April 21, 2013

Should We Eat Here Or Get It To Escargot?

Good morning and greetings, rock and roll fans. If you’re a baby boomer and music is your mistress, then you might have a memory of February 7, 1964, the day the Beatles arrived in New York to party with Ed Sullivan. I remember the excitement when they stepped off the Boeing 707 at Kennedy Airport before Pan Am lost their luggage. There was pandemonium on the tarmac, as people were sobbing, screaming and waving banners, and those were just the skycaps and taxi drivers. It had been a hard day’s flight for these lads, who had been working like dogs. The British Invasion had begun.

This was the start of a classic period, when British pop stars and rock and rollers came to the USA and blew the ears and minds of American youth. Many people were caught by surprise, as even Paul Revere didn’t know they were coming. We’re talking groups like The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits. Yes, Mrs. Brown certainly had a lovely daughter, as these groups would have an impact on the US music scene that has lasted longer than my membership to 24 Hour Fitness.

Now some thirty years after the twenty years ago today when Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play, there’s another invasion hitting the shores of America, but it doesn’t involve super groups or groupies. In a story written by Barbara Liston for Reuters, South Florida is fighting a growing infestation of one of the world’s most destructive invasive species. No, not the Justin Beiber music tour, but the giant African land snail, which can grow to be the size of a rat, and whose favorite hobbies are gnawing through stucco, plaster and retirement communities.

More than 1,000 of these marauding mollusks are being caught in speed traps each week in Miami-Dade County, while some have been spotted taking in Heat games at American Airlines Arena. Over 117,000 in total are now in custody facing deportation charges since the first snail was spotted by Ponce de Leon Jr. in September 2011.

And there are more on the way, as the snails will soon emerge from underground hibernation at the start of the state’s rainy season. Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture, says the snails attack “over 500 known species of plants, pretty much anything that’s in their path and green.” That being said, I have a message for all cucumbers. Run!

According to Billy Ocean, in some Caribbean countries like Barbados, the snails’ shells blow out tires and hair on the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades. At the same time, their slime and excrement coats pavements and walls, which is driving the local taggers crazy.

A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs, a pound of bacon and a side order of toast each year. These slow-moving creatures, like telemarketers, are a real pest for homeowners, as they have a fondness for stucco, which they devour for the calcium content they need for their shells. Researchers have found that snails pay very close attention to their intake of calcium so as to meet the daily nutrient requirements for healthy mollusks.

The snails also carry a parasitic rat lungworm that can cause a form of meningitis, which can really be a downer at parties. Fortunately, no such cases have yet been identified in the United States or Hawaii.

These are not the first exotic species to invade the Sunshine State. Numero uno would be the infestation of the giant Burmese pythons, which have took taken up home in the Everglades and are reproducing faster than the Octomom on her best day. Burmese pythons can grow to be 26 feet long and more than 200 pounds, and they have been known to swallow victims as large as alligators or a Rush Limbaugh. Constrictors snakes kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it, unlike Rush, who suffocates his victims with billowing hot air.

There is a long list of destructive non-native species that thrive in the state’s moist, subtropical climate, with many of them now starring in their own reality shows. Experts gathered last week to seek the best ways to eradicate the mollusks, including use of a stronger bait approved recently by the federal government and providing them with one way bus tickets to western states.

Investigators are trying to trace the snail infestation source. One possibility is a Miami Santeria group, a religion with West African and Caribbean roots, which was found in 2010 to be using the large snails in their rituals. This was the premise for an episode on “Miami Vice,” a show I watched religiously for fashion tips. But according to Ms. Feiber, many exotic species come into the United States unintentionally in freight or tourists’ baggage or colons.

“If you got a ham sandwich or an orange from Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, and you didn’t eat it all and bring it back into the States and then discard it, at some point, things can emerge from those products,” Feiber says. That’s why when I’m vacationing in the Caribbean, when I order I always ask for my mollusks on the side.

