For the first time in more than twenty years, the 24 hours of Christmas ticked by without a single note of Caribbean or reggae music broadcast by public radio station WLRN-FM (91.3). Instead listeners deprived of even the regular NPR news feed were exposed to the sounds of choirs from California and Celtic piper Kieran O'Hare.
In other cracker news, here's the first of what The Bitch promises will be a series of cheap shots made at the expense of the contingent of Coconut Grove gentry determined to quash plans for a Home Depot in the 'hood. Despite the determined efforts of the kick activist squad of thegrovefirst.com (letter-writing campaigns, leaflets, orange-apron clad-lawn jockeys, directives from lawyer/city-commissioner-in-waiting Marc Sarnoff), the best rise in the media these lifestyle preservationists has been able generate (until now) have been a couple of reports in the SunPost and the Miami Herald's "Neighbors" section.
Developer Andy Parrish told SunPost reporter Mitch Pellecchia that if Milam's grocery store closed, Grovers would be forced to shop at Publix in Coral Gables or Winn Dixie in Key Biscayne. God, not that! (You surely wouldn't expect them to take Metrobus 48, the route housekeepers take back and forth between Hialeah Gardens and Key Biscayne.)
Terror Level Alert: Orange/High
During the crush of pre-Christmas travel, The Bitch had the good fortune to encounter one of her favorite head-busting scullers, Miami Police Chief John Timoney, at Miami International Airport. Timoney didn't try to badge his way past the cadre of highly motivated, supremely honest screeners, but after he dutifully slipped off his loafers and put his carry-ons on the conveyor belt with the rest of the hoi polloi, TSA workers pulled his bags and rummaged through them for a good ten minutes. Timoney stood off to the side, watching the slow-motion search, his face gradually assuming an unhealthy vermillion hue.
"They're not going to find anything, are they, chief?" prodded The Bitch.
"I don't fucking.... It's just.... Unbelievable. UN-believable," sputtered the gruff cop.
Timoney eventually flung himself in a chair, arms crossed high on his chest like Jaime Pressly being Punk'd, his face cycling through various shades of scarlet. When he noticed three or four people taking in the scene, he composed himself. By the time he got his bags back he had regained his sense of humor as well. "I'm just glad they didn't strip-search me," Timoney said.
Deleted from the DiLido
Edison Farrow, the promoter who runs the Website sobesocialclub.com, complains to The Bitch that his Surreal Sundays parties at the Ritz-Carlton's DiLido Beach Club were given the boot because the event was attracting a predominantly gay crowd. Farrow says he can't get a straight answer from the South Beach hotel about why its only regularly scheduled party, which began in November and immediately brought out hundreds of flash-with-cash men, was dumped this past December.
Ritz-Carlton workers, though slippery, insist the reality about Surreal Sundays is that it had to stop to allow the DiLido a makeover. A December 2 letter to Farrow from hotel manager Liam Doyle refers to the approval of "an outstanding contract our resort had with an outside vendor for the DiLido Beach Club," adding: "Upon completion of the space we will then look at all parties and events and see if they are still viable."
Michelle Payer, the chain's regional director of communications, says, "First and foremost, Ritz-Carlton welcomes all guests. We certainly look forward to welcoming all the Surreal Sunday guests at this new venue when it is finished." Payer wouldn't exactly say if the DiLido will close completely during the renovation, or whatever this project is: "I believe there will be some reconcepting done with new décor and light remodeling of the space."
The Bitch often visits the Sagamore's art library -- a little jewel box of a room open to the Miami Beach-going public. During such an excursion The Bitch heard the hotel's long-awaited restaurant will open this month as a high-powered tapas place. The bigger bit is the identity of the chef: Todd English. English's Massachusetts restaurant Olives is acclaimed. He also runs a few Figs, has written three cookbooks, was named Best Restaurateur by Bon Appetit, and was recognized as one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." English will work hands-on in the kitchen during the restaurant's salad days.
Not to be outmaneuvered in Miami's newest journalistic subgenre, "sucking up to the Rubell and Margulies families," the winter issue of Lincoln Road Magazine offers profiles of the art collectors plus some pointers for beginners. "The Ins and Outs of Starting Your Own Art Collection" article offers sage advice, such as learning about art by visiting museums, which is where you'll find the painting that accompanies the story. Identified by LRM as "The Maids of Honour," the canvas is known to the rest of the word as Las Meninas (a Portuguese term that refers to the attendants of the Infanta Margarita, shown at her side in the painting, which depicts, on one level, life in the Spanish court of King Philip IV). Created in 1656 by Diego Velázquez, it is considered by many art historians to be the greatest painting in the world.
Beyond the reach of even the most acquisitive Miami arriviste or LRM reader, Las Meninas resides safely at the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The caption that runs with the image in the magazine notes: "There is so much mystery in art collecting."
Big Lizard in My Back Yard, II
The Bitch was both amused and alarmed at the to-do over endangered American crocodiles in a University of Miami lake. The first reptile -- an eight-foot male -- was trapped and relocated this past December, but no sooner was that animal caught than another, larger croc appeared.
Didn't people realize they had a living treasure in the lake? Or weren't they aware that crocodiles have been known to return to favorite spots even after being transported hundreds of miles away? Aren't there rules about pestering endangered animals? Very few people ever see these creatures outside of captivity. Why not put a fence around the lake and (especially since this happened at a university) study the animal?
Crocodile expert Joe Wasilewski answered The Bitch's questions. "Well, they're not an aggressive animal at all," he said via cell phone from the estuarine sanctuary near Turkey Point, where he monitors American crocodile populations. "I've worked with them for fifteen years -- oops, there's one now -- and never had a situation where my safety was in jeopardy." So why disturb them at all? Wildlife officials have used the crocs' precarious natural history to justify refusal to remove them from spots such as Crandon Park, where they consumed thousands of dollars worth of exotic birds. "It's not really the crocodiles that are the problem," Wasilewski says. "It's the students. How long before someone decides to feed one of those animals a sandwich? Or a pizza? Hilarious, right? But once they associate people with food, they do become dangerous."
The emergence of the second crocodile could mean that UM had a breeding pair on its hands -- an opportunity for observation, and also a situation that would make relocation even more inadvisable. "They could have been breeding, although I doubt there are many great nesting sites around there," Wasilewski says. "Or it could have been males wrangling over territory. Either way, these animals or other males are probably going to keep popping up in that location."
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Trapper Todd Hardwick agrees that the 'Canes were the deciding factor in the removal. "With thousands of kids and beer flowing freely, a crocodile is too attractive a hazard," he says. "When I was a kid, I would have been the first one organizing a team to get the thing and put it in Shalala's office. You'd go down in history!"
Hardwick says the species' protected status keeps him from doing anything that could potentially harm the reptile. "With a gator, I could throw a baited hook in the water and reel him in, but not with a crocodile," he says. "We've had to design an all-new, never-before-seen, state-of-the-art crocodile trap, which we'll be using for the first time at the university."
Hardwick expects regular gigs at the U. "I once relocated one from Miami-Dade County to Naples, and within six months it was back in the exact same pond."