She’s been a catalog model, cigarette girl, Vegas cocktail waitress, New York theater actress and bit part player in an Oscar-winning movie.
But it was one photo session in the early 1950s that sealed Neva Gilbert’s claim to pop culture fame. The Lake Worth resident was one of Playboy magazine’s earliest centerfolds, Miss July 1954, a beautiful, long-legged blonde posed alluringly across a tiger skin rug.
“I’m the oldest living Playboy Playmate,” she proudly tells people.
But is she?
Find out, and see more photos of Gilbert then and now, in our story:
Winding, leisurely or quirky, these are the best scenic drivesthat show you the marvels of Palm Beach County.
With great weather finally here, it’s time to get into the car and hit the great American highway for a road trip to remember. Destination: Palm Beach County?
With staycations all the rage, you don’t have to go far to add a scenic drive to your road trip bucket list. Within the broad borders of the county, there is more to see than you might think.
From Jupiter to Boca to the western communities, you can gaze upon the natural splendor of ocean, waterways and lakes. Or check out man-made marvels, from ultra-expensive houses to tiny trailers. And stop along the way to dine, shop or take a nature hike.
Most important of all, you can see the place you live in a whole new light. These drives are perfect for a weekend afternoon — or even your lunch hour.
Let’s go road trippin’!
ROAD TRIP NO. 1: A1A, from Palm Beach to Boca Raton
Length: 30 miles
Start/stop: Begin at Worth Avenue and A1A/S. Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach and head south until you hit Deerfield Beach (with a few stops along the way).
Why this drive delights: This is the Big Kahuna of Palm Beach County scenic drives, winding through the gilded splendor of Palm Beach, past endless (and we mean endless) condos and mega-mansions. You’ll see funky beach towns, a funky trailer park town, and sweet, seagrape-swept views of the Atlantic and Intracoastal Waterway. This is bucket list material. Honestly, if you haven’t taken this drive, you need to ask yourself: Why am I living in Palm Beach County?
9 sights to see:
1. As you’re heading south through Palm Beach, say hi to The Donald. You can usually get a brief eyeful of the architectural details and big gate of President Donald Trump’s shack, Mar-A-Lago (1100 S. Ocean Blvd.)
2. Most condos on this drive are tall and dramatically boring, with faux posh names, but we’re partial to two between Sloan’s Curve and Lake Worth: The ’60s mod-looking President of Palm Beach (2505 S. Ocean Blvd., not to be confused with Trump’s house) and the cool white Regency of Palm Beach (2760 S. Ocean Blvd.).
3. When you reach Lake Worth, take a quick left into the Lake Worth Beach complex (10 S. Ocean Blvd.). It’s a good place to grab a bite, and check out the ocean scene. Despite all the upgrades, the pier still looks vintage-funky.
4. As you pass through Manalapan, you get some nice glimpses of the Intracoastal. And ponder this: Have you ever driven this stretch of A1A when half of the oceanside properties are not in tear-down mode?
5. Between Manalapan and Ocean Inlet Park (6990 N. Ocean Blvd., Boynton Beach), there is a lovely, shady stretch of canopied trees and seagrape splendor. The beach-changing houses here along the ocean are probably nicer than your entire home. Roll down the window, take your foot off the gas and enjoy it.
6. Past Boynton, take a jog left on Corrine Street, right on Old Ocean Boulevard and head down to the marvelous mystery of A1A: How does a trailer town still exist here? With views of both the Atlantic and the Intracoastal? Briny Breezes is one of those places where you can test a relationship theory. Drive down tight little Hibiscus Street, with quaint mobile homes on both sides. By the time you get to the end at the town library and shuffleboard court, one spouse will be ready to chuck all the hassles of suburban home ownership and move right in. The other spouse will be ready to chuck you for suggesting it.
7. As you pass through the town of Gulf Stream, look up. Towering pines flank the roadway.
8. By this point in the trip, you may be weary of looking at condos blocking the ocean view. Delray Beach’s commercial district at Atlantic Avenue is made for a stop-and-shop. Or head down to Boca Raton’s numerous beach parks and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (1801 N. Ocean Blvd.).
