At the end of the aisle, over which a dingy sign announced the location of eye care products and an uncomputerized product called a cough cold tablet, this Navarro Pharmacy had set up a vaccine waiting area. A rent-a-cop rather sourly flipped through a periodiquito. I settled into my socially distanced lawn chair ready to wait, for although I’d read COVID vaccination appointments are punctual — a rarity in South Florida, where punctuality is as uncommon as arctic air — I brought Walter Kempowski’s Marrow and Bone as a precaution. I caught the last third of Taylor Dayne’s “I’ll Always Love You” over the PA system. Continue reading
In line to pay, the woman got too close to a man who asked her in Spanish to please maintain her distance. She ignored his request, police said, so he repeated it in English. The arrest report said she began “mumbling bad words,” and the man ignored her and walked to his car.
But in the Publix parking lot, as he tried to load his groceries, she walked up to him and got to within one foot of his face, police said. When he asked her to back up, it “enraged the defendant even more.”
According to an arrest report, she called the victim a “spic,” which is a slur for Hispanics, and said “we should have gotten rid of of you when we could.” She also said “This is not going to be Biden’s America, this is my America” and “we should have burned it all,” the report said.
Then, the report said, Wright took our her keys and began scratching the man’s car. “The defendant also proceeds to stab the victim’s vehicle with her keys while saying he needed to go back to his country,” the report said.
This woman, let me emphasize, is an anesthesiologist. She has patients. She probably has a family.
“I can have a reasonable conversation with any Republican elected official about any issue—except voting,” Dan Gelber, a former House minority leader who is now the mayor of Miami Beach, told me. “When you bring up voting, the Darth Vader mask comes up right away. You can tell—their consultants have said to them, ‘This is how you win.’ ”
In his New Yorker story about the GOP effort to suppress the vote in Florida, Dexter Filkins presents state officials whose chicanery is so naked that they could make appearances as COBRA agents in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Continue reading
Those alive in 2000 remember the embarrassment of being a resident of Florida (the state with the prettiest name!). These institutional flaws persisted into 2018. Yet thanks to the unusually large percentage of seniors, our mail-in/absentee ballot system shows more strengths than in some liberal states. For one, Florida verifies signatures twenty-two days before Election Day. Continue reading
While the number of cases in Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) has trended downward in the last ten days, I can count on my fellow citizens for abject stupidity and stupid malice. Let me turn to Ocala, best known for the juncture point at which Turnpike travelers switch to I-75 should they head northward. Reeling after thirteen deaths, a significant figure given its population, the sheriff’s office has shared its reasonable, science-bound method for combating spread:
As the city of Ocala wrestles with an ordinance requiring face coverings for people inside businesses, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told his employees they will not wear masks at work and visitors to his office can’t wear masks either.
Woods, in an email dated Aug. 11, said “my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn.”
Ocala City Council passed an emergency ordinance last week requiring people to wear masks inside businesses. Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed it Monday and the council will meet Wednesday to consider overriding the veto.
Marion County set a single-day record on Tuesday for the most deaths related to COVID-19, with 13 more deaths reported.
A writer for The Onion might’ve written Sheriff Billy Woods’ orders. Continue reading
About this sweet land of liberty W.H. Auden, with whom I’ve been reacquainting myself, wrote in his preface to Henry James’ The American Scene: “Nature never intended human beings to live here.” Having finished Edward Mendelson’s superb poetic critical biography Later Auden, I can confirm the British poet, who became a naturalize American citizen, spent summers in Italy but not Florida; had he done so, this malarial backwater with its mephitic heat and dangerous animal life might have inspired the rewriting he was wont to do. Thanks to a new app, Floridians can see at what risk their properties are as sea levels rise. The results have proven, uh, auspicatory:
Currently, Flood Factor and FEMA data show about 1 in 5 Florida homes are in a special flood hazard area, where flood insurance is mandatory. Flood Factor predictions show that it could jump to 1 in 4 in the next 30 years. “It’s kind of a shocking statistic to think about,” said Jeremy Porter, First Street’s director of research and development. Within the next 30 years, Flood Factor data also show that more than 300,000 homes in Florida are almost certain to flood.
Deneumostier, known by the screen name “susanleon33326,” pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal interception of oral communications before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing on Nov. 29, though he is expected to receive less time. As part of his plea agreement, three related charges will be dropped by federal prosecutors….
