The Calm Before the Storm, Hurricane Andrew ’92

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It was summer of ’92 just before Hurricane Andrew. The Rainbow Picnics in Peacock Park continued every Sunday. The Cosmic Connection closed down but  I was still playing at places around the Grove, The Hungry Sailor, The Bread Station, Zanzibar. This was still the pre-Cocowalk Coconut Grove era. Things were way different then. I remember no matter where I was playing, Peter Betan was always playing at the place across the street ( and still is! how does he do that? )  Solo acoustic was cool but I needed to put another band together.

I met this young guy at one of the Rainbow picnics that was a Deadhead and played guitar. Talking to him awhile I found out he had got busted for acid at a show. He went to court and got probation. He was just about to report that week for the first time. Pretty much the same thing had happened to me and I had been on probation for awhile now. I was an old hand by this time so I gave him some advice. “ They’re going to piss test you and make you pay $30 a month “ ( ah the good ol’ days I think it’s $50 now ) “ Yes, of course they’re going to piss test you for pot. Sure you can beat the test. how? here’s a book by Abbie Hoffman “, ( that I got signed by Abbie Hoffman when he spoke at U.M. ) “ Steal This Urine Test “ read it…you’ll be o.k. ” Poor little greenie. That was how we met. We became good friends and later started a band together. The funny thing was he ended up having the same probation officer as me, Donna Ellis. On the top of the her monthly forms it said: Ellis, D. ha ha

Soon after we started gigging around town as a duo, Dos Amigos playing originals and Dead covers.  Then we found some other players from U.M. and soon we had a band. We just needed a name. I had been working for L.E.R. ( LEGENDARY ETHNOBOTANICAL RESOURCES ) They were one of the first companies to import Salvia Divinorum. The owner, Brother Lou was going through a toad licking phase. One day he told me he found out you could smoke it, thus Smoking Toad was born. We started practicing in my living room at my haunted cottage on Manor Lane. Our first gig was supposed to be on the U.M. patio the first week of classes but that was the year Hurricane Andrew paid an unexpected visit on August 24th, 1992. That weekend Lollapalooza was on Saturday night. I didn’t go but my band mates all did and came back high on mushrooms. The next day everyone’s was at Home Depot and Publix buying supplies while were stocking up on dope and tequila. All our neighbors are boarding up there houses and heading out of town and we were playing in the living room having a party. By nightfall, when they knew it was going to hit us, we piled the couches up against the front windows, and whatever else we could find. We were kind of left to fend for ourselves. We were still playing when the power went out about 2 am. It was all still fun and games ‘til the huge tree in the front yard came crashing down, smacking against the front of the house. That scared the shit out of us. Then we hunkered down in the hallway and kept partying as we rode out the storm. And what a hell of a storm it was, a Category 5. That old house took a beating. When the eye of the storm passed over us at dawn, we walked out in the yard. It was eerily still. Some of my neighbors had lost their roof. All the streets were blocked by down trees and powerlines. We took a look around and then went back inside, there was still some more storm to go. That morning when it finally passed, we went in to the backyard and found a huge parrot ( I think a mackaw ) with a broken wing. We figure he came from Parrot Jungle just down the road. We took him in and nursed him back to health. Later me and a buddy biked all the way to Mattheson Hammock Park. There’s a marina there. The first thing we see at the front gate of the park is the ice machine from the marina a mile down the road just sitting there. On the road we saw boats in the middle of the forest, no trees down around them. They came flying straight down. When we got to the marina, there would be demolished boats on top each other next to a boat with not a scratch. Never seen anything like it.

When we biked back, U.S. 1 was utter chaos. ( yeah even more than usual! ) It was full of cars but all the traffic lights were out. No power anywhere. People were standing in line in the dark at the Tom Thumb to buy whatever they could, cash only of course. It was chaos. The National Guard was called and there was curfew at dusk. This went on for months.  What was supposed to be Smoking Toad’s first gig was cancelled but we ended debuting at Tent City in Homestead playing on a wooden stage, all the equipment running by generator. That was only a few days after Andrew. When we drove down there it was quite a sight. South Dade had been really devastated. We were playing to people who had lost everything and were standing in line for something to eat.  I thought I’d try to cheer them up by playing an old blues classic “ They call it Stormy Monday…” The crowd erupted “ Boo! “ It was good to make them smile. We ended playing 3 different tent cities One weird experience is we had finished playing and it started to rain so we all got in the truck stacked with equipment. We sat in the truck smoking smoking a joint. We had played in a Christian Missonary Group’s tent and they were all gathered around us boasting about how many souls they saved that day. People had signed some piece of paper saying they were going to turn their life over to the Lord. It was like a fricking Amway meeting. These people had just lost their house and they were exploiting their vulnerability. I don’t know it just seemed so phony.  We sat in the truck  smoking a joint watching the whole thing. Our windows were fogged and they never knew we were there.

Andrew had whacked Miami hard but we carried on in style. The neighbors would come over our house at night for a backyard barbeque and we’d play acoustic guitars. I was out of power at Manor Lane for three months. They had power in North Miami so we would drive up there to buy food and take showers. One of the guys parents lived up there. We knew this guy Jose who would score some bud for us on Calle Ocho. One day when he stopped by our parrot was missing. I guess he took it to sell it. It was such a beautiful bird. You know years later my Mom showed me a picture of my Dad and my sisters posing with parrots.

” Where was that taken? ” I asked.

” Parrot Jungle ” she said.

” …in South Miami? When were you guys in South Miami? ”

” Oh that was the year before you were born…”

Woah, seeing that picture I had that feeling of Deja Vu. Now I remember. Oh yeah that was the first time I saw these people, seems like a nice family to incarnate in…

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