9. You’re almost there. Past the Boca Raton Resort and Club and over the drawbridge and you’re into Deerfield Beach, the end of your journey. Except you have to turn around and go all the way back. But it was worth it, right?
ROAD TRIP NO. 2: Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach
Length: 10-12 miles
Start/Stop: North Flagler near Northwood Road. Go south to South Flagler and Arlington Place.
Why this drive delights: Beginning near the pastel-colored shopping and restaurant district along Northwood Road, this leisurely drive takes you past calming views of the Intracoastal, and the glittering downtown commercial district of condos, restaurants and waterside walkways. Once you get through downtown, settle into the most relaxing part of the drive, a non-stop travel reel of upscale homes with broad lawns, a mishmash of funky architectural styles, and a sweet walkway along the Intracoastal (though the road section south of Southern definitely needs repaving). By the time you get to South Flagler’s terminus at Arlington Place, your blood pressure should be a lot lower. And you can do it in less than an hour.
5 sights to see:
1. Don’t miss the curved, copper-colored dome of Temple Beth El (2815 N. Flagler), built in 1970 and a hidden architectural jewel of the city.
2. Pull into Currie Park, at N. Flagler and 23rd Street, and watch boats speeding down the Intracoastal Waterway and people walking along the park’s well-maintained shoreline. (Other nearby sights include the Palm Beach Maritime Museum and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial).
3. When downtown (which might require a slight detour because of construction on the north bridge), stop and gawk at the mega-yachts perched at Palm Harbor Marina (400 N. Flagler).
4. Glimpse our favorite sign on a church: “No Skate Boarding Allowed” posted on the front of the historic First Church of Christ Scientist(809 S. Flagler), built in 1928 in a grandiose Classical Revival style, where the steep steps are apparently an irresistible temptation to board riders.
5. A moment of Zen: the pocket-like George S. Petty Park (Washington Road at Royal Park Road), though in truth all of the El Cid-Southland Park area is pretty Zen if you’re into gazing at expensive homes and condos. We’re partial to the tower-like house at Washington and Westminster. (An FYI on directions: Flagler turns into Washington, then converts back to Flagler via Greenwood Avenue a little farther south. Why? We don’t know, either.)
ROAD TRIP NO. 3: Jupiter to Juno Beach
Length: 15 miles
Start/Stop: Begin at U.S. 1 and Indiantown Road, Jupiter. Go south on U.S. 1 to A1A/Ocean Drive, Juno Beach. Then turn left/north on A1A all the way back to U.S. 1 and A1A, Jupiter.
Why this drive delights: This trip beginning on U.S. 1 south of Harbourside Place reflects a lot of what makes north county coastal living unique. There is the chance to see great swaths of dunes and undeveloped land in the middle of the usual commercial and residential development. Once you turn north onto A1A in Juno Beach, it’s a laid-back drive of condos, parks, seagrapes and glimpses of the Atlantic, all populated by north county’s legion of bicyclists, surfers and beachgoers. You’ll also eyeball such familiar landmarks as the Juno Beach Pier, Carlin Park and the Jupiter Lighthouse.
4 sights to see:
1. The Jupiter Ridge Natural Area(1800 S. U.S. 1), a 271-acre slash and scrub pine preserve that is worth a hike or run along its boardwalk and sandy trails. The county purchased it for $23 million in 1993. (A little farther down U.S. 1 is another stop and walk spot: the Juno Dunes Natural Area (14501 U.S. 1), as well as the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, 14200 U.S. 1).
2. In Juno Beach, make a quick right off A1A/Ocean Drive onto Celestial Way, the town center of Juno Beach. This is your Zen moment: A 1-mile pathway winds around Pelican Lake with two gazebos, and lots of ducks and wading birds to see. Stop and take a walk.
3. Right after the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, turn right on Jupiter Beach Park Road and take a winding ride through the beach park (1375 Jupiter Beach Road), which terminates with a gobsmacking view of the Jupiter Inlet and Atlantic Ocean. You can also walk here to adjacent Dubois Park, one of the best places to take in picture-perfect views of the Jupiter Lighthouse.
