... Mayor Diaz walks into ours: Good thing Rick's Place was located in Casablanca and not Miami. Bogart's establishment was hounded by Nazis. But in Miami, as Steven Dudley reported in "Sandwich and a Hooker" (August 14), Latin cafeterías offering food, booze, and babes have to contend with the righteous mayor, Manny Diaz.
There is as much drug abuse going on in some of Miami's public parks as in the little cafeterías. For example, not long ago my wife and I did our own drug survey of Miami's Sewell and Wainwright parks. During a walk through each, we collected 40 drug packets at Sewell and 44 drug packets at Wainwright.
There are many in Miami who are not able to exist on the same high moral plane as Mayor Diaz. He should cut the less righteous some slack and get off the sinners' backs in Miami's cafeterías.
Particularly if you're a teacher and they're Pat Tornillo's pennies: Having read Rebecca Wakefield's article "Pat Tornillo and His Generous Friend" (August 14), I think I have seen a small light at the end of the tunnel for educators in Miami-Dade County. The perfect thing for attorney Elizabeth du Fresne to do with her $500 monthly "gift" to Tornillo would be to begin giving it instead to our teachers.
And since she's a lawyer, maybe she could do a little pro bono work for the class-action lawsuit the teachers should be filing against Tornillo and United Teachers of Dade to reclaim their misspent union dues.
People should be nauseated to hear Tornillo's story. Someone needs to champion the teachers by repaying them for their union's abuse, from corruption to the politically motivated choices it has made, such as health insurance.
B. Thomas Romeo
and Cool Detachment
When the subject is Puerto Rico, nothing is trivial: In her article "Puerto Rican Pullout" (August 7), Celeste Fraser Delgado presented the passionate issue of Vieques in a way as staged and disconnected as the interviews conducted by her story subject, documentary filmmaker Frances Negron-Muntaner. She seemed to trivialize the anger still felt about the future of Vieques now that the U.S. Navy and the high-profile protesters have left. Sadly, that land will probably never be returned to the people of Puerto Rico.
But Ms. Delgado was right in asserting that a good deal of Puerto Ricans' political interest is based on the status of the island. To some extent all political life is identified by the status question. Even Puerto Ricans on the mainland are very concerned with it while neglecting the wider political debate. One can find well-attended meetings of independence committees in Hartford, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; Lorraine, Ohio; and here in Miami -- as well as the large cities of the Northeast and Midwest. But getting Puerto Ricans on the mainland to organize on a domestic agenda is an entirely different issue.
Three political parties have formed around the status issue: the New Progressive Party (supporting statehood), the Puerto Rican Independence Party (supporting separation and independence), and the Popular Democratic Party (pro-commonwealth). The pro-statehood New Progressive Party assails Puerto Rico's current association with the United States as thinly veiled colonialism, and does so just as strongly as the Independence Party -- pointing out the shattering poverty and lack of representative government.
The New Progressive's main problem, though, has been convincing voters that statehood would not mean the loss of the island's culture and ethnic identity. Supporters of the current commonwealth status repeatedly play up the fear that any alternative status is not acceptable. As for outright independence, there is fear that the island would lose greatly if independence affected travel and remittances that are the backbone of the economy. (People of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States are estimated to be more than twice the island's population.)
Those who favor continuing with commonwealth status have long argued, successfully, that only tweaking or adjustments are necessary to bring wages and aid to families up to mainland levels. They also call for a greater say in domestic affairs and in the national (U.S.) government while maintaining the "special" relationship. To both statehooders and independentistas this is just more window dressing, yet all these parties look unfavorably on the way the island was gained by the United States. It is akin to looking at African slavery in the United States. How we got to here is reprehensible, but what do we do now?
Regardless of the sentiments on status, there is a huge amount of frustration with the socioeconomic conditions of Puerto Ricans on the island (on the mainland too) and a deep and persistent nationalistic impulse. Miami is intimately tied to this with its large Puerto Rican population. After all, Puerto Ricans are second only to Cubans in Miami-Dade; in Broward they are the largest Hispanic group.
Puerto Ricans, with their deep cultural ties and similarities to Cubans, have provided Cuban politicians with a reliable voting base, and in turn the Cuban-American community has supported Puerto Rican politicians such as former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, the only Puerto Rican mayor of a large American city. Miami-Dade County may do so again if Commissioner Jimmy Morales (half Puerto Rican) is successful in his bid for mayor in 2004.
