Archive for December, 2012

Bottle Found in Bayside Park, Miami!

A Letter to the Boys Who Found the Bottle

boyswbottle

First of all, Happy Birthday to Josh, who’s birthday it was when the bottle was found at Bayside Park on December 14th. It was the bottle I tossed into the Miami River, and even though it didn’t go too far, I am surprised it even got found. There is indeed a lot of boat traffic on the river and a fair amount of garbage floating around.

I am very happy that kids found the bottle. Young people know so much more about animals and the environment than they did when I was young. There is so much more on TV about wildlife, and seemingly more attention paid in school to the environment. But a lot of this “Shark Week” type of stuff doesn’t get beyond a flashy surface. You should look further and deeper. And closer to home.

cormorantpiling

South Florida is an incredible place. This limestone slab jutting out from the North American continent is a driftnet for the tropics. And so many interesting animals live there. Know where you live. Know the different birds. Know which ones have come from the Arctic for the winter. Know which ones have journeyed up from Argentina for the summer. Know the fish. EAT the fish. Know how to eat the RIGHT fish so that you may always have fish to eat.

boysonrocks

The more you know about something, the more you care about it. And the more you ENJOY it. Places that seem polluted are still worth investigation. Sometimes even more so than a place that seems more “clean”. Get off the beaten track and explore. The day before you found the bottle I found this on Virginia Key in an area not too picked over. It was amongst the wrack with pieces of Styrofoam and coconuts and bottle caps and seaweed. It’s a paper nautilus. A very rare find indeed.

papernautilus

I love that you guys were so enthusiastic about finding the bottle. I think SEVEN of you called me to say you had found it. That was awesome. You guys sounded like you were having a blast. When you said you smashed the bottle to get the drawing I was picturing you all like The Lord of the Flies, but you were actually more like the Goonies, and if you don’t know that movie, when I was your age I thought it was pretty much the best movie ever. And although one of the characters loses their glasses, no one gets killed.

goonies

Keep your enthusiasm. There are not many kids in America that live in such a unique place, with panthers and manatees, and sharks and sea turtles, paper nautiluses, crocodiles, bobcats, raccoons, and all manner of birds. Even your pigeons are interesting because some of them are actually doves from the Bahamas. So keep exploring. And start eating all those pythons and lionfish instead of the groupers.

All the best,

George

P.S. Thanks to Elvia, mother of Josh, for the pictures!

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Miami River Bottle Toss

Miami has a history. And a river.

MiamiRivermouth

Above is an image of the mouth of the Miami River from around 100 years ago. Miami, like most cities, exists where it does because of certain environmental and geographic features. And people have been here for thousands of years, in shuffling order. Manifest Destiny did not just push westward. Florida during the late 1800’s has been referred to as the “forgotten frontier” because so much more attention has been paid to the Wild West. But while they were shootin’ it out at the OK Corral, some crusty guy from some overcrowded northeastern city was whacking his way through gumbo limbo and chewing on gator jerky. And when white settlers did push into Florida, they certainly weren’t the first people there.

SeminoleMiamiRiver

Here are some Seminole Indians on the Miami River. Clearly they’re taking their dugout to da club. Dances With Snooki and Stands With a Situation are waiting for them.

In places like Miami, in Florida generally, it can be hard to see this history. Everything seems new. The flatness adds to this I think, making the state seem like a blank slate. But if you look closer you can see slight changes in elevations, and in them the layers of the past. Peel back that skin of neon orange spandex (and possibly also the neon green spandex) and you can get a glimpse of the “Old Florida” that people talk about. It took me quite a while to see this side of Miami, and while I lived there I never poked around the Miami River. As it turns out, the river is a great place to see some of the old backbone of this city.

rivertime

If you squint your eyes, you can kind of see it.

