I didn’t write about it. I wasn’t writing about much of anything. But, for reasons that even I don’t understand, I saved that Mad King Trump tweet for posterity . I was minding my own bidnezz, cowering from The COVID, with enough Writer’s Block to build a concrete canyon down Grand Avenue (which is what will eventually happen, BTW, but that’s another story for another day), when I got a phone call from someone I had not heard from in years. They started telling me about a particular story about Miami Corruption and — JUST LIKE THAT! — I was interested in writing again.
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
I had to learn how to write all over again. Writing is a muscle that can atrophy. I was rusty as hell. Furthermore, it DID NOT HELP that the WordPress software under the hood at the NNS Newsroom had been updated and the editor no longer did things I used to count on when I needed to count. There was a learning curve to the website software that I’m still working on.
That could be sooner rather than later. Suddenly sources have been sending the Not Now Silly Newsroom documents on Miami Corruption that others have only hinted at over the years. Now I have more Miami Corruption to look into than you can shake a FOI at.
Meanwhile, with about 60 days to go until the election, I’m hoping to write more about my opinions of Mad King Trump. He needs to be stopped. I’m old enough to remember the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and the other riots of the era. Following the murder of George Floyd the entire country has righteously erupted.
I don’t condone violence or destruction, but I understand the language of the dispossessed. I know how loud ‘the rabble’ has to get before any needed reform is even hinted at. In 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Mike Wallace:
I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.
Everything old is new again. We’re just calling it #BLM, or Black Lives Matter, but Black folk are still trying to make their voices heard. Were it not for the fact that people are now carrying video recorders in their pockets, so many of these murders at the hands of police would not be known.
I’ve watched, just during my lifetime, how the fight for true equality in ‘Merka has been two steps forward and one step back. The country never makes it to the finish line.
When I was growing up I couldn’t get my parents to drive me to school. Now 17-year old children are being driven across state lines to murder peaceful protestors with more firepower than police carry.
In Mad King Trump‘s ‘Merka, brownshirts taking over city streets with their pick-up trucks — jacked up to compensate for their cuckold-follow-the-pack lifestyle — shooting people with paint balls. Rich White Fucks with boats (or huge loans on their boats) are taking over ‘Merkin waterways.
Not only won’t Mad King Trump condemn the violence done in his name when asked outright, but he encourages it from the sidelines in tweets. He sees unhinged rallies where MAGAts wave the TRUMP 2020 flag, but only sees the support, not the this-is-so-bad-for-the-country-it’s-off-the-charts. Because, Mad King Trump has only ever seen the flags.
Which brings us full circle, dear reader. Just as I was getting ready to publish this update from the Not Now Silly Newsroom, I popped into Twitter to see if there was anything I wanted to roll into this post. There, right at the top of my timeline, as if daring me to screenshot it, and make fun of it, was the latest tomfoolery from Zircon & Burlap.
I don’t see this as a compelling argument to reelect a monster.
I still call myself a writer, but I’ve barely done any in almost 2 years. Aside from posts on the facebookery or THE [Twitter Hate Engine™] — short, concise, and generally angry bursts of energy — I’ve not written anything of any length since There Will Be Hell Toupee, on December 27, 2018, and mostly because it is a topic (to lean into the cliché) near and dear to my heart.
Six days previously I published my very last gasp on Coconut Grove, Bulldozing History in Coconut Grove. The Grove was a topic that burned at me from the day I first discovered it 12 years earlier. At the time I was still disguised as Aunty Em Ericann, having launched Aunty Em’s Place in 2006. It was my very first ‘Merkin blogging experience. I had only recently moved from Canada and was trying to make as big a ripple as possible in what I knew to be a huge media ocean. The nom de troll was part of that plan. For a time, it worked, but that’s another story for another day.
Aunty Em’s very first post about The Grove was published on February 24, 2009. Presciently that post, The Shame of Coconut Grove, promised to be “Number One in a series”. Little did I know how right she would be…I mean…how right I’d be.
Over the years I have written dozens of investigative articles about Coconut Grove. The Grove consumed untold hours of my time in research and writing. Then there were the absorbed costs of multiple FOI requests, not to mention the gas needed to drive the 70 miles to The Grove and back, when I needed to be on the ground.
I’m proud of my work on Coconut Grove. During that time I broke some important stories about The Grove before the so-called Miami Media: Trolleygate and Soilgate were being ignored until I kicked up a stink. It was gratifying to see my stories picked up by the Miami-Herald and local newscasts, even though I wasn’t being credited. I knew who got there first.
My last really important investigative story on Coconut Grove (at least in my mind) was published on August 8, 2018. It ended with the words “Because, make no mistake, at the core of every story about Coconut Grove is a story about Racism”. While I didn’t realize it at the time, Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood was both a summation of my time in Coconut Grove and my swansong on the topic. I didn’t figure that out until later.
After I dropped that article, I started compiling/composing a new Freedom of Information request for all the properties I would need to track for the proposed Charles Street hotel. Officially called The Charles Avenue Grove Inn, immediately across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House I failed to save from Demolition by Neglect. There were at least 6 properties — possible 8 depending, on anticipated sales — but there were also several other issues I had been tracking, which I knew I needed to FOI the fuck out of. I started adding up the costs in my head and could see that I was faced with a bill of several hundred dollars because the City of Miami charges for that shit. And, that would have only been Step One. Once one gets the documents [if you even get the documents], they invariably lead to other documents and another FOI. These things can expand exponentially quickly. I didn’t have that kind of money. I had an occasional sponsor/patron/unnamed source, but wasn’t sure I could get them onboard for this much.
