Dateline: "A Place in a Dream, I Once Saw: ‘Miami, Florida Skyline From Biscayne Bay,’" late 1920’s. "Paul’s Safari Into Miami’s History"

 

MIAMI, FLORIDA SKYLINE FROM BISCAYNE BAY

“I DON’T know,” he said, genuinely puzzled and scratching his head. He seemed unable to stop looking at the old card he’d found at the very back of a shelf in the old shop, long ago fallen from sight. Once he’d seen it, he’d had to make the requested quarter in payment. He couldn’t help but keep staring at the damned thing, thinking “it just seems so familiar.”

So he’d brought it home in a little brown bag, and pulled it out to show his (vaguely) curious girlfriend. “Kind of… but not really,” he tried to explain.. “You know what I mean?”

She nodded, then simply smiled and turned away He paused to breathe in the beauty of her, walking away, and was then back to the puzzle.

______

Thank you.

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"Biscayne Day!" 36 X 60 " or, ‘A Tale Told in Chapters: Art as Journey (Third Sitting)," Part 5. [Special Easter Eve Edition]

 

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TONIGHT, as Easter approaches, almost as if my life were reasonably organized, and affairs somewhat in order, etc., I wanted to grab the opportunity to send out your way the canvas as of the next phase in its evolution. Timing can be everything, and between the last image you’ve seen and this one there has been a critical “redefinition” of the work, or shift within it, that would affect and guide every step of its future progression.

It’s simple, really; the night painting you last saw has begun its transformation into a work to be called “Biscayne Day!” The deeper blues and purples that seemed to gather in the aged and mysterious branches like approaching darkness have begun giving way to that greater range of color called for by the light and “feel” of a sunny afternoon, spent by the bay.

Why? The reasons are not particularly subtle or complex, but call for just a bit more time than I am now give an explanation. The story will be told, and we will stick close along the journey’s path, no matter the highs, lows, or unexpected and winding curves that might lie ahead. We will get there together.

_______

As much as anything, I wanted to send the painting out to you tonight as an expression of my hope and prayer that we might all be somehow opened up to receiving the gifts attendant to the spirit of Easter. And I mean, no matter what our faith, creed, or any lack thereof, in part or in whole. I speak of a shared human need for (what might feel like) miracle sometimes, and a promise of resurrection that is much, much more than merely poetic.

Because it seems that if we are not being always reborn, then we are not really living, but closer to dying. Many these days are finding themselves suffering almost unbearably, simply in the being. We wonder how to even ask how it might be that we’ve arrived at such a pass. If any answer might be forthcoming, at all, it’s often quite lost in the braying distraction now so prevalent, serving only to ruin perfectly good silence. And, to keep us violently at each other’s throats, as if we were each, to one another, the only enemy in reach, and very, very angry.

Just about everyone I know seems to be finding themselves engaged in pitched battle, of one kind or the other, or multiple variations, with no end in sight. We are left spent, rudderless, discouraged, and easy pickings for rapacious Corporate America, and a feeble representation of government that doesn’t seem to give a damn, or maybe understand quality. Which is NOT America at all, yet purports to be, and has available to use against us MUCH of our money, and never hesitates to use it.

All of this might feel the way of things now, but it will not always be this way. It will be better. I know that is so, but am not really able to explain it, at all. The knowing comes from deep within my soul, and I cannot doubt it.

And so I send out to you this message in a bottle, in a spirit of profound hope, signed, sealed and delivered in the conviction that we are none of us as alone as we now feel, and neither are any of us the real enemy.

Thank you.

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"Welcome to the Royal Palm Hotel, 1906."

 

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“EXACTLY what Miama needed,” remark was frequently overheard approvingly as the “locals” strolled casually about the grounds. “Just a wonderful place… oh my, and built to last!”

Thank you.

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"As if an Open Road Heading Out To Sea Needs a Destination, There Abides Key West, and Hope," 1941.

 

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WITHOUT fail, whenever I set out for Key West, I feel an unreasonable sense of excitement. There’s something about the venture that feels just like freedom, and the drive is so very beautiful, and (just a little) different every time.

But the fact is, I almost always come back feeling a sense of disappointment with my experience of the distant port city at the end of the line. But that’s hardly the fault of Key West. It’s only a place, colorful though it may be, and can be only “what it is.” I guess at times I can get things confused in my mind, and mistake the importance and real fun of a journey for the experience of its destination.

