Tag Archives: Unpacking The Writer

Right That Block; Block That Write ► Unpacking the Writer

It’s funny how things work out. The day after I published my last Unpacking the Writer, The COVID Chronicles, Mad King Trump tongue-kissed Salt & Pepa in a tweet and I threw up a little in my mouth.

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.

At any rate: I managed to cobble together The David Winker Affair – Part One, followed rather quickly (for me lately) by Winker? I Hardly Know ‘Er – Part Two of the David Winker Affair. Part Three is almost finished and I have already outlined a Part Four. I’m not sure where this will go, but I’ll keep weaving these threads into the warp and the weft of my Miami Corruption Tapestry to form a bigger pictures.

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.

Kick That Block; Block That Kick ► Unpacking the Writer

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.

Rebuilding A Life From The Ground Up ► Unpacking The Writer

Good news, Not Now Silly fans. The Newsroom is making a second attempt at creating a brand new web site under its very own domain.

I’ve now seen the latest test of the format, which I like a lot. It’s very clean and uncluttered. Furthermore, the design will make it far easier for my readers to find all of the stories under the various rubrics I have created. Having signed off on the basic design, I have now asked my web designer (who I have taken on as a full partner) to populate the template with real words (my words) as opposed to all that fake text used as placeholders in the WordPress template.

One of the mistakes I made the last time I tried this was promising too much, too quickly. And, that was before my then-web designer totally fucked me over. Then he refused to return my deposit, which I consider theft. [Read: Webbitez Bitez ► A Consumer Report].

This time I won’t over-promise anything. COMING SOON is the most I will say.

I’m still trying to find the rhythm of my new life, now that Pops has gone to live in Michigan. I took care of him for 11 years, the longest I lived anywhere since I lived on King Street in Toronto. Without Pops in the condo, it feels so lonely and empty. Pops took up a lot of space, even though he wasn’t very big. There are times I actually think, for a brief moment, that I hear him calling me from the living room.

The Top Ten search terms that
got people to Not Now Silly.

I’ve still not gotten used to having the entire condo to myself. When home I find myself spending most of my time in my room watching tee vee — just like I always have — even tho’ there are bigger and better tee vees in the other rooms. Heck, there are bigger rooms and more comfy beds elsewhere in the condo, for that matter. Yet, I am still stuck behind this same keyboard in the very same place in my bedroom, in the same condo, in the same Florida city, in the same country.

Additionally, and no less important, my Cosmic Love Affair dissolved at practically the same time. [Read: Before and After Synchronicity, another in my Pastoral Letter series.] Suddenly, the two things that were the gravitational pull in my life were gone. To mix metaphors, I feel like a tether-ball spinning helplessly out of control after my rope broke. 

None of this is helping my depression.

All of my rhythms are off, especially my writing schedule, which I keep trying to get back to. I’ve neglected Monday Musical Appreciation and Throwback Thursday since I embarked on my last road trip. Maybe promising right here, right now, that I’ll re-fire the boiler under the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic will help me resolve to pick those up again. As careful readers will see I’ve already started.

What else have I written lately? Just a few important articles, that’s all. I discovered that parts of Armbrister Field were closed because of toxic soil, even though I attended the ribbon cutting a few years back that was supposed to demonstrate that the park was safe. Why wasn’t the toxic soil cleaned up back then? Why was there such a rush to get this park reopened if there was actually toxic soil in it? To that end I launched a Freedom of Information Act request for material on a number of topics surrounding these items.

When it turned Kafkaesque — almost immediately — I posted An Open Reply To Miami’s Public Records Department. While there has already been a response from the city, it doesn’t really
answer my most important question and prompts a new one. I’m not prepared to make the reply public — yet.
However, we’ll see where this goes.

If you can’t help, share. Or do both.

BTW: I have also started a Go Fund Me page to help offset some of the costs incurred researching and writing these stories. Aside from having to pay the City of Miami for each document search, there’s also the per page photocopying fee on top of that. And, the Freedom Of Information requests are just one of the many expenses for Not Now Silly. There’s gas, of course. Coconut Grove is 35 miles from where I live. And, virtually every time I go there I have to pay for parking. It all adds up.

I have one investigative story in the pipeline that I’ve been working on since early June. I’ve never been 100% happy with how it’s shaped, so I keep kicking at it here and there. Recently there’s been some stories in the news that’ll force an update to this article anyway. Now I need to decide whether I will continue to get this draft in the appropriate shape this one, or just start from scratch.

