Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wayne Cochran: Patron Saint of this Site

It was probably March 1967 when I first laid eyes on Wayne Cochran. I was a 17-year-old kid sitting on the bleachers in the packed and highly charged humid atmosphere of the North Miami High School gym. WQAM brought the "King of Blue-eyed Soul" and their DJ's (I think Rick Shaw was one of them) to play the coaches in basketball for God-knows-what. All I remember was his hair. It was all his and it was amazing-- especially when it didn't seem to move when he ran up and down the basketball court. The crewcut coaches looked at him as if he were some kind of freak (those poor bastards, they, like most parents and teachers back then, didn't know what to make of boys starting to grow their hair long). All I know is he had a major hit on the radio called "Going Back To Miami" that had everyone singing and dancing and as far as I was concerned, he was the most over-the-top earthling I'd seen up to that time-- and he would have held that position if David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Boy George, and Marilyn Manson hadn't made the scene. He's now a Harley riding ordained preacher for a church he founded in Miami called Voice for Jesus God Bless him.

Special thanks goes out to SibLING SHOT ON THE BLEACHERS for his help and exposure to his way cool blog.

Miami's "Big Dig"? Manny! Carlos! Say it ain't so!

The Port of Miami and the FDOT are talking about boring a BILLION DOLLAR truck tunnel from the Port to Watson Island. I wish the public could vote for or against this cockamamey idea. After learning about the recent misappropriation of millions of taxpayers dollars to build public housing and the hamhanded billion dollar airport construction project, I'm pretty sure this proposed project would get buried where it belongs. Even if a plan is worked out between the city and county and a construction company that will build and operate it in exchange for forking up some big bucks, I'm still "agin it." Besides making it a target for terrorists and a place waiting for major accidents to happen, it will probably raise the cost of shipped goods in and out of the port. The proposed plan calls for the builder/operator to run a toll booth over a period of 75-years in order to recoup its costs to build it and to make a profit. You can bet those toll costs will be passed on to you and me in the form of more expensive goods. Perhaps the new Port Director ought to try using the railroad tracks leading to and from the port that have been lying idle for years (see picture). Transporting cargo containers and truck trailers by rail in the dead of night in order to lessen the impact on downtown traffic to and from the off-site railyards near the airport seems to me to be the logical economical solution. But what do I know? I'm only a citizen writing the Rodney Dangerfield of blogs. That's my opinion. What's yours? Posted by Picasa

UpDate (12/13/08): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!

Friday, July 28, 2006

My Favorite Miami Photographers, Chopper Builders, and Models

The following piece was to appear in a Miami magazine (which shall remain nameless) that never got beyond its first issue. The picture and copy above are from the cover of what was to be the second issue. The copy and superimposed Emerald City picks up on a theme I used to describe the cover shoot and some featured topics that included a story on a Miami chopper builder, a downtown jeweler, and a local bikini designer. The parentheticals are my comments after-the-fact.

Let me tell you a true story about a young woman who got up early one morning looking for a fish market and ended up on the cover of a magazine.

It's six o'clock on a Sunday morning. The sun still isn't up and I'm waiting below the Watson Island bridge feeling a little foolish holding a bejeweled bra in my hand and a little uncomfortable watching the homeless emerging from the shadows with the stray cats.

When I'm not looking over my shoulder, I'm thinking about Noel Rosquete. He's with TotalBank ( and he bought the first ad the magazine ever sold. He stopped me in mid-spiel (that's right, I also sold advertising) and said he'd take the back page. It was 3:33pm on February 10th. A Friday. A very good Friday as it turned out to be. I will never forget it. His faith in the magazine gave us the courage to go for a second issue (Little did I know that this courage was not shared by the publisher). That's why I'm there, to shoot the cover and pin-up pages (okay, so it wasn't very politically correct-- at least we offered both sexes), alone in the dark with the rats, the cats, homeless zombies looking for a smoke, and an over-the-top bra in my hand that would make a jaded Las Vegas showgirl blush with envy. Thanks a lot, Noel Rosquete.

The bra is made of red acrylic and covered with Swarovski crystals. It's on loan from a downtown jeweler for the photo shoot which, God willing, will happen in a few minutes. I'm looking for cops patrolling the island but there aren't any because it's too damn early!

