Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

Democratic Extravaganza

Hardly bedlam, but as Elliott Mincberg, legal director of the People for the American Way Foundation, put it, "We have some concerns." The biggest problems involved perpetual crashes on the supervisor of elections website -- leaving voters without an online source of information about polling places -- and poll workers incorrectly turning away voters without IDs. For Florida voters, here's the rub. Monday, October 4, is the deadline for registration (forms available at election.dos.state.fl.us). By now, the swamped elections office probably won't have time to mail you a voter registration card. Show up at your precinct on November 2 and you should have no problem.

And hey, bring your photo ID when you vote. Though it's required only if you're a first-timer who registered by mail and hasn't previously shown a self-portrait, they may demand it anyway. "There's going to be voter intimidation," Fineman predicts. Election problems will be different from 2000, she said, but "in terms of the level of problems, it's going to be the same." Anyone hassles you on November 2? Call volunteers at the voter protection hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

This all gives the 'Pipe a case of the shudders, and not just because he's dangling from a chassis by a coat hanger.

Jeanne the Bitch

Sunday afternoon, a day after Hurricane Jeanne blew through West Palm Beach, not even Covasia Richards straightforward sales pitch could entice the johns. As cars slowed along a sketchy stretch of U.S. 1 aptly named Broadway, a strip that used to pop for hookers like a pinball machine, Richards lifted a long T-shirt, his only item of clothing, to reveal that his package was neatly taped between his legs. “I’m waiting for them, but business is slow today.” Out of boredom, he twirled the ends of a long wig that hung past a chin of two-day stubble. “I’m waiting for them FPL men to get horny. You know, they’re working hard, and them boys need some fun.”

That Jeanne. She was one big troublemaker, throwing a huge wet blanket over the usual ka-ching ka-ching of commerce everywhere. For many, with no prospect for an infusion of FEMA funds, there was nothing to do but swallow their losses.

A few blocks south, on the corner of 16th Street, a 23-year-old working girl who goes by the name Sierra also complained that the emergency workers get too busy to stop. “They just don’t take time out of their day,” she protested. Sierra had spent a lonely morning standing in the rain, her blond hair plastered down her neck and her knees covered in scabs from a recent fall. She had no money to show for her morning on the corner, and she said the bad business was likely to continue. “A lot of guys are working, you know, on shutters and stuff, and they’re just not stopping by to talk.”

Nearby, Michelle pondered a day without a fix. “I’m a drug addict. That’s why I’m here,” explained the 33-year-old, who wore a tattered sundress. “I’ve been here for an hour and nothing, and that means nothing for me. Usually, it takes 15 minutes.” She talked longingly about the previous couple of days, when the rain brought out the boys. “I don’t know why, but I guess the rain makes them horny.

“Anyway, you’ll have to let me get back,” Michelle said, giving Tailpipe the brushoff. Seconds later, a white pickup pulled up to, um, talk. It was good to see business returning.

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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