Closing in a half a million page views since launching the Not Now Silly Newsroom

Since my last Unpacking the Writer (almost a monthly series) I have also written a new chapter in my never-ending search for Don Knotts‘ roots, and added another Pastoral Letter, my continued search for where my spirituality comes from if I am a stone cold atheist. I’m not so sure anyone else cares, but I am finding out a whole lot about myself because I’m asking questions.

Just this moment, as I was finishing the final edit to this post before sending it off into the electronic ether to turn it into a page, I came to a new realization about spirituality that will become my next Pastoral Letter. It may also contain my latest Mea Culpa.

Stay tuned . . .

A Man Without A Country ► Unpacking The Writer

Edward Everett Hale

When I was in elementary school — back when they still taught Civics — one of my favourite short stories was The Man Without A Country, by Edward Everett Hale. These days, whenever I cross the border between Canada and the United States (as I did recently), I am reminded of this heart-breaking story.

SPOILER ALERT: It was many years after I first read it that I learned that The Man Without A Country is not a true story at all. It was a newly-minted (in 1863) allegory about patriotism and The Civil War, which was currently ripping the country apart.

None of that meant a thing to the young, unsophisticated, me. It felt true, like a good Onion story. Like a bad Michener novel, it was peopled with real folks. Like Citizen Kane, it is the story of one man piecing together the life of mysterious man. It would always bring me to tears. I can still remember the disappointment I felt when I discovered I had been hoodwinked by a brilliant writer.

The Man Without A Country was written as if the author had only just read an obituary of a little remembered figure in history and expounds on why this man should be remembered 50 years after the events described. The author relates how Philip Nolan, whose obit he stumbled across, had been friends with Aaron Burr and was tried for treason along with him in 1807. In a fit of pique Nolan renounces his country and proclaims, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge sentences him to be put on board U.S. war ships, never allowed walk on U.S. soil again, nor could people tell him of news back home. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

As it appeared in The Atlantic in 1863

Deprived of a homeland, Nolan slowly and painfully learns the true
worth of his country. He misses it more than his friends or family, more
than art or music or love or nature. Without it, he is nothing. Dying
aboard the USS Levant, he shows his room to an officer named Danforth; it is “a little shrine” of patriotism. The Stars and Stripes are draped around a picture of George Washington. Over his bed, Nolan has painted a bald eagle,
with lightning “blazing from his beak” and claws grasping the globe. At
the foot of his bed is an outdated map of the United States, showing
many of its old territories
that had, unbeknownst to him, been admitted to statehood. Nolan smiles,
“Here, you see, I have a country!” The dying man asks desperately to be
told the news of American history since 1807, and Danforth finally
relates to him almost all of the major events that have happened to the
U.S. since his sentence was imposed; the narrator confesses, however,
that “I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this
infernal rebellion.” Nolan then asks him to bring his copy of the Presbyterian Book of Public Prayer,
and read the page where it will automatically open. These are the
words: “Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favor to behold and bless
Thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in
authority.” Nolan says: “I have repeated those prayers night and
morning, it is now fifty-five years.” Every day, he had read of the
United States, but only in the form of a prayer to uphold its leaders;
the U.S. Navy had neglected to keep this book from him. This is the
supreme irony of the story. Nolan asks him to have them bury him in the
sea and have a gravestone placed in memory of him at Fort Adams, Mississippi or at New Orleans. When he dies later that day, he is found to have drafted a suitably patriotic epitaph
for himself: “In memory of PHILIP NOLAN, ‘Lieutenant in the Army of the
United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but
no man deserved less at her hands.'”

Had I known when I first read the story that I would come to feel like Philip Nolan, The Man Without A Country, I may have cried all the harder back then.

Unlike Nolan, I have never renounced my ‘Merkin citizenship. I did, however, take up Canadian citizenship. To do so I swore an oath to “the Queen, her heirs and assigns” that I’d not vote, nor serve in the armed forces of another country. I take that oath seriously. Renunciation, on the other hand, is an overt act.

The only time my citizenship gets complicated is when I am crossing from Canada back into the United States. When I am going into Canada all I have to do is flash my Canadian Citizenship picture ID and — Bang! Zoom! — I’m in.

However, I’ve learned that coming back into ‘Merka it’s best that I don’t mention my Canadian citizenship if I can help it. When asked “citizen of what country” I answer truthfully. “United States” precisely because I have not renounced my citizenship. I learned a number of years ago that the United States does not recognize the concept of “dual citizenship” and claiming such only complicates matters at the border. Hoo boy! I am made to feel as if I am The Man Without A Country.