But even in the depth of such moments, sometimes, the clouds fogging my mind will suddenly part, and I’ll remember (now that’s its behind me and added safely to my treasury of memories, there with all the rest), the journey and its simple sweetness; all of the easy and extraordinary sharings, small and large, that I cannot necessarily know will ever again be repeated, but of course choose to imagine, will… and the gossamer gallery of images that have somehow become flash frozen into my memory (never really knowable as they’re happening, it seems),

and I’ll find a smile upon my face, despite myself, that’s caught me unawares.

And too, on occasion, a light touch of melancholy, as when I once again remember that every song that’s begun, no matter how brilliant the blaze of its moment of finest glory, must at last reach its end, and return to its source in the silence.
Part of us realizes this, and we love music all the more for it, and not less.

And in such moments of clarity, before the clouds of distraction and forgetfulness have yet again begun rolling in to join together, tight, how can I not feel gratitude to Key West, for having given me reason to first set out upon the journey?

Thank you.

(Image: Wolfsonian/ FIU Archives)

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"View from Bay Front Park, Miami, Fla.," late 1920’s.

 

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SO MUCH that you see captured in this photograph was new at the time, including the very ground upon which R.E. Simpson stood with his camera, and the location of the graceful Royal Palms brought in from area nurseries to help lend a pleasing impression of age, and lush dignity, to a wide swath of green parkland.

To Simpson and the others of his day, the experience of simply being there must have felt at least a little surreal, because they remembered quite clearly that, only four or five years before, the park had not existed at all, and there had been only the choppy waters of open blue bay.  And then the pumps had begun, with all of their racket, 24/7, sucking up sands from the bay’s bottom. Soon enough there had been mounds of white, wet sand everywhere, left to dry in the sun until ready to be packed down into a new foundation.

The McAllister Hotel, the Hotel Berni, and all of the others that once enjoyed waterfront prestige had been something less than thrilled with the entire fool notion. But when all that sand started blowing in every day with the bay’s vaunted breezes, they were fit to be tied! “If we’d have wanted to open up shop in the Egyptian desert… Why, we would have done so!” (Expletives have been deleted to shorten by half length of post!)

It was all part of life in that ever-unfolding pageant known as the “Magic City,” an experience that has never been for the faint of heart, or even the somewhat reasonable.

Thank you.

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"When a Place Called Miami Was Young, and Indistinguishable from Unbroken Everglades, All Around," Early 1900’s. (Part 1 of 2)

 

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HERE is a rare photograph of two generations of a Seminole family taking their ease together upon the bank of the flowing south fork of a pristine Miami River. (The river might appear dirty, or cluttered with waste of some kind, but what you are seeing is clear water passing over the smaller “rapids.” The photographs more typically seen show the much steeper and more dramatic rapids of the north fork.)

In part for the very reason that these rapids were less pronounced, the south fork was the favored “gateway” used by the Seminole to and from the greater Everglades, when heading into town to trade, and when time came, once again gliding silently back into the mysterious realm from which they’d come.

Isn’t it a wonderful moment?

Thank you.

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"The Peaceable Kingdom," 36" X 60"

 

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HERE is home sweet home, definitely where the heart is, and I felt to simply share it with you today, inviting without expectation your own free experience of its parts and the whole. If it gives you even a moment’s simple pleasure, then I shall count myself the king of the world. That will be “enough.”

To briefly set the stage: I am set up with easel and paints on the roof of the (one story) 1926 Old Spanish home next door that we bought from the family of my long-time neighbor Vivian, whom we loved dearly, after she had need for it no more. Toward the right and back you see the two-story garage/ etc. building painted the same green as the house.

The buildings seen to the left are our “house” house (facing the street), a 1937 treasure built by a Cuban couple forced into early exile not for political reasons, but as a result of of the wife’s chronic illness, sadly requiring treatment then available only at Jackson Hospital.The house was built by Cuban craftsmen come to do the job, and it is quite clearly a labor of love. It’s named “La Paz,” or “Peace.”

My late partner Scott and I discovered and bought the place together, a first for us both, moving in in Feb. of 1992 ( I always think of it as “the February before Andrew”). I know I’ve been here a while, for I myself planted the Bahamian Yellow Coconut Palm now putting on such a show. Out back is the traditional half-garage and servant’s quarters, now, a few renovations later, a wonder of a living space I’ve been known to describe in shorthand as a “fantasia on Florida themes.” surrounded by gardens, and the sounds of falling water.