4. At the end of your trip, you hit the commercial bottleneck of restaurants and bars Guanabana’s Schooner’s, Square Grouper, Jetty’s, etc.). It might be worth it to end your ride here with a walk up tiny, funky Love Street (don’t miss the handpainted sign with lyrics to The Doors’ “Love Street”). With all the new commercial development plans, it may not stay funky for long.
ROAD TRIP NO 4.: The Glades
Length: 37 miles
Start/Stop: Go west on Southern Boulevard past Lion Country Safari as it turns into U.S. 441. Once you get to the end of the road, turn right to Pahokee, where you can end your trip at Lake Okeechobee.
Why this drive delights: You can live in Palm Beach County for decades and rarely make a drive out to the Glades. That is a mistake. Head west on Southern Boulevard and, all of a sudden, it’s like the difference between watching a movie on an iPhone and seeing it blown up on an IMAX screen. The sky is bigger. The clouds are bigger. The horizon line of green fields and the Glades’ famous black muck soil goes on forever, interrupted only by giant power lines and the occasional belching smokestack. Driving out U.S. 441, you realize how much development blots out your broader vision of the world. Take your kids and have a teachable moment in how your food is grown and harvested.
2 sights to see:
1. Stop in at Paul Rardin Park (4600 State Road 715). A steep (very steep) road leads up to the boat ramp and an overlook of the lake. You can walk along the dike and join other park goers sitting on the bank and enjoying the scenery.
2. Driving into Pahokee, you might be surprised to find the road lined with as many palm trees as you’ll find on Palm Beach. Once you arrive downtown, turn left into the Pahokee Marina and Campground (190 N. Lake Ave.), a perfect place to gaze on the enormity of the big lake and end your road trip. (Wondering whether to invest the time? Hey, Bruce Springsteen made this trip on his chopper a couple years ago, and if it’s good enough for the Boss …)
ROAD TRIP NO. 5: Dixie Highway through West Palm Beach/Lake Worth/Lantana
Length: 7. 2 miles
Start/Stop: S. Dixie Highway and Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, south to Dixie Highway and Ocean Avenue, Lantana
Why this drive delights: What’s scenic is in the eye of the beholder. Even a busy commercial highway has its charms. We could have picked Military Trail or, uh, I-95, but we recommend Dixie Highway because of its kitschy signs and architectural oddities. How this mishmash of businesses operates on Dixie is one of the wonders of this street, where quirky names abound — The Mad Hatter Lounge, the Tanks A Lot aquarium shop. Enjoy the broad range of commercial enterprises — ethnic restaurants and grocers, car repair shops, upscale antique stores, churches, funeral homes, an ice cream factory, dive bars, tattered remnants of Florida’s once-vibrant motor court culture and even Lake Worth City Hall (which once doubled as a movie set in the film “Body Heat.”)
3 sights to see:
1. The tour begins by going south on Dixie at The Palm Beach Post building (say Hi to us!) Immediately on your left is the first quirky sign you need to Instagram: the giant hammer on top of Hall Hardware (2750 S. Dixie), where Martha Stewart visited recently. More sweet sights in West Palm: the Howley’s restaurant logo sign at 4700 S. Dixie (“Cooked In Sight, Must Be Right”), and the double sky-high ice cream cones at Carvel (5901 S. Dixie).
3. In Lantana, see the cute, old-school Barefoot Mailman Motel (138 S. Dixie in Lantana). And end your tour with a short jaunt east down Ocean Avenue in Lantana to behold the blindingly green exterior of the Old Key Lime House (300 E. Ocean Ave.)— it’s the perfect only-in-Florida end point to your funky drive.
ROAD TRIP NO. 6: Jupiter Lighthouse to Jupiter Island
Length: 30 miles
Start/Stop: Begin at Indiantown Road and South Beach Road, Jupiter. Head east over the Intracoastal bridge, then veer north past Coral Cove Park and into Martin County. Once you pass through Jupiter Island, turn left/west at Bridge Road in Hobe Sound, then left/south on U.S. 1 back to Palm Beach County.
