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.