It’s called “Lost Reef Cottage” after an amazing coral reef formation was excavated after we’d removed the considerable driveway with the ambition of transforming yard into a native “hammock,” or forest.  For 7-8 years Alan and I made both the Cottage and the home next door (“the Mission”) available as vacation rentals, which was a wonderful experience but exhausting, and are ready to find longer-term tenants to next enjoy them.

One final note: though maybe not easy to make out in the image, if you look closely in the 2nd floor window of the house next door you’ll note that our boy, Hoppers, has taken advantage of the cool winter’s day, a half-open window, and an opportunity to be in one of Daddy’s paintings to stretch our regally on the wooden windowsill and gaze curiously my way, which made me happy.

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We do love the boy.

Thank you.

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Dateline: "A Special Message Sent to the Future by Mrs. Girard’s Second Grade Class at Riverside Elementary," Mar. 17, 1953. "Paul’s Safari Into Miami’s History"

 

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MRS. GIRARD, for the life of her, could not begin to understand where on earth her kids might be even getting such fool notions. But then again, she was the sort to fret generally and with considerable gravitas, at the drop of a hat, about “the direction that the young people are taking today,” and had even, incredibly, turned down an actual invitation to see The Day the Earth Stood Still at the Paramount Theater, downtown!

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Nonetheless, she humored them, finally worn down by their persistence on this nonsense! “All right, children,” she allowed, rolling her eyes in an extravagant manner, “you may ‘send a message into the future, if you must.’” “Excellent,” thought young Peter, nimbly winding into place the settings on the “thought projection chronometer” he had brilliantly engineered from an old alarm clock scavenged from his father’s garage workshop (which his friends Pete and Freddy called “Dr. Frankenstein’s la-BOR-a-tory!”), along with certain vital parts from his “Buck Rogers’ Space Gun” that had by then just about given its all for science. “Well, now, for Heaven’s sake, Children” snapped Mrs. Girard, “can’t you see the photographer’s waiting? There are other…” She droned on, but they tuned her out. They were on a mission!
____

And so, as of one mind, staring into the camera, they thought (hard), “Happy Thanksgiving, People of Miami, Florida, Planet Earth, of the Year Two-THOUSAND Fifteen!” (They’d just picked that year ’cause it sounded kind ‘a neat, plus Stephanie, who was Greek (and so would know), said “62” was a lucky number. “VERY lucky,” she intoned.)

And guess what? Mrs. Girard might never know it, but she had been dead, flat-out wrong!  Thanks, kids! Message received!

Thank you.

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Dateline: "’A View of Miami, Fla.,’ and What a View It Was!" 1900. "Paul’s Safari Into Miami’s History"

 

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HERE is a view of a great old oak tree having made itself completely at home in the crystalline waters of the flowing Miami, at a spot well known to the pioneers, and quite likely as well the ancient ones who had long preceded them, leaving behind but little footprint.

When you climbed this tree, which was easy, a splendid view of the beginnings of the Everglades was laid out before you, by all reports nearly unimaginable: clear flowing water, small green hammock islands dotting the vast area like ships set sail in ancient days making steady headway against the waters’ eternal flow, and a sky that somehow seemed bigger than anyone could recall seeing elsewhere, itself alive with the motion and song of birds on the wing, in shapes and hues no longer known to the world, and the whole of it at all times of day suffused with rich color.

Best of all, it is said, the ones who went there were sometimes unable to discern with any specificity whatsoever exactly where the shimmering water might yield to the green hues receding into the distance, suggesting land, or the exact point at which either touched the overarching skies of luminous golden or silver leaf.

Something about the mystery lifted their spirits unaccountably, and those who had experienced its touch quite often returned, with others whose wells of hope had run very near dry, or who had seen the colors of their worlds grow dim as deepest grief become their only steady and miserably reliable companion.

On occasion delicious picnics were prepared for enjoyment in this area along the river, but it was observed of many who returned from the simple outing somehow different, and changed, that they must have supped upon and drank of something deeper, and more sublime. No one could have possibly been more surprised than they to realize that yes, even they might still have a place in the world, their unspeakable losses and broken hearts notwithstanding. 

And a curious thing: once it had dawned on them that they indeed belonged here, that peculiar loneliness they had for so long believed theirs alone simply faded away with a strange and quiet grace, as might a star that has served long and faithful vigil through the dark of night, when comes the sunrise. 

Thank you.

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A Moment with James Deering at Vizcaya, 1922.

 

Deering

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