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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Steve Otto

Otto: St. Pete needs to see life through a new lens

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So it comes down to this on Tuesday’s referendum in St. Pete: If you vote yes, you mean no. If you vote no, you mean yes. It is politics as an art form.

But maybe that’s the way it should be when you are about to create something that will almost surely be called “an iconic symbol of the city” a few years down the road in the travel brochures.

A “no” vote mean yes indeedy, build a dramatic and beautiful new addition to the city, even if it doesn’t have air conditioning and you won’t want to get caught there during an August thunderboomer.

Vote “yes” and that really throws things into turmoil and means that nothing is going to happen for a long time and when it does it likely will have the drama of putting a Wal-Mart on the water.

There’s a pair of options. It’s too bad, because downtown St. Pete has, almost by accident, become one of those more user-friendly and interesting places to hang out. The old city of green benches has become a vibrant and fun destination, and the pier needs to be a part of it.

I’m old enough to remember the great “Million Dollar Pier” with its massive Mediterranean/tropical/kitschy structure that in my mind was Florida rolled up into a single place. I loved it.

But we don’t do things like that any more. It would be too expensive, too simple and maybe even too much fun.

I like the Lens. I wish there was a little more to it; some hidden corners, maybe even underwater viewing rooms where you could escape the heat and the inevitable storms, but that’s just me. I would vote no for yes to build the thing.

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Among the comments on a column about disappearing barbershops was this note from Marne Diehl:

“You may remember the barbershops of yore as single-gender. But more than 65 years ago in upstate New York, the local barbershop had strict rules about little boys’ haircuts. None on Saturdays, and since the fathers worked on weekdays, the mothers were left to drag the reluctant little boys to see the equally reluctant barbers. It wasn’t all that much fun for the mothers either. They had to walk into a club-like, smoky room with several older men around who seem to find it necessary to comment on the mothers’ appearance. Why haircuts were mandatory for 2-year-olds is hard to figure, but that’s the way it was.

“One snowy day I dressed my son — snowsuit, mittens, boots — and we trudged to the barbershop. I didn’t have time to read “True Detective Stories,” since cutting Billy’s hair was a two-person job. There were audibles and child-rearing suggestions from the men just sitting there. Someone else came in with a little boy and distracted the audience. Haircut done, I bundled Billy and myself up.

At the door I glanced back at the other young mother who came into focus as someone who played volleyball with me on Tuesday nights at the gym.

“Oh, Grace,” I said. “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on,” and left.

It was obviously not the best choice of a greeting, considering the audience, as I was told in no uncertain terms the next Tuesday night. ...”

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