Why this drive delights: Jupiter Island and its endless enclaves of the wealthy is the north version of Palm Beach. You won’t see much, because of the towering landscaping, but that landscaping is divine, the drive is blissful and you can play a game of counting how many “Service Entrance” signs you spot. (Lots of bicyclists through here, so drive carefully.)
5 sights to see:
1. If you’ve never been to the 73-acre Blowing Rocks Preserve (574 South Beach Road), run by the Nature Conservancy, it’s worth a stop, especially if the water is spuming through the limestone rocks on the beach. It’s our mini-Big Sur.
2. On Jupiter Island, stay right on South Beach Road when it forks and make a quick stop at Christ Memorial Chapel (52 S. Beach Road), a Spanish-style church built in 1939. (Where else will you see a church that opens onto a broad golf course fairway?)
3. When you reach South Beach Road and Estrada Drive, take a left and wind down a beautiful street of pretty houses that terminates at the Jupiter Island Club, 1 Estrada, with its gorgeous club building, manicured lawns and yacht dock. (And you’re not a member, so keep on driving.)
4. Back on South Beach Road, head past the Bridge Road intersection and go all the way to the terminus at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. Check out the mountainous, perfectly sculpted dune/mound that separates the road from the beach.
5. Once you get to Bridge Road and U.S 1, turn south on U.S. 1 and take the semi-hilly drive back to Palm Beach County, past sparkling glimpses of the Intracoastal and more dunes at Jonathan Dickinson State Park (16450 SE Federal Highway). Bonus points if you can spot the nearby gated driveway to a certain Palm Beach County-bred movie star’s house.
ROAD TRIP NO. 7: Central/North end of Palm Beach
Length: 12 miles
Start/Stop: Head north on Cocoanut Row at Royal Palm Way, past the Society of Four Arts and the Flagler Museum, across Royal Poinciana Way and down Bradley Place as it turns into North Lake Way. Turn left onto Country Club Road and head all the way up north past the Sailfish Club, then scoot over to North Ocean Boulevard and head south, as it turns into South County Road. End at Phipps Plaza and South County Road.
Why this drive delights: Hey, pretty much all of Palm Beach is a scenic getaway, and who doesn’t like to look at places you’ll never live? You can see a mix of eye-catching homes draped in towering landscaping (celebs like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern have abodes in the north end) and the tight roads are fun to drive.
5 sights to see:
1. When you turn onto Country Club Road from North Lake Way, behold one of the island’s most dazzling natural wonders: the deep coral cut that towers above both sides of the road (don’t forget to look for the Bastille-like prison window in the cut, which has prompted all sorts of urban legends, but is really just a water department door.). Coming out of the cut, you get a dazzling view of the Intracoastal along the Lake Trail (which you should walk or bike at some point) and the mega-yachts parked at boat yards on the West Palm side.
2. Once you get to Arabian Road, curve left as it becomes Indian Road, then jog north on N. Ocean Boulevard to check out the northernmost point of the island and the short dock, where you can see cruise ships heading out to the Atlantic.
3. Heading back south on N. Ocean, enjoy more winding curves, glimpses of Atlantic (especially around the Palm Beach Country Club) and keep up with the construction teardowns and buildups that always seem to be happening on the north end.
4. The leisurely drive continues south past a shady canopy of trees between Phipps Estate Road and Sanford Avenue, and such local sights as Green’s Pharmacy, St. Edward’s Church, the old Paramount Theater complex, The Breakers and Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, all worth a visit.
5. End your trip on one of our favorite pocket roads by turning right off S. County Road into Phipps Plaza, a cute little roundabout of architectural offices and tucked-away homes and no parking spots for the hoi-polloi. This is Palm Beach, after all.
ROAD TRIP NO. 8: Wellington
Length: 8 miles
Start/stop: Turn off Southern Boulevard onto Bink’s Forest Drive, and drive up to Aero Club Drive. Take a right there and head down to Greenbrier Shores Boulevard, where you can turn right into the Aero Club neighborhood.
