Best Of :: People & Places
Giant scaly creatures from darkest Africa invade Miami! Fierce serpents plunder the Everglades, breeding and eating, eating and breeding, and then ... they slither into the city itself! Creepy crawlers lurk at every turn! Wildlife gone into their gaping maws! Pets perish to the ravenous reptiles! Children -- beware! What this place needs is a new superhero. And here he is, Python Pete, a beagle assigned to snake-sniffing duty at Everglades National Park. Over the years, irresponsible wannabe herpetologists (an idiotic group known as "herpies") have purchased small, young pythons, a particularly docile species. A two- to three-foot-long python survives on a mouse meal every week or two. And they grow. Soon they need to dine on rats, then rabbits ... and by the time they're five or six feet and have outgrown their original cages, the snakes become too much for their keepers, who simply release them in the Everglades. There the snakes have flourished, particularly in the southwestern sector, near Everglades City. Except for swamp dwellers and reptile collectors, nobody seemed to care much until recently, when large pythons were found in urban situations, munching on someone's cat and doing battle with an alligator. Taking a cue from customs workers in Guam, where Jack Russell terriers nose through cargo to find brown tree snakes, the National Park Service folks enlisted the aid of Petey, a ten-month-old beagle who is being trained by owner and wildlife technician Lori Oberhofer to be a "first responder." Oberhofer worked on the Guam project and believes young Pete can learn to locate pythons "and then bark." In the decade preceding 2003, 53 of the big snakes were captured by NPS officials. In 2004 they caught 61. If little Petey becomes successful, alligators and kitty cats will rest easy. Of course there is one fear: Nosey beagle consumed by giant serpent!
James "Jimbo" Luznar opened his joint on Virginia Key, Jimbo's, a half-century ago. And there's no better place on the water to take a toot.
What is your greatest triumph?
We used to be where the Herald building is, but then they said our boats would have to go. So we looked at Snapper Creek, Mart Park, then we ended up on Virginia Key. It stunk sometimes, and there were mosquitoes, snakes, coons, opossums, and iguanas. It cost us a lot of money to be there, but we stayed. They've been trying to get me out of there for a long time, but now everyone all over the world knows Jimbo.
Born in Homestead, Kevin Wynn is the producer and cohost of Downtown Dade, a TV talk show that covers the arts and culture and airs on the county's government access channel. He is also the coprogrammer, with Barron Sherer, of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization devoted to screening unusual, significant, and neglected film and video works. And he's the creator of Public Domain Playhouse, a continuing series of screenings he curates with Sherer.
What is your greatest triumph?
My greatest triumph? I dont do triumph. Ive never had one. I cant tell you how it feels to triumph, or what it looks, tastes or smells like. I wouldnt know triumph if some guy ran over me with a TR4.
There are several safe, clean places where we can let Fido run off-leash in Miami-Dade. Coconut Grove has several dog-friendly parks; the Beach has some nice locations; there's a spot on Virginia Key where dogs can swim and sunbathe; but of all the canine treats in my Miami, the mac daddy of all dog parks is in Aventura. Two years ago the city, which is burgeoning with young dog-owning families, built the expansive new Veterans Park. The $600,000 two-acre expanse has a wonderful, well-kept, welcoming space. There are pooper-scooper dispensers throughout the space. There are doggy water fountains and doggy showers. And the most endearing detail: red fire hydrants. All of this greatness, of course, comes at a price: You have to live in Aventura, and show proof of residence, to gain access. It's almost reason enough to move there.
It is a dark time for Miami-Dade County's executive mayor. The evil lords on the county commission annihilated Carlos Alvarez's bold offensive to strip them of some bribe-making abilities. Then the Galactic Empire displayed the true power of the Dark Side when it crushed Alvarez in the Boundary Wars. Beaten but resolute, the good mayor fled to the outer rim of the county's suburban wasteland to regroup and complete his training. Upon his return, Alvarez successfully destroyed the Imperials' diabolical device: The Public Silencer. In time, this Obi-wan of the Swamp may finally bring balance to the county.
Come one, come all, to the "Read to Farley" sessions at the children's section of the North Miami Beach Library, the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 4:00 p.m. This is no ordinary dog. This shaggy mop o' unconditional love once suffered from crippling agoraphobia, owing to early abuse. But his patient handler, Margo Berman, a professor at Florida International University, worked tirelessly, training him to overcome his fears and earn his Therapy Dog badge. Now Farley helps shy children who have trouble reading aloud. Once the youngsters sit down with Farley on the colorful rugs, they don't want to stop reading him stories because he is a great listener, mispronunciations be damned!