Eddie wanted to conduct some business in the Keys and I agreed to accompany him. We left late afternoon and following the same route I had taken two months ago --US AIA from Fort Pierce to Miami. Two events stood out. One, somewhere either in Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood, a fashion store for clergy appeared. It had two story windows fitted with mannequins bedecked in regal splendor. For a moment I envisioned the scene of a Papal fashion show from Felini’s “Roma,” which was taken to be satire. This store was for real and from its looks was doing well. Secondly, when I was at the wheel, a hitchhiker appeared right in downtown Miami. It was late, probably around midnight; so, I pulled over to give a brother a ride. He hopped in the back seat and as I took off asked, “Have you guys, ever done amyl nitrate.” Before I could answer he passed be a small vile containing that powerful stimulant. I took a whiff and kicked my heart and head into high gear. I passed the bottle to Eddie and he did the same. As soon as he finished, our passenger, announced, “ This is where I get off; thanks for the ride.” Eddie handed him his bottle s I pulled over. We drove away wondering, “Are we in some sort of surrealistic movie?” We oressed on toward the Keys. It was the dark hour before dawn when we pulled up to the beach at Grassy Key.
One of the previous crew walked over to check us out. We recognized each other. He stated, “ I was sleeping out in the water. The mosquitoes are too bad to sleep on the shore.” His face and neck, apparently, portions not immersed in water, were covered with welts betraying the remnants of a blood feast. We huddled around till morning in our car. It was safe from the critters but too warm for comfort. Zack, told us how Paradise came to an end. Shortly after I left in March, a huge raid was conducted. After the police swept thru rousting and driving away folks, a contingent of locals stormed thru torching and otherwise destroying the camps. All vehicles became burned out hulks, no structures or lean-tos were left unscathed. He also mentions shooting and hollering. No one was shot, just shots fired into the air. From the sounds of it, a drunken gang was out having their fun. Some folks were still camped way back in the woods, but everyone had to more or less stay invisible. It was OK to be at the beach, just not camp or set up residence. I felt disappointment, that we would not be able to taste the experience that seemed to be fire brushed aside. As soon as it got light, we headed to Key West so Eddie could conduct business. Zack took a ride with us. He heard many of the Grassy Key crowd had scattered about down the keys. He was going on a search.