Cracking Up

In the late Thirties, William "Tallahassee" Dranes, an obscure Panhandle blues singer, sat awake in a shotgun shack and mused about the weather. It was so hot that summer that birds fell out of the sky completely cooked. So hot that parking lots melted and poured down streets, carrying children and mailboxes with them as they oozed around corners and washed onto lawns. So hot that telephone poles capitulated to the temperature and bowed to touch the flowing streets.

With his shirt collar already salty and damp, and fresh sweat spilling off his brow, Dranes did some thinking. Some serious thinking. And then he began to write a song.

Well, I woke up this morning And my head was burnt right off my neck My fingers lit up like cigarettes Toes melted like candles in a kiln And my woman left me And I lost my job Hain't I got the blues?

Dranes never recorded the "Candle-Toe Blues"; he never finished it. Three weeks later he was dead and buried. The neighbors claimed it was a knife fight, but the local coroner, in the kind of dispassionate block-letter printing that often conveys the most ominous information, recorded heat stroke.

On the final page of his journal -- kept at the Blues Museum in Minerva, Kentucky -- Dranes, clinging to the last strands of his being, found cause once again to talk about the weather: "Wonder is it hot enough to fri [sic] an egg on the street?"

The only way to find out is to try. Either that or wait for a local newspaper reporter to try. Then not only will you find out whether Miami's streets are hot enough, you'll get the truth like lit-up gasoline, in turbocharged prose that will animate the scene like those special 360-degree theaters at Epcot.

YOU'LL SCREAM AS THE ROLLER COASTER PLUMMETS!

YOUR HEART WILL LEAP DURING THE SKYDIVING SCENES!!

YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO KEEP YOUR BOWELS INSIDE YOUR BODY WHEN THE EGG SPILLS OUT ONTO THE PAVEMENT!!!

Cheap publicity stunts in thermometer-busting summers are nothing new. For years newspapers across the country have responded to the heat by dashing outside with goof-ball props and cozying up to the asphalt. But few papers have gone to such extreme lengths to ensure that their temperature tests were events.

To achieve the proper Psychopath's Holiday ambiance, New Times spent weeks assembling a crack research team, pairing "Albumen" John Detrick, owner of the Americana Bookshop in Coral Gables and a certified urban adventurer, with Monique Marvez, a local comedienne and self-confessed breast-enhancement surgery patient. Self-confessed may understate the case somewhat -- suffice it to say that she talks voluminously about her now-voluminous breasts, which she has nicknamed Ben and Jerry. They go everywhere with her. Detrick and Marvez, egg testers extraordinaire, were ready for outfitting.

The things they carried:

1. Relevant scientific instruments: Stopwatch, thermometer, clean-up equipment (we might be literal minded, but we're not litterers), as well as stove-fried control eggs to flop on the ground next to our test subjects for comparison, and magnifying glasses in case we felt like cheating.

2. Irrelevant scientific instruments: A chemistry set (test tubes, test-tube rack, eyedropper, funnel); a folding wooden bookshelf on which we could set up aforementioned chemistry set; a plaster skull on which to crack the eggs; and a bullhorn for bothering passers-by.

3. The raw eggs themselves -- two dozen of the large variety, purchased fresh the morning of the mission from a Kendall Publix and held up to the light, one by one, to minimize the risk of a fetus fiasco.

Experts warned us against such a foolhardy enterprise, especially Gustave Minkin of Sun City Dairy Farm. "Nope," grumbled Minkin, with the weary voice of a man who has handled more fried eggs than he cares to remember. "No way. You got to get them up there, 400 degrees or something."

Minkins be damned. We waited for a sunny day, took the final precaution ("I, Your Name Here, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly swear that at no time during the course of this experiment will I humiliate myself and my associates by uttering the following puns: `Eggzactly,' `Eggceptional,' `Eggciting,' `Eggsodus,' and, of course, `The yolk's on you.'"), and set off on our intrepid -- or is that insipid? -- quest.

FIRST CRACK

We resolved to kick off the afternoon with a little egg-inspired blasphemy, but couldn't decide upon the variety. Anti-Christian? (Commission an Andres Serrano Yolk Christ?) Anti-Jewish? (Pull up within kosher-shattering distance of a synagogue and cast down eggs, then ham?) Or maybe anti-Muslim? (See if we could muster some sizzle in a limited-edition Satanic Verses skillet and then brace for the fatwa?)

After intensive (not eggstensive) debate, we decided on a locally potent cultural blasphemy, and off we went to the southeast corner of Calle Ocho and Seventeenth Avenue to make egg-drop soup atop the Gloria Estefan marker in the Latin Stars Walk of Fame.

As we unpacked at Calle Ocho, the first hints of a crowd were already massing. Few people were prepared to see Detrick, dressed in shorts and a lab coat in the best mad-scientist fashion, and even fewer were ready for Marvez, who was decked out in elbow-length gloves and a white evening gown that slipped from one shoulder and gave her doctored cleavage plenty of exposure.

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