This 3rd filming of the story was a Made For TV
. Earlier versions were filmed in 1917 and 1937.
The Monthly Top Ten

Here’s how you can help:

Apologies to my regular readers who have noticed I’ve been neglecting Not Now Silly for the last little while. If you’ve been paying attention, you will know that Pops was hospitalized in June and spent 7 weeks there. More recently he was transferred to a rehab center, where he’s made amazing progress.

Then there was the 3 week Road Trip, details of which are still to come. I thought I would have time to update the Not Now Sill Newsroom while I was on the road, but there was so much to do that I never got around to unpacking the laptop.

Even though I’ve been away, the Not Now Silly Newsroom archive has had quite a workout. Here’s this month’s Top Ten. (The All Time Top Ten is in the column to the right.)

1. Who Is To Blame For The Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?
2. The 4th Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research
3. Javier Gonzalez Kicks Off His District 2 Campaign
4. Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Still Can
5. The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five
6. Coconut Grove in Black and White
7. Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe ‘Merka?
8. Tribute to Don Knotts ► Morgantown’s Favourite Son
9. Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?
10. Harry Nilsson ► Thursday (Here’s Why I Did Not Go To Work Today) ► A Musical Interlude

I’ve stoked the fires under the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic and the Newsroom is back up and running full-tilt, balls out. I already have several stories in the pipeline that include: A brand new, exciting Don Knotts and Morgantown Update; another Pastoral Letter, following my most recent visit with my oldest childhood friend, Pastor Kenny, who has written a very important book; Notes From A Road Trip, which I’m still collating and trying to make sense of; and a long, involved investigative article about a Miami institution that I’ve been researching for almost 3 years and writing, on and off, since early June. There’s a just a small amount of research left on that one and it’ll be ready for prime time.

And, along the way, there will be some surprises. Consider tossing a little bit into the Tip Jar above and help support Investigative Journalism from the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

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.

The Officials’ Story ► Throwback Thursday

Officials’ 4 song EP with artwork by Barbara Klunder

This Thursday we’re going to throw it all the way back to 1989, when I was managing Officials, a Worldbeat band in Toronto that had a lot of promise. 

It was my 3rd — and my very last — time managing a band, a thankless task if there ever was one. However, I was a fan of every band I managed. It was never about making money, although it was hoped that that would be the eventual outcome.

The first band I ever managed was Ishan People, Toronto’s first Roots Reggae band. I tell that story in greater detail in You Made Me So Very Happy ► My Days With David Clayton-Thomas. However, Ishan People (later Ishan Band) recorded 2 LPs before Canadian Immigration discovered that not everyone in the band had all their documents. The band broke up as some members were deported. Too bad. They were great.

The second band I managed was Drastic Measures. They should have done much better. However, DM was performing Art/Pop Rock when all anyone wanted to hear was Punk. Clever music was simply not breaking through the noise back then.

An unironic cover of the classic Bing Crosby
tune with Nash the Slash on overdubbed violins.

How is that going to break through The Angry Punk Scene? It was all uphill.

The band fired me after their record producer convinced them they no longer needed a manager because they had a album release. No. Really. I always suspected that he had hoped to manage the band himself, but that never happened. Managerless, Drastic Measures never did break through the noise.

Then in ’89 it was Officials. I originally met leader/drummer Roy Garrick when we both worked as waiters in the same restaurant. Somehow he learned that I had managed bands previously and asked me to listen to Officials to see if I wanted to manage them.

The band set up in a small, sweltering basement near Bathurst and Vaughan. The room was so small it barely contained the band and their equipment. There was nowhere to move. Under these static conditions Officials performed an entire, blistering set for me as the only audience member.

I was blown away. They were easily better than any of the bands I was seeing in Toronto clubs at the time. Officials blended various musical genres. The band members were from many different parts of the globe, making them a true World Beat band. I couldn’t wait to offer my services as manager.

For bonus points, on guitar and vocals was Del Richardson from Osibisa, whose LPs I had promoted years earlier when I worked for Island Records Canada.

So, we set about putting together a master plan. Aside from gigging as often as humanly possible for as much, or little, money as I could squeeze out of the club owners, that included rolling all profits into recording a 4 song 12″ EP as a demo record to use to get signed to a bigger label.

We were grateful to get all these column inches in The Star

One of the jobs of Manager is stroking the media, trying to get them out to gigs or to review the EP. Or, in this case, both.