I know my faith in mankind is being tested. The photographer who had agreed to do the shoot, bailed at the eleventh hour. In desperation I turned to Dennie and DK Cody of Cody Photo ( who shot our first cover. They agree to help me and suggest we schedule the shoot for 6am under the bridge to catch the early morning light on the water and the downtown skyline. This probably had something to do with Dennie's pioneer spirit bloodline (he's a descendent of Buffalo Bill) where no one ever gave a thought about getting up before sunrise.

I know the Cody's will show, but I'm not so sure about the others. I've never met them. I've only spoken to them over the phone. Knowing that they are trading their time only for publicity and copies of the magazine makes me wonder if they will really show. The longer I stand there alone in the dark, the less I'm sure they will.

Dennie and DK are the first faces to appear out of the darkness that don't ask me for a cigarette or money. I hear myself paraphrasing the Cowardly Lion, "I do believe in people, I do believe in people." Now, if only the rest will show so I can shake loose of my Cowardly Lion tail: the owner of Miami Choppers ( who agreed to bring one of his custom bikes down to the shoot, and the models.

Patrick Jones is the first model to arrive. All the way from Ft. Lauderdale. He turns out to be a great guy with lots of enthusiasim for so early in the morning. I suspect he's from pioneer stock too. Before long, Miguel Suarez and his lovely wife Yami of Miami Choppers drive up with the first light of the day and I feel my faith in humanity rising with the new day's sun.

Since the pin-up pages are single, full-pages devoted to a "Downtown Dude" and "Dame," we start shooting Patrick on the bike immediately to catch the kind of light only insomniacs, milkmen, intrepid fishermen, farmers, buffalo hunters, and people living in Broward who have to get up early for the commute into Miami will see. An hour later I'm beginning to think our Dame has either cancelled without telling me, or is lost. You can only pose a guy so many different ways on a chopper before it becomes impossible to avoid posing him for some kind of gay publication-- not that there is anything wrong with that as Seinfeld and Castanza have reminded us over countless reruns.

Home is only a short drive away. I decide to go back and see if I can get hold of our female model via an email. While I'm on the net, I call her cell phone. Nothing. I haven't a clue where she is. I drive back thinking we can't just have a guy posing in the magazine. We're already skating on politically incorrect thin ice as it is what with pin-ups for crisesakes, but having just a guy and not a girl really would paint a different kind of picture of what the magazine is all about. So, it's with great relief when I turn onto the dirt and gravel beneath the bridge that I see Dennie talking to a woman. I can't believe it, but our model finally showed up! I park, jump out and rush over to shake her hand but the young lady stops me short with "I'm not her." I look at Dennie. He's smiling broadly. Seems this woman was looking for the fish market on Watson Island. She had gotten up early to score some fresh fish for dinner that night. She grew up in Miami but hadn't been back in ten years. Since she was away, the city moved the fish market and the commercial fishing boats to build the mega development Island Gardens (scroll down further in this blog to see my thoughts about that). What I didn't know was that in the short time I was away, Dennie convinced her to pose for our magazine.

She's only wearing flip-flops , shorts, and a t-shirt-- and no makeup. But we don't care. She's adorable, smart, and has a great self-deprecating sense of humor.

And she's brave, the kind of personality that says "yes" to new adventures; the kind of person that has helped this magazine get published. She's perfect. Her name?
Alecia Walker. She's on vacation, visiting her brother in Miami. Her home is in Maryland where she works as a Surgical Technologist.

Within moments we have her ditching her t-shirt and wearing the "bejeweled bra." When I see the light bouncing off those Swarovsky crystals, I know it was meant to be. If we had shot the pictures with Alecia any earlier, we wouldn't have gotten that startling effect. Call it serendipity-- I can't let go of my Cowardly Lion tail long enough to say it was meant to be. That might be assuming too much. Only time will tell. (I made the mistake of letting go of the tail at the launch party for the magazine that followed this shoot a few weeks later).

I also can't promise if you say "yes" to the magazine your life will change for the better. I don't know how being on the cover of our magazine and becoming the second ever Downtown Dame will make your life better, but hopefully for this young spirited Ms. Walker, the Cody's, Patrick Jones, the Suarezes, and Noel Rosquete, something good will come out of saying "yes" to us (or at least to me).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Miami: Airship Port of the World

Imagine departing the Port of Miami in a huge airship and then floating a few hundred feet over the Gulfstream as you follow the coastline down to Key West. The water is so clear you can see reefs outlined just below the surface, dolphins, and sharks. You can yell a friendly hello down to fishermen in their boats as the airship's giant shadow engulfs them. It's Friday and you caught the 5pm flight to Key West to catch the sunset at the Mallory Docks. In less than two hours, you have been transported from the hustle and bustle of Miami to the laid back charm of Key West thanks to the airship's top speed of nearly 175 mph. That's right, this isn't your daddy's blimp anymore! After a few drinks and dinner at one of your favorite hangouts, you board the airship with 200 other passengers and depart for Havana. Castro is dead and buried and the island is feeling free again. In fact, you're thinking this is how it must have been before he sold his soul to the Russkies.

