Worst. Hunger Strike. EVER.

by AK - December 23, 2014

Eve of Christmas Eve Bedtime Story: Worst. Hunger Strike. EVER.

As soon as the Clinton Administration came up with that whole “wet foot – dry foot” thing to determine whether or not Cuban rafters would be sent back or not, a group of people started protesting it. It was very peaceful

A hunger strike. In front of the Miami Herald building. Why there? Because that’s where El Nuevo Herald is published probably.

So after a few days of spotty reports on WIOD and local TV stations as an aside mention during their coverage of the bigger news portion of it, Rick has a great idea.

The morning show edition of Rick Riley and Suds Coleman were very into servicing the commuter community. Lets face it.. going to work in the morning is the least “oh I have a few minutes to screw around” time of day.. People didn’t answer randomly ringing payphones… they didn’t have time to put their phone in a microwave while we listened.. they didn’t have time to call. All they did was listen as they got ready for work or drive to the office staring hard and drinking coffee. So we went where they were.. out in the streets. Providing newspapers and donuts for free at street corners. But I digress…

So Rick says he wants to host a big Cuban breakfast on a streetcorner in honor of the hunger strikers. Where? On the corner where the Herald is. Right in front of the “protesters”.

Oh boy. Here we go.

So I go into the coffee shop on Miami Beach that I’d frequented a few times… It was straight out of Seattle in there… 1995 remember? No starbucks. No free wifi. Just chess sets and old paperback books on shelves. Just Bob Marley drawings on the walls, exposed pipes in the ceiling, exposed bricks… and coffee and more coffee and some pastries. And I ask the white guy with dreadlocks, a flannel shirt and a goatee behind the counter if he’d be willing to exchange a few huge cauldrons of Cuban coffee, American coffee, trays of Cuban sandwiches and pastelitos and deliver them at 7am in front of the Miami Herald building in exchange to a few promotional mentions on the air.. and he agreed. Shaaah!

So the next morning I get up at my normal time of 4am, drive to the station, do all the daily show prep of highlighting news stories and stuff from the internet, highlighting live spots on the log, grab my associate producer of the day (a guy affectionately known as “The Reaper” because he was like 6’7 and dressed like Axl Rose.) and load up the WIOD van with four 8 foot tables, chairs, etc.

We get there at 6:30, and I’m talking to Rick and Suds on air via cellphone, setting up tables and stuff..

“What’s goin’ on down there, Adam?”

“Nothing. 3 dudes sitting on the street in lawn chairs and a guy in a sleeping bag”

“That’s it? Anything else going on?”

“Nope. Just setting up tables getting ready to set out the food.”

“What kind of tables? Like folding ones or fancy ones?”

“8 foot folding, with white linen”

“We’re all class” says Suds.

The food arrives and so do a few listeners.

Contrasts the 4 guys barely awake, needing a shave, in rumpled clothes they slept in.. with the 3 gringos in faded Guy Harvey type tshirts, worn and pitted with old baseball caps faded pastel by the sun. A few more hunger strikers showed up out of the blue and sat down on the curb.

We put out this HUGE spread.. 2 trays of Cuban sammys.. two trays of assorted pastelitos , two huge containers of coffee… napkins, plates, coffee cups, and me and Reaper and the 3 gringo scarfed. I’m on the phone with Rick and Suds schlurping Cuban coffee, and stuffing pastries in my skull…

“Tell them they’re welcome to eat.”

“Mmpf You guysmph wanna eat sumphthin’? They shake their heads no.

“Its time for breakfast! Show them how good it is”

“Mph’ts really good. Mmmmmm” holding it under their noses. “They..(gulp) say they don’t want any. “

“Ask them if they’re hungry and how long it’s been since they ate..”

“Are you hungry? When was the last time you had anything to eat?” switching to reporter mode.

The hunger striker stands up from his lawn chair and says “Yeah about last night at 6”

I laugh. “He says dinner last night”

Suds cackles.

Rick cant believe it. “Let me talk to him..”

“Ok.. Hey Pedro… “

“His name is Pedro?”

“Oh, I dunno.. that’s what I’m calling everyone here. Sorry. Hey Pedro.. here… talk to Rick N. Suds on WIOD RADIO.” And I hand the phone to him. This is what I hear…

“Yes. Yes. Ha. Yeah. Well, im leaving now to go shower and go to work. Last night at 8. Yeah. Shifts. Ok. Here” and hands me back the phone.

And that was it.. sporadically a few listeners would trickle in, grab a sandwich and coffee and split.. Reaper and I ate, the protesters had their shift change, and ate nor drank nothing. We packed up at 10am and drove back to the station.

A few days later I was sent a photo copy of the Front Page of the Wall Street Journal. There was an article above the fold about the Cuban reaction in Miami. And in one paragraph, was a mention of WIOD stopping by with food.

None of us were mentioned by name. Not even Pedro.

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