"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

"The wandering scholars were bound by no lasting loyalties, were attached by no sentiment of patriotism to the states they served and were not restricted by any feeling of ancient chivalry. They proposed and carried out schemes of the blackest treachery."-C.P. Fitzgerald.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Back home again 

I've been in Sarasota the past 24 hours. Now in Olden Time, I used to get excited when I would go over to Sarasota. This was because I was very close to my cousin Marty and we always had a good time together. Now I'm not so sure. It has nothing to do with Marty, who is a busy reporter but never hesitates to have the greatest of fun whenever I'm around. Rather, it has to do with the town of Sarasota itself.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but that town has lost something. It used to be an artists town, a theater town, and it still is in many respects. But the Old Wealthy Battleaxe Crowd that guarded the town's culture imposed a growth cap on the downtown area. Now the town is overrun by the nouveau riche and the downtown has failed to establish itself as the center of things, though it is adjacent to Sarasota Bay and is just south of the theater community.

Sarasota: someone left the light off...

Marty told me that the Alte Kakers and the Development Goons were going to try to revive the downtown by forcing traffic down Main, which is, like, 4 lanes going both directions. They would force this down the collective gullet of the electorate by turning the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41 to the rest of us) into a "roundabout" in which drivers would find themselves in a "Groundhog Day" alternate universe. Drivers who insisted on taking the normal route from Venice to Bradenton would never to be seen again by other humans. The City would hire Orcs, cannibals, and other assorted Leatherface types would serve to deter the insistent. Only the bones of the Dead would serve as a warning.

Don't get me wrong. Sarasota, Florida is a wonderful place to visit or to retire to and die. Siesta Key Beach is one of the ten best beaches on the planet. It is a town with some history to it and has the Ringling Museum, which is a must see for any fan of fine art. But it is a dying town. All the development is taking place east of I-75. One of the signs of the dry rot was the decline and fall of Alta Vista Elementary School.

Designed and built as an innovative structure in the late fifties, the school was a beautiful caricature of what was considered to be "modern" in 1957. The school had what was described to me as a "butterfly" roof that was, eventually, condemned to be unsustainable in hurricane force winds. So, instead of fixing the problem and preserving the best of what was, they tore down most of Alta Vista and put up a bastardized version of a Broward County Suburban Educational Warehouse, complete with pointed roof. Blecch! All the cash has gone into "Sarasota Quay" and other cons that are designed to attract young families. It won't work. The town is dying.

I say this as a man who has been to Los Angeles and as one who has witnessed the rebirth of my native city. I am a bit biased in this regard. There is a life and a joi de vivre in L.A. that you just don't see this in Sarasota in particular or in Florida at large. I will miss the Sarasota that once was, one that was interesting and exciting to a very impressionable mind.

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