Political Junkie Thought He'd Seen It All

Letters from the Issue of April 29, 2004

The zany, the surreal, the true Tallahassee, but then along came this: My first experience with the Florida legislature was in 1973, when I worked as an aide to Sen. Sherman Winn from Miami. For the next twenty years I watched the process very closely as a legislative staffer, a lobbyist for various interests, and as a business partner of former state Sen. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Many have written about the madcap and at times surreal nature of life in our state capitol, but with "Welcome to Fabulous Tallahassee" (April 22), Rebecca Wakefield captured the fundamental vibe of the legislative scene better than many (most?) long-time political reporters. Congratulations.

Seth Gordon


Bring on the Crocs

So they're eating our ducks -- that's what they're made to do: I happen to be a naturalist and tour guide working at Crandon Park. I and other employees are more than excited to have resident crocodiles in our park ("The Bitch," April 22). Our patrons and guests are also just as intrigued to find an endangered species sitting right in front of them as they enter the Crandon Park Gardens. Unlike what park volunteer Valerie Cassidy claims regarding frightened families, I have seen them gathered around the lake in awe of this amazing creature.

If having exotic waterfowl in our park creates a food source for these animals, and they are coming ashore on their own, then let it be. So far the crocs have not been a threat to humans, and the gardens are clearly marked as a crocodile area.

If the crocodiles had a food source in the wild, they wouldn't be at the park. But unfortunately we have altered their habitat and their food source.

Name Withheld by Request


Miami: The Town

that Snubs the Arts

Yes, it's pathetic, but here's how to fix it in three easy steps: Nice article about DJ Le Spam by Mosi Reeves ("Fresh Spam," April 22). The Spam Allstars are a great example of Miami at its finest -- a paella of white, black, and Hispanic. One city under a groove. Andrew (DJ Le Spam) Yeomanson is not only stunningly talented but he's as nice a guy as you're going to find. He has always been approachable at his shows and seems happy to talk to fans about the music. But all is not so bright in Spamville. His story is also a tale of our local music scene at its worst.

Miami seems like it should be a musical paradise. We have a diverse local population, immigrants from any number of musically diverse countries, plus several major record labels and video-music channels are based here. The problem is that great local acts never seem to draw the support they should. The Spam Allstars should be filling midsize theaters by now. Humbert or the Brand should be selling out clubs. Roberto Poveda should have a record deal. Bacilos should fill American Airlines Arena instead of playing a support act for some dude from 'N Sync.

Over the years I've heard many excuses for the lack of a vital local music scene: bad venues, the prevalence of dance clubs, too many other things to do, and so on. But the time for excuses is over. Go look in the mirror, dear reader, and cry, "Shame!" We Miamians just don't appreciate or support what we've got, and music is not alone -- ask anyone in the local theater or art scenes if they get as big a turnout as they should for an urban area the size of South Florida. We are just too damn stupid for our own good. On any weekend night you can practically walk in the door at Jazid on South Beach, while lines form at dance clubs across the street. There are about a million small bars in Little Havana, but only a handful feature live music. Compare Miami to New Orleans, where you have to go out of your way to head out for a drink and not hear a live band. We are, quite simply, a pathetic music town.

So what do we do? Any knucklehead can complain about a problem, but how do we fix it? There are myriad answers, quite a few things that need to be done to support our local arts community. First we need to increase our kids' exposure to the arts. We should have local artists performing in and "guest teaching" at local schools. Actual contact with musicians and artists is not only fun for kids, but also has the effect of expanding those kids' horizons and creating a pool of future talent. Music and art are not going to save every at-risk kid, but there will be some who react to the creative energy and find their path in life -- to make art. A few years back I saw Romero Britto talking with a young kid at an art show and I have no doubt that kid's life was changed. Here was a professional, successful artist giving him advice and encouragement. While that kid may or may not be successful, at least he'll have clear goals to work for and will be less likely to wind up on the pipe and/or behind bars.

Second, we need to increase exposure to the arts for our adults as well. Expose someone to live music a few times and soon they'll realize just how much fun it is. We can't be satisfied by only having bands in clubs; we need music on the streets, wherever people are. Why is there no free music on Lincoln Road on Friday and Saturday nights? Why do we not have tailgating concerts for the fans before Dolphins or Marlins or Heat games? Lunchtime street art galleries downtown? Street theater on Washington Avenue for all the people in line at crobar? Exposure to art and music and theater will breed desire for that art. (As a very wise man once sang: "One good thing about music is that when it hits, you feel no pain.")

Third, we need better exposure for local artists and musicians. New Times (and that other weekly Str**t) does some good writing about locals, but how about some coverage in the Miami Herald? On the news? And how about more comprehensive listings -- maybe a column every few weeks listing all local acts and their upcoming shows? (I know the Spam Allstars have regular gigs, but I only know when Roberto Poveda or Humbert are playing or what shows Mad Cat has upcoming if I stumble across a notice somewhere. I have no regular spot to go to for comprehensive information.)

Finally, and most important, we need to get off our collective fat asses. Yeah, you get home from work and you're tired. You don't wanna go out and hear a band. You want to go to a club and look for hotties to go home with. Whatever your excuse, I guarantee you will have fun if you make the little extra effort to expand your horizons. Not everything you see will be great, or even good. Not every band will hit a groove, some actor may miss his or her lines, you won't always get a masterpiece by midnight, but more often than not, you will see the face of God, you will lose yourself in the music, you will hear a new tale told well. And, hey, there are plenty of hotties at these things as well.

Errol Portman


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