Yesterday, while going through my analog file cabinet, I came across a letter I sent to The Toronto Star’s Craig MacInnes, promoting the hell out of the band. [SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: Recently MacInnes and I became facefriends through a mutual face-to-face-friend.]

This came at a transitional period for the band because there had been a recent change in personnel. Consequently, the band bio that I had spent several weeks writing was no longer operative. MacInnes was asking me for biographical info on the new band members in anticipation of an upcoming interview with Garrick.

My reply began:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your continued interest and support of OFFICIALS. Secondly, I’d like to apologize for the rushed nature of this information. We were in the process of preparing a new biography. This request just made me do it all the sooner.

Every review was a feather in my cap

After describing the new members, I ended the letter with as many strokes as I thought I could give MacInnes — without him thinking I was trying to kiss his ass for a good review — ending with one last plug for my clients:

Well, Craig, that’s about it. 

Nobody knows how hard it is for new independent bands starting out like you do. You must hear hundreds of stories like this. It’s good to know you are out there supporting the up and coming bands.

I’ve been working with OFFICIALS for a year now. I managed ISHAN PEOPLE (Canada’s first Reggae band) as well as DRASTIC MEASURES (an early Queen Street W. Art/Rock band). Neither had the staying power and the chance to make it that OFFICIALS do. Unlike other bands working in town now, OFFICIALS are truly a WorldBeat band honestly synthesizing many different rhythms into what we call OFFICIALS’ Style. Conventions are unimportant; what’s important is what works and what sounds good and positive lyrics and a dancable [sic] beat. Nothing else enters into it. But, don’t take my word for it. Come down to the Diamond Club and hear us. I know you’ll like the band. 

Thank you for all your time and trouble on our behalf.

The letter led to a phone interview published 3 days later (see above), so I guess it did the trick.

What I find highly amusing in retrospect is that MacInnes begins with his amazement that Roy Garrick has a car phone at a time when The Brick was the new cell phone technology. Now, 27 years later, most of us carry a phone in our pocket.

All good things must come to an end. My tenure with Officials ended spectacularly: I quit after the band held back money owed to me following an extremely well-paying 2-week gig in the Caribbean.

The agreement we had was not the standard manager/band contract. As opposed to a percentage, we split the proceeds equally (after expenses), which gave me a smaller percentage than I would have as a manager. However, it gave us all equal incentive to take it all to the next level.

When I quit I naturally had all of the band’s files, including distribution contracts, band bios, glossies, and all the promo material, in my analog file cabinet. I became THAT asshole: I refused to turn it over to the band unless they paid the money owed to me from previous gigs. We settled on $2500 and the band signed a promissory note for the money. It has never been paid. It was also one of the documents I discovered yesterday.

A few years back I created a video from one of Officials’ songs. I hope you like it, but I guess I don’t really care all that much.

The Lovin’ Spoonful ► Monday Musical Appreciation

The first album I ever bought with my own money was The Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful. I played the grooves right off it. I simply adored The Lovin’ Spoonful and my band, Cobwebs and Strange, even performed a few songs from it.

Every song a hit, at least with me, this LP is comprised of “Do You Believe in Magic?”, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?”, “Butchie’s Tune”, “Jug Band Music”, “Night Owl Blues”, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”, “Daydream”, “Blues In The Bottle”, “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It”, “Wild About My Lovin'”, “Younger Girl”, and “Summer In The City”. Perfection!!! Every tune was a Sing-A-Long, at least with me. 

What’s of interest to me is how my youth has connected to my dotage and not just in a nostalgic way.

These days I think about The Lovin’ Spoonful a lot. There are times I am down in Coconut Grove taking pictures, or conducting interviews, when their song “Coconut Grove” starts playing unbidden in my head. Suddenly I’ve got an all-day ear worm that won’t shake loose, no matter how much Reggae I apply.

“Coconut Grove” is from their 3rd LP, “Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful.” According to Talk From The Rock Room, in an essay called ‘Bes friends’-The Lovin Spoonful-‘Hums of the Lovin Spoonful’ LP:

Keeping with the theme of mellow melodies, “Coconut Grove” trickles in again spotlighting special instrumentation such as Sebastian’s auto harp and a hand drum. According to John Sebastian this song was conceived on folk icon Fred Neil’s boat in the pre-Spoonful days. The song rides rolling waves of sound, gently rocking to and fro, the breeze of Zal’s guitar gusting beautiful accents across the reflective seas. The strength of the tune is Sebastian’s vocal melody, almost able to carry the track on its own. This song can put you right on the deck, riding straight into a sun dipping behind the horizon. Mood music at its finest.

