car, I hear her calling, “Mr. Headly. Mr. Headly.”

She had 2 other people in the car with her. It started to drizzle when I left my bench, but suddenly the skies opened and it rained hard. I quickly ducked under the awning of a nearby store that hasn’t been open for years, but I’m soaked by the time I get there. It’s a brief shower, less than 5 minutes. I go back to the car to help Patrice because they needed to use my phone. Something had gone wrong with the Mercedes keyless ignition and it wouldn’t start. Her phone was out of juice and they needed to call the dealership.

At 6:30 in the morning no one is answering at the dealership and won’t until 9, according to the recording. Plan B is to use their AARP card. However, all AARP will do is arrange to have the car towed and no one wants that. It’s in a legal, free parking space. [Free because it’s west of Margaret, as are all parking spaces.]

The interior of the car looks like a closet exploded. Clothes and garbage bags filled with clothes are on the backseat. An elderly woman is nestled into all of this like it was a beanbag chair. Then I notice she’s smoking something out of a pipe. The car’s owner is in the passenger seat. She doesn’t look like she could afford a beater, let alone this luxury car that won’t start. She can barely communicate, which is why I am making these phone calls.

The woman in the back seat keeps nodding off during the time I’m on the phone. Suddenly she comes awake and decides it’s time to go. It becomes a scene from a situation comedy: an elderly woman trying to extricate herself from a beanbag chair. I offer my hand and help her out, but she loses her sandals in the process, one skittering under the car. As everybody starts looking for her sandals, I say goodbye to Patrice and head back to Center Grove to meet a source who explains to me the difference between affordable housing, sustainable housing, and workforce housing.

Because he’s using numbers — building costs per square foot, lot sizes, basic incomes, financing costs, percentages, and margins — it all goes over my head. [Numbers are my natural enemy.]

But what of the people who live along Grand Avenue? 

Bottom line? The people living along Grand in the cheap, but blighted, apartments are screwed. There will never be any affordable housing built for them. It’s best to think of all new West Grove construction as sustainable housing and/or workforce housing and/or luxury condos. West Grove will eventually look exactly like East Grove and will, no doubt, have the same racial demographic: White.

The basic problem is that these properties have been bought and sold by speculators and developers so many times over the last decade, that the price of the land alone has become astronomical. My real estate source says the land is now trading for far more than the real value should be. But, let’s face it, the actual value is whatever people will pay pay for it. As one developer after another ponied up, the price increased every time. By the time the developers are finished, Grand Avenue will be a concrete canyon 5 stories tall filled with condos, more restaurants, businesses, and not a single affordable unit among them. Anything less would not allow them to recoup their investment.

Along Frow Avenue (1 block north of Grand) and Thomas Avenue (1 block south), the neighbours will be forced to accept the back-ends of these buildings. What is currently two quiet residential streets of 1 story Conch and shotgun houses, will be replaced by 3 story buildings, as the Grand Avenue frontage is ‘stepped back’.  They’ll also have to deal with increased traffic, parking lots, and service entrances to these buildings.

This same inflation has come to the entire area north and south of Grand, the traditional Bahamian neighbourhood that’s older than Miami itself. Property values are such that homes that have been in the same family for generations are being sold by folks who find themselves land rich, but cash poor. As land values rise, it gets harder and harder for some people to keep up with the taxes. I hear anecdotal stories of speculators coming in with low ball offers for the deed and they’ll take over the tax arrears. More gossip is of people who reversed mortgaged their homes in order to stay.

Furthermore, the Coconut Grove Collaborative had a long-term plan for the infilling of inexpensive homes on the empty lots in this area. However, the price of the land has now made that a pipe dream.

Slowly the racial demographic of this historic and unique neighbourhood is being changed after remaining fairly cohesive and predominately Black-owned for close to 130 years.

Walking back to West Grove I watch the City of Miami Parks & Rec guy unlock Billie Rolle Domino Park, which is posted closed from sunset to sunrise. However, the sun rose quite a while ago. This is one of the parks that had to be closed due to toxic soil back in 2013. It was also one of the first parks remediated.

Because the park just opened, I’m the first person to use the washroom. It’s clean. I’ve used it much later in the day when it doesn’t look so nice. People have stashed stuff all around this pocket park under the benches. There’s a suitcase under one seat. A duffle bag under another. Under one bench there is a what appears to be an entire camping tent in it’s nylon carrying case. People stored these things here because the park is locked at night and they don’t have to lug this stuff.

Patrice and friends are still waiting for help to arrive. It’s surprising they’re being so conspicuous because the entire neighbourhood has been on edge because of heightened police activity recently.

Just 2 weeks ago I looked up from my computer to turn my attention to the local news on my tee vee. Police and media helicopters were flying over the intersection of Douglas Road and Grand Avenue. It was a weird bit of synchronicity that gave me goosebumps because I was working on Part One of this series, The Grand Avenue 2002 Vision Plan, at that exact moment.

