By Cathy Salustri
Welcome to Paradise. I'll be your tour guide today. As you drive onto our beach, we'd like to remind you that one street over from the empty buildings that used to be a hardware store and restaurant, we've got a delightful collection of shops. What? Oh, that's just Mermaids, a bikini bar. No, we don't allow nudity - we're a family beach, after all. Across the street? Um, well, that's an "adult novelty" shop. The locals just rave about the restaurant next door. Unfortunately, no, you can't park in the vacant lot on the other side. Check out the diner across the street- they make everything from scratch. What's that? No, actually, you can't park in the vacant lot next to the diner, either. But we've got trolleys that go up and down the beach. See, there's a stop over there. Behind the bus stop? It's a seafood restaurant and an ice cream parlor. No, they don't make change for the bus. No, I'm not exactly sure why the bus stop is right in front of their building. Yes, I realize it's hard to see that they're there at all. Fortunately, the city commission has relaxed its sign ordinance, so they - along with every other business - can put a big sign right out at the edge of the road so you know they're there. What's that now? Blight?
You know what, why don't we take you down to our world-famous beach? There's plenty of parking there, and plenty of white sand. Those are sea oats, a beach grass that prevents erosion. Their roots anchor the sand so it doesn't wash out to sea. Pardon me? Oh, those are tee groins, and they, too, keep the sand from eroding. Ugly? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When we first had them installed, they were covered with sand. What's that now? Oh. It eroded.
Let's forget the erosion and rent some scooters. No, past the vacant lot. There's a rental place just down the street; the owner's really made the building look great. What? No, there's no accident. The local power company's replacing some power poles, and they've got the street narrowed to one lane up ahead. Frustrating? Yes, well, I suppose, but it's good practice for when they finally bury the power lines next year. Why didn't they do that at the same time to save money and frustration, you say? Heh. Let's let the locals worry about that. You just enjoy your vacation, OK?
Let's take these scooters to the side street - isn't this better? Oh, watch the pot holes. Those scooter tires are tiny; you'll go right over if you don't watch yourself. These houses? Well, mostly rentals. They started as housing for families of people staying at the veteran's hospital that is now the - pardon me? No, I never noticed that. I suppose you're right- this street could use some attention, but, to be fair, most visitors don't travel this road much, so- What? Why does it look so run down? I guess it's because a lot of landlords don't live in the city, so they don't get a vote, and most of the tenants work at the hotels, restaurants and bars and don't have a chance to keep up with the meetings. Maybe they do kind of fall by the wayside when it comes to the city making improvements. But that's not important - how about some lunch?
That cafe up there? Actually, it's closed. The burger place next to it? It's closed, too. The pizza place? The pub? You're killing me here. No, not everything is closed. Right now's a hard time for local businesses. That's why it's so important people like you come and tell your friends back home what a vibrant beach community we are. Hey, what do you want to do after lunch?
You want to rent a boat? Well, we have a couple of places you can rent kayaks or get a boat tour. A marina? Well, no, we don't have a marina- yet. We're getting there, though. One commissioner asked for a study... what? The empty lot at the end of Corey? It probably would make a great marina, but the city doesn't own it. No, I don't know why the city doesn't make the owner clean up the graffiti.
Look, are you ever going to notice what a great beach community we have here, or are you just going to harp on all these little things? Everyone knows that the important thing is that we have a great beach. What? I resent you saying that. We absolutely do support our businesses, and we care about the residents. We have committees! We have a Sunday market, craft festivals, and concerts. We have a comprehensive plan, for heaven's sake. No, let's not talk about that- we've got a great little community here-
Who's that now? Gulfport? No, that's across the bay. Venice? Hilton Head? Look, people visiting this city don't care about all that- twinkling lights and design guidelines. They're not interested in character. They're interested in beaches and hotels. As long as we have a spit of sand and a place to sleep, people will come.
We've got bigger things to worry about here- we just lost a lawsuit, and we're trying to deal with some issues about our city's comprehensive plan. We don't have time to deal with- what's that?
The lawsuit? Oh, just some planning and zoning type of things. You wouldn't be interested. Now, about those beaches...
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.