A Fish-Stomping Spree

"Somebody stomping on a fish — it doesn't make sense how she would perceive that as abusive"

A Fish-Stomping Spree

Filed under: Flotsam

Accounts of a porpoise hacked by a machete or an alligator gouged by a boat would likely elicit swift responses from state wildlife protectors. But a recent report of an out-of-control fish-stomping episode in Sunny Isles Beach failed to spur much action.

Tracy Hendershott, a 48-year-old physical therapist who was in Miami for a medical conference, says she was taking a final dip at Samson Oceanfront Park on July 29 before heading back to her Washington home when she heard wild shrieking and rabid laughter near the shore.

She says she witnessed about a dozen smoking, beer-drinking men with Eastern European accents, as well as women and a few small children, stomping wildly on some bait fish they had captured in a net. One child toted a dead fish head.

"It was like a party," Hendershott recalls. "They were really enjoying it, I can tell you.... It was really hard to watch the fish, and seeing their children was really disturbing." She mustered the courage to approach them. "I told them it was cruel and sad, and they just looked at me." They told her they were making fish food, she says, yet they didn't recover the carcasses to use them as bait.

She notified management at her hotel, who called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A day later, a commission spokesman says, a dispatcher fielded a call and notified officers. It's uncertain if anyone responded. No report was taken.

"Obviously we have to put our calls on priority level, and somebody stomping on a fish — it doesn't make too much sense to me how she would perceive that as abusive, but maybe what is not abusive to me is to her," says Jorge Pino, an FWCC spokesman for Miami who knew of no laws preventing fish abuse. "She's not from around here. She's probably seeing that as atrocious, but in reality, that's not a violation."

After the confrontation, Hendershott retired to her 17th-floor room and canceled dinner plans to plot her rescue mission. She waited and watched from her balcony until the fish-stompers left. Under the veil of darkness, she returned to the sand and tried to scoop the lifeless fish back into the surf. But it was too late. "I wish I could've helped them," she said.

Discouraged by unsympathetic and unemotional responses to the fish-stomping incident, Hendershott wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in Miami Herald's Saturday, August 18 edition. She said the Herald edited her account to downplay the killing spree, changing the number of dead fish from hundreds to dozens, "which made it less of an image of something bad. Dozens — that's no big deal." Janine Zeitlin


Stanley Fish Has Discovered Starbucks

Filed under: Flotsam

Stanley Fish, a law professor at Florida International University, has been an online columnist for the New York Times since April 2006. He writes mostly about law, education, and politics, but occasionally he's "on the lookout for subtle dysfunctions that haven't been examined in a while."

One such examination occurred earlier this month, when Fish filled in as a guest columnist on the paper's op-ed page. The piece he contributed, "Getting Coffee Is Hard to Do," was a meditation on the modern difficulties of designer coffee, from the challenging ambiance ("As you walk in, everything is saying, 'This is very sophisticated and you'd better be up to it'") to the "staggering array" of accessories: "things you put in, on, and around your coffee."

It has been roundly lampooned as one of the worst op-ed pieces ever. Slate's Ron Rosenbaum picked at Fish's musings in a takedown headlined "The Worst Op-Ed Ever Written?: A Professor Makes You Feel Sorry for Starbucks." (Clearly no mean feat.) "At the very least, Fish's column showcases what happens when certain academics descend from the ivory tower to offer us their special insights on popular culture," Rosenbaum wrote.

In an interview with New Times, Fish expressed surprise at Rosenbaum's vitriol. "It was the length and intensity of his criticism that puzzled," he said, noting that many readers missed the point of his column, which was that retailers are increasingly shifting the burden of labor onto consumers.

"A lot of people read this as an attempt at humor in the Andy Rooney mode — another cranky old man who hasn't come to terms with the modern world," lamented Fish, who will return to his Delray Beach home in the fall and resume teaching his course, Philosophy of Law, at FIU next spring.

"One commenter pointed out that Jackie Mason had done a similar piece, and it was funnier than mine," Fish said. "My next column for the Times will not be in that vein." Frank Houston


Stogies Find a SoFla Sponsor

Filed under: Culture

The Samford Stogies, a social running club comprising about 40 men and women, was formed in 2005 at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, after a joke went serious.

Keith Ward, Patrick Crandall, Colin Camacho, Josh Gates, and Drew Roberts were sitting around discussing the upcoming marathon they planned to run as a relay. They needed a team name. Samford would be part of it. And they were also sort of old, out-of-shape, cigar-smoking types. Samford Stogies it was. And while they were at it, why not run while smoking cigars?

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