All the local schools were on lockdown as dozens of police cars flooded the area. As I watched these events live at home, 35 miles away, I was texting my sources in The Grove to alert them what was happening in their neighbourhood in real time.

The official story is that police were looking for a robbery suspect who allegedly broke into 3 cars in the area. However, no one I’ve spoken to believes that. They believe police were looking for a suspect in a recent murder, who had been reported in the area because his ex-girlfriend claimed he had just stolen $10 from her and was still in the area.

Whatever brought this mighty show of force down upon West Grove, it served a greater purpose, keeping the folks in line. I have already spoken to several men who were detained that day. None were arrested. All were just harassed, insulted, and held for a while, for no reason at all. Each one (and I am only talking about 3, hardly a representative sample) told me they know the police and the police know them. Being detained was just part of the game being played that day.

From my bench at the western end of Grand Avenue I see the locals start to stir. Car traffic increases by the minute. Out of the side streets, from the residential part of West Grove, come drivers on their way to work. Most of them appear to be Black. They turn either east of west onto Grand and head off to work. However, I also notice that there are a lot of cars that are just using Grand as a shunt — just like Franklin — to get from one place to another. These are, for the most part, White folk.

They don’t/won’t stop in West Grove, long rumoured to be a dangerous neighbourhood. However, in the 7 years I’ve been researching Coconut Grove, wandering these streets at all hours of the day and night, I have never felt unsafe at all. In fact, as I am sitting on a bench getting another resident’s story, a guy walked by and said, “Welcome to the neighbourhood, buddy.” I guess now I’m considered a fixture.

This look at Grand Avenue is based on many visits and interviews over a period of time, although parts read like a single day.

If you’ve liked anything you’ve read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.

The Grand Avenue 2002 Vision Plan ► Unpacking Grand Avenue

This 1885 watercolour by Winslow Homer is called “A
Garden in Nassau”. Ironically it was used 14 years ago for
this Grand Avenue Vision Plan. Read more about it below.

This is the start of an extensive series on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove. 

There is a humanitarian crisis currently happening on Grand Avenue. 

Yesterday a number of residents in a blighted building along Grand received eviction notices. The biggest problem they have is that there is no place to go. One couple I’ve spoken to, with several children, has been looking for a new place for months in order to escape their moldy and bug infested apartment. There is absolutely nothing available in their budget and they feel as if they are being gentrified out of the neighbourhood.

The truth of the matter is they are.

At one time the western end of Grand Avenue was the bustling Black business district of West Grove. Today it is one of the worst slums in Miami. The reason West Grove remained a cohesive Black neighbourhood has to do with the efforts of one man who made a difference: E.W.F. Stirrup. And, just like the Stirrup House, which anchors the opposite end of the historic Black neighbourhood, it has undergone a campaign of Demolition by Neglect. [Read: Who Is To Blame For the Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?]

Ironically, the west end of Grand, blighted as it is, has become some of the most valuable real estate in Miami, having been bought and flipped so many times over the last few decades by speculators looking to gentrify an entrenched Black neighbourhood. Now nothing less than a concrete canyon from Margaret Street west will allow the land to pay for itself. Furthermore, due to Demolition by Neglect, there’s almost nothing left along that stretch worth renovating and saving.

Click to enlarge
This map demonstrates how close Grand Avenue is to
the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Identified on this map are
many stories covered in the Not Now Silly Newsroom.


MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historical District
Armbrister Field
Coconut Grove Playhouse
The Colour Line
Coral Gables

A quick Grand Ave history lesson: The street always suffered from institutional racism, because that’s what always happened in this country. However, it started its slide into irrelevance after segregation was outlawed. Once the folk in West Grove could shop anywhere, the businesses along Grand Avenue no longer had a captive clientele.

Over the next several decades systemic racism kept this end of Coconut Grove in near poverty, even as the other end — the White end — of the 33133 zip code became one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the entire country.

Last month the rapacious developers, hoping to gentrify these people out of existence could hide their slum no longer. Local NBC 6 did an exposé, and interviewed District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell in the process. [Read Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness. I was unable to embed the video, but it’s not for the squeamish.] The issue of Grand Avenue was suddenly in the news, especially after Miami Sues Coconut Grove Landlords for Renting Moldy, Sewage-Filled Apartments, Jessica Lipscomb writes:

Parts of the roof have caved in, creating a breeding ground for mold. Raw sewage, including pieces of toilet paper and human waste, sometimes flow in front of the tenants’ front doors. Recently, the landlord cut the power to the outdoor lights, cloaking the building in dangerous darkness after sunset.

But rent is only $400 a month, an almost unheard-of bargain in Miami, where residents in nearly every stretch of the city are being squeezed by rising housing costs. It’s about all Coats, who is unemployed, can afford to pay each month. “The rent is just getting ridiculous,” she says.