Ah, but if it hadn't been for the Evil Empire, you wouldn't be sipping cocktails while standing along the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the moonlit sea. Aeros, the company that makes these wonderful flying machines they call Aeroscraft, began in 1988 in Russia. The designs are based on more than 20-years of research in lighter-than-air technologies developed by the former Soviet Union Aviation Design Bureau. In 1993 the company moved to California. These skycruisers use a combination of helium and the lifting characteristics of the body's shape to make them fly. You can read more about them at :

It disappoints me that the company didn't settle in Miami. I'm sure the county would have worked out some kind of deal with Aeros to set up a manufacturing facility at Opa Locka Airport-- had they known about them in the first place. To me it seems like another lost opportunity and it makes me wonder what does the Beacon Council do? I know it's supposed to attract businesses to Dade County but despite their large staff and bloated salaries, there isn't much to show for our taxpayer's dollars.

Will we ever see regularly scheduled Aeroscraft flights out of the Port of Miami for Key West and Havana-- and even a down-low "EcoRun" over the Everglades to Tampa? Who knows? Carnival could float this endeavor. So could Virgin's Sir Richard Branson who has a home here and is looking for a city to launch people into space on regularly scheduled flights through Virgin Galactic (scroll down to see my previous blog on that). All it takes is one or more visionaries with deep pockets or enough financial smarts to leverage other people's monies. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Posted by Picasa

Miami Performing Arts Center Cultural Beacon

Considering the Disney family gave $75 million dollars for the naming rights of the Frank Gehry designed symphony hall in LA, Carnival got a deal when they landed the naming rights for the nearly half-billion dollar Miami Performing Arts Center for $20 million dollars. Beggars can't be choosers but that is a drop in a bucket with a perpetual leak. Perhaps the Art Deco Sears tower can come to the rescue. Architect Cesar Pelli was forced to keep it in his design by well-meaning but misguided preservationists who went epileptic when they found out that it might get nixed in the plan. Although it is not a great example of the Art Deco style, it seems it was the only example of Art Deco architecture left in Miami. Too bad there isn't any money in the budget to hire Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen to turn it into a giant flashlight pointing skyward, its beam splitting the night like a Star Wars light sabre. That would give Miami that elusive signature piece of art or architecture it sorely lacks because no matter how grand the design and effective the accoustics are, Pelli's buildings would be hard to pick out of a lineup of concert halls. Still, the tower cries out to be shooting a beam of light into the night sky pinpointing the epicenter of the performing arts in Miami. If the monopoly known as Florida Power & Light would stop pouring millions of dollars into advertising campaigns reminding us that they are always there for us instead of putting that money into naming rights for the tower and its perpetual beam, that is money that would be well spent. FP&L will take up less space on the side of the tower than say Duracell or Eveready (but I do like the implications regarding the future and the dynamisim of the PAC), but beggars can't be choosers.

As an aside, the new Carnival Performing Arts Center website quotes Pelli regarding the Sears tower: " connects with a past that was precious to many people." As someone who grew up here, that statement reeks with irony. It was in the Sears tower that I was first exposed to racisim and the Jim Crow laws of 1950's Miami. I was probably five or six when I made the mistake of going to the wrong water fountain. I was thirsty and either couldn't read yet or didn't see the sign but I drank from the "Negro" water fountain. An older and wiser kid set me straight by pointing out the "White" fountain next to it. It didn't make any sense then and it still doesn't. In time it won't matter because all of us who lived here then will have died and taken those memories with us. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Update (8/5): It seems the FAA has a problem with this proposal. They think it might blind/distract pilots flying into Miami. Check out what the Miami Vision Comic has to say about that on the August 5th blog entry. If you would like to see a way cool "Interactive" Miami Herald presentation of the CCPA (which includes news about the FAA actions) and the building boom it has spawned around it, click here: Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