Why this drive delights: It’s not every housing development that boasts airplane hangar garages, and it’s unusual to see planes parked as casually as Cadillacs in back yards. And don’t forget to check out the fun street names — Boing Street, Lindbergh Lane, Take Off Place, etc.
ROAD TRIP NO. 9: Lake Osborne to High Ridge Road
Length: 6.5 miles
Start/Stop: Turn off Lake Worth Road onto Lake Osborne Drive. Once you reach Lantana Road, double back and turn right on High Ridge Road, ending at Hypoluxo Road.
Why this drive delights: This is a scenic waterfront drive that reminds you of Old Florida. Revel in a leisurely, miles-long ride around the other big Lake O in the county.
2 sights to see:
1. On Lake Osborne Drive, past the entrance to John Prince Park, there are plenty of spots to pull your car over and watch fishermen on the lake, or join the sidewalk parade. The apartment complexes and houses aren’t your usual waterfront property — they’re older, more middle-class, not Mega-Mansion land, as though somehow developers were not given the secret password to come here, tear down and overbuild. (And this quiet, neighborhood feel is what some people are worried about losing if the Atlanta Braves build a spring training complex at John Prince.)
2. High Ridge Road is a sweet, short, semi-hilly drive (hence the name.) Just past High Ridge and Hypoluxo Road, visit the High Ridge Natural Scrub Area (7300 High Ridge Rd.), another pocket nature preserve where you can stretch your legs and end your journey.
It’s hard to believe it, but you can actually go mountain biking in Florida (sort of)! Sure, we have plenty of nicely paved bike paths around the wealthy properties in Palm Beach County, but if you’re looking for a bit more adrenaline, you better check out these trails:
1 Dyer Park’s “The Hill” in West Palm Beach: This climbing/descending trail is over 53 feet in elevation! Sounds crazy, right? An actual hill in Florida where you can bike and test your endurance. The bike path is made out of crushed shell rock and is approximately 2.4 miles long and about 2 feet wide. Even though you will ride through native forests, most of the trail is exposed to the sun, so wear appropriate clothing and apply sunblock.
When: Everyday, sunrise to sunset. Where: 7301 Haverhill Road West Palm Beach, Florida 33412 Cost: Free Contact: (561) 966-6600. firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out part of the trail captured by this GoPro camera:
2 .The Dyer Perimeter in West Palm Beach: Most use this 4.7-mile bike trail as a conditioning activity before facing “The Hill” at Dyer Park. “The way is mostly smooth, so beginners won’t have any problems,” according to Rei’s MTB Project. It’s not a boring trail, though. According to the MTB project, it has several miles of twisty single-track trails in the woods that loop around the park. So why would you need a mountain bike? There are broken branches and trunks you’ll want to bike over.
When: Everyday, sunrise to sunset. Where: 7301 Haverhill Road West Palm Beach, Florida 33412 Cost: Free Contact:(561) 966-6600. email@example.com.
3 Pinehurst MTB Trail in Greenacres: Get technical and use all of your mountain bike’s gears. This trail is not as high in elevation as the Dyer Park trail, nor as fast as the Dyer Perimeter. On this one, you’ll get to sharpen your skills by controlling your balance, going over obstacles and shifting gears constantly. Get ready for plenty of log piles, sharp turns and sudden drops. It’s a good, quick workout packed into 4 miles according to Rei’s MTB project.
4. West Delray Trail in Delray Beach: If you’re more into scenery and wildlife, this one is for you. This trail is a really pretty ride through canopied tropics, lakes, and swamp land inside West Delray Regional Park. It’s also fun because it has many technical elements such as turns, rocks, mounds and tree branches. There is a variety of wildlife including squirrels, birds, butterflies, and lots of bugs as well, so wear repellent.
When: Everyday, sunrise to sunset. Where: 10875 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33446 Cost: Free Contact: (561) 966-6600. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cypress Creek Natural Area in Jupiter: Shell rock road through the Cypress Creek Natural Area. There are a few boardwalks that overlook the natural area and splinter trails for “foot traffic only.” The trail goes 2 miles west and ends at Mack Dairy Rd. http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/cypress-creek-natural
Times: Everyday, sunrise to sunset.