Now the City of Miami is taking legal action against the owners, who — under five corporation names — have 12 properties in Coconut Grove, all of which, the city says, are in various states of disrepair and code violation. The city is fighting to force the owners to pay to relocate all of the tenants to clean and safe apartments they can afford — and many fear they could become homeless if no alternative is provided.

There was a stay of execution on last month’s evictions after Commissioner Russell filed his lawsuit. Until yesterday, that is. Many have already left, but the remaining residents have all been told they have to be out by November.

LET’S BE CLEAR: While these rich, White, deveopers have been buying and selling these properties — and now suing each other — the pawns that have been allowed to live in their fiefdom are suffering. Little money, if any, has been spent on these buildings. Or, on this entire stretch of Grand Avenue, for that matter. This is another clear case of Demolition by Neglect. Unlike the Stirrup House, which was empty, real people are being affected by these deplorable conditions.

Read more in A History of West Coconut Grove from 1925: Slum Clearance, Concrete Monsters, and the Dicotomy of East and West Coconut Grove, by Alex Plasencia, for their Clemson University thesis.

That’s why it’s more than a little ironic that the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan used “A Garden in Nassau” for its cover. The implication of using Homer’s painting would have been crystal clear to those who chose it. The biography Winslow Homer, by Nicolai Cikovsky and Franklin Kelly, describes Homer’s first time in the Bahamas, where he completed some 30 paintings:

Rest by Winslow Homer

Homer’s purpose was clearly to gather as many pictures representative of the scenery of the island and the lives of its citizens as possible, for his watercolors embrace a wide variety of subjects. However, he seems to have been particularly interested in the day-to-day activities of the black inhabitants. There was a substantial African population on Nassau, because English planters had brought slaves to the island to work their plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1834, but the economic conditions of former slaves and their descendants remained extremely difficult. Several of Homer’s watercolors, such as “Rest” and “A Garden in Nassau”, hint at the lingering effects of slavery by showing black figures standing outside the coral limestone walls that typically surrounded white homes, suggesting that they were excluded from the world within.

Nothing depicts the dichotomy between East Grove and the historic Bahamian neighbourhood of West Grove more than the Nassau paintings by Winslow Homer. What the committee that chose his painting for the 2002 Vision Plan could not have known is how little would get done in the intervening 14 years. Presenting this optimistic plan to the City of Miami, there was no way they could have known that the metaphorical wall between the two ends of Coconut Grove would get ever higher.

I’ll be sharing more of the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan — along with the very human stories of people living in this section of town — in the coming weeks. However, I just wanted to provide some historical context before I get too deep into this series.

Here’s some more context from 2009 by filmmaker Ellie Tinto-Poitier, narrated by Jeffrey Poitier:

If anyone knows where I can find a completed
version of this documentary, please contact me.

If you’ve liked anything you’ve read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.

A Magnificent Morning in Morgantown

Two years ago the Not Now Silly Newsroom featured a Special Travelogue during The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research. After I published A Tribute to Don Knotts ► Morgantown’s Favourite Son, the search for Don Knotts‘ roots has became an annual tradition of my yearly Road Trips.

Through necessity The 4th Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was hastily planned. At first it appeared as if there would be no Road Trip this year, but fate intervened to make it happen. With just a few days notice I contacted all the usual suspects, loaded up the car, cranked up the tunes, and headed for the open road.

This year’s Road Trip was my most ambitious. It would take me from Sunrise to Hamilton and Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Then I would swing through Detroit, which inevitably leads to Canton Township, not to mention Ann Arbor for another visit with Pastor Kenny. Then would come Elyria and Columbus, both in Ohio, before making my way back to Sunrise. However, my first official stop would be Morgantown, West Virginia, to visit with one of my anonymous sources.

I had already been motoring north, with a carefully planned itinerary that left nothing to chance, when I recieved an IM from my source for all Knotts Knews. I was still a day from Morgantown. My my host wrote: 

“If you can manage to stay in Morgantown a few hours Saturday, the Don Knotts statue is being dedicated at 10 am.”

To which I replied, “YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!”

A picture of the maquette taken 2 years ago with
the crack in the leg (under the elbow) clearly visible

In that post of 2 years ago I exposed how some unthinking tourist broke the maquette of Don Knotts at the Morgantown Visitors Center. Amazingly I said this back then:

This maquette is to become a larger-than-life statue of Don Knotts to be erected on the waterfront. Morgantown is hoping to create a whole day of it, whenever it is, with a dedication and unveiling. An entire weekend of Don Knotts Days might include parades, picnics, band concerts, beauty pageants, culminating in a massive fireworks display. I sure hope I’m invited to the event I just created in my head.

Now, amazingly, synchronicity had worked to make my invitation happen. 

I checked out the weather report and learned it would be hot and humid in Morgantown. The northeast had just entered another record-breaking heat spell.