That’s when I turned my back on The Grove. Why should I bust my hump, and spend good money, trying to help a community that didn’t seem to want to help itself? It made me recall the words of Al Crespo. To my mind the Crespogram Newsletter is Miami’s best muckraking site. Early on I tried to get him interested in my crusade to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House. His response shocked me at the time. “Why should I care about a neighbourhood that it doesn’t care about itself?”
If I learned one thing in all the years, it was that Crespo was right about West Grove’s apathy. While I recognized it more and more as I wrote about West Grove, it still ate away at me.
I had a ready excuse for that apathy. The folks who lived in that historic Black enclave were used to being ignored by the city, White folks, and the banks. Their concerns were more direct and immediate than saving a house at the end of a block that once belonged to a man who was — to put it bluntly — considered a slumlord in his lifetime. Or, fighting developers that were gentrifying their neighbourhood, replacing the affordable housing that was only affordable because it was in a Black neighbourhood. The ghetto.
Their bigger concerns were putting food on the table, keeping the young ones out of trouble, and avoiding the Miami Police, who could make their lives miserable if they got too far out of line.
Yes, I had a ready excuse for the apathy, but I was no longer willing to accept it.
The realization that I seemed to be the only person who cared, took my Writer’s Block and constructed a full-blown concrete block building, metaphorically like those that line Grand Avenue in West Grove. Impossible to escape from.
I stopped researching. I stopped thinking about articles. I stopped writing.
Which is odd because there was a time in my life that I just wrote to write. I had no place to publish my writing. I had no readers. I had no blog. I wrote merely to put my thoughts down and get them outta mind. It was cleansing, like a brain colonic. I wrote for the pleasure of the writing.
Eventually, I made somewhat of a living at it as a freelance investigative journalist and, later, toiled for a decade as a news writer on BreakfastTelevision [sic] on Citytv [sic]. Even then I still hammered words into particular configurations for my own enjoyment … and to clarify my thought processes. I need to start doing that again. Desperately.
To quote myself again from Kick That Block:
As much as that was true then, maybe enough time has passed that I think I might be able to finally get this down in digital form. I need to get it off my chest. I need to explore the problem deeper in order to see whether riffing on the topic with words will allow me to find what I’m looking for. It’s still going to take a while before I have anything in a finished form that I’d be willing to publish. If at all. Psychiatry might be faster, but who can afford that? They charge more than Miami FOIs.
For me it will be a relief to just get it ‘out there,’ because it’s a secret I’ve held on to a long time. Only one person on earth knows and they only learned in the last few weeks. I blurted it out while we spoke long-distance during one of my long walks during The Time of The COVID. I was explaining the various things that have turned my anhedonia into full time [find]depression.
It will be the most personal thing I will ever write. In fact, it’s so personal that all my previous attempts at getting my thoughts down were deleted from my hard drive so they could not be found.
That’s not something I normally do.
I still have every draft of every analog article I ever wrote during my magazine freelancing years. Some of them still have editors’ notes for further … err … edits. Electronically, I have an external hard drive (so that I don’t lose anything precious if a PC fries, as has happened many times over the years) with separate folders for each article, where I toss pics, links, notes, and, eventually, numbered drafts, until I have an article I am willing to release into the wild.
Having destroyed all my previous work on this deeply personal article, I’ll be starting from scratch. I saved nothing. I just looked.
Because it’s not something I can just ‘dash off’ — like this thingie you’re reading f’rinstance — don’t expect it any time soon. However, having finally told 1 person, I’m hoping it will be easier now.
However, to circle back to where I started, I need to get back to writing if I am going to continue to call myself a writer.
Expect the Not Now Silly Newsroom to sputter back to life. It’s not like I got anything better to do. Today is my 44th day of self-imposed social distancing. I’m going wrangy, just like everybody else.
P.S. I was asked why I call it The COVID. I am harkening back to my childhood when elders spoke in hushed tones about The Cancer or The Polio when they didn’t think children were listening.
I am in the middle of the worst case of Writer’s Block in my lifetime.
I’ve been through this before and it usually dissipates naturally without my having to work it it. This one hasn’t and only seems to have gotten stronger the more I kick at it. In an effort to kick it to the curb, let’s talk about some of the reasons why this might be happening.
1). To begin with, I actually write every day . . . In my head while UberLyfting. I am on the road for hours and hours on end. During that time I write paragraph after paragraph in my head. This article, for example, has already been written dozens of times. I have, in my head on any number of occasions, reordered these paragraphs and come up with certain wording and bullet points. Writing so much in my head, by the time I get home to my keyboard it already feels finished, so I don’t bother to put it down digitally.
2). Speaking of when I get home: I sit down at the PC —with the tee vee on in the background— and start reading the news of the day on the various websites I haunt. Then I start farting around on the facebookery. By the time I next look at the clock it’s 3 or 4 in the afternoon and I no longer feel like writing.
3). Speaking of the afternoon: This is somewhat difficult for me to admit, being as how I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult life, but I stopped being able to write in the afternoons. It used to be that I could write day or night. I would wake up at any hour and start pounding on a keyboard, creating legible sentences and paragraphs. Writing was something that I had to do, not necessarily something I wanted to do, altho’ I did. Words were always pouring out of me in one form or another.
However, I noticed a number of years ago (about 5, if I had to estimate) that, while I could write up a storm in the mornings, any word craft later in the day was junk. All my articles for NewsHounds and PoliticusUSA were written early in the morning. Most (if not all) of my posts at Not Now Silly were written in the morning. If I tried to write in the afternoons, it came slowly, if it came at all. And, what I produced was of such poor quality that I’d often scrap it entirely or spend so much time editing it into shape that I may as well have scrapped it and started over. That may have been easier and faster.