…Deneumostier was arrested in July on charges of making unlawful recordings of commercial sex acts for an adult website. An indictment, filed by prosecutors Cary Aronovitz and Mona Sedky, lists three victims related to his operation of “StraightBoyz.” The site promised gay men videos of real straight men being conned into accepting sex acts, all while blindfolded or wearing blacked-out goggles.
Investigators believe Deneumostier helped operate the subscription-based adult site, which featured about 620 video hookups, over the past four years. Although the website is no longer in operation, many of the videos can still be viewed on other porn sites.
“The site offered for streaming approximately 619 ‘hook up’ videos that depicted sexual activity between Deneumostier and other men,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The defendant had surreptitiously made audio and video recordings of the sexual encounters, without the victims’ knowledge or consent. He later sold the ‘hook up’ videos to a third party located overseas and caused them to be posted onto the website.”
To be clear, straight men all over the world want to be deceived, but we Floridians have the entrepreneurial spirit.
Eric Peter Verbeeck, a Key Biscayne youth transitioning to a girl named Hope, killed herself nine days ago. Howard Cohen has her story:
“He left behind a letter, the most beautiful letter you could imagine, and it was on his pillow,” Eric’s mother said. “I got up and realized I didn’t see him in my apartment.”
The letter began: “Dear Mommy and Papa, I am so sorry to do this to you but I have killed myself by jumping off the top floor …”
Eric was always precise, Verbeeck said.
“I could no longer live my life as a lie,” her letter continued. “I’m so sorry I lied to you. I was losing hope in the world and could not see my way out of the wrong body so I decided it was time for my life to end. Please forgive me for any sins I committed.”
Verbeeck: “He didn’t have any sins. I never used the word sin with him.”
The child who loved to attend Broadway and London musical theater shows, who had a beloved dog named Rocky, who started performing at 6 and already had a favorite role — The Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland” — and who “planned out trips to the tiniest detail,” was equally precise in her last wishes.
She didn’t want her parents, who were separated, to argue. She wanted her ashes split between her parents.
The statistics for adolescents who kill themselves as a result of sexual confusion , included in the story, are stark. According to Hope’s mom, she had given her child as much empathy and patience. It wasn’t enough. In an era when psychology can explain most conditions, suicide remains the great abyss into which education and empathy stare, helplessly.
Hug your kids tonight.
Sea level rise, a barely competent governor, flying roaches — these and other elements make Florida an earthly paradise. If said governor signs the following legislation, we’ll deal with Daylight Savings Timem for the rest of our lives:
According to the federal Uniform Time Act of 1966, states may exempt themselves from observing daylight saving time, as Hawaii and most of Arizona do. But there isn’t an option for states to exempt themselves from standard time.
So the change Florida lawmakers desire is technically a change of time zone. The majority of Florida would move from Eastern time to Atlantic time: the zone that’s home to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Canadian Maritime provinces. The western part of the state’s panhandle is on Central time; residents there would shift to Eastern time.
Moving to Atlantic time is something that New England states including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine have been mulling over — and they arguably need the sunshine more than Florida does.
A time zone change requires either an act of Congress or a regulatory action from the Department of Transportation. U.S. and Canadian time zones were adopted in 1883 to reduce confusion at railroad terminals.
Why we Floridians would want more sunlight and a longer working day is beyond me.
At the dawn of the new millennium I covered Parkland as a Sun-Sentinel news intern. A quiet city undergirded by an opulence that avoided ostentation — Al Gore visited several times that autumn (it remains a Democratic stronghold in Florida’s most Democratic county). Compared to, say, Sunrise and Plantation, Parkland was a model city, known for vicious zoning battles, as shown by the only commission meeting I covered. Many former students attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, named after one of Florida’s few literary giants. Well-named too, for its graduates are among the state’s brightest.
The only way to stop carnage like this afternoon’s is to create a coalition that aims for a repeal of the Second Amendment, for thanks to Heller and the late Nino the right to own a personal weapon, within certain limits, is constitutional. “Background checks” ain’t gonna work, sorry, not when the suspect had a legal right, as of this post, to buy a gun.
The other option is to let sea level rise finish the job.
The initial reviews for The Florida Project suggest a digital sociology experiment rather than a successful narrative film. Watching Sean Baker’s story about scrappy kids and their parents trying to survive in the third-rate motels clustered around Walt Disney World was an enervating experience for me. It should have worked: the material is promising, suggesting an approach similar to what Victor Nuñez had wrought in Ulee’s Gold and Ruby in Paradise; writer-director Baker’s previous film Tangerine had a bawdy humor and, shot entirely on iPhones, made the most of its rudimentary construction; and the title itself, the generic name given to the theme park during its 1960s planning phase, buzzes with possibilities. But the result is a ungainly mess. Baker hasn’t a clue about pacing or the direction of actors, which is hell on the audience, for there are few things more hellish than being stuck with brats. The crushing two hours in which The Florida Project insists on telling its vaporous story is akin to babysitting caffeinated kids at the Magic Kingdom for an afternoon with no parent in sight. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t wait to leave.