Soul Street U.S.A: Miami's Black Entertainment Hub for the World

Overtown, Miami's segregated black community, was ripped apart during the 60's to build I-95 and marginalized ever since. Today it is struggling to find a place for itself in the city's building boom. Overlooked for so long, its location near the epicenter of the Performing Arts Center is making it difficult to remain poor where land prices are skyrocketing and your rental apartment is only yours until your landlord takes a developer's money and runs. County and City officials along with concerned citizens are trying to come up with ideas that will benefit everyone. Here's mine: Tap Overtown's historical roots for its place in black entertainment history and build a hotel and convention center on "Soul Street U.S.A." Maybe it could become part of the Lyric Theater site ( As envisioned, "Soul Street U.S.A" would be a permanent entertainment venue attached to a hotel and convention center. America's most famous cities responsible for giving the world the blues, jazz, R&B, and rock 'n roll would be recreated on "Soul Street U.S.A." On one side of the street, you will find the French Quarter with daily Dixieland Jazz bands marching down the street and maybe a juke joint from the Mississippi delta or a Chicago blues club. On the other side, you'll find the legendary Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom from Harlem where big band music still swings. Small jazz and blues clubs and restaurants serving up some of the best soul food you can imagine will line the street and maybe even a bonafide theater or two for black plays and musicals. Top-of-the-line black recording artists, comics, actors, and dancers would perform in one or more theaters. Bronze statues of legendary black performers would line a grand stairway leading from the hotel. It would be wonderful and appropriate if it was black owned and operated with employees coming from Overtown and Liberty City. Who could afford such an undertaking? There are a lot of African-Americans who could pull this off single-handedly or as a group. The name I gave the hotel in my rendering is one guy who could probably do it without even getting Ophra involved. Maybe all they need is an economic incentive from the city and county. It's worth a try because not only would "Soul Street U.S.A" put people to work in the black community, it would become a tourist mecca attracting thousands of tourists and their dollars from around the world.

UpDate (10/25): The City of Miami on Tuesday, October 24th, announced that it will put up $30 million to fund affordable housing in conjunction with a masterplan for an "Historic Overtown Folklife Village District." Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said Miami lacks a signature district to showcase black life and culture and that it is time to have "our own district." Part of the District includes the "Lyric Promenade" which would include a hotel. Now, if we could only get Cosby or Oprah to get behind our "Soul Street USA" concept and build the hotel...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Miami: Home of the International Toy Center?

The International Toy Center (ITC) in New York, site of the annual International Toy Fair each February, is looking for a new home. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles actively recruited the organization. At one point last year, there was talk about moving the October trade show to Dallas. I brought this up to the Mayors of Miami and Metro-Dade county way back in 2005 and only Miami Mayor Manny Diaz acknowledged my email with a promise that his staff would look into it.

The ITC is basically a merchandise mart for toy companies and because they are being evicted from a building they have been in since 1968, the search for a new home began over a year ago. The group is looking for a minimum of 300,000 s.f. with access to a major convention center (like the Javits Center) for the annual International Toy Fair. Currently, the ITC favors the following from building owners:

• Leases of five, seven and 10 years will be offered ranging from $39.20 to $44.20 per square foot, depending on the length, with increases of 2 percent to 3 percent, depending the term, after the first year.• The landlord will provide basic showroom build outs at no additional cost. In the alternative, the tenants may design the space themselves and receive an $35 per square foot "cash contribution," along with the landlord's base building work.• Included in those rental amounts, $1 per square feet will revert back to the NYTT (New York Toy Tenants).• Tenants will split the cost of the building's electricity plus a 10 percent fee, and pay for their own cleaning services.• Tenants will also pay a pro rata portion of future real estate tax increases and fuel increases above the 2007 calendar year level.• Tenants will have one option to extend their leases.Space allocations will be made largely on a first come, first served basis, along with other considerations, such as space demands.The landlord will also provide a 2,000 square foot multi-purpose space to serve as a buyers' lounge, conference and media room.

Right now the ITC is looking at a building built in 1903 in New York. It's not near the subway but the ITC is considering shuttling people working at the building to and from the nearest subway entrance. That's how desperate it is to find a new location-- and remain in New York.

What would it take for them to consider Miami?

First, an affordable space. Although the empty Omni Mall has 1 million s.f and would be a great location, plans now call for it being razed for new towers. 600 Brickell is a stunning 952,000 s.f twin office tower (the tallest is 903 feet) that could accomodate the ITC-- plus it is just footsteps away from MetroRail and MetroMover. Miami has approved its application to build, but it may be a few years down the road before it becomes reality.