4). I used to set aside time every day to write because I had assignments due, or a post I was compelled to write. Lately, I don’t seem to have anything I really want to write about, so I make posts on the facebooky, as if that’s really writing at all.
5). One of the heavier things weighing on my mind (but not the most) is this: If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know how I’ve been writing about Coconut Grove for the last decade; first trying to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House (a battle lost, as the house has now been replicated, not renovated) and then moving on to fight the runaway gentrification on Charles Avenue. My last article on that topic was Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood.
Not to put too fine a point on it, no one shared this article. I’ve checked every corner of the internet I could shine a light into. I could not find a single instance of it being shared. None of the stakeholders in Coconut Grove seemed to care enough to share it. No one who professes love for Charles Avenue shared it. I couldn’t get the Miami Herald to look into it and no other pundit or publication showed a scintilla of interest.
It was a severe blow to my ego.
“Why the fuck should I knock myself out?”, I started to ask myself in the way one asks questions in your head during moments of self-doubt. I don’t live in Miami. I don’t even live in that county. The E.W.F. Stirrup House is 37.2, 40.1, or 41.2 miles away from me (depending on which highway I take). On a good day I can be there in an hour. On a bad day it’s take 3 hours. Three fucking hours on I-95 that could be better spent, even if it’s just cleaning lint out of my navel or farting around on the facebookery.
Why should I spend all that time, all that gas, all that energy, all that money on FOIA requests, when the efforts of my research are not appreciated by those I thought I was helping?
And, that particular thought bothers me as well. Was I doing this because it was the right thing to do? Or was it because I was trying to impress people in Coconut Grove? I thought it was the former, but this question preying on me makes me think that maybe it was the latter.
6). Here’s a larger data point looming within my Writers’ Block: While trying to get over this hump, I started writing an intensely personal confession about something from my past. It’s actually something I had been working on for decades, but —again— only in my head. Without going into detail (because that’s what that post would have done and will still do once [if?] I get back to it), I have recovered a childhood memory that has me questioning WTF?
Then I began the slow and emotionally difficult process of writing an article about it. I was making incremental progress on it, despite having to kick against the writers’ block. And then: Disaster!
As odd as it seems, the news of the day made me question whether I should finish and publish the article. It’s not that I couldn’t make this confession. It was more that I couldn’t make it at that time. It would have appeared as if I was jumping onto a bandwagon, trying to make something that was not about me all about me.
Consequently, I shelved the article to the point of deleting the draft I has been working on. It’s gone and, if I ever want to finish it, I will have to start it all over again.
It’s something I need to write eventually (if only for my sanity), but don’t know how much time will be needed before it no longer appears that I’m just trying to shine by reflection of other people’s difficulties.
7). Last, but certainly not least, because it’s really the #1 reason I am going through this: I feel like I’m losing my ability to rite gud. Whether it’s because the lack of use has atrophied my writing muscle or because my brain is not firing the way it used to. When I do try to write I occasionally get lost in the paragraph. I hit a dead end and no longer remember where I was going. Then I have to sit and reread what’s there before I can find the roadmap that gets me out of there. Occasionally, I’ll even lose my place in the middle of a word.
There’s no GPS system for getting lost like that. I have to find my way out of the maze on my own and there are times it’s a struggle.
For all these reasons I have been having trouble getting words down lately. The only saving grace is that this article came relatively easy and quickly. That may be because I’ve written it in my head many times already. Or, maybe, hopefully, fingers crossed, I am getting over this hump.
11/25/15: When Ken Russell arrives to take the oath of office, his spot is already reserved.
Hello again, Not Now Silly fans. Did you miss me? I missed you.
When we last spoke with any regularity, I was in the process of mothballing the Not Now Silly Newsroom. For those who missed it. I put this blog on hiatus after I signed a non-disclosure agreement with Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell.
[Yes, that’s right. I have something in common with Stormy Daniels.]
I had approached him, pitching the idea of a book. I believe Russell’s story is one of those quintessential ‘Merkin stories: Young family man wakes up to city-made environmental disaster right outside his front door, fights inadequate backroom city hall remediation, effects adequate clean-up, gets bitten by the civic improvement bug, runs for public office a year later, and is elected to replace the [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner with whom he battled. Of course I would have fleshed it out a little, starting with his father’s patent for mass producing the famous Russell Yo-Yo, which has been licensed by everybody from Sprite to Daft Punk.
After kicking around several ideas we both had — and various formats we could shoe-horn them into — Russell agreed to collaborate with me on a book. That’s when we signed the non-disclosure agreement that said I couldn’t reveal anything I learned from Russell until an eventual book came out. He couldn’t reveal anything I told him either, but what could I tell him?
Something that began to drive me nuts: This was the first time in all my years as an investigative journalist when I had some great, inside information, but couldn’t report on it due to the NDA. Russell called it the price of access. I called it an itch I couldn’t scratch.
After we agreed to this book project, Russell announced he was running for Florida Congressional District 27. Suddenly the stakes for the eventual book became a whole lot higher. I was gratified he trusted me enough to write his official biography, but knew the project had just become a whole lot more daunting and important.
Since then I’ve done hours and hours of interviews with Russell [every Sunday at 1PM for months], embedded with him on various civic duties, and talked to many people about him. As my research continued, the contours of the book began to take shape. However, I still had a long way to go; and the time in which to do it. The primary wouldn’t be until the summer and, if Russell won that, the general election in November. That would be the obvious place(s) to end any such a book, even though it wasn’t what I envisioned when I originally had this idea.
A rare quiet moment at the 2nd Annual Hash Bash Cup
While returning from a recent Road Trip [to Ann Arbor to cover the 2nd Annual Hash Bash Cup, which will eventually be part of a much larger article here], I decided to detour slightly to Covington, KY. Covington is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, but — more importantly — Covington is where Ken Russell’s father, Luther Jackson “Jack” Russell grew up in the ’20s and ’30s, almost a century ago. I wanted to see if I could find the Five & Dime in which Russell’s father demonstrated Yo-Yos as a teen for cigarette money.
