Friday, December 15, 2017
Human Interest

The State You're In: Rent a Ferrari, cook up some giant snails, listen to Kitty Pryde

Baby you can drive our car

Every month, about 1,600 people around the world type into a search engine, not necessarily in this order, "exotic, car, rental, Sarasota."

Sarasota entrepreneur Larry Starr plans to capitalize on this. His new company, AutoXotic, offers 10 high-priced cars for rent, from a $225,000 Lamborghini Gallardo to a $308,000 Ferrari 458. Rentals are by the day, or the month, or even three to six months. AutoXotic is hoping a parent celebrating a son's medical school graduation might lay down $1,450 a day for a Ferrari. Or a wife vacationing with her husband for his 50th birthday will give a gift of the use of a Lamborghini Aventador for $3,500 a day.

Daily rentals are limited to 75 miles per day and require a deposit of $10,000 and insurance protection up to $500,000. Each car has a GPS that allows AutoXotic to track its location and speed. If someone drives recklessly, AutoXotic can disable the engine remotely.

Weeks before its June 1 launch date, AutoXotic had half a dozen reservations. We're glad to know someone is driving this economy.


Personalized health care, for a song

Anyone who has cared for a person with dementia knows that depression, agitation and even violence are common symptoms. The common treatment is medication, which is costly and not always effective.

Dan Cohen has a better idea. Music.

Not just the piped-in pap that is as ubiquitous as the smell of disinfectant, but personalized play lists of up to 200 songs delivered on a $50 iPod Shuffle.

"Music is embedded deep in the neural networks," Cohen, 61, says. "It's all over the brain." Songs that have personal significance "can get people going again, eating again, putting on weight." And by shutting out confusing background noise it tames aggressiveness, he says.

Cohen's nonprofit organization, the Music and Memory Project, has provided grants for equipment and training to 60 nursing homes in the United States and abroad. Only one is in Florida — Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland.

"It was a really great deal," says Kelly Noland, assistant director of nursing at Florida Presbyterian. A grant from Cohen's organization in 2011 enabled Florida Presbyterian to buy iPods and music for the residents of its 48-bed Porter-McGrath Health Center.

Given the age group, it's not surprising to see Sinatra, Glenn Miller and South Pacific on many of the residents' play lists, but some wanted Ray Charles as well Chopin. One man wanted songs in German.

"It's been a learning curve," Noland said. One man, whose agitation made him pace the halls relentlessly, discovered that the drum line he had requested "was driving him crazy."

Compared to the cost of antipsychotic medications, the startup costs for the music program are minimal, Cohen says. A 100-bed facility "can get the whole thing rocking and rolling for $8,000."

There are 681 nursing homes in Florida with a total of 83,241 beds. Roughly half of them are occupied by someone with dementia.

Says Cohen: "Florida is wide open."

Bill Duryea, Times staff writer


Finger-lickin' goo

Last month we cracked wise about the looming menace of the giant African land snail making its voracious way across South Florida, devouring all manner of plant life and even stucco in its path. But while we were tittering in the back of the class the good folks at WLRN in Miami were taking the high road and looking for actual solutions. Arianna Prothero and Kaylois Henry (Times alum, Class of 1995 ) have put together an Invasive Species Cookbook, in which they feature an authentic Nigerian recipe for the slimy devils. "Giant land snail is frequently served as a finger food — much like you'd eat boneless chicken wings at a bar," according to Prothero and Henry. "The meat is low in fat and cholesterol and is relatively easy to cook once it's been cleaned." Herewith, an ecologically responsible appetizer. You'll have to decide for yourself what wine to pair it with.



Six large land snails (please don't ask us where to find them)


Alum (a powdery chemical that helps get rid of the snail goo)

Lemon juice







Remove snails from shell and slice in half, removing the insides.

Wash snails with alum in a mixture of salt and lemon juice.

Wash snails until no longer slimy — could take as long as 30 minutes (!)

Place snails in pot of lightly salted, boiling water. Simmer for an hour.

Remove from water.

In a separate pot, saute onions, peppers and tomatoes, adding water to create a saucy stew. Season to taste.