The Florida Project gets one thing right: the increasingly hardscrabble existence of the hospitality industry in the Kissimmee area. The opening of the Osceola Parkway in the late nineties decimated hotel managers like Bobby (Willem Dafoe); where before visitors to the Disney theme parks inched several miles up or down U.S. 192 and its miserable traffic, now they bypass it entirely, a straight fifteen-minute shot to Disney’s doorstep. Nevertheless, many of these motels boast themes, clean pools, regular maintenance, and maid service; they aren’t flophouses yet. Enter the Magic Castle Inn & Suites, where Moonee (Brooklynn Price) and her young mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) eke out an existence. When for the sake of the rent Halley isn’t hoodwinking tourists into buying perfume in the parking lots of neighboring hotels she’s partying with a friend who gets her free breakfast from the diner at which she works. Mooney spends those broiling summer days hanging with Scooty (Christopher Rivera), spitting on cars from balconies, eating ice cream, being nuisances. Then Scooty’s dad forbids him from playing with Mooney. She needs a replacement. The older woman on whose car she’s spit in The Florida Project‘s opening moments has a granddaughter, the more demure Jancey (Valeria Cotto).
So far as plot goes, that’s about it, but The Florida Project‘s episodic nature doesn’t crimp it. From Pather Panchali to The 400 Blows the last century has given countless examples of movies chronicling the adventures of street kids. But these children are so obnoxious that even Mooney’s cutting the power at the Magic Castle just cuz she can fails to resonate as an innocuous oh-those-golden-days-of-childhood moment; I just wanted to belt her. Baker doesn’t modulate their performances; Mooney and Jancey screech and holler and laugh. Dafoe has the worst of it. As Bobby, he plays Goodness Incarnate. He lets Halley slide on the rent, indulges Mooney, and knows every guest’s name. Taking into account that his clientele lives a step above the poverty line, it’s a wonder he hasn’t been fired or had his hotel shut down; with his good cheer he should be working at a Magic Kingdom gift shop. Baker and cinematographer Alexis Zabe are less reluctant to objectify Halley, often shot in unflattering close-ups and harsh light. Baker’s intention is clear: we can’t blame children for the mistakes of their parents. But what is on screen has the opposite effect: awful parents produce awful moppets. Infatuated with the children, Baker identifies with them.
But what most disappointed this native Floridian who visits the Disney area yearly is The Florida Project‘s anonymity. Baker and Zabe capture the colors of this landscape – those violent purples and sinister oranges coaxed out by unrelenting sound against sudden flaring clouds – rescued by hysterical overdevelopment but none of the character. The tracts of urban space ravished by Zabe’s camera could’ve been shot in Sarasota, Everglades City, or, hell, Tacoma. Central Florida weather in the summer has a sinister volatility: sun-damaged mornings surrender to torrential rains and lightning storms, with the humidity at all times sulphuric in intensity. And noisy. At all times.
I suspect The Florida Project will play better for audiences unacquainted with Central Florida and for whom the idea of spending money on such kitsch is laughable in itself. It avoids one mortal sin: despite the surfeit of intrusive closeups, Baker doesn’t err by romanticizing poverty. The camera sits, like a guest invited to stand by the door but not enter, as it captures the meticulousness with which Magic Castle permanent guests have decorated, not to say stuffed, their rooms with toaster ovens, kitchenettes, plastic hangers, bags of chips, blankets serving as shades to keep that horrible sun at bay. The film allows characters to nibble at the margins, like Sandy Kane’s vulgar Gloria, another Magic Castle resident, who insists on topless sunbathing while her corpuscles pump several gallons of McCormick vodka across her cheerful system. Still, gimme last year’s American Honey, also about kids left to their own devices but lighter, not to mention defter about situating its kids in a milieu.
But The Florida Project remains the most depressing drag – the kind of drag that makes me wonder if the modest Tangerine was a fluke (the last sequence is such a travesty that I wonder if the film’s swooning critics walked out of the picture before it). If The Florida Project is a hit, though, Baker will be back, emboldened by success, chastened by failure, or, I fear, emboldened by failure.