Where: 10035 W Indiantown Rd, Jupiter, FL 33478 Cost: Free
Bring your own, well, anything to the Stuart & Shelby Theater at Arts Garage this month where you will laugh at scenes fromThe Mystery of Love and Sex, a romantic comedy about sexual and emotional protocol according to two couples.
By BYOA, they really do mean, ANYTHING: you own alcohol, food, cutlery, cups, the whole nine.
The play is inviting to the young and old with characters like Charlotte, a Jewish college student who falls in love with her childhood best friend, Johnny, a black man. And Charlotte’s traditional parents, who scramble to keep up as their daughter’s sexual desires begin to complicate their own relationship.
We haven’t seen the show yet but have a feeling it’ll be compelling to watch an interracial couple open up about their sex lives to a parochial set of parents who realize they may need to revisit the fundamentals of their own relationship and sex life.
General admission tickets will cost you $30, but you can save $5 on a preview showing on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. If you decide to bring your own booze, wine or food, you can purchase reserved or premium table seating for $40 or $45. (Don’t forget cutlery!)
You can either check out the exhibition for free or register your vehicle for a chance to win some awards. This is an opportunity to admire some of the coolest rides in town, check out the engines, the upgrades and take a peek at their stylish interiors.
If you think your car has what it takes to win, you can pay $15 to be included in the lineup and receive up-front, VIP beachfront parking. To register, contact email@example.com or 561-533-7395.
Otherwise, just come out, enjoy the show, eat some food and listen to great music outside.
(Video by Julio Poletti/The Palm Beach Post; Music by “My Time” by Ryan Little licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)
Sunday, Sept. 25 was the Miami Dolphins first home game of the 2016 NFL season. And the Post captured Fins’ fans tailgating like crazy at Hard Rock Stadium. Fans decked out in total Dolphins gear from orange hair to full Gorilla masks and more.
Film lovers are mourning today the death of Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-winning director who made such movies as “L.A. Confidential,” “Eight Mile,” “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” and “Wonder Boys.”
An underrated gem on his resume is “In Her Shoes,” a 2005 mother-daughter comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine that brought Hanson to Palm Beach County. He filmed scenes for the movie in Briny Breezes and around Delray Beach.
Band leader Billy Duke took part in the filming, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2004 that Hanson surprised him: “I thought the director would be yelling and screaming, but he was really quiet.”
Here are pictures we shot of star Shirley MacLaine during the filming in Briny Breezes:
The 15th anniversary of 9/11 is Sunday. Palm Beach Post reporter Staci Sturrock wrote this column on the tenth anniversary of the attack:
It’s been years since I had the heart to sift through the contents of the vintage suitcase in my spare bedroom. But recently, I flipped open the latches of the hard-sided, marbled-green Samsonite.
There was the paper air-filter mask someone handed me on the streets of New York 10 years ago this Sunday.
There were the reporter’s note pads, scribbled with quotes like this one from an eyewitness to the attack on the twin towers: “At first, we were just watching the smoke, and then we saw people jumping or bodies falling out of the windows. They were like rag dolls.”
Or this one, jotted down two days later outside the Lexington Avenue Armory, where families sought help in locating what we then called “the missing”: “We just hope someone will tell us where we can go to find our son.”
And there, the pair of battered black sandals.
I wore the shoes most of that week, when I happened to be in New York to attend fashion shows, and wound up covering a national tragedy.
Now, I remember why I couldn’t bear to look inside the suitcase. It’s my very own “hurt locker” of recent history.
The Samsonite is also a time capsule of sorts, a historic relic, a souvenir of an era long past.
This particular model was popular in the 1950s, when the person who drove you to the airport could escort you to the gate and kiss you goodbye. When you didn’t have to remove your shoes and belt and jacket to pass through security. When grabbing your bags and heading to the airport meant packing your sense of adventure, not a couple of Xanax.
Stored inside, I can see the technological changes of 10 years. There’s a small stack of faxes.
A horizontal credit-card receipt that had been put through an old-fashioned, sliding imprinter. A packet of 36-exposure film developed at an Eckerd drugstore, not instantly routed from a phone to my Facebook page.
