Cuppa Joe reminiscences about hurricanes and crazy Reverend Leviticus


Apparently there’s a fine nor’easter blowin’ up the Florida coast and it’s headed for Jersey?

Time’s like this?

Desdamona and Trystram and I – and yes, the three cats – are happy we live on the west coast.

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Cuppa Joe here. Admitting I used to be a weatherman is hard. So I have a three year gap in my CV. I tell employers that I was doin' time for mushroom possession. They were portobellos! Really. And screw you Carlos Castenada. Photo courtesy of NASA archives.

Gav texted me today and asked for a Hurricane story. See, he knows something y’all don’t know. About Cuppa Joe. My history. It’s not pretty. There was this abysmal period in my life. One I’d just as soon not get into. But the prick has me by the cohones and now? Well, now my friends, at the behest of he that pays me in quid pro quo – including mouse pads, MP4 players and baseball caps – I have to give it up.

So that Gav may have some fun at my expense.

Once upon a time, your agent was a weather man. And, I am ashamed to say… I was rather good at it.

In fact, I worked in Florida at an NBC affiliate back in the late 80’s. I was so damn good that I snagged a network job a year later.

I was on the big storm/big bang /big crap newsbeat. I was… “Master Disaster”. Really. That was my nickname. I covered hurricanes,tornadoes,  floods, fires, snowstorms, avalanches and oil spills. If it blew, smoked, thundered, rumbled, hailed or kicked butt? I was your man.

I spent three years on that trolley ride. It’s an embarrassing tangential shitstorm; and I have deleted it from my CV. When employers ask what I was doing during that three year hole on my resume?

I lie. I tell them I was doing light time for trafficking in mushrooms.

Look, anything’s better than having “weatherman” on an active resume. I liked one weatherman in my life. The CBC’s Percy Saltzman. Never mind. Look it up generation goodam Z. I don’t have time. Percy was a gem of a man. And he used chalk. On a board. And he flipped it at the end of every report. I watched with my pops. For one reason.

You know why leak-noodled southern baptist morons go to Nascar races? To see carnage. Period. I watched Percy with my Dad for that goddam chalk. To drop. Unlike Nascar. Percy’s gaffe happened only seldom. Too seldom. But when it did. I laughed my arse off. For weeks after. Yeah, I know. I was an only child. Another tangent. Screw you. Don’t like it? Flip back to YouTube and go watch 30 seconds of a frog with a firecracker up its bum. I don’t need the readership and if you got this far? I already got my page hit. Another mouse pad is on its way. Thanks Gav.

We digress. Here’s the story fecking Gavan wants me to tell. I don’t think it’s that funny but you know, what the hell do I know. I used to be a goddam weatherman.

Anyway the story in question dates back to my first weather gig in Florida for WXYZ Television –  Miami Monster Mix TV. Christ, I don’t know. I think that was their slogan. My 9 month tenure at Miami Monster was a blur of South Beach BBQs, thunderclaps, gale force Haiti Lows and tropical storms. Oh, and 97 fires, an oil rig disaster, three light plane crashes and the monotony of my nightly report.

“Hello Miami! Cuppa Joe Simonsky with your Miami boss weather report. Tomorrow? Hot, windless and humid as a Saturday night happy hour wet tee-shirt contest at Alfredo’s Bumper Grill. Speaking of Alfredo’s… blah, blah, blah.

So, cut to the chase… the first hurricane of the season’s blowin in? It’s 1988 or so.

“What’s that? Geez Gav! I don’t know. Hurricane Dick! Call it Hurricane Dick.”

Gavan’s watching me type in real time here and he just phoned me for the name. What an asshole.

Let’s call it Hurricane Dick. So. isabel Sanchez in the news room comes running out and throws a yellow rain slicker emblazoned with WXYZ TV’s ugly logo. It’s a smock. You get the idea.  “Simonsky, get off your f%#@ing big Canadian ass,” screams Sanchez, our remote guru. “We got word that some guy’s gonna ride out the storm on Adolf’s Beach.”

“And what do ya’ want me to do?” I asked, tossing the yellow rain slicker right back at her. “In case you haven’t heard? The Miami  Dade police chief just issued Defcon fecking 3 and told everyone to stay inside. And they’ve evacuated seven neighborhoods surrounding Adolf’s Beach for chrissakes!”

Isabel tossed the fugly slick right back at me. “You are getting in the news truck and you’ll be doing a live spot with this idiot,” said Isabel. “His name is Reverend Ezekiel Leviticus… he’s 74 years old, runs 7 marathons a year; and he works out with the Miami Dolphins in the winter at Samuel’s Buff Buns Training Centre.”

Now, I’m Jesuit trained. I’m Catholic in deep decline, and I have a cousin who’s still doin’ soul-sucking therapy because of certain, ahem, indiscretions suffered at a Parish to be Named Later. The priest is still serving his nut in solitary at Stony Mountain Penitentuary in Manitoba.

