Pop artist Romero Britto's work has infected Miami like a great open sore pulsing red, yellow, and blue. When future archeologists unearth our city, they'll think we worshiped squinting kitty-cats and butterflies--and that our artistic ability fell one neanderthal short of a cave painting.
Now Britto has teamed up with the luminary responsible for Miami's famous Julia Tuttle sex offender colony, lobbyist and Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book, for his least tasteful project yet. Parking meters, painted a dog-vomit yellow with floral highlights, are now being installed all over the city. The coins they collect with go to Book's homeless agency--minus a thousand-dollar overhead going to pay for the meter, installation and Britto's fee, of course--so that samaritans don't give the money directly to beggars.
Whenever we read an article about homeless-related projects like this,
the only quotes seem to come from home-havin' talking heads. Riptide
wondered: What do the people truly effected think about the work of
their so-called advocates? So we joined a ragged malt-liquor-scented
gathering--"We're all alcoholics, we're not drug addicts," they declare
haughtily--no more than two hundred feet from Miami-Dade's introductory
Britto meter, outside of the Brickell Metromover stop.
"You know the movie Cool Hand Luke?" posits Mike Webber, a 44-year-old
scrawny vagrant with a Cheech Marin accent, referring to the movie in
which Paul Newman slices off the heads of parking meters. "I wanna slice
that thing right apart and pick up all the money. Then I'd share it
Rubbed raw 37-year-old veteran Mark Donaldson, chimes in with some
choice words for Book, who he compares to Scott Rothstein. "Sixty
percent of it goes into his pockets," Donaldson says of meter revenues,
before indicating his homeless crew and adding: "If we would all get
together to pull a scam like that, we'd be in jail in a second."
"It makes people feel good to put a quarter in that meter," echoes a
mysterious, tooth-deficient man named Arnold, " but the only person
they're helping is Ron Book."
But won't you guys just blow your cash on Steel Reserve if people give
to you directly? "No, man, when I get money, first I go buy some food.
Then I go get my beer," says Donaldson before devolving into a monologue
about how he'd love for someone to purchase him a bottle of Jack
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Daniels right about now.
As for the artist helping to pluck change from his outstretched coffee
cup, a beggar named Sam a couple of blocks away with a faded sign
reading only, "Help", sums up the sentiment: "Oh, you mean Barf-o?"