Brawls to the Wall!

New Times salutes Miami's finest fisticuffs of the past year

The scrappy entrepreneur, who made a mint selling manufactured homes all over the country, ate breakfast, kissed his wife, and prepared his boat for a day out on the water with his nineteen-year-old granddaughter, Sarah. According to TV news accounts, Bertakis piloted the sixteen-foot boat himself.

A mile off the coast, a spotted eagle ray flopped aboard and into Bertakis's lap. When he laid his hands on his surprise guest, the marine assassin whipped its tail and plunged a serrated foot-long barb into his chest.

Bam!

The venomous dagger punctured Bertakis's left lung and slid into his lower left ventricle. Ever the stalwart seaman, Bertakis hurled his aggressor to the floor of the boat, seized the helm, and piloted himself back to shore, with the now bloodied barb jutting from his chest. According to the St. Petersburg Times, rescue workers airlifted him to Broward General Medical Center, where doctors "pulled the barb through [his heart] like an earring."

The old man lived; the ray suffocated.

"I feel great," Bertakis told New Times before declining to comment on his triumph over an international federation of stingray assassins.

His patented survival tactics should be displayed on docks the same way the Heimlich maneuver appears in restaurants: If a menacing sea creature jams a poisonous thing in your heart, leave it there. Get medical attention immediately. And give the fucker a couple of kicks, too. One for Irwin and one for our maritime savior, James Bertakis, who is doing just fine.


G.I. Joe, American Hero

At some awful point in recent history, thugs far and wide devised to sap us of our livelihoods. Donning tiny vests, they stand in wait behind makeshift kiosks, prepared to swindle the hapless citizen of his three dollars and the right to park his own car. Today valet parking is the greatest threat to the American way of life, outside of Middle Asia. One man decided to take a stand.

Like most American heroes, Jos' Ricardo Arriola loves charity almost as much as he loves profanity and action. At age 60, he has earned a name for himself slapping recording devices out of the hands of obnoxious radio personalities and putting those damn NBA referees in their place.

One cool Saturday evening this past March, Arriola wheeled his green 2004 Jaguar up to the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Brickell Key and relinquished his keys to a band of vested hooligans. He whisked himself into the tastefully pink ballroom, joining his wife Lourdes, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, and other well-intentioned muckety-mucks at the gala dinner benefiting Women of Tomorrow, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to at-risk girls.

He stepped out into the night air around 11:00 and handed the valet his ticket. Though Arriola later said he had been drinking nothing but good old American Coca-Cola, his detractors would insist he stank of booze.

A half-hour went by, and his Jaguar was nowhere in sight. Arriola accosted 25-year-old Samer Kalaimi, the ringleader of the Mandarin's valet goon squadron.

"There were a lot of complaints about that particular valet," Jennifer Valoppi, NBC 6 news anchor and founder of Women of Tomorrow, told New Times. One man had slipped in the rain after Kalaimi refused to pull his car under the hotel overhang, she said. Valoppi's husband had asked his name after he "had been exceptionally rude."

Joe didn't like him much either. "He was horrible to people," he recently told New Times. "He pushed a couple around."

"I wouldn't put up with him," he added.

Arriola addressed the crowd, imploring them for empathy. Where was his car? What were these people for?

Kalaimi told him to cool off.

And that's when Joe Arriola got real ... really real.

Stepping into Kalaimi's face, according to the police report, Arriola bellowed, "If you knew who I am, you would shut the fuck up."

Oh, snap.

Security agents were called to the scene. But Kalaimi still hadn't gotten his medicine. At some point, everyone agrees, Arriola's black jacket came off, revealing his mighty 240-pound frame. According to the police report, Arriola shot a hand through the security guards and sent the valet tumbling backward over a table.

Kabaam! Ker-crack! Hadookin!

Arriola snatched his keys from a second valet, who had peeled onto the scene in the Jag. Arriola barked, "Do you know who I am?"

Joe was gone before police could arrive. Kalaimi's case never materialized. "He tried to file and he couldn't get any witnesses," Arriola said. "When I confronted him, he was like waaah, waaah, waaah."

And now valets all over town whisper his name in terror. Everyone knows who he is.


Erick and the Unicorn

Erick Fuentes was born in Cuba in 1972. Under Castro's regime, Fuentes found it difficult to be a jerk. He had no access to guns. Police and government informants kept watch from every corner. He could be arrested and hurled into jail just for thinking about the right to own property -- to say nothing of forcefully taking it from other people.

As a boy, Fuentes fantasized about coming to the United States, where he could bask in his God-given right to be the biggest jerk imaginable, just like Thomas Jefferson would have wanted.

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