Add snails.

Cook until snails are tender. (After an hour in boiling water you'd think the snails would have succumbed already.)

Serve with rice or pounded yam.



Count Kitty among those who'd say John Mellencamp had it all wrong: You can't breathe in a small town. The young rapper (who lately dropped Pryde from her stage name and who has a bazillion YouTube hits for her song Okay Cupid) has listeners divided: Does her refreshingly unpretentious and strangely vibrant stage presence trump her lack of street cred? What could a young, pale-skinned, red-haired, lawyer's-daughter girl have to rap about? Turns out, growing up in Daytona is less idyllic than one might imagine, as she laments in Florida.

Here are some lyrics and annotations from Kitty herself, from the website

Lyric: I'm out on the balcony, I can see the ocean/ I'm practicing alchemy on you, pour a potion/ I conjure a spell, wish you well/ I can say I'm joking when I call my city hell

Kitty says: "I stay on the balcony of my condo watching the ocean because why even bother leaving Daytona sux ... I make fun of my hometown a lot but it's usually a joke, it's pretty bad but ya."

Lyric: My mama says to show 'em what I'm made of/ But they already know it all and that's what I'm afraid of

Kitty says: "... everyone in my town knows me very well already because it's a tiny a- - place so we all grew up together and they know annoying s- - - about me from when I was in elementary school so I really can't ball out on anyone because they're like, shut up Kitty I watched you pee your pants in 2nd grade."

Yes, we can see why she's having trouble cultivating a sense of mystery. Oh, Kitty, just give in and star in a reality show already. You know you want to.


Fire at will

Call him the Teflon Officer: He's been fired eight times, from three police departments, but nothing sticks. Now the Opa-Locka police force is trying to dismiss Sgt. German Bosque for the sixth time, for leaving his department-issued AR-15 assault-style rifle with his girlfriend's father while he was on sick leave. An arbitrator will decide his fate soon. The Miami Herald reports Bosque has successfully beaten back allegations over the years including: busting the skull of a handcuffed suspect, beating juveniles, having dope and booze in his squad car, ripping off suspects, falsifying reports, participating in an unauthorized chase where four people were killed, and calling in sick … from Cancun. We sympathize with law officers in this state, where a day's work can include anything from face-eating zombies to assault with a garden gnome, but maybe Sgt. Bosque should take his ninth life and just retire ... in Cancun.



The cost of a lion meat taco at Taco Fusion in Tampa.


Excerpt: A hot mess

In his new book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), George Packer devotes a good deal of attention to Tampa and Hillsborough County, in whose sprawling subdivisions — "boomburgs" he calls them — he identifies the entwined social, economic and political ills that made Florida such a mess over the last decade. During his reporting for the New Yorker magazine, where his definitive story on Florida's foreclosure debacle ("The Ponzi State") appeared in 2009, Packer developed long-term relationships with people here — a newly minted political activist enraged by the Obama stimulus program, an out-of-work blue collar worker hanging on to the last rung of the ladder, a foreclosure attorney waging war against predatory Wall Street banks, and a Tampa Bay Times reporter named Michael Van Sickler, whose stories about foreclosure fraud guided Packer much like Virgil led Dante's descent through the circles of Hell.


A strain of thought said that urban life was un-American and Van Sickler felt its presence in the growth machine out in Hillsborough County. The corporate-built houses in the subdivisions looked like bunkers, with tiny windows, no breezeways or courtyards to suit the climate, air conditioners running all the time in cavelike darkness. Inside, families sat in their carpeted living room before a large-screen plasma TV, with the blinds drawn against the sunlight. Outside, the long, long streets of identical houses without shade gave people no reason to want to walk anywhere, so they went from car to driveway to house and never got to know their neighbors. They were retreating from the world, and their isolation was deepened by a pervasive paranoia. Signs advertising accident attorneys, fast cash for houses, and get-rich-quick schemes were everywhere, and auto insurance was higher in Florida than elsewhere — insurers called it "a fraudulent state." Florida drew the transient and rootless on the eternal promise of a second chance, with more than its share of scammers and con men. So who was to say the guy living next door wasn't one of them?




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