Prez Bashing

Tugging W's effigy through America's Venice draws major league weirdness

Rubin putts along to Riverfront, where a cabbie apparently of South Asian origin asks him in strained English: "You can say that? He'll come and kick your ass!" Rubin assures him that's unlikely. The cabbie nods and turns to look at a bald man sidling up to Rubin. "You want a cab?" The would-be passenger, Paul Lefrak, a Broward County librarian rendezvousing with Rubin, declines.

"What do you think?" Rubin asks Lefrak, whom he knows through the Broward Anti-War Coalition.

"I wish the pants on fire was a little bit better," Lefrak replies.

"You want me to light him up?" Rubin asks.

A television cameraman interviews Rubin, who stutters through a diatribe on Bush's environmental policy flimflammery. Afterward, Rubin asks repeatedly, "Did I come off too stridently?" Didn't much matter, it turned out, because he could never find any indication that the interview, or another that a Miami crew taped, ever aired. He did get a mention in the Sun-Sentinel on his swing through Miami, though that story, in a stiff nod to equity, quoted a snitty Republican Party spokesman almost as much as it did Rubin.

With Lefrak riding shotgun, the POF heads to the beach via Sunrise Boulevard at a prudent 20 miles per hour, windows rolled down, Bob Marley wailing about standing up for your rights from the speakers on the trailer. No sooner does the contraption arrive then, swear to Christ, people actually start talking politics among the beachside tattoo parlors and touristy tchotchke outlets. "I need to start doing some research on who's running," one woman says.

A police car cruises by at a creeping pace. "Well, it is Fort Lauderdale," Lefrak cracks. "Twelve-foot-tall Bushmobiles are a dime a dozen." That doesn't stop a giddy bleached blond and a brunet with a diamond belly-button ring from fluttering over for photos with the totem.

Further south, a man with a haircut that appears something like a shoe box motions for Rubin to pull over at the corner of Las Olas and A1A. "What does this mean?" he demands, motioning to the trailer.

Lefrak explains: "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

"That's fucked up," the man says. He leans in close to Rubin's window. This looks like jaw-socking time. "I'm in the military, and I support President Bush. You should support our country."

"I do support our country," Rubin says. "I want our troops to come home."

Lefrak pipes up: "It's freedom of speech!"

"I think it's disgraceful," the military man says. Rubin makes nice and pulls away at the same strolling pace he has maintained all night.

Lefrak reflects for a moment. "I've never heard anyone call him President Bush," he muses. A moment later, a white Escalade rolls up on the POF's right side.

The driver, a bespectacled 30-something on a cell phone, leans out of his window and glares down at the saggy Crown Vic. "Fuck you, Pinko!" he spits, then speeds north.

Rubin, unfazed, pulls over illegally, per his style, in front of Beach Bums, where the emcee decrees that he get a free shot. A bartender hands him a small cup of some candy-like pink sludge called Sex on the Beach. "To sex on the beach!" Rubin toasts. The emcee keeps hollering: "Liar, liar, pants on fire! Straight from Vermont! He came down to South Florida!" A crowd gathers, with cheap cameras popping flashes and laughter spreading like brush fire. A young man in a sailor uniform stands back and grimaces.

Then an unmarked police car pulls up. Two officers waddle out to tell Rubin to get this thing the hell off the road. He hands someone's camera back and piles in the car.

"Get it off the road," Rubin snorts. "Where should I put it? The sidewalk?" The cop follows until Rubin puts on his blinker and eases into a turn lane. The cop keeps rolling by. As Rubin turns past a hotel, a rumpled woman standing in its driveway begins applauding. There's no telling why.

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