Secondly, it would have to meet the above requirements and then some to entice the ITC to move out of NYC-- where many of the toy companies have set up shop since the end of World War I. Well, if the ITC can wait for 600 Brickell to be built, Miami fulfills all of its needs "and then some." For instance, who wouldn't want to attend the annual February Toy Fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center instead of in New York City in the dead of winter? I have attended the Toy Fair then, and let me tell you it is a brutal experience. The cold is hard to describe. Getting to and from your hotel to the Javits Center lugging your wares is a royal pain in the buttocks. With MIA and the Port of Miami servicing the world in people and freight and the cost of living being lower here than there, and moving into a building that is beyond state-of-the-art with mass transit right outside your window instead of a 106-year-old building seems to me to be a no-brainer.

With the proper incentives from the business community and the public sector, Miami is the place to be. I queried the senior VP in Miami for RTKL, the firm that is designing 600 Brickell, regarding the ITC as a possible tenant on June 28th and have not received a response. Right now, my blog, although it is only a few weeks old, seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of blogs-- it "gets no respect." That's my opinion. What's yours?

Up Date: This toy industry link will take you to the latest (July 19th) on the subject.

Up Date (August 1st): Miami's chances are falling further and further away. The latest report from Playthings is that although the toy companies may have missed a July 31st deadline to sign on with a building in New York, the deadline has been extended. Over 200,000 s.f. of leases were sent out with expectation for the ITC to buy the building outright.

Up Date (August 23): Proposed NYC toy center still in works
By Brent Felgner
Playthings -- 8/21/2006 9:41:00 AM

NEW YORK—Three weeks after the deadline to commit to 636 Eleventh Ave. as the next industry showroom center, negotiations are apparently continuing to determine if another version of the plan might still work.

Representatives of the developer, 636's current owner and a tenants' group are reportedly in conversations about whether more time can be found to attract a broader toy company tenant base and whether the purchase of the building can or should move forward, Steven Greenfield, coordinator of the New York Toy Tenants, told Playthings. If the deal does come together, he said a move by February's Toy Fair might still be possible.

The original plan for 636 called for a minimum of 250,000 square feet in signed leases to be delivered by July 31 in order for the building's sale to a joint venture of The Feil Organization and Winoker Realty, who would then convert all but two of the building's floors to toy business-related showrooms. That didn't occur, Greenfield said, because of delays in architectural plans and companies' approval processes, among other reasons.

Up Date (August 30th): New Toy Center taking shapeBy Brent FelgnerPlaythings -- 8/28/2006 7:29:00 AM
NEW YORK—Developers of the proposed Toy Center at 636 Eleventh Ave. reportedly will move forward with the purchase of the building despite missing the original deadline and coming up short of their original plan.
The renovations and showroom build-outs will not be ready in time for February 2007's American International Toy Fair, according to Steven Greenfield, coordinator of New York Toy Tenants. However, Greenfield said he expects the building to be ready before the October 2007 Fall Toy Show.

Greenfield disclosed the developments late last week in an email blast to NYTT’s members. He claimed that more than 180,000 square feet in lease commitments have been made to date. The original plan called for 250,000 square feet in signed leases in order for the building to move forward as a replacement for the showroom space lost at the International Toy Center at 200 Fifth Ave. and 1107 Broadway.
Greenfield said new dates and guidelines for leasing in the building should be coming shortly from developers The Feil Organization and Winoker Realty. (from Playthings, newsletter for the toy industry).

It looks like this is a lost cause for Miami. Too bad because the city needs companies like this to fill vacant office space and people to fill empty downtown condos. MVB has to wonder with the heads-up they were given by this blog if the City of Miami or the Beacon Council made any effort to woo the toy industry. The last thing we heard was from the Miami mayor in an email saying he would have his staff look into it in 2005.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cirque du Soleil Miami

My MiamiMegaplex idea (see website) came about to save the Miami Arena and to tie in a new baseball stadium with it and the existing MetroMover station. That was before it became known Cirque du Soleil was trying to strike a deal with the City of Miami Beach to establish a permanent location at the Jackie Gleason Theater. Except for the Cirque's request of approximately $80 million dollars of public money to make it a reality, it's not a bad idea. However, when I first heard about it, I immediately thought about the Miami Arena. Since Glenn Straub bought it in 2004 for $28 million dollars from the county (it cost tax payers $52.2 million in 1988), nothing has really been done with it. Aside from the fact that the arena could easily adapt the Cirque's unique tents to its shape through stressed canopy construction, the Arena already sits in the City of Miami's designated entertainment district. Having a permanent Cirque du Soleil in downtown Miami would offer another reason for cruise ships to make Miami a destination instead of just a point of departure. Think about it: bringing tourists and their dollars into Miami gives them, among other options, a chance to see a Cirque show at the arena or a ballet or a symphony or an opera or a Broadway musical at the Performing Arts Center. Not too shabby. At least it beats a stop over in the Bahamas at the straw market-- or any other destination I can think of. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Empire World Towers: World's Tallest Condo/Hotel planned for Miami