The photos trace my path after I scribbled this note during the initial post-attack phone call from my editor: “first person story, center of the apocalypse, walk as far south as possible.”
And so, around 10 that morning, I headed south from my Times Square hotel. Along the way, I talked to dazed New Yorkers and aimed my point-and-shoot camera at pedestrians trudging mid-avenue, pausing to stare at smoke billowing in the distance.
Out on the streets, news updates weren’t as near as the palm of your hand. Smartphones? Tablet computers? Try the occasional transistor radio or jam box. I didn’t even own a cellphone then, and neither did the many residents waiting at pay phones to call home.
Here’s a photo of information-gathering, circa 2001: two dozen strangers huddled around a car, its windows rolled down and radio cranked up.
And here’s a snapshot of how quickly hospitals mobilized that morning — attached to a tree, a hand-lettered sign that read “Blood needed at St. Vincent’s.”
Scores waited in line to donate at the Greenwich Village hospital, where green-scrubbed doctors stood outside, next to office chairs draped in white sheets, ready to ferry the wounded who never arrived.
And, in my note pad, phrases evoking the surreal nature of a catastrophe that was simply unbelievable, even with the evidence written in a disfigured skyline:
“NYC bus goes by with paramedics in every seat. … Police riding in back of Ford F-250 pickup.”
“A priest wearing a dusty white hard hat.”
“Soot falling from sky like snowflakes.”
In the end, I made it within half a mile of ground zero before encountering a policeman who had every reason to be impatient, but wasn’t. “I even threw NBC out,” he said. “Unfortunately, you guys gotta go, too.”
The days that followed were a blur of interviews with tourists and mourners and downtown residents trying to retrieve the pets they’d hastily abandoned in apartment buildings adjacent to the Trade Center.
My photos do a poor job of conveying that week’s schizophrenic mix of pride, sorrow and hopefulness: American flags hung from fences and scaffolding. The makeshift memorials of roses and sunflowers, candles and messages of peace. Mailboxes papered over with missing-person fliers.
Those hastily Xeroxed pleas for information — which typically featured professionals in their prime, oblivious to the violent fate that awaited them — were mind-boggling in number.
Two posters were handed to me outside the Lexington armory, where many fathers and mothers, friends and co-workers sought out reporters, or anyone else, who would listen to their stories.
One shows a handsome 32-year-old man in a swimming pool with a young child. He is Mario Nardone, and on Sept. 15, 2001, The New York Times described the bonds broker, who worked on the 84th floor of the South Tower, as the guy with “the million-dollar smile and the million-dollar heart.”
Less than a week later, The Times ran an obit of the lovely woman on the other flier. Rosa Julia Gonzalez, also 32, a Port Authority secretary. After the terrorists flew into the South Tower, Gonzalez called one of her six sisters, then tried to make her way to the street from the 66th floor.
According to news reports, Gonzalez was descending the stairs with her friend Genelle Guzman-McMillan when the building collapsed. Almost 27 hours later, McMillan became the last person pulled alive from the wreckage.
Gonzalez was not so lucky.
Last month, my boyfriend asked, gently and without judgment, if I’d like to get rid of the suitcase, or at least the contents that give it so much physical and emotional weight.
We’ll be in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, and maybe, he suggested, we could leave a few items in tribute at the new 9/11 Memorial, the one inscribed with 2,983 names.
I didn’t know what to say. He finally spoke: “You’re not ready to let it go.”
I guess I’m not, and I’m not sure why. I experienced 9/11 at such a remove that it’s wrong to say I “experienced” it at all. I wasn’t in the center of the apocalypse; I was an observer on its outskirts, and after six long days, I returned to the comforting routines of home.
But it seems heartless to discard the fliers or the photos or the note pads, or even say goodbye to those worn-out sandals.
Now, as I handle the shoes, lyrics from a favorite song by the folk trio The Be Good Tanyas come to mind:
You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry ’em with you
On the soles of your travellin’ shoes.
The suitcase is where I carry ’em with me — those memories of places I hope we never pass through again.