So? Religion and the guys that make a living from it have always intrigued me. I love me my religious crackpots. Boogity, Boogity, Boogity… Amen!”

So storm or no storm? This guy, Zeke Leviticus tweaked my pique. In fact he was featured on a lifestyle piece we did just two weks earlier. Revving with the Rev. He drives a Harley and does a lot of inner city charity work. He’s also – I watched the piece – crazy as midnight at a Biker Bar.

“Isabel, what the hell are we waiting for,” I said. I looked over at my producer Jenny Teal and camerman – the best guy I’ve ever worked with – Paul Clapper and said, “let’s go find this crazy goddam’ priest!”

We got to the wharf at Adolf’s Beach about 4 hours before the eye was to hit land. The Dick was blowing 150-190 mile per hour gusts. The three of us Jenny, Paul and me had roped ourselves together with some high quality climber’s rope and carabiners. I had the tripod, Jen carried her clipboard and Clap Man was clutching his camera like it was a newborn child.

It took us about 5 minutes to cover the 60 yards to the Baobob tree that Ezekiel had roped himself onto. The Rev weighed in at about 145 pounds. But he was like 6’2″. He was standing in the lee of the tree. If he had not been tied down? He would literally have been blown the 120 yards right into the front facade of Dominic’s Burger Barn.

“Good day my children, and gog bless me, it’s good to see you again Ms. Teal and Mr. Clapper,” said Zeke. Turns out they had done the lifestyle piece on the Revving Rev. In fact, his 500cc Harley softtail was right there in the parking lot.

I helped Pau set up the tripod and we got ready to shoot the spot.

“Rev it’s good to see you, I’m Cuppa Joe Simonsky, Master Disaster!” I shouted. “What in Christ’s name are you doin’ here?”

“God bless you Joe,” smiled the Rev, while grasping my hand. “Did you bring this shitstorm?” And then he laughed. It boomed deep from the bottom of his thorax and could be heard clearly over the freight train of sound blowin’ in off the coast.

“Right Rev, blame the weatherman. Ya’ prick. But seriously what the hell are you doin’ here?” I asked.

“Well, I’m here to prove that an elderly man need not fear God’s wrath, if he has lived a healthy and fulfilled life,” smiled the good Leviticus. “Also I have pledges for $95,000 which will go toward the feed the kids program at Our Lady of Multiple Sores Parish if I can ride this bastard out.” Then? That laugh. So he was there risking life and limb for God, fitness and the kids. Good Lord.

We did another 2 minutes and he finished with the following.

“I put my trust in Jehovah, god bless his holy name, and I am here to prove that fitness, good diet and a clean life will triumph over any demon’s spawn. Even the hellzapoppin’ fury of Big Dick here!” Then he laughed. Again.

And with that we packed her up. And I said a special prayer for the crazy Rev, all 145 pounds of him, tied in the lee of that Baobob Tree at Adolf’s Beach.

We got back to the truck. It took us a good 10 minutes. I had to grab tight on the rope to keep Jenny from flying off into the distance.

I took a final look. The Rev suddenly lifted off his feet dangling at the end of his carabiner. He reeled himself back to the base of the tree. Then he waved.

At that moment the eye of Hurricane Dick passed. It got ominously still for 35 seconds; and then; just as suddenly; the wind reversed. We watched in horror as the Rev’s Red Harley lifted into the air. Then it started cartwheeling – along with all kinds of picnic tables and bric a brac from food row – toward the open ocean.

We watched with horror inside the rocking 8500 pound tricked-out video truck as the Harley smashed right into Reverend Ezekiel Leviticus, pinning him against that Baobob tree. Sunnafabitch!

Clapper and I made our move and told Jen to sit tight and phone it into the station and the ambulance.

Aided by the wind and a sense of cogent urgency Pat and I made the wind-aided trip to the accident scene in … geez, 30 seconds flat.

Paul was rollin’ even before we got there.

Oh it was bad. I did a cursory level three ski patrol examination and detected at least five big bone fractures and a rib cage that looked like it had been hit by a Bull Moose.

“Hang in Rev, the Cavalry’s coming,” I said.

Clapper nudged me. “Get a goddam comment, for chrissakes, this is my goddam Pullitzer,” said Clap, eyes blazing.

It never occurred to me. So I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“Rev, how do you feel?”

The Rev didn’t hesitate. He looked straight into the camera and said:

“F%$k you Jeezuz! I’m outta’ here.”

The Rev made a full recovery, moved back to Chicago and is selling life insurance and doing quite well thank you.

He’s a Baptist in deep decline and heads up the Chicago Chapter of Atheists Are Us.

As a dead comic once said.

It ain’t THAT the wind is blowin’. It’s WHAT the wind is blowin’!”

Amen to that!

Stay home… New York.

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