Because I wasn’t sure I’d have time for this side trip, I didn’t tell Russell until it was confirmed in the itinerary. Here’s our text exchange:
ME: Hey there! Remember me? [Every one of my texts to him start the same way.] I have the opportunity to go Covington Kentucky tomorrow. It will add about a half a day to my trip. So, what’s new with you? KR: I just quit the congressional run. I’m sticking around. Sorry I couldn’t tell you earlier, but I just decided yesterday.
IRONY ALERT: I didn’t know Russell had just announced he was withdrawing from the race when I asked, “So, what’s new with you?”
IRONY ALERT #2: I sent my text to him earlier that morning. By the time Russell responded I was in Elyria, Ohio, explaining to painter David Pavlak about the book I was writing about a politician. Pavlak saw the book project fall apart in real time as I was telling him how excited I was to be writing the book.
So . . . all that to explain why I’m kick-starting the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine runs a little rough for the next little while. It’s probably going to need points and plugs, and other enginey things that I can only imagine (because I’m not mechanical and rusty on metaphor).
I have a few ideas for some investigative stories, some of which have been percolating for a long time. I will also be relaunching UpLyfting Thoughts as UberLyfting Thoughts, adding new Throwback Thursdays and Saturday Morning Cartoons to the mix, and dropping new posts under the various other rubrics here.
Apologies to my faithful readers. I know the Not Now Silly Newsroom has been idle lately. To start I’ve needed to Lyft to keep up with my bills. Then along comes Hurricane Irma, which I fled before she ever arrived.
I lived through Hurricane Wilma, which was a Cat 2. Irma was a monster which, at one point, was a Cat 5 and headed straight for the condo. I decided that I didn’t want to see a 5. I had my hurricane fun during Wilma. So I fucked off, in the vernacular.
Drove to the Detroit area, where I have family and friends. Shared driving and expenses with a fellow I’ve known as a facefriend for several years, but we’ve never met before. I packed Marley up, picked Steve up in Boca Raton, and we headed north where we had adventures on the roads. This includes 18 hours trying to get out of Florida in bumper-to-bumper traffic with gas availability troubles. But, we got to Michigan eventually.
These ROAD TRIP stories go into the pipeline, if I ever get to them.
Definitely in the pipeline is a new Pastoral Letter, for those that enjoy that series.
I had been banging away at one in a desultory fashion before I left. However, on this trip to Michigan I took another drive to Ann Arbor. This time I had the honour to watch Pastor Ken Pastorize his flock at Blue Ocean Faith.
That was followed by lunch with several of Ken’s parishioners, one of whom I may have made hate me. That’s a story I will definitely write about. Stay tuned.
Then I convinced Ken to visit the old neighbourhood in Detroit, some of which I posted on the LIVE facebookery. [Trying to figure out how to post those here.] All of this time spent with my oldest friend in the world not only focused my thoughts on the next Pastoral Letter, but has also given me insight on many of the other topics the Not Now Silly Newsroom tends to commission from me. So, look for some of that sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, here’s Pastor Ken Wilson giving me a Shout Out and then going on to talk about his struggle in finding his place within Jesus Christ. I’ve probably described it wrong, but I found it fascinating. Your mileage may vary.
ALSO: I think I’ve figured out a way to go back to writing about Miami politics. Therefore, consider my recusal a partial recusal. I just have to find the exact right wording. So, you can also look for that.
Taking Marley on a Road Trip was an experience. I’ve never traveled with a cat before and Marley has never spent much time in a car before. I hope The Traveling Cat is a post I can eventually get around to. Suffice to say for now: Marley did wonderfully in the car for all those hours. She got to the point where she wandered around the car at will, including on my lap and under my feet, while I was driving. Ahem.
A shameless plug for my other traveling companion:
Altho’ we’ve been facefriends for several years, we had never met. After almost 50 hours together in a car, we’re tight now and he knows enough to blackmail me. He tolerated Marley, even tho’ he’s allergic. He tolerated all my stupid stories. He tolerated all of my tunes without complaint, including — and especially — the hours and hours of Frank Zappa. [No exaggeration. Not only did we hear nearly 8 hours of Frank Zappa, but I explained everything I knew about every one of the songs.] And, after all of that, he didn’t kill me.
If you need some mortgage fraud investigation, give MFI Miami a try.
I went to a great Drum Circle at this place [pic to the right]. It’s the 2nd time I’ve been there over the years, and I will write a little bit about it eventually. I want to compare it to Drum Circles I know.
While in Michigan (as I always do) I talked to marijuana enthusiasts and learned more about the Michigan MMJ laws. This will eventually be published as a long-form article, but I’ve been adding to my knowledge and connections for years.
As well, I made a business connection on this trip which could put me on ground floor of a start-up [tangentially] in that field. You’ll be the first to know when I can announce that. However, I don’t want to be on the ground floor. I want to be on the elevator to the penthouse. Rub your lucky rabbit foot.
There’s more in the pipeline, but here’s the bottom line, literally: 10 days away from my Lyfting — and the gas money and other associated expenses of running away — has really put a hurt on my bank account. I’ll try to post a few quick one-offs in the coming week, but I’m really going to have to hunker down behind the wheel of the Grey Ghost and grind out the Lyfts. If I can drive to Michigan and back, this should be a cinch.
I can now reveal what I was only able to hint at last week: I am moving to the dark side of politics. I am collaborating on a book with a politician, Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell.
