Fort Lauderdale’s Homeless Popeye

     Ron “Popeye” Gray

age – 56
                                                  address – roof of the Home Depot
                                                  occupation – panhandler 

      If you drive Sunrise Boulevard, you’ll probably recognize Popeye. He spends at least some of each day panhandling,  perched on a small 3 foot median on the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and NE 4th Avenue. (just outside Home Depot.)

     According to Popeye, (nicknamed that due to a sleepy eye) his problems that lead to his current condition started just after New Year’s in 2005. 

       He was a carpenter, a good one he says. (” I can still hang a door”).  But after drinking too much one Friday after work, he fell out of a truck. His leg suffered permanent nerve damage, leaving him mostly wheelchair bound.

     He lost his job, his wife, his house. Now, he wheels the chair straight out into traffic to panhandle. “I always go backwards, so I can see the cars coming”.

                                                               badly sunburned, nerve damaged leg

     He’s a sad case for sure. He doesn’t appear to be mentally disabled. He’s smart, but talks incessantly, and says he is writing a book, though I can’t imagine how.

      He did want me to see his head. It’s a mess. He says he’s basically healthy, though he “may have cancer”.

                                                                     Popeye’s head

     He says he eats alright, mostly at McDonalds ( prefers bacon cheddar and cheese), reads the paper  there when someone gives him one, and when it rains, ducks into the elevator on the Home Depot roof. He says the employees there feel for him and help him out when they can.

     He says most of his panhandling goes for cigarettes (anything but menthol), beer, and food for a little kitten named Tiger that he has adopted.

     He has a criminal record (spent a year “in the County” for cocaine possession and fighting with the Cops), but says he now has a good relationship with them – “they mostly drive by and wave”. 

     I asked him what his future holds. He’s not sure. He says he’s too independent to stay in shelters for long, and can’t get a job due to his leg (and the criminal record). He says he’s been trying forever to get disability, but says he hasn’t had any luck. He says he’s thinking of putting his leg on the track when the train goes by. He figures that will get him disability quick.

     He says until he does that, he’d really like some shoes, as he currently only has two left footed flip-flops. He’s a size 11 and a half, and wants some with “good treads”, ones that will help him push his chair.

     Anybody make any sense of this ?   ………    Tim


Train Troubles

     It’s been in the planning process for over ten years, but now it’s hit a snag.

     Passenger Service on the Florida East Coast rail line.

            We had it once, long ago. Henry Flagler saw to that.       

     It went away decades ago when the owners of the tracks decided to run freight only. Today, only the rumbling noise of the rock clogged trains move through Fort Lauderdale. But  the plans have been slowly working their way through the cumbersome public planning process for the new service. This passenger service line would run from Jupiter to Miami, with dozens of stops along the way.

     Unfortunately, this week, residents of Fort Lauderdale Downtown have thrown a wrinkle in the process.

     Here’s the problem.

     1.) – In order for the new service to be successful, it must run often, say every 15 minutes from each station.

     2.) – The trains must pass over the New River, and the marine interests say opening a draw bridge every     15 minutes over the river would be dangerous and unworkable. They say a very tall bridge ( maybe 90 foot) would have to be built over the river.

     3.) – The Downtown Residents are loudly saying “hold on, we don’t want a big, ugly, tall bridge dividing the downtown”. They want a tunnel.

                                        the bridge would have to run along this stretch – Broward and south

   4.) – The planners say a tunnel costs huge bucks, maybe 10 times the cost of a bridge, maybe a half a billion dollars. Probably a deal killer.

                                 Does anyone have a phone number for Henry Flagler ???

Not News Nevins

     It’s evident that former Sun-Sentinel political writer, Buddy Nevins, doesn’t think much of the current Fort Lauderdale City Commission.

     He no longer writes for the Sun-Sentinel, (more about that in a minute) but writes his own blog on local Broward politics.

     This week he blogged explosive news that “at least one Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner is being investigated by State Attorney Mike Satz’s office for corruption“. (More on that in a minute too!)

                                       Nevins the blogger

    Here’s a sampling of his latest rants on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission 

      …… this current Commission was elected with a lot of promise …. it is ONE BIG DISAPPOINTMENT ….

     …….  they are lap dogs of the development industry …..  deaf to the pleas of residents …

     ……. something is rotten in City Hall … not something, five somethings that call themselves the City Commission

     ……. Commission are damaging their (citizens) lives, not that they care 

     ……  They only see a far as the next election

     I asked all of the Commissioner’s if they’d like to comment on Buddy’s attacks, but got no response, except Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, who told me that she heard that the States Attorney’s investigation was on a member of the last Commission, not the current one.

       Nevins was the political reporter for the Sun-Sentinel for many years. He was known for his acerbic style, and politicians often dreaded his Saturday morning column. His columns were often ruthless, and many of his victims say he was prone to print rumors, not necessarily born out by the facts. 

     Once, after reporting inaccurate information on me, Nevin’s told me that he didn’t have to check out his facts, that he was “ a columnist “, and that columnists weren’t restricted by hard facts. He said he would print a retraction, but never did. He recently wrote in his new blog that his blog was “his opinion”, not reporting. 

     Nevins left the Sun-Sentinel under a cloud. As a reporter, Nevins was supposed to be non-political, but after speaking at a Lauderdale Republican Club, in what was described as a “Nevins led G.O.P. rally”, Nevins resigned.

     Nevin’s is a slow growther. His latest slams on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission mostly revolve around planned development projects he disagrees with. Nevin’s lives out in West Broward, just a few miles from the Everglades.

                                               Nevin’s house down there where nature used to be

     After Nevin’s wrote last week that a Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner was being investigated for corruption, I tried to get confirmation of that from the State Attorney’s office. I didn’t have any luck. 

     Maybe it’s a good scoop, but maybe it’s just Buddy’s opinion again. 

     Maybe Buddy ought to keep his opinions to himself.