Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dispatch from St. Pete

"the town of the newly wed and the living dead . . . a good place to come to die." – Jack Kerouac

The city itself reminds me of waking up the morning after my parents had a party. The living room is a bit askew. Chairs have been moved out of their usually precise positions. Mysterious new spots have appeared here and there on the carpet.

Half-filled glasses and empty bowls of snack mix and overflowing ashtrays adorn the coffee and end tables. The room is empty now.

But you just know it must have been one hell of a party.

Homeless stand on every street corner bearing signs asking for money. Every other street corner has a hand-made sign reading some variation of: "Must Sell: Three Bedroom. $32,000. Cash Only."

The news reports that 60% of Florida homeowners are upside-down on their mortgages.

Two out of three storefronts are empty. Even the pawnshops appear to lack for business, as if everything that could be pawned has already been pawned.

Morgan Memorial and Goodwill are two places appearing to do a brisk business. And the tattoo parlors. The many, many tattoo parlors.

The weather too appears to have it in for South Florida. Temperatures have been record cold. 30% of Florida's winter crop has been lost. Tens of thousands of dead fish are washing up on the shores.

I fear my new neighbors will think me a cold weather Jonah and try to keep a low profile.

Every other radio station is devoted to Jesus. He's really big down here. Even has his own show on the FM dial, "The Jesus Christ Show." Every time I tune in, there's a guest host.

In the news, an eleven-year-old girl and her fifteen-year-old boyfriend are charged with pouring gasoline around her mother's bed and setting it alight.

A young man convicted in the infamous "homeless murders" of a few years ago raps out a song on the witness stand while awaiting the jury's death sentence verdict.

Everyone I've met has been wonderful. More on them later.

But only time will tell if Kerouac was right.

I take no solace knowing he died eleven months after pronouncing his own judgment.

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