I cranked up the tunes even louder and stepped on the gas, arriving early enough on Friday to take a gander at where the unveiling would happen.

In front of the Metropolitan Theatre: The brass star with the Don
Knotts statue all wrapped up waiting to be sprung on the world.

While I had been told the statue would have a place of honour at the waterfront, either I had been misinformed or there had been a change of plans in the intervening 2 years.

When I arrived in Morgantown the Don Knotts statue was all wrapped up in a blue tarp on Main Street, directly in front of the window at the Metropolitan Theatre. It’s just a few feet away from the brass star featured in the Not Now Silly Newsroom Follow-up, last year’s Don Knotts Is Back ► A Morgantown Update.

To be perfectly honest, I thought the front of the Met to be a far more appropriate location for Knotts’ statue. After all, this is where he got his start in the Professional Show Business with his ventriliquist dummy named Danny “Hooch” Matador.

Having scoped out the location, I retired for the night, filled with dreams of how Morgantown would honour its favourite son:

The parade would start at the waterfront with the Morgantown High School Brass Band leading the procession. It would wind its way past all those places important to Don Knotts, from his childhood home to where he bought his chewing gum. Baton twirlers launch their instruments high into the air, the sun glinting off the chrome as they spin higher and higher and, just before they are lost in the glare of the sun, drop back into the twirlers hands in perfect synchronization. Vintage cars of all descriptions separate the marching soldiers from the motorcycle police, with sirens blaring. And, bringing up the rear, a giant float with a 20 piece Steel Drum band. [It’s my fantasy and I love Steel Drum music.] As the entire shebang winds its way up Main Street, patriotic bunting flaps in the lazy breeze, while the sidewalks are jam-packed with people all holding up a single bullet.

The reality was much more prosaic.

Because downtown Morgantown is a maze of one way streets, it would have been difficult to close Main Street entirely, so only half the street was closed down. That meant that all during the ceremony there were cars passing behind us, some with loud music drowning out the speakers.

I remarked to my friend that this felt like Mayberry all growed up.

There was a cozy, small town, Mayberry feel to the whole festivities. Local raconteur Larry Nelson was Master of Ceremonies, keeping the crowd assembled on the blacktop in the swealtering 95 degree heat entertained as a delay kept Karen Knotts, Don’s daughter, from arriving on time. Mayor Marti Shamberger was there to pay tribute and give us a capsule biography of Knotts. John Pyles, one of his oldest friends and the man who led the fundraising to get the statue made, told stories of Don Knotts’ many visits back to Morgantown to decompress away from the Hollywood scene. Karen Knotts continued along that same theme, telling the assembled crowd about how much Morgantown meant to her father and what an important touchstone the town was to the family during visits.

Then sculptor Jamie Lester, who graciously granted me a few words before the festivities began, spoke abut how humbled he was to have been chosen to honour Knotts in this way and why the statue is not a representation of Barney Fife, the character he’s best remembered for. While he holds Barney Fife’s Deputy Sheriff cap, the statue is meant to represent the entire man.

Which led to the inevitable unveiling of the statue:

After the ceremony Karen Knotts performed her acclaimed one woman play “Tied Up In Knotts” — on the same stage that her father had once trod inside the Metropolitan Theatre — about growing up with a famous father.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay for Karen Knotts’ performance. Under my original plan I was to have left for Hamilton, Ontario at the break of dawn. I was already a half day behind schedule with a whole lot of road, not to mention a border crossing, still ahead of me.

However, as I drove towards the Peace Bridge I couldn’t help but sing this song:

Unpacking Coconut Grove & The Writer

The first pic I ever took of the Charles Avenue Historic Marker, 2009

As I mourn the destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House, I’ve been asked how I came to write about Coconut Grove since I live 35 miles away. Get comfy, kiddies for another chapter in the never-ending series Unpacking The Writer.

Let’s face it: I’m a carpetbagger.

In 2009 I was relatively new to Florida. Embedded in my online Performance Art character of Aunty Em Ericann, this happened at almost the same time I started writing for NewsHounds. Coincidentally, I was also 2 years into a research project on Sistrunk Boulevard — once the vibrant Black business district of the once vibrant Black neighbourhood in Fort Lauderdale.

I was researching Sistrunk because one of the characters in Farce Au Pain will eventually need to leave Detroit in a hurry. I decided to place him near Sistrunk. [See if you can guess who.] Researching Sistrunk meant I was already learning about Race Relations in South Florida. On the day I am about to describe I was also in the middle of reading Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen. It’s a book that explains why every city in this country looks the way it does. The history of Sistrunk is no different than any other Black enclave in the U.S. — except NYC and, as I was to eventually learn, Coconut Grove, which followed a different path than most cities. [NYC is usually the exception to any rule.]

