When Victor Leong began building his sandcastle along the seawall at Lummus Park more than 11 years ago, his creation was seen as a funky, one-of-a-kind attraction. Leong would perform with buckets of sand, building elaborate spires and fragile bridges and Gothic moats. His effort quickly drew crowds, especially at night when he would set his towers ablaze and adorn them with flags that would add an element of mystery and romance to the sandy fortress.
City leaders and tourism officials smiled upon the project. Soon Leong boasted of being sponsored by a few of the hotels on Ocean Drive. He even helped organize city sand sculpture competitions. Leong became a bona-fide local celebrity and acquired an agent named Johnny Star Man who further bolstered Leong's image as an eccentric South Beach personality. Leong started putting out a tip jar which quickly filled with dollar bills. And thus Sandcastle, Inc. was born. The artist began hiring helpers who would guard his sandcastle from drunks hellbent on destroying it as well as fix little cracks caused by the elements. Meanwhile tourists marveled and kept dropping money. Was this storybook fortress here to stay?
As everyone knows, there is no permanency to a sandcastle. If the wind and rain don't erode it, some jerk will trample it to death soon enough. And so it was that last week Miami Beach officials bulldozed the sandcastle from its spot on 9th Street and Ocean Drive. Gone are the turrets, the spectacle, the fairytale make-out spot. Now all that remains are tractor marks and a dreamy, sandy memory. One early December night Miami Beach police confiscated Leong's tip jar and dispersed the crowd gathered at the seawall. While police have not responded to calls, witnesses say there may have been a drug bust. Leong claims it might have been shut down because of an anti-panhandling ordinance. Some pesky developer and lawyer types are probably buying building rights to construct a new sandcastle as we speak. Nothing surprises us anymore. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Here you go again: The holidays have just ended and you're feeling like a fat cow in more ways than one. You're bloated from all the food and drink you indulged in and you're loaded down with all those gifts you don't want or can't use. Instead of sitting on your ass with a leg of mutton in each hand and stuffing your face like King Henry the 8th, maybe you should take a stroll around the mall? Yes, this time you have many reasons to mix with the masses. You could get some exercise and put yourself on the path to shaping up. You could also give back or just exchange some of those unwanted gifts. If you join the Dadeland Walking Club, you won't have to do any of it alone. Led by an exercise specialist, walkers lace up their sneakers and saunter by the shops from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Dadeland Mall (7535 N. Kendall Dr.). Meet at the Saks Fifth Avenue entrance and don't forget your wallet. Admission is free. Call 786-596-3895. -- By Nina Korman
A Big Bottoms Up
Mural gives an eyeful
Magically she rises 13 feet from the grass and slinks up the white wall. Blonde hair carefully arranged in a bun, she is tanned, perhaps from too many hours naked under the Miami sun. She is seen only from the back, her prodigious buttocks on prominent display to those walking or rolling along Biscayne Boulevard and NE 37th Street. Making her eye-popping debut the first week of December, just in time for the multiday international art fair Art Basel, she shined like a movie star beneath a spotlight. Was she a tribute to our former neighbor J-Lo, a depiction of the typical Miami chica, or the building owner's way of shooting a very full moon at the people of this city? Only local artist Daniel Fila knows for sure. He spray painted the bootylicious babe he named Erin, in honor of a college crush, he has said, over a couple of days. How long she'll be around is anyone's guess. -- By Nina Korman
Got Milk? can be a sensitive question for a new mother. The two words can conjure feelings of inadequacy and competition among hormonally freaked-out breast-feeding moms. How much milk you have is as touchy to women as penis size is to men, one new mother recently explained. And that is just the beginning. Issues related to class, body consciousness, and feminist theory all surround mothers' milk. In some cultures women who breast-feed are seen as low class. In others lactating moms must hide when feeding their offspring. But perhaps the first thing any mom will talk about is the pain. It hurts, especially for first-time moms. Sometimes nipples bleed. It's all great ammunition for the guilt trips they'll be giving their kids later on. These issues and more will be explored at the Breast-Feeding Discussion Group, an ongoing group for new moms. The group meets at 10:00 a.m. at Baptist Medical Plaza, 13001 Kendall Dr. Admission is free. Call 786-596-2671. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez