Packing for the Road Trip ► Unpacking The Writer

I’m writing and posting this month’s Unpacking The Writer a little early to get it posted before I leave on Monday for the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research. For the uninitiated, Unpacking The Writer is the monthly series in which I give my readers a look inside the mind of a writer, such as it is. And, in case you haven’t clued in yet, I am that writer. HI THERE!

NO CLICKING: I also used to use this monthly essay to beg my readers to click on the adverts here. However, I have been told I can’t do that anymore, even though it only returns a fraction of a penny per click. So I won’t. But, if you’re one of my smarter readers, you are already way ahead of me and clicking on the adverts anyway. You know there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop you.

SO SORRY: I owe my faithful readers an apology. More than one reader (two!) has noticed that I’ve not posted much new material at Not Now Silly lately, other than the regular Headlines Du Jour. I’m truly sorry, folks. While I have been researching a number of topics, nothing has gelled enough yet to be written up. I have also started a number of blog posts, some of which I still need to finish and others which (are crap and) will never see the light of day.

When I first began this blog I was given advice to post something every
day. Do you know how hard that is? Especially if you want a blog post to
have some weight? Especially if that added weight requires hours upon hours of research? Especially if it’s not your full-time job?

Despite that, I have published 583 posts in the last 27 months, not including this one. That averages 21.5 posts a month, a record I’m proud of. I’m also quite proud of many of the posts because I think I am mining important topics. As of this writing the Not Now Silly Top Ten is as follows:

  1. The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five
  2. Brian Jones ► A Musical Appreciation
  3. Day In History ► Josephine Baker
  4. The Johnny Dollar Wars ► Chapter and Verse
  5. Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue
  6. Chow Mein and Bolling 5 ► Bully Boy Lies (Again)
  7. Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe ‘Merka?
  8. The First Three Stooges ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
  9. Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?
  10. Does Fox “News” Support Johnny Dollar? ► The Mark Koldys-Johnny Dollar Comment of the Day

[The Top Ten posts, always updated, always current, is in the column to the right of this one. It may have changed since this was published.]

In the early days of Not Now Silly I used to do a lot of one-off Day in History-type dealies. Maybe I should get back to doing some more of that after the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research. We’ll see.

Those one-offs were popular. They can also be pulled out of the archives on the appropriate dates in subsequent years. Conversely, Headlines Du Jour is pretty much stale the minute you read it. Yet Headlines Du Jour gets great numbers. Despite the simplicity, Headline Du Jour is time-consuming to post. It takes me 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to format, even though the headlines themselves are compiled as they come in over the Not Now Silly Newsroom transom. Headlines Du Jour is the first thing I do when I wake up at 5:30 AM. As the first pot of coffee is brewing I sort the headlines collected since the last time. I decide which are keepers and which I should toss. Then they’re put into a running order that makes sense only to me. Some days, by the time it’s published, I feel totally wrung out and the pot of coffee is finished. However, I’ll try to add to the number of new posts (and pots of coffee?) on a regular basis while I also keep Headlines Du Jour going. My readers have that promise.

TO MY COCONUT GROVE READERS: While I never meant for Not Now Silly to be a blog solely about Coconut Grove, there have been times when it feels like that’s what it’s become. I’m thrilled that so many people in the West Grove have shared their personal stories with me. Oral histories are so important.

I’m still researching The Colour Line and will have new chapters in that series soon. While in Michigan, I will also be visiting the 8 Mile Wall for a blog post on The Colour Line in Detroit, ‘Merka’s first throwaway city. Meanwhile, there has been some news in the Grove, but nothing that seemed to deserve a blog post all on its own. In no particular order some of that is as follows:

Part of the Coconut Grove Playhouse parking lot will become a drive-in movie dealie on July 14th. The web site for the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In promises “Car hop service by TAURUS,” so we now know how Aries Development and Gino Falsetto plan to profit off this new arrangement. To remind readers: Aries is the company that secured a 50-year lease on the historic 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House 9 years ago and has allowed it to undergo Demolition by Neglect ever since.

