On the Urban Hunt for the Great Giant Sloth

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The night was seasonably cool, as was my company, which combined to make one dynamite urban hunting party. Scottish author Neil Forsyth, who’d flown down for the day to help hype the U.S. release of his Let Them Come Through; ace lensman Jeffrey Delannoy and his charming accomplice Brianna Quinlan; B-moviemaker and Cheetah champion Matthew Devlan; and the principal hunters themselves – Megan Catambay, Constance Johnson, Warren Whitmore III, and David Tamargo, aka Alligator Jesus, the leader of the expedition. Our target: the legendary giant sloth that sits at the gates of the Miami Science Museum.

According to the UnMuseum website, the giant ground sloth “was one of the enormous creatures that thrived during the ice ages [and] look[ed] a little bit like an oversized hamster.” Furthermore, “the largest of these ground sloths was Megatherium, which grew to the size of a modern elephant with a weight over five tons.” While the MIA-SCI sloth does admittedly look a little, er, cute (well, as cute as a big hairy beast can look anyway), it certainly doesn’t bring to mind a hamster — more like a cross between T Rex and a shorn woolly mammoth. Its elephantine proportions are very apparent.

More importantly, for us, the giant sloth is believed to have roamed all over Florida before humans came and hunted the gentle leaf-eater to extinction. Add the fact that Sloth is of course one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and you’ll understand why we were all so determined to make it our own quarry.

The notion of tracking down a Capital Vice may also be why we decided to convene at Vagabond, which remains a most capital place to get your vice on. Not that anyone in our hunting party considers kicking back copious amounts of liquor to be any kinda vice, mind you. But there are some in the wild world who might not approve of our habit, which, come to think of it, was another damn good reason to meet at the club.

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Anyway, fully-fueled and briefed on the ground rules (i.e. if the giant sloth statue starts moving, run like hell!), we set our GPS’s for the five-decades-old Miami Science Museum. As children, a few in our party had field-tripped to this Mecca of science and space (MIA-SCI is also home to the renowned Space Transit Planetarium), and each of us fondly remembered the wonder and awe we’d all felt when first encountering the beast that guards its gates. Our reminiscing added a trace of nostalgia to the occasion, though this time, we wouldn’t be approaching the Pleistocene creature as wide-eyed kids under the tutelage of teachers, but as fully-armed adults with capacity to kill.

Okay, so I hyperbolize. It’s highly unlikely any of us would raise our weapons to the beast even it we were attacked. After all, we dig the damn thing, and we all believe Florida is a lot worse off for its loss. Besides, the objective of Tamargo’s urban hunting parties isn’t to kill; it’s to honor. So despite the fact that he and his gang were loaded for proverbial bear, this expedition was undertaken in order to celebrate what’s left of Miami’s wildlife.

This wasn’t Tamargo’s first foray into the deep, dark night of our primordial souls. Prior hunting parties had targeted everything from the swarm of giant pink snails that invaded our town during the last Art Basel to the iconic 8-foot tall rooster which so prominently struts in place in Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. But it was the most ancient of the creatures he’s pursued in his quest to revere our city’s scattered beasts. Because the urban hunt heralded a time before humankind began to spoil the planet, it was also the most sacred. And as he lassoed the giant creature and his accomplices wielded their assorted swords and daggers, its capture became nothing short of sheer reverence.

Then again, what would you expect when hunting ghosts?

Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy.