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Iron Boy

Iron Boy Filed Under: Flotsam In the early Twentieth Century, a slender Shaolin master named Gu Yee Cheung dazzled audiences in Guanzhou, China, by stacking sixteen bricks, without spacers, and shattering them with a flick of his Iron Palm. Today Gus Rubio, who runs an expansive Kung Fu studio on...
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Iron Boy
Filed Under: Flotsam

In the early Twentieth Century, a slender Shaolin master named Gu Yee Cheung dazzled audiences in Guanzhou, China, by stacking sixteen bricks, without spacers, and shattering them with a flick of his Iron Palm.

Today Gus Rubio, who runs an expansive Kung Fu studio on NE 125th Street, says he's never topped four bricks. Rubio's studio, the Kung Fu Connection, continues to teach the Iron Palm technique to a select inner circle of students.

"The training period is intense," Rubio says. "I've seen students ball up in a corner and break out weeping for no reason. Then it's time to say, öNo more Iron Palm for you.'"

Rubio says only one of his students is truly "doing" Iron Palm: Ethan Williams, a shy sixteen-year-old who has been training with Rubio since he was four years old. Two years ago, just as Williams was emerging from puberty, Rubio informed him that he would begin Iron Palm training.

He would need to abstain from sex (you lose a lot of chi — or life force — in the sack, apparently) and begin "cooking" his hand. So Ethan began placing his hand in a pot on the stove, removing it just as the water began to a boil. His fingers swelled like grapes; Ethan thought they might pop. But it got easier, and now he doesn't feel a thing.

Ethan lumbers through the large studio with a frame strikingly similar to Gu Yee Cheung's fading brown photograph — high, broad shoulders; narrow, sinewy arms. He sloshes his speech a bit, the result of his new retainer. "I'm not gonna stop until I can break steel," he says.

"The purpose of Iron Palm is to kill your opponent in one blow," Ethan explains in a low voice, his eyes cast down and away. "One shot, get it over with." Though Ethan is not sure, he guesses that he has already achieved that level of awesomeness er, deadliness. — Calvin Godfrey

A Bid for a Bag Ban
Filed Under: News

Paper or plastic?

It's a question that's never really asked in the grocery stores of Miami. Checkout baggers routinely jam your food into plastic bags, and if you request paper, the bagger looks at you sideways, and the shoppers in line behind you roll their eyes. Sometimes the baggers at Publix even try to push the plastic by wrapping it around individual items, or by wedging a large paper bag inside a plastic handled bag.

No plastic, you insist. Save a plastic tree, you joke. Funny looks all around.

If Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has his way, such checkout skirmishes will come to an end in Miami's supermarkets. Sarnoff wants to ban plastic sacks, following the lead of San Francisco, which last month became the first city in the U.S. to eliminate plastic bags. "They did it to protect marine life, and we should too," says Sarnoff. He's sponsored a discussion item for Thursday's City Commission meeting; there are no plans to actually ban the bags. Yet.

Environmentalists say the sacks harm marine life — turtles eat the bags, choke, and die — and they take up landfill space. Other reasons to ban the bags: They often end up as ugly street litter, they aren't biodegradable, and they're made partially from oil.

Opponents of the San Francisco bag ban said that higher costs will be passed along to shoppers, and that paper bags aren't the best solution either. But paper bags are often made from recyclable materials, and are easily recycled themselves.

Of course, you can avoid the paper-plastic debate by bringing a resuable bag to the store. Just imagine the funny looks you'll get! — Tamara Lush

You're Mired!
Filed Under: Flotsam

Shortly after noon on Monday April 9, Rafael Barrera slid into the beige leather driver's seat of his prized 2003 dark-green Jaguar X-type and began the drive from his Sunny Isles Beach home to work at the Clinton Hotel in South Beach. He rolled down the windows, headed southbound on Collins Avenue, and stopped at a red light at 159th Street. On his left construction crews were busy working on Trump Towers, three 45-story buildings with 271 units that range from $893,900 to $2.78 million.

Without warning, a concrete pipe burst overhead, and a waterfall of concrete rained down on his car.

"It came in through the windows, got all over my clothing," he says. "It showered absolutely everything."

Barrera pulled over and addressed the Sunny Isles Police officer stationed near the site, who told him to call Idalis Diaz, an insurance administrator employed by the contractor, John Moriarty and Associates of Florida (JMA). Diaz, he was told later that afternoon, was away. Call back next week.

"I must have washed that car 40 times," he says, staring forlornly at the spattering of concrete still covering his car. "I tried to get the worst of it off with a rubber slipper so as not to scratch it."

Ten days after the incident, Barrera says Diaz assessed his car for damages and told him "because I touched it, it was no longer their problem and they were not responsible," he snaps.

Through clouds of cigarette smoke, a female JMA employee on site — who declined to give her name — declared Barrera was "being taken care of."

"There was an incident, one of the pipes burst and the concrete went flying," said JMA's general office manager, Alice Fortner. She declined to comment on Barrera's case or offer further insight into the way JMA deals with such incidents.

Barrera had to replace his car's windshield so he could see out of it to drive.

— Joanne Green

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