The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on November 29, 2009 · 7
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 7

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Tampa, Florida
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Sunday, November 29, 2009
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7
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TBO.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2009 . THE TAMPA TRIBUNE 7 i 1 - i" 4 : - J ;; 4 i d. , A V t J y I ' vi H ? i it i , if J '.' ill 4 J : Margie Weiss created a shrine in her massage therapy room that works. She feels her daughter's presence every day. Rachel often Staff photo by SCOTT ISKOWITZ includes a poster of John Lennon from Rachel's apartment and a photo that inspires her as she confided in her and asked her advice, including about becoming a confidential informant. Continued From Page 6 His worries were beginning to ease. Her grades were excellent, and she was knocking off credits at an impressive rate. As a child and family counselor, Irv had seen families weather far worse. Oh, Rachel she might always be scattered, fun-loving and the first to try anything. But she was smart. A gathering group of friends On campus, Rachel found her crowd, a group of bright, attractive, funny and music-loving students. One day, she bumped into Cole Altner, an old friend from Hebrew school. He remembered her well; he was her first kss. Cols met her in fifth grade, soon after moving to Palm Harbor from New York. She could tell he was having trouble adjusting. Thst kiss came at her bat mitzvah, when Rachel wore braces, had trouble controlling the curls in her long, thick hair find hated her middle name, the hippie-dippy Morningstar. Years in the sun had dotted her face with, OMG, freckles. Her speech that day was on helping the homeless. "I often try to think and remind myself how fortunate I am," she read to friends and fcjnily. Her parents beamed and she baske 1 in their pride. She and Cole made a pact. When they were really old, like 30 or 35, and if nobody else had asked them, they would marry each other. Now, when he saw her on campus and all grcwn up, she was hot. Tall, with long red he ir she ironed straight, a great body. Same smile, but more confident. Flirtatious, even. Again, she introduced him to her friends, pulling him into her sunny orbit. Once, when Cole was sick, she delivered nomemade matzo ball soup and chased off students who were making noise and disturbing her patient. Everybody was at least a little in love with her. Andrea Motta and Rachel became inseparable from the time they met as sophc mores. It annoyed Andrea to no end that Rachel could blow off studying and si ill make good grades. Rachel whipped up big meals and then called her posse to eat miso soup, Italian and Thai dishes, and salads made with veggies bought fresh from a favorite organic market. "Can she do everything?" her friends wondered. They were the best meals any of them remembered in Tallahassee. Bob Nelson met her in their dorm freshman year and later shared an apartment with her and other students. Coming from Maryland, he knew no one on campas, and she made him feel welcome. She was like a little sister albeit one with a strong will. She cooked elaborate meals but left the dirty dishes for so nebody else. When Irv or Margie visited, they joked they came away with empty wallets. Rachd could smile and dad would pick up th2 bill at her fave restaurants, and she could always lure him and his credit card into Abercronibie & Fitch. Margie stuffed her fridge and Irv left gift cards forPublix. Rachel developed a taste for Coach purser, gourmet restaurants, reggae and jazz, and started signing her name with a drawing of a rising sun and a star, an embrace of her once-cursed middle name. She roughed it outdoors, snuggling up in bjankets witli her .friends at the Spirit of tlii Suwannee Music Park canip- " " i ? -- '"I y " - ''" '' ' Hoffman family photo Rachel's divorced parents put aside any animosities to celebrate her achievements, such as her bat mitzvah at age 13. Her speech at the event was on helping the homeless. grounds. She and her friends would cram into somebody's car, toke up and head off for the weekend, not telling her parents where she was. Freedom! Just about everybody smoked pot at the festivals. They were mellow, down-to-earth events in gorgeous venues, where strangers pitched tents side by side and shared bong hits. She became known as the sexy chick in the tall, fuzzy, purple hat, rocking out on stage with Ivan Neville's Dump-staphunk. Paul Levine, in charge of the event, teased his videographer because he kept zooming in on the pretty redhead. Music was hugely important; Rachel X r ; - - Cole Altner met Rachel in fifth grade, and he was her first kiss. They agreed to be each other's fallback plan