Hollywood to Homestead

Other stories here about Coconut Grove:

Where the Sidewalk
Ends, Racism Begins:
Part IPart IIPart III

No Skin In The Game



Meanwhile, when I wasn’t at the library reading the stacks about Sistrunk, and when Aunty Em wasn’t trolling Right Wing Nut Jobs, I was freelancing for a financial institution (that I won’t name). My job involved visiting properties in foreclosure, taking photographs of them, and uploading them to a restricted web site to prove they were still there. My territory was huge: Hollywood to Homestead, including Miami Beach.

It sounds crazy, but I was sent to the same properties every 3-4 weeks and nothing ever changed. About 1/3 of the time I also had to leave a letter. I got triple the fee for those. I always took a pic of me leaving the letter, so there was never a dispute. I even got paid for arriving at a gated community, being denied entry, and taking a pic of the guard who sent me away.

It all seemed like money wasted to me, but the financial institution was shoveling it in my direction. Who was I to say no to Bank Money? It was during the height of the foreclosure crisis and there was no end to the work. Each week I’d get paperwork on some 100-250 properties and I was expected to return pictures of them in 3-5 days.

As an aside: Imagine you needed to visit that many properties. You’d drive yourself bonkers if you tried to chart the most efficient route. Thanks to (the now discontinued) Microsoft Street and Trips. I could plug all the addresses into the laptop, hit OPTIMIZE, and — after the machine thought about it for a while — it would spit out the perfect route. If I put my address as the first and last, it would route me down one side of Southeast Florida and up the other.

Being new to South Florida, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Coconut Grove, Hialeah, Hollywood, Opa-Locka, Cutler Bay, or Miami Beach — or how to get there. Thank goodness Microsoft Streets and Trips also had a USB GPS thangie to hang on my windscreen.

A recent pic of 3678 William Avenue, the first
house I ever photographed in Coconut Grove.

One day I was down in Cutler Bay. My next stop was on William Avenue, in Miami (actually Coconut Grove, but I didn’t know that then). The GPS directed me to Main Highway and told me to head north.

I remember laughing at the time because it was not a highway. Nor did it seem very main. It was a narrow two lane road — one in either direction — which felt hemmed in on both sides by vegetation and the walls of gated communities. I later learned that this actually was once part of the main highway to get from Miami to the very bottom of the state, long before the overseas highway was built to Key West.

Once I was on Main Highway the GPS told to me to turn left onto Charles Avenue. As soon as I did I saw the Charles Avenue Historic Marker. It’s rare to see a marker this big on a residential street. Being a history buff I pulled over and read the marker.

Charles Avenue

The first black community on the South Florida mainland began here in the late 1880s when Blacks primarily from the Bahamas came via Key West to work at the Peacock Inn. Their first hand experience with tropical plants and building materials proved invaluable to the development of Coconut Grove. Besides private homes the early buildings included the Odd Fellows Hall, which served as a community center and library, Macedonia Baptist Church, home of the oldest black congregation in the area, and the A.M.E. Church, which housed the community’s first school. At the western end of Charles Avenue is one of the areas oldest cemeteries.

Looking from the front door of the house on William Avenue

Instinctively I could read between the lines of this sign:

“If it hadn’t been for the Black Bahamians, the White folk would have starved. This is where they lived, close to where they worked in the nascent White tourist industry.”

After reading the Charles Avenue Historic Marker, I turned to look at the E.W.F. Stirrup House for the first time. In a neighbourhood filled with one story shotgun shacks and little Conch-style houses, it was this gloriously large 2-story house, painted white with yellow trim, shining brightly in the South Florida sun. I was struck by 3 things: 1). It’s beauty; 2). How different it looked from the rest of the houses; and that it was empty.

I moved on to photograph the house on William Avenue. Then I was sent over to an address on SW 27th Avenue, which the GPS told me was exactly a mile away. I wasn’t prepared for how the neighbourhood changed from an obviously depressed area to ritzy. So ritzy, in fact, that the nondescript street address I was given was the Ritz-Carlton Residences tower, right next door to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel tower, in Coconut Grove.

I couldn’t get past the concierge to deliver the letter I had in my hand. And, I’m not even sure I could have passed the dress code besides. Because I had hundreds of properties to photograph, I took his picture and demanded to know his name for my report.

Looking into the back door of the house on William

However, I couldn’t get that yellow and white house on Charles Avenue out of my mind. As soon as I got home I jumped on Google Maps. The first surprise was that on the satellite view there were two houses on the north side of Charles Avenue, across the street from the Stirrup House. Those houses were no longer there. Why? That was the first mystery to solve. After that I was hooked.

I soon learned that the house that I found so attractive for its majestic simplicity (not a contradiction) was known as the E.W.F. Stirrup House. There was scant biographical information for Mr. Stirrup on the net, but I hoovered up what I could as fast as I could.

