Second-hand Smoke

Collateral Damage Is Forever

¨As the public defender, I have 155 lawyers working for me,¨ Finkelstein says. ¨If they legalized drugs, I could do it with 40.¨

Give Me a RingCampaign buttons are so passé. The hippest way to show your support (or disdain) for a political candidate in the 2008 election is to trick out your cell phone with a customized ringtone. You know, like the chorus from the song ¨I´ve Got a Crush on Obama.¨

A Deerfield Beach company called Myxer Tones operates much like Napster or YouTube users can upload and download content at the site (www.myxertones.com). Recently, Myxer partnered with www.ringtones08.com, a site featuring only political rings. In addition to the Obama tune, you can find a ditty called ¨John McCain´s Drummer¨ and a snippet of George Allen shouting the infamous ¨macaca.¨

Judging by numbers, though, no one is as quite as quotable or as mixable as our current commander in chief. Check out clips such as ¨Bush on Prewar Intelligence,¨ ¨Brownie, You´re Doing a Heck of a Job,¨ or Tailpipe´s favorite: Dubya as a gangsta rapper, doing ¨I Am the Decider!¨ on top of a techno beat. The tones are free for the taking.

On the WaterfrontHoping to find solace in a seaward stroll, the ´Pipe hit the Deerfield Beach Pier on a recent blustery evening. On this night, all seemed fine out on the water.

A few young men in cutoff jeans stood, patient and quiet, their rods cast to the south. The warm sea swirled and crashed against the pier´s underpinnings. It was enough to clear a troubled mind, for a spell.

The voice, quick and high-pitched, came as a surprise.

¨Lotta wedding rings at the bottom there,¨ said Steve Bragg, the overseer of the pier, a round, blond man who knows the sea around Deerfield like his own child. Bragg has seen marriages laid to rest, troubled relationships dumped symbolically in the sea like the corpses of shroud-wrapped sailors.

The women come in little klatches of five or six, he says, usually dressed in black, full of drink. It happens about twice a month. A group of young women always different women and, for whatever reason, always white women approach Bragg´s booth, where he collects a dollar apiece from them. When he asks them what brings them to the pier at this hour, the answer is always the same:

¨Celebrating a divorce.¨

Bragg knows what´s coming next. It´s a ritual. These little groups are here to witness a divorcing friend throw her wedding ring into the sea.

On occasion, Bragg says, he follows them out on the pier. They usually walk about 100 feet to the first, south-facing wooden bench. The ceremony begins with a few words. They are often harsh words, in Bragg´s estimation.

¨They´re not saying too kind of things about their spouse,¨ Bragg says, eyes fixed on the shore. ¨It could be F-this, F-him and the girl he cheated on me with.¨

But sometimes it´s gentler. Sometimes it´s a backhanded toss, and a ¨Goodbye, Charlie.¨

This rusty cylinder is now looking for a new pier on which to clear his mind.

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