Monthly Archives: September 2011

Are greener holidays boring?

Send me some ideas for eco-friendly celebrations.

Oh Santa!

Santa arrives "in style" at my local Thanksgiving Day parade.

Seems nuts, but the holidays are almost here. Currently I’m researching the topic of how to “green” the big three: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. So far my best idea has been to avoid buying anything made in China. Good luck with that.

But in truth, I’m not sure how families should have more fun with less stuff. We’re Americans; we live for stuff. Does the guy with too many Christmas lights on his house elicit frowns, or smiles?

Maybe the best advice to tackle both the problem of excessive consumerism and of wasteful holiday debris is to go local. For example:

Halloween: give out locally-made trinkets or natural toys that you collect, such as shells, instead of or in addition to candy.

Thanksgiving: find a farm where you can purchase a humanely-rasied turkey.

Christmas: decorate a living tree in a pot.

As for giving gifts, send the ultimate green. I accept cash. Almost as good: your ideas on this blog.

Snails and snakes and trees, oh killers!

Have you heard the one about the African snail? Stop me if you know it. What about the Burmese python? Or the Australian paperbark tree?

These foreign immigrants are no joke, and no legal process could get them under control. We call them invasives, because these exotic species have invaded and taken over territory that used to belong to the natives. Hmmm, this story is beginning to sound familiar…

Burmese python

Strange tourist in Everglades National Park (photo from

South Florida is “ground zero” for this Contagion (good movie), because of the temperate climate and because of people at the airport smuggling in exotic birds and snakes in their pants. Really. Speaking of Snakes on a Plane (didn’t see it), the Burmese pythons breeding in the Everglades will eventually make their way into Georgia and beyond, and inevitably, eat a baby. No, we won’t be able to blame it on a dingo, because that species has not invaded –not yet.

While USDA and other forces of government try to keep the invaders at bay, some scientists are saying that the forced migration of new species may not be so bad. After all, it happens naturally all the time, if slowly, and it may bring food sources (fried snake!) or other products (snakeskin belts) useful to humans. But these small benefits cannot compensate for a plague that we have brought on ourselves.

Nature may be naturally resilient, but we won’t be laughing when the snake is on us.

Meet the nation’s only public park critic

Me. Certainly there are other people out there complaining about and lobbying for parks, but in my searches I have yet to find another regularly publishing critic.

The idea is the same as a restaurant critic. I visit a park anonymously, photograph it, and publish my review. So far I’ve critiqued more than 50 local parks in the Miami area, and the current review is a hum dinger titled “A Playground No More.” Cue the Madonna song: “This used to be my playground.”

Do you know of any dysfunctional or dangerous parks in your area? Then you should review it. I have seen some parks transformed after the city’s parks and recreation department was publicly shamed in the newspaper. Bad reviews can inspire action, and good reviews can help agencies maintain funding.

Thank you to Jim Mullin, the editor of the Biscayne Times, for proposing the idea of Park Patrol a few years ago. It would be great to see this concept spread to other newspapers and websites. Unlike the quickie reviews available on many websites, a true critic needs time to analyze and assess, whether it be a play, a restaurant, or a park.

When it comes to critiquing local public spaces, I’ve got the corner on that market.

NMB's Taylor Park

Attention NMB: this "playground" is invisible.

Much Ado about Chickens

“Four fowl stand before me, but only three can continue towards becoming America’s Next Top Chicken. The chicken’s name I do not call must immediately pack her nest and fly the coop.”

I think that’s how the raccoon tricked the chickens into leaving the tree. Those chicks grow up so fast, that is, if you can keep them away from those murderous varmits. I’m loving my chickens, although last year was very traumatic for them and for me. Read all about it “Our Foul Friends.”

Birds have not been my thing, but I have been converted. Chickens are more intelligent, attractive, and fascinating than their popular portrayal. You should get one. As my article says, the world would be a better place if every household had a chicken.