It should be noted that Fred Neil lived on his boat just offshore of Coconut Grove at the time.

I’m jammed for time this morning, because — not coincidentally — I am currently doing a final edit on my latest story about Coconut Grove. Where do you think I got today’s ear worm?

Crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

Writing News With A Union Label ► Throwback Thursday

Gather ’round, kiddies, and I’ll tell you the story of when I was a News Writer for Citytv’s BreakfastTelevision [sic] and wrote the perfect news script.

I worked at CityPulse for just over a decade. During my time there I cycled through every newscast they had: CityPulse at 6, CityPulse at 11, the weekend Pulses, and the short-lived LunchTelevision. However, most of my time was on BreakfastTelevision, some 8 years. I was with the show the day it was launched. While the station had an idea of what the show would be, it was up to us to give it shape and flesh it out.

I enjoyed the hell out of my job, but everything changed for me the day I wrote the perfect script.

The News Segment Producer, the person who gave the News Writers, Editors, Control Room their marching orders, had a soft spot for animal stories. I knew that whenever there was an animal story, either local or off the feeds, she would make sure to devote precious air time to it. On this particular morning she handed me some wire copy, told me there was VID on the overnight satellite feed, and tasked me with writing the script for it. It was a simple, but heartwarming, story of a university in the east closing en entire parking lot because an endangered bird chose to build a nest and lay eggs in it.

Kevin Frankish was one of the nicest people I wrote
for. “Choose alternate routes” is an homage to him.

Because it wouldn’t come up until later in the show — the last News Pack at 8:30 — I pushed it aside. In the meantime there were stories to write for earlier packs. As I handled those first, it came to me in a flash how I should treat this purple plover story. I quickly banged it off, polished it, and then sheepishly took it to Kevin Frankish, which was not the normal chain of command. However, let’s face facts: If Kevin refused to read it, there was little point in giving it to the producer for approval. I handed him the script and asked what he thought.

Kevin took one look at it, laughed, and said, “I love it!”

With his approval under my belt I took it to the News Producer who said, “Kevin will never read this.”

“I just showed it to him. He loves it,” I replied.

She yells across the room to the Assignment Desk, “ABOUT THIS SCRIPT OF HEADLY’S?!?!”

Kevin yells back, “I LOVE IT!!!”

That’s exact moment my fate was sealed. Here’s how it opened:

In Pembroke a pair of purple plovers picked a patch of parking lot to procreate.

The rest of the script was just a quick rewrite of the wire copy to match the footage. I printed out the obligatory 12 copies of the script and hand delivered Kevin’s to him, leaving the rest for the intern to distribute as usual.

The Purple Plover

For the next 2 hours, whenever he wasn’t on camera, I could see Kevin practicing the script. I couldn’t wait to hear this jewel delivered. However, the minute my script hit the TelePrompTer, it all fell apart. Kevin started sputtering like Porky Pig, tripping his entire way through the opening line.

Finally he broke and said, “See the things they get me to read here? Headly, what are you doing to me?”

I was always thrilled when my name was mentioned On Air, because it was so infrequent. However, that was one of the last thrills I ever had at Citytv.

When my boss arrived there was steam coming out of his ears. As he passed through the newsroom, he screamed at me to get into his office, where he yelled at me and swore at me for a good 15 minutes. “WE DO NOT GIVE OUR ANCHORS TONGUE TWISTERS!!!”

“But it was approved up and down the line.”


“But we’re told to make our scripts cheeky and interesting.”


“I was thinking that it would have been great had Kevin not flubbed it.”


Here’s my takeaway from that meeting:

  1. We do not give our anchors tongue twisters;
  2. That day was the first of a non-stop campaign of harassment that continued until I finally left Citytv.

That was the day I became the office goat.

I had seen it happen to others before. Newsroom management would tag someone as the goat either overtly — “Get the fuck in my office right now!” — or it might be a covert whisper campaign that one could watch trickle down from up high — “They’re not our kind of people.” It could be someone new. Or, it could be someone that was there for years and had never been disciplined before, like me.

However, the newsroom staff quickly learned who was the Goat Du Jour. Everyone up and down the chain of command fell into line, treating that employee as toxic. Over the years I saw one goat after another. Eventually the goat would quit or a newer goat would be chosen. Or both.

When I became the goat the harassment was relentless. My newsroom mentor — someone in the know, who attended the management meetings with The Big Boys — told me they wanted me to quit. Because I loved my job, I decided to tough it out convinced they’d eventually find a new goat. I was mistaken.