Keep your fingers crossed that the Atlanta based FAA and its conspiratorial cadre of jealous Atlanta boosters doesn't kill this baby.

See what Biscayne Boulevard might look like if a Calatrava design is erected nearby.

UpDate (4/10/08): The 1,557 unit project continues forward with the City of Miami's approval of more parking spaces. Although none were required by the building code to encourage use of mass transit, the developers had included 1,321 parking spaces. Commissioner Sarnoff thought that was unrealistic and pushed to up the parking to more than 1,700 spaces. The developers agreed and the 93-story twin towers were approved.

My Miami Vice: London style curry in Little Haiti

Churchill's via Miami New Times

It's at 55th street and N.E. 2nd Avenue in Little Haiti, once known as Lemon City, only a block from where my mother got polio, four blocks from the apartment I spent my first year of life. Churchill's Pub is run by Dave Daniels, a Brit expatriate and everything about it is British-- including its interior which looks like something left over from the London bombings of World War II. I don't know what it was before Daniels bought the place but from the peeling murals of the Everglades over the bar, I kinda think it's always been a bar. Perhaps my mom and dad long passed shared a few drinks there. Daniels describes the place on the outside wall as "sort of an English pub." It's got the Union Jack and a silhouette of Churchill painted on the walls just to confuse you. And let's not forget the two derelict double-decker busses sitting in the unpaved, rock strewn parking lot. The menu includes the expected pub fare of shepherd's pie and bangers and mash, but what brings me and my buds back week after week (besides Alex and Brooklyn the barmaids) is Wednesday Curry Night. Done "London style" by the pub's Brit "partner in crime and manager" Mike, it is the hottest and best curry under the sun. I consider the regulars in my group members of the "Curry Eaters Club." Only the worthy may sit down and join us in the pain and pleasure at the plastic lawn tables on the dark side of the bar. At our "club," it's okay to break out in a sweat and even to stomp your foot and wave the heat away from your open mouth, but it is considered grounds for disbarment if you dash for the bathroom or grab up the plastic "safety cups" of water delivered by Alex, the friendliest, most lovely tatooed and pierced British barmaid you've ever seen.

On any given Wednesday night you can find the face of Miami in this bar: Haitian, Cuban, some variety of South American, WASP, and Jew. And the young and old too. If you're not there to make your eyes water and your nose run from the curry, you're there to drink, hang out with your buds at the bar, watch soccer on the TVs and, later, listen to live rock music around 10 pm. In fact, Churchill's is one of the few places left in Dade County where you can hear live rock and has become legendary for championing new bands. Over the years I've seen a lot of bands pass through the place. Many were young kid slammers and screamers who seemed to be working out their anger managment issues on the pub's minimalist stage. Still, you never knew what kind of band would play that night. I remember when a young Alabama girl carrying an acoustic guitar almost as big as she was, got up and sang songs she had written that were eerily reminiscent of folkie stuff from the fifties. If it hadn't been for the crowd sitting around the bar cheering on some obscure soccer team's goal on TV, I would have sworn I had been transported back to Greenwich Village at the height of the folk music era half-a-century ago (not that I was actually there, I only read about it). Of course, members of the Curry Eaters Club, could care less who's playing as long as the music and the entourage that follow the bands don't interfere with our mission and very little, even a drunken rowdy crashing into our table will cause us to pause from the club's agenda. Click the title of this post to reach Churchill's website to see their calendar of events and more. Oh, yeah, you're more than welcome to join us at the table, but crybabies need not apply. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Alex's Leg photo by Dennie and DK Cody.

Monday, July 10, 2006

MVB's Favorite Homemade Music Video

If had been around when they launched Voyager into space in 1977 (the year I launched my mural in downtown Miami) I would have recommended that they include this video with Chuck Berry's recording of "Johnny B. Goode" (which made the cut) on the disc that was attached to the spacecraft. That disc was designed to educate any alien civilization that might stumble upon it about us and to direct them to our planet. The YouTube video shows a cute, fun-loving species rocking out to a nearly 20-year-old Pixies song called "Hey." The video in less than a year has been viewed by nearly 7 million people. If you would like to see it, please click this post's title and PLAY IT LOUD. That's our opinion. What's yours?