The last known Florida invasion of the giant mollusks occurred in 1966. A young boy, who was a big “Magnum, P.I.” fan, returned to Miami from a vacation in Hawaii and brought back three snails and and an “Eddie Would Go” t-shirt. His grandmother eventually released them into her garden, where the population grew in seven years to 17,000 snails. The state then spent $1 million and 10 years eradicating them. Hey, kid, next time, when you want to bring back a souvenir, I got two words for you-macadamia nuts.

Feiber says many people and an anesthesiologist in the Satellite Beach are unfamiliar with the danger when viewing the snails as cute pets. “They’re huge, they look like they’re communicating with you, and people enjoy them for that.” The bottom line is, when large snails like this are released into an environment where, unlike myself, they have no natural enemies, they will thrive and cause massive devastation.

It was Russian author Ivan Turgevev who once said, “Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail, but man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly as slowly.” And that, my friends, is why I never wear I watch. And finally, I believe it was either Tom Selleck’s barber or the Dali Lama’s brother who came up with this nugget of wisdom.” The week seems to go by at the speed of a snail. Unless it’s the weekend. Then the snail rides a F****** ferrari.”

I have partied with these giant snails on my trips to the Garden Isle of Kauai, and have posted an image of one in today’s photo fun pack. And we are heading back to the skies today, as I have over twenty sunrise and sunsets from the fall and winter sitting on the runway of my archives, waiting for clearance. This sunset was a beauty from the night of January 7 at Natural Bridges State Beach, when both the sky, sand and my heart and lungs glowed with beauty and joy. I always love photographing the remaining arch, because not only is this art, but it’s history. And erosion, like time, waits for no one.

On to a some late nght humor. “The Coachella Music Festival started today. It’s held every year in the California desert. A whole weekend of peace, love, and $10 bottles of water.” – Craig Ferguson “For those of you who aren’t familiar with Coachella, it’s a big music festival in the California desert. If you didn’t get tickets or if you’re too far away, just get high and pass out in a dumpster behind Trader Joe’s. Just like being there.” – Jimmy Kimmel “According to a new study, our views on immigration are changing. For example, when asked if they support a path to citizenship, 40 percent of the respondents said, “Si.” – Jay Leno ”

“It was revealed today that someone sent President Obama a suspicious letter containing the poison ricin. It’s a deadly poison made from beans. They said it’s the third worst substance you can send in the mail behind anthrax and packing peanuts. A man in New York City is convicted of stealing more than $376,000 worth of copy machine toner from the law firm he worked for. They’re known for their work with big corporations and investment banks, and also for not ever having any toner in their copier.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A 14-year-old boy from China is the youngest golfer to ever compete in The Masters. During his round of golf today, the Chinese boy made two birdies, an eagle, and an iPad. DC Comics introduced its first-ever transgender character. The character is called “Wonder If It’s a Woman.” A new report claims that almost half of Justin Bieber’s 37 million Twitter followers are fake. Even more disturbing: The other half is real. Tom Cruise made his first public comments about his divorce from Katie Holmes. He said, “I didn’t see it coming.” Apparently Katie kept her divorce papers on top of the refrigerator.” – Conan O’Brien

So that’s a wrap. A birthday shout out goes today out to my Stanford cycling pal, Jim Buser, the creator of Duck and Cover, who was the first person to ask the world,”What if the hokey pokey isn’t what it’s all about?”

So as we try to wash away and the evil and madness around us, try to enjoy the first round of the NBA playoffs. We’ll catch you coming into your own after the all-star break and showing NBA observers who was the best shooter in the league this year. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.


  1. February 7th, 1964, I do remember where I was…

    Comment by Babs — April 22, 2013 @ 7:37 am

  2. one of my all time favorite photos: 3rd down on the right.
    Just beautiful!!!!

    Thanks for all the info on that gosh darn mollusk.

    Happy Monday.

    Comment by Wendi — April 22, 2013 @ 8:10 am

  3. i meant 3rd down on the left

    Comment by Wendi — April 22, 2013 @ 8:10 am

  4. I would like to officially announce that I will be racing a mollusk on TNT in the near future. All proceeds will go to Umbertos Clam House.

    Comment by Dick Bavetta — April 22, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

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