By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By Kat Bein
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
A bouncer named Trinidad, who has a hulking frame, a gentle smile, and dreadlocks that stretch far down his back (which tonight he's pulled into two loose pigtails that soften somewhat the threat of his imposing bulk), endured the brunt of Hurricane Wilma at a friend's house in Opa-locka. "Now this was in the hood, in a small complex near 134th [Street]. We were all standing there in the house when the hurricane came and then crash! a tree takes the whole roof off."
He gesticulates, sweeping his arms through the air to illustrate the force of the impact. "So we're standing in a room with no roof, and it's just windy and raining on us. One of the people that was in there he wouldn't like it if I mentioned his name got hit in the face with debris and had to go to the hospital. Two of the cars got flipped, including my friend's new 2005 S-class Benz. Not to mention they were barbecuing for three weeks while they waited for the power to come on. They had to move to a whole new complex. That place was destroyed."
Mark, a late-thirties blond guy with a cop haircut and a shy smile, sits at the bar beneath a neon sign that forms the pink silhouette of a shapely woman. Eve, a young, tan Polish beauty in a white polo shirt, sits to his left, chatting away. She rolls her eyes at key points as Mark describes how Hurricane Andrew, to him, will always be summed up by Cheez Whiz, Jim Beam, and rope. "My friends and I were going to tie ourselves to the roof of the Clevelander, but Tony K. [the owner at the time] said no. The rope we planned on using, I think we bought that at the liquor store."
He and his friends went to an acquaintance's house in Coconut Grove to ride out the storm. In the end, the house and its surroundings had suffered severe damage. "So we started doing shots of Jim Beam and Cheez Whiz."
"You mixed Cheez Whiz and Jim Beam in shot glasses?" Eve asks, clearly sickened.
"No," Mark says quietly. "I think it was more like we would do the shot of whiskey, then we'd chase it with a shot of the Cheez Whiz out of the can." Once the storm passed, he says, he and his friends got kicked out of the house, and since the chaos in the streets made driving nearly impossible, they decided to walk home to South Beach.
"We got to the Venetian Causeway, and the police were blocking us. But then finally one police officer shouted, 'Let the walkers go!' And so they did!"
He pauses, his blue eyes shining with nostalgia. "But you know what was the best part by far?"
"Right there on Alton and Seventeenth there was a line of Central Cabs waiting to take us home."
After the twelve-mile walk, it would seem then, the final ten blocks spent nestled inside a cozy yellow taxi kept the experience from becoming unpleasant.
Well why not?