Letters from the Issue of January 16, 2003
The Wonders of Everglades National Park
Tourists as gator bait by day, billions and billions of stars by night: As Mike Clary noted in "Happy on the Outside" (January 9), Everglades National Park truly is an underappreciated treasure. My wife and I have lived here for more than 25 years and we are amazed by the number of South Floridians who have never been down to Royal Palm or have driven past Shark Valley without stopping.
We make three to four trips to Everglades National Park each winter. There is nothing that will clear the urban cobwebs from your mind like a stroll down the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm visitors center, or watching huge flocks of snowy ibis swoop in to roost at Eco Pond in Flamingo.
Then there is always the element of drama at Royal Palm, where you can watch European tourists try to get up close to an alligator to have their picture taken -- while you take bets on which one will get too close and, maybe, be eaten.
Speaking of eating, the food at the main restaurant in Flamingo is excellent. An added plus is that if you stay for dinner before heading back to Miami (only an hour away), you get to see the heavens in all their glory, without city lights to dim the stars. The ride back, with the top down or the sun roof open, is awesome.
I'm sure you two will hit it off, especially when the subject turns to Cuba: Kathy Glasgow is right when she portrays Radio Martí as a waste of taxpayer dollars and a huge bureaucratic failure ("Bolita in Havana," December 19). It could be argued that maintaining Cuba's bolita gambling operations [by broadcasting Florida Lottery numbers] is the station's greatest accomplishment. Before concluding her story, though, Ms. Glasgow takes a decidedly left turn. Referring to "Carlos," her Havana source for information about Cuban bolita, she writes of his dream to live in America: "...He'll probably need the money [he'd make from bolita in Hialeah] more here than even in Cuba, where no matter how bad the economy gets he still enjoys subsidized rent and basic medical and dental care...." Leon Trotsky could not have provided a better defense of Cuba's failed socialist revolution.
Ms. Glasgow apparently believes that Cuba's current system provides more safeguards against economic downturns for its citizens than does the U.S. free-market economy. The truth is that the majority of Cuban housing is in deplorable condition. Then we must ask: Who subsidizes this substandard housing? The obvious answer for any good Trotskyite is: the benevolent Cuban government. The real answer is the Cuban people themselves, who spend most of their lives working for the government and getting paid less than $20 per month. Suddenly that subsidized housing may not look like such a hot deal.
In addition, the myth of the greatness of Cuba's state-run medical and educational systems is just that -- a myth. Cuba probably has the most doctors per capita in the world, but the system is so bankrupt and inefficient that a large number of physicians are driving taxis or busing restaurant tables. Though Cuba enjoys free trade with most of the world (with the exception of a porous U.S. embargo), the most basic medicine is scarce.
Antiwar advocates get a little tough love: Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column "On the Left, Off the Wall" (December 12) has sent South Florida's antiwar movement scrambling for public-relations salvation. Most Americans at this point are probably fence-sitters in regard to war with Iraq.
The arms industry's efforts to have young men and women die for their bottom line is a cancer among nations. Their motto: body bags for profits. Mr. Sokol's message to Miami's antiwar movement: Get real if you want to convince the American public that a body bag for their son or daughter isn't warranted.
Antiwar advocates get a big laugh: While we know that tens of millions of innocent people were murdered by Leftists, it's still amazing that some so-called scholars can't get enough of that old-time communism. In "On the Left, Off the Wall," Brett Sokol did a great job covering some of the kooks in the Socialist Workers' Party. Their views about Israel being the real threat to world peace rather than Muslim jihadists were laughable. I'm surprised the commie pinkos Sokol interviewed and listened to didn't blame Israel for cancer -- or their own constipation. At best these self-hating failures in life are pathetic pond scum.
We're witnessing an unprecedented burst of creativity, so get with it: Okay, let's see if I've got this right: New Times hires a guy to write a column about popular culture in Miami and winds up with someone, Brett Sokol, who apparently has a thing against rock en español. To quote his November 28 "Kulchur" column ("Resurgent Rock"): "Why settle for a watered-down version if you can hear the real deal?" His attitude is so ridiculous I almost don't know where to start.