John Santiago Stella
It was a fantastic adventure in a special place: I read Susan Eastman's "Tales from the Swamp" (July 31) with much interest. My first visit to the Fakahatchee Strand was in 1972, when I began a quest to find and photograph the 108 species of native orchids in Florida. It seemed that the Fakahatchee was a good place to start because some of the rarest plants in Florida grow there. Three years after taking my first step into the cool water that floods the swamp, I drove there one day armed with my camera, meager provisions, and a jungle hammock to sleep suspended above the swamp water. I then began a journey to walk its full length through the deep sloughs that dot the interior of the swamp.
I arrived at Alligator Alley five days later and hitchhiked back to Janes Scenic Drive. (If you've ever spent five days in a swamp you can imagine how difficult it is to catch a ride hitchhiking.) On that single trip I was fortunate enough to find 30 of the 46 native orchids that grace the swamp, proving that the Fakahatchee is wild Florida at its best. Where else can your footprints mingle with those of panthers, bears, and minks while you photograph wild native orchids growing on trees?
Hunters like Ralph Bellman and Frank Dellinger, from Ms. Eastman's story, should not lament the acquisition of the Fakahatchee Strand by the State of Florida. I too watched the destruction caused by the Gulf American Land Development Corporation on the western side of the Fakahatchee and was delighted in 1974 to find that the swamp was being acquired for preservation. Without state protection the Fakahatchee would likely have been doomed, if not by development then perhaps by an ever-increasing number of hunting cabins being built in remote areas, and by off-road vehicles shattering the stillness of the place.
The feud over access to remote areas in the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress National Preserve using off-road vehicles is laughable. Airboats are obnoxiously loud and swamp buggies destroy the very place their operators claim they love. It seems ironic that it's illegal to pick a wildflower in these preserves yet Bubba and Billy Bob can run over thousands of them in their swamp buggies on the way to their hunting camps. These hunters claim they need airboats, swamp buggies, and all-terrain vehicles to gain access to these areas, and an often-heard argument is that they need vehicles to haul out their kill. The deer and hogs they hunt are weenie compared to elk and mule deer, yet hunters out west climb high into mountainous areas and pack out the meat from their kill like real men. From the looks of most hunters I've encountered in remote areas of the Big Cypress National Preserve, they could use the exercise.
Roger L. Hammer
In a word, it was surreal: The references in Susan Eastman's article about the Fakahatchee Strand to the Gulf American Land Development Corporation brought some interesting memories back to life. During the fall of 1962 and through the spring of 1963 I worked for Gulf American at their executive headquarters. Although the company's headquarters were nominally in their then-new building (which later became headquarters for the Immigration and Naturalization Service at Biscayne Boulevard and 79th Street), the executive offices were in a second-floor space overlooking and actually spanning the street that ran by the old Biscayne Shopping Plaza. All work stopped one evening in the fall of 1962 as we clustered around a television and watched President John F. Kennedy tell America about the Cuban missile crisis and his planned "quarantine" of the island.
It was a surreal atmosphere at Gulf American. We processed paperwork relating to lot purchases and deeds, though I don't remember the details. My first office manager was a real joker who should have been doing stand-up comedy. I never knew anyone so quick with just the right retort. I came in one day smiling. He asked me why. I said I felt good, that I'd been driving to work with the windows open, listening to Handel's Organ Concerto at full blast. He turned to my workmates and said, "Did you hear that? I asked him why he was in a good mood and he said he was driving to work with the windows open, handling his organ at full blast!"
He was later replaced by a dull drone of a man. There were frequent attempts to generate "company spirit," and I remember the new office manager expressing his disappointment at the employees' failure to honor the "tradition" of contributing to holiday gifts to company head Leonard Rosen and his assistant.
The new Gulf Coast community of Cape Coral was already being built and settled, with the company promoting its "Waltzing Waters" fountains, but no one really knew what Golden Glades Estates was, only that we were selling "lots" in it on the installment plan. In my work area were the original plat books for Cape Coral. One evening I was looking through them and noticed that one of the streets was named Oogaboo Avenue. Why, I exclaimed, would they give a name like that to a street? A nice middle-age lady named Vada, who worked with me, spoke up. "I did it," she explained. I asked why. "I felt like it," she said.
In the spring of 1963 I limited my working hours to weekends. Unlike most employees, I enjoyed working Sundays. There were few people there, little work to do, and the WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service) lines were on automatic dial, meaning I could sit there all day making free long-distance calls to friends and relatives. In those days, long-distance calls cost big bucks! Alas, one Sunday I arrived for a leisurely day of free calling and newspaper-reading only to hear a workmate say, "Didn't you know? You've been replaced!"