I became a writer because I wanted to tell stories — because I needed to tell stories. It was less that I chose writing than writing chose me. Words just tumbled out of me. Putting it down on paper was my only outlet. In the beginning, it was fiction and furtive. Short stories that no one ever saw, thankfully.
I look back on my earliest stuff and shudder. However, I’ve worked these past 4 decades honing my craft. From a giveaway music fanzine in the ’70s, to hired wordsmithing for a Canadian trade publication read around the world. By the time I was 25 I could truly call myself a professional writer. Over the years I written everything from Investigative Journalism, Record Reviews, Artist Profiles, Copy Writing, Hollywood Reporter, finally landing at Citytv, Toronto, for a decade as a Tee Vee News Writer. I called myself a ventriloquist because I put the words in the mouths of the meat puppets (a joke that has not endeared me to my former colleagues).
I parlayed my knowledge of tee vee news into writing Fox “News” criticism, first at NewsHounds and, later, PoliticusUSA. I’ve also become an internationally known pundit — if you call what I do on Twitter and the facebookery punditry.
Now there are stories that I will no longer be able to write — some of which are already in the pipeline — because I have to recuse myself from stories about Miami. I’ve joined the other side.
Q: What does Headly Westerfield and Jeffery Beauregard Sessions have in common?
A: They have both recused themselves.
If I’ve written anything at all about politicians in the past 10 years, it’s to call them names and make fun of them. Especially now that we’ve arrived in the Trump Era. However, I’ve long been fascinated by Russell from the day we first met.
This was one of 8 parks in the city closed after toxic soil was found in each of them.
Aside from the inadequate remediation, Sarnoff had also ILLEGALLY declared the park and its surrounds a Brownfield site, without any of the proper public hearings and neighbourhood notifications. As one of the first journalists to report on Soilgate, I cold-called Russell to interview him on the toxic soil issue.
We met in a coffee shop and had a pleasant enough interview. However, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Okay. I get it. He’s worried about the toxic soil, because his kids play in the park, and his own property values.”
However, near the end of the interview, he surprised me. He said something to the effect of, “Now that we’ve hired a lawyer, it appears Merrie Christmas Park will be remediated properly. However, I’m worried about the parks in the neighbourhoods where people don’t have the resources to take on the City of Miami.”
Well, whaddaya know? This guy has a social conscious.
But that’s where it ended. I had no reason to contact Russel again until he decided to run for Miami District 2 Commissioner to replace Sarnoff, who had been termed out. Russell was considered a dark horse in a race that had 8 people vying for the seat, most of whom had better name recognition that he did.
Renewing contact, Russell allowed me to go with him on Door Knocks. Rain or shine, he visited nearly every house and condo in the district, talking to voters in both English and Spanish; 2 of the 6 languages he’s conversant in. In between houses we talked and I got to know him better. More importantly, I got to like him.
I had never liked a politician before.
While Russell didn’t win on the first ballot, he won the run-off against Teresa Sarnoff, the wife of the term limited Commissioner.
On the day he took his Oath of Office to the City of Miami, Russell graciously allowed me to embed myself with him for the entire day. I met his family, who turned out to be one of the most photogenic families I’ve ever seen. Also, one of the more multicultural families.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the Ken Russell story.
This took Ken’s father around the world, promoting the Russell Yo Yo. While in Japan he met that country’s Yo Yo Champion, fell in love, and married her. How’s that for a Meet Cute story?
Eventually along came Ken, who also became a professional Yo Yo Champion, traveling the world — and promoting the product — like his father and mother had done before him. Daft Punk has even licensed the Russell Yo Yo for branded merchandise.
While he can still be cajoled into performing yo yo tricks, Ken eventually moved into woodworking and started a paddle/surf board company, which is what he was doing before he found politics. Or. did politics find him?
As a result I often found myself contacting Russel’s office for comments and quotes. I watched Ken as he stumbled and made some missteps while trying to wrap his arms around the intricacies of the office. The learning curve in becoming a politician — and understanding the city machinery — has been tremendous. Russell has made some rookie mistakes, which he acknowledges. However, he’s also identified some creative solutions that, if adopted, could address the poverty and systemic racism that has kept West Grove down during the last century.
Recently Russell was approached by some Movers and Shakers to run for Congress in Florida’s 27th District, to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has decided she’s had enough politics for the time being.
He’s still pondering his decision, deciding whether it makes sense to declare as a candidate for the 2018 midterms.
Let this sink in for a second: Russell has been a City of Miami Commissioner — his first elected post ever — less than 2 years. Yet there are already people who think he could go further. The entire concept is a surreal.
However, this got me thinking: If anybody is going to write what I’ve taken to calling The Ken Russell Story (for the lack of a better name), I wanted it to be me.
About a month ago I approached Russell with the idea to collaborate on a book. Miraculously, he didn’t tell me to GTFO. In fact, he listened carefully as I outlined several different approaches such a book could take. After pondering it for a while, Russell agreed to collaborate.
That’s why I have now recused myself from writing about Miami politics.
I have officially crossed over to the other side. I am excited about being able to watch the sausage being made. Whether Russell decides to run for Congress, and win or lose, we’ve agreed that this book will go forward.
I’ll still publish various kinds of stories in the Not Now Silly Newsroom (several of which are already in the pipeline). However, now that I am shadowing the Commissioner, I have signed a non-disclosure agreement. I can’t use anything I learn while being a fly-on-the-wall in meetings until the book is published, or I am released from this agreement, whichever comes first.
This is a brand new adventure for me. Wish me luck.
As regular readers can attest: From time to time the Not Now Silly Newsroom likes to pull back the curtain and show you what’s happening behind the scenes. This update has BIGLY NEWS, some of which I can talk about and some of which I can only hint at.
