By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Filed under: Flotsam
Tired of dodging or stepping in those ubiquitous black lumps of desiccated chewing gum that pepper every urban landscape?
A new invention out of Germany uses a high-pressure apparatus to vaporize the once-indelible clumps through steam and eco-friendly detergent. And there's only one of these heaven-sent devices in all of South Florida.
Ray Lainez and his reluctant wife purchased the $7000 gizmo and set to work degumming the metropolis as the Sticky-Icky Removers. They have been putting on live demonstrations like a pair of latter-day vacuum-cleaner salesmen but have had a difficult time coaxing Miami onto their revolutionary bandwagon.
"I did it for Metrozoo," said Lainez. "They were very impressed but, of course, they reduced the budget for 2007 and they're not thinking about gum."
So far the Sticky-Icky Removers have purified the concrete at a couple of gas stations and outside the Surf Style surf shop on Ocean Drive, as well as the poolside area at the Delano Hotel.
"It was great. The guy has this vaporizer thing just takes the gum right off," said Delano manager Gary Thomas. "We have a deck that we power-wash, [but] when you power-wash, you mess up the wood. With his process, you remove the stain entirely. Pretty good and pretty quick it's about ten seconds a spot." Thomas said he asked the Sticky Icky Removers for a proposal that includes a maintenance plan, and "it looks good."
"Sometimes my wife thinks I'm crazy. She tells me: 'We just need [to offer] janitorial service.' But the gum is everywhere! Our main focus is the gum," said Lainez.
But he was horrified recently to discover that the county doesn't consider gum litter. He asked an employee at Solid Waste why, and was told, "Because the sun will melt the gum."
"I'm sorry," Lainez retorted indignantly. "The sun will never disintegrate the gum. It's just gonna melt it so it gets trampled and black." He has left messages for Kathleen Woods Richardson (Miami-Dade's director of solid waste management), county Commissioner Katy Sorensen, and assistant county Manager Roger Carlton.
"The streets look horrible," Lainez laments. "Everybody I talk to is like, 'You're right, man; gum is disgusting.'"
Lainez wants gum to be treated as litter (solid waste that's not contained). He wants police to be able to cite people for ditching gum, and hopes to push through legislation to place a one-cent tax on all gum sales. Proceeds would be set aside for you guessed it! steam-cleaning the city. Calvin Godfrey
Filed under: Scanner
It seems Rocket Projects, the breakout local art space that shone during Art Basel 2003, crashed and no one noticed. The gallery's storefront at 3440 N. Miami Ave. has been shuttered since early summer, when owner Nick Cindric appears to have gone AWOL.
One reason Cindric might have skipped out is his long line of jilted creditors. This past May, athletic apparel giant Adidas sued Cindric to recoup $50,000. The company contends it sent the money to Rocket Projects for a promotional event that never happened. The same month, Miami artist Christina Lei Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against him, claiming he owed her $17,000 in unpaid commission for several of her paintings sold at Rocket Projects.
Cindric had already spent Adidas's $50,000 when the firm asked for the money back. He sent the shoe company a check that bounced, according to the lawsuit. Cindric never responded to the lawsuit, and Adidas won a default judgment of $212,000 (including punitive damages) against him in June. Adidas attorney Garry Alhalel says he has been unable to track down the gallery owner.
Rodriquez alleges she discovered in late 2005 that Cindric had sold several of her pieces and did not inform her. When she confronted him, Cindric cut her four checks totaling $19,000. All were worthless. The artist is seeking $57,000 in damages, including the $17,000 owed to her plus attorney fees.
Rodriguez left Rocket Projects in August 2005. By then, she says, the gallery's decline had already begun. "It was really discouraging," says Rodriguez, who had a longtime friendship with Cindric. "Rocket was an amazing place, and a lot of good things happened there."
The art space was never the same after Cindric cut ties with his former business partner and gallery curator Nina Arias in 2004. Even then, rumors swirled that the gallery was behind on rent and in danger of having its utilities cut off. Artists complained they had not been paid for artwork sold through Rocket Projects.
Reached via cell phone this week, Cindric declined to comment. Francisco Alvarado
Filed under: Scanner
Trying to lose a few pounds might have been the worst thing Loni Salmon ever did.
In the market for an appetite suppressant, the 25-year-old Jackson Memorial Hospital nurse this past March stopped in at Kendall diet product outlet Slim Spa. The company's president, Maria de la Paz Ortiz, sold Salmon a combination of supplements, assuring her they were not only effective but also completely natural, according to a lawsuit Salmon recently filed against the company and De la Paz Ortiz.
A week after Salmon began taking the pills from Slim Spa, she was shocked to hear she had failed a drug test as part of her application for another nursing job at Baptist Hospital. She was temporarily suspended from her job at Jackson, required to enter an intervention program, subjected to random drug tests, and placed under heightened supervision, according to the lawsuit.
Although Salmon declined to comment for this story, her attorneys, Albert Gonzalez and Joseph Gosz, said their client is most certainly of the non-drug-using persuasion. There was no explanation for the failed drug test which turned up amphetamines and sedatives except for the Slim Spa supplements, the lawyers said. Gosz acknowledged he had not had the pills chemically tested but said he was confident he could prove the presence of controlled substances.
De la Paz Ortiz declined to comment. A woman identifying herself only as De la Paz Ortiz's accountant disputed Salmon's claim, saying there is extensive evidence to show that the diet supplements are indeed all-natural. Neither side would identify the brand name of the supplements, but Gonzalez said they were likely from Brazil.
Apparently Salmon isn't the only dieting nurse to flunk a drug test. Last year three women who had taken supposedly all-natural Brazilian dietary supplements failed re-employment tests at Baptist Hospital, according to news reports at the time. This past January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers about those two brands Emergence Sims and Herbathin, both of which are imported and distributed by Miami firms saying they contained amphetamines, tranquilizers, and antidepressants.
Baptist Hospital relented recently and hired Salmon, choosing to believe her story, according to Gonzalez. But her new employers are keeping a close eye, just in case the diet pill story is a fabrication. Salmon is under scrutiny and must submit to random drug tests, according to her lawyers. Rob Jordan
RIPT from the Blogs
In Overtown you learn quiet truths about people.... I learned that most of the kids around here rarely if ever get to go to the beach. We are surrounded by beaches and water, but very few of them ever go. We went last week, and when we returned, several kids surrounded my daughter and peppered her with questions to describe what the beach was like.
Taken from: Overtown USA (www.overtown.us/blog.html)