One thing I’ve noticed on this trip is that there are a ton of wintering Laughing Gulls down here. Some of these same guys are undoubtedly in New York in the summer. Just like the art world people, they migrate to Miami in the winter. It’s only a matter of time until they opt to take Jet Blue over their own wings. No direct TV in them there feathers.

laughinggullwinter

I didn’t see any Art Basel tags on them, but a couple of them looked sort of pretentious. They also totally look like New Yorkers waiting on the subway platform. Just waiting for the L train…

commutergulls

We went over to the other bank of the river, to Jose Marti Park, to toss the bottle. When I was in Cuba you couldn’t take a step without tripping over an image of Jose Marti. He’s sort of their Virgin of Guadalupe. I dug my bottles out of my bag. I have no idea how I got these through security without being checked. Could this look more like some kind of IED? –

packedbottles

Pulled out the one that had a Caspian Tern in it –

miamiriverbottle

caspiantern

And tossed it in the River right here –

miamiriverspan

It certainly doesn’t look like this anymore:

miamiriveroldboats

Florida went through the changes that the rest of the US did. It just went through them so much faster.

I had a professor at the University of Miami who had grown up in Miami. That’s a rare bird indeed. In class once she was reminiscing about her childhood and talking about just how quickly the city changed. She was NOT old by the way, probably her late 30’s early 40’s, and this was in 1993 or so. She told us about how she would see so many sea turtles in the Miami River, and how the manatees would gather there. She grew up immersed in the wildlife of this place. And then she recalled the day she knew everything had changed. There were a bunch of kids on a bridge over the Miami River. They had recently moved to the state. She walked up to them to see what they were up to and realized they were throwing rocks. Then she realized they were throwing rocks at a manatee. And then, as she put it, “I knew it was over for Miami.”

I really hope that’s not true. For the manatees, for the laughing gulls, for the turtles, for the gumbo limbo, for me, for people who still don’t know how beautiful and amazing South Florida is when you look beyond that margarita with two Corona’s jammed into it. People just gotta keep their eyes open…

manateesign

 

Two Bottles and a Fish Sandwich

snackbird

This was a nice and auspicious thing to see on the way to the beach this morning – a pelagic bird and a bottle. Thanks Coca Cola Corporation! You really DO unite the world! Had a nice morning swim and then headed out towards the Miami River to find a nice spot to toss a bottle.

Yes. Miami has a river. I’m going to post more in depth when I get back to New York because there is more to say about Miami. More than just Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen can handle, that’s for sure. Every time I come back here I forget how truly weird this place is.

At any rate, Annie and I got a bit lost trying to find Jose Marti Park on the shore of the river, but we did eventually get there, and I tossed a bottle. Then we went and got excellent fish sandwiches. Damn, fish sandwiches can be good.

From there we headed towards RSMAS, the University of Miami marine science school. This is basically why I ended up going to the University Miami:

rsmasbar

This is my view right at this moment. It is also the site where I got incredibly drunk on my 19th birthday with a bunch of way cool older kids. A couple of hours before (now, not then) I swam a bottle out into the channel beyond the ship. That’s Bear Cut, and there is always a strong current. And, I’ve heard, a fair number of sharks, including bull. Although I’ve never seen sharks there (except for maybe a nurse once and it was small) I have seen a lot out there, and today I found something very special washed up in the wrack. But I’ll get to that when I actually write properly about this trip. And I don’t have my card reader and I have a really awesome picture of it so what’s the point now if I can’t SHOW you what I found.

So, one more bottle tomorrow. I’m going to launch it right off of South Beach so it has a high likelihood of being snagged by a thong-festooned tourist.

Til then!

New York Pelagic in Miami

manutara

New York Pelagic is going on location to Miami. Proving yet again how similar this project is to Jersey Shore.

I’ll be launching some bottles while I’m down in Miami for all the art fair business going on. P.P.O.W., along with six other excellent galleries will again be mounting Seven – http://www.seven-miami.com/ The piece you see above, Manutara, will be in Seven.

Stay tuned for updates from the road. I’ll be tossing a few bottles, hopefully not getting any citations, and perhaps even writing about some art. And perhaps some reminiscences of my time as a citizen of Miami, the strangest city in America.

Or maybe that’s Tampa…