Inside the Little River Mobile Home Park, William Vallenilla is pointing to an insipid trailer in the afternoon sun.
“Ooooh, maybe we’ll have an orange door,” he says enthusiastically. “And a brown stripe in the middle. Super crisp. Super, super crisp.”
Vallenilla, a hyper, pony-tailed artist, makes a living out of turning other people’s trash into art. Not long ago, he bumped into a sweet old lady named Christine on the street and ended up walking her home. When he got there, he was taken aback.
Her eight dogs and three cats were crammed inside the small trailer, living in squalor. It smelled like a porta-potty and the walls were bare. “I wouldn’t want my grandma living that way,” he says. So he decided to make her home into his latest project -- to turn something ugly into art. And she agreed to let him use the place as his canvas on wheels.
The plan is to paint a big mural on the side, put up weird antique decorations, and get the animals outside. “I’m gonna to make a statement,” he says. “It’s going to be a trailer park fantasy!”
About a week later, Riptide met the two at her trailer NE 79th Street and NW 2nd Avenue. The park is the kind of place where elderly, working class Floridian ladies sit in the shade and watch the grass grow. It’s also, awesomely, the kind of place where bad-ass Haitian men paint their trailers with candy-colored stripes.
The park is an example of the type of modest living that’s becoming extinct in Miami, where it seems like everybody (rich or poor) is trying to have the biggest, flashiest car or house -- or material whatever.
Inside Christine’s home, though, it pretty was rough. A teensy Chihuahua stood on the kitchen table, shaking, in a lake of its own pee. The other dogs ran around like they owned the place and barked like a squeaky bike brake. Newspaper was laid out for them, but they somehow managed to relieve themselves everywhere but. As the trailer sat baking in the sun, it didn’t do much for the port-o-potty smell.
“My family thinks I’m crazy,” Christine says. “They live in Key Biscayne and they won’t leave -- they’re scared of this neighborhood.”
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A few days ago, Riptide stopped back in to check up on the progress. No mural yet, but there was a huge improvement in the general vibe. A shaded outside area was clean and painted a so-tacky-it’s-cool pea green color. Round red Chinese lanterns rocked in the breeze and a row of fat, happy gnomes lined the entrance. The dogs were outside.
Christine, who has chubby cheeks and wide little-girl eyes, met Vallenilla with a grin. They talked about the next step: painting the trailer itself, which they’ll begin in a couple weeks. “Not everybody wants to be a millionaire,” Vallenilla says. “This is a very Florida way of living.”
When it’s done, we’ll be there with a camera.