THE MIAMI MIRROR
Reflections of Life in Miami
Miami Beach Official Declares Independent Journalist Crazy
March 13, 2006
The reader may not be surprised to hear that a confidential source has revealed that a highly placed Miami Beach official, in response to an independent journalist’s expressions of his constitutional interest in the public welfare, has declared him, namely me, to be "crazy."
Nor may the reader be astonished to learn that I, in turn, am seeking an attorney to sue the city and its official agent for slander. She will have to take the case on contingency, for my novel-news-writing schedule precludes me from taking my case. She will have to take the case as a matter of principle, for only a dollar and court costs might be won for my real damages, which have thus far been less than a dollar because I have nothing to lose except my honor, and honor is not worth much in Miami.
I think the case might be won by a competent attorney: she would have to overcome the argument that to falsely declare anyone crazy around here is not slander, for the high incidence of craziness in this locale is such that crazy people fit right in here, therefore to call them crazy is not to say they are unfit for society. That is, if they were unfit, they would not be everywhere. Still, my reputation would be tarnished in the Midwest.
In any case, the allegation of my craziness is false: I happen to know that I am one of the few people in hurricane country whose brains have not been thoroughly scrambled. That is why I fail to get other people's jokes, and why I am the only one who laughs at my own.
My confidential source - whose name I cannot reveal because I cannot remember names and dates although I have an almost perfect memory of conversations - thinks the Hole in the park, in which my friend nearly broke her leg, has been filled because an official worried that some crazy editor might call attention to it now that my expose of the Blind Spot where a man drowned the other day has gotten some press attention. And who knows what might happen at the Crawl Space?
Now one might wonder, even in South Beach, why would a man interested in the public welfare be called "crazy" at City Hall? What is a drowning or two or three or four or more or a few broken legs or a number of disturbed homeless people in the high-flying real-estate scheme of things? Who cares about admittedly rather minor incidents, small particulars? Anyone interested in their personal welfare should have a positive mental attitude and just ignore such dirty details instead of waxing eloquently on them. But those details, including the fact that I am considered crazy for considering them, are in my opinion significant signs of what is really going on. The truth of the matter is this, that universals are found in the particulars, and those particulars often belie the Big Picture presented to the public at large.
My unnamed source said he thought my Hole had been filled because my Blind Spot had gotten some media attention. He offered to send me a copy of an official memorandum, ordering lifeguards not to talk to the press. I proceeded to the beach at once, found myself a lifeguard, mentioned that I read the letter about the valiant effort to save the drowning man, and wondered if he had received a copy of the order not to talk to the press.
"That's standard protocol," said the handsome young man. "Everything is supposed to go through a public affairs liaison."
"Yeah, I realize that. The public spokespersons have their own little broadcasting planet, and sometimes don't seem to want people to know what's going on in this world. Nobody listens to me because I don't remember names and I listen to gossip, so the media says my reports are too incredible to publish. By the way, I wonder when the lifeguard stands blown down by the hurricanes are going to be replaced by the city. They look like outhouses. I understand they are full of crap and condoms in the morning when you guys show up."
"The city didn’t show up so we built the temporary stations."
"What? You had to build your own stations?"
"We got some police platforms used at fairs and used some scrap wood on the beach to put walls on them. The city finally put doors and roofs on them, after clean-up teams were called in several times and someone threatened to report the unsanitary conditions to OSHA. So now the doors are locked. We can build good stations too - we built the nice one, Number 72."
"They are numbered by streets. The lifeguard stand at Seventy Second Street."
"Oh. But why haven't these temporary ones been replaced?"
"We have trouble getting things from the city, especially with the current city manager. They think we are sort of prima donnas. But someone's head is going to roll about these stands. A reality TV show is being filmed, and these stands don't look good."
"Well, they won't have to hire beautiful extras," I remarked, gazing over the bodies tanning all around - I wondered later where the gorgeous female lifeguards worked, as I usually see muscular white males on South Beach. "So what's with this city manager? I can't get a peep out of him, I guess because I am not an official spokesperson."
"He's one of those one-hundred-grand guys with a degree who doesn't know how to actually do the things he manages, like saving lives from drowning, fires, crime.... Why should he care? He'll just go on to another job."
"Yes, I've seen that in cities where city managers are not elected because they are supposed to bring professionalism to government. They're not elected, but they do the bidding of the politicians, and they take the credit when things go right, seldom take the rap when things go wrong, put the job on their resume, go on to another city or into consulting or something."
The lifeguard was silent on that note, so I asked, "What about the blind spot at the Lincoln Road beach, where the man drowned in broad daylight on New Years Eve? When will a stand go up there?"
"We've been warning officials about that spot for years. Maybe a stand will be put up now that someone has drowned. If you look into it, you'll find that several stands are the result of drownings. Like Number 29 - that case has gone up to the Supreme Court. We do our best to get stands, protect the public."
"You guys are union?"
"Yes, those who want to can join C.W.A., Communications Workers of America."
"Communications. That's kind of ironic, since lifeguards aren't supposed to talk to the press. Are you telling me that your union has to fight against the city for the public safety?"
"You might say that." - he was reluctant to affirm the proposition behind that question.
"You're under the Fire Department now?"
"Is that better?"
"Yes. We have more discipline, like the military, but we have more latitude in some areas. Some lifeguards want to become firemen because they have more opportunities, and some fireman want to become lifeguards."
"Maybe being out here on the beach is more glamorous," I suggested. "But I suppose the lifeguards have their own spirit, stand independent from firemen."
"We have our thing. That includes saving the lives of firemen who try to save people who are drowning. Sometimes we've had to pull them out of the water, puking, and save the victims they were trying to rescue."
"How much does one of these lifeguard stands cost, by the way? Someone said one hundred and thirty grand, but that seems to be way high. I could build a house for that."
"Not really. You can build a stand for maybe thirteen grand, but you need two guys on each stand at a minimum, say, of nineteen dollars per hour, so you could run a payroll with benefits of one hundred grand, and you need support people too. It’s not cheap, but the city should take care of the beach, Miami depends on it.”
“You can say that again. I wrote an article recently about the nymph I on the beach, and why I like Miami Beach – it’s the beach, stupid. The Magic City gets its magic from the beach. Hey, I really appreciate the conversation," I concluded. "My name is David Arthur Walters."
"Don't mention my name," he said. "Anything I said could be found in the public record, but I am not supposed to talk to the press."
"I can't remember names, and that's the truth. It's a weakness of mine."
THE MIAMI BEACH NYMPH