January 22, 2007

Sarasota this time

When I woke Saturday morning it struck me that I could drive up to Sarasota if  
I felt like it, and that’s what I did. Half the kick was meandering up there, 
stopping at anonymous but familiar-looking fast food spots, sitting in air 
conditioned booths looking through glass at the highway and palm trees, 
without a plan in the world. 

Sarasota is an arty town. There’s an opera company and a film festival. Ballet.
The big Dali collection. Galleries galore. All kinds of Music. But its Greenwich 
Village grit has, like that of so many other old Florida locales, been swept away 
in the storm of regentrification. This time on a more grandiose scale. The city, 
when I got there, was congested and spiked with cranes. Towers were sprouting 
everywhere, and construction walkways obliterated familiar storefronts. I had 
contacts there, Bill, Stephanie, but I didn't want to look anybody up. I wanted to 
wander around taking shots and watching people. 

Main Street was still a dappled and umbrella-strewn haven, jammed with cafes,
and the galleries on and off Palm were engaging. One was showing lush, period- 
looking seaside scenes reminiscent of Sargent, with Turner's glowing, operatic 
light. Another had some neo-cubist but whimsical confections of musicians 
carefully rendered in Crayola colors. 

I sat at a table under trembling shade thinking about the last time I was here
with Nicole, already stumbling toward the black hole that would swallow her 
for the next two years. She was saying that people looked like vampires. That 
manikins scared her. That Johnny Carson was terrifying. She’d asked me for a 
Tylenol and instead of taking it, sat scrutinizing it, breaking off tiny crumbs in 
her saucer until there was nothing left but sand.

At one of the galleries the owner, all taupe, and silver, and cashmere,
accompanied me quietly, amid the carpeted hush and fine art, and bars of light 
streaming through plate glass. A desultory tour of the exhibit. Art chat. We 
parted with sly but blatantly dawning smiles. A brush with flirtation mutually, 
and somehow indulgently, deferred. 

Outside, a bank of newspaper racks offered a bunch of free weeklies and art
rags. I stocked up and headed home, having taken no photos.