Last week's freeze was not nice to Miami's homeless contingent. The shelters were overflowing, and the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offenders crowded around barrel fires and behind makeshift walls.
But Harold, a burly 37-year-old Georgia-born transient who wears a Moses beard and huge circular eyeglasses, tends to find the silver lining in every defecatory cloud. He refers to one-night jail stints as "B&B stays," claims to catch fish with his bare hands, and long ago mastered the art of snatching leftovers from restaurant patios. He would never deign to enter the lowly walls of a shelter for his dinner.
(Harold asked that we not use his last name or snap his photo because he "might have one or two warrants [he] forgot to take care of.")
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Next to his tarp along the nether region of the Julia Tuttle -- he's not a sex offender -- hangs a Publix bag full of tiny lizard bones, picked clean of meat. It's evidence of his latest conquest. During the cold spell, Harold feasted on iguanas that fell, paralyzed by cold, to the ground. "You wait until 1 or 2 a.m., when it's cold enough to shrink your balls," he explains, cloaked in a bubble jacket and several sweaters. "Then you walk along the water under the trees and listen. It sounds like somebody's throwing a sack of rice on the sand. Then you run and get them before they snap out of it."
The six lizards Harold scavenged last week met inglorious ends -- stomped to death under his boot or hacked with an ancient mini-machete. Once they were dead, he then gutted the iguanas, dressed them like you would a chicken, and tossed them into boiling water atop his propane stove. Forty minutes and a whole lot of complete seasoning later and -- voila! -- protein-rich supper for Harold and his cat, Sam. Somewhere in the Design District, chef Michael Schwartz is weeping.
By the time Riptide caught up with Harold, the weather had warmed somewhat, to the point that iguanas were no longer dropping from the trees. To confirm his story, we asked his neighbor a few shrubs down -- a homeless man named Richard Smallets -- what Harold had been up to during the freeze. "Hunting, man!" Smallets bellowed. "We call him the Lizard King!"