Yes, I’m still crafting my regular Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA, a column of Fox “News” criticism I’ve been doing since October 2014. However, that’s the only freelancing I’m doing for other publications at the moment.
To knock down any rumours, there were no issues with PoliticusUSA. I wish them all the best. I should have given more notice to my editors and faithful readers. For that I apologize. However, on the morning of June 30th I stared at my notes, stared at my computer screen, and realized I simply didn’t have another FFF in me. I hit the wall. I no longer believed in my ability to find a new way to say the same old thing about Fox “News” — and its slavish devotion to Emperor Trump — and still make it funny. I wanted to go out on a high, before I started repeating my best jokes.
I’ve been writing Fox “News” criticism for 8 years, first at NewsHounds, writing under the nom de troll of Aunty Em Ericann, then PoliticusUSA. Not to mention the Fox “News” Snark published here in the Newsroom.
As yesterday’s Eric Bolling Is A Dick proves, I’ll still keep my hand in and comment on Fox “News” when the time and inclination hit. However, (for the time being) I am ruling out any regular look at Fox “News” unless someone is offering big money. [Reasonable rates.]
My other news is even biglier, which is a BFD, but still secret.
I need to be very careful about what I say, so I’ll drop a few transparent clues: It’s in the writing field. In fact, it’s a book. There’s a verbal agreement in principle with the principal of said book. And, no, they don’t work in a school. However, until signatures are affixed to some boilerplate, I should stop right there.
Oh! The big clock on the wall says that’s all the time we have for today, kids. Stay tuned to out next exciting episode called “Book Deal? What Book Deal?” where (hopefully) I reveal a new wizard behind the curtain.
First things first: An apology to my regular readers. I’ve not published nearly enough lately. Sorry.
Yes, I’m still crafting my regular Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA, a column of Fox “News” criticism I’ve been doing since October 2014. However, that’s the only freelancing I’m doing for other publications at the moment.
The rest of my output, such as it is, has all been here and on mindless social media.
Since the last time we’ve had one of these little talks, I’ve started a new series, UpLyfting Thoughts, which has been very well received. Maybe too well received. I created it for two 2 simple reasons: 1). Interesting things happen in the Grey Ghost and I wanted to share them with my readers; and 2). It was a stopgap measure. I knew would have less time to write. UT is something I can put together fairly quickly. It’s based on notes jotted down at traffic lights and coffee shops while I’m out and about. I already have 3 more in the hopper, but I certainly don’t want this to become a Lyft blog.
A recent email from one of my secret sources in The Grove said:
Just an FYI, a lyft blog is a great story…. While not as satisfying, it makes a connection with readers. My 2 cents.
Sadly, they are right. It’s not nearly as satisfying.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love writing UpLyfting Thoughts — and I have some really interesting ones partially written — but the truth is they take little time and effort to bang out. There’s no research. They are merely anecdotes, which I attempt to make pithy in the editing process. [You be the judge.]
I could probably drop one of these every day but I don’t want it to become a Lyft blog. The other topics are what keep my interest and, hopefully, the interest of readers who come back for more.
My (now semi-)regular series Monday Musical Appreciation and Throwback Thursday provided more of a writing challenge as well. I’d wake up at 5 and start the coffee. After catching up with some mindless social media, I’d take a look at a few history sites until I found the music or event I wanted to highlight. I’d do some research, craft an essay, move paragraphs around in the editing process, add pics and/or vids, and — finally — publish the sucker by 9. It was like being given an assignment with the due date RIGHT NOW!
You may be surprised to learn that the Not Now Silly Newsroom is a non-profit . . . and that’s not by design. That wouldn’t be the case if more people clicked on the adverts. However, I can’t game the system by asking. I just need to hope that people think of it on their own when they’re here. It also wouldn’t be the case if more folks contributed to the Go Fund Me at the bottom of every NNS page, but I’m not going to beg.
You may also be surprised that the bills to keep the bricks and mortar Newsroom afloat continue to come in every! single!! month!!!
That’s why I traded in the immaculate Lexus for the Grey Ghost and taken up driving for Lyft: to pay the bills. The Lexus, as deluxe as it was, was simply too old to meet Lyft’s requirements.
Lyfting changed everything. I am still trying to adapt to an entirely new writing schedule because it leaves far less time for Not Now Silly.
The best time to Lyft is early in the morning, soon after I wake up. I shower, jump into my shoes, and log into the Lyft app. I spend a few hours every morning meeting new Lyftees. When things slow down, I go home. All too often, when I get there, I don’t feel much like writing.
My best writing has always been done early in the morning. I’ve found that, as I get older, my writing suffers later in the day. It’s not as sharp and focused as what I craft early in the day. It’s more of a struggle to find the right words and craft sentences that are not typo-filled. That’s one of the reason I gave up writing after noon. By then, because I’m up at 5, I already have some 5-7 hours of writing behind me.
However, I’m trying to adapt my writing habits in various ways. First I am using my downtime between Lyftees to continue to work on stories, even if it’s in longhand in the Grey Ghost.
That’s how this essay started. It was punched up and polished at red lights and in parking lots. Then it was brought back to the Newsroom, and converted from analog to digital by the sheer will of my fingers. Pictured at left is one of my final edits as I monitor the Fox “News” Channel for egregious lies.
I’m also learning to write later in the day (all over again), but I know better than to publish any of that effluent. I edit the raw wordage early in the day, before my brain turns to mush all over again. That’s why I have several articles in various stages of completion. Eventually at least one of them will be complete.
All I can do is promise my faithful readers that I’ll try to do better and more. Now it’s time for me to go out Lyfting again. Back on the roadway “already in progress”.
It’s been a whirlwind few months at Not Now Silly, and not all of it was spent writing.