I also learned that the 33133 Zip Code is considered one of the most exclusive in the entire country. I had discovered a place of extreme contrasts, but my education on Coconut Grove was just beginning.

It’s probably fortunate for all involved that this financial institution sent me back to the address on William every few weeks to make sure it was still there. I’m not sure I would have driven down on my own had it not been for that. After a few visits, following a bunch of research on Charles Avenue, I was hooked
on the legacy of E.W.F. Stirrup, which seemed to have been forgotten.
His house was empty and undergoing the DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT that I’ve
documented in the 7 years since discovering it.

Furthermore, going back to the same address on William every month, or so, allowed me to follow the progression of this other property over the same 7 year period.

When I first started dropping off letters and taking pics of the house on William, it was still occupied. I’d leave my letter in the screen door. The next time I’d return it was gone and there were signs of recent occupation. However, eventually the last letter I had left was still the door, along with flyers and the other paper detritus that marks the beginning of an empty house. I left the new letter, in case someone was collecting the mail piling up in the mailbox, but reported the house as empty to the financial institution.

The back of the house on William. One of the reasons it
stood out was, like the E.W.F. Stirrup a few blocks away,
was one of the few 2-story houses in this area of West Grove.

One day I arrived to find a fire-engine red notice on the door condemning the property. Right around that time I stopped working for the financial institution because someone undercut my price. However, I continued to visit Coconut Grove for my own research on various stories in Coconut Grove.

SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: Recently I’ve been working with someone in West Grove to research a complicated story that requires driving around the neighbourhood. Recently they were ranting about a property on William Avenue that was possibly being used as a crack house, but certainly being used by the homeless.

It’s the house on William that introduced me to Coconut Grove!!!

The front door is gone. The back door is wide open. It’s filled with mold and mildew and the ceilings have fallen in. There’s a hole in the roof. Clothing and blankets are scattered through the front of the house and it’s clear that people have been sleeping there.

I told my source the story about how this very house led me to discover Coconut Grove.  They told me they’ve reported this house to the City of Miami and we should go look at it. That’s when I took the pics that accompany this article.

Where We’re At & Where We’re Going ► Unpacking the Writer

Pops and I soon after I moved to Florida 10 years ago.

I opened this joint (originally called “Headly Westerfield’s Aunty Em Ericann Blog”) in April of 2012 to publish Johnny Dollar Has Proven Himself To Be A Very Dangerous Person. Then I had to decide what else to do with it. It has metamorphosed into what you see here today, the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

When I fired up this place, I had no real plan; I still don’t. I merely followed my interests, writing about whatever rang my bell at the time. I took the position that my interests, as interesting as they are, would be of interest to other interesting people. And, I also assumed, that my droll, tongue-in-cheek writing style would be endlessly entertaining, not to mention interesting.

Not following a road map has led me to some very interesting places.

F’rinstance: I never thought I’d be writing about Coconut Grove, which is 35 miles from where I live. I was still disguised in my Street Performance Art Installation as Aunty Em Ericann, when I discovered the Charles Avenue Historical Marker, the E.W.F. Stirrup House, and the shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse. I distinctly remember getting home that day and telling friends I had found a story at the corner of Charles Avenue and Main Highway. I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.

That first encounter with Coconut Grove gave me an almost endless supply of stories about that community and its rich history. It’s the oldest neighbourhood in Miami and, at one time, had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in the country. Today the 33133 Zip Code is considered one of the most exclusive in the nation, while gentrification of The Grove continues to bulldoze the rich Bahamian history the original village was founded upon.

But it wasn’t just Coconut Grove history I got sucked into writing about. I also wrote about Trolleygate and Soilgate, long before the Miami media discovered those stories. I wrote about [allegedly] corrupt politicians and the Distrct 2 election campaign. I’ve written about the continued encroachment of Marler Avenue, which became the third chapter of my popular Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins series. I’ve written about bad neighbours and rapacious developers, who just so happen to be the same person. I’ve written about parking problems and valets run amok. And, of course, I’ve written about my campaign to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House for something other than a B&B for rich White folks.

It took me quite a while to realize why Coconut Grove was one of the few places in Florida where I felt truly comfortable. To begin with, the Grove isn’t suburban, which is really what the rest of South Florida feels like. Hugging the east coast, it’s just one long, sprawling suburban landscape; gas stations and strip malls separated by gated communities, and indoor malls, all connected with ribbons of highways, each radiating the midday summer heat.

Coconut Grove is different. It still has faint echoes of the original Bahamian culture that built the neighbourhood. Later those original settlers were joined by artists wanting to capture the tropics in paintings, and one can still feel that vibe throbbing under the surface. The Bahamians and Bohemians got along together famously and, by the ’60, were joined by folksingers such as Fred Neil, John Sebastian, David Crosby, and Joni Mitchell. On a quiet day you can still hear their songs in the off-shore breezes.

There’s a deep Hippie vibe in parts of the Grove, the parts where I felt the most comfortable.

