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We drive to NE Eighth Street between First and Second avenues, and a small crowd gathers around the Corolla, window-shopping the open boxes in the back seat. Channel 10 has been tipped off. The sight of blazer-wearing reporter Glenna Milberg wielding a microphone with a cameraman in tow acts as a magnet for ruckus-seeking homeless.
New Times is soon beset by every race and ilk. Many of them are unsurprisingly grubby, but a few have a scavenger's dapperness perfectly complemented by wine-and-gold mesh. Women want extra-extra-large jerseys to wear as dresses. Husbands and wives demand matching jerseys. Nobody wants to settle for a T-shirt. One loquacious woman, named Paula Andre, asks for a petite pink jersey for her daughter. We oblige. Asked her kid's name, Andre is stumped.
Word spreads to a nearby homeless shelter, and new speed-walking waves of homeless join the rabble. Then the attempts at double-dipping begin. "I told you, I gave it to my man!" a woman named Mississippi keeps yelling when reminded she already nabbed a jersey. With increasing ferocity, she slaps a New Times reporter's left shoulder.
"Take all the shit out and give me the car!" a man named Pablo screams, half-joking.
After 45 minutes, the boxes are down to their dregs. The car rocks, but nobody reaches in to help themselves. The scene borders on ugly but never hops the fence. "Main Man Stacks," a pudgy dude who happens to be wearing a Cleveland Indians hat, makes it clear he wants the last jersey — and "don't even give me no other kind of shit!" he orders. "We can be choosy!"
After the escapade, only a few items are left in the car. A pair of shorts and two wristbands go to Josh, a beggar just north of Little Haiti. His Mr. T-like mass of rosaries and chains pegs him as a serial accessorizer.
At the discharge window outside the county jail in downtown Miami, where prisoners are freed wearing only blue scrubs, a cheery vagrant trades his government-issue top for the last T-shirt — an '80s-style petite women's item, split on the sides and reconnected with knots. And shoes are given to the reclusive homeless colony under the Dolphin Expressway bridge along NE 12th Avenue.
It's a different story in Coconut Grove, ground zero for the famous water bums — homeless who kept skiffs and lived on deserted islands until marina officials landlocked them by confiscating the boats.
It's late afternoon and raining, but the neighborhood's most gregarious beggar is cheerily cradling a Hurricane High Gravity with his bare feet, begging for cigarettes, and chatting idly. The guy, who says his name is Departee Hardee and sports Charles Manson-style gray locks and facial hair, is hanging out with his reserved, nearly toothless, buddy Michael Chaver.
Departee somehow steers the conversation to his porn-making days in Europe. "It was what we called triple-X, all penetration for sure," he reminisces. "Not in me, though — I kept it straight. That was some good money." He bursts into a raw, hacking cough.
We give Michael a pair of LeBron III sneakers and hand Departee the final remnant of the collection: the glorious LeAfghan.
Modeling it like a poncho, Departee has a revelation. "What if I poke a hole in it and put my little hamster through there?" he posits. "I could put my little dick through there right where his nose is at."
He begins excitedly unstringing his khaki shorts while pressing the blanket to himself.
A thousand miles away, Cleveland cheers.
Vince Grzegorek contributed to this article.