Miami Is Drowning, and the Corals Couldn’t Be Happier
In Miami Beach people shop for produce at two feet above sea level. The setting for this activity is a Whole Foods in South Beach. This particular Whole Foods was built on what is now the lowest inhabitable plot of land in Florida. In the surrounding area, only a few feet higher and resting on dredged-up land that was once deep-blue saltwater, is a sprawling assortment of condos, hotels, schools, parks, and small businesses that withstand flooding that grows worse every year.
The common denominator is that every square inch will, at some point, succumb to the ocean.
One mile south of the Whole Foods is a small strip of the bay known as Government Cut. The waterway was dredged and formed in the early 1900s to allow easier access to the Port of Miami. A century later, the port stands as the 11th-largest shipping-container destination in the United States. Despite the port’s continued success, the dredging ships have returned to dig up more—their gigantic steel claws scooping up chunks of seabed like a sludgy arcade-game prize.
Across the water, on the mainland, stands the deserted but still imposing building that formerly housed the Miami Herald. The half-demolished and dilapidated structure is perched on the edge of Biscayne Bay, at a relatively impressive elevation of five feet.
In 2011, the Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, the parent company of Resorts World Casinos, expressed its intention to build a new casino on the property, even though it is still illegal to operate one in the state of Florida. Fueling the controversy was a rumor that the casino would be accessible only by boat or helicopter, which some people took to confirm suspicions that Genting’s proposal would merely serve as a playground for the rich.
Cry-Baby of the Week
It’s time, once again, to marvel at some idiots who don’t know how to handle the world:
Cry-Baby #1: Julius Lopowitz
The incident: A man was given a speeding ticket.
The appropriate response: Paying it. Or contesting it if you don’t think you deserve it.
The actual response: He dialed 911 and reported a fake murder in progress in the hopes of distracting the issuing officer.
Earlier this week, a West Melbourne, Florida man named Julius Lopowitz was pulled over for speeding.
As the officer who pulled him over was writing his ticket, 911 dispatchers received a call to report a possible murder in progress.
"There is a murder that’s going to happen, I swear," the caller said. "On Wingate and Hollywood. Definitely someone going to get shot. Please, please, Wingate and Hollywood. Please."
He then hung up the phone.
As every available officer was being dispatched to the intersection of Wingate and Hollywood, the man called back.
This time he said, “I swear, there’s going to be a murder any second. There’s a man and a gun. Please.”
When he hung up this time, 911 dispatchers looked in their records for the caller’s name. As he’d called 911 before, they had his name on record. The name was Julius Lopowitz.
The dispatcher said Julius’ name over the police radio, and the officer who’d pulled Jules over recognized it as the name he was writing on a speeding ticket.
“It almost worked,” Police Lt. Rich Cordeau told local news station WBTV. “The officer was trying to wrap up quickly to respond.”
Police believe that Julius made the fake calls when the officer’s back was turned to write the ticket.
Julius is now facing a felony charge that carries a five-year maximum prison term. Which is quite a bit worse than a $200 speeding ticket, so fuck knows what he’ll pull to try and get out of that one.
Meet Cry-Baby #2 and vote!
How to Swim from Cuba to Florida
On August 31, 2013, Diana Nyad jumped into the shark-friendly waters of Cuba and swam 110-odd miles—without the protection of a shark cage—to Key West, Florida, 53 hours later. Why would anyone stare down the ocean and risk death to face up its indomitable conditions? Who knows.
A Town in Florida Has Made It Illegal for Homeless People to Cover Themselves with Blankets
There’s a new Tumblr blog making the rounds called Selfies with Homeless People. Apart from the rare picture in which the homeless person is complicit in the act, the majority of the photos are posed next to a sleeping or comatose human. Cue snap after snap of the worst sort of millennial douchery, as fresh-faced youngsters exploit the impoverished, dispossessed members of society for Instagram likes and hashtag LOLs.
Although their young souls may be dog shit, they aren’t actually physically harming homeless people. But don’t worry, because Florida, the internet’s favorite affront to human decency and legal reason, is picking up the slack. Thanks to a “camping” ordinancepassed by the Pensacola City Council last summer, homeless people in the city will becriminalized for, among other things, sleeping outdoors while “adjacent to or inside a tent or sleeping bag, or atop and/or covered by materials such as a bedroll, cardboard, newspapers, or inside some form of temporary shelter.”
That’s right. For the grievous offense of trying to shelter yourself from freezing conditions while homeless, you are considered to be breaking the law. For a state so obsessed with the right to defend oneself, it’s shocking that Floridians wouldn’t extend this right to those confronted by the elements. But why is it illegal to use a blanket during those tricky periods when you don’t live in a house? Are blankets harbingers of infection and death? Possibly. The city council argues that “camping” has a detrimental effect on Pensacola’s “aesthetics, sanitation, public health, and safety of its citizens.”