Let's try this: All rock music is almost inherently a watered-down derivative of its roots. The Rolling Stones started as a blues cover band; Elvis sang the blues watered down for white teenagers; the Police (cited by Sokol) just mixed some New Wave guitars and reggae; and if you follow the roots of the music through to jazz, you can even find a huge influence on all of modern music from español roots via Afro-Cuban rhythms and percussion.
That's not to say "watered down" music can't be excellent. The Stones, before they zombiefied on their most recent Night of the Living Stones tour, were a kick-ass band. Elvis was cool before he found a prescription pad. And I'll happily listen to Dizzy or Miles play Latin-influenced music. So to dismiss a music genre because it's derivative is ridiculous.
While there are indeed crappy rock en español bands, this is a huge moment of creative blossoming in the genre -- and a watershed moment for Miami. Think Seattle grunge gone tropical, flannel replaced by linen, heroin replaced by mojitos and cerveza. Not only are the record companies here, increasingly the bands are either from here or are playing here on a regular basis. International bands like La Mosca and Juanes have played here recently. Local acts like Jorge Moreno or Bacilos are getting deals and putting out great records. And there is a wealth of untapped local talent you can see and hear for the price of a beer.
As an example, in the first week of December you could spend an intimate Monday night with Shakira and 20,000 of her best friends at American Airlines Arena, rock out with Jaguares at Billboardlive on Wednesday, get down on Thursday night in Little Havana with the Spam All-Stars at Hoy Como Ayer, head back to Billboardlive on Friday to catch Juanes, and increase your cool factor by catching the as-yet unsigned (but surely soon-to-be-famous) Roberto Poveda at Café Bohemio on Saturday. I'll put that week up against any music scene anywhere, anytime.
And speaking Spanish isn't a necessity. As a gringo who only knows one phrase (mas cerveza, por favor), the music and emotions speak for themselves. While London in the mid-Sixties, San Francisco in the late Sixties, or Seattle in the early Nineties may be better known, they're already history. Miami in early 2000s is happening now, and it's not too late to jump in the deep end.
It's criminal the way they use language like a weapon: Matthew Altman's article on David Caruso and CSI: Miami was excellent ("Is David Caruso Too Good To Be True?" December 19). It's one of my favorite shows and it definitely has put Miami back on the TV screen, where it was largely absent for a while. One thing has rattled me, though -- one of those annoying aspects of this place. That is, we are expected to speak Spanish in our own country while some won't get off their asses and learn English.
It was the exchange in which Horatio Caine (the character played by Caruso) is speaking to another officer in Spanish, and a federal agent asks, "What did she say?" Caine shoots back to the fed: Learn the language. The agent should have retorted, "Well, if you know English, then speak it. And if the person you're speaking to doesn't, tell him to learn it."
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a realist. It is always a good thing to know another language, especially if you work in an area permeated by that language, like Spanish in Miami. But it's one thing to be exposed to another language or culture out of interest or admiration and a totally different thing for that culture to be forced upon you in your own country.
Are some newcomers here too stupid to learn it as most others did, or as mine and millions of others' ancestors did? And before some ignorant Miamian, of which there are many, begins screaming that I am biased, consider these four things: 1. I do speak Spanish. 2. My wife is Hispanic, although I am not. 3. Imagine a Colombian, Mexican, Argentine, or Venezuelan police officer barking at one of his compatriots: Learn English! 4. I and others like me who do have fluency in Spanish choose not to speak it in this town out of choice.
So I let that Farm Stores, service station, or store clerk learn a little English. ¿Entiende?
Paul E. Czekanski
Even a crime-scene investigator wouldn't have had a clue: Who. What. When. Where. Great article by Matthew Alman about CSI: Miami ("Is David Caruso Too Good to Be True?" December 19), but unless I'm very much mistaken, all the W's were covered except "When."
I scanned the considerable length of the piece first to discover when the show airs, only to find out by asking someone. (Monday nights, CBS, 10:00 p.m.)
The good news: The piece generated my interest, which takes quite a bit. (I loved NYPD Blue and Miami Vice.) Thank you.
Bay Harbor Islands
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