Montage by author

The overarching rubric for all of my Coconut Grove stories was Unpacking Coconut Grove. Right now I’m feeling nostalgic because I am Packing Coconut Grove; trying to tie up all the loose reportorial ends as I prepare to leave South Florida.

I’ve taken care of Pops for the last decade and I’m simply burned out. It’s time for me to return to Toronto, the city I call home, to recharge my batteries.

Ironically, I’m returning to Kensington Market, which has a similar Hippie feel as Coconut Grove. I lived in Kensington Market many years ago, but was able to experience it again anew when I visited Toronto in September. I spent most of my time in the Market and felt comfortable and at home. Soon I will be able to call it home.

Help me get to Kensington Market
by contributing to my Go Fund Me:

Endings Mean New Begingings

I already have the right hat

As you may, or may not, have heard, the Not Now Silly Newsroom is moving to Canada. My time in Florida is coming to an end.

I’ve been here in paradise for the last decade taking care of Pops. Now the time has come to turn his continued care over to one of my 4 sisters.

Looking back on the last 10 years: 

My attachment to Coconut Grove is a flame that cannot be extinguished. I will continue to visit West Grove, as well as write about this unique and magical place. I already have a couple of new articles in the pipeline.

But, as I say, it’s time for me to leave.

I’ll need to find long pants and warm socks because I’m heading back to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the city I call home no matter where I am.

Just like Coconut Grove, I fell in love with Toronto the first time I saw it. That was long before I ever moved there. I miss The Big Smoke and my brief visit earlier this year — 4 days in September — only whetted my appetite for more.

I’ve not seen a Canadian winter in 11 years. I wonder if they are
as bad as I remember, although it’s balmy up there right now. That won’t last long. I’ve never liked Winter and I am not sure whether I’ll survive the cold, or
not, but the effort will be worth it.

My biggest mistake was choosing to quit before I really had the means to do so. However, I just hit the wall. Consequently, I have fired up a Go Fund Me account to help get me back to Toronto. Please take a look and see if you can find your way clear to contribute a few bucks to get me home.

Love Makes The World Go Round ► Unpacking The Writer

Reflections on the last month

Whew!!! It’s been a whirlwind couple of months and it’s long past time for another Unpacking The Writer.

As longtime readers of Not Now Silly know by now the Unpacking The Writer series is a monthly look at what’s going on inside this writers head. This month I’ll include my heart.

Last week, for Throwback Thursday, I wrote about my Nuptial Nostalgia Tour, a 2-week road trip in which I visited Toronto and Hamilton, cites I have lived in. Meanwhile, Pastor Kenny Responds to my latest Pastoral Letter called The Trunk Lost In Transit, which means all my gentle prodding to have a dialogue about God, Atheism, and the LGBT communities has paid off. There will be more to come in that series.

My numbers for the past 30 days. Click to enlarge.

Since the last Unpacking The Writer I’ve also written about Tuli Kupferberg, U-Roy, Yma Súmac, Arthur Godfrey, and Linton Kwesi Johnson for my newest series A Monday Musical Appreciation. Under the rubric of politics I’ve also written More Proof the Palin Family Are Liars and Grifters; taken a well-deserved slap at Bill “The Falafel King” O’Reilly; written about the day Frederick Douglass Escaped; and concocted a little thing called Donald Trump, Demagoguery, and The National Shrine of the Little Flower.

I’ve also written A Message to Facebookers, an effort to vanquish the trolls on my timeline; reported that Don Knotts Is Back in a highly anticipated Morgantown update; written about Murder and Morning Television; and launched Throwback Thursday with The Westerfield Journals.

It’s been a very productive month. 

One of the statistics the Blogger platform returns to me is what search terms people have used to arrive at the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I always find this a weird, but interesting list. In the last month 2 people have arrived here by searching for “harris faulkner tit pictures.” I’m sure they arrived disappointed, since there are none. (Not that I wouldn’t want to see said pictures myself.) Two people have arrived here by searching “headly westerfield” and 2 by searching “where thevsidewalk [sic] ends headly wersterfield [sic],” which links to one of my more popular series on institutional racism in Coconut Grove.

I’m also celebrating an anniversary, of sorts. I’ve been writing Friday Fox Follies, my weekly column for PoliticusUSA, for a full year now. It’s a challenge to write because it’s carefully crafted by using the actual headlines found on the interwebs and put in prose form. It’s a lot of fun (for me, at least) when it all comes together, but there are times it has to be forced more than others. In fact, as soon as I publish this post, I’ll begin the next FFF column.

However, I’ve saved the biggest news for the very end: I fell in head over heels, madly, crazy in love. Incomprehensibly, it’s been reciprocated and I am happier than I’ve been in many years.