They started finding every little thing wrong with my performance. I took too long to write some scripts. I didn’t spend enough time writing others. Because writing is subjective, and there’s no sentence that can’t be improved with enough editing, they kept finding individual sentences, out of context, that didn’t meet their suddenly high standards. Keep in mind I had never been tagged for any of this in the previous 8 years.

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Eventually management scheduled a weekly meeting with me and my union rep to rake me over the coals in a discipline hearing. Every fucking week.

It only made management madder at me when I first refused to even meet with them for these punching bag sessions unless they allowed my union rep to attend. Insisting on my union rights just became an invisible black mark, because they couldn’t write it down. But, it sure pissed them off.

In the end I grieved the entire deal. It went to arbitration, which was a mistake. Arbitration is another word for compromise. I was off work for an entire year. At first I was off on a [possibly-related] Medical leave. When I was deemed well, they refused to allow me to come back to work. However, because I had started the grievance process, I couldn’t look for work, otherwise Citytv could say I had quit and abandoned my job. I had to borrow money from family and friends to stay alive and my union advanced me some money as well.

In the end I was sent packing with a lump sum that felt inadequate, but my union told me it was the best I was going to get. Oddly enough, I was never asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Citytv, but they agreed to give me a letter of recommendation and promised not to bad-mouth me to prospective employers. That promise was broken when I had someone in the industry call to say they were thinking of hiring me.

After a lawyer told me I would have trouble suing for that, I stopped using Citytv on my resume. The decade I spent there mattered for nothing in the job market.

Post script: In the end all of those people who yelled and screamed and belittled and harrassed their underlings were fired in a purge when ultimate boss Moses Znaimer found out how they were really treating the people below them, including the on air talent.

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t write the perfect script.

Me and Garry Shandling and Patty Duke, But Mostly Me ► Unpacking The Writer

♫ ♪ ♫ Meet Cathy, who’s lived most everywhere… ♪ ♫ ♪

It’s way past due to create another Unpacking The Writer, my almost-monthly behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening here in the Not Now Silly Newsroom. But, I’m just not feeling it right now.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. It’s that I have far too much to say and — already having the basic outline of this essay in my head when I begin — wonder how much I really want to reveal.

This past week I have been incredibly out of sorts and feeling quite blue. It started when I learned that Garry Shandling, one of the greatest comedians ever, had died at the age of 66. Then came the news that Patty Duke died at 69. I’m 63. Both deaths were body blows for different reasons and I have never felt quite so mortal as I do right now.

I was such a big fan of Shandling’s, starting with his earliest appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His skewed outlook seemed to perfectly match my own.

Then, in 1986, he created (with Alan Zweibel) “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”, one of the greatest “sitcoms” in tee vee history. I have always delighted in comedy that breaks the 4th wall. It gives me a special thrill. Groucho would occasionally turn to the camera to make remarks directly to the theater audience; Green Acres put the opening credits on laundry that Lisa Douglas was hanging up; George Burns not only talked to his audience, but had a magic tee vee on which he could keep up with continuing plot points as he talked to us; and Woody Allen dragged Marshall McLuhan into a movie line-up to excoriate the pontificating idiot standing in front of him.

“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” not only broke the 4th wall, it destroyed it: Shandling played his nervously neurotic self, living on a tee vee set with a studio audience, but appears to live in a conventional suburb, with just the sort of goofy neighbours that inhabit every sitcom since the days when sits were first commed.

The day after learning of his death, I had to write my weekly Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA. I try to inject as much humour into it as I can. Considering the overarching topic — the systematic destruction of my beloved career of Journalism at the hands of the Fox “News” Channel — it can often be an uphill battle. As I was doing last week’s final edit I realized that some of my writing — especially the things I want to stand out as humour — break the 4th wall of Journalism, if journalism is said to have any walls at all any more.

It also occurs to me that breaking the 4th wall is also the main purpose of Unpacking The Writer, this seemingly never-ending series in which I examine the entrails of my life to divine the future. At the same time I expose the entire enterprise to your prying eyes. I am aware I do this both for myself — because I will often learn things about myself I didn’t know when I started (and today is no exception) — and for your reading pleasure — if you get any pleasure out of it at all. Yet, I know from past experience that when I start to get too confessional, I begin to use the delete key liberally, holding back the most personal revelations because, after all, I’m really a coward. There’s only so much I really want to expose about myself to the world.