Gulf American was a strange operation. For some reason they sent hyper-aggressive sales people to Europe to target American tourists on foreign soil, while leaving Americans in America largely alone. They used their political clout to arm-twist the state into building Alligator Alley, a trans-Everglades toll road paralleling the Tamiami Trail. The idea was that it would lead people into the mysterious Golden Glades. Like the Trail, it had only two lanes at that time -- but it also had tolls! The AAA fought hard to stop the project, but failed.
Today Cape Coral is a thriving city and Golden Glades is, well, all wet. But I still wonder: Whatever happened to Oogaboo Avenue?
They belong to me, not the police: As soon as I read Steven Dudley's story about police taking DNA samples from rape suspects ("The Double-Helix Dichotomy," July 24), I said shit! That same thing happened to me, but with the other sexual predator. Yes, the other sex offender, the one in Kendall.
We are here in America, land of the free, the land where you can go anywhere without being harassed by the law enforcers. But when police officials discovered they'd made mistakes and that many DNA samples from old cases were sitting in investigators' drawers, the shit hit the fan. The DNA frenzy began!
You're walking, talking on your cellular, or riding your bike and suddenly you are the suspect. I supplied all the information requested and was left alone. But weeks later imagine my surprise -- I was on the list of suspects even though my record is clear as water. Neighbors, friends, my landlord, and others were interrogated about me. Why did they do that if I willingly gave them my new address and my phone?
Big brother, government control, communism, dictatorship!
Why do we, the law-abiding people who pay the police their salaries, have to financially cover the mishandling of their work and give away our privacy by providing DNA? Sorry guys, I respect your work a lot but there is only one way, and that is the right way. My record is clean, but please withhold my name.
Name Withheld by Request
Miami Police K-9 Conflicts
Something is amiss, but we're not quite sure what: Yes, I too am pissed off. Pissed at those who are too immature to accept responsibility for their own demise. I am referring to a letter by Miami police officer Timothy Fell that New Times published with the headline: "The Sound of One Cop Venting: Yes, I'm Pissed Off -- and with Good Reason" (July 17).
Officer Fell was critical of the New Times article about Mayor Manny Diaz ("Miami's GoodFellas," June 26), and I have to agree with him about one thing: Mayor Diaz hasn't done anything wrong. But neither have any of the other people mentioned in Fell's letter -- city manager Joe Arriola, police Chief John Timoney, and especially various unnamed Miami police officers. The only thing they may have done wrong was to give Timothy Fell too many chances before booting him out of the police department's canine unit. And unfortunately because of Fell's actions, other people also lost their positions in the unit. But you don't see them crying like a six-year-old to anyone and everyone who'll listen.
As for Fell saying he speaks for a variety of officers, I don't know who these officers may be, but I definitely am not one of them. And no, I'm not one of those cops Fell complains are just there to pick up a paycheck. Some of us really care about the canine unit (and the police department as a whole) and love what we do. We don't do things to discredit or divide the canine unit and then blame everyone else for the repercussions and consequences.
The Miami Police Department probably won't even acknowledge Timothy Fell's letter because it's too petty for them to worry about. But I for one felt the truth needed to be told, and if there are repercussions for doing so, I won't be happy about it but you won't hear me crying about how I've been wronged.
Life is about choices. Good or bad, we have to live with the choices we make and accept the consequences.
Wayne Cooper and K-9 Andor
Miami Police Department
He now understands the agony of sexual lepers: After reading John Lombardi's article about labia-minora surgery ("Designa Vagina," July 10), I have become a reborn empathizer of those who suffer from this affliction. I wrote a critical letter to New Times months ago when I was offended by the advertisements for this treatment, which included a definition of what a labia minora was, seemingly besmirching the intelligence of their readers. After all, if you don't know what a labia minora is, then why do you need the surgery? So I tried to identify with the women in the article who described their pain, and then one day while walking down Lincoln Road, I had my epiphany.
Sitting in a chair in front of Starbucks was an absolutely stunning example of female pulchritude that has made Miami Beach world-renowned -- or at least the media's number-one male masturbatory fantasy. She was wearing skin-tight designer blue jeans and not much more, and she had her legs spread provocatively so as to entice a well-heeled Lothario to provide her with the economic security to live the life of sybaritic indolence that so many women in this post-feminist era seem to be seeking.
As I watched, however, I noticed that the poor girl was close to tears because, instead of drooling with unbridled desire as they scanned down her body to that "Garden of Earthly Delights," men were turning away in revulsion. Why? Because instead of a perfectly defined "camel-toe," she had an oversize labia minora that resembled the "package" of a well-hung transsexual.
It was then that I came to understand not only the mechanism between men and women today, but also the agony of those whose God-given attributes make them sexual lepers and deny them their fulfillment.
This truly is one of the great injustices for women in the world today.