The Nuptial Nostalgia Tour ► Throwback Thursday

In August I announced my Road Trip to Canada, which took me to Hamilton and Toronto, cities I’ve written about previously. It was transformed into a magical road trip, filled with Deja Vu and synchronicity; a trip when finished felt preordained. It was truly throwback in ways I could have never imagined and I’m still trying to process it all.

Wedding photography outside The Werx The Spice Factory

The first strong echo of the past was the wedding venue. The Spice Factory is in a building that was once called The Werx, but that was several owners ago. After the building sat idle for a while, the new owner renovated it to be a bar/special event venue. However, The Werx was the place in Hamilton where we all used to hang and put on our own events more than a decade ago. Now we were back in the building experiencing extreme Deja Vu.

In fact, The Werx was the location of the ghost hunt I conducted with the Girly Ghostbusters, first described in Hamilton Magazine.

It was great being in that building again. It was also pretty special being back with that group of people again. These are people I dearly love, but only get to have computer contact with. At one point we were all standing out in front of the building — in our tuxedos and fancy dresses — and realized, “How many times have we done this?” We laughed and laughed and laughed, just like we used to.

And yet, as comfortable as this all was, there was also a sense of dislocation. While some things were the same, other things were very different. And, the same is also true for all the other experiences I will relate below.

That’s my old apartment on the top floor, left

After the Hamilton wedding I went to Toronto, the city I truly consider home.

One of the best apartments I ever had in Toronto (and I’ve had several great ones) is in a building I never thought I’d be in again after moving out some 17 years ago and leaving behind a pull-out couch that was too heavy to carry.

Yet, recently my daughter was looking for a new apartment and found one in the very same building. I spent 2 nights with her and it was so weird and wonderful being in the same building again.

While in the old neighbourhood I spent a couple of days looking for my old supers, who had moved to an apartment above a store on Queen Street West, above one of the antique stores. I had absolutely no luck. If anyone knows where to find Shane and Margaret, I’d be most interested in hearing all about it. They were two people I had really hoped to find while in Toronto.

While in Toronto I used Kensington Market as my home base because it was convenient to everything and everybody.

It was wonderful being in Kensington Market again. I lived in the Market 40 years ago, when the Island Records Canada offices were on the ground floor of a house on Nassau, at Augusta. That’s why I’m considered a Marketeer and why this was a long-delayed homecoming.

There are few places on earth quite like Kensington Market. The WikiWackyWoo says:

Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Market is an older neighbourhood and one of the city’s most well-known. In November 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[1][2] Robert Fulford
wrote in 1999 that “Kensington today is as much a legend as a district.
The (partly) outdoor market has probably been photographed more often
than any other site in Toronto.”[3] 

Kensington Market: A small
place with a very big heart.

However, there’s no way the Googlizer can convey the sense of family one finds in The Market. It only runs a few blocks in any direction and feels like a small village. Everyone looks out for everyone. While I was there I saw store owners bring out food to give to the Punks that congregate near the alley. There’s an amazing energy in The Market, with the sidewalks crowded from early morning to late at night.

I could easily see myself living in The Market because it felt like home. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and seemed truly sorry that I had to leave.

For the most part The Market is The Market. On the surface it appears to have not changed at all. The cheese shop is still there. The fishmonger has the same smells. The green grocer next to my old house is as busy as it ever was. Yet on closer examination one notices new businesses tucked between the same stores as before: New Age stores, fancy coffee shops and restaurants, and funky vintage clothing stores.

You can take the boy out of the Market, but you can’t take the Market out of the boy. That’s my
old house behind me. Island Records was on the ground floor and I lived above on the third floor.
When I  walked into Lola, I ran into Brad, who I worked with at
Citytv for over decade. Now that he’s retired, this is his hangout.

It was terrific being in the Market again!

And, I want to extend a special THANK YOU to Gwen and Huong Bang, the two sisters who own Lola in Kensington Market.

I had this crazy idea to throw myself a party while in Toronto. It was borne out of practicality. I couldn’t possibly visit everybody I wanted to see and who wanted to see me in the 4 days I was there. But, what if they all came to me?

I approached a woman I knew slightly 40 years ago, when she became friends with my first wife after we had split. They went to George Brown college together. Barbette Kensington and I reconnected a few years back on the facebookery. I knew she was an event organizer so I asked her where she would hold a party for me. She found Lola (because it’s one of her hangouts) and, somehow, ‘convinced’ Gwen and Haung to allow all of my crazy friends to descend on their place. [I’m told they were happy to do so.]

Barbette Kensington making sure all goes well at my party.
That’s the infamous Richard Flohill in the foreground.

In fact, Barbette took that ball and ran with it. My party went off flawlessly and I had such a wonderful time that I wished it would have never ended.

In some respects it hasn’t.

I’ve had a smile on my face since my trip to Toronto and my spirit has been changed in ways I can barely describe, despite my facility with words.

All I can say for now is that my life has been transformed and there are new roads and adventures in my future.