A nice place to visit

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

Any number of our friends from The City Beautiful and hereabouts live, have property in or vacation at the Gulf Coast of Florida near Naples, Tampa and Fort Myers (home of the Minnesota Twins spring training complex).

We followed our friends Ann Mackrill Kelly (fka Wilson) and Molly Wilson posting on Facebook about hanging tough in the Tampa area. Good to hear they are safe. We thought they were crazy to stick it out but they made it through, to the relief of many friends back home.

The Siebens family resides around Naples and used to enjoy their visits with Harry Schaller and Sir John Templeton as they talked about wise use of funds for Buena Vista University.

BVU President Josh Merchant and his wife Carrie are happy to be just into Storm Lake from Jacksonville, which was underwater Monday.

The Bauers and Brashears and Clausens all have property down there that draws their concern.

And so it draws ours. We wish them all the best as they clean up.

It makes us wonder if we really belong down there.

Or in Houston or Beaumont, Texas, where the petrochemical industry’s tanks were hit by Harvey.

Florida’s oil supply tanks are located in the Everglades, of all places.

Fort Myers is county seat of Lee County, so there are any number of statues venerating the Confederate general who never lived or waged a battle in Florida. They were put up when black folk were trying to integrate the schools. We can hope they got washed away in the backsurge. We wonder what happened to the legions of homeless we saw around the bus stops when we went down for spring training. New construction was springing up all around them willy-nilly as water ran in ditches along the sidewalks. You can’t bury a storm sewer pipe because you hit water. There is no zoning. The entire place is a swamp drained in the last 50 years to make it habitable year-round.

Barry Goldwater once said that his greatest regret was not the Election of ’64 but his efforts to bring all that water to Phoenix where it doesn’t belong. Or to Las Vegas, which was the fastest-growing city in America with no inherent water source.

Msgr. Ivis told us in school 50 years ago to get a few cows and set up in South Dakota because the West Coast was sure to fall into the ocean.

He was close. Miami did not fall into the ocean but was subsumed by it.

We watched Harvey and Irma and will watch Jose to see if it touches our Joe, who is playing a fiddle somewhere on a street corner in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The pumps for the Lower 9th Ward will fail again as sure as the rain will fall. Yet it is the only place he seems to be able to ply his art.

We wish they could all come home to Iowa, the homeless ones, too, like Joe. But there seems to be no place for them here, and that’s why so many leave to where the cranes teeter in 145 mph wind.

These were supposed to be places where we vacationed and sinned away from our good reputations. A nice place to visit. A hop and skip from Havana.

Las Vegas was more interesting when the drinks were free and the Mob ran the place. Tahoe is not so blue as it once was.

Jackie Gleason ruined Miami Beach long before Irma. He told everyone that the bar and beach were open.

Galveston was a distant and romantic place on stilts for crying in the sun with Glen Campbell, not an industrial city loaded with oil. Key West was supposed to support drunken poets and expatriates, and if they were swept out to sea it would just make for a better poem for the next drunk who ambles in.

Tampa has the lowest attendance in baseball even when the Rays win because it is too damn hot to enjoy any game down there in August and it is too dangerous in September. Yet we have engineered a dome and a way of life that creates the absurd: millions stuck on one interstate highway going north out of the madness while CNN flew overhead photographing the traffic jam.

Houston should be moved to Williston, North Dakota.

The Everglades should be for Seminoles in air boats and not oil tanks.

Yet, people from Iowa continue to move there because the Good Life has been built there and in Phoenix and Albuquerque and Las Vegas where the Native people caved into the sides of mountains to escape the heat. Some days you can’t land an airplane because of the heat, and because the runway warped from it. But we go on thinking that this is normal and that small whitecaps on the lake are just not enough.