for marriage. volunteered to help promote DubCon-scious, an Atlanta-based group whose dub reggae sound she loved. "She was an angel," says Adrian Zelski, who sings lead vocals and plays rhythm guitar. Her apartment was decorated with posters of John Lennon, The Doors and photos of her grandparents. As Rachel defined and refined her tastes, she also began to search out top-shelf marijuana, a much stronger weed than was around in her parents' day. Just as she aimed to please with her gourmet cooking and devotion to friends, she wanted to share the best dope she could find. She began getting the good stuff, buying from a cool guy. She trusted him. She bought extra and began selling to her friends, making a little profit or scoring some free weed, a great arrangement for all of them. It's just what you do in college, Cole says. For his generation, no big deal. Dealing pot isn t like shooting people up with heroin. It's college kids sharing, mostly. And people give it up or cut back when job interviews start and the real world comes knocking. But Andrea and other friends became increasingly concerned about Rachel's pot dealing. They worried about her safety; she never locked her doors. The in-and-out of people in Rachel's apartment made it so uncomfortable for Andrea that she stopped going, instead inviting Rachel to her place. '(V;y s ,f;- ' ' - .S llolliiian lamlly pholos Rachq!, in her trademark purple hat, loved camping out and getting high with friends atk music festivals near Tallahassee. She helped promote a favorite band, DubConscious. Once, when Rachel was camping at a music festival, someone broke in to her apartment and carted off whatever could be sold, as well as whatever cash she had. When Rachel and a friend were held up at gunpoint in a home invasion, she kept her cool and calmed her friend. Nothing she couldn't handle. She could talk her way out of anything. Irv and Margie moved their daughter into a well-kept, gated complex. Her third-floor apartment would discourage random break-ins. Always the first to get caught Rachel's friends think Irv was in denial about her pot use. Irv always told her that if she used it, she of all people would be the one to get caught she was just that guileless, trusting and impulsive. Remember high school? Rachel and a friend were getting gas, and a police officer happened to be on the other side of the pump. The cop noticed an unopened six-pack, looked at litde Rachel and called dad. Irv and Rachel poured all the beer down the drain. Another time, at college, she received a ticket for having an open container in her car. Irv would shake his head. It was as if ever-oblivious Rachel had a neon arrow pointing her way: Guilty! This was a kid who couldn't find her socks in the morning. She was always going to get caught. In February 2007, before graduation from FSU, Rachel was stopped for speeding, not for the first time. She was arrested when police found about 25 grams of marijuana in a glass Mason jar. She entered a pre-trial drug court intervention program that would clear her record if she managed to stay drug-free during random testing for one year. Although people in drug court can live almost anywhere in the state, Rachel and her parents thought she was stuck in Tallahassee, even after her graduation. This time, though, she wore that cap and gown and flashed the thumbs-up sign to her proud parents. She was desperate to begin her life away from FSU. Recendy, she and Irv had driven to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, where she had been accepted into a graduate program to become a mental health counselor. But after touring the campus, she burst into tears. She no longer wanted to be a counselor. She wanted to be a chef! Could he forgive her? What the heck? Irv wondered. OK. In this economy, it couldn't hurt to stay in school longer. She could always go back to grad school. The culinary institute she liked was in Arizona. Her dad agreed to foot the bill. But first, she had to endure this last miserable year in Tallahassee to complete the drug program. Doable. At first, her friends say, she stopped smoking pot. But those who were used to coming to her place for a good buzz kept coming. Rachel's friends found her desire to please one of her most endearing trails. She loved her friends. But she didn't always know who her true friends were. That girl in the fuzzy, purple hat was more insecure than she ever let on, they say. When anyone told her she was beautiful, she rolled her eyes and said, yeah, right. She wasn't trying to fish for compliments. She really didn't see it. I ler choice of boyfriends could be bad; she might have a dozen men who wanted to date her, but she would choose the one who seemed to treat her poorly. Maybe, her friends now speculate, Ra-See LOSING RACHEL, Page 8

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