Up Date (October 13, 2006): The video has surpassed 10 million views-- that's an increase of an additional million views per month since this was originally posted on July 10th. Over 17,000 people have voted it their favorite. Amazing.

MVB's Favorite Local TV Show

El Show de Fernando Hidalgo is another reason why living in south Florida is such a blessing. Airing on our cable station at 7pm, we find it the best antidote for having just watched the national news. It never fails to put a smile on our face. The talk show comes with all the prerequisites including a hot band with over-the-top girl singers but it trumps the format with the addition of gorgeous dancing girls in thong bikinis. When the show does comedy sketches, Fernando Hidalgo seems to be channeling the late great Benny Hill-- or maybe Desi Arnaz. If you have never seen the show which airs locally on America TV 41, click the title to this post above. It contains a link to their website plus video clips which capture the flavor of the show. Too bad we don't know Spanish, we'd probably love it even more. Maybe someday the show will offer English subtitles. We can only hope.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Miami: Surfing U.S.A?

Wouldn't it be cool if after working downtown you could grab your surfboard and walk across Biscayne Boulevard to Museum Park to surf? Or, walking from your dowtown condo over to the park to get in a little surfing before going to work?

The City of Miami Planning department recently revealed a model for the proposed Museum Park (see picture). It shows how they envision incorporating the existing unused ship basin which is well-conceived. But wouldn't it be cool if that basin was transformed into a wave pool for surfing? That would be one long ride! It sits directly opposite the city's designated nightclub district. A "surfing nightclub"? Sure! Why not have a 24-hour surfing spot? And, why not contract with a company that makes these things to build and operate a surfing theme park downtown? It would also appeal to passive recreationalists who would get their rush watching the waves and the surfers from shaded berms and seating along both sides of the channel. And, of course, as always, having a permanent surfing pool would help our chances landing the summer Olympic Games. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Miami Performing Arts Center

Is it just me, but does the $15-20 dollars it will cost to park at the Performing Arts Center seem obscene? Add that to the cost of tickets for two and a night at the PAC means taking out a bank loan. Greedy, exclusionary, counterproductive are some other words that come to mind in describing this rip off. Under an enormous perennial debt due to construction, the PAC will always be looking for audiences just to justify its existence-- forget ever becoming self-sustaining. Because of that, you'd think it would want to encourage everybody to come downtown, fight for a parking spot, outrun panhandlers, and dodge raindrops and bullets just to see a show.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Arc de Fun!

Let's put a roller coaster in downtown Miami. Run it through the streets, up buildings and over the water. That would be cool.

Joy Temple: Miami's Public Sports Trophy Room

See for origin of discussion.

Freedom Tower Station

See for origin of discussion.

Miami Monument

See for origin of discussion.

World's Tallest Tower

See for origin of discussion.

Harmonic Bridge

UpDate 2/16/08: The Miami Herald reveals today that Harmonic Bridge was illegally removed and destroyed in 2004. The artist Christopher Janney sued under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 and came to an agreement with the county's Art in Public Places Trust for a $900,000 commission to create a new installation. As of this date, $138,000 has been given to the artist for Harmonic Blues with nothing to show for it. The Herald plays up the "no-bid deal" and questions the Trust's "shoddy record keeping."

Get Gehry!

See for origin of discussion.

Today (July 20th) I received an email (see below) from Gehry Partners thanking me for sending them a heads up about Miami choosing an architect or architects for the new $200+ million dollar art and science museums for Museum Park in downtown along the bay. It's nice to know that this little effort might be instrumental in getting Miami a signature piece of architecture it sorely lacks. As always, the rallying cry will be "Get Gehry!"

Thank you for your message. We will contact the Miami Art Museum to determine the status of their selection. Please send any additional information you have to my attention. Best regards,George Metzger Gehry Partners, LLP Original Message-----To: Subject: Message from

Comments: Miami-Dade County will soon be choosing an architect or architects to design their new art and science museums. The two hundred million dollar project is basically in the hands of the new leader of the Miami Art Museum, Terence Riley. I and a whole lot more people in south Florida would love to see your firm get chosen. In that regard, I have begun a grass roots rallying cry called "Get Gehry!" You can see part of it on my Miamicentric website (under MiamiMegaplex button). Mr. Riley will be making his choice very soon and I hope this heads-up will make your company proactive in soliciting the job.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Miami: The World's First Spaceport?

