Saint Petersburg (Florida)
The long road to reacquire all of my stuff had passed through my longtime homes of Seoul and Lawrence, and now sent me to sunny Florida. I’ll say this for America – I doubt there’s another country in the world where one can experience such a dramatic change in weather for such a cheap flight. $120 on Southwest got me from the chilly mid-fall Midwest to the beach, non-stop and in under three hours.
For complex and not entirely un-shady reasons, I am a legal resident of the state of Florida. Fortunately, I rolled into town just in time for Election Day. I did an absentee ballot in person so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line. I rode my bike downtown to cast my ballot, and then decided to hang out a bit.
Downtown Saint Petersburg really isn’t a bad joint. I lived just outside of downtown in 2001and my old neighborhood is now inhabited by more hipsters and fewer crackheads.
True story from back in those days: Once, I was sitting at home hanging out. I forget exactly what I was doing, but it would have been one of the following – watching reruns of Frasier on over-the-air network tv or re-playing a Super Nintendo game. These are the only things I ever did in my living room, so it had to be one of these two. I would also have been drinking either a longneck of Southpaw Light if I got paid that week, or a 40 of Silver Thunder malt liquor ($1 including tax) if I didn’t.
Somebody knocked at my door. Strange, because I didn’t have any friends in Florida, at least not any that I was close enough with for them to pop in unannounced. I’m not sure why, but I answered the door. It was a crackhead, a pretty normal sight on that block in those days.
“Hey man, do you have any money?”
“Sorry dude, I’m broke. Hell, I don’t even have a Playstation/cable/real beer,” I assume I replied.
“Okay, that’s cool. Can I have a Pepsi?”
I told him that I would go check the fridge. Of course, I was we’ll aware that I had never purchased Pepsi at a grocery store in my life. I mean, I’ve bought the occasional fountain drink or vending machine can for immediate consumption, but I’d never bought Pepsi as a packaged good. I opened my refrigerator.
There was a can of Pepsi sitting there.
“I can’t believe I have one. Here you go man.” The crackhead thanked me and went off on his way, never to reappear at my home.
Not too exciting, I know, but during the 6 months I lived in Florida in 2001, this was the second most interesting thing that happened in my life. Number one was going to a Warrant concert.
Anyway, while roaming around downtown St. Pete, I went by the art museum. For a mid-sized Florida city, it’s a really great museum. When I lived in town, I bought a one year student membership for $10, which also got me into the Dali Museum. Times have changed in a big way – it was $20 or $25 to get in now, so I passed. Instead, I headed to my favorite downtown bar – Mastry’s
Mastry’s is everything you could want in a dive bar. Drinks are cheap. Service is swift. Smoking indoors is allowed, which really amazed me since you can’t smoke inside at most bars in Southeast Asia anymore. The clientele is a healthy mix of young hipsters, old farts, and the unemployable. It’s the best. I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend Election Day other than Chicago.
Of course, I spent a good portion of my time in St. Pete at the beach. It’s a four mile trip from my Dad’s house, easily doable by bike. Florida has it’s problems for sure, more than most places, but St. Pete Beach isn’t one of them.
While in St. Pete, the Old Man and I took a little road trip up to Orlando. That’s gonna be a whole other post though. For now, on with the pics!