We are thinking about our friends and former colleagues in South Florida as Hurricane Irma bears down on their neighborhoods this week. I lived in South Florida in the ’80s, working at the Chicago Tribune-owned Sun Sentinel before returning to my native California and a job as a business writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.
South Florida was an ideal place to launch a journalism career. One of my classmates at Medill – Northwestern University graduate school was Roberto Vizcon, whose mom and dad fled Cuba under the Fidel Castro regime.
When we both landed our first full-time jobs in South Florida, Roberto showed me the ropes in Little Havana, including the culture. We also went to the horse races at Hialeah, where flamingos roamed the infield, and visited Key West. Roberto’s mom is now in her 90s, looking wonderful (see photo). She shared some authentic Cuban recipes.
The other photo shows my friend and former colleague Carol Brzozowski. Carol and I worked together at the Sun Sentinel in our early 20s. At the time, I also was wrote for The New York Times, covering the demise of Eastern Airlines under CEO and former astronaut Frank Borman. It was long before the internet era: I dictated the stories into the telephone from my desk at the Sun Sentinel, they were edited by Time staffers in New York, and published in the newspaper.
South Florida was “ground zero” for journalists in the ’70s and ’80s, largely because of all the “you can’t make this stuff up” stories that came with its rapid growth. Some of the journalists became best-selling authors, such as Carl Hiassen and Michael Connelly (a former coworker and friend), and they borrowed their fictional stories from real-life news.
Florida is not the only target of Hurricane Irma. So far, Irma has obliterated Anguilla and St. Barts, where Shannon and I spent our honeymoon, and we’ve returned since. We’ve also vacationed in the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands, also largely wiped out by Hurricane Irma. We are hoping for the best. The good news is that the locals are resilient and will rebuild.