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Water Fouls

No sane reader could ignore the headline in the nether pages of November 20's Sun-Sentinel: "Man dies after being hit by duck." Thirty-one-year-old Leon Resnick, the paper reported, was testing a jet ski "at speeds up to about 55 miles per hour, [when he] was knocked from the vessel by a duck, which struck Resnick in the face.... Resnick drowned."

Seeking insight into the incident, Undercurrents phoned Resnick's employer, Riva Yamaha in Pompano Beach, only to be rebuffed with a "no comment." Then we dialed the Broward Sheriff's Office, which also gave us the cold shoulder. Finally, Florida Marine Patrol boating education specialist Leslie Woodard in Tallahassee offered some perspective: "This is definitely unique. I see all the reports, and this is the only person I have ever had killed by a duck." Last year, nine people died in Florida boating accidents, she added, none of them in Broward or Palm Beach counties.

Then salty FMP Capt. Alan Richard took the receiver. After pointing out that there was no evidence Resnick had done anything reckless and that the young man's death was tragic, he commented: "I'd rather not talk about people who have died; I want to address those who are still living." Then he recalled a 1999 roller-coaster ride at Busch Gardens in Virginia during which model Fabio was hit in the face by a bird and bled all over models in white tunics.

Then Richard, who worked in South Florida back in the '80s, waxed nostalgic about three accidents on the Intracoastal Waterway in or near Fort Lauderdale:

"Back in 1987, a 70-foot yacht was proceeding south at top speed (12 to 14 miles per hour) and throwing up an eight-foot wall of water. A northbound, 13-foot Boston Whaler hit the wake... and was thrown over a dock, a seawall, and a portion of a back yard, into a swimming pool." The yacht's driver wasn't cited. Nor was the whaler's 14-year-old skipper, but he had to phone his dad for a trailer. "Now that was a telephone call," Richard recalls.

Several years before that, a 36-foot ocean racer was speeding south about 60 miles per hour when "the operator lost control, hit a dock, and launched into the air. It came to rest protruding through the sliding door of a third-floor balcony.... The firefighter who arrived at the scene said it was the first time he had ever responded to a boating accident with a 40-foot extension ladder." This driver, Richard recalls, lived to describe the incident.

Just a few years ago, a kid was piloting a boat south and turned around to look at his girlfriend. "The intracoastal turns left," Richard recalled. "He didn't."

Undercurrents mourned when we learned that Liberties Fine Books, Music and Café, the best local bookstore in Fort Lauderdale and one of the few signs of intelligent life on the Las Olas Boulevard strip, closed November 18. But we were encouraged after telephoning Maureen Costello, leasing manager for the Las Olas Company. She wouldn't disclose the price for the space but gave us a general idea of what the 7000-square-foot location at 888 Las Olas Blvd. might go for: rents in the area are about $30 per square foot per year, she said, which would mean about $17,500 per month for the ground-floor location.

Then came the hopeful note: "We're talking to someone about the space, a bookstore -- and not a chain. We have met him a couple of times, so there's interest there."

Bibliophiles may again find safe haven on Fort Lauderdale's main drag.

Let's be honest. The odds of Broward voters' ever electing a countywide mayor are slim to none, even if the Charter Review Commission decides this week to put such a measure on the ballot.

The lack of interest in change was clear at last week's review-commission hearing on the issue. The first hint: Though more than 2400 personalized postcards had been sent out, only about 50 people showed up.

If there were to be a vote for mayor, though, Undercurrents would endorse new County Commission Chairwoman Lori Parrish. She would undoubtedly entertain, just as she did at the hearing. A log of her activities at this gathering:

4:30 p.m. -- Plops comfortably into the second row, begins signing documents and cutting out coupons. Piles work at her feet.

4:44 p.m. -- Takes a break to listen.

4:49 p.m. -- Gets up to self-promote, um, speak: "If you think I am a shy, retiring wallflower who doesn't have the ability to lead, well obviously you don't know me." On the proposal for a strong mayor: "Less than a year and a half ago, the people voted no. What part of no don't you understand?" On her election to the county commission: "They're calling me Landslide Lori." And on national defense: "I'm quite capable of picking up an M-16. I don't think our county administrator is."

5:05 p.m. -- Walks out.

5:10 p.m. -- Walks back in with a cellophane-covered plate of cookies. Offers one to everyone in the room. Chairman Dan Lewis gets two and dubs Parrish "The Cookie Lady."

5:19 p.m. -- Sets down cookie tray in the center of the aisle, takes off jacket, and rolls up sleeves.

For the rest of the three-hour hearing, Parrish kissed voters, hooted like a schoolgirl when she didn't like ideas, and cheered like crazy when she liked proposals. This is our kind of candidate. Go, Cookie Lady.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse

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