I Believe in Downtown Sarasota
Wandering around downtown Sarasota, the wealth of dining options is close to ridiculous. “Two Senoritas” is beautifully authentic and dressed like a five star restaurant, with alluring waitresses and cast iron chandeliers. Savoring the last of a rocks margarita at dinner, wiping my finger along the rim of the glass, listening to a patron who is very dissatisfied with her salsa verde. Backtracking to lunch at El Greco Café with an old-time cash register clicking loudly as my friend Alton insists he pay for my souvlaki. Watching the game at Smokin Joes’ which served orange beer underage to me and mine at the high tops. Leaning over the pool table with a cigar between my incisors like a man, about to drop the final ball on a game of cut throat. Rolling a cigarette by the flat screen TV with a fat old grunt leaning over and hacking out “I ain’t seen anybody roll they own cigarette like that, but I seen ‘em roll a doobie”. And I laughing at the good natured conversation, knowing perfectly well he had seen it before. A French bistro that exceeds my price range and next door a Mediterranean restaurant where applying for a job the owner sneers at me (I speak English clearly). A casual Italian joint that only takes cash, where my roommate Krystal and are sitting in wicker chairs smoking long skinny Capri 120s, watching the luxury cars go by in the sun.
The best and biggest used bookstore, home to rare finds from the 1800s with the pages falling in cataracts from the binding. The employees always complimenting my amethyst colored handbag as they check it behind the counter. Copies of Bertolt Brecht that have long been out of print, Werfel’s The 40 Days of Musa Dagh. The most superior selection of poetry, with shelves running nine high. Being forced to climb nervously onto ladders which lean against the tops of the shelves and have wheels on the opposite end of their axis. Finally reaching the highest tier and Wandering Women, only to be disappointed (it is the most recent edition). A comic store where I purchase copies of Grendel and Fables for two dollars an issue. The store owner, like the Italian café, only takes cash and sends me next door to the liquor store to use the ATM, and I’m soon nodding at the elderly man behind the counter. The narrowest of all the one way streets holding an arrestingly magical toy store in its grasp. A classic opera house and several boutiques where a cotton blouse costs ninety-eight dollars on sale. A variety of lavishly decorative banks and in the background high rise condos and construction cranes pitched against the sky. The clouds moving so quickly in the background the cranes appear to be flying. Pointing this out to a vagrant as we sit on a bench under a spread of Senegal Date Palms. Speaking for two hours with the passer-byers turning their heads at the sight of a girl in a peach sundress and a brown toothed bum on a bench, having conversations most cock their eyebrows at. Being as warm as a Labrador on the carpet under a window. Looking at the lines around his eyes feeling something ripping down on my insides only to be refastened, like some seamstress gone mad. Over his shoulders is Sarasota Bay, and five miles past that the Gulf of Mexico, where the sailboats slope along the water that rolls without breakers.
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