In a state where thick-trunked trees are almost as rare as Florida panthers, the small sliver of forest that thrives outside the Motel 6 on Dania Beach Boulevard west of A1A is a welcome surprise. Even more thrilling is seeing real monkeys there. Yes, there they were last week, about six hours before the start of the new year, swinging from branches, bounding through the air like little furry Flying Wallendas. One of them, a small primate with dark beady eyes, a black visage, and a long tail, sat chewing on an orange rind, as Jason Bates, an inebriated college student from Indiana, looked on in amazement.
"Dude," he said, "did I start drinking too early or is there a monkey in that tree?"
Well, the guy did start drinking too early (c'mon, man, it was only 6 o'clock), but his vision had not yet failed him. Monkeys -- black-faced vervets, to be specific -- have lived in this forest for years, ever since a lab off Griffin Road was shut down in the mid-'50s. When they were done, the researchers gave the chimps to zoos and other wildlife agencies, but the monkeys, remaining unclaimed, were simply set loose. So goes the legend passed on by local residents, anyway.
The monkeys lived there in peace, with fans often stopping by to feed them scraps -- until the early '90s, when a motorist collided with a band of foraging vervets. This compelled Dania officials to enact antifeeding legislation and send in wildlife trappers. The presence of the remaining vervets is a dark little secret shared by the locals. They are on the comeback trail. In a one-hour span, Tailpipe -- with some assistance from the questionably reliable inebriated college guy -- spotted at least five more monkeys within a ten-tree radius.
One long-time resident of the Weiner trailer park next door to Motel 6, out for a sunset stroll, proclaimed delight but skepticism at the reports of monkey sightings.
"I haven't seen one in years!" Manuel Razor said.
No denying it, Tailpipe said. Those critters up there were monkeys.
Razor, clad in a pair of khaki shorts and a floppy visor, suddenly clammed up like John Gotti in the presence of federal prosecutors.
"You're not going to tell anyone about them, are you?" he finally asked, eyes narrowed. "Because they're like family here."
Well, good luck at keeping those little guys under wraps. They're not especially bashful. Tailpipe would never blow the whistle, of course, even though the last time he got within arm's length of a monkey, he came away with tooth marks on his scalp. The Tube loves 'em. At a distance.
Dolphins fans need another reason to root against the New England Patriots like they need another excuse to break down on I-95, but let Tailpipe throw this little item on the pile for good measure. At the ignominious December 7 game in Foxboro, during a 12-0 Dolphins loss that quashed Miami's wispy hopes of a division title, the Pats faithful again demonstrated why they're widely regarded as a form of colic. A lifelong Dolphins fan named Phyllis Weldon spent stretches of the game absorbing pitched snowballs to the back of her Dolphins jacket. When she and her son-in-law, Ray Boifvert, finally decided to bail, they didn't get far before he turned back for a moment to gather their things. With Boifvert out of earshot, two thugs in the stands put a hand under each of her armpits, said, "We got you," and began whaling on her ribs. No one stepped in to help the 42-year-old schoolteacher. The final tally after the lightning assault: a rib with a hairline fracture, bruises to four ribs, and a bruised clavicle and thigh that made it painful to walk. She's spent the past four weeks in bed and on anti-inflammatories.
"I will never go again," Weldon said from her home in Malden, Massachusetts, where she cares for her mother, Misty Weldon. "The vulgarity that came out of these fans. The women! And they're like 55, 60 years old. I see that and I think, 'No wonder your kids act the way they do. '"
Compounding the shame of the attack is the fact that Phyllis Weldon wasn't some drunk picking a fight -- she's a teetotaling fifth-grade teacher in Malden's Salemwood Elementary School. Our Ms. Weldon is also a fan whose Dolphins loyalty runs deep. Her mother used to work at a steak house where Nick Buoniconti and Don Shula would sup, so Weldon was able to meet the legends as young girl. She went to every home game for about a dozen years, before she moved from Cutler Ridge to Massachusetts in 1980.
Her first mistake.
Before all the sugarplum fairies disappear with the yuletide exhaust, here's one last heartwarming tale from the Tailpipe. Eighty-year-old Luise Buettner, legally blind, diabetic, disabled by a stroke, and close to kidney failure, got a visit from the Broward Sheriff's Office on Christmas Eve. As is her custom these days, Buettner was lying on a twin bed in her apartment at her beach motel -- Noble Apartments in Fort Lauderdale -- next to a window that faces the swimming pool. She could quickly discern that the deputy who knocked at her office window came not to wish her Merry Christmas but to post a notice. The motel she had owned, operated, and lived in since 1970 was being seized by the county.
New Times readers will remember Buettner from a July 4, 2002, New Times cover story ("Profile of a Predator"). She's the German-born grandmother who was singularly afflicted not only with a series of medical problems but with "friends" and family members who seemed to circle her prime piece of Fort Lauderdale real estate.
According to prosecutors, Paul Edwards, a tall, oily stranger from Czechoslovakia, wheedled his way into Buettner's world, taking over the operation of her motel, caring for her after she suffered two strokes in January 2001, and, oh yes, scheming to have her sign over power of attorney to him. For his efforts, Edwards now faces trial on a third-degree felony charge of exploiting the elderly. The Czech left behind a barrel of troubles for Buettner, including a document -- forged, she says -- committing her to chipping in $650,000 to Susan Cerny, mother of her son Heinrich's three kids.
While Luise Buettner's lawyer, Eric Stettin, presses for an emergency action to have the sale order rescinded, Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Randy Pelham is out to show that the document purported to be Buettner's doesn't look kosher. He has gathered writing samples for analysis by BSO experts. "If I present it to the state attorney's office as a clearly forged document," he says, "I got to think it could be overturned."
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It's probably too late, though, Stettin concedes. These are issues that should have been argued two years ago -- when the beleaguered Buettner, without the assistance of a lawyer, failed to convince a judge of the forgery.
According to Stettin, when Cerny first filed the child-support settlement, Judge Leonard Fleet invited Buettner to offer proof that the document was forged. "She couldn't convince him of that," Stettin says. "It would be relitigating an issue that you already had an opportunity to litigate before the judge."
The wheels of justice roll on relentlessly.
Buettner, a small, hearty woman who used to keep the motel running single-handedly, seems resigned to being kicked out of her home. "I can't do nothing," she says in a strudel-thick German accent. "I'm very sick, very sick."