Category Too Much

We know how to weather the big storms, right?

Welcome to the Stone Age, bitches.

While you’re waiting in a four-block line to buy a tank of $3 gasoline, maybe it dawns on you that things would be a lot easier if you could do like Fred Flintstone and thwack your feet against the pavement to get your dinosaur-bone car flying down the road.

Hurricane Wilma, indeed.

The issue of New Times Broward-Palm Beach you’re reading was put out with technology only slightly more advanced than Barney Rubble’s. After Broward County was pummeled by the most powerful storm in 55 years, we were fortunate there was even a building to go to — but one without power, without computers, without telephones.

Thanks to a couple of gas generators (but no thanks to their noise, and the toxic fumes), we managed to put out this edition of the newspaper, which happens to be the first of our ninth year in business. Not the most auspicious start to the new year maybe, but like the rest of you, we hope things improve in the ensuing days.

We’re alarmed by the damage that we see on every block, the roofs missing from homes, the cars bruised and banged by flying debris. Driving down Federal Highway, we couldn’t find a business that hadn’t lost a sign or a façade. But there was one loss that really kicked our ass.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we sported a cover that captured the essential soulful bliss of Hukilau, the annual Tiki party that descends on Fort Lauderdale. Where else but Mai Kai, the Polynesian palace on Federal, could be ground zero for such a celebration of mid-century South Seas schmaltz. Ground zero is exactly what Mai Kai looked like Monday afternoon after Wilma’s winds had died down from terrifying to merely annoying. The tiki restaurant’s guts were hanging out like a bomb had gone off in its bar, and, out of some inexplicable feeling of propriety, we felt compelled to look away as we drove by.

Such losses may not show up in media reports about deaths, insurance estimates and recovery plans. But to those of us picking up the pieces after Wilma, it’s what will be at the heart of the new reality.

She came from the West, a demure Category One, letting us think she was steady, docile, and relatively harmless.

But when Hurricane Wilma blew ashore and crossed Florida in a flash, she was a bitch. She toppled a multistory dry dock in Sunny Isles Beach, launched a 30-foot sailboat and a half-dozen Jet Skis onto Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove, and she popped out hundreds of windows from swaying skyscrapers in downtown Miami.

Six people died. County parks were all closed. Ninety-eight percent of us were without electricity.

It wasn´t all bad news. Wilma also brought us together. Take the story of Dave, a psychologist who rendezvoused with an ex-girlfriend, Doris, on Sunday night at Le Tub, the über-rustic Intracoastal-side bar in Hollywood. Though tele-experts had been bombasting for days about the dangerous storm, and wind was howling by early evening, the pair didn´t pay much attention. She was describing a tempestuous relationship with a possessive boyfriend. About 10:00 p.m., they were still blathering when the bartender said something like, ¨Don´t you think you folks should get moving?¨ and muttered, ¨Category Three.¨

¨What?¨ they gasped. They had been thinking more like Cat One. So they bottoms-upped and split. They made their way south on A1A, through the eerie, muggy 30-mile-per-hour gusts safely to Dave´s South Beach crib, where they continued to drink alcoholic beverages. Soon they forgot about Wilma and got cozy.

By about 2:00 a.m. man and woman were in bed about to get very cozy when Dave looked out the bedroom window and for the first time beheld the intensity of Wilma´s awesome, pure, and strangely anti-aphrodisiacal power. ¨Then I wasn´t that interested in sex anymore,¨ Dave confessed.

Several hours and two massive hangovers later, the wind subsided and the clouds dispersed. Dave´s neighbor´s Mini Cooper had been flattened by a tree, but his own sedan was okay. He ferried Doris home to her place in North Dade and, sadly, gave her but a kiss goodbye.

The bitch storm did something good for the couple, though. On the way to Doris´s place, they spotted a demolished rack of wrecked boats. Her demonic ex´s craft was among them, she observed.


As the storm subsided, a diminutive lady in her sixties screamed into the receiver of a public telephone that had been ripped apart and knocked to the ground by a falling tree. She looked furious and happy at the same time. ¨Can you do this again — oh, please,¨ she belted to the heavens so that the tourists on Lincoln Road not far from Van Dyke Caf could hear. Some laughed. Others took photos.

¨Are you mad at this phone for some reason?¨ she was asked.

¨How did you guess? I hate it! I divorced my husband because of that damn phone.¨

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