Sir Richard Branson is looking for a city to launch Virgin Galactic. It would be cool to be the first city in the world to have the first spaceport to send passengers into space on a regularyly scheduled basis. Since he has a home here, maybe we have a chance. Florida, afterall, is where science fiction first launched a man to the moon in Jules Verne's "From The Earth To The Moon" (1865). Verne figured the best and safest spot on the planet was Tampa. That's because Miami was still only a word in Miccosukee that meant "that place," a trading post at the mouth of a river.

Well, Miami could become "that place" for regularly scheduled flights into space out of Miami International Airport if city, county, and state reps made an effort to persuade Sir Richard to launch his new enterprise here. Unlike the rocket launches at Cape Canaveral-- which ironically are directly opposite Verne's Tampa launch site-- Virgin Galactic will take off and land on an airport runway. Although the flights are sub-orbital, it's still space, man.

Who can afford them? Not me and probably not you but who cares. It's the idea that's important. One of the things that would make basing Virgin Galactic in Miami a success would be the synergy developed from the Island Gardens megayacht marina. Think about it. It's those guys who will be able to afford these flights. The space port will attract them to Miami where they can catch a rocket into space and return in time to board their yachts to watch the sun set behind the new towers fronting Biscayne Boulevard. Plus, there are at least two more spin-offs in the synergy: owners of mega-yachts spend an average of $140,000.00 on their ships while in port and most owners are leaders of industry who, seeing how wonderful Miami is, may decide to move their companies here. As far as I'm concerned, it's a win-win situation all the way around and it's worth the effort to woo the Knight. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Update August 17, 2006:
I must have been out of town or something, but I missed the story that Virgin Galactic struck a deal with the state of New Mexico to build a $200 million spaceport on state land. Say what? The undated news release on the Virgin Galactic website also shows the company's way-cool logo designed by Philippe Starck. Again, this looks like another missed opportunity for Miami and the county and the question I again raise is, where was the Beacon Council? According to the website, one reason they chose New Mexico is because it affords an immense amount of land-- 27 square miles of mostly scrub, cactus, and desert. They consider this "ideal" because it has "low population density." Well, we have the Atlantic Ocean and, lest we forget, the Everglades where a single runway has already been built. Back in the seventies, there was a plan to build another airport west of MIA to accomodate increasing air travel. It was shot down by environmentalists after one runway was built. That runway is still kept viable for emergencies and is being used on a regular basis for touch-and-go pilot training. Too bad no one thought of approaching Virgin Galactic with that in mind. Going into space from New Mexico? First show me where it is and then tell me how many mules it will take to get me and my luggage to the launch pad.

Miami Island Gardens: What Could Have Been

Watson Island sits in the middle of Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach and across from the Port of Miami, the largest cruise ship port in the world. Without question it affords the best views of downtown Miami. A few years ago the City of Miami struck a deal with Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar (Flagstone Property Group) to develop a $480 million dollar world-class hotel and 50-slip mega yacht marina. The two hotels on the property will be managed by Westin and Shangri-La, the Hong Kong company's first venture in the U.S. Although larger towers were planned, they were reduced in height to 48- and 37-stories respectively, to pacify minor opposition by a few homeowners living on Venetian Isles who complained that the buildings would block their views of downtown Miami. Can you imagine what Manhattan would look like today if it had been inhabited with people a hundred years ago with this kind of mindset?

Too bad for those of us who believe in the spirit-lifting power of really tall, dramatically designed buildings. But that's the kind of thing you can come to expect in Miami. People get bent out of shape here quite quickly over nearly everything. One man recently coerced the Miami-Dade County School Board, which oversees the 4th largest school system in the U.S., to ban a book about Cuba written for second graders because he didn't like the way it painted a picture of his former homeland. When it was discovered that the Shangri-La hotel chain was based in communist Hong Kong, enough of a stink was raised by Cuban-American voters to actually make some local politicians question the contract between the city and Flagstone. It's a wonder if anything ever gets done here without offending someone.

Like me. I'm offended we aren't going to get something like the awe-inspiring architecture of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai (see picture). It is the tallest hotel in the world. I'm offended that Miami couldn't have demanded more from the developer regarding a grand design for the best piece of public land left in South Florida. You can compare the two designs by clicking here.