As longtime readers know: Pops died late last year. Since then the Newsroom has expanded from a single small room into several spacious rooms.
Consolidating items, rearranging furniture, and jettisoning what doesn’t work, it’s now pretty close to what I envisioned. There are still a few broad strokes to go, but after that it’s just minor cleanup.
The biggest change is the new Media Room I built just off (and visible from) the Newsroom. It contains a couch; tee vee; sound system; VHS, DVD, and CD players; along with 62 linear feet of CDs lining 2 of the walls. I love music. Music is important to me. Subsequently, I have a lot of it. If I’m not watching the Fox “News” Channel, I’m listening to music. Music makes the world go-round. Music is the best.
FULL DISCLOSURE: The Frank Zappa collection takes up 51 inches of that (and I am still missing almost 50 Zappa CDs and box sets). The next largest section is The Beatles at 43 inches, but that includes solo work and tribute CDs.
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: I didn’t write about this previously for security’s sake, but I’ve been dying to because it’s been an interesting process . . . in both a journalistic sense and a nostalgic one:
Pops left behind a coin collection.
As a kid I remember him spending his spare time in front of his roll top desk examining coins and looking them up in the many books he had on the subject. He owned his own stores in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Back then one could still find rare coins in circulation. I’m sure Pops looked at every coin that came through his till. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got rolls of coins from banks just to look through them.
He tried to get me interested, but I wasn’t having it. Now I wished I had paid attention because my oldest sister (who is Pops’ Executor) and I spent the last several months liquidating Pops’ coin collection, which he spent a lifetime acquiring.
Over the years he sold a some of his collection here and there. For instance, I recall when he and my Mom traveled through Mexico, he collected gold coins at a time when owning gold wasn’t possible in ‘Merka. A few years back I asked him whatever happened to those and he told be they paid for the down payment on the condo.
As many as he may have sold over the years, there were still tens of thousands of coins left. My sister and I treated liquidation like it was a job. And, it was.
Luckily, just before we started this process, I happened to hear that the biggest coin show in the country was happening in Fort Lauderdale. My sister and I went. Because we didn’t know what we had yet, all we really did was collect business cards, ask the out-of-town dealers who they’d recommend that was local, and/or what to look for in a honest coin dealer. We also got a sense of what was happening in Coin World. It was worth spending an afternoon there.
We knew that before we could ask a numismatist to give us a valuation, had to know what we had. Sounds simple, right? Did I mention there were tens of thousands of coins? Maybe hundreds of thousands. Blue books with coins slotted into the holes, 3-ring binders with coins in plastic sleeves, individual coins in plastic sleeves, rolls of coins, cigar boxes full of coins, and loose, unsorted, coins of every description and denomination. I wish I had thought to weigh it because it was serious tonnage.
B & I met once a week for 6 or 7 hours a go. The first several weeks we did nothing but sort the coins by category: ‘Merkin and foreign first. Then we took all the U.S. coinage and separated that into denominations: nickles, dimes, quarters, half dollars, pennies, wheat pennies, steel pennies, Indian head pennies. Who knew there were so many different kids of pennies?
Once it was sorted, we started creating spreadsheets. Each workday we’d open a new spreadsheet (or several over the course of a day) and log the coins by denomination and year. If Pops had noted a condition, we put that on the spreadsheet as well. However, about 95% of the coins were not graded. Coin grading being such a specialized field, we didn’t even bother to guess.
Filling the spreadsheets — logging every coin — took another 5 or 6 weeks. Two more weeks were spent sorting all the foreign coinage by country. One thing I have to say is there are (were?) some beautiful coins from around the world. Contemporary coins are not nearly as pretty.
We continued until we had every coin sorted, logged, boxed, and sealed into various lots, as we named each spreadsheet.
We were both rookies when this process began, but my sister and I learned a fair bit about coin valuations as we researched what we were discovering.
We learned enough that, when it came time to start selling the coins, we could take one of the smaller lots to several local dealers. We knew the value of this set of quarters, so we could judge what they told us. Then we discussed the spreadsheets.
Without knowing the actual condition of the coins (on the spreadsheets), we could only get several ballpark figures from several dealers. They were all within the same range, but the difference of a penny a coin adds up when you have so many. In the end we went with our gut and chose the dealer who made us feel the most comfortable. He was the same price as another guy, but the other guy felt off, if yannow what I mean.
This gent was up in Boca Raton, so for the next 3 Mondays running, instead of my Boca sister driving here, I’d load the car up with coins and drive up there. Each time it was most of the morning (into the early afternoon), a process that was greatly streamlined because we had prepared all the spreadsheets. He said that he’s rarely seen a collection organized as well as we had done.
The first week he double-checked our tallies, but that got old after a while, especially after they all turned out to be correct. Despite how much the spreadsheets helped speed things up, it still took 3 weeks. We’d haggle a bit here and there over price — because we had been learning valuations on our own and consulting other dealers — but we also knew we were being treated fairly. It went both ways, in fact. It was a good relationship and I was kind of sorry when it ended.
One of the things I learned from him is that coin collecting is a dying hobby. Just as I wasn’t interested in learning Pops’ hobby, later generations didn’t care either. Now coin collectors are literally dying off and the market has suffered because no one is collecting. These days there’s more profit in the melt value than you’d get by finding a coin collector looking to fill out their collection, if you could even find one.
IRONY ALERT: Obviously, melting coins makes the ones that are left rarer. However, that’s still not increasing the collecting value of those that are left. Eventually, at this rate, none of these coins will exist.
BOTTOM LINE: All the time we sorted the coins my sister and were hoping to find that BURIED TREASURE. I guess we watched too much Antiques Roadshow. While, there are coins worth tens of thousands of dollars, we didn’t have any of those.
