By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
"He'll be the favorite," Dutrow says with a laugh. "We're going to make sure of that."
The Bounds of Silence
Isn't the library supposed to be quiet? Not so much.
On a recent weekday, Miami's main library on West Flagler Street is far from silent. In the 600 section, next to books about fixing your toilet and cooking French cuisine, a woman in a baby-blue jersey clutches the classifieds in one hand.
Her cell phone is in the other.
"Are you hiring right now for phone reps?" she asks, in anything but hushed tones.
To her left, two young men nod rhythmically to the music videos they're watching on a library computer. Beats break free from their headphones.
"Hello? My phone is breaking up," says the woman, getting louder.
To her right, a pudgy guy in a beige T-shirt settles before a computer.
"Do you want to see the show?" he asks into his phone. "Okay. Love ya. Bye."
Amid the medley of ringtones and chatter, a man in flip-flops jabbers to himself in the lobby.
This is just the sort of hubbub that Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto chastised in a recent meeting of a county advisory group. Respect — or the lack thereof — was the principal point in his diatribe on behalf of silence.
"There's a lack of respect in the libraries," Souto complainedto five other county commissionerswho meet monthly to mull recreation and culturalmatters. The April sit-downhappened to fall during National Library Week. "I have respect for anybody who goes to the library to read or study or whatever, and there's a guy talking on the phone, 'Hey, Poncho, yeah, you know? The boat came yesterday.' It shouldn't be. Right? Very soon people will be smoking in the library."
He proposed implementing a silence program in libraries, which he compared to churches. "Libraries are, to me, like cathedrals, temples of knowledge."
But unlike most churches, at Miami-Dade County libraries you can sip Diet Coke and eat chips, as long as they're covered. And you can talk. Early this year, the library system began phasing out the "no cell phone signs" from all branches. These are not the stacks of yesteryear.
"In the past, people viewed libraries as this really quiet, sacred environment where they were almost walking on tiptoes," library spokeswoman Vinora Hamilton says when told of Souto's pitch for quiet. "We're trying to change that image. We want the library to be a community destination. That's our focus. We want them to come and feel welcome and not feel like 'I can't speak or raise my voice.'"
But take solace, Commissioner Souto: There are still some hallowed corners where silence is revered. In the first-floor business reference section, five men — four of whom had graying beards — wordlessly flipped through newspapers and books about cars. And the smokers still puffed outside.
How's It Hangin'?
Vehicular testicular totems might draw new fines.
It takes a lot of balls to stand up to the Florida Legislature, but Wilson Kemp has 'em. Hell, he has so many balls he sells a couple hundred thousand extra pairs to people around the world.
Kemp is the man behind Truck Nutz, the oversize artificial scrotum designed for display on the trailer hitch of full-size pickup trucks. On April 17, the state Senate passed an amendment that would levy $60 fines for Florida drivers who let 'em dangle.
"I would think that lawmakers have better things to do," says Kemp, of Port Orange. "I guess next thing, we'll be legislating coverups for farm animals and household pets."
He'd better be careful, because Sen. Carey Baker just might take him up on that. Baker, a Republican from Eustis, proposed the fine as part of a transportation bill, which is now moving to the House for a vote.
Not that shrinkage isn't of slight concern. The modern marketplace is flooded with phony fun sacks, and not all the makers are as tasteful as Kemp. "There are a few competitors, like Bulls Balls [slogan: 'Made to Swing']," says Kemp. "They're bigger and they have veins in them. I don't do that."