Cerabino: Shadowing the people of the eclipse in West Palm Beach


Solar eclipse diary from downtown West Palm Beach:

***

1:00 p.m. — Patricia Perano with her tripod-mounted Canon camera sits outside the Subculture Coffee shop on Clematis Street.

“When the eclipse comes, I’m going to photograph the people and the shadows to see if I can find something artful in this.”

1:09 p.m. — At the check-out desk inside the Mandel Public Library. Steve Weinberg, 72, and is wife, Robyn, are being told by a librarian that the 5,000 pairs of eclipse-viewing glasses the library had to give away are long gone.

“My brother in North Carolina had an extra pair of glasses, but he couldn’t send them to me fast enough,” Weinberg says.

There will be a live satellite feed of the eclipse shown in the auditorium on the third floor, the librarian tells them.

1:25 p.m. — With the beginning of the eclipse starting and the first edges of the moon’s shadow slipping over the upper right quadrant of the sun, the Moore brothers: Taryll, 10, Elijah, 8, and Timothy, 6, start toweling themselves dry after playing in the Centennial Square fountain.

“We need to go home and check the mail,” their aunt, Kristen Santana says.

She ordered a five-pack of eclipse glasses from Amazon for $80, she says. But they haven’t arrived yet.

Before they go, I let them all have a look through my eclipse glasses.

“That is so stinking epic!” Taryll says when he gets a look.

“They don’t use curse words,” the aunt explains.

1:35 p.m. — There’s a table of four sitting outside Rocco’s Tacos, oblivious to the gathering interest in sun just beyond the restaurant’s awning.

“We’re from Columbia, Missouri,” says Akil Hutchins, 27. “That’s the best place to see the eclipse. But we’re not there because went on a Bahamas cruise and now we’re going to Orlando.”

So Hutchins and his friends were just planning to miss the eclipse.

“I might just do this,” he says, holding his fingers partially in front of his face.

Instead, I hand him my glasses. He steps in the street.

“Whoa!” he tells his friends. “You gotta check this out!”

1:40 p.m. — Joe Perc, 40, is standing on the sidewalk outside Roxy’s Pub wishing he had a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses.

“If you know anybody selling a pair, I’m willing to pay $20,” he says. “I tried Walmart, Target, 7-11. Nobody’s got them.”

1:45 p.m.  — The driver of a Mazda SUV is about to get a ticket from parking enforcement officer Pedro Vasquez. A passing black Infiniti stops in the lane of traffic next to the meter maid. The passenger-side window lowers automatically.

“When’s the eclipse?” the driver, Marcio Dias asks.

“It’s happening now,” I say, offering him my glasses. “Wanna take a look?”

Dias puts the car in park and hustles to the sidewalk to have a look. Vasquez temporarily stops issuing his citation to have a look when Dias is done.

Both of them think it’s stinking epic.

1:55 p.m.  — Outside the Palm Beach County Courthouse, lawyer Melanie Weseman takes a break from her day handling credit card collection cases to step outside with her daughter, Alexandra, 9.

Somebody at the courthouse had offered the glasses to the girl.

“I could stare at that all day,” the girl says after gazing at the slivered sun.

But her mom had a 3 p.m. hearing.

Nearby, two mediators, Isabelle Sherman and Chris Pittaluga are experimenting with trying to photograph the eclipse on their smart phones.

“As long as I don’t get a blind spot on my optic disk this is going to be worth it,” Pittaluga says.

2:05 p.m. — Best description of viewing the eclipse through the protective glasses:

“It’s like a little Pac-Man,” Franco Fernandez, 35, says.

2:10 p.m. — Six people are sitting in the dark, mostly empty auditorium in the downtown library. On the screen in front of the room is the sight of the eclipse from other areas of the country.

One of those watching is Sandra Teitelbaum, 57, of New Jersey. She just checked her daughter into college for the first time at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Not wanting to miss the eclipse, she read in the newspaper about the viewing in the library auditorium. So she showed up. But she really wished she had a pair of those glasses.

So we go outside and I let her take a look from my pair.

“This is so awesome!” she says after looking at the partially obscured sun. “These glasses should be provided to every home in America.”

2:25 p.m. — Bob Alman, 78, is trying his best not be swept up by eclipse fever.

He and his friend, James Toomey, are just wrapping up a late lunch at Hullabaloo, a Clematis Street restaurant. They’re sitting at an outdoor table. Next stop, Publix.

“Maybe we’ll have a look at it in the Publix parking lot,” Toomey says.

“But you don’t have any glasses,” I say.

“I have a plan to look with my peripheral vision until I see stars,” Alman says.

I offer them my glasses. Alman’s not interested. But Toomey is, and once he’s sees the sun this way, he badgers his reluctant friend until he stands up and takes a look.

Alman looks for a couple of seconds then offers his tepid review.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” he says. “It just looks like a quarter moon.”

2:40 p.m. — People start emptying from offices and businesses in the downtown area as the eclipse edges toward its maximum coverage at 2:57 p.m.

At O’Shea’s Irish Pub there are three pairs of glasses being passed around the bar to those who want to step outside for a moment. One of those patrons is Robert Lightbody.

“I went to Home Depot to see if I could find a welder’s mask,” he says. “But they must have had a run on them.”

3:00 p.m. — Trudy Hersey is one of the many Florida Crystals workers who have emptied from their offices to stand at the foot of Clematis Street to look at the eclipse.

She’s the one holding the Honey Nut Cheerios box that she fashioned into a homemade eclipse-viewing contraption.

“I couldn’t find the glasses, so I made this after watching a YouTube video that showed how to do it.”

3:20 p.m.  — The eclipse still has nearly an hour left, but it is already becoming old news. The downtown streets resume an appearance of normalcy. It’s hard to spot anybody looking up any more.

Gene King, 73, stands outside Duffy’s Sports Grill, nursing a beer.

“I was expecting it to get dark out here, but it never did,” he says.

He’s already thinking about the next eclipse.

“We’ll see what happens in 2024,” he says, “if we’re all still around that long.”



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