A reminder why the E.W.F. Stirrup House is culturally
important to Coconut Grove can be found in the Not Now Silly
post Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past

I had hoped to go to opening night of the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In, but the June opening was delayed a month. Now it won’t open until the day after I leave for the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research. This is actually one of those posts mentioned above, partially written in advance. I started it last month, just before the delay was announced. It would have become a full-blown blog post in the fullness of time. I had even considered delaying my Road Trip 2 days to go, take notes, take pictures, and finish writing that blog post, but, yannow what? I’ve seen The Cocoanuts, the first Marx Brothers movie, so many times I can recite entire scenes by heart. [Same with the 2nd movie in the opening night double feature, The Blob.] So, there’s another draft post consigned to the dustbin of history.

IRONY ALERT I: The Cocoanuts take place in Cocoanut Grove (the original spelling of Coconut Grove before it was illegally annexed by Miami in 1925).

IRONY ALERT II: The Cocoanuts satirizes the utter collapse of the Cocoanut Grove real estate market of the 1920s. Selling Florida swamp land had became such a a national joke that one of the top playwrights of the day, George S. Kaufman, and one of the country’s most famous composers, Irving Berlin, would write a musical about it. The Marx Brothers would first take it to Broadway, where it was a smash hit, and then make it their first movie extravaganza, launching a long career on film.

IRONY ALERT III: Miami has had several booms and busts since then. “Some people say” the current Miami building boom is just the beginning edge of the next bubble to bust.

IRONY ALERT IV: Bringing movies back to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, albeit outside, would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. When the currently-boarded up Coconut Grove Playhouse was originally built, it was to bring movies and culture to Coconut Grove. The land had been owned by E.W.F. Stirrup and sold to developers to build the Coconut Grove Theater, as it was called when it opened in 1927. It was renovated in the 1950s to become a legitimate theater, with the 1956 premier of “Waiting For Godot” as its first offering.

IRONY ALERT V: Even though the Coconut Grove Theater anchored the east end of Charles Avenue — the oldest neighbourhood in Miami, as well as the oldest Black neighbourhood — those folks had to go north to the smaller Ace Theater on Grand Avenue, which was not segregated. Earlier this month Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board designated the Ace a historic site.  According to the Miami Herald’s Jackie Salo:

For residents in the West Grove, the ACE Theater is a relic of the years of segregation. The movie theater, which was built circa 1930, was the only one to serve the black community in the Grove in the 1950s.

The building has since lost its luster, and stands as a shell of what it once was. The marquee has not lit up for years, and the pink facade that once distinguished the theater was painted white.

Plans to restore the theater never came to fruition and the rooms that housed sold-out audiences remain abandoned.

But the theater, albeit empty, has not been forgotten.

Having walked past the Ace many times, I’ve always thought it would make a great Indie/Revival movie house. Grand Avenue has been struggling for years. Opening a movie house on that stretch of Grand would go a long way towards revitalizing what was once the thriving Black business strip of Coconut Grove.

TROLLEYGATE: Still waiting for a settlement in the Trolleygate Scandal. The last word from my super-duper secret sources was that an offer was on the table and being considered. Consequently, all parties to the lawsuit asked the judge to give them 60 days to see if they could hammer out an agreement. That expired at the end of June, but I’ve heard nothing further. Basically the broad outline of the potential deal is this: A brand new Coral Gables diesel bus garage will be built right where the current Coral Gables diesel bus garage is. This despite the brand-spanking new [allegedly] illegal diesel bus garage built in West Grove. That’s the garage that’s the subject of multiple lawsuits, which even the Federal Department of Transportation ruled contravened the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The only decision left to be made is whether the brand-spanking new bus garage in West Grove can be used for the next 2-3 years while a newer diesel bus garage is built in Coral Gables.