[Editor’s note: I met Paul a few months ago at a storytelling event, but he’s done some stuff for VICE in the past. He’s one of those smiley, overly posi Florida punks who’s covered in tattoos and is really nice to everybody, so I initially assumed he’d never been in “the shit.” Then he told me a story about being held up at gunpoint by Brazilian thugs in a botched bus robbery, and that shut me up pretty quickly. He just sent us this dispatch from a recent book tour for And Every Day Was Overcast, his terrific new photo novel about growing up among fishing tackle and drugs in Loxahatchee, Florida. If you’ve ever been on a book tour, you’ll know it’s more about wine and cheese and bad drugs, so kudos to Paul for pushing himself to the limit for this mind-numbingly boring responsibility. Enjoy!]
Rainelle, West Virginia
Kelly tries to Instagram a butterfly caught in the wipers. As she’s about to click, I spray the windshield with fluid. It’ll buy me another hour of silence. I’m driving from New York to Minneapolis for the start of my book tour, but the first stop is in West Virginia, to leave Kelly at her aunt’s.
I like people who know when to lower their standards. Kelly is the type of girl who helps pay for gas with rolled-up $20s flattened against her ass. Back in New York, we had sex one time and never again. She said my hands were too cold, that it was gross that I sleep with my socks on.
Today, we’re mutually parasitic. On occasion, when all our friends are estranged, we relapse on one another. There’s no common circle of friends between us, so whatever we do together has no repercussions.
Road trips are the ultimate test of any friendship. I’m relieved to drop her off.
Tonight, I’m staying at a nicotine-themed hotel room in Rainelle. The smell matches the shag. All night I watch the only working channel, ID: Investigation Discovery. An entire network of true-crime entertainment exclusively made up of lurid reenactments, courtroom footage, 911 calls, pan-and-scan video technology, crime-scene photography, ghoulish hosts, news clips, dubious interviews, home video, and family albums full of mementos. Back in the 90s, the prototype for these shows was America’s Most Wanted. It was my childhood filter for the social topography of Florida—as a series of grainy amateur porn stills and mug shots.
There is an enthusiasm for the counterculture in Orlando, with a strong punk scene and DIY community. You can end up in a mosh pit at a warehouse with no air conditioning, a local art show at a converted apartment located above a pizza shop, a dive bar feeling like you are back at a friend’s basement back in high school, or riding bikes to a sweaty house party full of flying beer cans and leather jackets. These photos capture the faces in the crowds, the rowdy party-going youth of Orlando.
More photos from Orlando
Floridians Are Losing Their Minds on Synthetic Cannabis
The rumors are floating among bystanders in downtown St. Petersburg, where a body lies motionless on the sidewalk, covered by a plastic sheet. Was it over a stolen lighter? Or was it a bicycle? It doesn’t matter. Kenneth Robert Sprankle finally snapped. Just like he said he would.
On the afternoon of September 24, Sprankle “borrowed” a red and yellow firefighter’s axe from a fire engine responding to an alarm at the Princess Martha Apartments. He started his evening by smoking spice, grabbing the axe, and wandering through downtown. Surveillance video caught Sprankle clutching the axe across his waist as he walked purposefully through the frame, seemingly oblivious to concerned onlookers trailing him from a safe distance. Witnesses recalled seeing him in an agitated state, wandering around nearby Williams Park with the axe for nearly three hours. Nobody bothered reporting him to police until things began to unwind, and Sprankle began yelling incomprehensible threats and chasing terrified citizens down bustling sidewalks.
St. Petersburg police quickly responded to an emergency call. The small group fleeing his erratic pursuit rounded a corner and ran past the officers. Moments later, Sprankle followed, axe raised menacingly. His world was closing in. Ignoring repeated orders to drop the axe, he charged. As Sprankle closed the distance, axe held high, veteran officer Damien Schmidt leveled a pistol at his chest and fired.
Five shots later, Ken Sprankle’s body crumpled to the sidewalk. The holes in his chest were fatal. He was 27.
The Greatest Airport in America
As Americans continue to self-flagellate over the decrepitude of their transportation infrastructure, it has become more and more en vogue to demand improvements to our airports. Donald Trump, billionaire and professional asshole, recently referred to American aiports as “third-world” compared to Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Mr. Trump failed to realize that most Americans will never be able to afford to go to Qatar and think Abu Dhabi is either a character from the movie Aladdin or something you order at an Indian restaurant.
Congestion, delays, lack of luxury amenities, and poor customer service are some of themost popular gripes cited when travelers are surveyed about their trips. In the face of this criticism, airports across the nation are dropping big bucks to spruce up their digs. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta spent $1.4 billion to upgrade their international terminal, adding 12 new gates, a bunch of art installations, giant glass windows, and a separate entrance for international passengers.
Nowhere did I see anything on that list of improvements about “places to plug in your phone” or “restaurants that don’t charge people eight dollars for a bagel,” but I can report that Atlanta’s airport does have the finest smoker’s lounge in the entire American south. If you’re looking for great conversation, and even greater exposure to toxic chemicals, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is your first (and maybe your final) destination.