Anybody who is truly in the know,
Says the flea market is the place you gotta go.
Liberty City is where I'm talking about,
Listen up now; I ain't gonna shout.
Those are just four of the 66 wince-worthy lines the Miami Herald printed last week about shopping at Flea Market USA in Miami-Dade's Liberty City. You know Liberty City. Lots of black people there. Black people rap. Makes sense to cover the flea market in jerky meter and lame rhyme, no?
Well, two top editors at the Herald didn't see it that way, and before the preprinted features section called "Tropical Life" even ran on May 26, they sent a 178-word note to the staff, the full text of which appears here.
"With the best of intentions, we wrote a piece in Tropical Life on hip-hop couture in the language of the genre," read the note, signed by Executive Editor Tom Fiedler and Managing Editor Judy Miller. "An interesting story idea? Yes. An attempt to appeal to younger readers? Yes. An attempt at creativity? Absolutely."
But, the note continues, "What was intended as a positive piece on hip-hop came across to some as a mocking parody... In this case, we should have told it straight, through the voices of the featured people."
Actually, under a more skilled lyricist -- what, Talib Kweli isn't available to string for the Herald? -- such an article could have been, if we may say so, f'in' ill as shit. Alas. Herald writer Kathryn Wexler even admits, near the story's merciful end, her shortcomings as an emcee:
This jam is nearly over, and I guess you're not too sad,
This maybe wasn't the best idea a reporter ever had.
Kill Somebody Instead
Hey, all you perverts. Come stand at Tailpipe's knee and listen to a cautionary tale.
In early February, Nick Deraway of Deerfield Beach came upon an Internet newsgroup titled hotteengirlsvideowildparty. Once inside, he found a posting by "Boldbrahma," which stated "Buy/Sell/Trade" and then listed a series of acronyms including VYG and VYB. It then directed interested parties to Boldbrahma's web page, maxpages.com/thevideotrader. That site promised "unique videos for the serious collector/trader" with "hard-to-find themes."
Deraway, 23, knew what two of the acronyms meant: Very Young Girls and Very Young Boys. What he didn't know was that Boldbrahma was actually Lt. John Crane of the Birmingham, Alabama, Police Department. Over the next month, according to federal court documents filed in Fort Lauderdale, the two engaged in a wary dance between seller and buyer.
"Hi, I'm interested in your videos, if you could tell me a little more about them and maybe give me a list," Deraway wrote, using his online handle of Jediscream.
"A lot of the stuff is from Germany or Amsterdam that I got traveling abroad but some of it is homemade that I got in trading or made myself," Crane advised, then enticed Deraway with a hard-to-get brush back. "Please be discreet!! My items are extremely rare, unique (& illegal). If you're not serious about the material or just curious, I don't need to deal with you." He offered to provide Deraway a catalog of titles, including the genres of "pets, veggies, underage, S&M, B&D, Golden Shower, etc."
Deraway's response came hours later: "Ok, I'm definitely interested in the [underage] stuff... any of it, boy or girl." He was hesitant, however. "Um, I'm a little nervous about this though, since I've never had to order anything like this. This may be a stupid question, but is there a way you can prove that I can trust you, and that you're not like one of the authorities or anything? It's nothing personal, I'm just eager to do business."
Crane, portraying himself as someone interested in kiddies, not money, e-mailed back a list of 35 videos and wrote that he preferred trading tape for tape rather than payment. "As you can see, I'm not in it to make money but to be in the loop if you run across something I don't have." The video list included titles such as Tiny Tina Strips, Suck Boys Go Wild, and Animal Fucking ("Lots of tender heterosexual scenes until the goat (!!!) walks in.")
Almost as an afterthought, Crane added at the end of the video list: "I hereby state that I am not a law enforcement officer in any capacity, including state, local, or federal. I do not work for the U.S. Postal Inspectors, nor do I work for any of the above in the capacity of an informant. I do not work for any ISP/Internet Service Provider nor do I belong to any group that advocates entrapment or the violation of a person's rights."
"Hmm, now I'm definitely interested in a lot of those," Deraway replied the next day. The two corresponded several more times concerning digital format and video length. Deraway also confessed that he didn't have any full-length movies to trade, only a couple of hundred pictures. He offered to pay cash but asked if there was a discount for buying a lot of videos. "Sorry if I'm annoying you with all the questions, I REALLY wanna do business," Deraway wrote.
A day later, he settled on three tapes: Little Boy Butts, Isabella the Lolli-Tot, and A Little of Everything, which would cost $8 apiece. "How do you want payment?" Deraway asked, now growing more comfortable with his newfound vendor. "I don't suppose you take PayPal, do ya?" he joked, referring to the payment method often used during eBay transactions.
Crane closed the net with one final tug. He mailed an old-fashioned letter to Deraway's home address. "I know this isn't what you expected and I hope you appreciate my sense of caution," Crane wrote, still under his online name. "I just wanted to make sure that no one is trying to get their ex-husband or wife in trouble and using me to do it." Crane asked his customer to e-mail back a code word to verify that the e-mail correspondence had taken place with the person living at the mailing address. Deraway obliged, and in early March, U.S. postal inspectors arrested him for receipt of and possession of child porn. Maximum sentence for both: 30 years and $250,000 in fines, three times what he would get for voluntary manslaughter.
So, go on out there, check out those racy websites, make a purchase or two. Tell Officer Crane that Nick says hello.
Tears in the Batter
It's not often you see grizzled Russian men weeping in public, especially over spoiled jelly. On the witness stand May 20 in West Palm Beach, former Publix baker Vladimir Mikhaylov got the tear ducts working in recounting why the supermarket canned him in 1999. Through a Russian translator, Mikhaylov claimed he got the ax after complaining about the unsanitary conditions in store number 421 on Glades Road in Boca Raton. Mikhaylov claimed managers ordered him to ignore cockroaches crawling on the dough, wipe mold off old jelly, and re-label old bread to sell as new. "It was horrible," he said outside the courtroom, with a look of sanctimonious bewilderment.
This was news that Tailpipe didn't want to hear. No, not vermin in the 'Pipe's favorite beer and munchie emporium. Vlad, say it ain't so.
Well, Mikhaylov's tears weren't enough to convince jurors, who on May 25 gave him nichevo (nothing, Igor) in his would-be "whistleblower" lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. More credible than the litigious baker was Publix's own account of Mikhaylov as an unruly employee who was fired after refusing to do simple tasks like carry bags of flour. Publix vigorously disputed the contention that the bakery was unsanitary. Though, Publix spokeswoman Maria Rodamis says, the occasional presence of a roach is unavoidable in South Florida. "We do everything we can to make it a great place to work and shop," she adds.
After the tears dried up, Mikhaylov's attorney, Stewart Karlin of Fort Lauderdale, said he was stumped by the verdict. "I was surprised that the jury didn't get it," Karlin says. "Well, it is what it is." Which is, apparently, nichevo.
-- As told to Edmund Newton