Here’s how small West Grove really is: The [allegedly] illegal diesel bus garage is, more or less, just around the corner from the Ace Theater. Gibson Plaza, which I have also written about, is just across the street from the Ace Theater. Grand Avenue still has a long way to go before one could call this a revival, but it’s another baby step on the road to recovery for a business strip that’s seen better days.

Known all the world over, The Johnny Dollar Depreciation Society is
YOUR place for snark about Fox “News and crazy Fox “News” defenders

THE JOHNNY DOLLAR WARS: I couldn’t be more thrilled with the progress of The Johnny Dollar Wars up the Not Now Silly Top Ten Hit Parade. It justifies all the time I put into documenting those crazy cyber-stalking MoFos these last few years. Since being published on May 6th, The Johnny Dollar Wars has jumped to become the #4 most popular post at Not Now Silly, with 1,233 hits as we go to press. The only Not Now Silly post that ever rose faster and higher than that has now been relagated to the #5 position. Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue, about the E.W.F. Stirrup House had a good run, but it’s been leapfrogged in the ratings.

THE JOHNNY DOLLAR DEPRECIATION SOCIETY: I’ve migrated most of my Fox “News” snark from my timeline over to The Johnny Dollar Depreciation Society on the facebookery. I’m open to suggestions on how to make it more interactive. While membership has hit 120 people, only a few interact with the page at all, and only then by clicking LIKE. I’m thinking of holding a contest, but I’ll wait until I get back from Michigan to put that together.

LASTLY: Starting next Monday blog posts at Not Now Silly will be sporadically sporadic. My laptop has bought the farm and I’m not planning to get it fixed before I go away. I may look at a new device when I get back from the road trip, but it’s not in the budget at the moment.

The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research will be twice as long as last year’s. Last year’s research was productive, but, sadly, I had just a week to drive to Michigan, conduct my research, and drive back to FloriDuh. Despite mining some interesting veins of information, I had to cut the research short because I simply ran out of time. This year I will be meeting with some of the same people who fed me documents last time. I will also have more time to pour over some microfiche that one of my correspondents has uncovered. It may go a long way to provide greater context for the book I am writing.

Be good to your neighbours because you never know
when a journalist will come sniffing around for information.
~~~~~Headly Westerfield, The 1st Annual Sunrise
to Canton Road Trip For Research, June 2013

While I may be able to log into certain accounts while I am gone, last year I was unable to log in to facebook from strange computers because I was locked out of everything that wasn’t my home computer or my phone. Hopefully this year I have solved this problem. However, two things to keep in mind: 1). I don’t exactly know where and when I might encounter a computer, not to mention a computer owner who will allow me to take over their computer for a few hours to compose a blog post. Consequently, just like last year, it may just be updates from the Windows Phone. However, I won’t abandon you entirely. Also: Check my Twitter and Facebookery for updates from the road

And, speaking of computers along the way, I have twice as many visits with readers, fans, and friends scheduled for the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research. The intinerary is now locked. Stops are scheduled for (in order) Ave Maria University, in Ava Maria, Florida; Bonita Springs, Florida, which is just down the road from the University; Tallahassee, Florida‘s capital, after which I leave the state; Miamisburg, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Canton, Michigan, where I will stay for almost a week to conduct research and visit old haunts; Elyria, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio, which looks to be the scene of the crime city chosen to host the 2016 GOP Convention; Dean Martin’s home town of Steubenville, Ohio; and Morgantown, West Virginia, where I will be given a privately-conducted Don Knotts Memorial Tour. Then it’s home by — no later than — the 28th of July.

A couple of people have asked me why I don’t just fly up to Canton, which would give me more time to research my book. There are 2 things that compel me to drive: 1). I love to drive. One of my favourite things to do is to be behind the wheel of a car, heading down the road, with the stereo cranked to 11; 2). It allows me to meet and greet some people that I’ve gotten to know thru’ the innertubes. Getting out, looking people in the eye, and debating the big stories of the day — or bullshitting over a coffee — is just a big bag of fun.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.