That’s why Patty Duke’s death hit me so hard. She was already a star when I was just a kid. Being about the same age it was easy to identify with her as identical twin cousins (how weird is that?) on The Patty Duke Show. And, she won an Academy Award. I didn’t see The Miracle Worker until years later, but it was easy to see why she won an Oscar for her performance, at the time the youngest person to have done so. In this teenager’s imagination, she seemed to have a charmed life.

However, it wasn’t until I read her book, Call Me Anna; The Autobiography of Patty Duke, did I learn of her struggle with bi-polar disorder. What an amazingly brave thing to have put out there for everyone to know.

I’ve not been nearly so brave. While Unpacking The Writer in the past, I’ve danced to the edge of talking about my own bouts of depression, but have always shied away from being explicit. Even now — as this paragraph gets pounded out and revised and heavily edited — I am keeping most of my recent self-discoveries to myself. However, I’m also aware I’m burying the lede. I’m stuffing this confession so far down this essay that only my most loyal readers will see it. Part of me hopes that most readers have given up by now.

Look at me! I am the 4th wall!

Yeah, depression. I’ve been self-diagnosing myself my entire adult life.

There was a time in my life I referred to it as anhedonia, which incidentally was the original name for the movie Annie Hall. I thought of it as anhedonia because it was so even and level as to be like Florida, sea level as far as the eye can see. However, in the end, I rejected that definition because there are things I take pleasure in, like music, beautiful brass objets d’art, books, and relationships — just to name a few.

Later I came to think of myself as manic-depressive, because there are some days that I am incredibly up and enjoying life. Then I fall back into that steady norm that I once called anhedonia. Incidentally, the term manic-depressive is no longer used. The medical community calls it bi-polar these days, the same disorder as Patty Duke.

However, I also rejected bi-polar in the end. I’ve read a fair bit about it over the years, including some case studies, and I am fully aware that my highs are not manic and my lows are not like falling into the Marianas Trench, either.

For a number of years I tried to fool myself by calling it The Blues. Not all of us are all always happy, are we? That’s how I rationalized it. Yet, I know some people that never appear to be down and some who never appear to be up. At least I had moods. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

However, I stopped all of that self-delusional rationalization after I was finally diagnosed as having Depression. There it was. A doctor said so. There was no longer any way to ignore the fact that the serotonin in my head — or the lack of uptaking thereof — affects my entire outlook. For a few years I took some meds. Actually, at the beginning, I took a lot of meds, different meds. It took a while to find one that didn’t make me crazy, which is not an exaggeration. Then we had to adjust the dosage so I didn’t sleep most of the time. But, we managed to find the right balance.

In the end I quit the drugs altogether. They wrapped my brain in a kind of cotton candy that was hard to think through and absolutely impossible to write through. Since then I have self-medicated when I have the need and the money.

That diagnosis, BTW, was a good 14 or 15 years ago. I no longer think of myself as depressed because — really? — who wants to carry that around all the time? It’s heavy, man.

Heavier still: Over the years I’ve started to think of myself as human kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, as opposed to how we do it here. Westerners try to restore pottery by concealing the repair.

Thinking of myself as kintsugi acknowledges that I have been broken and repaired — more than once, in fact. However, it also means that I am more fragile than I would be if I had never shattered.

There! I’ve said it. Do I feel any better for finally having been so confessional? Time will tell, but it’s a good sign that I don’t feel any worse. And, because music always makes me feel better, crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

The Best Laid Plans ► Unpacking The Writer

Toronto’s own Johnnie Lombardi and Me

My Go Fund Me campaign:

In our last exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer — my monthly look behind the curtain at the Not Now Silly Newsroom — I got all nostalgic. To quote myself from Where We’re At & Where We’re Going

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.

When I wrote that (at the beginning of January) my departure date was tentatively scheduled for the end of February; so tentative that I didn’t mention it. Now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I won’t be leaving the Yew Ess Eh ’til the end of August. That means I have more time to tie up all the loose ends down here and promote my Go Fund Me campaign, to help defray my moving expenses.

My best ever month and my All Time Top Five

SOUR GRAPES MAKES FOR A BITTER WHINE: I’ve been looking at the stats again for the Not Now Silly Newsroom. As of this writing, I have served up 410,958 pages for my readers to … err … read since launching this place almost 4 years ago.

My monthly count averages 9,000-10,000 views. My daily hits range anywhere from 150-300, depending on the subject matter and how much promotion I do. On the odd occasion my monthly readership has reached heights that even I have trouble believing. Pictured at right is when I hit almost 18,000 views just one year ago, twice my general average.

