Wild week. The power of that hurricane made me feel insignificant, like when you roll out of your tent at 1 a.m. in Seminole Canyon and see the stars for the first time. That’s a nice feeling once in a while.
A few items for your weekend reading pleasure.
Keith was looking for feedback on this piece on Port Jervis football: At Homer’s Coffee Shop on East Main Street, where $2.65 gets you a couple of eggs, home fries and toast, a few sleepy residents wake themselves with cups of freshly brewed coffee. The city fire chief eats breakfast quietly before his walkie-talkie calls him away.
And in one corner, a retiree with a Giants cap and a thick mustache talks about the football game that’s 12 hours away.
Port Jervis High School football.
Kruse brought us this one from Belmar, N.J., on a band trying to find where it fits: One evening at the beginning of the second month of life after Katrina, the guys who make up the New Orleans band called the Soul Project sat in a house that smelled like cigarette smoke.
Cristian Duque needed some black socks to wear with his thrift-store suit at that night’s gig way up here on the Jersey Shore.
“I had like 10 pairs,” he said. “I don’t know where they are.”
He hardly knows where he is anymore.
Kelley Benham, with a nice way to tell a soldier’s story: When a mine exploded in Iraq, Roberto Baez disappeared from CiCi’s Pizza on Hillsborough and the Lucky Buffet on Waters, from the passenger seat of his best friend’s Sentra and from PlayStation cyberspace. He was 19 and grew up in Tampa.
Tom Hallman Jr. on an aging magician: He pulls a deck of cards out of his battered briefcase. He shuffles in silence, lost in thought.
“When I die,” he finally says, “all this will be hauled off to the dump.”
He wipes his eyes. A cold, he says as he briefly turns away. Just a cold. He clears his throat and holds out the deck.
“Take a card,” he says. “Please, take a card.”
Ramsey explores the death of a rabbit: Flopsy was dead by the time the ruckus woke up Miles Barnett.
Brady Dennis with a quiet look at a clown: Inside the locker room, the drifter drifts to sleep.
He pays no attention to the country music blaring outside, or the bulls pacing restlessly, or the bullriders swaggering in too-tight Wranglers.
They call him Stretch, a wild man, a bullfighter, the American kind, who paints his face clown-like and dresses in red and throws himself willingly into the path of angry beasts who have just bucked cowboys to the ground.
Timothy Egan on a freaky town: “It’s just like the mob,” said Gary Engels, a former police detective who has been retained by county officials to investigate child abuse accusations here. “The church is able to keep iron-fisted control even though the top leaders are fugitives.”
Church leaders – and officials of the mayor’s office, the Police Department and the school board, all of whom are followers – declined to be interviewed. The police, as well as church body guards in white pickup trucks, followed a visiting reporter and a photographer around town for several days.
And finally, a gangrey.com exclusive (space was tight, I’m told):
MIAMI BEACH — Four homeless guys were sitting on South Beach, near a washed-up crab trap and the surf, which was wild and white for this time of year.
Accounted for among the homeless of South Beach post-Hurricane Wilma were these pals — Jeff Berkins, Peter Joseph Servello II, Scabs, and Damin Schmidt — plus Andre, Walking Mike and J.C.
One was missing.
The men were worried.
“We look out for each other, know what I mean?” said Berkins, a University of New Hampshire graduate who says he ran the IT department at Children’s Hospital in Boston before he tried crack. (This couldn’t be confirmed through the hospital Wednesday night.)
The night of the storm, the group –- most of the guys who sleep behind the wall near 12th Street, between Ocean Drive and the sand — was split up.
They all intended to ride it out on the streets.
Servello did. He’s 50, Sicilian, has lived in Tampa and has tattoos on his face: a lightning bolt to make his mother mad and two tear drops, for his daughters, April and Christina.
He snuck into a stairwell on Collins Avenue, crept up to the seventh floor and fell asleep, safe and sound and reading a western novel called “Independence.” He knew nothing of the chaos around him as he slept.
About 11 p.m., when the wind started picking up, Berkins and Schmidt, 20, who says he joined the carnival after his parents overdosed on heroin, were talked into riding a bus to a shelter.
They heard the last pick-up was at 5, but a bus barreled through the night, so they jumped on and rode 45 minutes to a high school in West Hialeah.
Red-eyed Bobby was with them.
The high school hallways were lined with sleeping bags, they said. People everywhere. Some families had brought mattresses and battery-powered televisions. The men ate chicken nuggets in the high school cafeteria and tried to sleep.
In the middle of the storm, Red-Eyed Bobby needed some something to drink.
“He’s a wicked alcoholic,” Berkins said.
“Vodka,” said Servello. “Loves Vodka.”
So Bobby, who they say is a Vietnam War veteran, chased his demons out of the shelter and into the wind.
And that was the last anyone has seen of him.
When the hurricane passed and the sideways rain stopped, the guys met up at the beach. Walking Mike was there. J.C. Andre. And the four buddies.
“As soon as we got back, we started looking around to make sure there were no casualties,” Berkins said. “Everybody seemed good, but Red-Eyed Bobby wasn’t here.”
They asked around.
No one had seen him.
As South Beach filled in around them Tuesday, the men ate Funyuns, smoked Broncos and split a six-pack of Natural Light tallboys. The beach was beautiful. Red-Eyed Bobby should have been here.
The good thing: he wasn’t listed among the hurricane dead.
The bad thing: who was looking?
“Hope he’s OK,” said Servello.
“Yeah,” said Schmidt.