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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #231  (Vol. 5, No. 35)  This edition is for the week of August 23--29, 2004.

Book Review: "Skinny Dip" by Carl Hiaasen....Update on Hurricane Charley and Florida's Landmarks
 by Will Moriaty
"Exorcist: The Beginning"
 by Mike Smith
"Filthy" DVD Release Party...."Exorcist 4" vs. "Open Water" vs. "Benji"...."Genghis" or "Jen-jis"....Will Smiff really did do the "I, Robot" rap!....Psyched by the Furs: Concert Review
 by Andy Lalino
Couch Potato Fall TV Preview....Heinz Ketchup, Made in Mexico?
  by Vinnie Blesi
Great Story....The Olympics....Maybe, Maybe Not....No, Really, He's Gone....Meet The Beatles, Part 31
 by Mike Smith
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Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen Book Review:
“Skinny Dip”
by Carl Hiaasen
2004, Alfred A. Knopf,
New York, N.Y., 355 pp.

Chaz Perrone and his wife Joey had boarded the cruise ship Sun Duchess as Chaz’s “anniversary gift” to his wife.

It turned out to be for a whole different reason...

As the ship was heading back in to Port Everglades after a cruise down to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Key West, Joey’s world almost came to an end as somewhere north of the Keys her husband Chaz grabbed her by the ankles and tossed her overboard.

Chaz made one fatal flaw in his judgment to rid his wife in such a fashion. As she was approaching terminal velocity into the waters of the Atlantic, Chaz did not factor that his wife was once a champion swimmer at UCLA. As she plummeted into the night darkness over the bow of the Sun Duchess, she intuitively remembered how to brace herself for a high dive. Plunging headfirst into the waters, the force of the impact removed all of her clothes, hence the title “Skinny Dip”.

Surviving the impact, Joey Perrone was now faced with a whole new series of survival questions, foremost amongst them; would she ever be able to swim back to the Florida shoreline and/or would she become a tasty morsel for a Bull Shark?

Joey believed that the second part of her survival question was realized, as she felt something large in the water brush up against her before she lost consciousness - - that large something was in reality not a Bull Shark, but a bale of Jamaican marijuana which would float her up the Gulf Stream close to the boat of former Miami law enforcement officer Mick Stranahan, who was the feature character in Hiaasen’s 1990 novel “Skin Tight”.

Stranahan took Joey back to his island home in Biscayne Bay near Miami in order to administer first aid to her. Other than a little dehydration and some Man-of-War stings, Joey was in excellent health and fully recovered. During her recovery period Joey made one thing perfectly clear to Stranahan- - do not contact the Coast Guard or any law enforcement agency, as she wanted, along with Stranahan’s help, to exact her own unique form of justice onto her worthless scumbag husband.

From here we are then immersed into the colorful cadre of quirky over the top characters that make Hiaasen the premiere Florida noir novelist.

We meet Fort Lauderdale police detective Karl Rovaag who longs to return to the more “normal” crimes of his native Midwest; “Tool”, a farm foreman with an anvil shaped head and enough body hair to pass as a Florida Skunk Ape, who lives in a trailer in LaBelle with a back yard filled with crosses he collects from roadside traffic fatality scenes - - oh yes, “Tool” has a bullet lodged up the crack of his patoot that he refuses to remove; that forces him to beg, borrow and steal pain relieving patches that he places all along his back. “Tool” works as a henchman for; Red Hammernut, an agri-business giant and all around peckerwood thug who owns and operates thousands of acres of farmland bordering the Everglades. Hammernut bought off Chaz Perrone’s university doctorate in Science so that Perrone could get employed with the State and fudge water quality stats in the Everglades downstream from Hammernut’s operations to keep the State off his back.

Chaz Perrone is himself a colorful and quirky character. He always hated nature, but reluctantly went to the University of Miami to study Oceanography just to keep his mother off his back. He barely passed his course, and even beyond his graduation, had no idea what direction the Gulf Stream ran.

Chaz, characterized by those in his field as a “biostitute”, harbored a hatred for nature that grew and intensified each time he had to go into the field. As he drove his yellow Hummer, a pay off from Red Hammernut, out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control canals to get his water samples, his biggest fear was that that a gator would kill and eat him, or that he would die a slow lingering death from a snake bite in the sweltering South Florida sun, or that he would contract some type of swamp induced disease.

We also get treated to a hermit living in the Glades who rescues another intended murder victim of Chaz Perrone’s. We are led to believe that the hermit is yet another recurring character from Hiaasen’s repertoire named “Skink”, who was in the 1969 novel “Stormy Weather”, as well as 1991’s “Native Tongue”.

The book is a fascinating and humorous portrait of how Joey Perrone, along with her girlfriends, brother, and Stranahan conspire to shake down and spook Chaz into a well earned admission of guilt, or nervous breakdown, whichever comes first, for his attempt to murder his wife - - all because he thought that she might have figured out that he was cookin’ the books on Red Hammernut’s account.

This is a great read that will have you laugh at loud in some instances, and in other instances make your blood boil at the continually allowed degradation and destruction of Florida’s Everglades. The only difference here versus real life is that some of the bad guys responsible for this unforgivable destruction get theirs in a most deserved and at times, unique and ironic manner that makes Hiaasen’s writings such a joy to behold.

Update on Hurricane Charley to Florida’s Landmarks
In addition to the massive toll taken on property and the life altering impacts on humans and animals that Hurricane Charley exacted from Punta Gorda all the way to Daytona Beach, some Florida landmarks written about earlier in this publication were victimized as well. This is an update on some of these landmarks and what damage they received.

Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando: Housing one of the largest Camellia collections in the United States, Charley was a strong Category One to weak Category Two when it reached this beauty spot which is owned and operated by the City of Orlando. With sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, and gusts up to 105 miles per hour, 75% of the tree canopy of this Central Florida institution was decimated. Many shade loving Camellias will now be at the mercy of a scorching Florida sun. Recovery of these 50-acre gardens may take decades or generations. For more on this, link to the Leu Gardens Hurricane Charley update. PCR covered stories about Leu Gardens in Issues 93 and 180.

Historic Bok Sanctuary, Lake Wales: Lake Wales was devestated as a result of Hurricane Charley. Sitting atop Iron Mountain, Central Florida’s highest natural elevation, Bok Tower Sanctuary took the full force of Charley head on. Winds of up to 115 miles per hour devastated the tree canopy at the sanctuary, but the bell tower itself still stands tall and relatively undamaged, 'a beacon of hope" for the rebirth and restoration of these once beautiful gardens. Reports that the historic carillon structure was destroyed in Charley are thankfully untrue. Some good news was gleaned in that a Cabbage Palm planted by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge in 1929 was not harmed, nor were the Sanctuary's swans, nor its Endangered Plant Garden. For more on this, link to the Historic Bok Sanctuary Hurricane Charley update at: http://www.boktower.org/. This sanctuary is briefly mentioned in PCR #181.

Florida’s Big Tree, Longwood: I am most happy to report that the 3,500 year old Baldcypress tree located in Big Tree Park in Seminole County was not destroyed or even heavily damaged by Charley. Like Bok Tower, "The Senator” still stands tall even after the worst ravages that time and nature could throw at it. An article about this tree is found in PCR #202.

In this time of great tribulation it appears that there are some silver linings here and there as not our entire natural and man made treasures were blown out of existence in this hurricane’s destructive path.

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.