Although there were a few coins that did alright — well above face value — there was no great score. Wheat pennies and steel pennies, which we had tons of (and that might not be an exaggeration) did okay — depending on condition. Because there was so much of it, it added up quickly.
However, most of what we cashed in went for melt value, or even face value. Not everything Pops collected increased in value.
KA-CHING! One Indian head penny we sold him brought in over $40. Later he admitted to us that it was a counterfeit coin, which he took the blame for because he had given it the once-over.
All in all it was an interesting experience.
ME’N’MARLEY:Marley has settled into the Not Now Silly Newsroom nicely and has become the perfect writing partner. She’s helped me put together the latest stories on the Coconut Grove Playhouse, which is heating up again. Meanwhile, we’re still following West Grove, and the new plan to bring much-needed money to alleviate the ghetto conditions along Grand Avenue. We’ll see how that all shakes out over time.
Meanwhile, Marley has taken down the details of several intriguing stories that sources have called in. I’m still chasing these down to see if they pan out, but she takes good notes.
While Today’s Top Ten is always in flux, the All Time Top Ten has settled into a nice groove, and one I’m proud of. [All numbers were reset at the beginning of the year, when we opened up this new joint.]
Speaking of Fox: I continue to craft a Friday Fox Follies for PolitucusUSA and boy have things become interesting lately. Trying to keep the columns to a reasonable length has been a chore.
Getting back to the Top Ten at right: Just below J$, is my demand that Tom Falco issue a retraction and apology. If it’s that high on the All Time Top Ten, imagine how many people have read about his cowardice and scumbaggery.
Holding down the #6 position is the day I shaved my head. You need to see it to believe it.
However, the rest of my All Time Top Ten are stories I’m particularly proud of. Check them out. Collect them all. Trade ’em with your friends.
COIN OF THE REALM: Speaking of which, we’ve sold the Lexus and purchased a new mobile Not Now Silly Newsroom, a 2012 Ford Fusion nicknamed The Grey Ghost. When it’s not being used by Marley and the rest of the News staff, I am driving for Lyft. I’m sure I’ll have stories as time goes on, but I’ve only been doing it for a week and have just 20
See you next time, dear reader. We do it all for you, to coin a phrase.
Unlike most libtards (suddenly the mellifluous term is back in vogue among the Reich Wing), I’m thrilled with the way the Emperor Trump administration is going. Let me explain.
LONG STORY SHORT: Fox has so closely hitched its wagon to the whore it rode in on, that when The Cheetos Jesus finally goes down in flames — and smart people know he will — Fox “News” will be cratering with him.
Here’s what I’ve detected and further predict: The farther Emperor Trump gets from the tree of reality, the more Fox “News” climbs out on the limb with him. Eventually it’s going to going to snap under the sheer tonnage of the FAKE NEWS being disseminated by both. Unless Fox viewers are as stupid as many presume them to be.
We libtards are used to seeing the Reich Wing ECHO CHAMBER freak out over one stupid thing after another. However, Trump & Fox have created an ECHO MACHINE, which is The Fox News Effect on steroids.
Every Fox “News” critic worth their electrons has written about The Fox News Effect, so there’s no need to rehash any of that. However, what makes this different from previous incarnations is that the Oval Office is has been interpolated between Fox and the rest of the media, which now reports on what the Oval Office says, which is often said first on the Fox “News” Channel. It’s the vast circle of life, or FAKE NEWS.
And, what about that brand new conspiracy? It turned out that it came from Russian media before Judge Andrew Napolitano (who I used to make fun of weekly) spewed it. Then Spicey Spicey repeated it before Trump disavowed it, saying it came from Fox, “Go talk to them,” he told the media as German Prime Minister Angela Merkel looked on in horror.
According to my own reporting, the Fox audience has been fragmenting ever since the fans of Bully Boy Bolling attacked the fans of Dana “Butter Won’t Melt In Her Mouth” Perino after the latter truthfully accused the former of being a Trump fan boy — and this was even before Agent Orange threw his toupee in the ring.
Now he’s throwing Fox “News” under the bus.
I’ll be over here popping the popcorn.
I’ve written about my depression previously, so I won’t belabour the point, other than to point out (and semi-apologize) that my wordage lately has been less than what I would like because of it.
A month ago would have been Pops’ 91st birthday, just 3 months after he died. I’ve found it rougher than I would have ever imagined. We lived together for over 11 years, not to mention the first 18 years of my life. That’s a long time.
That said, I’m aware I’m slacking in this area (and others) and I’m going to start kicking my own ass again.
To that end, I have been setting alarms on my phone to force myself to work on various projects. Lately (behind the scenes) I’ve been kicking at Farce Au Pain, the true story of my 2 childhood friends, as imagined by another. One of these days I may even finish it.
As well, there are several articles now in draft mode. If I ever get motivated to finish them, there’s some interesting stuff coming down the pike, including posts on CoconutGrove, a long-overdue Pastoral Letter I’ve been tinkering with in longhand, and another kick at Tom Falco since I have yet to receive a formal retraction and apology, but have received additional free legal advice.
Speaking of legal issues: This Wednesday I have been summoned to serve on a jury, the first time in my life I’ve ever been so honoured. As a longtime Perry Mason fan, I’m looking forward to the experience.
I honestly don’t know the rules, but I intended to write about the experience.
Lastly, I’m rather pleased with how things look here at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, both for visitors who make it in the front door and how it behaves behind the scene in places none of you can see. We finally got that frustrating date thing fixed. Now the original publishing dates of all previous articles are ‘sticky’ instead of the date it was transferred from the old joint, or edited.
There are still a few things behind the scenes to tinker with, but I’m mostly happy.