I bring these stats up because, to be perfectly honest (and a bit of a whiner), I am disappointed in the lack of response to my Go Fund Me campaign to help me get back to Canada. If people knew how much work went into these posts, and how few pennies I get from the few advertisements that Google feeds me, they’d wonder why I do it at all.

There are times I wonder myself. Times like this when I look at the stats and see that I made a dime yesterday, or $1.78 in the last 28 days, which comes to slightly over 6 cents a day.

I know that over the course of the next month this particular post will be read by an average of 300 people. If every person chucked a quarter into a Tip Jar for every page they read, I’d be bringing in about $2,500 a month. I’ve not even earned 1/10th of that since starting this blog almost 4 years ago.

Having said that, I didn’t start this blog for the money. I would write regardless because it’s what I’ve done my entire adult life. However, I did have it in the back of my mind that this blog could ‘top off’ the other income I produced. It’s been a disaster in that respect.

While still on the subject of stats, you’ll find in the column to the right the Not Now Silly All Time Top Ten Posts. However, just for the fun of it, I broke out the Top 10 stories that caught your attention just this month, from highest to lowest:

Paul McCartney Deported From Japan 280 Jan 25, 2016 280
A Civil Rights Champion Born 187 Feb 4, 2016 187
Del Shannon & Me 179 Feb 8, 2016 179
The 45 Is Introduced 179 Feb 1, 2016 179
Take the “A” Train 171 Feb 15, 2016 171
The Detroit Riots 132 July 22, 2012 6401
Remembering the Challenger Crew 30 Years Later 125 Jan 28, 2016 125
The Palin Family’s Greatest [Literal] Hits 81 Jan 21, 2016 264
It’s Only A Northern Song 75 Feb 22, 2016 75
Unpacking The Writer 68 Dec 1, 2012 1285

That’s 1,477 views on just the Top Ten posts in the last 30 days (which doesn’t even include those evergreens that didn’t make the Top Ten). A dime per visitor would earn me more than in the past 30 days than I have received in the 4 years since launching the blog.

Recently I was having this discussion with a friend on the facebookery: Our mutual profession of writing has been seriously devalued since Bill Gates made the World Wide Web a Point & Click environment. Anybody with a keyboard and mouse now believes they can write. And, we can see the sad results all over the innertubes: People can barely create a 10 word meme without serious grammar and spelling errors.

Speaking of sour grapes: I’ve groused several times previously about the Coconut Grove Grapevine. I have even truthfully and non-ashamedly admitted to being jealous; jealous that such a poorly written blog has so many more readers than I. That a blog so devoid of actual journalism is able to sell a passel of advertisements. Yet the actual news stories I write about Coconut Grove — as opposed to Falco’s commercial fluff — earns almost nothing at all. [I know I am repeating myself from previous posts, but it’s only a rerun if you’ve seen it before.]

Consequently, a profession I spent my entire adult life perfecting is no longer considered worthy of adequate remuneration. [A big shout out here to all my musician friends who find themselves in the same sinking boat.] I remember how excited I was, way back when, that an editor agreed to pay me 5 cents a word for a very long article she commissioned. I thought I won the lottery because that seemed like a fortune in those days. Now I am constantly approached to write for free because it will be “good exposure.” No, seriously. I also stopped writing “on spec” 4 decades ago. Either I will pre-sell an article or keep it for the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

I need to be more like Al Crespo, of The Crespogram Report,
who publishes the best muckraking blog in Miami. He doesn’t take any
advertising at all, so he obviously doesn’t peg his words’ worth to the
almighty advertising dollar.

Hopefully next month I won’t feel so sorry for myself and my profession.

HOP ON POPS: The last week has been very busy around here. Pops celebrated his 90th birthday on Valentine’s Day. Relatives started arriving last week for the party on the 20th. We took over one of the condo clubhouses and invited over 60 of his friends to help us celebrate this great day.

Here’s a pic of him getting about to blow out his candles and you can follow THIS LINK to a slideshow.

What a great time it was. Pops loves being the center of attention (Who doesn’t?) and he sure was this weekend. People hung on his every word and laughed at all his jokes, even the ones we’ve heard for decades. He couldn’t have asked for a better time and neither could we.

Now that things are returning back to what qualifies as normal around here, I have several irons in the fire. Hopefully, I’ll be able to reveal more about these projects in our next exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer, coming soon to a web browser near you.